Sunday, September 1, 2019

Various benefits gained by the audience – commentary on section 48 of the Larger Sutra

Shakyamuni Buddha entrusting
 the sutra to Maitreya, the future Buddha

            Although the intention of Shakyamuni when delivering this sutra was to help the audience and us, people of future generations, to entrust completely to Amida, say His Name in faith and aspire to be born in His Pure Land, that is, to come in accord with the Primal Vow, only a part of those present actually did that and entered the stage of non-retrogression. However, because they were in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha’s field of influence and had various degrees of devotion towards Him, and because they all without exception, rejoiced at the Buddha’s discourse”[1] they did acquire some important benefits for their later spiritual development :

When the World-honored One had finished His presentation of this sutra, aspiration for highest Enlightenment was awakened in innumerable sentient beings. Twelve thousand nayutas of human beings attained the pure Dharma eye; twenty-two koṭis of devas and humans attained the stage of non-returner; eight hundred thousand bhikṣus realized the wisdom of destroying defilements; forty koṭis of bodhisattvas attained the stage of non-retrogression;
and all, adorned with the virtue of the universal vows, will ultimately attain perfect Enlightenment.”[2]

As we see in the above, some awakened the aspiration for highest Enlightenment, but did not entered the stage of non-retrogression, others attained the pure Dharma eye which means insight into the Four Noble Truths that is attained in the stage of stream – winner[3] or the stage in which various wrong views are abandoned. Others attained the stage of non-returner which means they will no longer be reborn in the world of desire[4] and some also realized the wisdom of destroying defilements. And most important, some of the practitioners in the audience who awakened aspiration for the highest Enlightenment and who entrusted completely to Amida Buddha for its attainment, did enter the stage of non-retrogression – “forty koṭis of bodhisattvas attained the stage of non-retrogression”. I am convinced that Ananda too, who clearly perceived the intention of Shakyamuni even before He started to preach this sutra, and who provoked Him to show Amida and His Pure Land to the audience was among the bodhisattvas in aspiration who entered the stage of non-retrogression through faith in Amida. Also the great Bodhisattva Maitreya who is the successor of Shakyamuni and who will appear as the next Buddha after billions of years into the future to turn again the wheel of Dharma, accepted this sutra in faith. He too will teach about Amida and His Pure Land, just as Shakyamuni did. The fact that Shayamuni spoke many times with Maitreya in this sutra, shows that He actually transmitted it to Him for future propagation when He will succeed Him as the next great Buddha of our world system. 

However, even those who did not entrust completely to Amida at that time, at least they made a strong karmic connection with Him and sooner or later, they will too, reach a point in the future when they will abandon the clinging to their own power, and attain faith. This is the meaning of, “all, adorned with the virtue of the universal vows, will ultimately attain perfect Enlightenment”[5]. Ultimately, they will come to entrust to Amida’s universal vows, enter the stage of non-retrogression, be born in the Pure Land and attain perfect Enlightenment there. None who has been exposed to Amida even once will escape Him, and sooner or later he/she will reach His Pure Land. Even to see Amida’s image or a painting of His Pure Land and to have the smallest attitude of respect towards Him or His Dharma, creates a karmic connection and plants a seed into one’s mental continuum which one day will grow into a tree of faith.

The sutra starts with Shakyamuni’s supreme appearance,

“At that time all the senses of the World-honored One radiated joy, His entire body appeared serene and glorious, and His august countenance looked most majestic.”[6]

 and ends with extraordinary supernatural manifestations:

“At that time the entire universe of a thousand million worlds quaked in six ways, and a great light illuminated all the lands in the ten directions. A hundred thousand kinds of music played spontaneously, and innumerable marvellous flowers fell in profusion from the sky.”[7]

Both manifestations at the beginning and end of the sutra show that this was indeed the most important discourse of Shakyamuni’s lifetime – the true reason for His coming to this world.
All the samsaric universe with all the worlds in the ten directions quacked and was illuminated by the great Light of Amida so as to show that this is indeed, the universal method to save all beings without discrimination. The music which played spontaneously in many ways and the innumerable marvelous flowers that fell from the sky represent the approval of all Buddhas, including Amida, in all their three bodies (ultimate Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and multiple Nirmanakayas) of this supreme teaching – the One Vehicle of the Primal Vow[8], the teaching that all Buddhas teach.




[1] The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.71
[2] The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.70 – 71.
[3] According to the glossary in The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.135.
[4] The world of desire is composed of hells, hungry spirits (pretas), animals, humans, demigods (asuras) and a few celestial realms inhabited by gods. Above it there are the gods in the realm of form and realm of non-form where these non-returners are born.
[5] The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.71.
[6] The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.7
[7] The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.71.
[8] Read the chapter “The One Vehicle of the Primal Vow – the ultimate teaching of Shakyamuni and all Buddhas” from my book The Meaning of Faith and Nembutsu in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, 2019, free online editon, http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.com/2018/07/new-book-meaning-of-faith-and-nembutsu.html

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