Showing posts with label LARGER SUTRA ON AMIDA BUDDHA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LARGER SUTRA ON AMIDA BUDDHA. Show all posts

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Commentary on the Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Larger Sutra) - free online edition

temporary cover until I find a professional
to make me a better one
last revised version uploaded on January 9, 2020 

First of all, it must be clearly understood that this is not an academic, secular or historical study, but a religious commentary. Its goal is to explain in easy to understand terms the deep meaning of the Larger Sutra[1] so that people can receive faith in Amida Buddha and be born in His Pure Land after death. I, the author of this commentary, accept in faith the contents of the sutra and consider that it describes real events, a real, existing Buddha called Amida[2] and a real Enlightened place called the Pure Land. My heart’s desire is that readers will come to share the same view so that true faith and aspiration arise in them.
There are many ways to read the Larger Sutra and various layers of interpretation, which is why different types of practitioners benefit from it - those who choose to focus on Amida Buddha but still cling to their self-power like followers of the 19th and 20th Vows, as well as followers of the Primal Vow (18th) who rely exclusively on Amida’s power.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Audio version of my Commentary on the Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life

The audio version of this book is a work in progress by my Dharma friend Gansen John Welch.
A new chapter is added to the playlist as soon as it is narrated. Please share it especially with those who have difficulty in reading.

You can download the whole book in pdf form here (click here).

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Outline of the Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Larger Sutra)

The sutra starts with the place where it was delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha (Vulture Peak in Rajagrha) and a description of the audience ( section 1) with special emphasis on the qualities of the Enlightened Bodhisattvas who were present there like Maitreya, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, etc (section 2).


Before starting to teach this sutra Shakyamuni manifested a supreme appearance. When asked by Ananda about the reason for those wonderful manifestations, He explained that He was about to deliver the most important teaching of His life, the true reason for His coming to this world (section 3).

Monday, October 7, 2019

The qualities of Bodhisattvas in the audience – commentary on section 2 of the Larger Sutra

Buddha Maitreya
last revised October 7, 2019

Many members of our school do not fully understand the term Bodhisattva in Mahayana. Also, when we read the 22nd Vow of Amida presented in section7 of this sutra, and which is generally accepted to mean that we return to this world as fully Enlightened Persons or Buddhas to save all beings, some of us are puzzled that in the respective vow there is no mentioning of the word "Buddha", but only "Bodhisattva". However, there is no contradiction between the two. The reason is that, in Mahayana, the term “Bodhisattva” does not only refer to a highly evolved person who is extremely close to Enlightenment (on one of the ten bodhisattva stages/bhumis[1]), but also to a Buddha who manifests as Bodhisattva or Bodhisattvas who already attained Enlightenment. There is clear evidence for this in many Mahayana sutras, esoteric tantras and also in the writings of various Buddhist masters[2]. So, according to Mahayana Buddhism, there are two types of bodhisattvas:

Friday, October 4, 2019

The 48 vows of Amida Buddha – commentary on section 7 of the Larger Sutra

the cover of the first edition of
 my book on the 48 Vows

At the moment Dharmakara became Amida Buddha, His 48 vows and His Pure Land became real and effective methods for the salvation of sentient beings. For a better understanding, I arranged them in four categories. The highlighted numbers represent a vow that has been revised. Click on it to read the revised explanations. 

1. Vows about Amida Buddha and His Pure Land
(vows 12, 13, 31, 32)

2. Vows related to the salvation of all sentient beings
     (vows 11, 17, 18,  19, 20, 22, 33, 35)

 3.   Vows explaining the characteristics, the capacities and activities of beings who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land after being born there. These beings are sometimes called humans and devas in my land, shravakas in my land or bodhisattvas in my land.

  1. Vows related to bodhisattvas in other lands (not yet born in the Pure Land                          (vows 34, 36, 37, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48)

When explaining these vows I will sometime mention the passages in the sutra that, according to Shinran, prove they were brought to fulfillment after Dharmakara attained Buddhahood and became Amida Buddha.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Vows related with bodhisattvas in other lands (not yet born in the Pure Land)

The following vows refer mainly to highly advanced bodhisattvas in aspiration from various worlds who entrust to Amida Buddha and say His Name in faith, wishing to be born in His Land.  They are already on one of the ten bodhisattva stages (bhumis) and very close to Enlightenment, but still not enlightened. Because they entrust to Amida and are in accord with His Primal Vow - in their case, hearing the Name of Amida means to hear and entrust, to hear with faith and to say Amida’s Name in faith, they will too be born in His Pure Land by transformation (“true fulfilled land/”center” of the Pure Land) where they will attain perfect Enlightenment[1]. The difference between them and us is that they are already very advanced on the Buddhist path and very close to Enlightenment while we are the lowest of the low in terms of spiritual evolution and the similarity is that we both entrust to Amida and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression for entering the Pure Land and attainment of Enlightenment there. However, because their spiritual capacities are already extremely high in comparison with ours and their senses very much purified, when they entrust to Amida and say His Name in faith they automatically receive more benefits than us, ordinary people. These benefits are explained in this category of vows.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The karmic situation of beings who have no aspiration for Enlightenment and Shakyamuni’s encouragement to do good in daily life and wish to be born in the Pure Land – commentary on sections 31 - 40 (PART II) of the Larger Sutra

                          fragment from my commentary on the Larger Sutra

     2) Shakyamuni’s encouragements to do good in daily life and aspire for birth in the Pure Land for the attainment of Enlightenment

To counter the karmic effects of the evil acts described previously one has two options: to do good and/or to aspire to be born in the Pure Land. Even without having the aspiration for birth in the Pure Land, people can still do good and change their karmic situation for the better. Also, the aspiration for birth in the Pure Land and the non-discriminative salvation offered by Amida does not mean one should not try to have a good behavior towards others. As long as one is clearly aware that his/her salvation depends entirely on the Power of Amida Buddha and abandons any idea of transferring his pitiful merits towards birth in the Pure Land, his efforts to lead a decent life and do as much good as possible is not in contradiction with the Primal Vow. Thus, to try to lead a moral life and aspire for birth in the Pure Land can be followed in the same time by those who have faith in Amida.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The karmic situation of beings who have no aspiration for Enlightenment and Shakyamuni’s encouragement to do good in daily life and wish to be born in the Pure Land – commentary on sections 31 - 40 (PART I) of the Larger Sutra

I divide this chapter into the following sections:

1. The karmic situation of beings who have no aspiration towards Enlightenment
2.  Shakyamuni’s encouragements to do good in daily life and to aspire for birth in the Pure Land for the attainment of Enlightenment

 1.     The karmic situation of beings who have no aspiration towards Enlightenment

Shakyamuni Buddha described various kinds of evil deeds and their karmic consequences like for example, the three evil acts and their retribution, and the five kinds of evils and their effects – the five sufferings and the five burnings. I will present each one of them bellow in Shakyamuni’s own words and offer my comments only when necessary, as they are very easy to understand. My advice is to transform the reading into a contemplation of the sad situation of those without the aspiration towards Enlightenment and who, because they have no faith in Amida, have no chance of escaping samsara.

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 :

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Faith as the cause of entering the stage of non-retrogression - commentary on the section 47 of the Larger Sutra

 If in the section 46 Shakyamuni explained that there are many Mahayana followers (bodhisattvas in aspiration) in various worlds who are in the stage of non-retrogression[1] for being born in the Pure Land and attaining Enlightenment there, in section 47 He presents the causes of entering this stage:

The Buddha said to Maitreya, ‘If there are people who hear the Name of that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and think of Him even once, then you should know that they have gained great benefit by receiving unsurpassed virtue. For this reason, Maitreya, even if a great fire were to fill the universe of a thousand million worlds, you should pass through it to hear this sutra, to arouse joyful faith, to uphold and chant it, and to practice in accordance with its teachings. This is because there are many bodhisattvas who wish to hear this teaching but are still unable to do so. If there are sentient beings who have heard it, they will attain the stage of non-retrogression for realizing the highest Enlightenment. This is why you should singleheartedly accept in faith, uphold, and chant this sutra, and practice in accordance with its teachings.’”[2]

Before commenting on the above passage we must bear in mind that in this sutra Shakyamuni presents just one of the two paths of entering the stage of non-retrogression, that is, through faith in Amida. The Larger Sutra is, so to speak, the sutra of the Easy Path of entering the stage of non-retrogression for those who make the Mahayana aspiration to attain Buddhahood for themselves and all beings (bodhisattvas in aspirations).

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Non-retrogressive Mahayana followers (bodhisattvas in aspiration) who will be born in the Pure Land of Amida – commentary on section 46 of the Larger Sutra

Whenever the term bodhisattvas in other lands appear in the Larger Sutra (with the exception of Enlightened Bodhisattvas who do Dharma activities in various places) and especially here in section 46 and the next one, 47, it refers to Mahayana followers who have Mahayana aspirations, that is, who aspire to become Buddhas for themselves and all beings (who have the bodhi mind), who accept Mahayana teachings and the Mahayana pantheon of transcendent Buddhas, among which, Amida is the foremost in saving sentient beings.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The difference between those born in the Pure Land in the embryonic form and those born by transformation – commentary on sections 43, 44 and 45 of the Larger Sutra

A palace for those of the embryonic
birth - Larger Sutra Mandala

            In these sections Shakyamuni Buddha explains the causes and characteristics of two types of beings born in the Pure Land: 1) those born in “the embryonic state” and 2) those “born by transformation”.

I already explained the Primal Vow (18th) in detail and showed that faith in Amida’s Power is the cause of birth in the Pure Land. However, the situation is that not all practitioners are able to give up entirely the attachment to their personal power in reaching birth in the Pure Land:

“If there are sentient beings who do various meritorious deeds, aspiring for birth in that land while still entertaining doubt, such beings are unable to comprehend the Buddha wisdom, inconceivable wisdom, ineffable wisdom, boundless Mahayana wisdom, and incomparable, unequalled, and unsurpassed supreme wisdom. Although they doubt these wisdoms, they still believe in retribution for evil and reward for virtue and so cultivate a store of merit, aspiring for birth in that land.’Such beings are born in a palace, where they dwell for five hundred years without being able to behold the Buddha, hear his exposition of the Dharma, or see the hosts of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas. For this reason, that type of birth in the Pure Land is called the ‘embryonic state.’”

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The testimony of Ananda and the audience gathered on Vulture Peak to the existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land – commentary on the sections 41 and 42 from the Larger Sutra

This painting shows the manifestation of 
the Pure Land as shown to Ananda and 
the audience gathered on Vulture Peak. 
Ananda is in the middle with his 
right shoulder barred and facing Amida. 
Behind him sits a long-haired monk, 
who is Maitreya, the future Buddha. 
On his left sits Buddha Shakyamuni 
surrounded by monks, bodhisattvas and 
deities. A layman and laywoman are seen 
behind Maitreya worshiping Amida. 

As we have seen in this sutra, Shakyamuni not only presented the story of Dharmakara becoming Amida, but described in many details the wonders of the Pure Land as well as the splendor of Amida and the enlightened beings living there. Then, in sections 41 and 42 He went even further and did something more extraordinary – He showed Amida and His Pure Land to the audience!!!

First, before Ananda made his request, and knowing in advance what he will say, Shakyamuni asked him to worship Amida, invoking the testimony of all Buddhas who always praise Amida’s Name and His method of salvation, thus encouraging all beings to entrust to Him and worship Him:

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Listening the Dharma in the presence of Amida and attaining perfect Enlightenment - commentary on section 29th of the Larger Sutra

“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘When Amitayus (Amida) preaches the Dharma to sravakas and Bodhisattvas, they all assemble in the seven-jeweled lecture hall. There He fully expounds the teachings of the Way and proclaims the wonderful Dharma. The whole audience rejoices, comprehends, and attains Enlightenment. At that time a breeze spontaneously arises in each of the four directions and wafts over the jeweled trees, producing sounds of the pentatonic scales and causing innumerable exquisite flowers to fall like rain and scatter everywhere. Natural ways of glorification such as these are endlessly repeated. All the devas bring with them a hundred thousand flowers, pieces of aromatic wood, and thousands of musical instruments to use as offerings to the Buddha and the assembly of bodhisattvas and sravakas; they scatter flowers, diffuse perfumes everywhere, and play various kinds of music. They come and go in succession, giving way to each other. At such times their joy and happiness are beyond description.”[1]

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Virtues and activities of the Enlightened Bodhisattvas of the Pure Land – commentary on sections 28 and 30 of the Larger Sutra

Amida Buddha and His two attendand Bodhisattvas,
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta

“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘All the Bodhisattvas in the land of Amitayus will ultimately attain the stage of becoming a Buddha after one more life. Excepted are those who have made original vows for the sake of sentient beings, resolving to cultivate the merit of realizing their great vows to save all sentient beings.’”[1]

This fragment is clearly related with the 22nd Vow which I already explained in the chapter dedicated to the 48th Vows. Basically, it means, as I explained there, and at chapter 1 of this book (click here to read), that once we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land, we act as Buddhas who manifest as Bodhisattvas.  The “stage of becoming a Buddha after one more life”, represents the capacity of those who attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land to endlessly manifest themselves in various places in the universe and become active Buddhas there for the sake of sentient beings. When we are born in the Pure Land we automatically gain the capacity to always playing the role of becoming Buddhas and teaching the Dharma like Shakyamuni himself [1b]. Shinran Shonin explained this in his Hymns of the Pure Land:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Favorable conditions for accepting the Larger Sutra in faith - commentary on verses 21 - 30 from section 27 of the Larger Sutra

After the episode with the visit of Bodhisattvas and prediction for their attainment of Buddhahood, Shakyamuni continues with explaining the conditions of meeting with the teaching of the Larger Sutra and how precious and inconceivable this Dharma is.

“Without a store of good from former lives,
One cannot hear this sutra;
But those who have strictly observed the precepts
Can hear the Right Dharma.

One who has met a World-honoured One in the past
Can accept this teaching.
Such a person respectfully worships, hears,
And upholds it, and rejoices so greatly as to dance.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Visit of Bodhisattvas from other worlds to Sukhavati and prediction for attaining Buddhahood for them and all beings – commentary on section 26 – 27 of the Larger Sutra

 As we have already seen in section 22 (“all Buddha Tathagatas in the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, together praise the inconceivable, supernal virtue of Amitayus”[1]), Shakyamuni mentions again the praising of Amida and His virtues, in section 26:

“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘The majestic virtue of Amitayus is boundless. All the innumerable, countless, and inconceivable Buddha Tathagatas in the worlds of the ten directions praise Him.’”[2]

Whenever we read about such praise by all Buddhas we should know it also means praising Amida’s method of salvation which, among the methods invented by all Buddhas, it is the easiest to bring ALL beings, no matter their spiritual evolution, to the attainment of Nirvana. By praising Amida and His merits, they automatically praise His Name as all His merits are manifested into His Name which is easy to pronounce by anybody. All such praising are related with the 17th Vow where Dharmakara promised that when He becomes Amida, all Buddhas will praise His Name.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Three grades of aspirants to birth in the Pure Land - commentary on sections 23 to 25 of the Larger Sutra

last revised on November 1st 2019

“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘Devas and humans in the worlds of the ten directions who sincerely aspire to be born in that land can be classified into three grades. ‘“[1]

As we can clearly see, these grades are not related to beings who are now in the Pure Land, but who aspire to be born there. Practitioners still living in samsara are not equal when it comes to their spiritual achievements, but Amida’s salvation is offered freely to all, without discrimination, so both virtuous people, as well as those who lack any virtue, are assured of birth in the Pure Land if they entrust to Him.

It is not an obligatory condition that only the evilest and corrupt beings should entrust to Amida; even the wise and virtuous should do that. There are high-level Bodhisattvas in various universes who also have faith in Amida and aspire to be born there. Also long-living gods as well as other beings, humans and non-humans, who are more spiritually advanced, some of them acting as unenlightened Dharma protectors, entrust to Amida, too. Such beings, while still not enlightened, are part of the higher grade of aspirants:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Assurance of attaining Nirvana in the Pure Land through faith and praising of Amida’s merits by all Buddhas - commentary on section 22 of the Larger Sutra

“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘Sentient beings who are born in that Buddha land all reside among those assured of Nirvana. The reason is that in that land there are neither beings who are destined to adverse conditions nor those whose destinies are uncertain.

‘All Buddha Tathagatas in the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, together praise the inconceivable, supernal virtue of Amitayus. All sentient beings who, having heard His Name, rejoice in faith, think of Him even once, and sincerely transfer the merit of virtuous practices to that land, aspiring to be born there, will attain birth and dwell in the stage
of non-retrogression. But excluded are those who have committed the five grave offenses and abused the Right Dharma.’”

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Nirvanic features of the Pure Land and its inhabitants – commentary on sections 14-21 of the Larger Sutra (part 2)

As I mentioned earlier, the five senses of samsaric beings (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling) lead to delusion, attachment, dissatisfaction and suffering, but when the inhabitants of the Pure Land see, hear, touch, smell or taste things belonging to that realm, - because those are enlightened manifestations and their own minds and sense organs are also enlightened, - the states of mind they experience are themselves enlightened and pure.
ANY element in samsara can be both useful or an obstacle to our life and practice, but in the Pure Land EVERYTHING there is conducive to perfect Enlightenment and is a manifestation of perfect Enlightenment.   

We already talked about the effects of seeing the Bodhi Tree or hearing the Dharma sounds produced by the gentle breeze which wafts through its branches and leaves. However, Dharma sounds are not limited to the Bodhi Tree. They are also produced by the seven jeweled trees:

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch