Due to its great beauty and relative simplicity in practice, while not compromising the profundity of its skill in means and the ultimate goal in terms of generating bodhicitta and attaining supreme enlightenment, the Pure Land tradition became strongly popularised among the masses. It ‘has been the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in East Asia for the past thousand years and more.’ (Cleary 1997, p.2) Its key attractions include the following.
i) Its teachings are based on compassion, on faith in the compassionate Vows of Amitabha Buddha to welcome and guide all sentient beings to His Pure Land. [In aspiring to be a Bodhisattva, the teachings are also based on one’s compassion for all beings and faith in one’s Buddha-nature being congruent to Amitabha Buddha’s.]
ii) It is an easy method, in terms of both goal (rebirth in the Western PureLand as a stepping-stone toward Buddhahood) and form of cultivation (can be practiced anywhere, any time with no special liturgy, accoutrements or guidance). [It requires no special setting or equipment; just right understanding and effort as the chief requisites. It is also relatively less demanding as it does not expect attainment of liberation within this life.]
iii) It is a panacea for the diseases of the mind, unlike other methods or meditations which are directed to specific [spiritual] illnesses (e.g., meditation on the corpse is designed to sever lust, counting the breath is meant to rein in the wandering mind). [Mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha can, for instance, help curb lust, concentrate the mind, express repentance… The usage of the name for spiritual purposes seems unlimited, as it calls to mind various spiritually-affirmative attributes of the enlightened.]
iv) It is a democratic method that empowers its adherents [especially the laity, busy, less educated and/or poor], freeing them from arcane metaphysics as well as dependence on teachers [e.g. for special tantric instructions through initiation] and other mediating authority figures [who are not always readily found or easy to trust]. (Cleary 1997, p.iv)