Q&A

Are Pure Land’s Features ‘Extravagant’?

Question: The Amitabha Sutra describes Pure Land as a world filled with luxuries, which seems to contradict the nature of the Middle Path, that advocates staying away from extremes. If Pure Land is an ideal place to learn and practise the Dharma, why is there the need for precious materials for adornments?

Answer: Pure Land’s features are more of spiritual magnificence and splendour than of sensual luxuries. In fact, Pure Land’s environment advocates the Middle Path fully as everything there radiates the Dharma, with nothing there being of non-Dharma. In this sense, Pure Land’s features are not materialistically extravagant; but are instead supremely and spiritually appropriate; never overwhelming. Pure Land is really the Middle Path manifested physically as an environment – in the best way possible, as designed and actualised by Amituofo’s perfect compassion and wisdom. There are many reasons why Pureland is described to be embellished with precious materials:

[1] The sutras describe Pure Land as such, so as to ‘market’ Pure Land’s majesty to us. If not, there is no other way such a wonderful place can be described (physically). If Pureland is not described vividly, or is described as ordinary or without any physical advantage over Samsara, it will be of little appeal to most. The ‘marketing power’ of Pureland would reduced tremendously.

[2] The precious materials themselves radiate various precious aspects of the Dharma (the 37 wings of awakening) and represent the qualities of enlightenment (eternal, bliss, personal and pure) in terms of sight, sound and smell. The described features are archetypically (classically and timelessly) pleasing to all. As the forms in Pure Land are both conventionally beautiful and spiritually effective, they are skillfully attractive to both the worldly and the spiritual, thus attracting them to seek birth there.

[3] Though the Buddhas cannot describe the magnificence of Nirvana (which is beyond form) to encourage us to attain it, they can however describe the next best thing – the magnificent forms of Pure Land, which can guide us to Nirvana itself. The splendour of Pure Land is a natural spillover effect of the infinite compassion, wisdom and merits of Amituofo, who wants nothing less than the best for us.

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