Can Samsara Better Lead to Buddhahood than Pure Land?

Question: Some believe that Samsara is a good place for spiritual cultivation exactly because of its imperfections, and the ‘friction’ it provides. How does this reconcile with going to Pure Land to practise?

Answer: This is a good question, and the answers are manifold, as below.

[1] If Samsara is the best place for cultivation, why are most beings in Samsara unenlightened, while all beings in Pure Land are steadily advancing towards Buddhahood? More personally, if Samsara is so good for practice, why are we still far from enlightenment after all this time? As the Buddha taught, all phenomena rise and fall – including the state of how well the Dharma is generally easy to be practised and propagated in Samsara. According to various sutras, the state of the Dharma will generally decline in our time (Dharma-ending age). If so, Samsara will become less and less a ‘good place’ to cultivate, with more and more channels for distractions and delusions to fester. At the same time, it is also taught that the Pure Land method will be the safest to practise for breaking free of Samsara within this period of time.

[2] If Samsara is the ideal place to practise the Dharma, there would be no need for the Buddhas to create Pure Lands and sing praises of them to urge beings in Samsara to seek birth there – as there would be no advantages for doing so for anyone at all. Pure Land does and must churn out enlightened beings more swiftly than Samsara. If otherwise, there would be absolutely no point to create even a single Pure Land – because it would deter beings from swift enlightenment by slowing them down.

[3] It is perfectly natural that there will be one ultimately super-skilful teaching that all Buddhas unanimously agree to be the best means to swiftly guide beings of all capacities to full enlightenment. That means is the (Amituofo) Pure Land method. There is no other comprehensive method that all Buddhas agree that is a must to propagate. As stated in the Amitabha Sutra, it is universally propagated by all Buddhas to beings of their lands. This is done obviously because Pure Land very efficiently trains beings to be enlightened, along with the provision of various other advantages. If not, it would not be sensible for all Buddhas to heavily market the Pure Land path.

[4] Pure Land provides a bird’s eye view of the universe, including Samsara, due to the availability of the divine (heavenly) eye for its beings, as empowered by Amituofo’s merits. Because of this, it is actually easier to give rise to Bodhicitta with great compassion to aspire to help all beings in Samsara. Pure Land is not a paradise that is blind to Samsara’s imperfections and suffering. The ability of Purelanders to be highly aware of Samsara’s suffering provides powerful impetus for advancing towards Buddhahood.

[5] Pure Land is the perfect physical embodiment of the Middle Path, as manifested from Amituofo’s boundless merits. Here, the Middle Path does not wrongly refer to a balance of push factors to enlightenment versus pull factors away from enlightenment – because there would be no advantage this way. Pure Land’s Middle Path refers to its environment not spurring slackness in Dharma practice, while not forcing beings to practise, while all the physical elements in Pure Land speak of the Dharma in spiritually pleasing (not sensually indulgent) ways to urge continual practice. Pure Land’s environment does not create any unnecessary friction against spiritual practice, while it provides the best ‘lubrication’ for advancing on the expressway of expedited practice without any jams.

[6] We need to remember that the Pure Land, as created by Amituofo, is praised by Buddhas of ALL directions for its excellence. In short, it is endorsed by ALL beings (Buddhas) who have perfect compassion and wisdom. This universal endorsement also means that even if ALL Buddhas put their compassion and wisdom together, they cannot create a Pure Land that is any more excellent. Thus, it would be a serious mistake to think that birth in Pure Land slows down the path to enlightenment instead of speeding it up. No single Buddha would design a Pure Land that decelerates instead of accelerates the path to enlightenment. If any one does, that being cannot be a Buddha, as perfect compassion and wisdom are requisites to be Buddhas, and having these qualities, no Buddha would create a sloppy Pure Land (that cannot be called a Pure Land at all). The fact that his Pure Land speeds up the path to enlightenment is also an expression of Amituofo’s universal compassion because he wants to train beings swiftly to help other beings in Samsara. When ALL Buddhas urge beings of their worlds to seek birth in Pure Land, they are also expressing the same perfect compassion.

[7] The two chief requisites for Buddhahood are perfect merits (from cultivation of compassion) and wisdom. In Pure Land, one can have access to Buddhas of all directions, while having Pure Land as the home base. This is a very precious advantage because one would be able to make offerings to countless Buddhas in person, thus swiftly accumulating much merits, and learn from them in person too, thus swiftly accumulating much wisdom!

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!