Is Pure Land Practice Only For The Faith-Inclined?

Question: Is Pure Land practice only for the faith-inclined, those who are not wisdom-inclined?  

Answer: The simple answer is no, as Pure Land practice is suitable for everyone despite their inclinations in whatever direction, which is why it was taught by the Buddha so often – to benefit as many beings as possible.

Any individual is never only inclined towards faith or wisdom as both qualities are required on the path to Buddhahood. In fact, faith is the first of the five spiritual faculties that leads towards wisdom (although there must be some wisdom to have this right faith too). One must first have adequate faith or conviction in the Buddha’s teaching that one has Buddha-nature (the potential to be a Buddha) in order to strive towards Buddhahood. Such sound faith is guided by innate wisdom too. Faith and wisdom are thus tightly intertwined.

As such, it is impossible to perfectly segregate individuals into only being faith or wisdom-inclined. Any inclination is just a greater leaning in that direction in the moment – it does not mean the other quality is totally missing, or that inclinations can change with personal experiences and choices. In fact, progress towards Buddhahood requires an increasingly more balanced state of mind that takes the Middle Path between faith and wisdom, where the two qualities best combine to work together.

Given that individuals are nevertheless more faith or wisdom-inclined in each moment, many mistaken Pure Land practice to be only suitable for the first. This is based on the general perception that those who practise the Pure Land path seem to be already satisfied with faithfully practising mindfulness of Amituofo, while being less enthusiastic about realising greater wisdom. This is the case for some at first but with right practice, there will naturally be more balance.

The truth is, good Pure Land practitioners are already on the path to Buddhahood – for the realisation of perfect wisdom. The emphasis on faithfully practising mindfulness of Amituofo with right understanding is itself an expression of great wisdom, as it is through practising this well, that birth in Pure Land is attained, where it is easier to realise even greater wisdom. The wisdom-inclined might however neglect cultivating faith, therefore less likely to secure entry into Pure Land, the best Dharma school for perfecting wisdom, as created by a Buddha.

We have to remember too, that Manjusri Bodhisattva, who personifies perfect wisdom, was present as a prominent audience member in the assemblies of the Amitabha Sutra and Contemplation Sutra. His very presence is solid endorsement of the importance of Pure Land practice, signifying that to listen and practise accordingly is an expression of great wisdom. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, who represents perfect practice of the Bodhisattva path towards Buddhahood also famously vowed to reach Amituofo’s Pure Land, and to guide all beings to it to better facilitate their path to Buddhahood.

Of course, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, who personifies perfect compassion, and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, who represents perfect aspiration, also vowed to guide beings to Amituofo’s Pure Land. Surely, it would be a great mistake to think these four cardinal Bodhisattvas only have faith and lack wisdom – when they are model examples with balance of perfect faith and wisdom, also implying that advocating and implementing Pure Land practice encompasses both right and great faith and wisdom. Of such great relevant and timeless wisdom are the Pure Land teachings, that Maitreya Bodhisattva, who is on the brink of Buddhahood, also came to learn them from Sakyamuni Buddha in the Amitabha Sutra and Infinite Life Sutra assemblies, to receive them for teaching more beings in the future when he himself becomes a Buddha.

Pure Land practice is therefore not solely for the faith-inclined, as it is also for the wisdom-inclined, for everyone who wish to eventually be balanced and optimal in all virtuous inclinations, including the five spiritual faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, along with compassion. Mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha is after all also mindfulness of our Buddha-nature, which is our potential for actualising all these qualities.

Related Articles:
The Pure Land Path Is For Everyone
Buddha Mindfulness Is Not Inferior

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  • Is there an Indian based Pure Land tradition? Or an active one now? I have a great attraction to India, and haven’t found an Indian based Pure Land tradition. Thanks.

    • Technically, all Pure Land teachings arose from India, since Sakyamuni Buddha first taught them there. As to whether there are active groups in India now focusing on it, am not sure. What we know is that the Pure Land teachings are flourishing in China and such these days.

  • Q: Is it mentioned in the Tipitaka?

    A: ‘According to Prof. Kotastsu Fujita, the total number of such [Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land] scriptures in the Chinese Buddhist [Tripitaka] canon is 290. The Chinese canon, which was collected and edited in Japan under the title of Taisho Tripitaka, contains 2,184 texts. Thus, more than 13% of all scriptures held to be authentic in the Chinese tradition recognize this Buddha and his land.’ – Prof. Hisiao Inagaki. The Pali Tipitaka is no longer seen as the earliest or most complete collection of the Buddha’s teachings: http://www.lindaheuman.com/stories/Tricycle_Magazine_Whose_Buddhism_is_Truest.pdf More on authenticity of Pure Land teachings: http://purelanders.com/2014/09/26/15-point-proof-for-authenticity-of-the-pure-land-teachings

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