Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha) is often described as our loving father (弥陀慈父) – as a spiritual relational analogy; not in the actual paternal sense, and not as a perfect ‘heavenly father creator god’, as such a being simply does not and cannot exist due to reasons in this article – Are Buddhas Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent & Omniscient?: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2013/11/are-buddhas-omnipotent-omnibenevolent-omniscient
On our end, we are likened to immature and wilful children, yet to grow up spiritually to become Buddhas, who thus need ‘parental’ nurturing. And the best place to receive this is in Amituofo’s Pure Land, the reaching of which is likened to ‘returning’ to our ‘homeland’, in terms of ‘going home’ to our true Buddha-nature, as his Pure Land represents the full fruition of his Buddha-nature, where our own Buddha-nature can most easily blossom.
A severe misunderstanding of the father-child analogy would be that we were ‘born’ from a cosmic ‘father’, who became displeased with us and cast us out of our original paradisiacal home, who thus have to struggle to return. Amituofo did not create us, as we continually recreate ourselves through the rounds of rebirth, rising and falling karmically with good and evil done. We were thus not banished from Pure Land or any paradise, as we have yet to reach it. (Those back from Pure Land are here with compassion willingly, while remembering where they are from.)
If there is a perfect ‘heavenly father creator god’, there would not be creation of spiritually fallible beings, while being fallible personally, by being displeased. Such a ‘being’ cannot be omniscient (all-wise), omnibenevolent (all-kind) and omnipotent (all-powerful). Despite the possibility of such confusion, the father-child (or mother-child) analogy for the Buddha and us is a powerful and apt one, as probably no one we know in worldly life are more sympathetically mindful of us than our parents. Realising Amituofo’s even deeper concern and connecting with him, is how he can share his blessings with us.
Although there is no ‘heavenly father creator god’, there are famous Buddhist scriptural accounts of how Sakyamuni Buddha personally, physically and spiritually, defeated and admonished a prideful and deluded god, who mistook himself to be the creator of the universe, as summarised in this article – The Buddha’s Victory Over A God & Demon: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/03/the-buddhas-victory-over-a-god-demon
Of the ‘home base’ domains of Buddhas and gods, the drastic differences between enlightened Buddhas’ Pure Lands and unenlightened godly heavens should be noted too, as listed in this article – The Differences Between Heaven(s) & Pure Land(s): http://purelanders.com/2011/12/15/the-differences-between-heavens-pure-lands/. As compared in the Immeasurable Life Sutra, Pure Lands greatly surpass the heavens.
In terms of powers practical for helping sentient beings, Amituofo, being a Buddha, has perfect power of merits (功德力) and perfect power of guidance (引导力). These powers are very important as they represent the immeasurable compassion and wisdom of Amituofo respectively. His merits for sharing of blessings are boundless with continual selfless acts of compassion, while his guidance is always effective with his complete (or all-rounded) wisdom.
Combining great compassion with great wisdom is how great skilful means to guide sentient beings arise. This is how Amituofo has the greatest spiritual powers possible, being the most powerful spiritual guide available. This contrasts with the ‘heavenly father creator god’ idea, ‘who’ does not have omnipotence, omibenevolence or omniscience, thus lacking in merits and guidance to guide us perfectly when alive, dying or deceased.
The truth is, since all Buddhas have equally perfect compassion, every single Buddha sees every single one of us unenlightened sentient beings as an only child impartially, with equal amounts of immeasurable loving-kindness. This is a reason why, as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Amitabha Sutra, all Buddhas strongly recommend mindfulness of Amituofo, through the name of whom all Buddhas can easily share their blessings.
This universally unified exhortation by Buddhas of every direction to be mindful of Amituofo expresses perfect compassion as it encourages us to perfectly streamline our focus on mindfulness of Amituofo, so as to cure our problem of scatter-mindedness once and for all, with which is impossible to attain birth in any Pure Land, or advance steadily towards Buddhahood, even if undergoing many cycles of rebirth in Samsara.
The common theistic idea of a ‘heavenly father creator god’ scripturally demands to be feared yet loved without question, without which one is condemned to eternal suffering in the hells with no hope. Thus, such a ‘god’, at most, has only heavily conditioned love. Amituofo, instead, is the truly best spiritual father figure possible, for his love for all sentient beings is clearly unconditional, with infinite patience and good will, with no ill will at all.
Amituofo’s love is unconditional as he loves all sentient beings even if they are not aware of his existence, and even if they do know, but reject him. Even if such a sentient being does great evil and descends into the hells for a long (but finite) time (due to finite hellish karma), Amituofo’s concern never ceases, as he continues to look for skilful means to awaken the Three Provisions for reaching his Pure Land, where there is relief from all suffering.
Despite Amituofo’s great concern, for sentient beings to truly benefit from him, due to the natural law of cause and effect, he realised that we must give rise to The Three Provisions Of Faith, Aspiration And Practice, as in this article: http://purelanders.com/2010/04/01/the-three-provisions-of-faith-aspiration-practice/, to connect to him. Again, this is why all Buddhas, out of pure compassion, urge all sentient beings to nurture the Three Provisions.
As Amituofo aspires to guide all to Buddhahood, his compassion for all sentient beings never wavers – whether they have already given rise to the Three Provisions or not. As an ‘extreme’ example of how he is constantly on compassionate standby, a repentant hellhound being who is sincerely mindful of him with the Three Provisions can avoid the hells by reaching his Pure Land. Though challenging, even hell-beings mindful of him can depart.
The above is but a glimpse of how the Pure Land teachings are truly skilful and profound. The principles of the Pure Land path are not simplistic, although the main method of practice seems relatively simple. As Sakyamuni Buddha reiterated that it is ‘extremely difficult’ to give rise to faith in these precious teachings, we must persevere with diligent study, contemplation, enquiry and practice to strengthen our Three Provisions. Amituofo!
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