Importance Of Continual Active Enquiry
Question: It has been a long time since I sent you a query. I believe you have heard from H’s (not the real name) ‘big mouth’ that I am having some doubts about Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha), which is why I lack motivation to Nianfo (practise mindfulness of Amituofo).
Answer: H was not ‘big-mouthed’; just really concerned. Am glad we chatted about you, as he got me concerned about you too. H asked me how to advise you. I suggested him asking you what your doubts are, to relay them to me to answer. I also mentioned that there is no need to tell you that I asked, in case you feel uncomfortable. Receiving your query directly instead, I am glad that the C (the questioner: not the real name) I know is back – the one who asks questions when in doubt!
Was saying to H that you used to keep asking questions when in doubt, and that you should continue to do so. Remember – active enquiry is always emphasised in the first lesson of every course I teach. If you lose this spirit, a lot could be at stake. As you had spent much time learning the Pure Land teachings already, further faith ought to be fortified upon them, or it could all go to waste!
Logic Of The Pure Land Teachings
Q: Here is my question. How do we know if Amituofo really exists?
A: 15 points (divided into 3 sections) will be listed below to answer this. (You might also want to reflect on these extra ‘teaser’ questions? – ‘How do you know you exist? if you do, can you point “you” out to me?’)
Q: I have been learning Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, with little care about whether he existed. I follow his teachings as long as they seem logical. However, I find it doubtful when he mentioned about Amituofo.
A: If you follow Sakyamuni Buddha’s because they are logical, then you have to think about how his Pure Land teachings seem illogical. They are actually not only logical, but extremely profound. (This is why I can continue to teach the Pure Land teachings and lead Pureland Practice Fellowship sessions almost every week since 2008 – because there is so much to learn and share!)
Q: Since I did not meet Sakyamuni Buddha in real life, to me, he exists only in the scriptures. Thus, it is doubly difficult for me to believe in Amituofo’s existence through Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, who is like another party talked about by another party.
A: Such ‘logic’ is rather weak. It is not very different from saying you do not believe your great-grandfather’s friends existed because you did not see them in person; and only heard about them from someone else.
Q: How do we know that the teachings about Amituofo were not added by others into the scriptures, before passing them down through the generations?
A: Actually, throughout the Pure Land courses, much have already been shared on how we know Amituofo exists, and how the associated Pure Land teachings are timelessly valid. Perhaps you were late for, or missed some lessons? It is alright, as it is never too late to ask! Here is a systematic summary on how it all makes sense! –
Historical & Scriptural Proof
- Treasury Of Pure Land Sutras: Among the Pure Land sutra texts, although there are five deemed to be the most central to the core Pure Land teachings, there are almost 300 sutras (290) that mention about Amituofo and/or his Pure Land discovered by historians so far. This number of sutras can only grow with further discoveries. In terms of the Taisho Tripitaka, which contains 2,184 texts so far, the Pure Land sutras amount to more than 13 percent!
- Interconnections Of Pure Land Sutras: These Pure Land sutras are profound and tightly interconnected among themselves, without any contradictions.
- Interconnections With Other Sutras: All the Pure Land sutras are in turn seamlessly interconnected with thousands of all other sutras profound and simple, in doctrine, and again without any contradictions. No orthodox Buddhist tradition in history has any teachings that disagree with the Pure Land teachings.
- Impossibility Of Being Fake: Due to the countless congruent interconnections of the great volume of the profound Pure Land teachings with all other profound teachings of the Buddha, it is impossible for anyone or group of persons to be wise or even intelligent enough to fake the Pure Land teachings.
- Absence Of Conspiracy Theories: There are no proven or viable conspiracy theories suggested or found by any historians hinting that the Pure Land teachings could have been faked. There are no benefits for anyone to fake them too.
- Existence Of Many Buddhas: Sakyamuni Buddha was in our world ‘in the flesh’ and historians are certain of this by investigation of sites, scriptures and cultural influences. Since it is logical that there should be a most enlightened being arising once in a (long) while in our world, it is likewise logical that there are many other Buddhas arising in other parts of the universe at different periods in time. Amituofo happens to be one of them – an ancient Buddha who resides to the West of our world system, as introduced by Sakyamuni Buddha. Being fully enlightened, he will naturally speak of some of countless other Buddhas.
- Focus On One Buddha: Since it was not practical for Sakyamuni Buddha to teach at length about every single Buddha, it is natural that he will speak the most about one who can benefit us most readily, out of his perfect compassion, wisdom and skilful means. This particular Buddha is Amituofo. (As covered in ‘The Faith Factor’ course, on why Sakyamuni Buddha taught about Amituofo the most: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/03/why-be-particularly-mindful-of-one-buddha)
- Existence Of Pure Lands: Just as some of us, who are kinder and wiser, despite being unenlightened humans, will do our best to create what we perceived to be ‘ideal’ temples, centres or schools to guide more to learn and practise the Dharma, and progress towards Buddhahood, it is all the more perfectly natural that Buddhas will create Pure Lands, since they have perfect compassion and wisdom, so as to most efficiently guide us through these truly ideal schools to reach Buddhahood. Sakyamuni Buddha, knowing this, will naturally encourage us to reach the best spiritual school after this life, to advance to Buddhahood most swiftly. This particular school is Amituofo’s Pure Land. (See ‘The Fastest Way To Buddhahood Is Via Birth In Pure Land’: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/10/the-fastest-way-to-buddhahood-is-via-birth-in-pure-land)
- Focus On One Pure Land: Since Amituofo’s Pure Land is so truly ideal a spiritual school, it is likewise natural that all other Buddhas will most highly recommend all beings in other worlds to reach it. And this is exemplified in the Amitabha Sutra, where Buddhas representative of every direction did so exactly, which also validates Vow #17 of Amituofo, as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Immeasurable Life Sutra, that says all Buddhas will praise and proclaim about Amituofo and his Pure Land. (See ‘Top Ten Reasons Why Amituofo Is So Popular’: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/10/top-ten-reasons-why-amituofo-is-so-popular-significance-of-the-17th-vow-of-amituofo)
- Absence Of Reasonable Doubts: In history, from Sakyamuni Buddha’s time until today, there have been no reasonable doubts about Amituofo and his Pure Land that cannot be answered adequately by the many Pure Land sutras and Pure Land Patriarchs’ commentaries. These 15 points here merely summarise why this is so. In other words, the Pure Land teachings are absolutely authentic and watertight in logic and such.
- Time-Tested Teachings: The Pure Land teachings, since the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, up till today, more than 2,500 years later, has an unbroken lineage. Today, it is the leading Mahayana tradition worldwide in terms of popular practice. This is so as they are truly time-tested teachings, able to last thousands of years because each and every generation of Pure Land practitioners are able to practise them and experience beneficial fruits accordingly. The Pure Land teachings associated with Amituofo are so skilful, practical and enduring that as Sakaymuni Buddha taught in the Immeasurable Life Sutra, he will personally exert extra efforts to ensure the Pure Land teachings in it will be available in our world for an extended 100 years after the last days of the Dharma Ending Age.
- Consistency Of Experiences: Each generation’s Pure Land practitioners’ experiences and recorded testimonials of the myriad benefits above are profound, varied yet consistent, as recorded in many volumes of book after book, with accounts that are totally aligned with what taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Pure Land sutras, with no contradictions. (For a list of some 30 modern testimonials from our fellow Pureland Practice Fellowship friends alone, please see: http://purelanders.com/category/testimonials)
- Best Experiential Proof: The most unshakeably solid proof of practice is as summarised in the ‘Brief Introduction Of Pure Land’ in the book – ‘The Faith Factor: The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land’, that has no other way to be explained except that it is as each truly proficient Pure Land practitioner asserts – that Amituofo is real and came to bridge them to his Pure Land, as promised in the Pure Land sutras. Here is the relevant passage from http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/02/a-brief-introduction-of-pure-land – ‘Some classic signs of successful practice were exemplified by the illustrious Great Master Zhizhe [founding Patriarch of the Tiantai tradition], who was able to calmly announce his moment of departure for Pure Land. This state of mind transcends our usual three poisons of attachment (to samsaric life), aversion (to death) and delusion (of where one is going to). Such is remarkable proof of the great efficacy of Pure Land practice!’ It should be noted that since ancient times, no other Buddhist practice has the above effects of total ease, bliss and control over life and death, for both ‘average’ lay practitioners and great masters alike.
- Absolutely Essential Teachings: The Pure Land teachings, upon deeper study and practice, will be realised to be among the most streamlined yet profound of all Buddhist teachings. They are essential for swift progress towards Buddhahood, helpful for the greatest number of beings at any one time. Just as good worldly schools are necessary for good education now, entering the best spiritual school (Amituofo’s Pure Land) in our next lives is crucial for experiencing immeasurable wonders which expedite our path to Buddhahood.
- Experience Personal Proof!: Every diligent Pure Land practitioner eventually garners abundant personal yet irrefutable experiences from practice, to naturally have unwavering faith in the Pure Land teachings, thereafter enthusiastically sharing them with the next generation of Pure Land practitioners. As always, the best proof of the Pure Land ‘pudding’, as with all matters of faith that require personal verification, is in the ‘eating’ and tasting. And yes indeed, more than enough proof awaits if you practise diligently!