Q&A

Will We Have Suffering Upon Return From Pure Land?

Question: Bodhisattvas from Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land return to Samsara (cycle of birth and death) through the power of their spiritual aspirations (愿力) to help other beings, in contrast with ordinary beings returning to Samsara life after life led by their negative karma and afflictions. While the latter will certainly have suffering, will the first have any suffering?

Answer: According to Vow #22 of Amituofo below, as Bodhisattvas from Pure Land will be able to fulfill all the virtues (10 great vows) of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva with great ease by riding upon the guidance of Amituofo with his supportive and protective blessings, they will thus not have any suffering at all –

第二十二菩萨一生补处愿

设我得佛,他方佛土诸菩萨众,
来生我国,究竟必至一生补处。
除其本愿自在所化,为众生故,披弘誓铠,
积累德本,度脱一切。游诸佛国,修菩萨行,
供养十方诸佛如来,开化恒沙无量众生,
使立无上正真之道。超出常伦诸地之行,
现前修习普贤之德。
若不尔者,不取正觉。

[22] Vow Of Bodhisattvas Attaining Stage Of One Life To Replacement [Of Other Buddhas; Eka-jati-prati-baddhas]

If I [Dharmakara Bodhisattva, who had 10 kalpas (world cycles) ago become Amitabha Buddha] attain Buddhahood, all other directions’ Buddha Lands’ Bodhisattva assemblies, who come to be born in my land will ultimately and definitely attain the Stage Of One Life To Replacement [of other Buddhas]. Excluded are those whose fundamental vows are to, with ease manifest, for sentient beings thus, wear the great armour of vows [spiritual aspirations], accumulate the roots of virtues, and liberate all [beings]. Travelling to all Buddha Lands [defiled and pure], cultivating Bodhisattva practices, making offerings to all the ten directions’ Buddha Tathagatas, guide and transform immeasurable sentient beings, [as numerous as the] Ganges [River’s] sands, causing them to be established on the unsurpassable, right and true path [to Buddhahood]. Exceeding ordinary peers of all grounds in practice, [they will] directly manifest cultivation of the virtues of Samantabhadra [Bodhisattva]. If not so, [I shall] not attain right awakening.

[Summary: Those who have reached Amituofo’s Pure Land can manifest Buddhahood elsewhere after completing cultivation in that life, and/or freely practise the perfect Bodhisattva path by making offerings to and learning from all Buddhas to accumulate merits (meritorious virtues) and wisdom, and guide other beings to do the same, leading them to Pure Land and Buddhahood. Note that though the vow seems to apply to those who are already Bodhisattvas in the first place, all who have reached Pure Land will be inspired to give rise to perfect Bodhicitta, to aspire to become perfect Bodhisattvas.]

Q: When ‘ordinary Bodhisattvas’ who return to Samsara appear to age, fall sick and die, do they only manifest such ‘suffering’?

A: Actually, they are not ‘ordinary Bodhisattvas’ at all, as you can see in the vow above – as they will be connected to and empowered by the immeasurable other-power of Amituofo, boosted in all their efforts to become similar to the great Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, who represent perfect Bodhisattvas’ practices and vows. In this way, they will exceed all other peer Bodhisattvas. Thus, yes, when they appear to age, fall sick and die, these are but manifestations to skilfully fit in with samsaric beings, while they do not suffer in these ways at all.

Q: While great Bodhisattvas have mental bodies from their uncontaminated or pure karma, what kind karma and bodies will Bodhisattvas from Pure Land have in Samsara?

A: Just as Amituofo himself can manifest at will out of compassion to help other beings, with his blessings, Bodhisattvas from Pure Land can manifest any kind of form needed, as ‘ordinary’ or special forms, physical or mental. While they do not have perfect pure karma by themselves straightaway, as they are yet to be fully enlightened like the Buddhas, with Amituofo’s protection however, any contaminated (defiled or negative) karma will neither be created nor bear fruit, while they will have pure karma ‘topped up’ (shared) by the blessings of Amituofo.

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!