Question: The vows of Dharmakara Bodhisattva (who became Amitabha Buddha; Amituofo) are structured in the format of ‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, __[various beings]__ should not be able to ___[be benefited in certain ways]___, may I not attain perfect awakening [Buddhahood].’ But since there are immeasurable beings, how can they all be guided to Enlightenment (as all Bodhisattvas vow to to guide all to Enlightenment)? And if they cannot all be helped, how did he become a Buddha?
Answer: Here is the short answer. (Please see the related articles below for more detailed answers.) As they become increasingly all-encompassing in their training to expand their thus boundless compassion, all Bodhisattvas become truly prepared to spend an indefinitely long period of time to guide all beings to Enlightenment, before becoming Buddhas. And since there is an immeasurable number of beings, their compassionate efforts are likewise immeasurable to meet their needs.
In the Amitabha Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha taught that Amitabha Buddha had already attained Buddhahood ten kalpas (world cycles) ago. Is there a contradiction? No. It is natural that in the course of practice, Bodhisattvas will become Buddhas when they reach the peak of perfect compassion and wisdom. No sensible Bodhisattva will refrain from perfecting compassion and wisdom as this enables them to best help all beings.
But even as Buddhas, they can continue their Bodhisattva practices to guide beings to Enlightenment. They can also manifest as countless Bodhisattvas to do so, thus not ‘resting’ in Buddhahood or breaking any Bodhisattva vows of ‘attaining Buddhahood’ before helping all. In fact, the best Bodhisattvas are all (from) Buddhas. All the truly great Bodhisattvas are manifested from ancient Buddhas. True and perfect compassion must be infinite and unending!
The Paradox of Bodhisattvahood Vs Buddhahood & Vows Vs Perfections?
Are There Immeasurable Beings to Be Saved?
Why are Amituofo’s Vows Worded So?
Boundless Compassion in the Sutra of the Name (of Amitabha Buddha)