Question: The vows of Amituofo are structured in the format of ‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, [beings] should not be able to [be benefited in certain ways], may I not attain perfect awakening [Buddhahood].’ But if Amituofo is already a Buddha, why are his vows worded this way?
Answer: As the vows were made by Dharmakara Bodhisattva when he had yet to become Amituofo, they were worded in the above format. We learn about these vows through Shakyamuni Buddha in the Infinite Life Sutra, who spoke of them to Ananda and a vast assembly. Shortly after he proclaimed Amituofo’s vows, the sutra says the below:
Ananda asked the Buddha, ‘Has the Bodhisattva Dharmakara already attained Buddhahood and then passed into Nirvana? Or has he not yet attained Buddhahood? Or is he dwelling somewhere at present?’ The Buddha replied to Ananda, ‘The Bodhisattva Dharmakara has already attained Buddhahood and is now dwelling in a western Buddha-land, called “Peace and Bliss”, a hundred thousand kotis of lands away from here.’ Ananda further asked the Buddha, ‘How much time has passed since he attained Buddhahood?’ The Buddha replied, ‘Since he attained Buddhahood, about ten kalpas have passed.’
And since Dharmakara Bodhisattva has attained Buddhahood, it also means all of his 48 vows have been accomplished, and are in action! If not, there would be no point for Shakyamuni Buddha to share the vows with us, which are essentially ways through which Amituofo can benefit us with his perfect merits, compassion and wisdom.