If I become a Buddha,
[My] land shall be the foremost,
[With] its assembly rare and wonderful,
[In a] bodhimanda [place for Dharma practice] that is supreme.
– 法藏比丘 Dharmakāra Bhikṣu
Question: How was Amituofo (Amitābha Buddha) able to ‘get’ the essence of other Buddhas’ Pure Lands to create his own? This seems to make his Pure Land ‘much better’ than theirs. Yet, how can this be when they should be equally excellent, as all Buddhas have equally perfect wisdom and compassion?
Answer: Here is a summary of how Amituofo’s Pure Land came to be, with excerpts from ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra’ (无量寿经) –
- Before Amituofo became a Buddha, as Dharmakāra Bhikṣu (法藏比丘), he asked the Buddha of his time, Lokêśvararāja Buddha (世自在王佛), to teach him how to ‘gather Buddha Lands’ purity to adorn an immeasurably wonderful land’ (摄取佛国淸净庄严无量妙土).
- The Buddha then ‘widely spoke of two hundred and ten koṭīs [1 koṭī is 10 billion or 10 million] of all Buddha Lands, [their] heavenly and human beings’ good and evil [natures, and their] lands’ coarseness and subtleties, responding to his wishes, [with] all appearing [before] him. (广说二百一十亿诸佛刹土, 天人之善恶, 国土之粗妙, 应其心愿, 悉现与之。)
- Then, the Bhikṣu, having heard that spoken by the Buddha, on adornments of Pure Lands, [with] all [of them] seen, gave rise to unsurpassable supreme vows… With five full kalpas [world cycles], [he] contemplated [upon] the pure practices to gather adornments for his Buddha Land.’ (时彼比丘, 闻佛所说严净国土, 皆悉睹见, 起发无上殊胜之愿… 具足五劫, 思惟摄取庄严佛国淸净之行。)
- He was thereafter encouraged by the Buddha to proclaim his vows, ‘to give rise to delight and approval of all in the great assembly, where bodhisattvas who hear this, will cultivate the practice of this Dharma, to condition and result in fulfilment of [their] immeasurable great vows.’ (发起悦可一切大众, 菩萨闻已, 修行此法, 缘致满足无量大愿。)
- To further summarise the above, Dharmakāra Bhikṣu exerted much extra time and efforts, along with the guidance of Lokêśvararāja Buddha’s wisdom and supernormal powers, to detailedly learn and survey of an astronomical number of defiled and pure lands (both collectively called ‘Buddha Lands’; world systems where there are Buddhas, including ours), which is how he was able to discern their various advantages and shortcomings, so as to synergise all their advantages and do away with all shortcomings. As the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, his Pure Land naturally became unsurpassable.
It was thus through deep scrutiny and reflection that he was able to crystallise and express his 48 great vows for creating the most excellent Pure Land, which was selflessly, meticulously and painstakingly created by his continual adornment (and manifestation) of meritorious virtues and wisdom, through innumerable kalpas of innumerable acts of guiding innumerable sentient beings to (his land and) Buddhahood. (Related course: The 48 Great Vows Of Amituofo: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/05/the-48-great-vows-of-amituofo-boundless-blessings-for-this-life-the-next-4th-run) This adornment in fact began the moment he declared his vows, to inspire others to rejoice and ride upon (or emulate) his vows. The adornment became complete the moment all his vows were actualised, when he attained Buddhahood.
Indeed, all Buddhas’ Pure Lands should be equally excellent, since they are all perfectly enlightened. However, from what we learn of various Pure Lands in the sūtras, they were created based on different initial vows, as constrained by the then future-Buddhas’ unique conditions, which also shaped the kinds of Pure Lands they aspired to create, and the kind of beings they aspired to reach out to. For example, some other Pure Lands are said to have various higher spiritual entry requirements, such as having cultivated the Six Perfections, having upheld the precepts purely, having deep concentration…
However, now that these future-Buddhas are indeed Buddhas, having perfected their compassion, wisdom and skilful means, their Pure Lands should have evolved to become equally beneficial and welcoming to all beings. Yet, the only references we now have on the nature of these Pure Lands are the sūtras, which unfortunately, cannot show us their ‘updated statuses’. This is in sharp contrast with Amituofo’s Pure Land being clearly stated to be the foremost in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra, almost right in its beginning. (See opening quote above.)
Due to Amituofo’s Pure Land’s clearly supreme nature from its conception to its accomplishment, all Buddhas of all directions, as recorded in the Amitābha Sūtra, will make it a point to urge all beings to have faith in Amituofo, and to practise accordingly to reach and benefit fully from his Pure Land. (Related courses: Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/08/understanding-amituofo-via-the-amitabha-sutra-14th-run & The Mindfulness Factor: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/08/the-mindfulness-factor-how-to-be-mindful-of-buddha-purely-run-2) Riding on his vows, it is also relatively easier to reach as its spiritual entry requirements are set to be the lowest possible, while not compromising the supreme spiritual benefits upon arrival there.
As taught by Great Master Zhizhe, ‘… mindfulness of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo] is mindfulness of all Buddhas. Birth in one Pure Land is birth in all Pure Lands.’ (… 念阿弥陀佛，即念一切佛。生一净土，即生一切净土。) (Related Article: Why Be Particularly Mindful Of One Buddha?: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/03/why-be-particularly-mindful-of-one-buddha) As such, the wonderful news is that all Pure Lands are interconnected with cross-accessibility, as they operate with Buddhas’ perfectly co-operative blessings to bridge their inhabitants to one another. However, at least one has to be reached first, and the easiest is definitely Amituofo’s Pure Land! These reasons, and many more, are why Amituofo’s Pure Land is supreme!