The most basic criteria for reaching Amitābha Buddha (Āmítuófó; 阿弥陀佛) and Medicine (Master) Buddha’s (药师佛) Pure Lands (in the West and East respectively) are the same – the Three Provisions (of profound Faith in that Buddha, sincere Aspiration to be born in that Buddha’s Pure Land, and Practice accordingly, with mindfulness of that Buddha’s name (or mantra). These Provisions are stated in a brief form in Āmítuófó’s ‘18th Vow Of All Born In My Land With Ten Mindful Thoughts’ (第十八十念皆生我国愿).
As there is no clear statement in the sūtras, in terms of Medicine Buddha’s vows, to personally receive and guide those on the deathbed to reach his Pure Land, some interpret this to mean that it might be harder to reach it, with the need for more self-powered practice. Āmítuófó however, has his ’19th Vow Of All Diligent In Cultivation Being Received And Guided By Me’ (第十九勤修我皆接引愿) – to aid reach of his Pure Land.
This is a reason why mindfulness of Āmítuófó is a relatively more popular practice – as there is the scripturally stated vow, along with clearly related teachings, of his reception and guidance to reach his Pure Land, through which all other Pure Lands, including Medicine Buddha’s Pure Land can be reached. Such ease is stated in Āmítuófó ‘9th Vow Of All Attaining Supernormal Travel And Flight [to reach immeasurable lands]’ (第九得神足飞行愿).
That said, there still might be reception and guidance by Medicine Buddha, as Śākyamuni Buddha taught that it will take more than a kalpa to fully speak of his vows and meritorious virtues. Also, according to ‘Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Section On Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha’ (首楞严经大势至菩萨念佛圆通章), this is taught – ‘If sentient beings’ minds recollect [a] Buddha, [and are] mindful [of that] Buddha, now [or in the] future, [they will] definitely see [that] Buddha.’ (若众生心，忆佛念佛，现前当来，必定见佛。) However, again, Medicine Buddha’s reception and guidance for those departing from life is not stated explicitly.
Incidentally, the Medicine Master Sūtra (药师经) states that Āmítuófó’s Pure Land and Medicine Buddha’s Pure Land have ‘meritorious virtues’ adornments [that] are equal [and] without difference’ (功德庄严，等无差别). This makes the ease of entering either Pure Land even all the more crucial, as a deciding factor of which to reach first.
If Medicine Buddha’s Pure Land is looked forward to, mainly for healing of body and/or mind, the truth is that sincere mindfulness of either Āmítuófó or Medicine Buddha’s name (or mantra) will work for this purpose now – partially if the negative karma involved is strong, and fully with total healing for sure, upon reaching their Pure Lands.
Two Popular Pure Lands: How East Meets West