[7] Top Ten Misconceptions About The Pure Land Teachings 十大对净土教理的误解

[7] Top Ten Misconceptions About The Pure Land Teachings

[01] ‘Inauthenticity’ Of Teachings: Some wrongly assume that the Pure Land sūtras (净土经) are few and were not taught by the Buddha. However, there are almost 300 such interconnected sūtras discovered by historians so far, which make up more than 13% of all sūtras. This number can only grow with further discoveries. The earliest found sūtras already mentioned Pure Land concepts too. Proof of the Pure Land teachings is also found in the efficacy of their time-tested practices. For more, see:

15-Point Proof For Authenticity Of The Pure Land Teachings

Pure Land Teachings Within Earliest Found Buddhist Scriptures (Before The Pāli Canon Formed)

Whose Buddhism is Truest?

The Five [Main] Pure Land Sūtras

Ancient And Modern Pure Land Practice Testimonies

[02] ‘Formlessness’ Of Pure Land: Some wrongly assume that Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛: Amitābha Buddha) Pure Land is not real, existing in mind-only (唯心), not realising that it is not an ordinary form, but with the most skilful and pure forms, as manifested from a Buddha’s completely enlightened mind, for facilitating the swiftest progress towards Buddhahood. In this sense, the Pure Land is with forms as real as possible, that align us to the true form (实相) of reality. For more, see:

Is Pure Land Formless Or Mind-Only?

[03] ‘Attachment’ To Form: Some wrongly assume that to aspire to reach Pure Land is to be attached to form (着相). However, even the Buddhas know that we need forms as skilful means (方便) for guiding our learning and practice. With Pure Land’s forms being pure, despite their splendour, they will never condition any attachment to form, while guiding its inhabitants to realise that forms and emptiness are synonymous. For more, see:

How To Reconcile Teachings Of The Vajra Sūtra And The Amitābha Sūtra On Forms?

[04] ‘Forsaking’ This World: Some wrongly assume that to reach Pure Land is to forsake this world and loved ones, to ‘escape’ for ‘retirement’ there. This is not so as going to Pure Land is for spiritual learning and practice. It is a false dichotomy that to reach Pure Land is to forsake this land. Just as to go to school is not to give up working, but to train for working better, to reach Pure Land is for spiritual training, to be the most efficient Bodhisattvas as swiftly as possible, thereupon returning to benefit not just this world, but all defiled lands (秽土).

Some might be attached to the practice of ‘riding upon vows to come again’ (乘愿再来) immediately after this life ends. However, how can this be done definitely if we will forget this life’s aspirations, with all the Dharma learnt and practised in the next life? We know this will be so as we did not recollect our past life when reborn in this life. If we were not great practitioners capable of remembering our past lives in this life, there is no reason to think we will remember this life in the next here.

However, all returning from Pure Land will be able to recollect everyone’s past lives, including all the Dharma learnt from many Buddhas, not just in the Pure Land. All will be able to, ‘for sentient beings thus, wear the armour of great vows [of Universal Virtue Bodhisattva (普贤菩萨)], accumulate and amass virtuous roots, to deliver and liberate all’ (为众生故,被弘誓铠,积累德本,度脱一切). With this ‘armour’, all will be protected from obstacles, such as forgetting of past lives. With this empowered safety and recollection, this world and loved ones can be best helped. For more, see:

Do Pure Land Aspirants Forsake Other Beings?

Should We Aspire To Return Here Immediately?

How Death Hinders Progress To Liberation

[05] ‘Difficulty’ Of Reaching Pure Land: Some wrongly assume that Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is not so easy to reach, not understanding that beyond giving rise to Self-power (自力) to nurture the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行), the great Other-power (他力) of the Buddha or Buddha’s power (佛力) takes over in ensuring his Pure Land will be reached. As long as the Three Provisions are adequate, one already has ‘many good roots and blessed virtues as cause and condition’ (多善根福德因缘), even if one does not have other Dharma knowledge or practice in this life. In fact, the Pure Land Dharma Door (净土法门) is the only Easy Practice Path (易行道), as only it has the great support of the Buddha.

Some also wrongly assume that it is easier to practise in this defiled land (秽土) than in Pure Land. This is surely not so, or no Buddhas will create any Pure Lands, much more continually and most strongly recommend reaching of Āmítuófó’s Pure Land (which is the easiest to enter, through which all other pure and defiled lands can be reached as wished). While it is true that good practice in this defiled land creates much meritorious virtues (功德) as this is done despite its many challenging defilements, it is correspondingly that much harder to create these meritorious virtues.

In the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿经》, Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) taught that, ‘With the right mind and right thought, observing the [eight] purification precepts purely, for one day and one night [in this Sahā World], this is superior to, in the Immeasurable Life Buddha’s Pure Land practising good for one hundred years.’ (正心正意,斋戒清净,一日一夜,胜在无量寿国为善百岁。) Thus, the ratio of meritorious virtues for ‘defiled land practice : Pure Land practice’ is ‘1 day : 100 years × 365 days (i.e. 36,500 days)’ or ‘1 : 36,500’. This also means it is 36,500 times harder to practise successfully in a defiled land. For more, see:

The Three Provisions

Only The Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha Relies On Buddha’s Power

Verses On Easy Practice

The First And Second Halves Of The Easy Practice Path

Is Practice Easier In Defiled Lands?

16 ‘Self-Powered’ Misconceptions On Pure Land Practice

[06] ‘Ease’ Of Reaching Elsewhere: Some wrongly assume that it is easier to reach Tuṣita Heaven’s Inner Court (兜率内院) to learn from Maitreya Bodhisattva (弥勒菩萨). However, the prerequisites for reaching it demand more efforts from Self-power, more than the Three Provisions above.

Some also wrongly assume that the Maitreya Bodhisattva can only be met at Tuṣita Heaven, as he can also be met in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. As taught in Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices And Vows’ Chapter《普贤行愿品》, ‘Reaching [the Land Of Ultimate Bliss] already, immediately seeing Amitā[bha] Buddha, Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva, Universal Virtue Bodhisattva, Contemplating With Ease Bodhisattva, Maitreya Bodhisattva and others. These all Bodhisattvas, with physical forms upright, and meritorious virtues complete, for them together surround.’ (到【极乐世界】已即见阿弥陀佛、文殊师利菩萨、普贤菩萨、观自在菩萨、弥勒菩萨等。此诸菩萨,色相端严,功德具足,所共围绕。) Thus, the idea that one either chooses to meet Maitreya Bodhisattva or Āmítuófó is a false dichotomy, as both can be met in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. For more, see:

Why Not Seek Birth In Tuṣita Heaven?

Is Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land Easier To Reach Than Tuṣita’s Inner Court?

Where To Meet Amitābha Buddha And Maitreya Bodhisattva Together

[07] For Afterlife ‘Only’: Some wrongly assume that practice of the Pure Land teachings is for the dying state and the next life only, thus neglecting this life’s practical issues and bettering of this world. However, the sincere practice of mindfulness of Buddha benefits everyday life. Connecting our Buddha-nature (佛性) to the Buddha’s blessings with mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), the three poisons (三毒) of greed, hatred and delusion (贪嗔痴) will be reduced, while the virtues of generosity (布施), compassion (慈悲) and wisdom (智慧) will grow. Thus purifying ourselves, the world will accordingly be purified too.

There are also many other benefits. As stated by the Buddha in the Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitā[bha] Buddha’s Fundamental Esoteric Spiritual Mantra《佛说阿弥陀佛根本秘密神咒经》, ‘If there are sentient beings, who hear this said about Amitā[bha] Buddha’s inconceivable meritorious virtues, with joyful enthusiasm, and sincere minds recite his name (Āmítuófó), with profound faith untiringly, thereupon manifesting on their bodies, they will receive incomparable bliss. Perhaps transforming poverty and lowliness, to obtaining of wealth and honour. Perhaps attaining the fruit of avoiding that pursuing by suffering of sicknesses from past karmas. Perhaps transforming short lifespans, to attaining lengthened lifespans. Perhaps with enemies changing their hatred. Attaining children, grandchildren and prosperity, peace and bliss of body and mind, and fulfilment according to their wishes. Such meritorious virtues, cannot be counted.’ (若有众生,闻说阿弥陀佛不可思议功德,欢喜踊跃,至心称念,深信不懈,于现在身,受无比乐。或转贫贱,获得富贵。或得果免宿业所追病患之苦。或转短命,得寿延长。或怨家变恨。得子孙繁荣,身心安乐,如意满足。如是功德,不可称计。) For more, see:

Top Ten Benefits From Mindfulness Of Buddha For This Life

Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitā[bha] Buddha’s Fundamental Esoteric Spiritual Mantra

[08] ‘Inadequacy’ Of Teachings: Some wrongly assume that to focus on the Pure Land teachings is to neglect all other teachings, not knowing that the Pure Land teachings are the ultimate skilful means of the Buddhas. When learnt and practised properly, nothing is amiss, such as the Threefold Training (三学), and even the Six Perfections (六度). The Pure Land teachings are thus profound and comprehensive in essence, with much to learn for the intellectual, not at all ’too simplistic‘. However, they are indeed also easy for the less intellectual to practise. Again, this is possible because they are the ultimate skilful means. For more, see:

Wholehearted Mindfulness Of The Buddha Is Cultivation Of Precepts, Concentration And Wisdom
Verses On Threefold Learning

How Buddha Mindfulness Completes The Six Perfections

Mindfulness Of Buddha As Unsurpassable Meditation

[09] ‘Inefficiency’ For Buddhahood: Some wrongly assume that it will take ‘too long’ to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, and to spiritually progress there. Only the last two of nine grades of birth in the Pure Land, for those who previously did much evil but repented and practised in time, require 6 and 12 kalpas for birth, which are only 6 and 12 days in that land’s time. The other higher grades are born between immediately and 49 days, which all convert to less than a minute there. Being the best Dharma school recommended by all Buddhas, it guarantees the swiftest progress to Buddhahood. It is also possible to depart from it before full training, to return here, and to return to it for more training later, without forgetting that learnt.

As taught in the Sūtra On Praises Of The Pure Land With Buddhas’ Protection And Reception《称赞净土佛摄受经》, ‘Be born in the Western Land Of Ultimate Bliss, to receive and use all kinds of meritorious virtues’ adornments of the pure Buddha land, with the Great Vehicle’s Dharma joy. In day and night, during the six periods be close to, for making offerings to Immeasurable Life Buddha, travelling in the ten directions to make offerings to many Buddhas, at many Buddhas’ places hearing the Dharma and receiving predictions, with blessings and wisdom’s provisions swiftly attaining perfection, to quickly realise Unsurpassable Equal And Right Bodhi.’ (生西方极乐世界,受用种种功德庄严清净佛土大乘法乐。日夜六时亲近供养无量寿佛,游历十方供养诸佛,于诸佛所闻法受记,福慧资粮疾得圆满,速证无上正等菩提。) For more, see:

The Fastest Way To Buddhahood Is Via Birth In Pure Land

Should I Worry About Taking A Long Time To Have My Lotus Birth In Pure Land?

[10] For The ‘Cowardly’: Some wrongly assume that Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is only for those spiritually ‘weak’ and ‘cowardly’. While all who are truly so are welcomed to reach it, there are many Great Bodhisattvas (大菩萨) who aspired to reach it personally and continue to guide beings to it. They include Contemplator Of The World’s Sounds Bodhisattva (观世音菩萨), Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva (文殊菩萨), Earth Treasury Bodhisattva (地藏菩萨) and Universal Virtue Bodhisattva (普贤菩萨).

Other Great Masters (大师) like Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva (龙树菩萨), Lama Tsongkhapa (宗喀巴大师) and many others also aspired to reach the Pure Land. This is so as it offers the swiftest progress towards Buddhahood, even for already rather proficient practitioners. So much so, that it is as if irresponsible for aspiring Bodhisattvas to not go there, just as it does not make sense for those lacking education to skip the best school available, before attempting to be truly useful to society. For more, see:

Is Seeking Birth In Pure Land Cowardly?

Is Pure Land Only For The Timid And Weak?

The Eight Great Bodhisattvas’ Connections With Amitābha Buddha

Selections From Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva’s Aspiration Verses

Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva And Amitābha Buddha’s Connection

Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘Aspiration Prayer For Rebirth In The Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss’

Related Article:

Common Wrong Pure Land Views With Right Reviews

‘Top Ten’ Series:

[1] Top Ten Personal Niànfó Practice Obstacles

[2] Top Ten Obstacles When Guiding The Dying To Reach Pure Land

[3] Top Ten Wake Support-Chanting Challenges

[4] Top Ten Niànfó Group Cultivation Challenges

[5] Top Ten Buddhist Class Challenges

[6] Top Ten Reasons For Using Āmítuófó’s Name When Support-Chanting

[7] Top Ten Misconceptions About The Pure Land Teachings

[8] Top Ten Benefits Of Practising Support-Chanting

[9A] Top Ten Benefits From Mindfulness Of Buddha

[9B] Top Ten Benefits From Mindfulness Of Buddha For This Life

[10A] Top Ten Difficulties In This Defiled Land Vs Ease In That Pure Land (1)

[10B] Top Ten Difficulties In This Defiled Land Vs Ease In That Pure Land (2)
Sahā World’s Ten Difficulties And Pure Land’s Ten Easinesses

[11] Top Ten Great Causes And Conditions Giving Rise To The Pure Land Dharma Door

[12] Top Ten Obstacles Of Mindfulness Of Buddha When Approaching Death

[13] The Pure Land Tradition’s Ten Essentials

[14] The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land

[15] ‘Verses On Mindfulness Of Buddha With The Sincere Mind’ As Inspired By ‘Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Ten Great Vows’

[16] (Afterword On) ‘Practices With Ten Great Obstacles’ Or ‘Ten Kinds Of Non-Seeking’

[17] The Method Of Ten Recitations With Counting & The Method Of Early Morning’s Ten Recitations

[18] The Ten Faiths

[19] Top Ten Reasons Why Āmítuófó is So Popular
Significance Of Āmítuófó’s 17th Vow

[20] Top Ten Facts To Know About The Dhāraṇī (Rebirth) Blanket

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