Clarifications On Questions About Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land 释迦牟尼佛净土答疑 Should Traditional Buddhist Funeral Practices Be Changed? 传统佛教丧葬模式该改变吗?

Clarifications On Questions About Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land

Question [1]: Did Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) teach that all Buddhas (佛陀) and Bodhisattvas (菩萨) are manifested from him?

Answer: No. [i] The Buddhas are interconnected to one another AFTER Buddhahood in the ‘form’ of the one universal Dharma Body (法身: Dharmakāya). [ii] Buddhas can manifest as Bodhisattvas. [iii] Not all Buddhas are manifested from Śākyamuni Buddha, but all are with the ‘shared’ Dharma Body. [iv] Śākyamuni Buddha is the founding teacher (教主) of Buddhism in this world and era, but is not the universe’s ‘central Buddha’ or ‘all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’.

For example, on their distinctions, in the Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》, Śākyamuni Buddha taught that Amitā[bha] Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) attained Buddhahood ten kalpas (十劫) ago. Chronologically and conventionally speaking, this means they are different Buddhas.

Question [2]: Did Śākyamuni Buddha encourage us to be mindful of his name when dying?

Answer: While he did teach on mindfulness of various Buddhas, he repeatedly encouraged us to be mindful of Amitābha Buddha’s name (Āmítuófó) the most, even emphasising that the six directions’ all Buddhas (六方诸佛) praise Āmítuófó too. This means that unless there is another specific Buddha that one aspires to meet, to really honour and rely on to Śākyamuni Buddha’s teachings for practice (依教奉行), is to be mindful of Āmítuófó when departing.

More reasons on why Āmítuófó’s name is most commonly used for support-chanting (助念) can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2023/02/15/6-top-ten-reasons-for-using-amituofos-name-when-support-chanting. Reasons on Śākyamuni Buddha’s name is usually not used for Main Practice (正行) can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2023/02/17/why-be-mindful-of-amituofo-instead-of-our-fundamental-teacher-for-cultivation.

Question [3]: Does Śākyamuni Buddha have his own Pure Land (净土) here?

 No, as this world is a defiled land (秽土). This should not be confused with the completely pure being able to personally see any land as pure, as actual Pure Lands are pure to all its other inhabitants too.

Question [4]: Where is Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land?

 According to Śākyamuni Buddha in Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra’s ‘Part 4 Of Chapter 10 On King Of Bright Light’s Pervasive Illumination With Noble Virtues Bodhisattva’ (《大般涅槃经》光明遍照高贵德王菩萨品第十之四),

‘To the Western direction from this Sahā World, passing thirty-two Ganges rivers’ sands’ of many other Buddha Lands, there is a world named “Unsurpassable”. Of that land, why is it named “Unsurpassable”? That land’s all matters, are of magnificence and beauty, all are equal, without differences, similar to [that of Āmítuófó’s] Western [Pure] Land Of Peace And Bliss, likewise like [the Medicine Master Buddha’s (药师佛: Yàoshīfó)] Eastern [Pure] Land Of The Full Moon. I, from that land appeared in this life, for transforming sentient beings thus, in this world of Jambudvīpa within, appearing to turn the Dharma wheel. Not only does my body alone in this world within, appears to turn the Dharma wheel, all other Buddhas are likewise in this world within, and turn the Dharma wheel.’


Question [5]: What is noteworthy about this?

 Śākyamuni Buddha uses Āmítuófó’s Pure Land as an important and popular ‘benchmark’ for comparison, which reminds us of the central nature of Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. The mention of his Pure Land to be similar to the two reminds us that all Pure Lands are equally unsurpassable. However, Āmítuófó’s Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐世界), which is also to the West of here, is the easiest Pure Land to reach, through which other Pure Lands can be reached too.

Despite having their own Pure Lands to ‘govern’ as their teaching ‘headquarters’, Śākyamuni Buddha, Āmítuófó and other Buddhas also manifest in this world to teach, out of great compassion. See for instance, two of Āmítuófó’s many manifestations in this world at https://purelanders.com/2019/12/13/how-guo-qing-monasterys-three-hidden-sages-were-revealed and https://purelanders.com/2019/12/13/how-did-amitabha-buddhas-sacred-birthday-arise.

Question [6]: Why did Śākyamuni Buddha not further encourage us to reach his Pure Land, while repeatedly encouraging us to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land in hundreds of sūtras?

 This is because beings here have more karmic affinity with Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. (This also explains why many hear about Āmítuófó and his Pure Land, before they hear about Śākyamuni Buddha and his Pure Land.) Being focused in his recommendation also prevents us from being confused by the paradox of choice, which is how the more choices there are, the harder it becomes to choose decisively. More reasons explained by Śākyamuni Buddha can be seen at https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/03/why-be-particularly-mindful-of-one-buddha.

Interestingly, Śākyamuni Buddha also taught in the Great Vehicle’s Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra’s Sixth Scroll (《大乘入楞伽经》卷第六) that all Buddhas’ Dharma Body (法身), Reward Bodies (报身) and Manifestation Bodies (化身) emerge from the Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss.

‘In the ten directions’ all lands, with sentient beings and Bodhisattvas within, of all their Dharma Body Buddha, Reward Body Buddhas, Manifestation Body Buddhas and Transformation Body Buddhas, all from Immeasurable Life Buddha’s Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss within emerge, which from the right and vast sūtras within, should be known as their hidden meaning said.’


Again, this speaks of the central nature of Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. Since all Buddhas emerge from Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, all should be reborn there to swiftly become Buddhas.

Question [7]: Can this land be a ‘Pure Land in the human world’ (人间净土)?

No, as Pure Lands are out of the three realms (三界) of desire (欲界), form (色界) and formlessness (无色界), while this human path (人道) is in the desire realm (欲界). Also, the Buddhas in Pure Lands are with their Reward Bodies (报身) there, while Buddhas, such as Śākyamuni Buddha in this defiled land, are only Manifestation Bodies (化身), here for encouraging birth in an actual Pure Land to receive immeasurable spiritual benefits fully. More details on why this defiled land cannot become a Pure Land can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2022/12/06/can-this-human-world-become-a-pure-land.

Related Articles:

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

Why Be Mindful Of Āmítuófó Instead Of Śākyamuni Buddha?

Selected Pure Land Teachings From The Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra

How Guó Qīng Monastery’s Three Hermits Were Revealed
First Case Of Āmítuófó Speaking Too Much

How Did Amitābha Buddha’s Sacred Birthday Arise?
Second Case Of Āmítuófó Speaking Too Much

Why Be Particularly Mindful Of One Buddha?

Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land On Spirit Vulture Mountain (And Related Pure Land Concepts)

All Buddhas’ Dharma Body, Reward Bodies And Manifestation Bodies Emerge From The Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss
All Buddhas’ Source As Sūtras’ Hidden Meaning

Can This Human World Become A Pure Land?

Should Buddhism Focus On Humans Only?

Śākyamuni Buddha’s image in Mahāparinirvāṇa Temple in front of Parinirvāṇa Stupa at Kuśhinagara

Should Traditional Buddhist Funeral Practices Be Changed?

Without reference to any person(s), the below offers answers to questions asked with universal answers.

Question [1]: Did Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) encourage reciting of his name when dying or after death?

Answer: No. What most frequently advocated was mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha’s name – ‘Āmítuófó’ (阿弥陀佛).

Question [2]: Did the Buddha encourage return to this world right away after death?

Answer: No. Among many other good reasons, as most will forget everything about their past lives if they return here immediately, he urged birth in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land the most, where all will remember their past Dharma learning and practice, and most swiftly progress, to most efficiently deliver beings in all worlds.

Question [3]: Should the body of the deceased, if not already in a sitting posture, be moved to a sitting posture?

Answer: No. There should be minimal moving of the body, what more drastic repositioning. This is in case the consciousness of the deceased is still within the body, which will lead to great magnified pain.

Question [4]: Was the Buddha’s body cremated seated in a ‘receptacle’, (such as a ‘stupa’)?

Answer: No. As the Buddha entered Parinirvāṇa (涅槃) lying on his right, his body was also cremated in the lying down posture, (with his relics enshrined in many stupas after). Bodies are usually cremated in normal caskets in Buddhist practice. While the Buddha’s body was cremated on a funeral pyre, cremation is commonly done in furnaces these days.

Parinirvāṇa Stupa (with dome shape) and Mahāparinirvāṇa Temple at Kuśhinagara

Question [5]: Should the casket (or other ‘receptacle’) be tilted and such, with the body within?

Answer: No. Just as the final lying down posture should not be changed to a sitting posture, the final sitting posture should not be changed to a lying down posture. Again, ‘there should be minimal moving of the body, what more drastic repositioning. This is in case the consciousness of the deceased is still within the body, which will lead to great magnified pain‘.

Question [6]: Can the Dhāraṇī (Rebirth) Blanket (陀罗尼被 / 往生被) be cremated?

Answer: No. This is not traditionally accepted or practised in the Chinese Great Vehicle’s (大乘) traditions, out of respect for the many sacred mantras (咒) on it.

Question [7]: Can another blanket or any other item (e.g. with other words and such) be placed above the Dhāraṇī Blanket?

Answer: No. This is so as the mantras on the blanket represent the essence of the sacred Dharma. Thus, they should be placed the highest.

Question [8]: Should there be playing or singing of the deceased favourite song(s) at the wake or crematorium? What about having moving eulogies?

Answer: No. This should not be done as sentimental music (with or without lyrics) and words tend to evoke emotions, especially attachment. There should be offering of more guidance (开示) and recitation of the Buddha’s name for support-chanting (助念) instead. (See Question [1])

Question [9]: What are essentials to note when assisting the dying and handling the deceased?

Answer: There are ‘The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death’《临终三大要》taught by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师):

‘These Three Essentials are: First, skilfully inspire, guide and console the dying person, to enable giving rise to right Faith. Second, everyone should take shifts to recite the name of Buddha [Āmítuófó], so as to support pure mindfulness. Third, you must avoid [touching or] moving the body and crying, so as to prevent bungling the matter [of reaching Pure Land]. If able to rely on these three teachings in practice, one can definitely eradicate past negative karma, increase causes for birth in Pure Land, and attain the Buddha’s [Āmítuófó] receiving and guiding, for rebirth in his Western Pure Land.’ (More details can be seen at https://purelanders.com/now.)


Question [10]: Should time-tested Buddhist practices for assisting the dying and handling the deceased be changed, according to preferences of the living or even dying?

Answer: No. Exactly since they are time-tested, proven to be skilful, they should not be altered, so as to best help the dying and deceased. For those still alive, there should be explanation of the ‘Three Great Essentials’ (三大要). There should be following of past good examples to become another good example, by expressing the Right Dharma (正法) well. The opportunity to teach and inspire others should be taken, instead of possibly confusing them, while also not fully benefitting oneself. There should be focus on the spiritually functional instead of the ceremonially fanciful.

Related Teachings:

The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death

Why Be Mindful Of Āmítuófó Instead Of Śākyamuni Buddha?

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

How Death Hinders Progress To Liberation

Clarification On Questions About Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land

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