Some FAQs On Pure Land Teachings
[Is Pure Land Within The Mind Here?]
Question : Is there evidence for authenticity of the Pure Land (净土) teachings?
Answer: Yes. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, there is plenty of proof. The time-tested efficacy of Pure Land practices are recorded in many volumes with testimonies of connection (感应录). For example, some ancient and contemporary testimonies can be seen at https://purelanders.com/testimonies.
Question : What is the origin of the Pure Land teachings? Are they found only in the Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》?
Answer: The Pure Land teachings were taught by Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛). According to a translator (Hisao Inagaki), ‘Actually there are many other sūtras and discourses that mention Amitābha and his Land of Bliss. According to Prof. Kōtatsu Fujita, the total number of such scriptures in the Chinese Buddhist canon is two hundred and ninety. The Chinese canon, which was collected and edited in Japan under the title of the Taishō Tripiṭaka, contains two thousand one hundred and eighty-four texts. Thus, more than 13 percent of all the scriptures held to be authentic in the Chinese tradition recognize this Buddha and his land.’
In the Chinese Pure Land Tradition (中国净土宗), there are the Five Pure Land Sūtras《净土五经》, which are the main scriptures of focus, in which Śākyamuni Buddha taught consistently on the nature of Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land: https://purelanders.com/wujing.
Question : Is the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (西方极乐世界) within our minds or outside?
Answer: Physically, it is outside our minds. Thus, Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) taught in the Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》that, ‘From here, in the WESTERN direction, PASSING a hundred thousand koṭis of Buddha LANDS, is a WORLD named “Ultimate Bliss”. In THAT land, is a Buddha named “Amitā[bha/yus]”, now presently speaking the Dharma.’ (从是西方，过十万亿佛土，有世界名曰极乐。其土有佛，号阿弥陀，今现在说法。)
Mentally, it is accessed with our minds, when connected to Amitābha Buddha’s (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) blessings, through mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), with the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行).
Question : Did Śākyamuni Buddha ever teach that Pure Land is only in the mind and not outside?
Answer: No. This is not found in any sūtra taught by him, while there might be misinterpretations by those yet to truly study the actual Pure Land sūtras, who assume otherwise. This is while, in the many Pure Land sūtras, he clearly and repeatedly taught the Pure Land to be tangible, thus as an ideal place where we can meet Amitābha Buddha, to learn from him, for expediting our progress to Buddhahood.
Just as it is perfectly natural for good human beings to create good schools for worldly education, it is all the more natural for a perfectly enlightened Buddha, with perfect compassion, wisdom and skilful means, to create the best spiritual school for guiding beings towards complete enlightenment. Of many Pure Lands taught by Śākyamuni Buddha, Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land is the most renowned, as recommended by all other Buddhas too, as recorded in the sūtras, including the Amitābha Sūtra.
Question : Is this land here pure and undefiled?
Answer: This land is a defiled land (秽土) as there is no Reward Body Buddha (报身佛) here, only with Manifestation Body Buddhas (化身佛). (Reward Body Buddhas only reside in their Pure Lands, with their meritorious virtues [功德] expressed fully to most efficiently guide all there to Buddhahood.) This land is a Pure Land (净土) ONLY to Buddhas, who are able to perceive all lands as pure as they have fully purified their minds.
However, the Buddhas also know that ordinary beings (凡夫) like us are severely defiled, with much attachment, aversion and delusion (贪嗔痴), thus UNABLE to perceive ANY defiled land as pure, which is why they encourage all beings to be born in the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss – where ALL can perceive Pure Land directly with Amitābha Buddha’s blessings, to most swiftly purify our minds.
Thus, Śākyamuni Buddha taught in the Amitābha Sūtra that, ‘If there are sentient beings, who hear this said, they SHOULD vow, to be born in THAT land.’ (若有众生，闻是说者，应当发愿，生彼国土。) He did not teach to be reborn in this defiled land or in our defiled minds.
Question : Can we easily purify ourselves in this defiled land, without rebirth in Pure Land?
Answer: No. If we can easily and quickly realise Buddhahood here, we would not still be trapped in this defiled land, within this Five Defilements’ (五浊) Evil Period (恶世), which is what Śākyamuni Buddha described this world to be in, according to the Amitābha Sūtra. Thus, as in the Amitābha Sūtra, all Buddhas of the six directions praise the Śākyamuni Buddha for encouraging all to be reborn in the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss.
Question : Should we not differentiate between this defiled land and Pure Land?
Answer: ONLY Buddhas, having fully purified their minds, can perceive all worlds to be equal. Thus, it is impossible for non-Buddhas to not differentiate at all. Knowing this, Śākyamuni Buddha warned us about this defiled land entering this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期) which we are now in, so as to reach the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss, where there is the Right Dharma Age (正法时期), to learn from Amitābha Buddha directly, thus attaining Buddhahood most SWIFTLY.
As taught by Śākyamuni Buddha in the Sūtra On Praises Of The Pure Land With Buddhas’ Protection And Reception《称赞净土佛摄受经》, ‘In this mixed and defiled Endurance Land’s Five Defilements’ Evil Period, if there are those with pure faith, all good men or good women, who hear thus said, this Dharma that all in the world have extreme difficulty believing in, able to give rise to faith and understanding, accepting, upholding and expounding it, as taught cultivating practice, it should be known that these persons are extremely rare, through immeasurable Buddhas those who had already planted good roots. These people, at their lives’ end, definitely will 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.’ (于此杂染堪忍世界五浊恶时，若有净信诸善男子或善女人，闻说如是一切世间极难信法，能生信解、受持、演说、如教修行。当知是人甚为希有，无量佛所曾种善根。是人命终定生西方极乐世界，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。)
Ancient And Modern Pure Land Practice Testimonies
The Pure Land Tradition’s Five Sūtras
The Three Provisions
Sūtra On Praises Of The Pure Land With Buddhas’ Protection And Reception