What Happens After Spiritual ‘Graduation’ In Pure Land?
Question: Do we stay in Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) Pure Land (净土) after spiritually ‘graduating’ to be Buddhas (佛)?
Answer: As there is only one Reward Body Buddha (报身佛) in each Pure Land, as the founder and principal teacher, our personal Buddhahood is not expressed in other Buddhas’ Pure Lands, but manifested in defiled lands (秽土), among human beings (of various world systems) to benefit defiled beings.
We can also choose to not manifest Buddhahood yet, but manifest as Great Bodhisattvas (大菩萨). As Buddhas are essentially perfect Bodhisattvas (圆满菩萨), and being true to the Bodhisattva spirit, when we approach Buddhahood, we will definitely manifest beyond Pure Lands to benefit defiled beings, including by guiding them to the Pure Land.
After attaining perfect spiritual education, we will naturally and gladly aspire to serve the rest of ‘society’ best we can with what we have learnt. It is a false dichotomy however, to think that one either stays in or leaves the Pure Land, as Great Bodhisattvas can easily have multiple manifestation bodies (化身).
A famous example would be Contemplator Of The World’s Sounds Bodhisattva (观世音菩萨), who is actually an ancient Buddha (古佛) named Right Dharma’s Brightness Thus Come One (正法明如来), who re-manifests as a Great Bodhisattva on the brink of Buddhahood. S/he stations in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land to guide beings towards Buddhahood there, while also manifesting in defiled lands like ours to guide beings to the Pure Land.
While every Buddha, having perfect compassion (慈悲) and wisdom (智慧), is capable of establishing a Pure Land to attract beings who have strong karmic affinity (因缘) with them, they also know and see clearly, that many beings already have the strongest affinity with Āmítuófó.
A famous example would be Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛), who strongly and repeatedly recommended us to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐世界), while not teaching much about his own Pure Land named the Unsurpassable World (无胜世界).
Likewise, as taught in Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》, all Buddhas of the six directions (六方), (which is everywhere), highly praise its Pure Land teachings connected with Āmítuófó. After all, Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is the easiest to enter, through which all other Pure Lands can be accessed, including theirs.