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Infinite Life Sutra

Sukhavati Vyuha, or Infinite Life Sutra is not unlike many Christian texts a matter of interest to Wayists even though it properly belongs to another tradition, Mahayana Buddhism. We place these texts high ontibetan thanka amitabha god our father our list of interests because it forms an important backdrop to the world in which Wayism came to light.

Sukhavati Vyuha has Buddha Sakyamuni describe Amitabha and Sukhavati. Even though Sukhavati Vyuha, like the Lotus Sutra arrived in history in the second half of the 1st century, Sakyamuni Buddha (who lived on earth 500BCE) here gives his seal of approval for the new awareness that is our Father in Heaven, Avalokiteshvara, Sukhavati and Tara. This is imensely important because without that holy sanction, nether Mahayana nor Theavada would have accepted Avalokiteshvara and Sukhavati into their approved teachings.

It is in this, he Infinite Life Sutra that the Sukhavati Dharani, or Nectar Dharani is first mentioned in Scripture.

In the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, Buddha Sakyamuni begins by describing to his attendant Ānanda a past life of the Buddha Amitābha. He states that in a past life, Amitābha was once a king who renounced his kingdom, and became a bodhisattva monk named Dharmākara ("Dharma Storehouse"). Under the guidance of the Buddha Lokeśvararāja ("World Sovereign King"), innumerable buddha-lands throughout the ten directions were revealed to him. After meditating for five eons as a bodhisattva, he then made a great series of vows to save all sentient beings, and through his great merit, created the realm of Sukhāvatī ("Ultimate Bliss"). This land of Sukhāvatī would later come to be known as Spirit Heaven to western Wayists and Pure Land (Ch. 淨土) in Chinese translation.

The sūtra describes in great detail Sukhāvatī and its inhabitants, and how they are able to attain rebirth there. The text also provides a detailed account of the various levels and beings in the Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmology.

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was dwelling in the Jeta Grove,
in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park, along with a great saṃgha of twelve hundred and
fifty bhikṣus. All were great arhats well known to the assembly. Among
them were Elder Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākāśyapa, Mahākātyāyana,
Mahākauṣṭhila, Revata, Śuddhipanthakena, Nanda, Ānanda, Rāhula, Gavāṃpati,
Piṇḍolabhāradvāja, Kālodayin, Mahākapphiṇa, Vakkula, Aniruddha, and many
other such great śrāvakas. With them were bodhisattva-mahāsattvas such as
Dharma Prince Mañjuśrī, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, Nityodyukta
Bodhisattva, and many other such bodhisattva-mahāsattvas. There was
also Śakra Devānāmindra, along with innumerable multitudes from all the heavens.
At that time, the Buddha addressed Elder Śāriputra, saying, “From here, going
to the west past ten trillion buddha-lands, there is a world realm called Sukhāvatī.
In this land there is a buddha called Amitābha who is presently expounding the
Dharma. Śāriputra, for what reason is this land called Sukhāvatī? In this land, all
sentient beings do not have a multitude of afflictions, but rather experience every
type of bliss, and for this reason it is called Sukhāvatī. Moreover, Śāriputra, this
land is completely encircled and surrounded by seven tiers of railings, seven layers
of netting, and seven rows of trees. These are all made of four kinds of precious
jewels, and therefore this land is called Sukhāvatī.


“Moreover, Śāriputra, Sukhāvatī has pools of the Seven Precious Jewels, filled
with waters of the Eight Meritorious Qualities, and the bottoms of these pools are
pure because they are gold sand. On the four sides there are steps made of combined
gold, silver, beryl, and crystal. Above, there is a tower gloriously adorned
with gold, silver, beryl, crystal, mother of pearl, ruby, and coral. Within the pools
there are lotus flowers as large as chariot wheels. They shine with green, yellow,
red, and white rays of light, and have a subtle fragrance. Śāriputra, Sukhāvatī is
accomplished thusly, adorned with these merits.


“Moreover, Śāriputra, this buddha-land continuously produces heavenly music,
and the ground is yellow gold. In the six periods of the day and night, the
heavens rain down māndārava flowers. In this land throughout the early morning,
due to the precepts, all sentient beings have an abundant multitude of exquisite
flowers. With these flowers, they make offerings to the ten trillion buddhas of the
other directions. At mealtime, each returns to his original land to eat and walk
about. Śāriputra, Sukhāvatī is accomplished thusly, adorned with these merits.

“Moreover, Śāriputra, this land always has all kinds of marvelous, manycolored
birds: swans, peacocks, parrots, egrets, kalaviṅkas, and two-headed birds.
There are many multitudes of birds, and they produce harmonious music in the
six periods of the day and night. Their music elucidates the Five Roots, the Five
Powers, the Seven Factors of Bodhi, the factors of the Noble Eightfold way, and
thusly the Dharma. In this land, all sentient beings who hear such sounds are altogether
mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Saṃgha.
Śāriputra, you should not speak of such birds as being produced as retribution
for evil actions. Why? This buddha-land does not have the Three Evil Destinies.
Śāriputra, in this buddha-land, there are not even the names of the Three Evil Destinies,
let alone their actual existence. These many multitudes of birds were created
by Amitābha Buddha by transformation, in order for the sound of the Dharma
to be proclaimed everywhere. Śāriputra, in this buddha-land, a gentle breeze is expelled,
causing the rows of jeweled trees and jeweled nets to produce subtle music,
as though 100,000 notes were in harmony. The minds of all those who hear such
sounds are naturally mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful
of the Saṃgha. Śāriputra, this buddha-land is accomplished thusly, adorned with
these merits.

 


“Śāriputra, what do you think? For what reason is this buddha called
Amitābha? Śāriputra, the radiance of this buddha is immeasurable, illuminating
the lands of the ten directions without obstruction, and for this reason he is called
Amitābha. Moreover, Śāriputra, the lifespan of this buddha extends for immeasurable,
limitless eons, and for this reason he is also called Amitāyus. Śāriputra, since
Amitābha Buddha attained buddhahood, ten eons have passed. Moreover, Śāriputra,
this buddha has innumerable, limitless śrāvaka disciples, all arhats with unfathomable
true abilities and knowledge. The many bodhisattvas are also such as
this. Śāriputra, this buddha-land is accomplished thusly, adorned with these merits.
“Moreover, Śāriputra, in the land of Sukhāvatī, all sentient beings are avinivartanīya.
Those who have only one more birth are also extremely many, innumerable
and inconceivable in number. Only in innumerable, limitless, incalculable
eons could their number be spoken. Śāriputra, all sentient beings hearing this
should vow to be born in this land. For what reason? When they gather thusly,
many high and virtuous people are able to join together in one place. Śāriputra,
those with few good roots and the causes of merit, may not attain birth in this
land. Śāriputra, if there is a virtuous man or virtuous woman who hears and speaks
‘Amitābha Buddha,’ holding and maintaining his name for one, two, three, four,
five, six, or seven days single-mindedly without confusion, then at the end of his
or her life, Amitābha Buddha will appear with the multitude of holy beings. At
the end of this person’s life, with a mind unconfused, he or she will quickly attain
rebirth in Amitābha Buddha’s land of Sukhāvatī. Śāriputra, because I see this benefit,
I speak these words: if there are sentient beings who hear this teaching, they
should vow to be born in this land.


“Śāriputra, thus do I now praise and extoll the inconceivable merit of Amitābha
Buddha. In the East there are also Akṣobhya Buddha, Appearance of Sumeru Buddha,
Great Sumeru Buddha, Radiance of Sumeru Buddha, Wondrous Sound Buddha,
and thusly as many buddhas as there are sand grains in the Ganges River.
Each in his own land sends out a broad and long tongue completely covering three
thousand great thousand-worlds, speaking these true words: ‘All you sentient beings
should believe this sūtra, which all buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit
and virtue, and are truly protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, in the southern world realm there are Lamp of the Sun and Moon
Buddha, Renowned Radiance Buddha, Great Flaming Shoulders Buddha, Lamp
of Sumeru Buddha, Immeasurable Vigor Buddha, and thusly as many buddhas
as there are sand grains in the Ganges River. Each in his own land sends out
a broad and long tongue completely covering three thousand great thousandworlds,
speaking these true words: ‘All you sentient beings should believe this sūtra,
which all buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and are truly
protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, in the western world realm there are Amitāyus Buddha, Innumerable
Qualities Buddha, Immeasurable Banner Buddha, Great Radiance Buddha,
Great Brilliance Buddha, Jeweled Characteristics Buddha, Clear Light Buddha, and
thusly as many buddhas as there are sand grains in the Ganges River. Each in his
own land sends out a broad and long tongue completely covering three thousand
great thousand-worlds, speaking these true words: ‘All you sentient beings should
believe this sūtra, which all buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue,
and are truly protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, in the northern world realm there are Flaming Shoulders Buddha,
Most Victorious Sound Buddha, Indestructible Buddha, Born of the Sun Buddha,
Net of Brilliance Buddha, and thusly as many buddhas as there are sand grains
in the Ganges River. Each in his own land sends out a broad and long tongue
completely covering three thousand great thousand-worlds, speaking these true
words: ‘All you sentient beings should believe this sūtra, which all buddhas praise
for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and are truly protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, in the nadir world realm there are Lion Buddha, Renown Buddha,
Renowned Radiance Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma Banner Buddha, Dharma
Maintainer Buddha, and thusly as many buddhas as there are sand grains in the
Ganges River. Each in his own land sends out a broad and long tongue completely
covering three thousand great thousand-worlds, speaking these true words: ‘All
you sentient beings should believe this sūtra, which all buddhas praise for its inconceivable
merit and virtue, and are truly protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, in the zenith world realm there are Brahmā Sound Buddha, Constellation
King Buddha, Fragrance Above Buddha, Fragrant Radiance Buddha,
Great Flaming Shoulders Buddha, Assorted Jewel Flower Adorned Body Buddha,
Sāla Tree King Buddha, Jewel Flowers of Virtue Buddha, Seeing Every Meaning
Buddha, Sumeru Likeness Buddha, and thusly as many buddhas as there are sand
grains in the Ganges River. Each in his own land sends out a broad and long tongue
completely covering three thousand great thousand-worlds, speaking these true
words: ‘All you sentient beings should believe this sūtra, which all buddhas praise
for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and are truly protective and mindful of.’


“Śāriputra, with regard to the meaning, why is it called a sūtra that all buddhas
are truly protective and mindful of? Śāriputra, if there are virtuous men and
virtuous women who hear, accept, and maintain this sūtra, and hear the names of
all these buddhas, these virtuous men and virtuous women will truly be protected
and watched over by every buddha. In all cases they attain non-regression from
Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. For this reason, Śāriputra, all of you should accept
and believe my words, which are truly spoken by all buddhas.


“Śāriputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who are
making the vow presently, or who will make the vow to be born in the land
of Amitābha Buddha, then these people all attain non-regression from Anuttarā
Samyaksaṃbodhi. Whether in a past life, present life, or future life, they will be in
this land. Śāriputra, it is for this reason that all virtuous men and virtuous women
who believe this should vow to be born in this land.


“Śāriputra, as I now praise the inconceivable merits of all buddhas thusly, they
also speak of my inconceivable merit, saying, ‘Śākyamuni Buddha is able to accomplish
what is extremely difficult and exceedingly rare! Within this Sahā Land, in
the world of the five impurities—the impurity of the kalpa, the impurity of views,
the impurity of afflictions, the impurity of sentient beings, and the impurity of
life—he attains Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi and speaks this Dharma that is so difficult
to believe!’ Śāriputra, understand that in the world of the five impurities,
I perform this difficult task, attaining Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi, and in every
world speaking this Dharma that is difficult to believe, so very difficult!”


After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, Śāriputra along with all the bhikṣus, as
well as the devas, humans, and asuras from every world, heard what the Buddha
had said. Blissfully believing and accepting, they paid their respects and departed.
Pure Land Rebirth Mantra:

namo amitābhāya tathāgatāya tadyathā
amṛtabhave amṛtasaṃbhave
amṛtavikrānte amṛtavikrāntagāmini
gagana kīrtīchare svāhā

For one who recites this mantra, Amitābha Buddha will constantly abide at
the crown of the head, and after dying, he or she will be assigned this rebirth.
Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva, wishing to give rise to peace, perceived this mantra in a
dream. Trepiṭaka Yaśas recites this mantra, and Dharma Master Xiu from Tianping
Monastery heard this mantra straight from the mouth of Trepiṭaka Yaśas. He says,
“The sūtra originally was of a foreign land and had not arrived. Accept and maintain
this mantra dharma in the six periods of the day and night, thirty-seven times
at each. In the morning and at night, one should bathe, rinse his or her mouth, and
chew a willow twig. Make proper offerings of incense before an image, kneeling
with palms joined, and recite this mantra thirty-seven times. Persist in this way
every day, and it will annihilate the four grave acts, the five terrible crimes, and
the ten evils. Every sort of offense can be eliminated. Being without the many evil
ghosts and spirits of anger and confusion, at the end of one’s life, rebirth will be
assigned in the land of Amitābha. Moreover, for those who continuously accept,
maintain, recite, and study, the merits are truly inconceivable!”

 

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