The appearance of the body during the rebirth in the land of bliss

- through Francois Leclercq

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The 21st wish: a Buddha-like body with 32 physical characteristics

Amitabha's 21st Vow is for all human and celestial beings. It is said:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, all the humans and devas of my land should not be endowed with the thirty-two physical characteristics of a great man, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

The 32 physical characteristics denote a transformed Buddha, like Shakyamuni Buddha, who appeared in human form in this transformed and defiled earth. These characteristics are formed as the rewards of Shakyamuni's diligent practice of virtue in triple karma during his past lives.

As Shakyamuni Buddha achieved Buddhahood in the transformed earth (our world) about 2 years ago, he is considered a transformed Buddha, or the arising of an undifferentiated Buddha-nature when manifesting in a physical body. In Sanskrit, this body is known as Nirmanakaya. It is one of the three bodies possessed by every Buddha.

Briefly, the three bodies are:

The Dharmakaya: undifferentiated Buddha-nature that is beyond all conceptualizations and categories;

The Sambhogakaya: the non-material Buddha body, which manifests in a non-material pure land for the benefit of bodhisattvas, deities, and other beings who are reborn there; And:

The Nirmanakaya (already mentioned): the physical body which manifests in the Saha world for the benefit of humans and all sentient beings.

Although all Buddhas have the triple body, human beings can only recognize a Buddha through his Nirmanakaya. So when the 21st vow tells how all beings in this land possess the 32 characteristics, it tells us that we will become fully enlightened Buddhas like Shakyamuni when we are reborn in the land of bliss.

Also, from the moment they achieve Buddhahood, people are uninhibited in the way they were as human beings. With a Buddha body, they can freely return to this Saha world and work to deliver all sentient beings, just like Shakyamuni.

Two other wishes related to the bodies of living beings in the Land of Bliss

There are two other vows related to the bodies of living beings in the Land of Bliss, namely the third and 26th vows. The third vow states:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas of my land should not all be the color of pure gold, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

This means that the body color of devas and humans in the Land of Bliss is the same as that of Amitabha Buddha. (In addition, Amitabha Buddha also has 84 physical characteristics, each having 000 secondary marks of excellence, according to the sutra of contemplation.)

The 26th vow states:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be a bodhisattva in my country who is not endowed with the body of the vajra god Narayana, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

Narayana is one of the known devas or celestial beings in the East. He is like Hercules in that he is endowed with great strength and cannot be defeated.

Narayana's body is hard like a diamond, which is indestructible. He suffers neither from aging, nor from disease, nor from death. Narayana is a Dharma protector deity but is also considered a bodhisattva. His form and strength are so excellent that Amitabha Buddha swears to grant bodhisattvas who wish to be reborn in the Land of Bliss bodies as strong as Narayana's.

Bodily Appearance of Living Beings in the Land of Bliss

What is the actual bodily appearance of living beings in the Land of Bliss? Let's take an important passage from Infinite Life Sutra. It says:

This land of Buddha, like the realm of unconditioned Nirvana, is pure and serene, resplendent and happy.

The shravakas, bodhisattvas, celestial beings and humans have lofty and brilliant wisdom there and are masters of supernatural powers. They are all of the same form, without any difference, but are called "heavenly beings" and "humans" simply by analogy with the states of existence in other worlds.

They have a noble and majestic face, unequaled in any world, and their appearance is superb, unequaled by any being, celestial or human. They are all endowed with bodies of Natural, Void and Infinity.

From this we can see that all beings in the Land of Bliss are of one form, with no difference between them. They are all endowed with bodies of Natural, Void and Infinity. For what? This is because the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned Nirvana. It was also taught by Vasubandhu Bodhisattva that “(The Land of Bliss) is a realm of virtuous Mahayana roots. »

What is meant by "analogy with the states of existence in other worlds"? This sentence is intended to emphasize the equality of beings in the Land of Bliss. The "other worlds" include the Land of Saha where Skakyamuni Buddha speaks the Dharma. The beings who are named according to their states in these other worlds include shravakas, bodhisattvas, devas and humans.

If they are named only "by analogy", it means that the physical appearance of all the inhabitants is in fact the same. They appreciate all the bodies of the natural, the void and the infinite. It's inconceivable, isn't it? You can imagine whatever you want, not just the 32 physical characteristics and the 80 marks of excellence.

You can have the same bodily appearance as Amitabha Buddha with 84 physical characteristics, each of which has 000 secondary marks of excellence. Each of these marks has 84 rays of light which permeate all the worlds of the ten directions, as taught in the sutra of contemplation.

Here we have to understand that in the Buddhist texts, 84 is a number indicating infinity. To be born in the Land of Bliss is to be born in the house of all Buddhas, as stated in the sutra of contemplation. Each Buddha exists in a state of perfect unity with all other Buddhas, their unity filling the vastness of the Dharma realm with an infinite variety of virtues, blessings and light.

Endowed with a body of naturalness, emptiness and infinity in the form of light

It should be noted that all inhabitants of the Land of Bliss exist in the form of "light". They can appear in any shape and size they wish for the purpose of delivering sentient beings under any circumstances. It is an inconceivable and awesome supernatural power endowed by Amitabha Buddha.

It is also an expedient means of attracting sentient beings of different aptitudes and abilities, such as shravakas, bodhisattvas, celestial beings and human beings, to yearn for rebirth in the Land of Bliss.

Although they are classified according to their status in the ancient worlds, they enjoy the same wisdom and power in the Land of Bliss.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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