The Deep and Broad Meaning of Pure Land Rebirth

- through Francois Leclercq

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Rebirth is a special term in the Pure Land teaching that has a specific meaning. Rebirth is different from reincarnation, although both terms are related to the afterlife. A "pure land" refers to any Buddha land where all living beings with Buddha qualities live. In common usage, the "Pure Land" refers specifically to Amitabha's Pure Land.

The Pure Land of Amitabha differs from the paradises of eternal rest in the afterlife mentioned in other religions. Even the term “reward” is understood differently. It is not a realm of sensual enjoyment, but a training ground for the Buddhas, who will then "leave" the Pure Land to "go out" into the different worlds of the world. trichiliocosm to deliver sentient beings, like all other Buddhas.

Queen Vaidehi asked Buddha Shakyamuni in the sutra of contemplation, “Please reveal to me a land without sorrow and without affliction where I can be reborn. I do not wish to live in this filthy and evil world of Jambudvipa where there are hells, realms of hungry spirits, animals and many vile beings.

She further said, “I wish that in the future I don't hear bad words or see bad people. » She wanted to leave the times Jambudvipa (Earth), so as not to see times people, and not to hear times words. To the extent of its limited human understanding, a land without sorrow and affliction would be a kind of paradise.

Vaidehi had no idea of ​​the best place where she could be reborn in her next life, although as a Buddhist disciple she knew that heaven was one of the Six Realms which is always subject to reincarnation in the cycle of birth and death in the Three Realms of the Saha World. So, she further asked the Buddha, “Please teach me to visualize a land of pure karmic perfection. »

Through rebirth in the Pure Land, an ordinary being is no longer subject to samsara

"A land of pure karmic perfection" refers to a pure place where Buddhas dwell when they attain perfect enlightenment through the pure karmic practices of meditative virtues (visualization) and non-meditative virtues (the three meritorious actions). As an ordinary being, Queen Vaidehi did not know that "a land of pure karmic perfection" was called a pure land.

A pure land is an unconditioned realm of Nirvana (without birth or death), which is totally different from our world – a realm of conditioned realm of samsara (reincarnation in the cycle of birth and death in the Six Realms – the realms of Hell, Hungry Spirits, Asuras, Humans and Heavens). Because pure lands exist outside the realm of karmic cause and effect, they are known as places of "ultimate settlement" of all karmic debts. The heavens, which still exist in the karmic realm, are not and cannot be places of ultimate settlement.

Also, through rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha, an ordinary being is no longer subject to reincarnation in the cycle of birth and death. It is because it is a realm of unconditioned Nirvana. Ordinary beings, who wish to avoid a painful rebirth in the realms of " hell, hungry spirits and animals», and who also have difficulties "leaving the times world of Jambudvipa”, can yearn to be reborn in the Pure Land.

Buddhas can allow us to see the Pure Land

Nevertheless, the question is how we, ordinary afflicted and sinful beings, possessed by greed and hatred, can be reborn in the Pure Land. do we need "visualize a land of pure karmic perfection", as Vaidehi said in the sutra of contemplation? If so, the Buddha's answer is a little discouraging, as follows:

“You are an unenlightened being, and therefore your spiritual powers are weak and obscured. Since you have not yet reached the divine eye, you cannot see what is far away. We have carnal eyes with limited vision, and we cannot see any of the 28 heavens, which are far from us.

However, the Buddha then said: "But the Buddhas, the Tathagatas, have special means to enable you to see from afar"; This is an encouraging statement. Through Shakyamuni Buddha's power to dispel Vaidehi's karmic obscurations, she too can see Amitabha's Pure Land at that time.

Furthermore, Vaidehi is very intelligent and considerate; she further asks the Buddha, “After the death of the Buddha, sentient beings will become defiled and evil, and will be oppressed by the five kinds of suffering. How then will these beings be able to see the land of greatest bliss of Amitayus?"

Three Ways to Attain Pure Land Rebirth and See the Pure Land

Shakyamuni Buddha uses this rare causal condition to tell Vaidehi and sentient beings in the future the ways of seeing the Pure Land of Amitabha, namely self-enhancing pure meditative practices (from the first to the 13th contemplation) and pure non-meditative self-nourished practices (from the 14th to the 15th contemplation).

For those who cultivate no merits and virtues for self-sacrifice and yearn to be reborn in Amitabha's Land of Bliss, and wish to see the Pure Land as Vaidehi, Shakyamuni Buddha advises them to recite "Namo Amituofo" and attain a rebirth secured by resorting to Amitabha's power of his fundamental vow (the 18th vow).

The Buddha tries to convey a message, through the opportunity offered by Vaidehi's question, to all sentient beings of the future era: if they wish, they can easily be reborn in the Pure Land. This is accomplished through the exclusive recitation of 'Namo Amituofo', rather than practicing the meditative and non-meditative virtues and devoting them to rebirth.

Pure Land Seekers May Be Unaware of the Benefits of Becoming a Buddha

By attaining assured rebirth in the Land of Bliss through the exclusive recitation of 'Namo Amituofo', sinful ordinary beings can cease suffering in the Saha world by resorting to the 18th vow of Amitabha. In the same way, sravakas (hearers) can naturally attain the Bodhi mind and deliver sentient beings in the ten directions by resorting to the 22nd vow of Amitabha.

Through rebirth in the Land of Bliss, all sacred bodhisattvas can naturally abide in the state of non-regression and attain the state of extinction by resorting to Amitabha's 11th vow. All sentient beings of different abilities, abilities, and goals can yearn to be reborn in the Pure Land.

All sentient beings can have attain assured rebirth through the exclusive recitation of "Namo Amituofo" and they abide in the state of ultimate joy like Amitabha Buddha, who is able to go to the different worlds of the trichiliocosm (the realm of Dharma) to deliver the sentient beings. It is the ultimate enlightenment and the ultimate emancipation of Buddhism.

Le sutra of contemplation said, “The mind of Buddhas is great compassion. He embraces sentient beings with unconditional kindness and benevolence. Because of these profound benefits of enlightenment, joy, and emancipation, rebirth in the Pure Land holds deep and broad significance.

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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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