A Buddha's Intent: Delivering All Sentient Beings to Become a Buddha
Although people may have different reasons for wanting to study and practice Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and all other Buddhas have only one reason for spreading the Buddhist teachings: to deliver all sentient beings so that they can become Buddhas. In other words, the ultimate emancipation!
There are three stages for an ordinary being who decides to become a Buddha and attain perfect enlightenment. The first is to break free from the cycle of birth and death and leave the Three Realms in the Saha World. This means that one has come out of the cycle of reincarnation in the Six Realms.
Passing this first milestone, the practitioner becomes a wise being or a bodhisattva who aims to reach the second milestone: remaining in the state of non-regression. It is also called entering the definitely assured state (karma of assurance for attaining Buddhahood) or attaining the perseverance of unbirth. When a Bodhisattva reaches the second milestone, he remains in the status of the eighth Bhumi, the 48th of the 52 stages before becoming a Buddha.
What is the third step before the practitioner can become a Buddha? A bodhisattva of the 51st stage is known as Equality of Enlightenment, also known as "Abode in the stage of becoming a Buddha after one more life", as Maitreya Bodhisattva. Through the practice of self-nourishment, the practitioner must take at least one Great Asamkhyakalpa to reach each milestone, therefore, three Great Asamkhyakalpas are needed altogether before becoming a Buddha!
Le The Pure Land teaching is the easy path to infallibly becoming a Buddha.
Nagarjuna Bodhisattva writes in the chapter on easy practice: “There are endless gates to accessing Buddhist teachings, just like making journeys in the world, some difficult and some easy. If we make a land journey on foot it is painful, but if we make a sea journey by boat, it is joyful. It is the same in the path of the bodhisattvas.
In the bodhisattva path, the difficult path refers to the "self-contained" practices of the precepts, meditation, and wisdom, and the easy path refers to the "other" practice of reciting the Buddha's name. The former is like taking an overland journey on foot and the latter is like a sailboat cruise.
Nagarjuna further writes, “Some practice diligently with vigor, but some devote themselves to easy practice with faith as the expedient means, thus attaining the state of Avinivartaniya. » The state of Avinivartania means reaching the second stage in the process of becoming a Buddha.
For the easy path, the practitioner relies on the power of the Buddha, so he must entrust himself to the Buddha. This is why Nagarjuna Bodhisattva declares that he "devotes himself to easy practice with faith as the expedient means". Thus, the practitioner should humbly listen and obey what the Buddha advises him to do.
The 18th and 11th vows allow us to reach the first two milestones
Referring to the 48 vows of Amitabha, Master Tanluan identified three vows that enable all people in the Land of Bliss to achieve the three milestones by using the power of Amitabha's vows. These are respectively the 18th wish, the 11th wish and the 22nd wish.
The 18th Vow states:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and happily confide in me, desire to be born in my land and call my name even ten times, are not born there, may I does not attain perfect Enlightenment.
Through rebirth in the land of reward of Amitabha through his merit and perfect and complete virtues, a sentient being will free himself from the cycle of birth and death in the Three Realms and Six Realms of the Land of Saha, the first stage.
The 11th Vow states:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas of my country should not abide in the definitely assured state and infallibly attain nirvana, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.
As Amitabha Buddha has attained perfect Enlightenment, he has the full capacity to enable all humans and all devas of his Land of Bliss to abide in the Certainly Assured State. This means that their realization of Nirvana, or perfect enlightenment, is a certainty, the second stage.
The 22nd vow allows us to reach the third milestone and become a Buddha
The 22th vow states:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the bodhisattvas from Buddha lands in other quarters who visit my land do not finally and infallibly attain the stage of becoming a Buddha after one more life, may I not attain the perfect illumination. Except those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows. The people of the Pure Land reach the stage of becoming a Buddha after One More Life. However, they also leave the Land of Bliss and go to other worlds that do not have a Buddha to teach and guide sentient beings. In this way, they fulfill their original wishes.
The 22th vow states:
For they wear the armor of great vows, accumulate merit, deliver all beings from birth to death, visit Buddha lands to perform bodhisattva practices, make offerings to Buddhas, Tathagatas, throughout the ten quarters, enlighten countless sentient beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, and establish them in the highest and most perfect Enlightenment.
This part of the vow speaks of preparation for delivering sentient beings to other worlds, which Shakyamuni Buddha did before becoming a Buddha in our world, as the Infinite Life Sutra. Finally, the 22nd vow states:
Such bodhisattvas transcend the course of practice of ordinary bodhisattvas, manifest the practices of all bodhisattva stages, and cultivate the virtues of universal benevolence.
This means that, through rebirth in the Land of Bliss, all sentient beings, including ordinary beings like us, can, by resorting to the power of Amitabha's vow, transcend the three stages simultaneously and unfailingly to become a Buddha. . Isn't that inconceivable?