In this land there exists a Buddha called Amitabha, who is expounding the Dharma right now.
Continuing from previously,
Shakyamuni Buddha disclosed a land named Ultimate Bliss that is west of here.
When I read this sutra as a beginner at 16 years old, it gave me comfort in a promised land of joy and happiness. Being a practitioner who was unsatisfied with my living conditions, I clutched to that idea and it brought me solace. I took comfort that my then unhappiness was temporary and there would be a better place to be at the end of my life. The only catch is that I am required to worship Amitabha Buddha diligently by reciting his name fervently. That gave me hope and more importantly, it gave me a greater purpose in life.
If you had experienced extreme sorrow and came to a state whereby life seems bleak and meaningless; you might appreciate how the above experience can prevent someone like me from doing something rash. Therefore, when we share this Mahayana sutra with people, it is important to remain skillful and open towards their needs.
Some people desperately need to believe in a promised land and their wisdom may not be mature enough to understand deeper interpretation of this sutra. But for these series of posts, I will try to share its profoundness in all roundedness. Like all Buddhist sutta/sutra, this sutra also reveal additional depth in accordance to one’s practice, wisdom and knowledge.
After revealing the existence a world called “Ultimate Bliss”, Shakyamuni Buddha disclosed the existence of a Buddha named “Amita” (阿弥陀)
Amita is a sanskrit word and like all sanskrit, there is more than 1 meaning
If we add the word Buddha after Amita ( 阿弥陀) , then we have a Buddha that is immeasurable. A boundless Buddha. 阿弥陀佛. This can also be interpreted as qualities of enlightenment; a state that is beyond intellectual comprehension, or beyond thoughts.
Traditionally, this is elaborated as Boundless Light (Amitabha) -Bha is sanskrit for light or luminosity. From a practitioner’s perspective, this is also associated with Jhana / Samadhi; whereby our mind becomes luminous and bright.
For beginners, it is normally explained as Buddha of boundless light. It conjures the imagery of a bright object hanging in the air (Sun) That kind of explanation offers comfort of brightness and warmth (away from Darkness and chill)
Again, it depends on what the listeners need.
Another quality of Amita Buddha is Amitayus. In this instance, we add the word Ayus to form the name Amitayus. This describe the quality of enlightenment too. The state that is beyond life and death, beyond Samsara. It is important to note that I use the term beyond to demonstrate a departure from our ordinary perception of one versus many, life versus death.
For beginners, we explain Amitayus as Infinite life. That means beyond death. (aka enlightenment) People take comfort that there is a state that offers infinite life or longevity. That means we do not suffer from loss of life anymore.
As can be seen here, the name has its “power” because it influence how we associate spiritually with the Buddha in our mind. For a beginner, Amita Buddha is a Buddha that is immeasurable, of infinite light and of infinite life. It offers that fuzzy road sign that guide our practice during practice.
As one advances in practice and experience the brilliance of our mind, we start to internalize and appreciate a deeper meaning towards infinite light and infinite life.
今现在说法 who is expounding the Dharma right now.
The translation of Buddhist Sutra from Sanskrit to Chinese requires much wisdom because of the multiple level of meaning within Sanskrit and Chinese.
When we read the full sentence literally, it says that Amita Buddha who resides in the world of “Ultimate Bliss”, is currently teaching the Dharma.
To a beginner, it also means that while Shakyamuni Buddha was teaching this sutra on Earth; Amitabha Buddha was concurrently teaching Dharma in the world, “Ultimate Bliss”. Furthermore, in the earlier sentence; Buddha spoke of billions of Buddha worlds, each with its unique Buddha. Thus, surely they teach the Dharma too. Since Dharma is a solution that resolve sufferings, Dharma is constantly available throughout infinite space. That kind of assurance is comforting and I felt safe reading it. In another word, Buddha and Dharma is everywhere.
Focusing on the Chinese translated text and believing that the wise translator meant the additional nuance and context of the translated Chinese words; 今现在说法 can also mean, currently manifesting to teach the Dharma here.
If we read it in this manner, then it takes on another depth.
This Sutra was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. He disclosed a distant world called “Ultimate Bliss” (aka enlightenment), which is beyond billions of worlds (beyond conceptualization.). That Buddha is Amita, meaning boundlessness. (Dhammakaya – The Truth Body of enlightenment, which is brilliant and beyond death) and that Buddha is currently manifested here speaking dharma now.
The last sentence basically creates a loop. That Buddha of infinity is now teaching this dharma to you now. In another word, Shakyamuni Buddha is that manifestation! SO, after the lengthy story telling; it is basically back to the same message that is delivered across all Buddhist traditions. Enlightenment is of one taste and beyond suffering. There is no-self. It is beyond conceptual thoughts.
But for a beginner, it seems to offer a completely different story. A story where we can hope for rebirth in another world. A world where there is this and that, here and there, but yet , A perfect world. For a strict Theravada Buddhist, this sutra will seem like a fake sutra that completely goes against what Buddha taught in Theravada sutta. But if we appreciate it from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective, this sutra offers hope to many beginners (Spiritual Child) and it is through that kind of hope that we are persuaded to practice. And by practicing correctly (with the help of good teachers), we are persuaded to leave the burning house (Samsara) [see Lotus sutra – burning house parable] Only when we learn to let go, will Samadhi arise in practice. Then wisdom arise. Then there is no contradictions. Dharma is Dharma.
May all be well and happy.
Translated text in English is from http://www.buddhasutra.com/files/amidasutra.htm