[Amitabha Buddha and all the sages who are with him will appear before them. When these people die, their minds will not fall into delusion, and they will attain rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. I have seen this benefit, and so I speak these words. If sentient beings hear what I say, they must make a vow to be born in that land ]
One of the greatest sufferings of mankind is death. The thought of being forcefully separated from people we love, activities we enjoy, and our state of existence; creates immense stress. In fact, Death was one of the 4 sights that compelled Prince Siddhartha to seek higher happiness.
This verse in Amitabha Sutra narrates the near-death experience of a practitioner. In this instance, one is no longer fearful of the unknown. Instead of being clueless about what happened after death, Pureland practitioners are assured that Amitabha Buddha will appear together with a welcome party. They will then lead the practitioner towards rebirth in a Buddhist paradise that is eternally freed from suffering.
This message is attractive because help from Buddha is being promised.
However, one must have a desire to be reborn there. That is why Buddha (Shakyamuni) explained that we must make a vow to be born in Amitabha’s Pureland. A vow is a very strong commitment that we make voluntarily. It also conveys a sense of responsibility and an expectation to work hard for it.
Thus, this vow to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pureland needs to be registered in our minds. We remind ourselves about it constantly. This is the first step of a focused mind. Then we should practice chanting Amitabha’s name until we can achieve Jhana (一心不乱) that is sustainable for at least 1 day. (That’s our responsibility and our commitment towards hard work)
In this manner, the idea of mind training becomes more relatable to most people who are not so much into Buddhist doctrines or who have no inkling about Enlightenment. (riddance of craving, hatred, and ignorance). Not everybody appreciates Buddhist teachings that emphasize the removal of craving and attachments.
People questioned, “Why should I remove my craving for love?” or “Why should I remove my attachment towards my daughter or family?” or “Why should I remove my craving for a successful life?”
“Therefore, I don’t want to practice meditation if the purpose is to remove my attachments”
On the other hand, Pureland Buddhism offers a unique solution to encourage people into Buddhist practices.
In Pureland practice, we are motivated to practice because we crave a good existence. That promised afterlife motivates us to train our minds. The important thing is not missing the point and practicing wrongly. (As shared in previous posts)
According to my interpretation, rebirth in Amitabha’s Pureland is a very high attainment. From the Theravada perspective, it is actually equivalent to the 3rd stage of enlightenment prior to becoming an Arhant; the stage of Non-returner. But Pureland Buddhism makes this requirement seems much more attainable by not “over teaching”.
What happened if we cannot achieve the required state of attainments?
In the Theravada scriptures, we have stories of how a man was being reborn in heaven by simply taking refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha on his death bed. In Amitabha Buddha chanting, the word “Namo” means taking refuge. Therefore, we won’t be too bad in our next life since we had been taking refuge in our entire lifetimes when we practice chanting “Namo Amitabha Buddha”
But if we had really vowed to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure land; then we would be putting in efforts to train our mind and achieve the state of Jhana (一心不乱).
May all be well and happy.
May the pandemic end.