In the worlds of the zenith there are countless other Buddhas, like the Buddha “Pure Voice”, and the Buddha “Sojourner King”, and the Buddha “Incense Fragrance”, and the Buddha “Fragrant Light”, and the Buddha “Great Blazing Shoulders”, and the Buddha “Body of Multicolored Jewel Flower Garlands”, and the Buddha “Sala Tree King”, and the Buddha “Precious Flower Virtue”, and the Buddha “Sees All Truths”, and the Buddha “Like the Polar Mountain”. Each of them preaches in his own land with the eloquence of a Buddha, and covers a whole cosmos, speaking the truth. All of you sentient beings should believe this scripture extolling their inconceivable merits, which all Buddhas protect and keep in mind.http://www.buddhasutra.com/files/amidasutra.htm
The practice of utilising celestial Buddha in Buddhism is a very powerful and dynamic tool. Metaphorically. it is like a sugar-coated medicine. Our Dharma teachers are likened to doctors treating our ailments and in this case, our sickness is the ignorance of reality. The reality of emptiness.
Emptiness is a bitter pill to swallow and I was terrified by it too. This is again caused by our ignorance. We tend to imagine that emptiness means annihilation and our attachment to existence (as we know it) causes us to fear this topic. But Buddhism doesn’t teach nihilism and we need to remember that.
If the practice of faith in a celestial Buddha is likened to a sugar-coated medicine, the only problem is that practitioners become addicted to the sugar and do not partake the medicine. If we have qualified masters guiding us, then they are our supervisory guardians and they ensure that we take our medication correctly.
The problem that we face today is that many people think they can practice independently without guidance from a qualified teacher. In that case, the celestial Buddhas that we conjured in our minds are nothing but an extension of our ego that is tainted by attachments, aversions, and ignorance. When that happened, our celestial Buddha is similar to Gods and divinities since the antiquity of mankind. They have human-like emotions such as anger, jealousy, possessiveness, etc. This is especially so when we do not understand what the Buddha represents.
Consequently, our practice will be contrary to Buddha Dharma.
In this Amitabha Sutra, I am inspired by the compassion of Amitabha Buddha. He promised to lead all beings who called upon his name towards a pureland. The only condition is that we have to call out his name earnestly, so much so that we achieve the state of one-pointed concentration without discursive thoughts. That is the core medicine!
The worshipping, idolizing, discursive thinking of a promised land is the sugar coating. If we spend our practice session thinking and imagining what Pureland will be like, that is missing the point. We become experts at building castles in the air. Everyone knows how to do that without learning Dharma. The stilling of a discursive mind is the actual practice.
Then there are people who asked. “I have been chanting Buddha for years, why isn’t my health getting better?” or “why am I becoming poorer?” For goodness sake, Buddha is not your personal doctor or your health coach. To be healthy, we need to adopt a healthy lifestyle. To be rich, you need to be smart about investment and finance, and of course, work hard! (This was shared by a Buddhist master.)
We witness how some people mistake Buddha to be some wish-fulfilling god. They chant with an expectation that Buddha will help their wishes come true without doing anything constructive in life. Buddhism teaches karma. If we want certain results in life, we need to create the correct cause for it. If we practice correctly, then our minds will become clear and energetic. That kind of mind will produce success in life.
Therefore, it is important that we practice Buddhism with correct understanding.
We may not want to rely on the celestial Buddha in our practice. That is totally fine. The Theravada approach provides that platform for practice. But that doesn’t mean that celestial Buddha doesn’t exist. They are as real as our belief in Karma or the enlightenment of Buddha. As long as we are unenlightened, these skillful Buddhist methods serve a purpose in guiding the mind towards enlightenment.
May all be well and happy.
May the pandemic end.