The Three Pure Land Sutras: Revised Edition
- About the Book
This volume includes three texts.
The Larger Sutra on Amitayus relates how a certain mendicant monk by the name of Dharmakara, when practicing under the tutelage of the Tathagata Lokesvararaja, made 48 vows to save all suffering people; to fulfill these vows he created a paradise in the west called Sukhavati, and he himself thus became the Buddha Amitayus. The sutra states, furthermore, that if anyone believing in these 48 vows should chant the name of Amitayus, he will be born in the paradise of Sukhavati and there become a buddha. This sutra being the longest of the three basic sutras of the Pure Land Faith, it is common practice in the various Pure Land sects to use extracts from it for the purpose of recitation. Among such pieces there are the San-butsu-ge, a poem in which Dharmakara extols his teacher Lokesvararaja, and the Juu-sei ge, a verse-summary of the 48 vows in the form of 3 vows.
The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus relates one of the most well-known of all Buddhist tales, that of King Ajatasatru and his mother Vaidehi. One day Vaidehi, who was in a state of continual anguish owing to the wicked practices of her son, turned for help in the direction of Sakyamuni, whereupon the latter came to where she was, and after having shown her countless paradises in all directions, had her choose one. She chose the Sukhavati Paradise of Amitayus in the west, and so Sakyamuni gave a detailed description of this paradise by means of 16 types of visualization.
The Smaller Sutra on Amitayus this is the shortest of the three basic sutras of the Pure Land Faith, thus being called the “Smaller Sukhativyuha,” and is even today frequently recited at religious services. It starts by giving a description of the splendors of Sukhavati, the western paradise of Amitayus, and then goes on to explain what must be done in order to be born there. The Buddhas of the six directions (east, west, north, south, above and below) extol the virtues of the Buddha Amitayus, and in conclusion it is recommended that one should generate the desire to be born in this paradise by believing in and chanting the name of Amitayus.
All three texts are early Mahayana texts chosen by Honen, founder of the Pure Land school in Japan, to be the foundational scriptures of this school.
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