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SUMMARY: The Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (佛說觀無量壽佛經) pinyin: Fó Shuō Guān Wúliàngshòufó Jīng)
This is one of the three major Buddhist sūtras found within the Pure Land branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Amitāyus is another name for the buddha Amitābha, and this sūtra focuses mainly on meditations involving complex visualization. This is reflected in the name of the sūtra, which translates to the "Amitāyus Meditation Sūtra."
Amitabha was one of the first Buddha to have his own visualization practice. There are several sutras devoted to him and his Pure Land. The Amitayurdhyana Sutra (the Teaching of the Meditation on Amitabha) explains 13 meditations that visualize the Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land, Sukhavati (“the realm of bliss”). This was a teaching given to Queen Vaidehi, who had been imprisoned by her evil son, Ajatasatru.
Queen Vaidehi prayed to Buddha to grant her wish to be born in the realm of Buddha Amitayus in the world of Highest Happiness, Sukhavati., and to teach her how to concentrate her thoughts so as to obtain a right vision of that Pure Land.
Buddha told Vaidehi as she had perfected herself with pure actions necessary for that Buddha Land; she only needed to apply her mind entirely on to close meditation.
Buddha continued to explain that all ordinary persons of the future who wish to cultivate these pure actions will have good opportunity of being born in Sukhavati., the Amitabha Land. These threefold goodnessare:
- they should act filially towards their parents and support them,
- serve and respect their teachers and elders
- be of compassionate mind
- abstain from doing any injury to other beings
- cultivate the ten virtuous actions:
- They should take and observe the vow of seeking refuge with the Three Jewels
- Fulfill all moral precepts
- Do not lower dignity or neglect ceremonial observance.
- They should give their whole mind to the attainment of perfect wisdom
- Deeply believe in the principle of cause and effect
- Study and recite the Mahayana doctrine
- Persuade and encourage others to pursue the same course as them.
Buddha then continued to teach Queen Vaidehi on how to visualize the Pure land, to further her efforts in attaining rebirth there. The Buddha described thirteen“contemplations” or mental visualization exercises in the following order for the aspirant to draw closer to the Pure Lan
- Contemplation of the setting sun
- Contemplation of an expanse of water
- Contemplation of the ground in the Pure Land
- Contemplation of trees in the Pure Land
- Contemplation of ponds in the Pure Land
- Contemplation of various objects in the Pure Land
- Contemplation of the lotus throne of the Buddha
- Contemplation of the image of Amitabha Buddha
- Contemplation of Amitabha Buddha himself
- Contemplation of Avalokiteshvara
- Contemplation of Mahasthamaprata
- Contemplation of the aspirants to the Pure Land
- Contemplation of Amitabha and the two Bodhisattvas
In the last part of this Sutra Buddha spoke on the nine grades into which those born into the Pure Land are categorized.
- The highest level of the highest grade
- The middle level of the highest grade
- The lowest level of the highest grade
- The highest level of the middle grade
- The middle level of the middle grade
- The lowest level of the middle grade
- The highest level of the lowest grade
- The middle level of the lowest grade
- The lowest level of the lowest grade
According to Syakamuni Buddha, all nine grades of human beings can achieve rebirth into the Pure Land if they contemplate on Amitabha Buddha or at least call on his name.
The concluding section of this Sutra described the benefits gained by those who listened to the teachings of the Buddha. All attendees have great awakening with clarity of mind for the highest enlightenment. Syakamuni Buddha named this Sutra as:
- “The Meditation on the Land of Sukhavati, on Buddha Amitabha, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta”
- “The Sutra on the entire removal of the obstacle of Karma” (the means of being born in the realm of the Buddhas)
Please click here to continue reading the full Sutra.
There are Nine Stages or Nine Grades or Nine Classes of Lotus Flowers, i.e. upper superior, middle superior, lower superior, upper medium, middle medium, lower medium, upper inferior, middle inferior and lower inferior, which represent the ninefold future life into the Pure Land.
The Highest Grade is further classified into the following three levels:
- The highest level of the Highest Grade
- Those beings who cherish the threefold thoughts;
- The True Thought
- The Deep Believing Thought
- The Desire to be born in that Pure Land
- There are three classes of beings:
- Those who possess compassionate mindsets, do no injury to other beings and accompany all virtuous actions.
- Those who study and recite Vaipulya Sutras
- Those who practice the sixfold remembrance.
c. And bringing one’s own respective stock of merits to maturity.
2. The middle level of the Highest Grade
- Those who do not necessary learn, remember, or recite those Vaipulya Sutras but fully understand the meaning of and have a firm grasp of the truth contained in them
- Those who deeply believe in the principle of cause and effect
- Those who do not speak evil of the Mahayana doctrine.
- Beings who bring all these good qualities and merits to maturity
3. The lowest level of the Highest Grade
- Beings who believe in the principle of cause and effect
- Those who do not slander the Mahayana doctrine
- Those who cherish the thought of obtaining the highest Bodhi
- Beings who bring all these good qualities to maturity.
(The perception of the above three is called the meditation of the Highest Grade of beings, and is the Fourteenth Contemplation)
The Middle Grade is also further classified into the following three levels:
- The highest level of the Middle Grade
- Those who observe the five prohibitive precepts
- Those who observe the eight precepts and fasting and practise all the moral precepts
- Those who do not commit the five deadly sins
- Those who bring no blame or trouble upon any being
- Those who bring these good qualities and merits to maturity.
His lotus flower will unfold as soon as he reaches Sukhavati and immediately attain the fruition of Arhatship.
2. The middle level of the Middle Grade
- Those who observe the eight precepts and fasting for one day and one night
- Those who observe the prohibitive precept for Sramanera for same period
- Those who observe the perfect moral precepts not lowering their dignity or neglecting any ceremonial observance
- Beings will bring their respective merits to maturity.
His lotus flower will unfold after seven days and will eventually obtain the fruition of a Srotapanna. In the lapse of half a kalpa he will become an Arhat.
3. The lowest level of the Middle Grade
- Those who are filial to their parents and support them
- Those who exercise benevolence and compassion in the world
- Those who meet a learned teacher who fully describe to them the Land of Amitabha Buddha.
- Those who are aware of the 48 vows of Amitabha
- Those who bring these good qualities to maturity.
His lotus flower will unfold after seven days and meet with Kwan ImPusa and Tai Shi Chi Pusa to learn the Dharma. After the lapse of a lesser kalpa he will attain the fruition of an Arhat.
(The perception of the above three is called the meditation of the Middle Grade of beings, and is the Fifteenth Contemplation)
The Lowest Grade is also further classified into the following three levels:
- The highest level ofthe Lowest Grade
- Those who commit evil deeds but provided they do not speak evil of the Mahayana Sutras
- Although he does not feel ashamed or sorry for the evil actions yet while dying, he meets a good and learned teacher who will recite and the headings and titles of the twelve divisions of the Mahayana scriptures.
- The learned wise man will teach him to stretch forth his folded hands to recite “NamoAmitabhayaBuddhaya”.
- Those who have opportunity of hearing the name of Buddha, the name of Dharma and the name of the Sangha – the names of the Three jewels can also be born in the country of Amitabha
His lotus flower will unfold after the lapse of seven weeks to meet Kwan imPusa and Tai Shi Chi Pusa to learn the deepest meaning of the twelve divisions of the scriptures.
2. The middle level ofthe Lowest Grade
- Those who transgresses the five and eight precepts and all moral precepts.
- Those who steal things that belong to the community or a particular Bhikkhu.
- Those who are not ashamed or sorry for his impure preaching of the Dharma.
- Those who magnify and glorify themselves with many wicked deeds – such sinful persons deserve to fall into hell in consequence of all those sins.
- But if, at time of death, a good and learned teacher will preach the super power and virtues of the ten faculties of Amitabha, and the sinful man would sincerely recite the name of Amitabha, he will be under this grade.
His lotus flower will open after six kalpas when Kwan ImPusa and Tai Shi Chi Pusa will soothe, encourage and preach to him the Sutras of the deepest significance.
3. The lowest level ofthe Lowest Grade
Those who have committed evil deeds, also completed the ten wicked actions, the five deadly sins, guilty of many crimes and deserve to fall into a miserable path of existence and suffer endless pains for many kalpas.
However, on the eve of his death, ifa good and learned teacher will soothe and encourage him in various ways, preach to him the excellent Dharma and teach him to remember Amitabha Buddha.
Although harassed by pains, he has no time to think of Buddha, but if he could utter the name “NamoAmitabha” continuously for minimum of ten times and repetitively, he could be reborn into this grade.
His lotus flower will unfold after twelve greater kalpas thereupon Kwan ImPusa and Tai Shi Chi Pusa with their great compassion will preach to him in detail the real state of all elements of nature and law of expiation of sins.
(The perception of the above three is called the meditation of the Lowest Grade of beings, and is the Sixteenth Contemplation)