SUMMARY of Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, 無量壽經:
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In the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, the Buddha begins by describing to his attendant Ānanda, the past life of the buddhaAmitābha. He stated that in a past life, Amitābha was once a king who renounced his kingdom, and became a monk named Dharmākara ("Dharma Storehouse").
Dharmakara told Buddha Lokeshvararaja(Buddha of that era) that he had aspirations for the highest perfect Enlightenment and that he would adopt the pure practices for the establishment of a glorious Buddha land adorned with infinite excellent qualities.
Under the guidance of the Buddha Lokeśvararāja ("World Sovereign King"), innumerable buddha-lands throughout the ten directions were revealed to him. After meditating for five eons as a bodhisattva, he then made a great series of vows to save all sentient beings, and through his great merit, created the realm of Sukhāvatī ("Ultimate Bliss"). This land of Sukhāvatī would later come to be known as the Pure Land (Chinese. 淨土).
ThisSūtra describes in great detail the glorious adornments of Sukhāvatī and the appearance and pleasures of its inhabitants. All Buddhas, Tathagatas in the ten quarters together praised the inconceivable, supernal virtue of Amitabha. All sentient beings who aspired to be born there will attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.
(S.7) of the sutra outlines Dharmakara’s 48 great vows:
After proclaiming those 48 vows, BhiksuDhamakara said that he would not attain perfect Enlightenment if his vows are not fulfilled, using the following verses:
- I have made vows unrivaled in all the world and will certainly reach the unsurpassed way.
- To become a great benefactor to save the poor and the afflicted everywhere.
- My name shall be heard throughout the ten quarters
- Free of greed, with deed perfect mindfulness, pure wisdom to perform sacred practices, and become the teacher of devas and humans
- I will display great light, illuminating the worlds without limited and dispel darkness of the three defilements and deliver all beings from misery.
- I will remove the darkness of ignorance, block the entire evil path and open the gate to the good realms.
- When merits and virtues are perfected, my majestic light shall radiate in the ten quarters.
- I will open the Dharma store for the multitudes and endow them with treasures of merit.
- I will make offerings to all the Buddhas, therefore acquiring roots of virtue.
- If these vows are fulfilled, let this universe shake in response and let all devas in heaven rain down rare and marvelous flowers.
The eighteenth vow is among the most important as it forms a basic tenet of the Pure Land school. This vow is most commonly known as shíniànbìshēngyuàn (Ch. 十念必生願), because it states that if a sentient being makes even "ten recitations" (十念shíniàn) of the Amitābha Buddha's name they will attain "certain rebirth" (必生bìshēng) into the Pure Land.
BhisksuDharmakara kept all those great vows which were sincere, unfailing and unsurpassed in the whole world. During inconceivable and innumerable kalpas, he cultivated immeasurable meritorious practises to produce a glorious and exquisite Pure Land.
(S.9) of this Sutra also described his pure etiquettes when he was on his Bodhisattva Path:
- He did not harbour any thought of greed, hatred or cruelty nor allow any such ideas to arise.
- He was unattached to any form, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea.
- He possessed the power to persevere and avoid undergoing various afflictions.
- Without impure thought, enmity or stupidity, he dwelt continually in tranquil samadhi.
- His wisdom was unobstructed and his mind is free of falsehood and deceitfulness.
- He had an expression of tenderness in his face
- Having little desire for his own sake, he knew contentment
- He spoke to others in consonance with their inner thoughts and practiced kindness in speech, and engaged right speech.
- He avoided all wrong speech that would bring harm upon himself or other or both.
- He renounced his throne, leaving behind wealth and sensuous pleasure
- Courageous, diligent, strong willed and untiring, he devoted himself solely to the pursuit of the pure Dharma
- Practise six paramitas himself and taught others to do the same.
- He revered the Three Treasures, respected his teachers and elders and thus adorned his practices with a great store of merits.
(S.11) described the awesome lights of Amitabha that shines brilliantly to all the Buddha-lands of the ten directions.
(S.13 to S.20) of this Sūtra describe in great detail the glorious adornments of Sukhāvatī. All Buddhas, Tathagatas in the ten quarters together praised the inconceivable, supernal virtue of Amitabha. All sentient beings who aspired to be born there will attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression. By the power of Amitabha’s meritorious deeds, sentient beings in his Pure Land dwell on the ground of karmic reward.
(S.28 & S.30) of this Sutra described the innumerable virtues of those Bodhisattvas residing in the Pure Land.
In (S 31) of the Sutra, Buddha described the three kinds of evil passions existing in the human world and their consequences. S 32 of the Sutra, was unfolding Buddha Shakyamuni’s encouragement to Sentient Beings to do good deeds and to accumulate roots of virtues; and (S.33) on admonitions against evil acts.
(S 34) Buddha continued with the admonition against the five evils. “If people commit nothing but evil and fail to cultivate roots of virtue, so they naturally will go to the evil realms. Even in this life span, they suffer from incurable illnesses. Longing for death they cannot die; craving for life, they cannot live”.
(S 40) – also talk about the Law of Karma. (S.42-S.45) described/explained the “two kinds of birth in Pure Land (the embryonic state & by transformation).
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BOOKMARKS for this page
Virtues of the Bodhisattva audience
Glorious features of the Buddha
53 Past Buddhas
Lokeshvararaja Buddha and Dharmakara
Sanbutsuge - Verses praising the Buddha
Dharmakara's resolution to become a Buddha
Dharmakara's 48 Vows
Juseige - Verses confirming the 48 Vows
Dharmakara's practices of the Bodhisattva Path
Dharmakara's attainment of Buddhahood
The number of the audience at the first assembly
Bodily appearance of the inhabitants and the pleasures they enjoy
Karmic rewards of a beggar and a king
Comparison between heavens and the Pure Land
Pleasures in the Pure Land
Flowers and innumerable rays of light emitted from them
Fulfillment of the 11th, 17th, and 18th vows
Three grades of aspirants
Bodhisattvas' visit to the Pure Land from other lands
Verses on Bodhisattvas' visit
Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land
Amida's preaching and exquisite sounds produced by the trees, etc.
Three kinds of evil passions and their consequences
Shakyamuni's encouragement to do good
Shakyamuni's admonition against evil acts
Admonition against five evils
Further admonition by the Buddha
Amida and the Pure Land shown to the audience
Two kinds of birth in the Pure Land
The cause of the two kinds of birth
Shakyamuni's encouragement of faith
Bodhisattvas' visits to the Pure Land from other Buddha-lands
Shakyamuni's encouragement to accept this sutra