Pure Land

It would seem to me that there is a contradiction if the Pure Land is considered as an actual place, a location one goes to.
If one can go the Pure Land through faith, but not yet having removed the defilements or their seeds, upon reaching the Pure Land it would no longer be pure, based on the presence of one who is impure. How could it be Sukhavati if there are those there who are creating suffering for themselves and others due to the three poisons, regardless of any support for Amitabha. It seems the only way to keep this from being contradictory, is that Amitabha would have to grant complete liberation to those faithful enough to attain the Pure Land.
The other resolution would be the position of Ryogi and certain Ch'an masters who held the Pure Land to be metaphorical, something to be realized rather than a place to be reborn. In this way, this world becomes a Pure Land that is as pure as one's own mindstream.


bhantekirti2019's picture

It is almost like the Christian faith of heaven

I agree with your argument. It seems the land of Amitabha Buddha is like an eternal heaven in the religion of Christianity. According to Pure Land Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha will stay as long as all sentient beings are enlightened, which literally means eternal. As long as you have faith in Amitabha Buddha, you will be born in his world and receive salvation from him. I feel this branch of Buddhism is somewhat deviated from the approach of Theravada Buddhism. According to Theravada Buddhism, the experience of enlightenment is a personal journey. Buddha clearly said that he can only show us the path but walking on it step by step has to be done individually. "Tumhehi kiccam atappam, akkhataro tathagata" - Buddha.

The importance of Faith in Pure land Buddhism

Because many Buddhist practitioners in the West arrived at their Buddhist conviction via a rejection of faith-based theistic religion, they often have come to regard faith as the opposite of knowledge. This, however, is not the case in Pure Land Buddhism, where faith is central to the religion, and rests upon experience.

Shinjin and anshin are two Japanese words for faith. The first refers to the experience of the arising of faith, and has some common ground with the Zen ideas of satori [awakening]or kensho [seeing one’s true nature]. Anshin refers to settled faith, or peaceful mind. (For mind, here, we could also say heart, as these are the same word in Chinese and Japanese.) Settled faith, good heart, and peaceful mind are virtually synonymous terms in Pure Land Buddhism. The state of having one’s heart at peace is essentially one in which one has a secure faith. This does not necessarily mean that one has adherence to particular beliefs, but rather that one has confidence, assurance, and willingness; proceeds in faith and take life as it comes; and one trusts oneself. Pure Land teaches it is valuable not to shy away from the idea of faith, but to realize its vital importance in life.

The practitioner, having realized the futility of self-power, entrusts himself or herself to the limitless flow of merit that derives from the Buddha. This is called taking refuge, and it is the fundamental religious act of Buddhism. Whatever form of Buddhism one practices, one enters by taking refuge. In Pure Land, the act of saying the nembutsu is a distinctive way of reaffirming refuge and rely upon the protection and assurance provided by other-power.

Pure Land Buddhism teaches that faith is the opposite of relying upon one’s ego. It is both letting go and receiving. This is like being in the ocean. If a person falls into the sea, he might initially thrash about trying to save himself, but the efforts he expends only make the situation worse. When he relaxes and has faith in the ocean, he discovers that it holds him up and he floats on the surface. In the same way, a person first coming to Buddhism is likely to think that by making a great effort she will succeed in achieving enlightenment. If, however, she realizes that this effort to possess and master the teaching is actually self-defeating, as Pure Land teaches, she may find that there is a more natural, less stressful way through the route of entrusting. This realization may come as a revelation experienced as liberating (shinjin). If he or she then practices in this way, the faith will become stabilized through experience (anshin).

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Pure Land as a Place

Honen appears to have clearly regarded the Pure Land as a physical location.
Given the specific wording below, "reborn" and "there" do not appear to be metaphorical.

As is well known, Honen interpreted the nembutsu of the Sutra on the Buddha of Limitless Life's eighteenth vow, the "original vow", as invocational nembutsu, that is, as calling upon the name of Amida Buddha with the utterance, "namw Amida Butsu". Moreover, Honen interpreted this nembutsu as sufficient by itself for achieving salvation through rebirth into Amida Buddha's pure buddha-land. This interpretation and its logic are revealed most clearly in the third chapter of the Senchaku shu, entitled "Passages Showing that Amida Tathagata Made Nembutsu, and No Other Works, the Practice of the Rebirth Original Vow". Honen opens this chapter with the citation of three proof texts, the first of which is the "rebirth original vow", the eighteenth vow of the Siitra on the Buddha of Limitless Life:

"When I become a Buddha, if there should be sentient beings anywhere in the ten regions of the universe having sincere and deep faith and aspiration to be reborn into my buddha-land and who, by making even ten reflections fon me], are not reborn there, then I will not accept perfect enlightenment (Ohashi 1971, 101)."
-from JIABS 10/2 1987