What is Pure Land?

The goal of all Buddhist practice is to achieve Enlightenment and transcend the cycle of birth and death: that is, to attain Buddhahood. It is said that the Buddha taught 84,000 different methods to reach enlightenment. Most of these methods depend upon one’s own power. These are called self-power methods. Progress along the path to enlightenment is achieved through intense and sustained personal effort. Most ordinary people, struggling to make a living in difficult circumstances, with continual distractions and diversions do not have the external conditions or mental and physical ability to necessary to achieve enlightenment on this path. The path of other-power relies not upon one’s own power but upon the power of the Buddha Amitabha. Over 10 aeons ago the monk Dharmakara (who later became the Buddha Amitabha) made 48 powerful vows to enable those with genuine, sincere faith to be reborn in his Pure Land, Sukhavati, the Land of Ultimate Bliss. In that idyllic environment, free of the accumulation of new negative karma, anyone can attain nirvana in one lifetime.

Pure Land Buddhism is a religion of faith, of faith in Amitabha Buddha and in one’s capacity to achieve Buddhahood. The immediate goal of Pure Land Buddhists is to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. There, in more favourable surroundings, in the presence of Amitabha, beings will eventually attain complete enlightenment. The essence of Pure Land practice consists of the recitation or remembrance of the name of Amitabha Buddha. Beginning practitioners also read the Pure Land Sutras, and make vows to be reborn in the Pure Land for their own benefit and for the benefit of all beings.

Pure Land Buddhism belongs to the Mahayana tradition in that one seeks liberation not only for oneself but for the sake of all beings.

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