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Amitabha's Doctrine

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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According to the Infinite Life Sutra Larger Sukhavatīvyūha Sūtra, Amitabha was in very ancient times (i.e., in a universe existing long before the beginning of our present universe) a monk with the name of Dharmakara. In some versions of the sutra, Dharmakara is described as a former king who, having come in contact with the Buddhist teaching, renounced his throne. He resolved to become a Buddha and in this way to come into possession of a buddhakṣetra ("Buddha-field", a world produced by a Buddha's merit) possessed of many perfections. These resolutions were expressed in his Amitabha's forty-eight vows forty-eight vows 四�??八願, which set out the type of Buddha-field which Dharmakara aspired to create, the conditions under which beings might be born into that world, and what kind of beings they will be when they are reborn there. In the versions of the sutra widely known in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, Dharmakara's eighteenth vow is that any being in any universe, who desires to be born in Amitabha's Pure Land and calls upon his name, even as few as ten times, will be guaranteed rebirth in the Pure Land. His nineteenth vow promises that he, together with his bodhisattvas and other blessed Buddhists, will appear before those who call upon him at the moment of death. The sutra goes on to explain that Amitabha, after countless lives and the making of great merit, finally achieved Buddha-hood and is still alive in his land of Sukhavatī, whose many virtues and joys are described. The basic doctrines concerning Amitabha and his vows are found in three canonical Mahayana texts: * The Infinite Life Sutra Larger Sukhavatīvyūha Sūtra * The Amitabha Sutra Smaller Sukhavatīvyūha Sūtra * The Contemplation Sutra Amitayurdhyana Sūtra (Sutra on the Meditation on Amitayus).

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