Awakening from Confusion about the Pure Land
Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, Good and Wise Advisors, Amitabha! My name is Jia-hui, and I’m from Minnesota. I took refuge in 2003 and was given a Dharma name Chin-hui when DM Sure propagated the Dharma in Minnesota. It’s my second time visiting CTTB, and luckily I encountered the great occasion that CTTB held an Amitabha session for two consecutive weeks for the very first time. A Dharma Master scheduled me to create Dharma affinities today. I thought that since I had only learned Buddhadharma for a little while, and didn’t have great understanding of the Buddhadharma, therefore, I would like to share how I encountered the Pure Land Dharma Door. The first time I encountered the Pure Land Dharma Door was back in 1998 when my mother passed away from a sudden illness.
Why do I say it’s sudden? Before that, none of my family could imagine how a healthy person like my mom would have a non-retreating high fever after eating a piece of pork liver. She became unconscious after she was admitted to the hospital. After being hospitalized in the intensive care unit for 39 days, the doctors couldn’t do anything but pronounce her dead. When mom only had one breath left, my father decided to take her home and let her pass away at home. At that time, none of us had any contact with Buddhadharma. It was also the very first time that a close family member was passing away at home.
None of us knew what to do and what would be the best for mom. Luckily, we met a Dharma sister in the hospital. She volunteered to help us out when she knew about our situation. Upon returning home with mom, lots of Dharma brothers and sisters that we didn’t know before came to assist us in reciting the Buddha’s name. At that time, I didn’t know who Amitabha was, and didn’t have any idea of what the Western Pure Land was like. I only knew that as long as mom could get to the Western Pure Land, she wouldn’t have any more suffering, and could obtain her ultimate bliss.
Therefore, under the Awakening from Confusion about the Pure Land guidance of all the Dharma brothers and sisters, my brother, sister and I sincerely recited the Buddha’s name for mom, hoping that mom could end the torture of the illness and be reborn in the land of Ultimate Bliss. During the mourning period of mom’s death, I, as the eldest daughter, had to take over the housework. Normally, it had been managed by mom. Now that she had passed on, I felt I had lost my refuge. I really didn’t know how to release the sorrow and grief. I recalled that a Dharma sister mentioned before that we could recite Buddha’s name and transfer the merit and virtue to mom during the first 49 days of her passing.
Thus, whenever I felt sad, I would recite the Buddha’s name and transfer the merit and virtue. At first, I thought what I had done was to benefit mom, but realized later I was the one who benefited the most. From then on, reciting Buddha’s name became a great way for me to get rid of sorrow and affliction. I came to America for school in 2001, and met lots of Dharma brothers and sisters who liked to recite Buddha’s name at Minnesota Buddhist Association in the American Midwest. Consequently, my life went through a huge change. I became a vegetarian, and Buddhism became a great part of my life.
Due to the past experience of reciting Buddha’s name at mom’s passing, I immediately accepted the Pure Land Dharma Door as soon as I officially encountered it. I also took great joy in reciting the Buddha’s name with the assembly and studying all the related sutras. It looked like I was vigorously cultivating the Dharma Door of Pure Land; but in fact, I knew a fundamental issue was seriously and gradually developing. Everybody knows that people do the Pure Land practice because they wish to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
To be reborn in Pure Land, one needs to be equipped with the three provisions of faith, vow, and conduct. One cannot be reborn if one lacks any one of them. Considering the conduct aspect for myself, I only recited the Buddha’s name when I was vexed and restless in order to subdue afflictions, and to focus. As for the vow, I was tired of the imperfection of the world and felt the pressure of suffering. If there were truly a Land of Ultimate Bliss, I would be more than willing to be reborn there.
The problem was I didn’t truly believe that the Western Pure Land and Amitabha Buddha existed. For quite some time, I thought the Pure Land practice was an expedient dharma door spoken by Shykamuni Buddha upon seeing how lazy and confused sentient beings were, so they would have something to rely on, something that could help to focus their three karmic modes of body, speech and mind. In this way, beings could avoid creating offenses and suffering from continuous retributions. But in fact, I thought there was no Amitabha Buddha or Western Pure Land.
I didn’t change this concept until last year when I heard a Dharma Master lecture on the three provisions of faith, vow and conduct The Dharma Master mentioned in the lecture that “the Buddha speaks true words and right discourse.” The dharmas spoken by the Buddha are all real and true principles. The Buddha would never make up stories to deceive beings. The problem comes from living beings’ narrow and limited perspective which made them doubt the truths spoken by the Buddha. The Dharma Master further illustrated with two analogies.
The first one is to describe a snowy scene in winter to a bug that is born in summer and will die when the summer ends. This illustrates that human history is too short, so one cannot understand the state of the Buddha’s infinite life, and consequently cannot believe in the existence of Amitabha. The second one is to describe to a frog, who has lived in the well for its entire life, how vast and boundless the world is outside the well. This explains how limited human beings’ knowledge is compared to the space of the universe. Hence, one is ignorant about the existence of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. After hearing the lecture, I realized how difficult it is to explain to the frog in the well how vast and boundless the outside world is. It will be even harder for the Buddha to convince living beings of the existence of the Amitabha Buddha and the Western Pure Land.
No wonder Shykamuni Buddha used the word “difficult” so many times in the Amitabha Sutra to emphasize the difficulty of introducing Pure Land dharma door to all beings. It’s also understandable that the Buddhas of the ten directions would acclaim the compassionate mind and wisdom of Shykamuni Buddha in recommending this unbelievable dharma door to the beings in the Saha World. From then on, my thoughts completely changed.
I tried to open up my mind to believe in the possible existence of the Western Pure Land. Every time after I recited the 48 vows of Amitabha, I could feel and understand the great intentions, compassion and wisdom of Amitabha upon his making these great vows. I even thought that every being can be an Amitabha. Why? When one truly understands the Buddhadharma and applies it in daily life, one can definitely understand how the Buddhadharma can help people to solve all kinds of afflictions as well as the issue of birth and death. One will also hope that all beings can learn the Buddhadharma.
Upon seeing the confusion of the evil world of the five turbidities, and the suffering of the beings so entangled in karmic obstacles that they cannot cultivate, creating a pure land to accommodate beings for cultivation seems like a great solution. That’s why I think one can become an Amitabha if one has the same vows as Amitabha. Because of this, my attitude toward reciting the Buddha’s name changed. I used to recite in order to focus and subdue my afflictions.
Now I try to wake up my own Buddha nature by reciting Buddha’s name, in the wish to become like Amitabha, creating a pure and adorned land to help beings in cultivation if one wishes to, and to assist them in realizing Buddha much sooner. Upon my change of thoughts and attitude, I had a dream one night. I dreamed of myself flying over a vast, boundless sea.
When I looked down, there were lots of lotuses of different sizes. I was flying, and at the same time, observing these beautiful lotuses. After a while, I saw a broad platform surrounded by beautifully carved railings, and steps extending out to the border of the lotus sea. By the border of the steps and the lotus sea, I saw a tiny lotus bud sprouting out with light.
At the same time, I noticed there was a tall, slender, and adorned elder walking on the platform. When he reached the edge of the steps, he also noticed the newly sprouted lotus bud. He took a look at the tiny lotus bud, and smiled with compassion and comfort. I was deeply attracted by his smile. I had never seen such a kind and compassionate smile, and wondered in my mind, “Who is he?” Suddenly a voice came to my foolish head, and said: “He is Amitabha Buddha, and the tiny lotus bud is you.” When I heard this, I was so astonished and stared at the elder without blinking. Suddenly, a great strand of power pulled me out of the lotus sea, away from the platform and the elder. Everything in the dream became further and further away.
Then I woke up in bed. However, the compassionate smile of the elder became imprinted in my brain for a long, long time. This is the very first time I have publicized the dream in great detail. I didn’t want to talk about it at first because I was afraid that people may think I have something wrong in my head, or that I got possessed by demons. I decided to tell about it today, not to encourage everyone to seek for responses, or to get attached to dreams or states, but simply out of a wish to help those practitioners still in doubt about the Pure Land dharma door and the existence of Amitabha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Hope they can get rid of their doubts and truly vow to be reborn in the Western Pure Land. Under the compassionate guidance of the Amitabha, may we realize Buddhahood sooner and help more beings to leave suffering and obtain bliss. Amitabha!