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Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of
Mahayana Buddhism in Shishoin Temple (Tokyo). A unique feature of Mahāyāna is the belief that there are multiple Buddhas which are currently teaching the Dharma. Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhism, Buddhist traditions, text ...
and one of the most widely practiced traditions of Buddhism in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
.
Pure Land
Pure Land
is a tradition of Buddhist teachings that are focused on the
Buddha Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni), was an Śramaṇa, ascetic, a religious leader and teacher who lived in History of India#Iron Age (1500 – 200 BC ...
Amitābha Amitābha (), also known as Amida or Amitāyus, is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahayana in Shishoin Temple (Tokyo). A unique feature of Mahāyāna is the belief that there are multiple Buddhas which are currently teaching ...
. The three primary texts of the tradition, known as the "Three Pure Land Sutras", are the ''
Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra Image:Seated Buddha Amitabha statue.jpg, upStatue of Amitābha seated in meditation. Borobudur, Java, Indonesia The Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra (or Infinite Life Sutra) is one of the two India, Indian Mahayana sutras which describe the pure l ...
'' (''Infinite Life Sutra''), ''
Amitayurdhyana Sutra The Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-E ...
'' (''Contemplation Sutra'') and the '' Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra'' (''Amitabha Sutra''). Pure Land oriented practices and concepts are found within basic Mahāyāna Buddhist
cosmology Cosmology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approx ...
, and form an important component of the Mahāyāna Buddhist traditions of
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...

China
,
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the north toward the and in the south. Japan is a part of the , and spans of coveri ...

Japan
,
Korea Korea is a region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided between two countries at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and South Korea (the Republic of Korea). Korea co ...

Korea
,
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in covering much of the spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the as well as some other ethnic groups such as , , , and s and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of and . Tibet is the ...

Tibet
and
Vietnam , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Hanoi , coordinates = , largest_city = Ho Chi Minh City , languages_type = National language , languages ...

Vietnam
. The term "Pure Land Buddhism" is used to describe both the Pure Land
soteriology Soteriology (; el, σωτηρία ' " salvation" from σωτήρ ' "savior, preserver" and λόγος ' "study" or "word") is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. Salvation theory occupies a place of special significance in many rel ...
of Mahayana Buddhism, which may be better understood as "Pure Land traditions" or "Pure Land teachings," as well as the separate Pure Land sects that developed in Japan from the work of
Hōnen was the religious reformer and founder of the first independent branch of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a bro ...
. Pure Land Buddhism is built on the belief that there will never be a world which is not corrupt, so the rebirth in another plane, referred to as the "Pure Land" is the goal.


Early history


History in India

The Pure Land teachings were first developed in
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
, and were very popular in
Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr () is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale o ...

Kashmir
and
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in which stretches from the in the west to and in the east, and from and in the south to in the north, including the former of , , , , and . It is also colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries all ...

Central Asia
, where they might have originated. Pure Land sutras were brought from the
Gandhāra
Gandhāra
region to China as early as 147 CE, when the
Kushan The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, kus, khasano, ; Late Brahmi Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language o ...

Kushan
monk Lokakṣema began translating the first Buddhist sūtras into Chinese. The earliest of these translations show evidence of having been translated from the
Gāndhārī language Gāndhārī is the modern name, coined by scholar Harold Walter Bailey Sir Harold Walter Bailey, (16 December 1899 – 11 January 1996), who published as H. W. Bailey, was an eminent English scholar of Khotanese, Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attrib ...
, a
Prakrit The Prakrits (; Early Brahmi 𑀧𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀓𑀾𑀢, ''prākṛta''; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publi ...
. There are also images of Amitābha with the
bodhisattva In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of tradition ...

bodhisattva
s
Avalokiteśvara In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions ...
and
Mahāsthāmaprāpta Mahāsthāmaprāpta is a bodhisattva In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Budd ...
which were made in Gandhāra during the Kushan era. In the Buddhist traditions of India, Pure Land doctrines and practices were disseminated by well-known exponents of the Mahāyāna teachings, including
Nāgārjuna Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE; zh, t=龍樹, p=Lóngshù; bo, mGon-po Klu-grub) was an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker, scholar-saint and philosopher. He is widely considered as one of the most important Buddhist philosophers.Garfield ...
and
Vasubandhu Vasubandhu ( sa, वसुबन्धु; ; Tibetan: དབྱིག་གཉེན་ ; fl. 4th to 5th century CE) was an influential Buddhist monk and scholar from Gandhara Gandhāra ( sa, गन्धार, link=no) was an ancient re ...

Vasubandhu
. Pure Land schools arose because of the belief that humans were becoming incapable of Dharma, emphasizing that humans needed help from another power; that power being Amitābha Buddha. Although Amitābha is honored and venerated in Pure Land traditions, this was clearly distinguished from worship of the Hindu gods, as Pure Land practice has its roots in the Buddhist ideal of the
bodhisattva In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of tradition ...

bodhisattva
.Inagaki, Hisao. ''The Three Pure Land Sutras.'' 2003. p. xiv


Pure Land sutras

The three principal Pure Land sūtras are the ''
Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra Image:Seated Buddha Amitabha statue.jpg, upStatue of Amitābha seated in meditation. Borobudur, Java, Indonesia The Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra (or Infinite Life Sutra) is one of the two India, Indian Mahayana sutras which describe the pure l ...
'', ''
Amitayurdhyana Sutra The Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-E ...
'' and the '' Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra''. These sutras describe Amitābha and his Pure Land of Bliss, called
Sukhavati ''Sukhāvatī'', or the Western Paradise, refers to the western pure land of Amitābha in Mahayana Buddhism Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies, and practices. Mahāyāna is ...
. Also related to the Pure Land tradition is the '' Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra'', which gives an early description of the practice of reciting the name of Amitābha as a meditation method, although it does not enumerate any vows of Amitābha or the qualities of Sukhāvatī. In addition to these sutras, many other Mahāyāna texts also feature Amitābha, and a total of 290 such works have been identified in the
Taishō Tripiṭaka The Taishō Tripiṭaka (; Japanese: ''Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō''; “ Taishō Revised Tripiṭaka ''Tripiṭaka'' () or ''Tipiṭaka'' () meaning "Triple Basket" is the traditional term for ancient collections of Buddhist scriptures. The T ...
. According to Julian Pas, the long and short ''Sukhāvatīvyūha'' sūtras were composed during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, though he considers the smaller ''Sukhāvatīvyūha'' to be earlier. Andrew Skilton writes that the descriptions of Sukhāvatī given in the ''Sukhāvatīvyūha'' sūtras suggests that these descriptions were originally used for meditation: "This land, called Sukhāvatī or "blissful," is described in great detail, in a way that suggests that the sūtras were to be used as guides to
visualization Visualization or visualisation may refer to: *Visualization (graphics) Visualization or visualisation (see spelling differences Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the sam ...
meditation, and also gives an impression of a magical world of intense visual and sonorous delight." In the ''Infinite Life Sutra'',
Gautama Buddha Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni), was an , a religious leader and teacher who lived in (c. 6th to 5th century BCE or c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He ...

Gautama Buddha
begins by describing to his attendant
Ānanda
Ānanda
a past life of the buddha Amitābha. He states that in a past life, Amitābha was once a king who renounced his kingdom, and became a monastic bodhisattva named Dharmākara ("Dharma Storehouse").Inagaki, Hisao. ''The Three Pure Land Sutras.'' 2003. p. xvi 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 Sentience is the capacity to be aware of feelings and sensations. The word was first coined by philosophers in the 1630s for the concept of an ability to feel, derived from Latin '':wikt:sentientem, sentientem'' (a feeling), to distinguish it from ...
, 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 () in Chinese translation.


Early history in China

The Pure Land teachings first became prominent in China with the founding of Donglin Temple at
Mount Lu Mount Lu or Lushan (, Gan: Lu-san), also known as Kuanglu () in ancient times, is situated in the northern part of Jiangxi Jiangxi (; Postal romanization, alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese: ''Kongsi'', Hakka: ''Gong ...

Mount Lu
() by Huiyuan () in 402. As a young man, Huiyuan practiced
Daoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taosim the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism teaches ...
, but felt the theories of immortality to be vague and unreliable, and unrepresentative of the ultimate truth. Instead, he turned to Buddhism and became a monk learning under Dao'an (). Later he founded a monastery at the top of Mount Lu and invited well-known literati to study and practice Buddhism there, where they formed the (). They accepted the ''Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra'' and the ''Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra'' as their standards among the Buddhist sūtras, and they advocated the practice of reciting the name of Amitābha Buddha in order to attain rebirth in the western pure land of Sukhāvatī.
Mount Lu Mount Lu or Lushan (, Gan: Lu-san), also known as Kuanglu () in ancient times, is situated in the northern part of Jiangxi Jiangxi (; Postal romanization, alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese: ''Kongsi'', Hakka: ''Gong ...

Mount Lu
is regarded as being among the most sacred religious sites of the Pure Land Buddhist tradition, and the site of the first Pure Land gathering. The Pure Land teachings and meditation methods quickly spread throughout China and were popularized by a series of elite monastic thinkers. The main teaching of the Chinese Pure Land tradition is based on focusing the mind with Mindfulness of the Buddha (Skt. ') through recitation of the name of Amitābha Buddha, so as to attain rebirth in his pure land of Sukhāvatī. Early Pure Land as practiced in China by the monastic, Tanluan, is described as follows: In China, Pure Land practices were always historically viewed as a practice layer that could be integrated together with the teachings and practices of other Buddhist traditions. As such, no independent Pure Land school ever emerged in China since it was regarded and practiced as an integral part of other "schools" such as Tiantai, Vinaya and Chan Buddhism. At a later date, the Pure Land teachings spread to Japan and slowly grew in prominence.
Genshin , also known as , was the most influential of a number of scholar-bhikkhu, monks of the Buddhist Tendai sect active during the tenth and eleventh centuries in Japan. Genshin, who was trained in both esoteric and exoteric teachings, wrote a numbe ...
(942–1017) caused
Fujiwara no Michinaga was a Japanese statesman. The Fujiwara clan was a powerful family of regents in Japan, holding the title of ''Ason'', descending from the Nakatomi clan and through them Ame-no-Koyane, Ame-no-Koyane-no-Mikoto. The Fujiwara prospered since the ...

Fujiwara no Michinaga
(966-1028) to accept the Pure Land teachings.
Hōnen was the religious reformer and founder of the first independent branch of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a bro ...
(1133–1212) established Pure Land Buddhism as an independent sect in Japan known as
Jōdo-shū , also known as Jōdo Buddhism, is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and o ...
. Today Pure Land is an important form of Buddhism in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
. For instance, in Japan alone, Pure Land schools make up almost 40 percent of Buddhist practitioners and has the most temples, second only to Zen schools.


The Pure Land

Contemporary Pure Land traditions see Amitābha expounding the
Dharma Dharma (; sa, धर्म, dharma, ; pi, dhamma, italic=yes; ta, aṟam, italic=yes) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the reli ...
in his buddha-field (Skt. ''buddhakṣetra''), or "pure land", a region offering respite from
karmic Karma (; sa, कर्म}, ; pi, kamma, italic=yes) means action, work, or deed. For the believers in spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each ...

karmic
transmigration. Amitābha's pure land of Sukhāvatī is described in the ''Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra'' as a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms. It is said to be inhabited by many gods, men, flowers, fruits, and adorned with wish-granting trees where rare birds come to rest. In Pure Land traditions, entering the Pure Land is popularly perceived as equivalent to the attainment of enlightenment. Upon entry into the Pure Land, the practitioner is then instructed by Amitābha Buddha and numerous bodhisattvas until full and complete enlightenment is reached. This person then has the choice of returning at any time as a bodhisattva to any of the six realms of existence in order to help all sentient beings in
saṃsāra ''Saṃsāra'' is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European ...

saṃsāra
, or to stay the whole duration, reach
buddhahood In Buddhism, Buddha (), "awakened one," is a title for someone who is Enlightenment in Buddhism, awake, and has attained Nirvana (Buddhism), nirvana and Buddhahood. The title is most commonly used for Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, w ...
, and subsequently deliver beings to the shore of liberation. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, there are many buddhas, and each buddha has a pure land. Amitābha's pure land of Sukhāvatī is understood to be in the western direction, whereas 's pure land of
Abhirati Abhirati (lit. "The Joyous") is the eastern pure land associated with Akshobhya Akshobhya ( sa, अक्षोभ्य, ''Akṣobhya'', "Immovable One"; ) is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas, a product of the Adibuddha, who represents consci ...
is to the east. Though there are other traditions devoted to various Pure Lands, each of Pure Lands except Amitābha's is called by the different name without calling it pure land, and Amitabha's is by far the most popular. Few Pure Land buddhists have practiced the harder Pratyutpanna samadhi. Sutras of Pure Land Buddhism preach that Dharma brings effects equally without distinction of saints or the imperial family. This is one of the reasons that became most popular among the populace. In addition, it references that benevolences expecting the reward do not have good deeds, and suggests that good and evil may be interchanged in the difference of one's situation. Hence, it was thought that menial persons could be released from the underworld like
Hell In and , hell is a location in the in which s are subjected to punitive , most often through , as after death. s with a history often depict hells as eternal destinations, the biggest examples of which are and , whereas religions with ...

Hell
and arrive at Pure Land easily depending on their good deeds in one's lifetime. However, because this teaching includes extremely difficult subject matter, various denominations or sects appeared over the interpretation.


Practices


Mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha

Repeating the name of Amitābha is traditionally a form of mindfulness of the Buddha (Skt. '). This term was translated into Chinese as ''nianfo'' (Chinese: 念佛; Japanese: ''nenbutsu''), by which it is popularly known in English. The practice is described as calling the buddha to mind by repeating his name, to enable the practitioner to bring all his or her attention upon that Buddha (See: ''
samādhi ''Samādhi'' ( sa, समाधी, also called '' samāpatti''), in Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.25 billion f ...

samādhi
'').Luk, Charles. ''The Secrets of Chinese Meditation.'' 1964. p. 83 This may be done vocally or mentally, and with or without the use of
Buddhist prayer beads A Japamala or mala (Sanskrit:; , meaning ' garland') is a string of prayer beads commonly used in Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, ...
. Those who practice this method often commit to a fixed set of repetitions per day. For instance, the monk
Shandao Shandao (; ja, Zendō; 613-681) was an influential writer for the Pure Land Buddhism, prominent in Chinese Buddhism, China, Korean Buddhism, Korea, Buddhism in Vietnam, Vietnam and Buddhism in Japan, Japan. His writings had a strong influence on ...
is said to have practiced this day and night without interruption, each time emitting light from his mouth. Therefore, he was bestowed with the title "Great Master of Light" () by
Emperor Gaozong of Tang Emperor Gaozong of Tang (21 July 628 – 27 December 683), personal name Li Zhi, was the third emperor of the Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an i ...
.Luk, Charles. ''The Secrets of Chinese Meditation.'' 1964. p. 84 In Chinese Buddhism, there is a related practice called the "dual path of Chan and Pure Land cultivation", which is also called the "dual path of emptiness and existence."Yuan, Margaret. ''Grass Mountain: A Seven Day Intensive in Ch'an Training with Master Nan Huai-Chin.'' 1986. p. 55 As taught by
Nan Huai-Chin Nan Huai-Chin () (March 18, 1918 – September 29, 2012) was a spiritual teacher of contemporary China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies b ...
, the name of Amitābha is recited slowly, and the mind is emptied out after each repetition. When idle thoughts arise, the name is repeated again to clear them. With constant practice, the mind is able to remain peacefully in emptiness, culminating in the attainment of samādhi.Luk, Charles. ''The Secrets of Chinese Meditation.'' 1964. pp. 83–84 Pure Land schools in Japan have different interpretations of nianfo where they emphasize faith in Amitābha rather than meditation. According to the beliefs of Japanese Pure Land sects such as
Jōdo-shū , also known as Jōdo Buddhism, is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and o ...
and
Jōdo Shinshū , also known as Shin Buddhism or True Pure Land Buddhism, is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It was founded by the former Tendai is a Mahayana Buddhist school established in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , al ...
, exclusivity of the practice of nianfo/nembutsu over all other Buddhist practices was emphasized by the three Chinese Patriarchs of their purported lineage: Tanluan, Daochuo and
Shandao Shandao (; ja, Zendō; 613-681) was an influential writer for the Pure Land Buddhism, prominent in Chinese Buddhism, China, Korean Buddhism, Korea, Buddhism in Vietnam, Vietnam and Buddhism in Japan, Japan. His writings had a strong influence on ...
. This stemmed from the writings of Honen, who also interpreted the Three Patriarchs as having advocated for exclusive reliance on Pure Land teachings. However, modern historiography has shown that the Three Patriarchs never focused on nianfo as an exclusive practice; they also taught other techniques such as meditation as well as contemplation exercises. For instance, Shandao was noted to be a practitioner who engaged in the austere practices of never lying down to sleep and constantly practicing samādhi and ritual activity, and he is said to have advised other people to do the same. He also wrote extensive commentaries on the complex samādhi practices of visualization. In addition, Tanluan was also noted to have written commentaries on numerous Mahāyāna scriptures, not just Pure Land ones.


Pure Land Rebirth Dhāraṇī

Repeating the Pure Land Rebirth
dhāraṇī Dharanis (Devanagari: धारणी, IAST: ), also known as a Parittas, are Buddhism, Buddhist chants, mnemonic codes, incantations, or recitations, usually the mantra, mantras consisting of Sanskrit or Pali phrases. Believed to be protective a ...
is another method in Pure Land Buddhism. Similar to the mindfulness practice of repeating the name of Amitābha, this dhāraṇī is another method of meditation and recitation in Pure Land Buddhism. The repetition of this dhāraṇī is said to be very popular among traditional Chinese Buddhists. It is traditionally preserved in
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
, and it is said that when a devotee succeeds in realizing singleness of mind by repeating a mantra, its true and profound meaning will be clearly revealed. : The Chinese use a version of this dhāraṇī that was
transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of ha ...
from Sanskrit into
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
, called the "
Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra The Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra is considered an important mantra or dharani in Pure Land Buddhism and other schools of Buddhism, mainly following the Mahayana tradition. The full name of this mantra is the ''Dharani for pulling out the fundam ...
", "Mantra for Birth in the Pure Land" () also known as the Pure Land Rebirth Dhāraṇī (往生淨土神咒 ''Wangsheng Jingtu Shenzhou''). The full name is "the dhāraṇī for pulling out karmic obstructions and obtaining rebirth in the Pure Lands" (
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
:拔一切業障根本得生淨土陀羅尼). The translation exists in various forms and this is one commonly used.


Visualization methods

Another practice found in Pure Land Buddhism is meditative contemplation and visualization of Amitābha, his attendant bodhisattvas, and the Pure Land. The basis of this is found in the ''
Amitayurdhyana Sutra The Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-E ...
'', in which the Gautama Buddha describes to Queen Vaidehi the practices of sixteen progressive visualization methods, corresponding to the attainment of various levels of rebirth in the Pure Land. The first of these steps is contemplation of a setting sun, until the visualization is clear whether the eyes are open or closed.Inagaki, Hisao. ''The Three Pure Land Sutras.'' 2003. p. xix Each progressive step adds complexity to the visualization of Sukhāvatī, with the final contemplation being an expansive visual which includes Amitābha and his attendant bodhisattvas. According to Inagaki Hisao, this progressive visualization method was widely followed in the past for the purpose of developing samādhi. Visualization practises for Amitābha are also popular in
Chinese Esoteric Buddhism Chinese Esoteric Buddhism refers to traditions of Tantra and Vajrayana, Esoteric Buddhism that have flourished among the Chinese people. The Tantric masters Śubhakarasiṃha, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra, established the Esoteric Buddhist ''Zhenyan' ...
,
Shingon Buddhism is one of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is c ...
as well as other schools of
Vajrayana Vajrayāna (Sanskrit: "thunderbolt vehicle" or "diamond vehicle") along with Mantrayāna, Guhyamantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Secret Mantra, Tantric Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism are names referring to Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world ...
.


Going to the Pure Land

Practitioners believe that there is evidence of dying people going to the pure land, such as: * Knowing the time of death (預知時至): some prepare by bathing and nianfo. * The "Three Saints of the West" (西方三聖): Amitābha and the two bodhisattvas,
Avalokiteśvara In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions ...
on his right and
Mahāsthāmaprāpta Mahāsthāmaprāpta is a bodhisattva In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Budd ...
on his left, appear and welcome the dying person. Visions of other buddhas or bodhisattvas are disregarded as they may be bad spirits disguising themselves, attempting to stop the person from entering the Pure Land. * Records of practicing Pure Land Buddhists who have died have been known to leave '' śarīra'', or relics, after
cremation Cremation is a method of Disposal of human corpses, final disposition of a Cadaver, dead body through combustion, burning. Cremation may serve as a funeral or post-funeral rite and as an alternative to burial. In some countries, including India ...

cremation
. The last part of the body to become cold is the top of the head (posterior fontanelle). In Buddhist teaching, souls who enter the Pure Land leave the body through the
fontanelle A fontanelle (or fontanel) (colloquially, soft spot) is an anatomical Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...

fontanelle
at the top of the skull. Hence, this part of the body stays warmer longer than the rest of the body. The ''Verses on the Structure of the Eight Consciousnesses'' (), reads: "to birth in saints the last body temperature in top of head, to deva in eyes, to human in heart, to hungry ghosts in belly, to animals in knee cap, to the hells-realm in sole of feet." See also: ''
phowa ''Phowa'' (, ) is a tantra, tantric practice found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It may be described as "transference of consciousness at the time of death", "mindstream transference", "the practice of conscious dying", or “enlightenment withou ...
''. The dying person may demonstrate some, but not necessarily all, of these evidences. For example, his facial expression may be happy, but he may not demonstrate other signs, such as sharira and dreams. When a person dies, at first "good luck at the underworld" is prayed for the dead person. The family remains in mourning for 49 days till the dead person's reincarnation (Pure Land sects may say "till achieving Pure Land"). It is thought that the great sinner transmigrates to a ''beast'' or a ''hungry ogre'' without being able to go to the Pure Land.


Variance between traditions

In Tibet, which has a Tantric culture, the original Indic general orientation of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land of any deity was retained. Tibetan practitioners may also visualize themselves as a Buddha. By contrast, the Chinese traditions are oriented towards seeking assistance from an "other-Amitabha Buddha" which is outside the self, and may consider the Western Pure Land to exist only in the mind.


Indian Buddhism

Regarding Pure Land practice in Indian Buddhism, Hajime Nakamura writes that as described in the Pure Land sūtras from India, Mindfulness of the Buddha (Skt. ''buddhānusmṛti'') is the essential practice.Nakamura, Hajime. ''Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes.'' 1999. p. 205 These forms of mindfulness are essentially methods of meditating upon Amitābha Buddha. Andrew Skilton looks to an intermingling of Mahāyāna teachings with Buddhist meditation schools in Kashmir for the rise of Mahāyāna practices related to ''buddhānusmṛti'', mindfulness of the Buddha:


Chinese Buddhism

Pure Land cosmology, soteriology, and ritual were always part-and-parcel of Chinese Buddhism in general and
Chan Chan may refer to: Places *Chan (commune), Cambodia *Chan Lake, by Chan Lake Territorial Park in Northwest Territories, Canada People *Chan (surname), romanisation of various Chinese surnames (including 陳, 曾, 詹, 戰, and 田) *Chan Caldwell ...
monasticism in particular. The modern conception of an independent and self-conscious Chinese Pure Land school in history with its own patriarchate and teachings, and the associated notion of Chan/Pure Land syncretism, are inordinately influence by the Japanization of
Buddhist studies Buddhist studies, also known as Buddhology, is the academic study of Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population ...
and the enduring legacy of Japanese sectarian disputes over Chinese Patriarchs. In reality, Pure Land and Chan/Zen practice were historically and still often seen as being mutually compatible, and no strong distinctions are made.Prebish, Charles. Tanaka, Kenneth. ''The Faces of Buddhism in America.'' 1998. p. 20 Chinese Buddhists have traditionally viewed the practice of meditation and the practice of reciting Amitābha Buddha's name, as complementary and even analogous methods for achieving enlightenment. This is because they view recitation as a meditation method used to concentrate the mind and purify thoughts. Chinese Buddhists widely consider this form of recitation as a very effective form of meditation practice. Historically, Buddhist teachers in China have taken eclectic approaches in their practice by teaching various Buddhist schools of thought concurrently (including Pure Land and Chan), without emphasizing any strict sectarian delineation between them. For example, prominent monastics during such as Tanluan were recorded as having written commentaries on non-Pure Land related scriptures, and there is little evidence of them having advocated for Pure Land as an independent "school" of Buddhism. Another example is
Hanshan Deqing Hānshān Déqīng () (1546–1623), formerly transliterated Han-Shan Te-Ch’ing, was a leading Buddhist monk and poet of Ming Dynasty China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the ...
and many of his contemporaries who advocated the dual practice of the Chan and Pure Land methods, advocating mindfulness of Amitābha to purify the mind for the attainment of self-realization.


Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Pure Land Buddhism has a long and innovative history dating from the 8th-9th centuries, the era of the
Tibetan Empire The Tibetan Empire (, ; ) was an empire centered on the Tibetan Plateau, formed as a result of imperial expansion under the Yarlung dynasty heralded by its 33rd king, Songsten Gampo in the 7th century. The empire further expanded under the 38th ...

Tibetan Empire
, with the translation and canonization of the Sanskrit ''Sukhāvatīvyūha'' sūtras in Tibetan. Tibetan compositions of pure-land prayers and artistic renditions of Sukhāvatī in Central Asia date to that time. Tibetan pure-land literature forms a distinct genre and encompasses a wide range of scriptures, "aspiration prayers to be born in Sukhāvatī" (Tib. ''bde-smon''), commentaries on the prayers and the sūtras, and meditations and rituals belonging to the Vajrayāna tradition. The incorporation of
phowa ''Phowa'' (, ) is a tantra, tantric practice found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It may be described as "transference of consciousness at the time of death", "mindstream transference", "the practice of conscious dying", or “enlightenment withou ...
(mind transference techniques) in pure-land meditations is textually attested in the 14th century, in ''The Standing Blade of Grass'' (Tib. ''Pho-ba Jag-tshug ma''), a '' terma'' text allegedly dating to the time of the Tibetan Empire. A good number of Buddhist treasure texts are dedicated to Amitābha and to rituals associated with his pure-land, while the wide acceptance of
phowa ''Phowa'' (, ) is a tantra, tantric practice found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It may be described as "transference of consciousness at the time of death", "mindstream transference", "the practice of conscious dying", or “enlightenment withou ...
in Tibetan death rituals may owe its popularity to Pure Land Buddhism promoted by all schools of
Tibetan Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism (also referred to as Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Himalayan Buddhism, and Northern Buddhism) is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Bhutan, where it is the dominant religion. It also has adherents in the regions surrounding ...
. There are many treasure texts associated with Tibetan Pure Land Buddhism and
tertönTertön () is a term within Tibetan Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism (also Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Sino-Indian Buddhism) is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet, where it is the dominant religion. It also has adherents in the regions surrounding t ...
Longsal Nyingpo (1625–1682/92 or 1685–1752) of
Katok Monastery Katok Monastery (, THL ''Katok Dorjé Den''), also transliterated as Kathok or Kathog Monastery, was founded in 1159 and is one of the "Six Mother Monasteries" in Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in East Asia covering much of the Tibetan P ...

Katok Monastery
revealed a terma on the pure land. This terma entailed phowa during the
bardo In some schools of Buddhism, ''bardo'' ( xct, བར་དོ་ Wylie: ''bar do'') or ''antarābhava'' (Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese: 中有, romanized in Chinese as ''zhōng yǒu'' and in Japanese as ''chūu'') is an intermediate, transitiona ...

bardo
of dying, sending the
Mind Stream Mindstream (''citta-santāna'') in Buddhist philosophy Buddhist philosophy refers to the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...
to a pure land. Gyatrul (b. 1924), in a purport to the work of Karma Chagme (Wylie: Karma Chags-med, fl. 17th century), rendered into English by (Chagmé ''et al.'', 1998: p. 35), states:


Japanese Buddhism

In
Japanese Buddhism Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...
, Pure Land teachings developed into independent institutional sects, as can be seen in the
Jōdo-shū , also known as Jōdo Buddhism, is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism (; ja, 浄土仏教, translit=Jōdo bukkyō; ; vi, Tịnh Độ Tông), also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and o ...
,
Jōdo Shinshū , also known as Shin Buddhism or True Pure Land Buddhism, is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It was founded by the former Tendai is a Mahayana Buddhist school established in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , al ...
, Yūzū-nembutsu-shū, and Ji-shū. The majority of the important schools of Japanese Buddhism developed in the Middle Ages, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. However they were mostly influenced by the Tendai school (Chinese: Tientai in the sixth century) as their founding monks were all trained originally in the school. The Tendai school's teachings were based on the Lotus Sūtra and Mahāyāna Nirvāṇa Sūtra, encompassing a wide range of teachings and eclectic practices of austerities. Strong institutional boundaries exist between sects which serve to clearly separate the Japanese Pure Land schools from the Japanese Zen schools. One notable exception to this is found in the
Ōbaku The is one of several schools of Zen in Japanese Buddhism, in addition to Sōtō and Rinzai school, Rinzai. History Often termed the third sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan, Ōbaku-shū was established in 1661 by a small faction of masters from Ch ...
Zen school, which was founded in Japan during the 17th century by the Chinese Buddhist monk (Chinese ''Yinyuan Longqi''). The
Ōbaku The is one of several schools of Zen in Japanese Buddhism, in addition to Sōtō and Rinzai school, Rinzai. History Often termed the third sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan, Ōbaku-shū was established in 1661 by a small faction of masters from Ch ...
school of Zen retains many Chinese features such as mindfulness of Amitābha through recitation and recitation of the Pure Land sūtras.Baroni, Helen Josephine. ''Iron Eyes: The Life and Teachings of the Ōbaku Zen master Tetsugen Dōko.'' 2006. pp. 5–6 Upon encountering Japanese Pure Land traditions which emphasize
faith Faith, derived from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...
, many westerners saw outward parallels between these traditions and
Protestant Christianity Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church, errors in the Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholi ...
. This has led many western authors to speculate about possible connections between these traditions.Bloom, Alfred. ''The Shin Buddhist Classical Tradition.'' 2013. p. xii However, the
cosmology Cosmology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approx ...
, internal assumptions, and underlying doctrines and practices are now known to have many differences.


See also

*
Faith in Buddhism In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of tradit ...
*
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* Transfer of merit * Vyuha * Pure land


References


Further reading

* Amstutz, Galen (1998)
The Politics of Pure Land Buddhism in India
Numen 45 (1), 69-96 * . *Jones, Charles B. (2021). ''Pure Land: History, Tradition, and Practice'', Shambhala Publications, . * Müller, F. Max (trans) Buddhist Mahâyâna texts Vol.2: The larger Sukhâvatî-vyûha, the smaller Sukhâvatî-vyûha, the Vagrakkedikâ, the larger Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra, the smaller Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra. The Amitâyur dhyâna-sûtra, translated by J. Takakusu. Oxford, Clarendon Press 1894. iarchive:buddhistmahy02cowe, Pure Land Sutras. * Shi Wuling
In one Lifetime: Pure Land Buddhism
Amitabha Publications, Chicago 2006. . * Halkias, Georgios and Richard Payne. Pure Lands in Asian Texts and Contexts: An Anthology. University of Hawaii Press, 2019. * Halkias, Georgios. Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet, with an annotated English translation and critical edition of the Orgyan-gling Gold manuscript of the short Sukhāvatīvyūha-sūtra. Hawaii: University of Hawai‘i Press 2013

* Johnson, Peter, trans. (2020). The Land of Pure Bliss, On the Nature of Faith & Practice in Greater Vehicle (Mahāyāna) Buddhism, Including a Full Translation of Shàndǎo's Commentary in Four Parts Explaining The Scripture About Meditation on the Buddha ‘Of Infinite Life’ (Amitāyur Buddha Dhyāna Sūtra, 觀無量壽佛經), . * Shinko Mochizuki, Leo M. Pruden, Trans. (1999). Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, Chapter 1: A General Survey. In: Pacific World Journal, Third Series, Number 1, 91-103. Archived from th
original
* Shinko Mochizuki, Leo M. Pruden, Trans. (2001). Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, Chapter 2: The Earliest Period; Chapter 3: Hui-yuan of Mt.Lu; and Chapter 4: The Translation of Texts-Spurious Scriptures. In: Pacific World Journal, Third Series, Number 3, 241–275. Archived from th
original
* Shinko Mochizuki, Leo M. Pruden, Trans. (2002). Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, Chapter Five: The Early Pure Land Faith: Southern China, and Chapter Six: The Early Pure Land Faith: Northern China. In: Pacific World Journal, Third Series, Number 4, 259–279. Archived from th
original
* Shinko Mochizuki, Leo M. Pruden, Trans. (2000). Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, Chapter 7: T'an-luan. In: Pacific World Journal, Third Series, Number 2, 149–165. Archived from th
original
* Kenneth Tanaka (1989). Bibliography of English-language Works on Pure land Buddhism: Primarily 1983–1989, Pacific World Journal, New Series, Number 5, 85–99
PDF


External links




Pure Land Buddhism official website
{{Authority control Pure Land Buddhism, Buddhism in China Buddhism in Japan Buddhism in the Heian period Buddhism in the Kamakura period