The Amitabha Sutra (the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra)The Amitabha Sutra (or Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra) is the most popular sutra of Mahayana Buddhism expounding the Western Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, because it is easy to understand its content and practice its Buddha name recitation method. The sutra mainly describes Sukhavati--- the Western World of Ultimate Bliss, which owes its existence to the original vows of Amitabha Buddha--as a land of happiness without suffering in comparison with the Evil World of Five Turbidities. The practice method of Pure Land Buddhism mainly emphasizes faith, vows, and practice; the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra, in particular, stresses the importance of faith. Only by cultivating unwavering faith in the power of Amitabha Buddha's compassionate vows can practitioners make a resonant connection with Amitabha Buddha and generate the determination to transcend worldly sufferings through firm vows and the steady practice of reciting the Buddha's name.
Amitabha Buddha created the Western World of Ultimate Bliss using the power of his compassionate vows, in order to guide and deliver Pure Land practitioners with true faith, vows, and practice. In the Western World of Ultimate Bliss, the fields are surrounded by jeweled trees, and the ground covered with golden sand. There are magnificent palaces; ponds of seven treasures that are filled with the water of eight virtues; lotus flowers as large as chariot wheels that emanate blue, yellow, red, and white lights; and various kinds of rare multicolored birds singing in harmony and with elegant sounds. When gentle breezes blow through the jeweled trees, they release hundreds of thousands of types of music playing simultaneously. All these are manifested through the power of Amitabha Buddha's vows. In the Western World of Ultimate Bliss, sentient beings have no suffering and are proceeding on the path to awakening under the constant protection and blessings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
What does it take to be transported to such a wonderful world? With great compassion, the Buddha expounded the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra without being asked to do so, thus offering a precious, convenient, and easy to apply method of practice for sentient beings of the Dharma Ending Age. The Sutra tells us that, provided that we can diligently apply the method of reciting the Buddha's name wholeheartedly and without distraction, for anywhere between one to seven days, then Amitabha Buddha and the assembly of saints and sages will appear in front of us at the end of our lives and take us to the Pure Land.
However, the sutra also states that "it's impossible to be reborn in that Pure Land without sufficient wholesome roots and meritorious causes and conditions." To be reborn in the Western World of Ultimate Bliss, we have to cultivate wholesome roots, accumulate merits and blessings, form good karmic bonds with people, and practice the method of Buddha-name recitation with diligence. In doing so, we would be able to maintain one-pointed concentration without being distracted under any circumstances. Most importantly, we should arouse the Bodhi mind of following the path to Buddhahood and delivering sentient beings from suffering. Doing so would allow us to accumulate the resources needed to be reborn in the Pure Land, by engaging in the Bodhisattva practice of benefiting ourselves and others, as well as working hard to make the world a better place. Such is the realization of the positive power of faith, vows, and practice, and the true meaning of Pure Land Buddhism.
The Amitabha Sutra (the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra)
Practice Method of Amitabha Buddha
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q1: Why did the Buddha expound the Amitabha Sutra without being asked?
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q2: Why is Amitabha Buddha's land called "World of Ultimate Bliss"?
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q3: Why are the teachings expounded by the Lord Buddha in the Amitabha Sutra difficult to believe?
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q4: Why is it possible to be reborn in the Pure Land by reciting a single Buddha's name?
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q5: Why is "Amitofuo" considered a phrase for blessing?
Questions and Answers about the Amitabha Sutra - Q6: Is the "Amitabha Sutra" a sutra chanted exclusively for the deceased?
Resource: Issue 344 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 344 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Shu-jen Yeh (葉姝蓁)
Editing: YKL, Keith Brown