Experience Being in a Pure Land by Attending Dharma Assemblies
Many people want to learn about the Pure Lands where buddhas and bodhisattvas dwell. The best way to experience what life would be like in a Pure Land is to attend Dharma assemblies at a monastery. A Pure Land, a pure abode for a buddha and bodhisattvas, is formed with the power of a buddha's vows and meritorious virtues. Unlike our human realm, it is a wonderful environment free of sickness, affliction, and suffering.
Living in a pure land
Mahayana sutras advocate that by purifying our mind and action, we will be able to perceive the world in which we live as a Buddha-land. The Avatamsaka Sutra says that "at one time the Buddha was in the land of Magadha, at the site of the attainment of extinction, having just realized ultimate enlightenment. The ground was solid and firm, made of diamond, adorned with exquisite ornaments." From the moment the Buddha attained the Buddhahood, our world had become a pure land to him.
The Lotus Sutra also says, "If persons with scattered minds enter a stupa or temple and chant 'homage to the Buddha' one single time, they will all have achieved the Buddha path. Even those with heavily afflicted minds would feel as if they have entered a Buddha land, by entering Buddhist monasteries, or just by reciting "Homage to the Buddha" for even once, since this very thought is in accordance with the Buddha path.
Therefore, by participating in Dharma services with a mindset to learn the practice of prostrating to the Buddha, reciting the Buddha's name, chanting sutras, and repenting, we'll be able to gradually purify our body and mind, transforming our greed, aversion, and ignorance by observing the precepts, practicing concentration and developing in wisdom. In this way, we can get to experience the purity and wonderfulness of a Buddha-land, perceiving this world as a pure land through Buddhist wisdom.
Building a bright pure land on earth
As Master Sheng Yen said, "If our mind is pure, with wisdom and compassion, we'll perceive a pure land appearing before us; however, if our mind is defiled and afflicted, lacking in compassion and wisdom, then even when buddhas and bodhisattvas are present around us, we'll have no way of realizing that it actually represents the Buddha's Pure Land. Therefore, when our mind is free of evil and wrong thoughts, and when we refrain from doing bad deeds, that itself signifies the pure land.”
Our world may seem very chaotic, but there are many people who can still indeed experience the existence of a pure land, living in its presence. Master Sheng Yen encouraged us that "It is not difficult to experience pure land. The question is: do we have the faith and determination? "Faith" means that we firmly believe we can cut off our afflictions and have the potential to develop in compassion and wisdom. "Determination" means to try not to generate afflictions at every thought. Instead, align our mind and actions with bodhisattvas' spirit of compassion and wisdom. In this way, when we remain pure for one thought-moment, we'll perceive a pure land in this one single thought-moment. When we remain pure in the second thought-moment, we'll perceive a pure land in this second thought-moment as well. By remaining pure in every thought-moment, we'll be able to experience being in a pure land thought-moment after thought-moment."
In our living environment, as long as there is one person who can remain pure in one single thought-moment, this one person will be able to perceive a pure land in this very thought-moment. If there are ten, a hundred, or a thousand people willing to share this experience of remaining pure for one single thought-moment, then these people will be able to perceive a pure land in this one single thought-moment as well. In a Dharma service setting, we may not be able to purify our thought in every moment, but the power of group practice can definitely help us purify and thus adorn our body and mind, just as how the Buddha aspired to transform human minds and enable them to find the inner pure land, after he attained the Buddhahood in this human realm.
50 Questions about Dharma Assemblies(法會50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation