“Witnessing Buddha Shakyamuni radiating light and showing wonderful signs, Venerable Ananda gave rise to a rare heart and requested an explanation…” (Infinite Life Sutra) In response, the Most Honored One spoke of this convenient, ultimate, straightforward and yet rare treasure of truth.
Convenient means the sutra is both easy to understand and to practice.
Mahayana sutras, such as The Lotus Flower Sutra and The Flower Adornment Sutra, explain the way of becoming enlightened. Nevertheless, both of them are difficult to comprehend and even more so to practice.
The Infinite Life Sutra provides a convenient method while it aims for the highest goal – to become a Buddha.
“At that time, the Buddha radiated a glorious and awe-inspiring light …like that of melting gold. As in a finely polished mirror, the reflection shone through the Buddha’s translucent body.” (Infinite Life Sutra) All these signs indicated the enlightened nature of his body and mind, like that of a perfectly clear crystal.
“He reflected great radiance and manifested myriad changes.” (Infinite Life Sutra) All these were causes for giving this teaching of the sutra.
Why is the Buddha so supremely radiant? Because he is incomparably joyful. This is the happiest day for Buddha Shakyamuni. At last, the opportunity has arisen to give this ultimate and convenient teaching.
While Buddha Shakyamuni was contemplating on Buddha Amitabha, all other Buddhas in the ten directions were contemplating on Buddha Amitabha and propagating this sutra as well. Uniting with others, this brilliant power of concentration was focused through Buddha Shakyamuni, thus making him appear extraordinarily magnificent.
Our face is a reflection of our state of mind. If one harbors a kind heart, it is reflected in a compassionate appearance. If one has a corrupted mind, it is reflected in a cruel face.
The Buddha’s appearance is a perfect one. As we are mindful of the Buddha, we will gradually acquire the body and mind of a Buddha; this in turn will be reflected in our bearing.
In all the years Venerable Ananda had been with Buddha Shakyamuni, he had never seen him so magnificent as he was at that time. On the behalf of all sentient beings, Venerable Ananda requested this teaching.
“Venerable Ananda rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt on one knee and placed his palms together in veneration and addressed the Buddha.” (Infinite Life Sutra)
When requesting instructions from our teacher, it is appropriate to rise from our seat.
In India, when people wished to show the utmost respect for someone, they would bare their right shoulder and kneel on their right knee. Kneeling on the right knee enables one to rise at anytime to serve the teacher.
When palms are placed together as one, they represent concentration and respect. Separated fingers indicate a scattered mind.
With concentration, one is ready to accept the Buddha’s instructions.
Venerable Ananda asked, “World Honored One, today you have entered the great Samadhi…could you explain to me its significance?” (Infinite Life Sutra)
The Buddha was in the Contemplating Buddha Amitabha Samadhi, a perfect
On this day, Buddha Shakyamuni was practicing a very special method. He was about to speak of a way that equally helps all beings to become enlightened.
In The Diamond Sutra, Venerable Sariputra had raised two questions. First, where should our minds dwell? Second, how do we overcome our wandering minds? The answer is simple. In the Pure Land School, dwelling in mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha overcomes our wandering thoughts.
All the Buddhas contemplate Buddha Amitabha and the magnificence of the Western Pure Land. This is the way they guide all beings together on the path to enlightenment.
The greatest teacher is one who, without discrimination or bias, teaches all the ways to attain Buddhahood.
Contemplating Buddha Amitabha is contemplating his forty-eight vows, in which every vow is to equally help all sentient beings to become enlightened.
All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future are mindful of Amitabha. Likewise, Buddha Amitabha is mindful of them.
The Venerable Ananda pondered: Today, Buddha Shakyamuni is displaying a magnificent aura. He must be contemplating the Buddhas in other worlds; otherwise, his countenance would not be so extraordinary. Therefore, he asked the Buddha.
Buddha Shakyamuni replied to Ananda: “Excellent! Excellent!” (Infinite Life Sutra) The first “Excellent” means the time has come for this teaching to be given so that all beings may become Buddhas within one lifetime. The second “Excellent” means the fulfillment of the Buddha’s innate wish that every being may be-come a Buddha quickly, not just to become an Arhat or a Bodhi-sattva.
A human life is as short as a flash of lightning, appearing and vanishing in seconds. There is nothing in this world we can truly grasp, since in reality everything is an illusion.
It was said, that when one offers a Pratyekabuddha a bowl of rice, one would not suffer poverty for many aeons. As an example, Venerable Mahakasyapa had made offerings to a Pratyekabuddha; consequently, he would not be poor for nine billion aeons.
By requesting the true teachings, Ananda has obtained infinite merits, over a billion times an offering to unlimited Arhats or Pratyeka-buddhas living in one Galaxy.
Today we recite and study the Infinite Life Sutra and then introduce it to others. We will gain the same merits as Venerable Ananda.
Those who believe and vow to go the Western Pure Land, and are mindful of Buddha Amitabha shall be born there with no regression and become Buddhas. This is true liberation.
To rise from hell to the hungry ghost realm, then to the animal realm and up to the heaven realm is liberation to a certain extent. Frankly speaking, if we still can-not break out of the cycle of birth and death in the six realms, no matter how high we rise, we will not be truly liberated.
The kindness the Buddha has shown us is far beyond that of our parents. The compassion that our parents have offered us is only for one lifetime, whereas, the Buddha’s compassion continues unceasingly life after life.
One goal of the Buddha’s appearance in this world is to bring us true, beneficial teaching, in which the Infinite Life Sutra shows us the way to single-mindedly contemplate Buddha Amitabha and to reach the Pure Land.
It is an extremely rare opportunity to be born as a human. If one carefully examines his/her thoughts each day, how many of these arise from greed, anger or ignorance? Greed can be as simple as wishing for something. Anger can be felt by merely being irritated by something. Ignorance arises simply by lacking knowledge of proper thoughts and behavior. Greed leads one to the hungry ghost realm, anger to the hells, and ignorance to animal realms. The thoughts that preoccupy us the most will determine the realm of our next life.
Of the six billion people in this world, how many have actually encountered Buddhism? Among these, how many have learned about Mahayana Buddhism? Of these, how many know of the Pure Land School? Among Pure Land Buddhists, how many have practiced single-mindedly? Through this process of elimination, we find that only very few will attain Buddhahood in one lifetime.
Today we freely distribute thou-sands of copies of the Infinite Life Sutra to the public. It would be worthwhile even if only one or two people truly believed, cultivated and were able to reach the Western Pure Land.
To be able to renounce this Saha world and single-mindedly vow to reach the Western Pure Land is the result of one’s good fortune and accumulated merit.
What are good roots? One possesses good roots when one truly believes and understands the Buddha’s teaching.
One who believes in the Infinite Life Sutra and is willing to practice accordingly, with a joyful heart, has already made offerings to countless Buddhas. This person should feel extremely fortunate, since his/her good roots brought this about.
Why are we still deluded, con-fused, and receiving retributions? Because we have no concentration or wisdom.
In order to attain concentration, one should only be concerned whether he/she is abiding by the precepts and not whether others are. Being concerned with other peoples’ practices, one’s own concentration will not be achieved. This preoccupation deters purity of mind. When one regards all others as having the purest of minds, that person’s mind will reflect this purity and achieve con-centration.
The Buddha’s concentration and wisdom are perfect.
The liberation of an Arhat cannot compare with that of a Pratyeka-buddha, which cannot compare with a Bodhisattva’s. A Bodhi-sattva’s cannot compare with that of a Buddha. A Buddha’s liberation is the ultimate liberation.
The Buddha’s perfect concentration and wisdom give rise to ten kinds of freedom.
First, freedom from limited life span; one will never grow old as one controls longevity when one’s willpower surpasses karma’s control.
Second, freedom from the deluded mind; the mind has no wandering thoughts, worries or attachments.
Everyone’s good fortune is different. There is really no way one can change other people’s lives with thoughts, since everyone’s life experiences are governed by the principles of cause and effect. Once this is understood, one would truly understand that feeling worried about others is just a form of deluded thoughts and is therefore pointless.
Third, freedom from material needs; one never lacks essentials.
The more one possesses, the more one worries; such as which to use, how to safeguard or how to acquire new ones. Having freedom from material needs means using the basic essential with out the worries, even if one could have as much as one de-sired.
Fourth, freedom of activities; for example, the Buddha is free to appear in any form to help beings in the nine realms.
Fifth, freedom of birth; one can choose which family to be born into.
Sixth, freedom from ignorance; one intuitively possesses all knowledge without obstacles.
When one possesses knowledge, one needs to be clear as to whether the people of that particular time are able to wisely use that knowledge. If not, then it is best to withhold that knowledge, thus preventing any catastrophes from happening.
Seventh, freedom of vow fulfillment; everything that one wishes or vows to do will come to fruition.
Eighth, freedom of spiritual penetration; possessing extraordinary abilities in the six senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste/speech, thought and action.
Ninth, freedom of Dharma; the Buddha’s teaching is excellent in that all the beings can comprehend his direct teachings without misunderstanding.
Tenth, freedom of wisdom; the Buddha knows all the lives of all beings in the ten directions, in the past, present and future and how to accommodate his teachings to each individual being.
When one’s mind is at its purest, one can achieve these ten freedoms. All beings inherently possess the potential of achieving the qualities of a Buddha.