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Sūtra 23  (posted 03/2009)


佛說阿彌陀經
Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Amitābha Buddha

Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Later Qin Dynasty
by
The Tripiṭaka Master Kumārajīva from Kucha

Thus I have heard:
    At one time the Buddha was staying in the Anāthapiṇḍika Garden of Jetavana Park in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī, together with a group of 1,250 great bhikṣus, who all were great Arhats as recognized by the multitudes. Such great disciples included the Elder Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākāśyapa, Mahākātyāyana, Mahākauṣṭhila, Revata, Śuddhipanthaka, Nanda, Ānanda, Rāhula, Gavāṁpati, Piṇḍola-bhāradvāja, Kālodāyin, Mahākapphiṇa, Vakkula, Aniruddha, and others. Also present were Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, such as Manjuśrī the Dharma Prince, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, and Persistent Energetic Progress Bodhisattva. Along with great Bodhisattvas such as these, in attendance as well were the god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra and an innumerable multitude of gods.
    At that time the Buddha told the Elder Śāriputra, "West of here, beyond 100,000 koṭi Buddha Lands, is a land called Ultimate Bliss. In that land is a Buddha called Amitābha, who is now expounding the Dharma. Śāriputra, why is that land called Ultimate Bliss? Sentient beings of that land have no suffering but only experience myriad joys. Therefore, that land is called Ultimate Bliss. Moreover, Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is surrounded by seven rows of railings, seven layers of nets, and seven lines of trees, all made of the four treasures. Therefore, that land is called Ultimate Bliss.
    "In addition, Śāriputra, in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are ponds made of the seven treasures, filled with the water of the eight virtues. Covering the bed of each pond is gold dust. The stairs and walkways on the four sides of each pond are made of gold, silver, aquamarine, and crystal. Standing majestically are lofty towers, all adorned with gold, silver, aquamarine, crystal, conch shell, ruby, and emerald. The lotus flowers in the ponds are as large as carriage wheels. The blue colors gleam with blue light; the yellow colors, yellow light; the red colors, red light; the white colors, white light. They are wonderful, fragrant, and pure. Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is formed with such virtues and adornments!
    "Furthermore, Śāriputra, celestial music is always playing in that Buddha Land, and its ground is made of yellow gold. Day and night in the six periods, māndarāva flowers rain down from the sky. Sentient beings of that land, at dawn, each fill their robes with wonderful flowers to make offerings to 100,000 koṭi Buddhas in other lands. At mealtime, they return to their own land to eat and do walking meditation. Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is formed with such virtues and adornments!
    "In addition, Śāriputra, in that land are various kinds of unusual, wonderful birds of diverse colors, such as white cranes, peacocks, parrots, śāris, kalaviṅkas, and jīvajīvas. Day and night in the six periods, these birds sing harmonious, exquisite tones. These tones pronounce Dharmas, such as the five roots of goodness, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors, and the Eightfold Right Path. Sentient beings of that land that hear these tones all think of the Budhda, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. Śāriputra, do not say that these birds are born as a form of retribution for sins [in their past lives]. Why not? Śāriputra, that Buddha Land does not have the three evil life-paths. Śāriputra, even the names of the three evil life-paths do not exist in that Buddha Land, much less the actual paths. These birds are all magically created by Amitābha Buddha to have the Dharma tones flow everywhere.
    Śāriputra, as breezes blow in that Buddha Land, the jeweled trees in lines and the jeweled nets [with bells1] make wonderful music, like 100,000 melodies playing at the same time. Those who hear these tones spontaneously invoke the mind that thinks of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. Śāriputra, that Buddha Land is formed with such virtues and adornments!
    "Śāriputra, what is your opinion? For what reason is that Buddha called Amitābha? Śāriputra, that Buddha's radiance is infinite, illuminating lands in the ten directions unhindered. Therefore, He is called Amitābha. Moreover, Śāriputra, the lifespan of that Buddha and His people lasts measureless, boundless asaṁkhyeya kalpas. Therefore, He is called Amitāyus. Śāriputra, it has been ten kalpas since Amitābha Buddha attained Buddhahood. In addition, Śāriputra, that Buddha has innumerable, boundless voice-hearer disciples. All of them are Arhats, their numbers unknowable by calculation. Equally unknowable is the size of the multitude of Bodhisattvas. Śāriputra, that Buddha Land is formed with such virtues and adornments!
    "Furthermore, Śāriputra, sentient beings reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are at the spiritual level of avinivartanīya. Many among them are in the holy position to attain Buddhahood in their next life. Their numbers are so large that they are unknowable by calculation, and can only be reckoned in terms of measureless, boundless asaṁkhyeyas. Śāriputra, sentient beings that have heard [of that land] should resolve to be reborn in that land. Why? To be in the same place together with people of superior virtues. Śāriputra, no one with the condition of few roots of goodness and a meager store of merits can be reborn in that land.
    "Śāriputra, if, among good men and good women, there are those who, having heard of Amitābha Buddha, uphold His name for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, or seven days single-mindedly undistracted, upon their dying, Amitābha Buddha, together with a multitude of holy beings, will appear before them. When these people die, their minds will not be demented, and then they will be reborn in Amitābha Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss. Śāriputra, I see this benefit, so I speak these words. If there are sentient beings that hear what I say, they should resolve to be reborn in that land.
    "Śāriputra, as I now praise the inconceivable merit of Amitābha Buddha, so too do Buddhas in worlds in the east, such as Akṣobhya Buddha, Meru Banner Buddha, Great Meru Buddha, Meru Light Buddha, and Wonderful Tone Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, in worlds in the south are Sun-Moon Lamp Buddha, Renown Light Buddha, Great Flame Aggregate2 Buddha, Meru Lamp Buddha, and Infinite Energetic Progress Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, in worlds in the west are Infinite Life Buddha, Infinite Aggregate Buddha, Infinite Banner Buddha, Great Light Buddha, Great Radiance Buddha, Jewel Brilliance Buddha, and Pure Light Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, in worlds in the north are Flame Aggregate Buddha, Supreme Tone Buddha, Hard-to-Vanquish Buddha, Sun Birth Buddha, Web Radiance Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, in worlds toward the nadir are Lion Buddha, Renown Buddha, Renown Light Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma Banner Buddha, and Dharma Upholder Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, in worlds toward the zenith are Brahma Tone Buddha, Constellation King Buddha, Fragrance Superior Buddha, Fragrance Light Buddha, Great Flame Aggregate Buddha, Adorned with Jeweled Flowers in Diverse Colors Buddha, Salendra King Buddha, Jeweled Lotus Flower Splendor Buddha, Seeing All Meaning Buddha, and Sumeru Likeness Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: 'You sentient beings should praise the inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.'
    "Śāriputra, what is your opinion? Why is this sūtra called a sūtra protected and remembered by all Buddhas? Śāriputra, if there are good men and good women who have heard and upheld this sūtra and have heard the names of Buddhas, these good men and good women are protected and remembered by all Buddhas. They all will never regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. Therefore, Śāriputra, you all should believe and accept my words and the words spoken by all other Buddhas. If there are those who have made their resolve, are now making their resolve, or will make their resolve to be reborn in Amitābha Buddha's land, those people will never regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind, whether they have already been reborn, are now being reborn, or will be reborn in that land. Therefore, Śāriputra, if, among good men and good women, there are those who believe [my words], they should resolve to be reborn in that land.
    "Śāriputra, as I now praise the inconceivable merit of Buddhas, so too those Buddhas praise my inconceivable merit, saying these words: 'Sakyamuni Buddha can do the extremely difficult, extraordinary thing in the Sahā World during the evil times of the five turbidities—the turbidity of a kalpa, the turbidity of views, the turbidity of afflictions, the turbidity of sentient beings, and the turbidity of their lifespan—attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. For the sake of sentient beings, He expounds the Dharma, in which the entire world finds hard to believe.'
    "Śāriputra, know that, in the evil times of the five turbidities, I have done this difficult thing, attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, and I expound to the entire world the hard-to-believe Dharma. It is extremely difficult!"
    After the Buddha had pronounced this sūtra, Śāriputra and other bhikṣus, as well as gods, humans, asuras, and others in the entire world, having heard what the Buddha had said, rejoiced, believed in, and accepted the teachings. They made obeisance and departed.


Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Amitābha Buddha
Translated from the Chinese Canon (CBETA, T12n0366)

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1On page 92 in Buddhist Mahāyāna Texts, edited by E. B. Cowell and others (New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1969), F. Max Muller footnotes that he translates "kaṅkanījālānām" (bells of nets) into strings of bells. However, bells can hang from nets (jālas) as described in the Mahāyāna Sūtra of Consciousness Revealed (Sūtra 18). So the word "nets" is retrained and the bells are placed in brackets. (Return to text)
2The Sanskrit name "Mahārciskandha" is translated into Chinese, in Text 366, as Great Flame Shoulder. The Sanskrit word "arci" can mean ray or flame, and "skandha" can mean shoulder or aggregate. This name "Mahārciskandha" is translated by Master Xuanzang into Chinese, in Text 367, as Great Light Aggregate. (Return to text)


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