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Sūtra 24  (posted 04/2009)


佛說觀無量壽佛經
Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Visualization of Infinite Life Buddha

Translated into Chinese in the Song Dynasty
by
The Tripiṭaka Master Kālayaśas from India

Thus I have heard:
    At one time the Buddha was staying on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, near the city of Rājagṛha, together with 1,250 great bhikṣus and 32,000 Bodhisattvas. At the head of this multitude was Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva the Dharma Prince.
    At that time, in the great city of Rājagṛha, Ajātaśatru, the crown prince, urged by his evil friend Devadatta, had King Bimbisāra, his father, arrested and locked in a cell behind seven walls. He decreed to all ministers that none of them could visit the king.
    But Queen Vaidehī was loyal to the great king. She bathed, smeared her body with honey and roasted flour, and hid [a flask of] grape juice under her necklaces. She offered these to the king [on her visit]. Having eaten the flour and drunk the juice, the great king asked for water to rinse his mouth. After rinsing his mouth, he joined his palms reverently and made obeisance to the World-Honored One, who was on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain in the distance. He said, "Mahāmaudgalyāyana is my kin and friend. I pray that he, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will impart the eight precepts to me."
    Maudgalyāyana flew to the king like an eagle. Day after day, he expounded the eight precepts to the king. The Buddha also sent the venerable Pūrṇa to expound the Dharma to the king. Time passed this way for twenty-one days. Because each day he ate the honey flour and heard the Dharma, the king looked well and content.
    But then Ajātaśatru asked the guard, "Is my father still alive?"
    The guard replied, "Your Majesty, each day the queen brings the king honey flour smeared on her body and grape juice concealed under her necklaces. The śramaṇas Maudgalyāyana and Pūrṇa soar across the sky to expound the Dharma to the king. They are unstoppable."
    Having heard these words, Ajātaśatru was furious with his mother. He said, "My mother is a traitor, keeping company with traitors. The evil śramaṇas are using magic and spells to stave off death from this evil king for so many days."
    He drew his sharp sword to slay his mother. But Moonlight, an intelligent and resourceful minister, and Jīva, another minister, saluted the crown prince and said, "Your Majesty, we have learned from the Vedas that since the beginning of this kalpa, 18,000 evil kings have killed their fathers for the throne. But never has anyone killed his mother. Your Majesty, if you commit this rebellious act, it means that you defile the name of the kṣatriya caste and become a caṇḍāla, an outcaste. As your ministers, we cannot bear to hear of this, so we should remain here no longer."
    And the two great ministers retreated step by step, hands on their swords.
    Ajātaśatru was astonished and intimidated. He asked Jīva, "You will not be with me?"
    Jīva replied, "Your Majesty, take care not to harm your mother."
    So, to save himself, Ajātaśatru relented. He dropped his sword, withdrawing his intent to kill his mother. He then ordered the palace guards to confine his mother in a secluded palace, forbidding her to go out.
    While under house arrest, Vaidehī pined. Facing the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain in the distance, she made obeisance to the Buddha and said, "In the past, the Tathāgata-Bhagavān often sent Ānanda to greet and comfort me. I now despair because I cannot see the awesome visage of the World-Honored One. I pray that You will send Mahāmaudgalyāyana and the venerable Ānanda to see me."
    And with tears of sorrow falling like rain, she made obeisance to the Buddha in the distance. In an instant, even before Vaidehī raised her head, the World-Honored One, on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, knew the thoughts in her mind. He commanded Mahāmaudgalyāyana and Ānanda to fly there, and He disappeared from the mountain and appeared in the palace. When Vaidehī raised her head from her obeisance, she saw Śākyamuni Buddha the World-Honored One, purple-tinged golden, seated on a lotus flower made of a hundred treasures. He was attended by Mahāmaudgalyāyana on His left and Ānanda on His right. In the sky were the god-king Śakra, the Brahma-kings, the god-kings that protect the world, and other gods, and they showered down celestial flowers everywhere as offerings to the Buddha.
    When Vaidehī saw the Buddha-Bhagavān, she cast off her necklaces and threw herself on the ground. Weeping loudly, she asked the Buddha, "For what sins in my past lives have I given birth to this evil son? Through what causes and conditions does the World-Honored One have Devadatta in His retinue? I pray only that the World-Honored One will reveal to me a place free from sorrow and distress. I wish to be reborn there. I dislike this turbid evil world of Jambudvīpa. This place, teeming with hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals, is where the evil ones assemble. I wish that, in my next life, I will not hear the evil sounds or see the evil people. I prostrate myself on the ground before the World-Honored One, beseeching You to sympathize with my repentance. I pray only that the Buddha will teach me to visualize a place of pure karma."
    Then the World-Honored One sent forth golden beams of light from between His eyebrows. The beams spread everywhere in innumerable lands in the ten directions. Then they returned to the crown of the Buddha's head and transformed into a golden plateau as immense as Mount Sumeru, in which were displayed pure Buddha Lands in the ten directions. Some lands were made of the seven treasures; some lands were solely lotus flowers; some lands were like the palace of the god-king Īśvara; some lands were like crystal mirrors. Thus displayed were all lands in the ten directions! And thus Vaidehī could see the splendors of innumerable Buddha Lands.
    Then Vaidehī said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, although these Buddha Lands are all pure and radiant, I now would rather be reborn in Sukhāvatī, Amitāyus Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss. I pray only that the World-Honored One will teach me how to contemplate that land and have the right experience."
    Then the World-Honored One smiled, and beams of light in five colors were emitted from the Buddha's mouth. Each beam shone on the crown of King Bimbisāra's head. Although the great king was imprisoned, his mind's eye was unhindered as he saw the World-Honored One in the distance. He made obeisance, placing his forehead on the ground, and easily achieved the third voice-hearer fruit, becoming an Anāgāmin.
    Then the World-Honored One told Vaidehī, "Do you know now? Amitāyus Buddha is not far from here. You should think of and visualize that land formed by pure karma. I now will explicate it to you with analogies and thereby enable ordinary beings of the future that will perform pure karmas to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
    "Those who desire to be reborn in that land should carry out three meritorious works. First, they should honor and support their parents, serve their teachers and elders, cultivate lovingkindness by not killing sentient beings, and perform the ten good deeds. Second, they should take and uphold the Three Refuges and completely observe their precepts without any breach in their conduct. Third, they should deeply believe in causality, read and recite Mahāyāna sūtras, and persuade others to do the same. These three works are called the pure karmas."
    The Buddha said to Vaidehī, "Do you not know now? These three kinds of karmas are the right cause for the pure karmas of Buddhas of the past, present, and future."
    The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Hearken! Hearken! Ponder it well! For the sake of sentient beings of the future that are plagued by their own affliction-bandits, the Tathāgata now will explicate the pure karmas. Very good, Vaidehī, ask your questions at once. Ānanda, accept and uphold the Buddha's words, and pronounce them to the multitudes. The Tathāgata will now teach Vaidehī and all sentient beings of the future how to visualize the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. By virtue of the power of the Buddha, you will be able to see that Pure Land, just as you see the reflection of your own face in a clear mirror. Once you see the wonderful and joyful things in that land, you will be delighted and instantly achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No-birth of Dharmas."
    The Buddha told Vaidehī, "You are an ordinary being with coarse perceptions. Without the God-eye, you cannot see far. Nevertheless, Buddha-Tathāgatas have exceptional ways to enable you to see."
    At that time Vaidehī asked the Buddha, "By virtue of the power of the Buddha, I will be enabled to see that land. However, after the Buddha's parinirvāṇa, how can sentient beings that are impure, unwholesome, and burdened by the five kinds of suffering see Amitāyus Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss?"

[1. The Setting Sun]

The Buddha told Vaidehī, "You as well as other sentient beings should concentrate your mind and focus on the one place, thinking of the west. How does one visualize? All sentient beings with eyes that are not born blind have seen the setting sun. One should sit properly, facing the west, and visualize that the sun is setting. One should make one's mind firm and visualize, with unshakable concentration, the setting sun like a hanging drum. Success in visualizing the setting sun means that one can see it distinctly with eyes open or closed. The vision of the sun is called the first visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[2-3. The Water and the Ground]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Having achieved the first visualization, one should next visualize water. One should visualize that everywhere in the Western Pure Land is an expanse of water, seeing distinctly that the water is pure and clear, not losing this picture.
    "Having visualized the water, one then visualizes that it is ice. As the ice is clear and transparent, one then visualizes that it is aquamarine. Having achieved this vision, one can see that the aquamarine ground is completely transparent and that it is supported underneath by golden cylindrical banners made of diamonds and the seven treasures. Each cylindrical banner has eight sides and angles, each side inlaid with 100 gems. Each precious gem emits 1,000 beams of light, and each beam has 84,000 colors, shining through the aquamarine ground like 1,000 koṭi suns, which are too brilliant to be seen in their entirety.
    "On the aquamarine ground are crisscrossing golden ropes, which clearly divide the ground into areas for the seven treasures. Each treasure radiates beams of light in 500 colors. These beams are like flowers, also like stars and moons. Gathered in the sky, they form a platform of radiance, on which stand 10 million lofty towers, each tower made of 100 treasures. As adornments, on both sides of the platform are 100 koṭi flower banners and innumerable musical instruments. Eight kinds of pure winds flow out of the radiance to stir the musical instruments, which play tones expounding the truths: suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self.
    "The vision of water is called the second visualization. When one has achieved this vision, each object is seen clearly. One does not lose it, eyes open or closed. Except during sleep, one constantly remembers this picture. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."
    The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "The vision of water is called achieving a rough vision of the ground in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If one enters samādhi, one will see the ground of that land so clearly that the details are too numerous to be described. The vision of the ground is called the third visualization."
    The Buddha told Ānanda, "Uphold the Buddha's words and pronounce this Dharma of visualization of the ground to the multitudes of the future who desire to be liberated from their suffering. For those who visualize the ground, their sins which would entail 80 koṭi kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. After death, they will definitely be reborn, in a future life, in the Pure Land, where they will have no doubts in their minds. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[4. The Jeweled Trees]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "After achieving the vision of the ground, one should next visualize the jeweled trees. To picture the jeweled trees, one should visualize each tree in seven lines of trees. Each jeweled tree is 8,000 yojanas tall, complete with flowers and leaves made of the seven treasures. The flowers and leaves are each of different jewel colors. The aquamarine colors gleam with golden light; the crystal colors, red light; the emerald colors, conch shell light; the conch shell colors, green gem light. Each tree is adorned with coral, amber, and all kinds of treasures.
    "Hovering over the trees are nets made with wonderful precious gems. Each tree is canopied by seven layers of nets. Between each two layers are 500 koṭi wonderful splendid palaces, like the palaces of Brahma-gods. Celestial children are in these palaces, and each child is adorned with necklaces of 500 koṭi śakrābhi-lagna jewels. The radiance of these jewels reaches to a distance of 100 yojanas, like an assembly of 100 koṭi suns and moons, which are too numerous to be named. So superb are the colors of these intermingled jewels!
    "The jeweled trees are matched line to line, leaf to leaf. Among the tree leaves are wonderful flowers, upon which appear fruits made of the seven treasures. Each tree leaf measures 25 yojanas in length and width and has, like celestial necklaces, 1,000 colors and 100 pictures. The wonderful flowers are the colors of the gold from the Jambu River. Like twirling fire wheels, they meander among the leaves, while fruits spring up as if from the vase of the god-king Śakra. Their vast radiance is transformed into banners and innumerable jeweled canopies. Displayed in the jeweled canopies is all the Buddha work in the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World. Also displayed in them are Buddha Lands in the ten directions.
    "Having pictured the trees, one should distinctly visualize the tree trunks, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits, one by one. The vision of the trees is called the fourth visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[5. The Pond Waters]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Having achieved the vision of the trees, one should next visualize the pond waters. To picture the pond waters, one should visualize the eight ponds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The waters in each pond are the liquid form of the seven treasures. The treasure waters are soft, and they issue from the wishing-fulfilling jewel-king. They are divided into fourteen tributaries, each in the wonderful colors of the seven treasures. These channels are formed with yellow gold, and their beds are covered with diamond dust. In the waters [of each pond] are 60 koṭi lotus flowers made of the seven treasures. Each lotus flower is perfectly round, measuring 12 yojanas across. As the treasure waters flow up and down the stems of the lotus flowers, they make wonderful sounds which expound the truths—suffering, emptiness, impermanence, no-self, and the pāramitās—as well as praise the excellent appearances of Buddhas.
    "Sprung from the wish-fulfilling jewel-king are wonderful golden beams of light, which are transformed into birds of 100 jewel colors, singing harmonious, exquisite melodies, constantly praising the merit of thinking of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha.
    "The vision of the water of the eight virtues is called the fifth visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[6. The Towers and the Surroundings]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "In each region of that land of multitudinous treasures are 500 koṭi treasure towers. Inside each tower are innumerable gods, playing celestial music. Musical instruments hover in the sky like celestial jeweled banners, and they sound without being played. Their tones pronounce the thinking of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha.
    "This vision is called achieving a rough vision of the jeweled ground, jeweled trees, and jeweled ponds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This general vision is called the sixth visualization. For those who have achieved this vision, their evil karmas performed in immeasurable koṭis of kalpas will all be obliterated. After death, they will definitely be reborn in that land. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."
    The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Hearken! Hearken! Ponder it well! I will expound to you this Dharma for removing your suffering. You should remember and uphold it, and widely expound it to the multitudes."
    As these words were being said, Infinite Life Buddha appeared. He stood in the sky, attended on His left and His right by the two great ones: Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived. Their glowing radiance was too great to be seen in its totality, with which 100,000 colors of the gold from the Jambu River could never compare.
    At that time Vaidehī, upon seeing Infinite Life Buddha, made obeisance at the feet of the Buddha and asked, "World-Honored One, by virtue of the power of the Buddha, I now have come to see Infinite Life Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas. How should sentient beings of the future visualize Infinite Light Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas?"

[7. The Lotus Flower Seat]

The Buddha replied to Vaidehī, "To visualize that Buddha, one should first visualize a lotus flower on the ground made of the seven treasures. One should visualize that each petal of the lotus flower has, like celestial pictures, 100 jewel colors and 84,000 veins, and see very clearly that each vein emits 84,000 beams of light. The smaller flower petals each measure 250 yojanas in length and width. Such a lotus flower has 84,000 petals. Between these petals are 100 koṭi jewel-kings serving as adornments. Each jewel emits 1,000 beams of light like a blanket made of the seven treasures, covering the ground everywhere.
    "On the ground is a platform made of śakrābhi-lagna jewels, and it is adorned with 80,000 diamonds, kiṁśuka-colored gems, Brahma Heaven jewels, and nets made with wonderful precious gems. Erected on the platform are jeweled cylindrical banners, each with four posts. Each jeweled banner is as immense as a billion koṭi Sumeru Mountains. The jeweled draperies on each banner are like those in the palaces of Yāma Heaven, the third desire heaven. They each are adorned with 500 koṭi wonderful precious gems. Each precious gem emits 84,000 beams of light, and each beam has 84,000 distinct colors of gold. Each golden beam spreads all over that treasure land, assuming various forms from place to place—diamond platforms, nets with precious gems, or clouds composed of various flowers—and freely displays Buddha work in the ten directions. The vision of the flower seat is called the seventh visualization."
    The Buddha told Ānanda, "Such a wonderful flower is formed by the power of the original vows of the bhikṣu Dharmakara, [who is now Infinite Life Buddha]. Those who desire to think of that Buddha should first visualize this wonderful flower seat. When one creates this picture, one should not mix it with other things. One should visualize it item by item, seeing clearly each petal, each gem, each light, each platform, and each banner. When one visualizes everything so clearly, it is like seeing one's own face in the mirror. For those who have achieved this vision, their sins which would entail 50,000 koṭi kalpas1 of life and death will all be expunged. One will definitely be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[8. The Three Holy Ones Seated on the Flower Seats]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "After achieving this vision, one should next picture that Buddha. Why? Buddha-Tathāgatas are the body of the dharma realm, which enters the mental projection of all sentient beings. Therefore, when one pictures a Buddha, one's mind is in effect the thirty-two major marks and eighty excellent characteristics of a Buddha. The mind forms a Buddha, and the mind is the Buddha. The ocean of Saṁbuddhas is formed by one's mental projection. Therefore, one should single-mindedly focus on and visualize that Buddha, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha.
    "To picture that Buddha, one should first visualize His image. One should visualize, with eyes open or closed, a precious image in the color of the gold from the Jambu River, seated on that lotus flower. Having seen the image seated there, one's mind's eye is opened and also sees distinctly all the adornments made of the seven treasures in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, such as the jeweled ground, jeweled ponds, and jeweled trees in lines, as well as the celestial jeweled draperies over the trees and the jeweled nets all over the sky. The vision of this scene is so clear that it is like seeing it in one's palm.
    "Having achieved this vision, one should next visualize a huge lotus flower on the left side of that Buddha, which is just like the lotus flower described before, without any difference, and another such lotus flower on His right side. One then visualizes an image of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva seated on the left lotus flower seat, golden in color like the image of that Buddha. One then visualizes an image of Great Might Arrived Bodhisattva seated on right lotus flower seat. As this vision is achieved, the images of the Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas all emit wonderful beams of light. Their golden beams of light illuminate all the jeweled trees. Under each tree all across that land are three lotus flowers, seated on which are a Buddha and two Bodhisattvas.
    "When this vision is achieved, the meditator should hear the sounds of flowing waters, beams of light, jeweled trees, wild ducks, and mandarin ducks, all expounding the wondrous Dharma. In or out of samādhi, one constantly hears the wondrous Dharma. Even when out of samādhi, one still remembers what one has heard and should verify whether the teachings heard are in accord with those in the sūtras. If not in accord, they are called false perceptions. If in accord, this vision is called a rough vision of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The vision of this scene is called the eighth visualization. For those who do this visualization, their sins which would entail immeasurable koṭis of kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. They will attain the Thinking-of-the-Buddha Samādhi in their present life. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[9. The Sublime body of Amitāyus Buddha]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "After achieving this vision, one should next visualize the magnificence of the body of Infinite Life Buddha. Ānanda, know that the body of Infinite Life Buddha is in a billion koṭi colors of the gold from the Jambu River in Yāma Heaven. The height of that Buddha measures as many yojanas as the sands of 600,000 koṭi nayuta Ganges Rivers. The white hair between His eyebrows, like five Sumeru Mountains, curls to the right. The eyes of that Buddha, with blues and whites distinct, are pure like the waters in the four immense oceans. The pores of His body emit radiance as immense as Mount Sumeru. The halo of that Buddha is as vast as 100 koṭi Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold Worlds. In His halo appear as many magically manifested Buddhas as the sands of a million koṭi nayuta Ganges Rivers. Each Buddha is attended by an innumerable multitude of magically manifested Bodhisattvas.
    "Infinite life Buddha has 84,000 major marks; each mark includes 84,000 excellent characteristics; each characteristic emits 84,000 beams of light. Each light universally illuminates worlds in the ten directions, attracting and accepting sentient beings that think of Buddhas, never abandoning them. His radiance, excellent marks, and magically manifested Buddhas are beyond description. However, one should picture it and make the mind's eye see. If one can see that Buddha, one in effect sees all Buddhas in the ten directions. Seeing all Buddhas is called the Thinking-of-the-Buddha Samādhi. Doing this visualization is called visualizing the bodies of all Buddhas. By visualizing the bodies of all Buddhas, one also sees the Buddha mind. The Buddha mind is [the mind of] great lovingkindness and compassion. With unconditional lovingkindness, Buddhas accept all sentient beings. Those who do this visualization, after death, will be reborn, in a future life, before Buddhas and achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No-birth of Dharmas.
    "Therefore, the wise should focus their minds and intently visualize Infinite Life Buddha. To picture Infinite Life Buddha, one should begin with one major mark, visualizing only the white hair between His eyebrows and making it vividly clear. Those who can see the white hair between His eyebrows should readily see all 84,000 excellent characteristics. Those who see Infinite Life Buddha in effect see innumerable Buddhas in the ten directions. By seeing innumerable Buddhas, one will receive the prophecy [of Buddhahood] in the presence of these Buddhas. This comprehensive vision of all the physical marks of that Buddha is called the ninth visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[10. The Sublime body of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Having seen Infinite Light Buddha clearly, one should next visualize Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. The height of this Bodhisattva measures 800,000 koṭi nayuta yojanas2. His body is purple-tinged golden. On the top of his head is a fleshy mound. The light disks in the halo about his neck each measure3 100,000 yojanas across. In each light disk are 500 magically manifested Buddhas, who resemble Śākyamuni Buddha. Each magically manifested Buddha is attended by 500 magically manifested Bodhisattvas and innumerable gods. Displayed in the radiance of His entire body are sentient beings in all kinds of physical forms, taking the five life-paths. On the top of his head is a wonderful śakrābhi-lagna jewel, worn as a celestial crown. Standing on his celestial crown is a magically manifested Buddha, 25 yojanas tall.
    "The face of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is in the colors of the gold from the Jambu River. The hair between his eyebrows has the colors of the seven treasures, from which stream 84,000 beams of light. In each beam are innumerable, countless hundreds and thousands of magically manifested Buddhas. Each magically manifested Buddha is attended by innumerable magically manifested Bodhisattvas. They all freely manifest themselves all over the worlds in the ten directions.
    "His arms are red like the color of red lotus flowers, and they gleam with 80 koṭi wonderful beams of light, worn as necklaces. Displayed in these necklaces is sublime universal Buddha work. His palms have the colors of 500 koṭi diverse lotus flowers. The tips of his ten fingers each display 84,000 pictures, like imprinted markings. Each picture has 84,000 colors, and each color emits 84,000 beams of light, which gently shine on all things. With such precious hands, he accepts and guides sentient beings. When he raises his foot, his sole shows the mark of a thousand-spoked wheel, which readily transforms into 500 koṭi platforms of radiance. Wherever he steps, flowers made of diamonds and jewels spread everywhere and cover everything. The fulfillment and excellence of other physical characteristics are like those of a Buddha, without any difference. Only the fleshy mound on the top of his head and the invisible crown of his head cannot be compared with those of the World-Honored One. The vision of the true physical body of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is called the tenth visualization."
    The Buddha told Ānanda, "Those who desire to see Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva should do this visualization. Those who visualize him will not encounter disasters. Their karmic hindrances will be totally removed, and their sins which would entail immeasurable kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. One will acquire immeasurable fortune merely by hearing the name of such a Bodhisattva, and even more by visualizing him. To visualize Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, one should first visualize the fleshy mound on the top of his head, and next visualize his celestial crown. One should visualize other features successively, making each as clear as if seen in one's palm. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[11. The Sublime body of Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "One should next visualize Great Might Arrive Bodhisattva. The body measurement of this Bodhisattva is the same as that of Avalokiteśvara. The light disks in his halo each measure 125 yojanas4 across and radiate beams of light to a distance of 250 yojanas. The radiance of his entire body illuminates lands in the ten directions with purple-tinged golden light. Sentient beings with the right conditions all can see it. Those who see the light from even one of the pores of this Bodhisattva in effect see the pure radiance of innumerable Buddhas in the ten directions. Therefore, this Bodhisattva is called Boundless Light, who illuminates all with the light of wisdom, enabling all to abandon the three unfortunate life-journeys and to gain superior strength. Therefore, this Bodhisattva is named Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Great Might Arrived.
    "The celestial crown of this Bodhisattva is adorned with 500 jeweled flowers. On each jeweled flower are 500 jeweled platforms. On each platform are the wide-ranging displays of pure Buddha Lands in the ten directions. The fleshy mound on the top of his head is like a red lotus flower. Standing on the fleshy mound is a jeweled vase filled with radiance that displays universal Buddha work. His other physical marks are equal to those of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, without any difference.
    "When this Bodhisattva walks, all worlds in the ten directions are shaken. Wherever the earth quakes, 500 koṭi jeweled flowers appear. Each jeweled flower is as sublime and splendid as the Land of Ultimate Bliss. When this Bodhisattva sits down, all lands made of the seven treasures are shaken at the same time. Magically manifested copies of Infinite Light Buddha, of Avalokiteśvara, and of Great Might Right, as numerous as innumerable dust particles in the space between the land of Golden Light Buddha below and the land of Radiance King Buddha above, all assemble in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Jam-packed in the sky, seated on jeweled lotus flower seats, they expound the wondrous Dharma to deliver suffering sentient beings.
    "Doing this visualization is called the correct visualization of Great Might Arrived Bodhisattva. The vision of the physical body of Great Might Arrived is called the eleventh visualization. For those who do this visualization, their sins which would entail immeasurable asaṁkhyeya kalpas of life and death are all expunged. They will not be reborn through the womb. They will always visit pure Buddha Lands. Achieving this visualization is called the complete vision of Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[12. One's Rebirth in a Lotus Flower]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Having seen these two Bodhisattvas, one should next visualize oneself reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, seated cross-legged in a lotus flower, and imagine the lotus flower closing and opening. One should visualize that, when the lotus flower opens, beams of light in 500 colors come to illuminate one's body. One should visualize that one's eyes are opened to see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas all over the sky. One also hears the wondrous Dharma, expounded by the sounds of the water, birds, trees, and Buddhas, which should be in accord with the Dharma in sūtras in the twelve categories. One will remember everything without lapse even when one is out of samādhi.
    "Seeing this scene is called seeing Infinite Life Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss. This general vision is called the twelfth visualization. Then innumerable magically manifested copies of Infinite Life Buddha, together with those of Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived, will often come to the place where this meditator is. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[13. The Three Holy Images in Smaller Size]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "If one earnestly wishes to be reborn in the Western Pure Land, one should visualize a Buddha image sixteen feet tall, standing on the surface of pond waters. As described earlier, the body measurement of Infinite Life Buddha is boundless, beyond the mental power of ordinary beings. However, because of the power of the original vows of that Tathāgata, those who visualize Him will succeed. One can acquire immeasurable fortune merely by visualizing the image of that Buddha, and even more by visualizing His complete physical features. Amitāyus Buddha's spiritual powers are demonstrated at will as He freely manifests Himself in lands in the ten directions, whether as a vast body filling the entire sky or as a small body, only sixteen or eighteen feet tall. The form He manifests is in the color of pure gold. His halo, his magically manifested Buddhas, and his jeweled lotus flower are just as described before.
    "Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived are the same in every aspect of their bodies. Sentient beings, by observing the appearances of their heads, can know whether it is Avalokiteśvara or Great Might Arrived. These two Bodhisattvas assist Amitāyus Buddha to deliver all beings universally. This vision of the three images [of Amitāyus Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas] is called the thirteenth visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[14. The Three Rebirths in the High Grade]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "Those who are reborn in the Western Pure Land are classified into nine grades. Those who wish to achieve a high rebirth in the high grade in that land must invoke three minds in order to succeed. What are these three? First, an earnest mind; second, a profound mind; and third, a mind wishing for rebirth in the Pure Land as one transfers one's merit to other sentient beings. Those with these three minds will definitely be reborn in that land. Moreover, there are three kinds of sentient beings that will be reborn there. What are those three? First, those who, with the mind of lovingkindness, refrain from killing sentient beings and completely observe the precepts for their conduct. Second, those who read and recite Mahāyāna vaipulya sūtras. Third, those who practice the six remembrances and, with a wish to be reborn in that Buddha Land, transfer their merit to others.
    "A person who has achieved these merits in one to seven days will be able to be reborn there. When he is about to be reborn in that land, because he has made bold, energetic progress, Amitāyus the Tathāgata, together with Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived, innumerable magically manifested Buddhas, 100,000 voice-hearer bhikṣus, and innumerable gods riding their palaces made of the seven treasures, will appear to him. Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, holding a diamond platform, together with Great Might Arrived Bodhisattva, will come before this person. Amitāyus Buddha, together with Bodhisattvas, will emit great radiance to illuminate his body and extend a welcoming hand to receive him. Avalokiteśvara, Great Might Arrived, and innumerable Bodhisattvas will praise him, encouraging his heart.
    "This person, having beheld this scene, will be exultant and exuberant. He will see himself ride the diamond platform, following after that Buddha. In the instant of a finger snap, he will be reborn in that land. After his rebirth in that land, he will see that Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, with all of their physical marks. He will hear radiant beams of light and jeweled trees expound the wondrous Dharma. Having heard it, he will forthwith achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No-birth of Dharmas. He can, in a short while, serve Buddhas in all lands in the ten directions and successively receive the prophecy [of Buddhahood] before those Buddhas. He will then return to his own land and acquire immeasurable hundreds and thousands of Dhāraṇī Doors. This is called a high rebirth in the high grade.
    "Those who wish to achieve a middling rebirth in the high grade need not read and recite vaipulya sūtras. However, they should have a good understanding of their tenets, and their minds should not be upset by the highest truth. They should believe in causality deeply, and not malign the Mahāyāna. Then, with a wish to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, they can transfer this merit to others. When such a person's life is ending, Amitāyus Buddha, holding a purple-tinged golden platform, together with Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived, surrounded by innumerable retinues and multitudes, will come before the person and praise him in these words: 'Dharma-son, you practice the Mahāyāna teachings and understand the highest truth. Therefore, I now have come to receive you.'
    "As Amitāyus Buddha and 1,000 magically manifested Buddhas extend their hands at the same time, this person will see himself seated on the purple-tinged golden platform, palms joined, praising Buddhas. In the instant of a thought, he will be reborn in that land, in a pond made of the seven treasures. This purple-tinged golden platform is like a huge jeweled flower, which opens after one night.
    "The person's body after rebirth will be purple-tinged golden. Under his feet is a lotus flower made of the seven treasures. That Buddha and the Bodhisattvas all radiate beams of light, illuminating his body. His eyes will be opened and bright, having learned during the night the profound highest truth pronounced by the sounds. He will descend the golden platform and make obeisance to that Buddha. Joining his palms, he will praise the World-Honored One. After seven days, he will achieve no-regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. Forthwith, he will fly to lands in the ten directions to serve Buddhas. He will train in samādhis in the places where Buddhas are. After a short kalpa, he will achieve the Endurance in the Realization of No-birth of Dharmas and will receive the prophecy [of Buddhahood] before Buddhas. This is called a middling rebirth in the high grade.
    "A low rebirth in the high grade can be achieved by those who, though having faith in causality and not maligning the Mahāyāna, mainly activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind and, with a wish to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, transfer this merit to others. When such a person's life is ending, Amitāyus Buddha, holding a golden lotus flower, together with Avalokiteśvara, Great Might Arrived, and other Bodhisattvas, conjures up 500 magically manifested Buddhas to receive him. These 500 magically manifested Buddhas extend their hands at the same time, praising, 'Dharma-son, you are pure, and you have activated the unsurpassed bodhi mind. I have come to receive you.'
    "As soon as he beholds this scene, he will find himself seated in the golden lotus flower. Then the lotus flower will close and will follow after the World-Honored One. He will then be reborn in a pond made of the seven treasures. After a day and a night, the lotus flower will open. He will be able to see that Buddha in seven days. Although he sees the body of that Buddha, its features will not clear in his mind. Only after twenty-one days will he be able to see them clearly and hear the wondrous Dharma pronounced by various sounds. He will then travel to lands in the ten directions and make offerings to Buddhas. Before those Buddhas, he will again hear the profound Dharma. After three short kalpas, he will go through the Illumination Door of the One Hundred Dharmas, ascending to the First Ground, the Ground of Joy. This is called a low rebirth in the high grade.
    "The vision of rebirths in the high grade is called the fourteenth visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are the wrong visualization."

[15. The Three Rebirths in the Middling Grade]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "A high rebirth in the middling grade can be achieved by sentient beings that accept and abide by the five precepts and periodically observe the eight precepts. While training in observance of precepts, they perform neither any of the five rebellious acts nor any other wrongdoings. With a wish to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, they can transfer these roots of goodness to others.
    "When such a person's life is ending, Amitāyus Buddha, together with bhikṣus, surrounded by His retinue, will radiate golden light as He comes to the place where this person is. That Buddha will expound the teachings on suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self, and praise renunciation of family life and liberation from suffering. Having beheld this scene, this person, with great joy in his heart, will see himself seated on a platform borne by a lotus flower. He will fall on both knees, join his palms, and make obeisance to that Buddha. In the instant before he raises his head, he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The lotus flower will quickly open. When the flower opens, he will hear various sounds praising the Four Noble Truths, and he will become an Arhat, achieving the three clarities, the six transcendental powers, and the eight liberations. This is called a high rebirth in the middling grade.
    "A middling rebirth in the middling grade can be achieved by sentient beings that have observed for a day and a night the eight precepts, the śrāmaṇera precepts, or the complete monastic precepts, with no flaw in their conduct. If they, with a wish to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, transfer this merit to others, they are infused with the fragrance of the precepts. When such a person's life is ending, he will see Amitāyus Buddha, together with His retinue, radiating golden beams of light and holding a lotus flower made of the seven treasures, come before him. He will hear a voice in the sky, which praises, 'Good man, because a good person such as yourself follows the teachings of Buddhas of the past, present, and future, I have come to receive you.'
    "This person will see himself seated in the lotus flower, which then closes. He will be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, in a jeweled pond. After seven days, the lotus flower will open. After the flower has opened, he will open his eyes, join his palms, and praise the World-Honored One. After hearing the Dharma, he is delighted and becomes a Srotāpanna, Streamer Enterer. After half a kalpa, he will become an Arhat. This is called a middling rebirth in the middling grade.
    "A low rebirth in the middling grade can be achieved by good men and good women who honor and support their parents and are kind and generous to others. When such a person's life is ending, he encounters a beneficent learned friend who expounds the joyful things in Amitāyus Buddha's land as well as the forty-eight great vows of the bhikṣu Dharmakara. After hearing these things, he dies. In the instant of a strong man extending his arm, this person will be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. Seven days after his rebirth, he will encounter Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived. Having heard the Dharma from them, he is delighted and becomes a Srotāpanna. After one kalpa, he will become an Arhat. This is called a low rebirth in the middling grade.
    "The vision of rebirths in the middling grade is called the fifteenth visualization. This visualization is the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization."

[16. The Three Rebirths in the Low Grade]

The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "A high rebirth in the low grade can be achieved by sentient beings that have performed evil karmas. Although they did not malign vaipulya sūtras, these fools have done evils without any sense of shame or dishonor. When such a person's life is ending, however, he encounters a beneficent learned friend who pronounces the names of Mahāyāna sūtras in the twelve categories. Because he has heard the names of such sūtras, his evil karmas which would entail 1,000 kalpas of life and death are obliterated. The wise friend also teaches him to join his palms and say 'Namo Amitāyus Buddha.' By saying the name of a Buddha, his sins which would entail 50 koṭi kalpas of life and death are all expunged. Thereupon, that Buddha immediately sends magically manifested Buddhas and magically manifested Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived to come before this person. They will praise him, saying, 'Good man, your sins are expunged because you say the name of a Buddha. I have come to receive you.'
    "These words being said, the person forthwith sees the radiance of magically manifested Buddhas filling his entire room. Having beheld this scene, he is delighted and then dies. Riding a jeweled lotus flower, he will follow after the magically manifested Buddhas and will be reborn in a jeweled pond. After forty-nine days, the lotus flower will open. When the flower opens, Great Compassionate Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva and Great Might Arrived Bodhisattva, emitting immense radiance, will stand before this person and pronounce to him profound sūtras in the twelve categories. Having heard these teachings, with faith and understanding, he will activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind. After ten short kalpas, he will go through the Illumination Door of the One Hundred Dharmas and ascend to the First Ground. This called a high rebirth in the low grade.
    "There are those who have heard the names of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. By hearing the name of the Three Jewels, they too can be reborn in a jeweled pond, achieving a high rebirth in the low grade."
    The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "A middling rebirth in the low grade can be achieved by sentient beings that have violated any of the five precepts, the eight precepts, or the complete monastic precepts. Such fools have stolen from the Saṅgha and robbed monks. They have made defiling statements without any sense of shame or dishonor. They adorn themselves with their evil ways. These sinners, because of their evil karmas, should fall to hell. When such a person's life is ending, the fires of hell arrive at once. Nevertheless, he encounters a beneficent learned friend who describes the awesome virtues of the Ten Powers of Amitāyus Buddha, explains in detail His radiance and spiritual powers, and praises samādhi, wisdom, liberation, and the knowledge and views of liberation. After he has heard these things, his sins which would entail 80 koṭi kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. The raging fires of hell will be transformed into cool winds, which bring celestial flowers down from the sky. Seated on these flowers are magically manifested Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have come to receive this person.
    "In the instant of a thought, he will be reborn in a lotus flower in a pond made of the seven treasures. After six kalpas, the lotus flower will open. When it opens, Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived will comfort this person with their Brahma tones. They will pronounce to him the profound Mahāyāna sūtras. Having heard the Dharma, he will immediately activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind. This is called a middling rebirth in the low grade."
    The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, "A low rebirth in the low grade can be achieved by sentient beings that have performed any unwholesome karmas, such as the five rebellious acts or the ten evil deeds. These fools, because of their evil karmas, should go down the evil life-paths to undergo endless suffering for many kalpas. But when such a fool's life is ending, he encounters a beneficent learned friend who comforts him in many ways, expounds the wondrous Dharma, and teaches him to think of that Buddha. However, this person, overcome by suffering, is unable to think of that Buddha. His beneficent friend then tells him, 'If you are unable to think of that Buddha, you should say that you take refuge in Infinite Life Buddha. Say it earnestly and keep your voice uninterrupted as you say "Namo Amitāyus" ten times in ten thoughts.'
    "By saying the name of a Buddha, thought after thought, his sins which would entail 80 koṭi kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. When his life is ending, he will see a golden lotus flower appearing before him like the sun. In the instant of a thought, he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. He will remain in the lotus flower for twelve long kalpas. When the lotus flower opens, Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived, with tones of great compassion, will expound to him the true reality of dharmas and the Dharma for expunging sins. Having heard the teachings, he will be delighted and immediately activate the bodhi mind. This is called a low rebirth in the low grade.
    "The vision of rebirths in the low grade is called the sixteenth visualization."
    When the World-Honored One spoke these words, Vaidehī, together with 500 female attendants, having heard what the Buddha had said, immediately saw the wide-ranging features of the Land of Ultimate Bliss and saw that Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas. With such joy, never experienced before, she came to a great realization, achieving the Endurance in the Realization of the No-birth of Dharmas. The 500 female attendants activated the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind, resolved to be reborn in that land. The World-Honored One bestowed upon them a prophecy that they all would be reborn in that land, and that, after their rebirth there, they would attain the Samādhi of All Buddhas Standing Before One. Meanwhile, innumerable gods all activated the unsurpassed bodhi mind."
    At that time Ānanda rose from his seat, came before the Buddha, and asked, "Word-Honored One, what is the name of this sūtra? How does one uphold the tenets of this Dharma?"
    The Buddha told Ānanda, "This sūtra is titled Visualization of the Land of Ultimate Bliss, Infinite Life Buddha, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, and Great Might Arrived Bodhisattva. It is also titled Totally Removing Karmic Hindrances and Being Reborn Before Buddhas. All of you should accept and uphold it, never forgetting or losing it. Those who train in this samādhi will, in their present life, succeed in seeing Amitāyus Buddha and the two great ones. If, among good men and good women, there are those who hear the names of that Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas, their sins which would entail immeasurable kalpas of life and death will all be expunged. Even more will their benefits be if they remember and think of them. Know that, if a person thinks of that Buddha, this person is a puṇḍarīka flower among men. Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived will be his beneficent friends, and he will be reborn in Buddha family, seated in a bodhimaṇḍa."
    The Buddha told Ānanda, "Uphold well these words. Those who uphold these words in effect uphold the name of Infinite Life Buddha."
    After the Buddha had spoken these words, the venerable Maudgalyāyana, the venerable Ānanda, Vaidehī, and others, having heard what the Buddha had said, greatly rejoiced.
    At that time, the World-Honored One walked across the sky and returned to the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain. Then Ānanda proclaimed to the multitudes this event as described above. Innumerable gods, dragons, and yakṣas, having heard what the Buddha had said, greatly rejoiced. They made obeisance to the Buddha and departed.


Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Visualization of Infinite Life Buddha
Translated from the Chinese Canon (CBETA, T120365)


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1Although the figure "500 koṭi kalpas" is found in Text 365 in the CBETA collection, it is "50,000 koṭi kalpas" according to the Song, Yuan, Ming editions of the Chinese Canon. The latter figure is also found in the Sūtra of Meditation on Buddha Amitāyus, in Buddhist Mahāyāna Texts, edited by E. B. Cowell and others (New York: Dover publications, 1969). That English version is translated by J. Takakusu from a Sanskrit text. (Return to text)
2Three different figures for the height of Avalokiteśvara are found. (1) It is "as many yojanas as the sands of 80 koṭi nayuta Ganges Rivers," according to Text 365 in the CBETA collection; (2) It is "800,000 koṭi nayuta yojanas," according to the corresponding texts in the Song, Yuan, Ming editions of the Chinese Canon. (3) It is "800,000 nayuta yojanas," according to J. Takakusu's English translation. The second of these three figures is used here. (Return to text)
3In the Chinese text, the word "each" precedes the measurement of the surface of the light disks of Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Great Might Arrived. It is therefore conceivable that there are many light disks of the same size in a general halo.(Return to text)
4Although the figure "225 yojanas" is found in Text 365 in the CBETA collection, it is "125 yojanas" according to the Song, Yuan, Ming editions of the Chinese Canon. The latter figure is in agreement with that in J. Takakusu's English translation. (Return to text)


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