1 – His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: Amitabha Buddha and the Pureland of Dewachen.
This morning His Holiness is going to give teachings concerning Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, and His Pureland. In conjunction with the teachings in general, this afternoon, His Holiness will teach how to obtain the transference of consciousness to the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha through this practice. Specifically, He will teach you how to practice the text of which all of you should get a copy. It is the daily sadhana for the practice of Amitabha Buddha. Yesterday, you received that empowerment.
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche.
Generally, it can be said that there are many purelands, many paradises of Enlightened Beings we call Buddhas. The Pureland of Great Bliss of the Buddha of Boundless Light, Amitabha, is quite a unique place. There are purelands in the four directions, East, South, West, North, and in the center. Among them, the Pureland of Amitabha is the easiest to get to and therefore quite special. By formulating a special aspiration to be reborn in the Pureland of Great Bliss, one can accomplish the transference of one’s consciousness to that pureland. The power of prayer, the power of devoted and fervent aspiration, is all that is necessary. It is said that the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha, in relation to our universe, is in the western direction and above our universe. We have to adopt a cosmic view and realize that there are many world systems throughout space. This is a very vast system of which I am speaking. Let us get our bearings here. What I am speaking of, in terms of the grand scheme of things, works like this: Lord Buddha Shakyamuni is the chief enlightened being in one great chiliocosm. This means that our entire known universe, with its suns and moons and stars and planets, is one unit. Multiply that by one thousand and then multiply that by one thousand and multiply that by one thousand. That is one trichiliocosm. Lord Buddha Shakyamuni is the lord of one of those. The realm of the Buddha of Boundless Light goes beyond even that cosmic scale. I am teaching right now, from a prayer for expressing this powerful aspiration to be reborn in the Pureland of Great Bliss, composed by Karma Chagne Rinpoche. In the prayer, Karma Chagne Rinpoche says the Pureland of Great Bliss is on such a vast scale, so greatly distant from our ordinary reality, our flesh eyes can never behold it. It is not something that can be beheld physically. It is so vast; its scale is incommensurate with any kind of scale we know that it is beyond the possibility for our senses to perceive. It is so far and vast, so completely beyond our abilities to measure. We can see stars and travel to the moon, but we will never be able to appropriate to the reaching range our senses the actuality of Land of Great Bliss. It is that vast and distant from our ordinary thinking and perceiving. In that sense, it cannot be reached by any material means. However, our own minds, when purified, when stripped of their faults, when returned to their own primordially pristine condition can directly experience the reality of the Pureland of Great Bliss.
The way to perceive the Pureland is through the mind, not through the senses. So, establish that vision in your mind and imagine that, in the center of the vast, all-encompassing Land of Great Bliss, resides the Lord of the Pureland: the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light. He is red in color and he looks like Shakyamuni Buddha. He has all the 80 major marks and the 32 minor signs of a fully enlightened manifestation of nirmanakaya. He has, for example, the crown protuberance that you see on the statues and thangkas of Lord Buddha. He has wheels on His hands and so forth, so, as you can see there are many different signs. He holds His hands in the posture on meditative equipoise, the Dhyana Mudra, and in His hands is a begging bowl. He looks quite like Shakyamuni Buddha, only His skin is a deep, ruby red color. He is resplendent and radiant. He sits on top of a lotus and moon seat. Behind His back is the Wish Fulfilling Tree. To His right is Lord Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig, white in body color. To His left is Vajrapani, the Lord of Powerful Means. These are the three chief lords of the Pureland of Great Bliss. To give a little bit of history of the formation of the Pureland of Great Bliss of Buddha Amitabha, it is a pureland, which has no flaws. It is perfect in every way. The realization of that pureland did come without cause. What was this cause of this perfect paradise? Very many aeons ago, before he was a Buddha, the Buddha Amitabha was a monk whose name was Dharmakara, which literally translated means ‘the origin of Dharma’. When He was in training as a bodhisattva, He formulated a series of prayers, or powerful aspirations, about the way things should be when He becomes completely enlightened. He said, “There are so many purelands that exist and can be reached by those sentient beings who abandoned non-virtue, who accumulated a great deal of merit, and assiduously practiced the Dharma. They can reach those purelands, but that is very difficult. What about all those who have not abandoned non-virtue, who have not accumulated a great deal of merit, and cannot practice in a rigorous way? Let me establish a pureland that can be easily reached by them. May I liberate all those sentient beings who don’t have those supernal qualities of the practitioners that reach the other purelands of all the other Buddhas.” There are many versions of the prayer (or vows), of Amitabha Buddha formulated when He was Dharmakara. There are 500 different versions of the prayer in Tibet alone. In China there are many texts concerning the formulation of the Great Vows of Amitabha. In general, it can be said that all of His powerful aspirations can be subsumed under 48 Great Vows. The Pureland of Great Bliss was brought into reality because of one of the 48 Great Vows. This is the cause for the existence of Pureland of great Bliss. This pureland does not exist causelessly, nothing does. The cause for it was the activity of the bodhisattva who became the Buddha Amitabha. In general, all the Buddhas hold all sentient beings in the core of their heart with love and compassion. Out of their great compassion, they formulate powerful aspirations. They make great vows. They work through many lifetimes; while in training as bodhisattvas before they became Buddhas to affect all sentient beings in vast variety of ways. Just as you can create fire by rubbing two sticks together, long enough and hard enough, so, by the accumulation of merit and primordial wisdom, anything can be accomplished. What was accomplished, in this case, was the establishment of the Pureland of Great Bliss in the western direction of our universe by the Buddha Amitabha through His vast store of merit and primordial wisdom. Let us, again, examine the metaphor of the two sticks that are needed to create fire. Fire does not spring automatically from one stick. You need two sticks and you need the effort of rubbing them together in a particular way over a period of time. Eventually a spark leaps from the conjunction of the sticks and fire begins. In a similar way, all phenomena, all reality, all dharmas, manifest by the conjunction of emptiness and interdependent origination. Everything is totally interrelated with each other thing. That is called interdependent origination. That is one stick. The other stick is emptiness. : The truth of emptiness, the complete lack of inherent existence of any phenomena. The two sticks together, are the actual nature of reality. This is true of everything, of all realities. Leave aside the pureland for a moment and let us examine the realm in which we live. Our world is the same. Our world is the product of non-dual union of clarity and emptiness, of appearance and emptiness. Things appear in a completely unimpeded way, and yet they have no essence. Their essence is empty. That means that all possibilities of experience derive from the non-dual union of appearance and emptiness. Let us examine the manifestation of our world or of the pureland. Everything is not a mere emptiness because it appears, does it not? We can clearly see everything. Everything seems to have existence and everything seems to have a material basis in our world. That is the side of the equation indicating the clear manifestation of phenomena, of experiences . However, that side could not be if it were not for emptiness. If anything, at all, had solid substantial, material, inherent existence, nothing could exist. It is because of emptiness that things can manifest as appearances. Only because there is emptiness, can anything exist at all. Without emptiness, there would only be one indissoluble monolithic blob. There would only be one thing, if that. Nothing could possibly come into relative existence without the ultimate grounding in emptiness. Therefore, it is because of emptiness that our world exists. Because of emptiness, the Pureland of Great Bliss was established through the power of the aspiration, the accumulation of merit, and the primordial wisdom of the enlightened being Amitabha. This is quite difficult to understand if you are new to Buddhism, I understand that, but it is only because there is emptiness that there is appearance. Lets us now continue with our examination of the particular qualities of the Pureland formulated by the aspiration of Amitabha Buddha know as the Land of Dewachen. There are many other buddhafields, as has been said, but in order to reach them, one must attain quite an exalted status. For example to reach the pureland of another Buddha, it is necessary to be a tenth stage bodhisattva, or approaching the portals of complete and perfect enlightenment, and to have accumulated a great deal of merit. It is very difficult for ordinary sentient beings to aspire to this. For us, Amitabha Buddha formulated His great powerful prayers of aspiration. Although His Pureland seems to be quite far from our world, it is relatively easy to reach for sentient beings like us. This is due to the power of Amitabha Buddha’s prayers and vows. As was said before, there exist many versions of the vows, prayers, and aspirations of Amitabha Buddha. To briefly encompass them in a single statement, it need be said that the essence of the vows, prayers, and aspirations are: “May a Pureland be established that is reachable by ordinary sentient beings of impure karma, beings of karmic evil, who have not abandoned non-virtue.” When you reach the purelands of other Buddhas, because of exalted status before going there, you become enlightened. In the case of Dewachen, you can get there, but it does not mean you become enlightened. What happens is that you will not revert to cyclic existence, rather, you will have, instead, all the positive and auspicious conditions for the accumulation of merit and primordial wisdom. You will be able to abandon all non-virtue there and practice to tame and train your mind until such point you are ripe for enlightenment. That is then a general introduction to the Land of Great Bliss.
Translated by Michael Lewis. Transcribed by Ngakpa Jeffery Könchog Gyaltsen. ©San Francisco Ratna Shri Sangha. http://www.purifymind.com/AmitabhaDewachen.htm, http://www.purifymind.com/QandA.htm