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  • Writer's pictureAMTB NSW

The Amitabha Sutra - Celestial Music

And there is more—celestial music is constantly playing in this Buddha-land, and the ground is made of pure gold. Heavenly flowers rain down at all hours of the day and night. In the morning the sentient beings of this land fill their robes with multitudes of wondrous flowers and make offerings to hundreds of billions of Buddhas in other worlds. When it is meal time, they return to their own land, to eat, and circumambulate the teaching assembly.

One of the many wonderful aspects of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is celestial joy: the joy that comes from music that plays naturally, the making of offerings to hundreds of billions of Buddhas, heavenly flowers that float down to rest on the golden ground. Luminescent, the flowers cover the ground like a soft carpet. When we step on them, they sink by a few inches. When we lift our foot, the flowers rise as well. When it is time for new flowers to fall, those already on the ground naturally disappear.

The name of these flowers is mandara, a Sanskrit word meaning “as one wishes.” This name assures us that there is no suffering arising from unfulfilled desires, which is one of the eight types of suffering that we undergo in our world. As mandara flowers, the blossoms take the form we wish. If we prefer jasmine, the flowers will be jasmine; if we prefer roses, the flowers will be roses.

The flowers “rain down at all hours of the day and night.” But why speak of night when there is none in a land that is always glowing with light? The phrase “day and night” accords with our human habits and how we perceive time. Thus, Sakyamuni described the falling flowers in terms that we could relate to.

“In the morning,” the beings gather masses of wondrous flowers to “make offerings to hundreds of billions of Buddhas in other worlds.” When it is mealtime, they return to the Pure Land to eat. This description illustrates how quickly the beings can visit and make offerings to Buddhas in other lands, and then come back to the Pure Land. Since this takes so little time, we know that even those in the lowest land, the Land Where Sages and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together, have extraordinary powers. These include the ability to see all forms, to hear all sounds, to know the thoughts of others, to be anywhere at will, and to accomplish something by willing it.

When visiting Buddhas in other worlds, the beings do not have to return immediately to the Pure Land. If they have good affinities with the beings or the Buddha in another land, they may stay there longer to help those beings or to learn from that Buddha. If their affinities are light, they can return sooner. The decision to stay longer or come back sooner is wisely based not on attachments but rather on Dharma affinities.

Having good Dharma affinities and extraordinary powers, the beings in the Pure Land can help others. In contrast, here in samsara, while we may wish to assist others, we lack the necessary abilities, impartiality, and wisdom to do so. Our mind is fickle, our good fortune inadequate. Thus, when we attempt to come to the aid of others, we are hindered by our attachments and aversions, which seem only to increase even as we try to do something good. It is little wonder that we often fail in our attempts to help.

Once we are born in the Pure Land, all this will change. Like the beings in the Pure Land who can accumulate great good fortune and merit by making daily offerings to countless Buddhas, we too will be able to accumulate merit. Listening to Amitabha Buddha’s teachings and asking questions at any time, we will remain enthusiastic and progress steadily. And like everyone there, with Amitabha’s support, our enjoyment, wisdom, and abilities will be similar to those of eighth ground bodhisattvas, beings who are a few levels below Buddhas!

This achievement is possible thanks to Amitabha’s causal vows, the vows he made before becoming a Buddha, and his support for us. Having read the sutra, we should realize that we too need to have the great vow to help all beings. Realize also that the extraordinary powers we attain in the Pure Land are already in our true nature. By chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name, we will uncover this true nature and receive his support as well as that of all Buddhas.

From all this, we can see why chanting the name of and being mindful of Amitabha Buddha are the foremost extraordinary powers.

— Chapter 14, "Pure Mind, Compassionate Heart: Lessons from the Amitabha Sutra", Venerable Wuling

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