Also present was Shakra, the king of the
gods, along with countless numbers of
heavenly beings, making up
a great assembly.
“Shakra, the king of the gods,” is the king of the trayastrimsa heaven, the second lowest of the six heavens in the desire realm. Although there are “countless numbers of heavenly beings,” he is specifically named because his heaven is close to the human path. Most people are not aware of the higher heavens of the desire realm, much less those in the form and formless realms, because those heavens are too far away from us. Shakra, however, is known and respected in this world. Therefore, Sakyamuni Buddha used him to represent all heavenly beings.
Next in the sutra, we will learn about the Pure Land Dharma door, a teaching that Sakyamuni Buddha said, “all beings in all worlds find hard to believe.” Hard indeed, for as it is often said, this Dharma door is the “easiest to practice, but the most difficult to believe.” Those who cannot believe in it but believe in other methods will need three asamkhyeya kalpas to attain Buddhahood.
Those who believe in the Pure Land method and sincerely practice it will need only one lifetime. This achievement is the incredible result of belief. Very simply, there was not enough time for Sakyamuni to explain everything to us. Our life span here is just too short. Our birth in the Western Pure Land will give us all the time we need to learn and practice.
Consider the Buddha’s response to a monk who asked him some metaphysical questions. To help this monk focus on the immediate goal of his practice and not waste precious time, the Buddha posited a story of a man who was shot with a poisoned arrow. A doctor was found, but before the man would agree to the treatment he wanted to know certain things. What caste was the archer? What was his name and clan? Where was he from, what town or city? Was he tall or short, dark or fair? What kind of bow and style of shaft did he use? What kind of sinew was used on the arrow? What was the bowstring made of? What kind of bird were the feathers from? The wounded man would die before he could hear all the answers!
We are like this wounded man who was running out of time and should have just trusted the good doctor. We should believe Sakyamuni Buddha, whose life and attainment proved the validity of his teachings, and use the method he prescribed for us. When we are out of danger in the Pure Land, we will have all the time required to learn all that we wish—and need—to learn.
— Chapter 6, "Pure Mind, Compassionate Heart: Lessons from the Amitabha Sutra", Venerable Wuling
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