The Amitabha Sutra - The Buddhas in the Western Direction
In the worlds of the western direction there are countless other Buddhas, like the Buddha “Infinite Life”, the Buddha “Innumerable Characteristics”, the Buddha “Innumerable Banners”, the Buddha “Great Light”, the Buddha “Great Illumination”, the Buddha “Jewel Appearance”, and the Buddha “Light of Purity”. Each of them . . . [with the truthfulness of a Buddha, teaches] in his own land and covers a whole cosmos, speaking these sincere words: “all of you sentient beings should believe this sutra extolling inconceivable virtues, which all
Buddhas protect and keep in mind”.
As previously seen, the names of the Buddhas in the eastern direction teach us the fundamentals of learning and cultivation. We also learned that the names of the Buddhas in the southern direction teach us to cultivate wisdom. Now, from the names of the Buddhas in the western direction, we will learn to accumulate good fortune. As we do this, we need to remember that we do not seek good fortune for our personal enjoyment.
Rather, our objective in accumulating good fortune is to help others by leading them to practice. Our own life will serve as an example. People will wonder how we acquired the advantages that we have: a long and healthy life, good appearance, prestige, wisdom. By example, we will be able to show people that, through practice, they too can attain such advantages.
The first Buddha named in the western direction was Buddha Infinite Life.
It is a name shared by many Buddhas, including the Buddha of the Western Pure Land. Buddha Infinite Life is named first in this passage because infinite life is of vital importance. Even within the context of this present lifetime, a long lifespan is one kind of good fortune.
When one has a long lifespan, one has a greater opportunity to practice and thus to awaken sooner.
We can better understand this when we consider how hard it is for us humans to succeed in our practice. The average human lifetime is a matter of mere decades, and much of that time is spent sleeping, working, socializing, and with family. We allocate very little of our day to actual practice. With a longer lifespan, however, our cumulative practice time can increase. With that, the likelihood of our success will also increase.
The second Buddha named was Buddha Innumerable Characteristics.
Characteristics such as a youthful complexion and a graceful gait are the auspicious physical attributes that adorn a Buddha’s manifestation body. Such features symbolize good fortune.
As with all forms of good fortune, both a long lifespan and a pleasing appearance are for the benefit of others, not for personal enjoyment. In one’s continuous efforts to help others to understand and accept Buddhism, such attributes can be very compelling as they exemplify good fortune. It is most effective therefore, if pleasing physical attributes are plainly evident. Appreciating this will help us better understand the next Buddha.
The third Buddha named was Buddha Innumerable Banners.
This name signifies superiority and prominence. In times past in China, a banner would be displayed conspicuously at a monastery to signal that a virtuous and wise monastic was teaching the Dharma there. In a similar manner, this Buddha’s name informs us that he
is a Buddha of great prominence and prestige, acknowledged highly for his virtue and wisdom. Due to these accomplishments, he is respected by countless beings. Again, we see the importance of good fortune, which in this example occurs as prominence.
The fourth Buddha was Buddha Great Light, whose name refers to the light of wisdom. Longevity, good fortune, and prominence all originate from great wisdom.
The fifth Buddha was Buddha Great Illumination. This name signifies why great wisdom is so important. Perceiving that a being has attained great wisdom assures others that the being is qualified to help them also achieve such benefits.
The sixth Buddha was Buddha Jewel Appearance. His name signifies an excellent appearance. As we learned from Buddha Innumerable Characteristics, an excellent appearance is a sign of great good fortune.
The seventh and final Buddha named in the western direction was Buddha Light of Purity. This name signifies the foundation for cultivating good fortune. For us to perfectly attain great good fortune, our three karmic activities of thought, speech, and action must be radiant and pure, just like this Buddha’s name, Light of Purity.
The Buddhas cited in this sutra passage can help us reinforce our dedication to chanting the buddha-name and learning the Pure Land teachings. In so doing, we will purify our mind and thus accumulate great good fortune.
— Chapter 39, "Pure Mind, Compassionate Heart: Lessons from the Amitabha Sutra", Venerable Wuling
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