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Amitabha









One of the disciples came to the Blessed One with a trembling
heart and his mind full of doubt. And he asked the Blessed One:
"O Buddha, our Lord and Master, why do we give up the pleasures
of the world, if thou forbiddest us to work miracles and to
attain the supernatural? Is not Amitabha, the infinite light of
revelation, the source of innumerable miracles?"

And the Blessed One, seeing the anxiety of a truth-seeking mind,
said: "O savaka, thou art a novice among the novices, and thou
art swimming on the surface of samsara. How long will it take
thee to grasp the truth? Thou hast not understood the words of
the Tathagata. The law of karma is irrefragable, and
supplications have no effect, for they are empty words."

Said the disciple: "So sayest thou there are no miraculous and
wonderful things?"

And the Blessed One replied:

"Is it not a wonderful thing, mysterious and miraculous to the
worldling, that a man who commits wrong can become a saint, that
he who attains to true enlightenment will find the path of truth
and abandon the evil ways of selfishness?

"The bhikkhu who renounces the transient pleasures of the world
for the eternal bliss of holiness, performs the only miracle that
can truly be called a miracle.

"A holy man changes the curses of karma into blessings. The
desire to perform miracles arises either from covetousness or
from vanity.

"That mendicant does right who does not think: 'People should
salute me'; who, though despised by the world, yet cherishes no
ill-will towards it.

"That mendicant does right to whom omens, meteors, dreams, and
signs are things abolished; he is free from all their evils.

"Amitabha, the unbounded light, is the source of wisdom, of
virtue, of Buddhahood. The deeds of sorcerers and miracle-mongers
are frauds, but what is more wondrous, more mysterious, more
miraculous than Amitabha?"

"But, Master," continued the savaka, "is the promise of the happy
region vain talk and a myth?"

"What is this promise?" asked the Buddha; and the disciple
replied:

"There is in the west a paradise called the Pure Land,
exquisitely adorned with gold and silver and precious gems. There
are pure waters with golden sands, surrounded by pleasant walks
and covered with large lotus flowers. Joyous music is heard, and
flowers rain down three times a day. There are singing birds
whose harmonious notes proclaim the praises of religion, and in
the minds of those who listen to their sweet sounds, remembrance
arises of the Buddha, the law, and the brotherhood. No evil birth
is possible there, and even the name of hell is unknown. He who
fervently and with a pious mind repeats the words 'Amitabha
Buddha' will be transported to the happy region of this pure
land, and when death draws nigh, the Buddha, with a company of
saintly followers, will stand before him, and there will be
perfect tranquillity."

"In truth," said the Buddha, "there is such a happy paradise. But
the country is spiritual and it is accessible only to those that
are spiritual. Thou sayest it lies in the west. This means, look
for it where he who enlightens the world resides. The sun sinks
down and leaves us in utter darkness, the shades of night steal
over us, and Mara, the evil one, buries our bodies in the grave.
Sunset is nevertheless no extinction, and where we imagine we see
extinction, there is boundless light and inexhaustible life."

"I understand," said the savaka, "that the story of the Western
Paradise is not literally true."

"Thy description of paradise," the Buddha continued, "is
beautiful; yet it is insufficient and does little justice to the
glory of the pure land. The worldly can speak of it in a worldly
way only; they use worldly similes and worldly words. But the
pure land in which the pure live is more beautiful than thou
canst say or imagine.

"However, the repetition of the name Amitabha Buddha is
meritorious only if thou speak it with such a devout attitude of
mind as will cleanse thy heart and attune thy will to do works of
righteousness. He only can reach the happy land whose soul is
filled with the infinite light of truth. He only can live and
breathe in the spiritual atmosphere of the Western Paradise who
has attained enlightenment.

"Verily I say unto thee, the Tathagata lives in the pure land of
eternal bliss even now while he is still in the body; and the
Tathagata preaches the law of religion unto thee and unto the
whole world, so that thou and thy brethren may attain the same
peace and the same happiness."

Said the disciple: "Teach me, O Lord, the meditations to which I
must devote myself in order to let my mind enter into the
paradise of the pure land."

Buddha said: "There are five meditations.

"The first meditation is the meditation of love in which thou
must so adjust thy heart that thou longest for the weal and
welfare of all beings, including the happiness of thine enemies.

"The second meditation is the meditation of pity, in which thou
thinkest of all beings in distress, vividly representing in thine
imagination their sorrows and anxieties so as to arouse a deep
compassion for them in thy soul.

"The third meditation is the meditation of joy in which thou
thinkest of the prosperity of others and rejoicest with their
rejoicings.

"The fourth meditation is the meditation on impurity, in which
thou considerest the evil consequences of corruption, the effects
of wrongs and evils. How trivial is often the pleasure of the
moment and how fatal are its consequences!

"The fifth meditation is the meditation on serenity, in which
thou risest above love and hate, tyranny and thraldom, wealth and
want, and regardest thine own fate with impartial calmness and
perfect tranquillity.

"A true follower of the Tathagata founds not his trust upon
austerities or rituals but giving up the idea of self relies with
his whole heart upon Amitabha, which is the unbounded light of
truth."

The Blessed One after having explained his doctrine of Amitabha,
the immeasurable light which makes him who receives it a Buddha,
looked into the heart of his disciple and saw still some doubts
and anxieties. And the Blessed One said: "Ask me, my son, the
questions which weigh upon thy soul."

And the disciple said: "Can a humble monk, by sanctifying
himself, acquire the talents of supernatural wisdom called
Abhinnas and the supernatural powers called Iddhi? Show me the
Iddhi-pada, the path to the highest wisdom? Open to me the Jhanas
which are the means of acquiring samadhi, the fixity of mind
which enraptures the soul."

And the Blessed One said: "Which are the Abhinnas?"

The disciple replied: "There are six Abhinnas: (1) The celestial
eye; (2) the celestial ear; (3) the body at will or the power of
transformation; (4) the knowledge of the destiny of former
dwellings, so as to know former states of existence; (5) the
faculty of reading the thoughts of others; and (6) the knowledge
of comprehending the finality of the stream of life."

And the Blessed One replied: "These are wondrous things; but
verily, every man can attain them. Consider the abilities of
thine own mind; thou wert born about two hundred leagues from
here and canst thou not in thy thought, in an instant travel to
thy native place and remember the details of thy father's home?
Seest thou not with thy mind's eye the roots of the tree which is
shaken by the wind without being overthrown? Does not the
collector of herbs see in his mental vision, whenever he pleases,
any plant with its roots, its stem, its fruits, leaves, and even
the uses to which it can be applied? Cannot the man who
understands languages recall to his mind any word whenever he
pleases, knowing its exact meaning and import? How much more does
the Tathagata understand the nature of things; he looks into the
hearts of men and reads their thoughts. He knows the evolution of
beings and foresees their ends."

Said the disciple: "Then the Tathagata teaches that man can
attain through the Jhanas the bliss of Abhinna."

And the Blessed One asked in reply: "Which are the Jhanas through
which man reaches Abhinna?"

The disciple replied: "There are four Jhanas. The first Jhana is
seclusion in which one must free his mind from sensuality; the
second Jhana is a tranquillity of mind full of joy and gladness;
the third Jhana is a taking delight in things spiritual; the
fourth Jhana is a state of perfect purity and peace in which the
mind is above all gladness and grief."

"Good, my son," enjoined the Blessed One. "Be sober and abandon
wrong practices which serve only to stultify the mind."

Said the disciple: "Forbear with me, O Blessed One, for I have
faith without understanding and I am seeking the truth. O Blessed
One, O Tathagata, my Lord and Master, teach me the Iddhipada."

The Blessed One said: "There are four means by which Iddhi is
acquired; (1) Prevent bad qualities from arising. (2) Put away
bad qualities which have arisen. (3) Produce goodness that does
not yet exist. (4) Increase goodness which already
exists.--Search with sincerity, and persevere in the search. In
the end thou wilt find the truth."





Next: The Teacher Unknown

Previous: Words Of Instruction



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Buddha's Gospels