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."





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