English translation of the French language text “History of Pure Land Buddhism”

By Henri de Lubac, translated into English by Amita Bhaka

Chapter Two

Amitabha and Sûkhavati

(page 15)

The Five “Dhyani-Buddhas”

It is known that Amitabha - or, in Japanese transcription, Amita, Mita 1 , in Tibetan “Od-dpag-med”, a personage unknown in the Lesser Vehicle, is one of the great Buddhas especially revered by the Greater Vehicle. Wholly “speculative” and “metaphysical”, these Buddhas are styled anupapadaka, i.e. “without parents”. It is often a question of them (They often crop up) in the Tantric literature, and beginning from about the tenth Century they were considered by a large portion of the Buddhism of Central Asia, as the emanations of a personal Adi-Boudda. To distinguish them from those who, like Sakyamuni, have appeared or are to appear on earth, in their very function of Buddhas, living a human existence, it has been customary in the West, since Hodgsom, to call them “dhyani-Buddhas”, i.e. mystical Buddhas, or Buddhas of contemplation. This term has doubtless the fault of being “faulty Sanskrit”, and of not existing in the Buddhist texts. 2 Also it may lead people to believe mistakenly that these Buddhas, as thought of by their worshippers, did not have an earthly career first of all. On the other hand, it has the merit of being convenient to mark the contrast with the earthly Buddhas or “manushi-Buddhas”. As well, it has come to be adopted even by Indian historians. 3

According to the most common list, which seems to have imposed itself very quickly after some gropings, the main “dhyani-Buddhas”, leaders of an infinity of others, are five in number. They are the five Jinas (Conquerers) (Victorious Ones), the five Tathagatas. They are not uniform in origin. It can nevertheless be considered that in the final reckoning, taken jointly, they are hypostases of five attitudes, functions and attributes of the one Buddha Sakyamuni. They give substance so to speak to five epithets applied to him; they fix five outstanding episodes of his career, of which five distinct statues (commemorated by five distinct statues) celebrate the members. This point has been admirably brought to light by the researches of M. Paul Mus. The first of the list, Vairocana, whose name signifies “Spreader of light in all directions”, has as emblem the cakra (the wheel of the Law), and makes the teaching gesture: “radiant Preacher”, he is the heir of the Sakyamuni of the first preaching at Benares. Next comes Akshobya, i.e. the Unshakable, the Imperturbable, he “who subjugates the demonic passions and manifests the pure spirit of wakefulness”: in him is found the Sakyamuni victorious at Bodh-gaya, him of whom a god said to Mara the tempter: “you will no more be able to shake him than great Sumeru is shaken by the wind”. The third, Ratnasambhava, or the One- born-from-the-jewel, evokes the pavilion of precious stones of Bodh-gaya, “a kind of supernatural womb symbolically enclosing the Buddha.” Amitabha figures fourth; he is seated in meditation, while his body emits light, like Sakyamuni after his supreme illumination. Finally, Amoghasiddhi, “the inevitable success”, is a Buddha “under the naga”, like Sakyamuni protected the naga Mucilinda, whose seven heads are spread above him. The last four therefore perpetuate reminders of Bodh-gaya, and the first a reminder of Benares; these were the two places holy above all others, which non-associated motives in pilgrimages, and which the biographies of Buddha brought more especially into prominence.

(page 16)

The Five Members of the Great One

But at the same time, our five Jinas map out the cosmic scheme divided into four casts (cardinal points) and completed by the vertical direction. They have in this role a kinship with the five, which the five Agni of brahmanism, an argument with the five Indra of the five heads of Siva in Hinduism. When they are represented together and joined side by side, it comes about as for the latter, that only four (three in the paintings) are to be seen for the first, Vairocana, stands within on the vertical axis. In this role even they are the heirs of Sakyamuni. They were so to speak pre-contained in the in the “five members” of the Tathagata, the five elements of his person - five material and one spiritual - for which the pious Asoka, it was said, had five stupas erected , and which afterwards became the five supernatural members of his dharmakaya. 4 Hence, their constant association with the stupas, cosmic monuments. Finally, each of them is brought into association with one of the five “manushi-buddhas” of the now existing cosmic period, whom the two Vehicles reverence in like manner - the four Buddhas already come and the Buddha, Maitreya, who is tom come. If Amitabha is fourth on the list, he corresponds to Sakyamuni, the immediate predecessor of Maitreya. Moreover, Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi have never been much more than “supernumeraries” Akshobya, as we shall see, took on a little more consistency; the person of Vairocana was to grow to the dimensions of a primordial Buddha and to Burma in the Far East the object of an extensive cult; but Amitabha is the most strongly individualised of the five, he whole fortune was the mask extraordinary (out of the common) and knew the most extraordinary success. 5

(page 17)

Amitabha in the Lotus Sutra and in the Awakening of Faith

The Lotus of the Good Law or “of the True Doctrine” (Saddharmapundarika-sutra), this “Indra of all the sutras” as the Mahayanists say, or as western scholars style it, this “Bible of the Mahayana”, speaks on three occasions of Amitabha: once while enumerating the Buddhas who preach the Law “in every direction of space, in the different Buddha-fields”, and twice to show him sitting in his paradise in a position symmetrical with that of Akshobya. 6 His importance for our subject extends moreover infinitely beyond these three mentions; he supplies to Amidism the main point of its general framework and foundations. The Buddhist tradition attributes to Asvaghosa an important treatise, the Mahayana-sraddhotpada-sastra (chapter: Ta tch’ang k’i sui louen; Japanese: “Tai Susung Kishin-ron”), or “Treatise of the Awakening of the Mahayanist Faith”, a page of which recommends the cult of Amitabha in very explicit terms. But in reality, the work is not by the “great Teacher” (Mahapandita), any more than many others attributed to him. It can scarcely go back beyond the fourth or even fifth Century. 7 Let us nevertheless at once read, just as the Chinese read it in Paramartha’s version (55), this page in which the Amidists have meditated so much:

“Every being still a novice in the way of firm confidence is exposed to discouragement if it is his lot to journey for long in this world of grief . . . He will be afraid of never meeting a Buddha whose disciple he can become, and the longing to backslide will perhaps miss up in his heart. Now the Buddhas posses victorious means for affirming the faith of those who invoke them with all their heart as a consequence of their karma desirous of being reborn in a Buddha Land so as to talk there with a Buddha, and wishing to leave forever the unhappy paths. The sutras explicitly say that whoever applies his whole mind to the virtues practised, and the desires formulated in former times, by the Buddha Amitabha of the Happy Land of the West, and insistently petitions to be reborn into this Land, attains rebirth there indeed, and enjoys the continual view of this Buddha there, which assures his perseverance for evermore. The contemplation of the Buddha-hood of this Buddha, joined with unremitting practices, will cause his stay there to be a lasting one, and his resolutions to be confirmed there.” 8

(page 18)

Amitabha in Nagajuna and Vasubhandu

Nagarjuna, first philosopher of the Great Vehicle, founder of the Madhyamika school, or “Middle Way”, would have come to know Amitabha at the monastery’s university of Nalanda, cradle of the newborn Mahayana, where he had taken up residence. This “Faust of Buddhism” 9 set himself then to reverence and preach him, while working out in detail a metaphysic of the “void” (sunyavada), and practising magic; in his Treatise on the Great Perfect Wisdom (Mahaprajnaparamita-sastra), he said that Amitabha receives into his hand many Bodhisattvas and few hearer monks. His Dasabhumivibhasa-sastra, a dissertation on the Buddha-lands of the ten regions, is more emphatic. 10 We have quoted an essential passage from it in the previous chapter. It is said that he wished to die with his face turned towards the Western Paradise. It was about the end of the second Century. About two centuries later, Asanga, founder of the Yogacara school, mentions Sukhavati quite in passing in the Mahayana-sutralamkara, or “Ornament of the sutras of the Greater Vehicle”. 11 If the tradition issuing from Paramartha is to be believed, Vasubhandu rallied to our Buddha late in life. Whilst in all his prior work the name is not found once, he composed in his old age an Aparimitaryussutropadesa, which commences with this exclamation directed to him: “Blessed One! I take refuge in thee, Tathagata, whose unobstructed light penetrates the ten directions, and I wish to be born into your Paradise!” And, the author gives his reasons: “Relying on the sutras which I believe to be teaching of the Buddha Sakya, I aspire to a Happy Land; and, because I desire perfect contemplation, absolute purity and the absence of all women, I choose, among the Happy Lands, the land of the Buddha Amitabha.” Five kinds of practice in honour of Amitabha are then enumerated: to prostrate before his images; to invoke his name, while extolling his infinite wisdom and light; to form the desire of being born close to him; to meditate on him and his Land; finally to sympathise with those who suffer, and to wish to liberate them by applying one’s merits to them. 12 But perhaps it is too much to ask us to believe in the authenticity of the work. 13

(page 19)

Amitabha Cult in India

Be that as it may, it is evident that for a long time in India, Amitabha had only a cult sporadic and rather in the background. The Chinese pilgrims of the fifth, sixth and seventh Centuries never cite his name, any more than those of his four associates. In the eighth Century, the situation appears changed: Husi-ja (Tz’u-min), whose pilgrimage puts them between the years 712 and 719, reports that each of the scholars spoke to him of Amitabha’s Paradise; once more this expression does not indicate a very popular cult. Even at a late period, Amitabha did not at all occupy in Indian Buddhism the preponderant place which was his in the Far-East.

Although the Amidist sutras, of which we shall soon speak, were written in Sanskrit, Buddhist India appears to have scarcely concerned itself with Amitabha except through the Bodhisattva who stands close to him, Avalokitesvara. This emerges from an examination of his literature and iconography. Nowhere in Indian soil has any representation of his Paradise been found. He himself was only rarely and, it seems, belatedly represented. 14 The art of Gandhara did not know him, at least as a personage of the first order. 15 In a symbolical monument such as the great Borabudur of Java, fruit of the spiritual expansion of India, if he perhaps occupies a place it is only inasmuch as he enters, impersonally, into the system of the five dhyani-bouddhas. 16 Santideva, the chanter of the Mahayanic ideal, scarcely knows him. The same applies in the seventh Century to Gandrakirti, who makes a quick mention of him in quoting the Mahamegha-sutra. 17 If, in the ninth Century, the poet Vajradatta celebrates him on several occasions, it is again indirectly in his “One Hundred Verses in honour of the Lord of the World”, namely Avalokitesvara. 18 “You who bear the All-knowing One on your head,” he says, addressing the latter, and again: “The Victor venerable among all, abides on your head.” “Your plaits of an ascetic are adorned with the streaming splendour of Amitabha, like an ever-flowing river, spreading a delicious freshness.” 19 But these are merely a few poetic allusions.

(page 20)

Amidist Mantra and Sutras

In the provinces of central Asia bordering on Iran, Amitabha acquired on the contrary a prodigious celebrity. Tibet received his cult, in the eight Century, nearly at the same time as it was opened to Buddhism, through the good offices of Padmasambhava. 20 In China, then in Japan, Amitabha’s success was greater still. His cult became there a kind of new religion, distinctly differentiated, to such a degree that it has been possible to speak of Amidism as a true theism and religion of grace. We shall have to see precisely whether these expressions are justified.

The whole of Amidism is summed up in the sacred formula: “Adoration (homage) to Buddha Amitabha”. The Sanskrit formula: “Om Namo Amitabhaya (or Amitayushi) Buddhaya” becomes in Chinese transcription: “Namo O-mi-to-fo”, and in Japanese transcription: “Namo Amida Butsu”. 21 In these single (sole) syllables, “the 84,000 teachings of the Dharma are contained”. Abridged, it is the celebrated nembutsu (Chinese: nien-fo; Sanskrit: Buddhanusvriti).

Three essential texts, three sutras, underlie Amidism. 23 It is difficult to determine exactly their date and place of origin. There are first of all the two parallel sutras, the greater and the smaller Sukhavativyuha (“Display” or “Detailed Description of the Happy Land”). Both have been edited and translated (into English) by Max Müller. 24 We shall call them, for convenience, the “Long sutra” and the “Short sutra”. The “Long sutra”, or Amitabhavyuha, is doubtless the older of the two; perhaps it has existed from the first Century A.D. Both are thought (supposed) to have been preached, like all the sutras of the canonical Scriptures - the exception of the Avatamsaka is only apparent - by Sakyamuni himself. The Buddha would have uttered them quite at the end of his earthly existence. They would therefore constitute his supreme revelation, the last word of his teaching, going one better even than the teachings of the Saddharmapundarika-sutra (the Lotus of the Good Law), even than those of the Mahaparinirvana-sutra. In the first (Long sutra), Sakyamuni is seated on Mount Gridhrakuta, (Vulture’s or) Vulture’s Peak, near the town of Rajagriha; he speaks to his two disciples Ananda and Ajita (Maitreya). In the second, the sole hearer is Sariputra, and the interview takes place at the gates of Sravasti, in the garden (part) of Anathapindaka. The difference in length is considerable, and only the long sutra gives details of Amitabha’s history previous to his illumination.

(page 21)

Amitabha and Amitayus

The two Sukhavativyuha are moreover distinguished from one another by their habitual manner of naming the Buddha whom they write in celebrating. The long Sutra almost always gives the form: Amitabha; the most notable exception is encountered in a series of verses which chant the glory of “Lord Amitayus”. 25 The short Sutra says uniformly, on the contrary: Amitayus, save in a unique passage, where it explains in the following fashion the two conjoined denominations: “Because the duration of life of this Tathagata is immeasurable, as well as that of the creatures of his land, he is named Amitayus; because the light of this Tathagata spreads without impediment in all the Buddha-lands, he is called Amitabha”. 26 Put in another way, our Buddha is presented from the time of his appearance (advent) under the double aspect of a divinity of Time, or of Life, and a divinity of Light. But these two aspects are not entirely symmetrical. It will be remarked indeed, with M. Paul Mus 27 that the first of the two supplied definitions “attaches Amitayus to his particular Land”; around this Land, and in all directions, there is an infinity of others, each of which likewise has its Buddha. Then again, and it is a second limitation, Amitayus has not always presided over his Land, but for a duration of ten kalpas, so that the epithet “immeasurable” or “infinite” cannot strictly be applied to his life, anymore than to the life of the creatures governed by him ex-parte post (ex-parte = from or on behalf of one side only). On the contrary, with his light “pervading all things”, his “boundless light”, his “boundless brilliance”, his “boundless splendour”, which illumines the kingdoms of the ten directions without impediment”, or, what amounts to the same, which “spreads over the regions of infinite numbers of Buddhas” 28, Amitabha, although it is a question of his former human career, indubitably personifies “a power extending over the whole universe”. A duality of aspects, which we shall find again in the final interpretation of Amidism. 29

(page 22)

Amitayus Meditation Sutra

To the two Sutras of the Sukhavati is added a third text, a little less ancient, and recognised by a certain number of Amidists as of the least authority, very important nevertheless, and which has played perhaps a more considerable role: the Amitayur-dhyana-sutra or “Sutra of meditation on Amitayus”. At Touen-Louang hundreds of copies of it have been found, executed in the tenth Century in Chinese and Tibetan. 30 A modern edition with English translation has been given by M. Junjiro Takakusu. 31

The Sanskrit original is lost.

In this sutra, Sakyamuni - always he - comes to visit Queen Vaidehi, sequestered for having sought to aid her husband, King Bimbisara, thrown into prison by their son Agatasatru. The Queen has called on (invoked) the Buddha, “the Revered of the World”, 32 who arrives by (way of the) air, accompanied by Ananda, and who consoles her by speaking to her of the Happy Land. He teaches her the sixteen meditations which, while being inspired by methods classical up to that time, are all directed to the contemplation of the Kingdom of Amitayus. First of all, there are the six contemplations of the setting sun, the water, the Buddha-Lands, their trees, lakes, innumerable gods. Then Sakyamuni twice asks the Queen to listen carefully: he is now going to speak of Amitayus himself, of his two attendants, the great Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthama, of his Land, of his image: it is a second group of seven meditations. The last three, finally concern the three classes of beings, each subdivided into their categories, who are going to be born in the Pure Land” from the most perfect beings to the most wretched sinners. The respective conditions of this admission, the circumstances of their death and rebirth, finally, the stages of their progress in Sukhavati, are examined in turn. That is what sometimes has procured for Sukhavati, the name of “Pure Land of nine degrees”.

(page 23)

Iconography of Amitabha

The progress of beings is brought about by the two great Bodhisattvas 33 , recognisable, says the Sutra, “by a simple glance at the marks of their head”: the one, Mahasthama, represents Wisdom, and the other, Avalokitesvara, Compassion: both give to each being the complement of instruction of which he has need according to his degree of spiritual maturity. They have here a prominence which the first two Sutras did not so much give them. The Pure Land is truly their Paradise, just as it is their Buddha’s, and it is not surprising to read, right at the end, that the Sutra should be called: “Meditation on Amitayus, Avalokitesvara, and Mahasthamaprapta”. 34 However, contrary to that of Avalokitesvara, the personality of Mahasthama, less independent in its pre-history, has never stood out very much. 35

In Buddhist iconography, Buddhas decorated with royal ornaments, through assimilation to the Cakravartins (universal monarchs), are quite rare. Hiuan-tsang saw however at Bodh-gaya a much venerated statue of Sakyamuni - the Maravijaya of Mahabodhi - which wore ornaments covered with precious stones, and on it head a jewelled crown. It appears that the origin of such a type is to be looked for at Nalanda, which was for a long time the most active centre of Buddhist influence. 36 In his form of Amitayus, our Buddha is “a decorated Buddha”; i.e. a “Lord”, a royal personage. Amitabha, himself, is dressed like a Monk, and has either a shaven head, or, more often, his hair “in the conch style”. The descriptions given of him are inevitably incomplete and artificial, for “all things are possible” to him and he changes completely in his guise. Now he shows himself with a body, filling the whole sky, and now he assumes a body which seems small, sixteen or eighteen cubits high”. 37 When he is not represented quite alone - as will be the usage in the Japanese sect of the Jodo-shin-shu - he is generally seated in the Indian manner, while those accompanying him are standing. He sits on a raised throne which emerges from a lotus calyse (flower-cup) 38 and which is supported by a peacock, his heraldic animal. His colour is red: his body is a brilliant red, with a golden tinge, his monastic robe is dark red, his symbolic flower is a red lotus. His element is water.

(page 24)

Myriad Buddha Lands

Sometimes magical figures are inscribed in his great luminous halo. His eyes are deep blue “like the water of the great oceans”. 39 His hands rest, open, one on the other in his lap, making the gesture of meditation (the mudra of dhyana or samadhi). A begging bowl is placed on them. Or sometimes he holds a sword which “cuts away crimes”, by preventing them from being committed, or by destroying their effect. In Tibet, he often has the thunderbolt and the bell in his hands. In the form of Amitayus, which is rarer, he wears, the addition to the crown, various gold ornaments, and his bowl is replaced by a gold vase containing ambrosia, the liqueur of immortality. 40 Sometimes a small tree can be seen emerging from this vase. 41

The marvellous country where Amitabha reigns is just one of the innumerable “Buddha-Lands” with which the Mahayana fills its mystical universe: “mysterious lands, which transcend all intelligence”, where the Buddhas “confide the ultimate explanation of all things”. Many of the characteristics ascribed to it are shared by these other Lands, which makes its identification in the ancient pictures sometimes difficult, as will be seen in the following chapter. It is the parallel of these “pure Buddha fields” (Parisuddhabuddhakutra) which many Sutras describe to us, commented on by many doctors, “fields of eighteen fullnesses”, where “enjoyment is absolutely pure, absolutely blissful, absolutely flawless, absolutely efficacious”. 42 The situation of its Buddha there is like that of the Bodhisattva shown to us by the Lankavatara, “established in the tenth Land (bhumi), seated on a great King-Lotus decorated with jewels and pearls, in a lotiform palace of great costliness”. 43 The Sutra in Forty-two Articles, which was the catechism of the first Buddhist missionaries in China, elementary as it was, did not fail to evoke the Buddha-Lands (Buddha bhumi), and the happiness to be tasted there. The Sutra of Admirable Proceedings shows, flashing from a smile of Sakyamuni, a ray of light which causes to appear “innumerable hundreds of myriads of hundreds of thousands of Buddha-Lands”, and it applies itself to describing one in particular, that of Pramodyaraja, which strongly resembles that of Amitabha. In the Lotus of the Good Law, Sakyamuni’s Land is described, “made of lapis-lazuli, spangled with diamond trees”, and above all the “Great Miracle” is displayed there, in which Sakyamuni, transcending time and space, raises up around himself. “by dividing his own body” innumerable forms of Buddhas, each becoming the centre of a “land”. On his thousand-petalled lotus, as large as a chariot wheel, made all of gold, with a diamond stalk, he is the prototype of all the others . . . While attaching ourselves to Amitabha’s Land alone, we shall therefore not forget that it forms part of a homogeneous whole as of a well-defined genre. Al Pure Lands are like one another, because each is in a way “a point of view on the others”, as the sequel will make more evident. 44 Sukhavati did not appear, let it be said, in the Buddhist heavens like an aberrant or wholly new star, the harbinger of an unprecedented revelation.

In it are found joined together the various characteristics which serve to designate each of the tend Lands, successively described by the Dasabhumika, through which the ascension of a Bodhisattva normally transpires; only the fifth - “difficult to conquer” - does not or will not suit with it. It is “joyous, flawless, luminous”, it is “of igneous wisdom”, it is the Land “of the Presence”, the Land “which goes far”, the “untroubled” Land, the Land “of the Good Wisdom” and “of the Cloud of the Dharma”. 45 But for preference it is called Sukhavati (An-yang), i.e. “Land of Perfect Happiness”; 46 or again “Pure Land” (Ts’ing-tsing-t’ou). This last name is that very one which, in the myth concluding the Phaedo, Plato gave to the distant abode of the Blessed: “pure abode”, he said, “a Land intrinsically all-pure”, situated “below our earth”, in the “pure part of the world”. 47 Surrounded in the ten directions of space by a indefinite series of other parallel Paradises, “as numerous as the grains of sand of the Ganges”, this Paradise of Amitabha is situated to the West of our universe, at a incalculable distance, “beyond ten trillions of Buddha-Lands”. It is said that about 535 A.D., after the death of the celebrated Bodhidharma (Ta-Mo), founder in China of the school of dhyana (Tch’an), “the pilgrim Song Yun, who was returning from India, met him in the Onion Mountains, at the limit of what is today Chinese Turkestan: he was going along bare-footed, a sandal in one hand, and making for the West”, in order to join the Pure Land. . . .

(page 26)

Description of the Pure Land

Two procedures are employed to display the wonders of Sukhavati. Rather, it is Sakyamuni himself who directly depicts them:

“Sariputra, when one has crossed a hundred thousand times ten million Buddha countries, one finds in the west another Buddha country, a world called Happy Land. A blessed being named Amitayus dwells there. He is an Arhat, fully illuminated (enlightened), who teaches the Law there . . . In this country, Sariputra, there is neither physical pain nor greed (suffering) of mind. The sources (springs) of joy there are innumerable. Hence, this country is called Happy Land . . . (Around it are superposed seven encased vaults, seven rows of precious curtains and seven rows of clamorous towns.) It is decorated with seven great terraces, with seven ranks of palm-trees (with seven) lakes covered with lotuses of all colours, as large as chariot wheels . . . Birds of all hues sing there praises of the Law. Everywhere precious stones shine and the sound of bells is heard. . . Amitayus lives there, his faithful about him, whose numbers cannot easily be reckoned. . .” 48

This charming speech is addressed, in the Short Sutra, to Sariputra. Analogous speeches are made to Ajita and Ananda in the Long Sutra - the picture is composed little by little, trait by trait, thanks to the narration by Sakyamuni - always him - of the long Vow uttered formerly by Amitabha when he was still a simple Bhikshu. (We shall speak of this Vow in the following chapter.) Forty-eight times in succession, this latter declares that he refuses in advance the enlightenment which will make a Buddha of him, if the Buddha-Land which he is to inherit is not to be as he desires. Here is, for example, the first point of this Vow: “Blessed One, if in my future Buddha-Land, there were to be hell, animal birth, the kingdom of the dead (pretas) or bodies of asuras, then may I never attain to the perfection of omniscience”. 49

These two kinds of description write with and complete each other. They show us a kingdom of light, shadowless, where night never follows day. The seasons do not wane in Sukhavati: perpetual spring reigns them. There is no reckoning of years, of time. The earth is made of gold, silver, lapis-lazuli, covered “with a network of golden cords”. 50

(page 27)

Sukhavati in the Lotus Sutra

“On every side it is as flat as the palm of your hand”, - but, according to the conception of the mystic heavens dear to the Mahayana, it is a matter of a levelling of the heights - rather (a bit) like an artificial lake filling a mountainous valley, or rather like the waters of the flood which caused the features of the earth to disappear. This is an essential characteristic of every Pure Land. In its centre, behind Amitabha, rises a vast “Tree of Light”. It (Sukhavati) overflows with flowers, fruits, trees bearing gems of every kind and colour, from which a delicious breeze draws heavenly music. Other jewel-flowers fall from the sky in a gentle rain. Other charming sounds are produced there by the waters. Magical birds (karyobingas), joined with the choirs of the Gods, give concerts. Beautiful swans calmly animate its lakes with shores of fine pearls . . . 51 All beings there are conscious of their previous existences, all have “the divine eye” which allows them to see into millions of worlds. All are of male sex: by a value judgement current then, the commentators explain that it is thus because nothing defective can enter Amida’s realm. 52 They are born on the lakes of the manner of lotuses.

“In the West, there where Sukhavati is, that pure universe which is a reservoir of bliss, Amida, who directs creatures like a driver, is established.

“There women are not born; there the laws of sexual union are absolutely unknown; there the sons of the Victorious Ones (Jina), brought into that world by supernatural transformations, appear seated in the centre of pure lotuses.”

“And Amitabha, their guide, seated on a throne formed in the centre of a pure and graceful lotus, shines likes the King of Suns.”

So the Lotus of the Good Law puts it. 53 Our Sutras lead us to admire at greater length the lovely lotus lakes, shining with precious stones, from which emerge the flowers blue, golden, red, white . . .54 The Meditation Sutra displays their role in more detail. It presents us with the arrival of the being in paradise, seated in the floral calyx, which is closed around him; after a delay which varies with each category of beings, the calyx opens, and the eyes of the new born, of the reborn, will be immediately bathed in the paradisal light - although, again, the splendour of the spectacle will be graduated according to each one’s capacities. 55

(page 28)

Lotus Rebirth

These “lotus-wombs” 56 of Sukhavati are celebrated everywhere in Amidism. “All day long”, a Chinese sermon says, “the traveller concerns himself with finding a resting place for the night. How many men, alas, during the stage of their present life, spare no thought for finding a resting place afterwards, for the lotus from which they could be born into the Pure Land, if they so desired!” Soon the imagination became more explicit and elaborated. It was understood that from (in) the period of present existence “the first thought directed towards attaining Paradise brings into bloom there a new lotus flower, which never ceases to develop in proportion to the growth on earth of the individual’s holiness, until at last it spreads about sprays of light; after his death, this blessed man will be reborn in the calyx of his lotus”. 57

The mode of rebirth being essentially the same for all, there are not essential differences between the inhabitants of the pure Land. Doubtless, as we have just seen, all are not equally advanced. There are even some who at first remain, for a shorter or longer time, covered (encased) in their lotus bud, like kinds of lamina of it: they are especially those whose faith is inadequate. 58 But, in this Land levelled in the heights, there is no longer any likeness to the graded distinctions of the six destinies, as in our world on the slopes of Mount Sumeru. All the inhabitants of Sukhavati share in the glory of their King. Like him, they are “as strong as the diamond of Natayana”. “Men” and “Gods” are now mingled: “Do you think, Ajita, asked the Blessed One, that there is some difference between the Gods called Paranirmitasavartins and men in Sukhavati? - Ajita replied: “I can’t see the slightest difference between the, Blessed One; so much are men in this Happy Land endowed with great supernatural powers”. 59

Suffering and death find no entry there. Every kind of evil is banished from it, and the very name of sin is unknown there, like the name of hell and that of inferior modes of existence. All enjoy an abundant wealth. No need for them to devote themselves to tedious or irksome labours such as the “dyeing, sewing, drying and cleaning of garments”: in a flash, rapid as thought, they find themselves dressed in new and magnificent clothes which the Tathagata himself offers them . . . A more precious benefit, they will always be “will doers, truthful and sincere, kindly spoken. Their families and relations will never be uneasy. They will be skilful at setting quarrels to rest; they will always have benevolent intentions towards (remarks for) everyone. They will never give way to envy or anger, but they will always sustain correct rules of conduct in all things”. 60 How could oppositions and disputes exist in this abode where “all inequality” is unknown, where there is “no idea of landed property subject to monasteries”, “no idea of thine and mine” . . . ? It is the place of the perfect community, it is the ideal reign of equanimity, calm, serene thought . . . 61

(page 29)

Critique of Pure Land

With these characteristics indeed Buddhistic, conjoining the most unreal fantasy to a wisdom kindly but sometimes a bit matter of fact, we are assuredly far from the “new heaven” and “new earth” which the Christian awaits “according to the Lord’s Promise”, a heaven and earth where Justice will abide”. 62 Sukhavati even reminds us sometimes of an amusement park: we behold flying carpets on which beings get about with all speed: they are the Apsaras, which to the number of seven times seven thousand, revolve and dance around the pavilion of the Buddha. 63 It also offers, through some more ponderous characteristics, a certain village fair aspect: “There is good cheer, although everything happens in spirit; “without needing to put anything in one’s mouth”, one enjoys (at will) not “gross sauces”, but the most delicate foods, one inhales the sweetest perfumes, finds everywhere according to one’s wishes powders, ointments, trinkets of every kind; it is enough to desire any piece of jewellery at all - ring, necklace, diadem, earrings - for one to see shining around a whole assortment . . . 64

None of all this supposes a very powerful or very profound creative imagination. Augustus Barth judged the Amidist sutras “quite insignificant”. 65 Moreover, they juggle, as M. Alfred Foucher observes, with fantastic numbers, to give the illusion of the grandiose and sublime. They do their utmost, for lack of finding something better, to repeat indefinitely in kinds of tricks with mirrors, a setting too meagre to dazzle by itself. First specimens with the Lotus of the Good Law, and a few others of these “long-winded (verbose) and delirious” compositions which the majority of Mahayanist Sutras are. 66

(page 30)

Symbolism of Mahayana Sutras

One must agree with this - not however without reservation. For in our Sutras, as in the Lotus, as in general in all this literature of the Great Vehicle, it happens that “the meaning differs from the letter”. “Everything set forth by the Sutras, says the Lankavatara, is meant to satisfy the imagination; one must search for the deep meaning and not be taken (enslaved) prisoners by words” 67 , and our Long Sutra itself counsels us that Buddha’s voice “has infinite resonances”. Also one can’t stick to a “servile interpretation” 68 while neglecting the symbolic intention of features which in themselves appear simply absurd or ridiculous: 69 such as the passage of the Short Sutra, which has its parallel in the Lotus, where each of the Buddhas is seen to stretch out his tongue and lengthen it beyond measure so as to cover the full extent of the “Land”. 70 There can be a difference of opinion concerning the charm of this magical supernatural of which the Mahayanist sutras are full; one can fail to find the magnificence and perfection while others admire in them (it); at all events it is not doubtful (there is not doubt) that, in its very extravagances, it is intimately connected with the doctrine, and wishes to suggest by images what the ordinary intelligence would be incapable of grasping as a concept. 71 This has not been overlooked by M. Foucher, who has explained it on another occasion. 72

Let it suffice to keep in mind here two essential features. On the one-hand - we attended to it a little while ago - the Texts which show us Sukhavati as a vast expanse perfectly flat, where an earth of lapis lazuli covered with gold network alternatives with the waters of tranquil lakes, translate a profound idea, that of “the levelling on high”. As M. Paul Mus has explained, it is the same idea translated by the Javanese Temple of Borabudur, the “architectural Pure Land”, the entire lower storey of which, after having been patiently sculptured, has been intentionally put in a rubble of stonework: on the terrace thus built up the elect move about, victoriously treading down the “world of desire” who reality is “annulled” under their feet. The same idea appears again in the legend of the seven steps of the newly-born Buddha, these steps “sure, calm, crushing and elongated”, which level the ground under them, and carry it (him) to the external summit of the world, there where the earth “is of the nature of the diamond”, where none of the classes of the lower Gods is to be perceived any more.

(page 31)


Amida’s kingdom is a transcendent universe; under the pure water of its lakes are drowned all the storey of the universe of transmigration, “with error, transgression and suffering which follow one another there in an interminable cycle”. The levelling operation which raises it up is the same thing, in picture language, as that “revolution of the subsoil” of the mystical philosophy of Asanga, a turning over (reversal) of all being which, under the action of a mysterious force, accedes to a higher plane. 73 - On the other hand, the fabulous numbers on which our Sutras get tipsy, and the “tricks with mirrors” with which they seek to dazzle us have the object of suggesting a certain kind of infinity, that in fact of space (or time). This kind of symbolism, with variations, is the common property of the Mahayanist Sutras. That of the Avatamsaka, more grandiose, suggests, besides, the idea of universal interpenetration, while that of the Vimalakirti wishes above all to incubate the idea of the relativity of the visions which create the illusion of various worlds, etc. Abel Rémusat had already noted this spatial symbolism. 74 Burnouf likewise, after him. 75

More recently, M.M. Paul Mus again and Jean Przyluski 76 have seen it with a surer penetration.

No matter! Independently of every comparison and appraisement of beliefs, it must be confessed that, with regard to Sukhavati, the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse, it also filled with precious stones, it too bathed in a the light of a never ending day, it also gladdened by (made delightful) beautiful waters, it has wholly organised around a personal Centre, appears in another style!77

(page 32)

Superiority of the Pure Land to the Vulgar Paradises

Not more, however, than the too manifest common-place of the social life they describe, the facile and redundant supernatural in which they take pleasure is not the essential thing in our sutras. It constitutes only a setting, and this setting, from the representation of Amitabha himself to the varied narrative of rebirths and visions, is always a “parable” in the service of a teaching, as Sakyamuni himself explains to Queen Vaidchi, at the beginning of the Meditation Sutra. 78 It is still too soon to set down this teaching as a whole. Let it be said only that the ideal which emerges from the texts as figurative representations is not at all to be despised. It is, in its best part, an ideal of tranquil happiness, uprightness, blandness (sweetness). Far from the “kingdom of heaven”, Sukhavati is as far in the opposite direction from the svargas, vulgar paradises of Buddhist belief, peopled by the ephemeral Gods of the Kamadathu; inns, from which one runs the risk of falling very low again; sensual heavens whose pleasures are too lively for one to have the strength to tear himself away from them and to enter at last on the path of liberation; heavens where even the most refined joys still conceal a congenital malice, insupportable (intolerable) to whomsoever is “awakened”, 79 and deserve that it be said of them in severe truth, as St. Bernard said of earthly joys: “nulla verior miseria quam falsa loetitia”, 80 for they detain those who experience them under the dominion of the King of Death . . . 81 The joys of Sukhavati are of another nature. This “Happy Land” does not offer pleasures which suck one down. It is above all like a vast school, 82 in which one rejoices essentially in the progress made by oneself there in the understanding of the Law. Happy, veritably, the inhabitants of this country!

(page 33)

Lotus as Supreme Symbol

“Raised above the three worlds, having subjected and quenched their thoughts, perceiving the causes of all things . . . without a glance for the wants of one earth, they draw all their joy from things which transcend it . . .

“. . . By means (virtue) of the height (elevation) of their knowledge, they are like the ocean. By means of the light of their wisdom, the spotlessness (whiteness), brilliance and purity of their knowledge, they are like the sun and moon. By means of their own splendour, they are like melted (molten) gold. By means of their patience in bearing with the good and bad acts of all beings, they are like the earth. By means of their power to purify from every transgression, they are like water. By means of their zeal to burn up everywhere the evil of pride, they are like fire. By means of their universal detachment, they are like the wind. By means of their penetration of all things, and their freedom in regard to all things, they are like the ether. By means of their privilege of being unsoiled (undefiled) by anything in the whole world, they are like the lotus . . .” 83

We anticipated this last image. If truly, in the literature and art of India - and, through Buddhism, of all the Far East - the lotus, “queen of flowers” is “much more than the rose in the poetry of the West”, 84 even more than the “hollyhock” of Gérard de Nerval; if it there signifies not only “beauty, grace, charm, splendour, the divine”, but moreover and above all, rising immaculately above the mud, the brilliance of an indubitable triumphant purity, as with that radiant Bhikshu of olden days:

You have rejected desire, anger and pride,

Your clear eyes are pure as the lotus, 85

then, naturally Amitabha’s Land is a land where lotuses bloom everywhere, where each birth is the blossoming of a louts, And if the Indian concept of prasada evokes, with “the image of calm and pure water”, the idea of a “state of transluminous peace” and connotes furthermore “the contributing and hence kindly aspect of this tranquil light”, 86 there is moreover no doubt, so it seems, that it finds here one of its most genuine applications. There is “no hedonism”, wrote Father Léon Wieger, in the Paradise of the Pure Land. 87 Let it be said at the very least that it can be a matter only of a refined hedonism. According to the 39th and 43rd points of its Buddha’s Vow, the happy inhabitants of this privileged Paradise preserve all the acuteness of their senses, but they dwell in ecstasy until the day when, fully ripened through it, they too will attain “the throne of Light (Enlightenment)”. 88

end of chapter 2


Page 1


Anguttara nikaya

Treatise on Perfect Wisdom






Treatise on the Act

Karma: Karma is one of the four “basic and interdependent concepts” (karma, maya, nirvana, yoga) which bring us directly to the case of Indian spirituality. YF1.3.

Karma = the “law of universal causality, which connects man with the cosmos, and condemns him to transmigrate indefinitely.” YF1.3

Karma as refuge - the sure results of good conduct. Weakness = egoistic quest of merit.

All Buddha teaches is moral causality and rebirth.

Mahavastu, a Mahasanghika text which describes the ten stages of the Bodhisattvas career (440).


The Great Being

Vows 1. (p. 26); 39 and 43 (p. 34); 19 (p. 44) - moment of death

Check karma in Pure Land Texts


The insecurity of life. Our hidden karma.

Page 2

Sutra of Cause and Effect





Water Sastra


Dharmika Subhuti







“A karma may ripen in the very life in which it was performed, in the next life, in a succeeding life, or owing to the preponderance of ‘counteractive’ karma or to its being too weak, it may never ripen.”

Why are we here? Our deeds have brought us here.

The Omniscient One knows the choicest deed (devotion) which bears the choicest fruit.

Page 3


Mahaparinibbana-sutta (Digha nikaya)

Mahaparinirvana-sutra (Mulasarvastivadin)


Nembutsu as “pure act” (without any idea of utility of possessiveness). Shinran’s doctrine of grace. In the moral-mechanistic universe from where does this “freedom to chose”, more or less independent of antecedent causality derive?

Does the “divine grace” come from ‘without’ or within’ or ‘beyond’?

Page 4


Majjhima nikaya

Madhyama Agama






Vijnaptimatra System

Page 5

Buddha’s “incomparable brilliance”; “body of luminous essence”; “hidden splendour” - night of illumination, night of nirvana.

Page 6


Srona Kotikarma

















Page 7

Buddha’s transcendent body

Sakyamuni Buddha as a man imprisoned in a perishing body did well to discourage personal attachment to himself.

Calling to the Buddha as a means of liberation.

Page 11

Smallest roots of good related to Buddha spring up as great Trees of Blessing. I earn merit by virtue. I transfer this merit, and in so doing earn more merit, which I transfer and so on ‘to infinity’!

Name Amitabha Buddha. The efficacy of this formula of homage derives from the powers of the Buddha which exist as product of this perfection. The efficacy is communicated, so the formula is the line of communication, the ‘telegraph wire’ between the Buddha and the devotee.

Pure Land = a Buddha-field = a mystical universe

Each Buddha’s limited field of influence. Pure Land transcends such limits, encompasses every Buddha-field. Concerned with the unitive essence of all Buddhas and Buddha-fields

Page 12

Nirvana is not ‘total extinction’, utter annihilation, leaving a vacuum. It is the extinction of the finite individuality, and the defilements which recreate it.

Faith in and affection for the Buddha lead us to the Pure Land. In the Pure Land we ‘apply ourself’ to the Dharma.

“believe in Me with serene thoughts”

“should there be any difference between gods and men”

Thinking of the merits of the Buddha.

(page 14)

“if in that Buddha Land of mine there should exist either Hell, the brute creation, or the realm of departed spirits . . .”

He is the surest refuge. His name is the seed of deliverance.

The Great Ocean of Merits.

(page 17)

Those with the worst karma, the most worthless character or the most afflicted existence, as most likely to geel the revolsion against its torments which leads them to seek refuge in this grace. Faith from Good Karma.

(page 19)

The Stupa = symbol of the Buddhist Universe

(page 26)

Realm of Light, shadowless, sorrowless, everlasting spring time, no sense of time.

Front Page

  1. “esoteric spiritual purport of ancient scripture”, i.e. the voice of the divinity in man. (The poet creates his poem without himself having comprehended the interwoven harmonies that the poem reveals.)

  2. The literalizing and historicizing of pneumatic texts by psychic minds. What the Spirit has uttered, the mere mind materialises, distorts, depreciates.

  3. Personification - and personalising - of the Christos, or divine essence of man’s being, the Sonship. (the divine (God) - consciousness. the divine genius in man)

  4. Historicizing of the spiritual drama.

  5. Role of theological systemisation. Ecclesiasticism.

  6. Sophia’s excess led directly to Sophia’s deficiency. The need to restore balance, harmony, proportion. (Platonic motif, one characteristically Hellenic.) “Evolutionary dereliction.”

  7. Adam not a man, but Man (generic). Christ, not a man, but Man (generic).

  8. Reincarnation = psychic evolution, evolution of souls (“perfected knowledge of the whole earthly evolution”, each man’s “evolutionary problem”.).

  9. Method of impartation and appropriation of Pneuma.

  10. “. . . cultus of . . . immanent deity in thought, word and deed . . .”

  11. Nescience, lack of knowledge.

  12. “. . . compendia of truth and wisdom that should guide the race through the course of self-controlled unfoldment.”

  13. “. . . at the very heart of every religious system an idea (model, archetype), personage who should typify and personify man himself, in his dual nature as human and divine . . .” (“the human compound”)

  14. “. . . eventual conversion into angels of light . . .” (apotheosis) “. . . man’s inner ?????. . .”

  15. “. . . every man became a living example in the proportion in which he embodied the ideal in his life and person.”

  16. Osiria, Zoroaster, Orphens, Heemes, Mithra, Krishna.

  17. The personal effort to exercise the perfections of the inner divinity.

  18. “. . . a method of designed cryptology . . . as much to hide their real meaning as to reveal it.”

  19. Esoteric method - drama, myth, allegory, nomenology (or name structure), number formulations (as chiefly in the Pythagorean system).

  20. “. . . a cryptic typology and a symbolic alphabet or language . . .”

  21. “The seed is the greatest of all hieroglyphs, for it is the end product of one cycle and at the same time the beginning stage of the next, thus furnishing the key to the whole ongoing process of life.”

  22. Ouypsz-oypos “. . . in Orphie theology the soul while in incarnation in the body was as though dead in its tomb.” (N.B. resurrection)

  23. “. . . the second century esotericist Plutarch . . .”

  24. “. . . to form true notions of divine natures is more acceptable to them than any sacrifice or mere external act of worship.”

  25. Reflections - refractions (distortion)

  26. Teletails, initiatory sites.

  27. Jerusalem - allegorically the church, anagogically the city of heavenly peace.

  28. Mosheim. History of the Early Church, vol. 11, 167. Origen’s esotericism.

  29. “Origen was the last champion of the true Christianity . . .”

  30. The Myths derived from Ritual Drama.

  31. B.J. Bacon, Jesus and Paul, p. 23, “. . . declares that by creditable estimate Christianity lost one half of its following to Marcion and other Gnostic ‘heretics’ bent on tearing it away from its Jewish associations and making it over in the true likeness of a Greek Mystery cult of individual spiritual realisation. This was the movement . . . due to the influx of Platonic and esoteric philosophies from Alexandria and Hellenic centres.”

  32. ?Amente = “the dramatic ritual name for a planet called Earth. . .”

  33. “. . . the lower house of nature where the soul descends to have its incubation in matter, its land of bondage wherein it is under the law of sin and death until the course of growth is finished.”

  34. “The Gnostics asserted truly that celestial persons and scenes had been transferred to earth in the gospel and that it is only within the pleroma of the zodiac that we can identify the originals of both.”

  35. “. . . the sprouting of the grain was called upon to help the mind frame a more realistic conception of the resurrection of the divine seed that had been, like the grain, buried in the earth of flesh and sense.”

1 Amita is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese O-mi-to, a transcription of the Sanskrit Amitba. Western usage writes: Amita.

6 CR. VII, XXIII and XXIV (translated H. Kern, 1884, pp. 178, 389, 317; translated Eug. Burnouf. For “suddharma”, “Good Law” is Burnouf’s translation; “Right” or “Tue Teaching” is that of Alfred Foucher, The Old Road of India, vol. 2, p. 275. The composition of the Lotus extended over the first Century, and the beginning of the second.

7 CB Paul Demieville, On the authenticity of Ta tch’eng k’i sui louen, in Bulletin of the Franco-Japanese Mission, II, 1929. Sylvain Lévi, About Asvaghosa, in Asiatic Journal, october to December 1929. Louis de la Vallée Poussin. The Suddhi of Hiuan-Tsang, vol. 2 (1929), pp. 763 - 764 and 788, not 3. P. Masson-Oussel, Ancient Indian and Indian Civilisation, pp. 2178 - 218; third Century.

8 Translated Léon Wieger, Chinese and Japanese Amidism (1928), pp. 7-8, Note the words: “The sutras explicitly say”. The work has been translated D. T. Suzucki: The Awakening of Faith. . . 1906)

9 Albert Grunwedel, Mythology of Buddhism, translated by Ivan Goldschmidt (1900), p. 31. Nagarjuna = the Arjuna of the Nagas.

10 Léon Wieger, op. eit, pp. 13-14. Hobegirin, II, p. 143, art Bosatsukai.

11 Ch. XII translated Sylvain Levi, p. 150. Asanga, activity “covers all the first half of the fifth Century”. (p. *2). The sutras (sutra = thread, cord) are texts supposed to reproduce the very words of the Buddha. In the Buddhist canon (Tripitaka = triple basket) they form one of three “baskets” (in the pali Hinayanist canon, the second: Sutta-pitaka). The Mahayana adds to it vaipulya-sutras, or “sutras of great reach”; there were, says a treatise of Nandimitra translated by Hiuan-tsang, “hundred of myriads” of them.

12 CB V. Wogihara, art.Vasubandhu in The Encyclopedia of Religions and Ethics of James Hastings, vol. XII, p. 586. J. Takakusu, The life of Vasubandhu by Paramartha T’oung-pao, 1904. Léon Wieger, op. cit., pp. 23 - 24. We know that Vasubandhu passes for Asanga’s brother; but this name covers perhaps two distinct persons.

13 Étienne Lamotte, in Chinese and Buddhist Miscellanies, vol. IV, (1936), pp. 179 - 180: “Who therefore will believe that Vasubandhu, without speaking of his relations with the Samkhya, was Vaibhasika in his youth, Sautrantika in his maturity, Vijnanavadin in his old age, and Amidist at his death ? . . . Before preonouncing on his personality, one should have read, criticised and compared all his works. We are far from being able to do it.”

14 An Indian miniature of uncertain date, described by M. Alfred Foucher, Study of the Buddhist Iconography of India, vol. I, (1900), pp. 76, 108, 196 represents him above an Avalokitesvara. At Sarnath, likewise, above a seated Avalokitesvara (and not just in his hair), Amitabha is seen, sitting on a lotus: Louis Finot, Lokesvara in Indochina, in Bulletin of the French School of the Far East.

15 A few nameless figures in the sculptures of Gandhara may represent him but it is not proven. The works of Grunweld and Foucher suggest that, compared to those of Avalokitesvara and Tara, his images were late and rare. CB. Alfred Foucher, The Greco-Buddhist Art of Gandhara, vol. 2, I, (1938), p. 374. Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhisms, vol 3, (1921).

16 Paul Mus, Borabudur. As a general rule, India represents the dhyani-Buddhas singly. They are sometimes represented on the four sides of stupas, symbols of the Buddhist universe, facing the four cardinal points: inside is Vairocana, invisible. CB Binoyosh Bhattaiaryya, op. cit, p. 3.

17 Text quoted in Paul Demieville, The Chinese Versions of the Milindapanha, p. 228.

18 Lokesvarasataka. Edition and translation by Suzanne Karpelis, in Asiatic Journal, 11th series, vol. XIV, (1919), pp. 357 - 465.

19 Loc. cit., pp. 429, 442, 455. Numerous other allusions to the Buddha of the head-dress. We find the iconographic detail in chapter V.

20 On the figure and legend of Padmasambhava, A. Grunwedel, op. cit., pp. 46 - 58. Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, vol. 3, p. 384. In Tibet, “od-dpag-med” is sometimes represented in yab-yum with his sakti, in conformity with Tantric symbolism.

21 Namo or namu would be a corruption of the Sanskrit namah: M. Anusaki, History of Japanese Religion, p. 173.

23 We leave to one side a few other texts, where Amida’s Paradise is scarcely mentioned except in passing, or whose subject is more general; such as the Bratyutpanna-samadhi-sutra, also called Bhadrapala-bodhisattva-sutra, from the name of the interpolator of the Buddha, or the Saptasatikaprajnaparamita and the Gandovyuha.

24 The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 49 (Oxford), (1894), p. 11. CB. Max Müller, Sanskrit Texts Discovered in Japan (translated M de Milloue), Annals of the Guimet Museum, vol. 2, (1881), pp. 1 - 64. A Tibetan translation of the short sutra had been pointed out by Csoma de Koros, in Asiatic Reserves, vol. XX, p. 439.

25 n. 31 (pp. 47 - 49) Once also: Amitapragha (n. 39, p. 59) Two passages out of three from the Lotus have the form Amitayus.

26 n. 8 - 9 (pp. 97 - 98) CB. Long Sutra, n. 12 - 114 (pp. 28 - 33). Ayupramana = duration of life, abha = light. It will be noted that in other texts Amitabha is also sometimes call Amrita (= the Immortal, Immortality). CB. Hobogirin, I, p. 25.

27 Paul Mus, Borabudur, pp. 558 - 559.

28 Long Sutra, n. 12 - 14 (pp. 28 - 34). This passage gives moreover a long list of the attributes of this light, each of which will be commented upon in the Amidist tradition: “pure, joyous, incomparable, inconceivable, pleasant, delicious, alluring”, etc., and “which rejoices all beings of good will”.

29 In truth, it appears that the two forms, “Amitabha” and “Amitayus” may have been first of all practically interchangeable, and that primitively there was no distinction in the iconography either; Guiseppe Tucci, Concerning Avalokitesvara, in Chinese and Buddhist Miscellanies, IX, (1951), p. 176. A different opinion from Paul Mus, Buddha Adorned, loc. cit., p. 214, notes. In some late texts, Amitabha is assimilated to the dharmakaya, and Amitayus to a sambhogakaya. CB. Waddell, Lamaism, (1895), p. 348. See below note 36. In such a Tibetan painting, Amitabha and Amitayus are represented one below the other: G. Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, pp. 363 - 364 and pp. 37 - 38.

30 Paul Pelliot, The Frescoes of Touen-Louang and the Frescoes of M. Eunorfopoulos, in Review of Asiatic Arts, vol. 5 (1928), p. 203. For more than half a century, up to 851, Touen-Louang was in the hands of the Tibetans, who became in large numbers fervent Amidists.

31 The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 49, 2, pp. 161 - 201. The eight of the “ nine dharmas” of the Nepalese collection is a Sukhavatisamadhiraja, a very different text.

32 “Revered of the World, Che-tsouen”, the Chinese equipvalent of “the Blessed One, Bhagavat”. It has replaced an initial equivalent, “Heavenly Venerable, T’ien-tsouen”, whic was borrowed from Taoist terminology. CB Henri Maspero, Taoism, (1950), pp. 28 - 29.

33 Thus in the Japanese Nô Seiganji - Moreover, there has been evoked the analogy of the choices of angels in the Christian tradition.

34 N. 15, 21, 22 (pp. 176 - 187 - 189). These two Bodhisattvas flank Amitabha, as the Gods Indra and Brahma were already flanking Sakyamuni.

35 One chapter of the Lotus (the 19th), is addressed to him - but without telling us much about him. The Nô Obosuta will describe his role. “Sthama” is a technical term indicating the Boddhisattva’s endurance: G. Turei, loc. cit, p. 176.

36 CB. Paul Mus, The Decorated Buddha, in Bulletin of the French School of the Far East, vol. 28, (1928); Burgess, The Ancient Monuments of India, (1897), ii, figures 224 - 235; A.K. Coomaraswany, History of Indian Art, (1927), p. 113. In the Lotus the Bodhisattvas twice offer a necklace to the couple Prabhutaratna-Sakyamuni. See also another passage of Hiuan-Tsiang, translanted Stanislas Julien, vol. 1, (1857), p. 7.

37 Amitayus-dhyana-Sutra, (p. 187).

38 The lotus-seat (padmasana) and the lotus-pedestal (padmapitha) appears in the second Centry A.D., either at Amaravati, or Gandhara: Ananda K. Coomaraswany, Elements of Buddhist Iconography, (1935), p. 43.

39 Amitayus-dhyana-Sutra, n. 18, (p. 180).

40 Tibetan lamaism has instituted a whole liturgy in honour of Amitayus (Ts’i-dpag-med) “so as to procure long life”: Alice Getty, The gods of Northern Buddhism, 2nd ed. (Oxford), (1928), p. 39.

41 Hobogirin, I, pp. 29 - 30. Albert Grunwedel, op. cit, p. 120.

42 Avatamdsaka- Sutra. Asanga, Mahayanasangraha, X. 30. (The Summing-up of the Great Vehicle, translated Et. Lamotte, vol. 2, 2, pp. 317 - 322; CB pp. 61* - 62*). Hiuan-tsang, Vijnaptimatratasiddhi Lankavatara, p. 70 (in Lamotte, op. cit., p. 62*).

43 Lankavatara, p. 70 (in Lamotta, op. cit, p. 62*).

44 Lotus, ch. 1 and XI, Alred Foucher, Le grand miracle de Gravasti, in Asiatic Journal, 1809, 1. Paul Mus, Borabudur, pp. * 266 - 267 and 519; CB. The Decorated Buddha, p. 206: it appears that Sakyamuni’s Paradise may have known great popularity, at least in the last centuries of Indian Mahayanism.

45 The Dasabhumika, which forms part of the Avatamsaka, was translated into Chinese by Dharmaraksa in 297, then by Kumosenjiva. Also see Hiuan-Tsang, op. cit., vol. III, pp. 613 - 619. In the Mahayana-Sutralamkara, ch. XX - XXI, Asanga devotes a kind of monograph to these ten “Lands”.

46 Si-fang ki-lo chi-kiai: world of delights of the Western rgion.

47 Phaedo, 109 b. This Platonist “Land” “numbers a great many marvellous regions” (1080); it is a “distant region” where there shines everywhere “colours more vivid and purer” than ours (110c), where “the very stones are pure” (110c; 114 b.c).

48 Short Sutra, n. 2 - 6, (pp. 91 - 97); summary).

49 General descriptions in Henri Maspero, Asiatic Mythology, p. 358; Rene Grousset, La Chine (the Civilisations of the East), vol. 3), pp. 254 - 258; Robert Bleichsteiner, The Yellow Church (translated Jacques Marty, 1937), pp. 152 - 153 and 245 - 246).

50 This earth of precious stones is also the surface of a lake, as the Meditation Sutra, hints, p. 170, passing from the vision of water to that of ice, shining and transparent as earth of lapis-lazuli, CB. infra, p. 50

51 Long Sutra, n. 32, (pp. 49 - 50); n. 16 (pp. 33 - 36), etc. Gems, gold, silver, pearls, coral, diamond . . . A long enumeration of various kinds of trees made of these prcious things, in various proportions and combinations.

52 Thus Teha-yi in the tenth of his Ten Questions about the Pure Land (597). CB. Sutra of Causes and Effects (edited Gauthiot-Pelliot), (pp. 29 - 30 and 46 - 47). Buddha’s mother was reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty Three Gods in the form of a man.

53 Lotus of the Good Law, ch. 24 (translated Eugene Burnouf, (1852), p. 267); ch. X1: “The young man or lady of good family who in the future will listen to this chapter, etc, in the Buddha-Land in which he is reborn, will miraculously come into that world on a lotus made of seven precious substances, in the presence of a Tathagata”, (p. 158); CB ch VIII (p. 23). The heavenly lotus “is the indispensible symbol of transcendent birth and existence”: Paul Mus, The Decorated Buddha, p. 204.

54 Short Sutra, n. 4, (pp. 93 - 94).

55 Meditation Sutra, part 3, passim.

56 An expression of Louis de la Vallée Poussin, picturesque as usual: “lotus-wombs, perfumed purgatories, where the lotus-embryos mature”; Buddhism (1925), p. 269. Note in passing that the Avatamsaka designates the Pure Land (of Sakyamuni) as “the world of the Lotus Womb”.

57 Robert Bleichsteiner, The Yellow Church, p. 246. CB the story related infra, ch. IV.

58 Long Sutra, n. 41, (pp. 64 - 65). CB Nagarjuna, Dasabhumi-vibhasa-sastra, in the Chinese version of Kumarajiva (Leon Weiger, Chinese and Japanese Amidism, p. 12). Nagarjuna also speaks of insufficient purity. There are no premature births in Sukhavati: Long Sutra, n. 15, (p. 33).

59 Long Sutra, n. 19 - 20 and 40 (pp. 40 - 42 and 62).

60 Amida’s Vow. Ibid, n. 16 and 36, etc. CB Edward Conze, op. cit, p. 153.

61 Long Sutra, n. 8 (Original Vow, 10), 22 and 38 (pp. 13, 43, and 55). In the Divine Comedy (Purgatory, XV, 44 - 81), Dante celebrates this perfect community of the elect, but founding it on the love of God: CB XIV, 86 - 87: “O geste umana, perché poni’l curse” / “Là ‘v è mestier di consorts divieta!” Likewise, Fénelon, Letter VII on the authority of the Church.

62 z. Pet III, 13. We would still be far from it, even if we made the Pure Land the symbol of the reign of the Law (Dharma). The equivalence of the Dharma to the “Righteousness of God”, affirmed by A. K. Coomaraswamy, Time and Eternity, (Ascona), (1947), is very little exact.

63 Thus in the famous Taemamandara (Japan, 8th Century), described in Jean Buhot, History of the Arts of Japan, vol. 1, (1900), CB infra, ch. VI. Long Sutra, n. 19 and 23 (pp. 42 - 44).

64 Long Sutra, n. 19, (pp. 40 - 42). At n. 10, where there is explained the transformation of Dharmakaya into Amitabha, after his long career as a Bodhisattva, it is said: “His mouth exhaled a fragrance more heavenly than sandalwood; from the pores of his head rose lotus perfume, . . . his hands were filled with precious ornaments in the form of all kinds of flowers, ointments, banners, musical instruments; there flowed from him all sorts of food and drink, of sustenance hard or soft, of cakas,; all kinds of enjoyments and pleasures . . . (p. 27). The pre-Buddhist Indian tales spoke of heavenly palaces, containing magical gems which realised every wish”: Paul Mux, Light on the Six Paths, p. 265.

65 Works, vol. 1, p. 303.

66 The Greco-Buddhist Art of Gandhara, v. 2, I, (1918), (p. 381); The Old Road of India, vol. 2 (1947), p. 285. “Impossible, stated Max Müller, loc. cit., p. XI, to find in English an adequate number of names and epithets to translate the super abundance of these descriptions”.

67 Ed. Nanjo, p. 77. In fact, the Lankavatara, says this not only of the imaginative marvellous, but of the doctrine itself, insofar as its exposiion still calls for multiplicity.

68 Ed. Max Müller - B. Nanjo, p. 7.

69 Hiuan-Tsang, op. cit, quoting “Aryamaitreya” (= Asanga) and continuing “ The doctrines of the Great Vehicle are very profound. They are not to be taken literally, nor their authenticity denied by making use of the servile interpretation. Therefore the Great Vehicle is the “Word of the Buddha”. (vol. 1 ), (1928), (p. 178)

70 Short Sutra, n. 11, (pp. 99), with, in a note, an inadequate explanation by Max Müller.

71 CB. D.T. Suzuki, Essays on Zen Buddhism, vol. 1, (translated P. Sauvagest), (1940), (pp. 140 - 145).

72 The “Great Miracle of Buddha at Gravasti, in Asiatic Journal, Jan - Feb, 1909. Concerning figures of Buddha, placed on lotus stems which branch out in all directions”: “moreover there, if one thinks about it, is the sole orthodox way of explaining the simultaneous presence of several Buddhas in one and the same picture, etc.”

73 Lalitavistara, (translated Foucause, vol. 1, pp. 238 - 240). Long Sutra, (pp. 36 - 37). Paul Mus, Borabudur, pp. 139, 215, 496, 501 - 534, etc. The conception of the cankrama of promenade of Buddha is still the same.

74 Posthumous Medleys: “Nothing is certainly more preposterous than all this numberical apparatus - and yet it must be agreed that the Buddhists have sometimes made use of it, either to support their imagination in the contemplation of the infitite in time and space, or its deputy for this idea in course minds incapable of conceiving it”.

75 Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhim, 2nd edition, p. 98: “these numericaly exaggerations in which despite their dryness a vague sense of the infinite greatness of the universe is found”. CB. The Lotus of the True Law, appendix 20. But bidk p. 417, Burnouf has not been able to see the symbolism of the “great mirable”, of chapter 20.

76 The Decorated Buddha, loc. cit, pp. 234 - 238; cg. infra, ch XII. Jean Przyluski, Buddhism, p. 31 CB Rene Berthelot, The thought of Asia and Astrobiology, p. 198: “Mahayana Buddhism . . . surrendered itself wihtout resrvation to the play of a poetic symbolism which was no longer in any way limited.”

77 Apoc., XXI. CB Is., LIV. As much will be said in relation to the City of the “King beautiful to see”, with its seven surrounding walls of precious stones, in the time when the future Sakyamuni was a universal monarch (cakravartin), as the Mahasuddassanasutta, in Digha-nikaya, XVII, for example, describes it. CB. Rhys Davids, Buddhist Suttas, p. 237. There is moreover a close relationship between this passage from the Digha-nikaya and the Amidist Sutras.. CB. infra, ch. X.

78 Meditation Sutra, n. 7, Sakyamuni to Vaidchi: “I am now going to speak to you in parables, in order to offer all ordinary people (= whose quality of mind is weak and inferior, n. 8). . . an opportunity of being born into the Happy Land” (p. 167, CB. p. 169). On Amitabha: n. 21 (p. 187).

79 CB. Nagarjuna, Treatise on the Great Power . . ., c. 24 (translated Et. Lamotte, vol. 2, p. 884). CB. Hiuan-Tsang, op. cit: for the very state of “oblivious god”, “the Aryas have only disgust” (vol. 1, p. 284). The inhabitants of the svargas consume there, like Gods, the fruit of their previous actons. These svargas are, one might say, places of pure consummation. Here again, an analogy with Platonism. CB. V. Goldschmidt, The Religion of Plato, p. 81: “These rewards do not profit the soul since they in no way instruct it.”

80 Om gratia et libero arbitrio, c. 3.

81 CB. the Sanskrit Udanavarga (parallel to the Dhammapada), c. 5, Priyavarga, verse 10: “Captivated by the pleasure of belowed forms, the groups of gods (like the groups of sinners) fall under the dominion of the King of Death”.

82 Long Sutra, n. 12, (p. 28).

83 Long Sutra, n. 38, (pp. 35 - 37)

84 Chinese inscription of Bodh-gaya (Édouard Chavannes, in R.H.R., 1896, p. 13). Sylvain Léve, India the Civilizer, p. 15. From another point of view, it can be said that the lotus is in Buddhist iconography, rather what the cross is in the Christian.

85 Stanza quoted by Nagarjuna, op. cit. ch III (Lamotte, vol. 1, p. 90). Lalitavistara: “The mind of the best of men . . . is spotless like the new lotus in the water which does not adhere to it”. (translated Foucaux, p. 191). Asvaghasa, Buddhacarita, XIV, on the Buddha awakening to Light (Enlightenment) like a lotus unsoiled by the dust of the passions, which springs up from the lake of its birth”.

86 Sylvain Léve, in Asanga, Mahayana sutralamkara, vol. 2, p. 37. Olivier Lacombe; CB. likewise, The Absolute according to the Vedanta, (1937), p. 268

87 History of Religious Beliefs and Philosophical Opinions in China (1900), p. 591; CB. pp. 423 and 569.

88 Amitabha’s Vow, 39 and 43 (pp. 20 and 21); and right at the end: “If they had to turn away from the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha . . .” (n. 46, p. 22)

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