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»What is Pure Land Buddhism?  »Pure Land Sutras  »Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and teachers
Pure Land Sutras
After having read through all of the sacred texts on Mt. Hiei, Honen stated that among all the sutras which were preserved there, only the Sutra of Immeasurable Life, the Meditation Sutra and the Amida Sutra fully and rightfully expound the teaching of Birth in the Pure Land through Amida Buddha's power. This designation was the first time that these three sutras had been compiled into one definitive teaching on Pure Land Buddhism. This was Honen's original contribution to Pure Land thought.
1) Sutra of Immeasurable Life (muryoju-kyo)
This sutra represents the story of Shakyamuni Buddha's reply to a question posed by his disciple Ananda. The first half tells us about the forty-eight parts of Amida's Original Vow (hongan) of which the most important is the eighteenth (juhachi-gan). The sutra goes on to explain that all persons, whether of superior, intermediate or inferior capacity, can attain Birth in the Pure Land.
2) Meditation Sutra (kammuryoju-kyo)
This sutra tells the story of Queen Vaidehi's who's son Prince Ajatashatru plotted with the Buddha's cousin and renegade disciple Devadatta to kill his father, King Bimbisara. When the Queen try to foil their plan, Ajatashatru imprisoned her far away from the palace and the king. In her grief, she beseeched Shakyamuni: "Oh, Buddha, what did I do that I should give birth to a son who now wants to kill me? And through what fate do you have a man like Devadatta as your relative? Oh, Buddha, I have a request," she continued, "Tell me, if you can, some land where there is no suffering, for I want to be born in such a world." By way of answer, Shakyamuni emanated from his forehead a ray of light which illuminated the wonders of many buddha lands far away. Vaidehi thus understood that the ideal world of which she had dreamed actually existed as Amida Buddha's Pure Land. Vaidehi immediately resolved to be born there and asked Shakyamuni how she could do so. Shakyamuni then taught her the contemplative visualization of the Pure Land through thirteen successive stages of meditation which are detailed in this sutra.
  The Commentary on the Meditation Sutra (kammuryoju-kyo sho or kangyo-sho) is the great Chinese Pure Land master Shan-tao's (Zendo) most important work. In this work, he made a number of radical advances in Pure Land thought which laid the foundations for the subsequent development of Pure Land Buddhism in China and Japan. Shan-tao became Honen's greatest influence for having developed the nembutsu as the reciting of Amida's name rather than the visualization of him in his Pure Land.
3) Amida Sutra or the smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life (amida-kyo) [read our translation]
The message of the Amida Sutra is a simple one. It details a discourse of Shakyamuni to his disciple Shariputra about the Pure Land and the benefits of nembutsu practice. As this particular sutra is quite short, it is popular for chanting.
In addition, of the treatises which Honen felt fully and properly explained birth in the Pure Land, he listed only Vasubandhu's Treatise on the Sutra of Immeasurable Life (ojoron).The Ojoron is a commentary on the Sutra of Immeasurable Life which establishes the Indian master Vasubandhu as one of the two Indian patriatrchs of Pure Land Buddhism, along with Nagarjuna. The Ojoron has been traditionally viewed as Vasubandhu's expression of his own desire to be born in the Pure Land. The Ojoron is significant for the influence it had on the Chinese master T'an-luan (Donran) who wrote a commentary on it which taught that all beings can be born in the Pure Land through the great power of Amida's vow.
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