The Pure Land Tradition – Faith and Mind

Faith is an important component of Pure Land Buddhism. However, wisdom or Mind also plays a crucial, if less visible, role. This interrelationship is clearly illustrated in the Meditation Sutra: the worst sinner, guilty of matricide and parricide, etc. may still achieve rebirth in the Pure Land if, on the verge of death, he recites the Buddha’s name one to ten time with utmost faith and sincerity.

This passage can be understood at two levels. At the level of everyday life, just as the worst criminal once genuinely reformed is no longer a threat to society and may be pardoned, the sinner once truly repentant may, through the Vow-power of Amitabha Buddha, achieve rebirth in the Pure Land—albeit at the lowest grade. Thus, Pure Land offers hope to everyone; yet at the same time, the law of Cause and Effect remains valid.

At the level of principle or Mind, as the Sixth Patriarch taught in the Platform Sutra:

A foolish passing thought makes one an ordinary man, while an enlightened second thought makes one a Buddha.

Therefore, once the sinner repents and recites the Buddha’s name with utmost sincerity and one-pointedness of mind, for that moment he become an awakened person silently merging into the stream of the Sages—can Enlightenment and Buddhahood then be that far away? As the Meditation Sutra states: “the Land of Amitabha Buddha is not far from here!”