Letter 12 – Pure Land and Mind-Only

Question One: Are the Mind-Only Pure Land and the Self-Nature Amitabha the same as or different from the Western Pure Land and Amitabha in the Pure Land?

Answer: It is because the Mind-Only Pure Land exists that we are reborn in the Pure Land of the West. If the mind is not pure, it is impossible to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. Even when those who have committed cardinal transgressions achieve rebirth through ten recitations, such rebirth is due to their reciting the Buddha’s name with a pure mind, thus eliciting a response from Amitabha Buddha.

Ordinary people generally think that if the Pure Land is Mind-Only, then it does not exist. This is the understanding of demons and externalists. Such a deluded view, which appears correct but is in reality wrong, affects more than half of all people and causes practitioners to forfeit true benefits.

It is precisely because of the Self-Nature Amitabha that the practitioner must recite the name of the Buddha Amitabha of the West seeking rebirth in the Pure Land – to achieve the Self-Nature Amitabha through gradual cultivation. If he merely grasps at the Self-Nature Amitabha of the West, he cannot achieve immediate escape from Birth and Death—not even if he is truly awakened, much less if (like most people who ask this question) he is pretentious and just indulges in empty talk without engaging in practice.

Thus, the answer to your question [are the Mind-Only Pure Land and the Self-Nature Amitabha the same as or different from the Western Pure Land and Amitabha in the Pure Land?] is that they are one yet two before Buddhahood is attained, two yet one after Buddhahood is attained.

Question Two: What is the meaning of the statement: “birth [in the Pure Land] is certainly birth, but returning [to the Pure Land] is, in fact, not returning?”

Answer: “Birth is certainly birth” is from the viewpoint of phenomena; “Returning is, in fact, not returning” is from the viewpoint of principle or noumenon.

However, those who have not yet penetrated the subtle differences between the noumenon and phenomena should just follow phenomena and marks, and recite the Buddha’s name in an accomplished manner. In this way, they will achieve results. Otherwise, they will make the mistake, common to externalists and demons, of grasping at noumenon and abandoning phenomena.

Question Three: Some people say, “To see the Buddha is to see the Buddha of the Self-Mind, not the Buddha of the Western Pure Land.” This being the case, at the time of death, is it the Buddha of the Self-Mind who appears, or is it Buddha Amitabha who comes to receive and guide us?

Answer: Seeing the Buddhas the time of death is due to our own Self-Mind, which has elicited a response from Amitabha Buddha. You should not revert everything to the Self-Mind and think that there is no Buddha Amitabha arriving to receive and guide you!