Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra – Excerpt Eight

The Thus Come One commiserates with the beings in the Three Realms with infinite great compassion. This is why he appears in the world: to expound Buddhist teachings and spread them everywhere, like light; to help all beings; and to bring true benefit to them.

“Light” has the meaning of reaching places far and wide. “Expound” means to teach and to propagate. “Buddhist teachings” refers to the way to transcend life and death and to perfectly attain Buddhahood. “Help” means to save and to rescue. “True benefit” refers to fulfilling the wishes of all beings.

This excerpt explains the reason why the Buddha came to this world. Why did he appear in India and not in China? Although Chinese culture had already existed for a long time, the highest aspiration of the Chinese was to be reborn in the heavens. They did not have the thought of transcending the Three Realms. For rebirth in the human or heavenly paths, Confucian teachings and Taoist teachings were sufficient. Therefore, the Buddha did not need to go there.

At the time in India when Sakyamuni Buddha appeared, many religions were flourishing. The sutras mentioned six major non-Buddhist masters. The practitioners of Brahmanism, the Yoga system, and Samkhya were able to attain very high levels of meditative concentration: they were able to be reborn in the Fourth Formless Heaven, a feat that the Chinese had not been able to accomplish. Frankly, when the Chinese were reborn in the heavens, they could only get to the heavens in the Desire Realm. They could not get to the heavens in the Form Realm.

Indians could be reborn in the heavens in the Form Realm and even in the Formless Realm, but they could not transcend them. They thought that the Fourth Meditation Heaven or the Fourth Formless Heaven was the state of nirvana. It was a great misconception.

Therefore, at that time, only the people in India, out of all the people in the world, had the right capacities and mature conditions. The Buddha “commiserated with the beings in the Three Realms” and appeared there to help them transcend the Six Paths and attain the true Bodhi and nirvana.

The Buddha was impartial. When the conditions of the beings in a place were mature, he would use the most appropriate method to teach them. As stated in “Universal Door Chapter”: “For those who will only be liberated upon the manifestation of a Buddha, then the manifestation in the form of a Buddha will appear to present the teachings.” In India, they needed a Buddha to teach them and in China, they needed a bodhisattva. The manifestations were different but the objective was the same. The objective was “to help all beings; and to bring true benefit to them.”

If a person wants to be reborn in the heavens, the Buddha will teach the method to that person, and he or she will be truly reborn there. This is bringing true benefit to that person.

The absolutely perfect, true benefit is attaining Buddhahood. Becoming a Bodhisattva of Equal Enlightenment is not yet ultimate and perfect. The Infinite Life Sutra teaches us the method of seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land through belief, vow, and mindful Buddha-name chanting. It is the ultimate and perfect true benefit.

As mentioned in the three Pure Land sutras, we can perfectly accomplish the goal of rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss in one lifetime—without waiting until the next lifetime. There, in the four lands, each with nine grades, the environment as well as all the beings are wondrously magnificent.

The teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha at this Dharma assembly is absolutely true. The Buddha mentioned “true” three times in this sutra. It is very rare for the word “true” to be mentioned three times in a sutra.