What Does It Mean to Be A Pure Land Buddhist? 

what is the pure land

Amida Buddha sits in the center of his Pure Land, the “blissful land.” Pure Land teaching holds that enlightenment is much easier to achieve in Amida’s Pure Land than elsewhere. | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Charles Stewart Smith Collection.

Found primarily in Japan and East Asia, the Pure Land schools of Buddhism revere the Amida Buddha, or “Buddha of Infinite Light.” In this branch of Mahayana Buddhism, practitioners put their faith in Amida Buddha to be reborn in the Pure Land, a realm where enlightenment comes swiftly.

One of the most widely practiced Buddhist traditions in East Asia, the tradition emphasizes an acceptance of the human condition as well as the possibility of achieving Buddhahood through a favorable rebirth. Along the path to enlightenment, the Pure Land practitioner places his or her faith in the power of Amida Buddha to guide them to the awakened state. As such, the central practice of the tradition is the nembutsu, the recitation of the Buddha’s name, which is repeated to cultivate mindfulness of Amida Buddha. 

Click through this deck to learn more about the philosophy and practices of Pure Land Buddhism. 

Discover Level 2, Deck 5: 

Who is Amida Buddha? The Buddha of “immeasurable light,” whose light shines everywhere regardless of conditions, is the guiding focus for Pure Land Buddhists. 

What is the Pure Land? The spiritual dimension, or “field,” known as Sukhavati is the best possible place to be reborn; a realm where the path to liberation is unobstructed. 

What is the bombu paradigm? Pure Land Buddhist is built on an acceptance of the human condition and one’s individual bombu (“ordinary person”) nature. 

What is other-power? On every step of the path to liberation, a practitioner relies on the power of Amida Buddha rather than that of his or her own limited self. 

What is the nembutsu? This central practice is one of “mindfulness of [Amida] Buddha.” 

What does it mean to receive or dedicate merit? Merit, a kind of karmic currency, plays a particularly important role in Pure Land Buddhism. 

What is the importance of faith in Pure Land Buddhism? While many Western Buddhists reject the necessity of faith in spiritual practice, Pure Land Buddhists rely on a faith that is based in experience. 

What are the three minds? These three attitudes work together to cultivate a state of humility and joy. 

What do Pure Land Buddhists believe happens when you die? With a heart that turns toward Amida Buddha, one can be immediately accepted into the Pure Land.  

What are the principal Pure Land texts? The tradition is founded on three sutras and two commentaries.  

Who were the founders of Pure Land teaching in India and China? The great Indian philosopher and sage Nagarjuna is among the founders of the Pure Land Schools. 

Who were the founders of Pure Land teaching in Japan? In 1175, the Japanese monk Honen became the founder of the first distinct Pure Land School (Jodo-shu) in Japan.

What is a myokonin? The spiritual ideal of Pure Land Buddhism is the myokonin, a person of simple faith and devotion.


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