The Pure Land a Place or a Symbol or Both?

When I first came to Buddhism, I was fascinated about how doctrinaire it could be and it felt a lot like the judeo-christian world with all the arguments about purity of doctrine and who was right and wrong.  For those new to Buddhism, you will see that in the different schools.  thankfully there are the 84,000 Dharma-doors – there are innumerable paths to enlightenment.   One area that has much disagreement is the idea of the Pure Land.

For some the Buddhist Pure Land is another realm where we are able to do the practice in purity and grace after we die and return as bodhisattvas to bring others to the Pure Land.  The first component of the Pure Land, Amida Buddha, is the master of the land.  The Pure Land is a place where Amida Buddha is teaching and his spirit pervades, where

“In the ponds, at all times, lotuses of various colors as large as
chariot-wheels are in bloom. Blue flowers radiate blue light, brilliance and
splendor; yellow ones radiate yellow light, brilliance and splendor; red ones
radiate red light, brilliance and splendor; white ones radiate white light,
brilliance and splendor; four-colored ones radiate four-colored light,
brilliance and splendor. Shariputra, that Buddha-land is full of such glorious
adornments of supreme qualities, which are most pleasing to the mind. For this
reason, that land is called ‘Utmost Bliss.’   THE SUTRA ON PRAISE OF THE PURE LAND

Like I said, for man this is what the Pure Land is for them,  I personal do not know. Shonin Shinran the founder of Shin seems to clearly teach that it is an actual place in another realm where we go when we die.  It’s possible.

For my daily engagement with the world I like to look at the Pure Land in two ways,  The first is from   Thich Nhat Hanh and what he has said about the Pure Land….

” The notion that the Pure Land is an exterior reality, a place to be found far away in the western direction, is just for beginners. If we deepen our practice, the Buddha and the Buddha’s land become a reality in our mind. Our ancestral teachers have always said this. If we practice well, we can experience Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land wherever we are in the present moment.” –

I also like what  Rijin Yasuda a Shin Priest wrote about the Pure Land

“People say various things about birth in the Pure Land. But could there be any greater ‘birth in the Pure Land’ than the fact that we are now sitting and learning sitting and learning the Dharma together? This place where we are listening to the Dharma together is the Pure Land. Our being allowed to be part of this place, of this Sangha, is ‘birth in the Pure Land.’ Do you think that you can have anything greater than this in your life—the fact that you are listening to the Dharma as a member of the Sangha? Some people may speak about the wonderful things to be obtained in the Pure Land after death, but those things are nothing but projections of human greed. The fact that we are privileged to be part of the Sangha is our liberation, our “birth in the Pure Land.'”

I like these two sentiments.

In the end I think my mythological mind embraces the first idea about the Pure Land and the  lotuses of various colors as large as  chariot-wheels are in bloom. Blue flowers radiate blue light, brilliance and  splendor; there is something poetic about it.  And I would say that my  daily mind / present mind embraces  the second ideas.

How about you?

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