Visualisation of Amitabha Buddha

  1. Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying on Vulture Peak in Rājagṛha with a great assembly of twelve hundred and fifty monks. He was also accompanied by thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas led by Mañjuśrī, the Dharma Prince.
  2. At that time, in the great city of Rājagṛha, there was a prince named Ajātaśatru. Instigated by his wicked friend Devadatta, he seized his father, King Bimbisāra, confined him in a room with walls seven deep, and forbade all the court officials to visit the king. Vaidehī, the king’s consort, was devoted to him. After having bathed and cleansed herself, she spread over her body ghee and honey mixed to a paste with wheat flour, filled her ornaments with grape juice, and secretly offered this food and drink to the king. He ate the flour paste, drank the juice, and then asked for water. Having rinsed his mouth, he joined his palms in reverence and, facing Vulture Peak, worshiped the World-honored One from afar, and said, “Mahāmaudgalyāyana is my close friend. I beseech you to have pity on me and send him here to give me the eight precepts.” Then Mahāmaudgalyāyana flew as swiftly as a hawk to the king. Day after day he came like this to give the king the eight precepts. The World-honored One also sent Venerable Pūrṇa to the palace to expound the Dharma to the king. Three weeks passed in this way. Because he had eaten the flour paste and heard the Dharma, he appeared peaceful and contented.
  3. Then Ajātaśatru asked the guard, “Is my father still alive?” The guard replied, “Great King, his consort spreads flour paste over her body, fills her ornaments with grape juice, and offers these to the king. The monks Mahāmaudgalyāyana and Pūrṇa come here through the air to expound the Dharma to him. It is impossible to stop them.” Hearing this, Ajātaśatru became furious with his mother and said, “Because you are an accomplice of that enemy, Mother, you too are an enemy. Those monks are evil, for with their delusive magic they have kept this wicked king alive for many days.” So saying, he drew his sharp sword, intending to kill her. At that time the king had a minister named Candraprabha who was intelligent and wise. Together with Jīvaka he made obeisances to the king and said, “Great King, according to a certain Vedic scripture, since the beginning of this cosmic period there have been eighteen thousand wicked kings who have killed their fathers out of their desire to usurp the throne, but we have never heard of anyone who has committed the outrage of killing his mother. Your Majesty, if you commit such an outrage, you will bring disgrace upon the kṣatriya class. As your ministers, we cannot bear to hear what people will say. As this would be the act of an outcaste, we could no longer remain here.” Having spoken these words, the two ministers grasped their swords and stepped back. Agitated and frightened, Ajātaśatru said to Jīvaka, “Are you not on my side?” Jīvaka replied, “Your Majesty, please restrain yourself and do not kill your mother.” Hearing this, the king repented and begged their forgiveness. Having thrown away his sword, he stopped short of killing his mother and instead ordered the court officials to lock her up in an inner chamber and not allow her to leave.
  4. Vaidehī, thus confined, grew emaciated with grief and despair. Facing Vulture Peak, she worshiped the Buddha from afar and said, “O Tathāgata, World-honored One, you used to send Ānanda to comfort me. Now I am in deep sorrow and distress. Since there is no way of my coming to look upon your august countenance, World-honored One, I pray you send Venerable Mahāmaudgal yāyana and Venerable Ānanda here to see me.” When she had said these words, tears of sorrow streamed down her cheeks like rain. Then she bowed toward the Buddha in the distance. Even before she raised her head, the World-honored One, who was then staying on Vulture Peak, knew Vaidehī’s thoughts and immediately ordered Mahāmaudgal yāyana and Ānanda to go to her through the air; he himself disappeared from the mountain and reappeared in the inner chamber of the royal palace. After worshiping him, Vaidehī raised her head and saw Śākyamuni Buddha, the World-honored One. He was the color of purple-gold and was seated upon a lotus flower of a hundred jewels. He was attended by Mahāmaudgalyāyana on his left and Ānanda on his right. Śakra, Brahmā, the guardian gods of the world, and other devas were in the air about him. Scattering heavenly blossoms like rain, they paid homage to the Buddha. When she saw the World-honored One, Vaidehī tore off her ornaments and prostrated herself on the ground. Weeping bitterly, she said to the Buddha, “O World-honored One, what bad karma did I commit in former lives that I have given birth to such an evil son? I wonder, World-honored One, what karmic relations could have made you a relative of Devadatta?
  5. “I beseech you, World-honored One, to reveal to me a land of no sorrow and no affliction where I can be reborn. I do not wish to live in this defiled and evil world of Jambudvīpa where there are hells, realms of hungry ghosts, animals, and many vile beings. I wish that in the future I shall not hear evil words or see wicked people. World-honored One, I now kneel down to repent and beg you to take pity on me. I entreat you, O sunlike Buddha, to teach me how to visualize a land of pure karmic perfection.” Then the World-honored One sent forth from between his eyebrows a flood of light that was the color of gold and illuminated the innumerable worlds in the ten directions. Returning to the Buddha, the light settled on his head and transformed itself into a golden platform resembling Mount Sumeru. On the platform appeared the pure and resplendent lands of all the buddhas in the ten directions. Some of these lands were made of the seven kinds of jewels, some solely of lotus flowers; some resembled the palace in the Heaven of Free Enjoyment of Manifestations by Others, while some were like a crystal mirror in which all the lands in the ten directions were reflected. Innumerable Buddha lands like these, glorious and beautiful, were displayed to her. Vaidehī then said to the Buddha, “O World-honored One, these Buddha lands are pure and free of defilement, and all of them are resplendent. But I wish to be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss of Amitāyus. I beseech you, World-honored One, to teach me how to contemplate that land and attain samādhi.”
  6. The World-honored One smiled, and from his mouth came five-colored rays of light, each shining on King Bimbisāra’s head. Although the old king was confined, with his unhindered mind’s eye he saw the World-honored One in the distance. He knelt down in homage to the Buddha and effortlessly made spiritual progress until he reached the stage of non-returner.
  7. Then the World-honored One said to Vaidehī, “Do you know that Amitāyus is not far away? Fix your thoughts upon and contemplate that buddha land. Then you will accomplish the pure acts. I shall describe it to you in detail with various illustrations, so that all ordinary people in the future who wish to practice pure karma may also be born in that Western Land of Utmost Bliss. Whoever wishes to be born there should practice the three acts: first, caring for one’s parents, attending to one’s teachers and elders, compassionately refraining from killing, and doing the ten good deeds; second, taking the Three Refuges, keeping the various precepts, and refraining from breaking the rules of conduct; and third, awakening aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicitta), believing deeply in the law of causality, chanting the Mahayana sutras, and encouraging people to follow their teachings. These three are called pure karma.” The Buddha further said to Vaidehī, “Do you know that these three acts are the pure karma practiced by all the buddhas of the past, present, and future as the right cause of enlightenment?”
  8. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Listen carefully, listen carefully and ponder deeply. I, the Tathāgata, shall discourse on pure karma for the sake of all sentient beings of the future who are afflicted by the enemy, evil passions. It is very good, Vaidehī, that you have willingly asked me about this. Ānanda, you must receive and keep the Buddha’s words and widely proclaim them to the multitude of beings. I, the Tathāgata, shall now teach you, Vaidehī, and all sentient beings of the future how to visualize the Western Land of Utmost Bliss. By the power of the Buddha all will be able to see the Pure Land as clearly as if one were looking at one’s own reflection in a bright mirror. Seeing the utmost beauty and bliss of that land, they will rejoice and immediately attain insight into the non-arising of all dharmas.” The Buddha said to Vaidehī, “You are unenlightened and so your spiritual powers are weak and obscured. Since you have not yet attained the divine eye, you cannot see that which is distant. But the buddha tathāgatas have special ways to enable you to see afar.” Vaidehī said to the Buddha, “World-honored One, through the Buddha’s power, even I have now been able to see that land. But after the Buddha’s passing sentient beings will become defiled and evil and be oppressed by the five kinds of suffering. How then will those beings be able to see the Land of Utmost Bliss of Amitāyus?
  9. The Buddha said to Vaidehī, “You and other sentient beings should concentrate and, with one-pointed attention, turn your thoughts westward. How do you contemplate? All sentient beings except those born blind—that is, all those with the faculty of sight—should look at the setting sun. Sit in the proper posture, facing west. Clearly gaze at the sun, with mind firmly fixed on it; concentrate your sight and do not let it wander from the setting sun, which is like a drum suspended above the horizon. Having done so, you should then be able to visualize it clearly, whether your eyes are open or closed. This is the visualization of the sun and is known as the first contemplation. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
  10. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “After you have accomplished the first contemplation, next practice the visualization of water. Envision the western direction as entirely flooded by water. Then picture the water as clear and pure, and let this vision be distinctly perceived. Keep your thoughts from being distracted. After you have visualized the water, envision it becoming frozen. After you have visualized the ice as transparent to its depth, see it turning into beryl. When you have attained this vision, next imagine that the beryl ground shines brilliantly, inside and out, and that this ground is supported from below by columns that are made of diamond and the seven kinds of jewels and hung with golden banners. These columns have eight sides and eight corners, each side being adorned with a hundred kinds of jewels. Each jewel emits a thousand rays of light, each ray in turn having eighty-four thousand colors. As they are reflected on the beryl ground, they look like a thousand koṭis of suns, so dazzling that it is impossible to see them in detail. “On this beryl ground, golden paths intercross like a net of cords. The land is divided into areas made of one or the other of the seven jewels, so the partitions are quite distinct. Each jewel emits a flood of light in five hundred colors. The light appears in the shape of a flower or a star or the moon; suspended in the sky, it turns into a platform of light on which there are ten million pavilions made of a hundred kinds of jewels. Both sides of this platform are adorned with a hundred koṭis of flowered banners and innumerable musical instruments. As eight pure breezes arise from the light and play the musical instruments, they proclaim the truths of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self. This is the visualization of the water and is known as the second contemplation.
  11. “When you have attained this contemplation, visualize each object quite clearly without losing the image, whether your eyes are closed or open. Except when sleeping, always keep it in mind. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.” The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “When the visualization of the water has been ccomplished, it is called the general perception of the ground of the Land of Utmost Bliss. If you attain a state of samādhi, you will see this ground so clearly and distinctly that it will be impossible to describe it in detail. This is the visualization of the ground and is known as the third contemplation.” The Buddha said to Ānanda, “Keep these words of the Buddha in mind, and expound this method of visualizing the ground for the benefit of the multitude of future beings who will seek liberation from suffering. If one has attained a vision of the ground of that land, the evil karma that would bind one to birth and death for eighty koṭis of kalpas29 will be extinguished, and so one will certainly be born in the Pure Land in the next life. Do not doubt this. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
  12. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “When you have accomplished visualization of the ground, next contemplate the jeweled trees. This is how to do so. Visualize each one and then form an image of seven rows of trees, each being eight thousand yojanas high and adorned with seven-jeweled blossoms and leaves. Each blossom and leaf has the colors of various jewels. From the beryl-colored blossoms and leaves issues forth a golden light. From the crystal-colored [blossoms and leaves] issues forth a crimson light. From the agate-colored [blossoms and leaves] issues forth a sapphire light. From the sapphire-colored [blossoms and leaves] issues forth a green pearl light. Coral, amber, and all the other jewels serve as illuminating ornaments. Splendid nets of pearls cover the trees. Between these seven rows of nets covering each tree there are five hundred koṭis of palaces adorned with exquisite flowers, like the palace of the Brahmā king, where celestial children naturally dwell. Each of these children wears ornaments made of five hundred koṭis of śakra-abhilagna-maṇi-gems, which light up a hundred yojanas in all directions, like a hundred koṭis of suns and moons shining together, and so it is impossible to describe them in detail. Manifold jewels intermingle, producing the most beautiful colors. “Rows of these jeweled trees are evenly arranged and their leaves are equally spaced. From among the leaves appear wonderful blossoms which spontaneously bear fruits of the seven kinds of jewels. Each leaf is twenty five yojanas in both length and breadth. Like the celestial ornaments, the leaves are of a thousand colors and a hundred patterns. These trees have marvelous blossoms which are the color of gold from the Jambu River and spin like firewheels among the leaves. From these blossoms appear various fruits, as from Śakra’s vase, and from the fruits issue forth great floods of light which transform themselves into banners and innumerable jeweled canopies. Inside the jeweled canopies can be seen reflections of all the activities of the Buddha throughout the universe of a thousand million worlds. The Buddha lands in the ten directions are also reflected in them. “After you have seen these trees, visualize each detail in order: the trunks, branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruits, and let your vision of all of them be clear and distinct. This is the visualization of the trees and is known as the fourth contemplation. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
  13. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “When you have accomplished visualization of the trees, next contemplate the ponds. This is how to do so. In the Land of Utmost Bliss, there are ponds of water possessing the eight excellent qualities, each made of the seven kinds of jewels that are soft and pliable. The water, springing from a wish-fulfilling king maṇi-gem, forms fourteen streams. Each stream is the color of the seven kinds of jewels. Its banks are made of gold and its bed is strewn with diamond sand of many colors. In each stream there are sixty koṭis of lotus flowers of the seven kinds of jewels, which are round and symmetrical, measuring twelve yojanas in diameter. The water from the maṇi-gem flows among the flowers and meanders between the trees. As it ripples it produces exquisite sounds, which proclaim the truths of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self, and of the pāramitās. Its sound also praises the physical characteristics and marks of the buddhas. The wish-fulfilling king maṇi-gem emits a splendid golden light, which transforms itself into birds with the colors of a hundred jewels. Their songs are melodious and elegant, constantly praising the virtue of mindfulness of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is the visualization of the water possessing the eight excellent qualities and is known as the fifth contemplation. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
  14. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “In each region of this jeweled land there are five hundred koṭis of jeweled pavilions in which innumerable devas play heavenly music. There are also musical instruments suspended in the sky, which, like those on the heavenly jeweled banners,31 spontaneously produce tones even without a player. Each tone proclaims the virtue of mindfulness of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. When this contemplation has been accomplished, it is known as the general perception of the jeweled trees, jeweled ground, and jeweled ponds of the Land of Utmost Bliss. This is a composite visualization and is called the sixth contemplation. “Those who have perceived these objects will be rid of extremely heavy evil karma which they have committed during innumerable kalpas and willcertainly, after death, be born in that land. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
  15. The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Listen carefully, listen carefully and ponder deeply. I will expound for you the method of removing suffering. Bear my words in mind and explain them to the multitude of beings.” When these words were spoken, Amitāyus appeared in the air above, attended on his left and right by the two mahāsattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. So brilliant was their radiance that it was impossible to see them in detail. They could not be compared even with a hundred thousand nuggets of gold from the Jambu River. After she had this vision of Amitāyus, Vaidehī knelt down in worship at Śākyamuni’s feet and said to him, “World-honored One, through your power I have been able to see Amitāyus and the two bodhisattvas, but how can sentient beings of the future see them?” The Buddha said to Vaidehī, “Those who wish to see that Buddha should form an image of a lotus flower on the seven-jeweled ground. They visualize each petal of this flower as having the colors of a hundred kinds of jewels and eighty-four thousand veins like a celestial painting, with eighty-four thousand rays of light issuing forth from each vein. They should visualize all of these clearly and distinctly. Its smaller petals are two hundred and fifty yojanas in both length and breadth. This lotus flower has eighty-four thousand large petals. Between the petals there are a hundred koṭis of king maṇi-gems as illuminating adornments. Each maṇi-gem emits a thousand rays of light which, like canopies made of the seven kinds of jewels, cover the entire earth. “The dais is made of śakra-abhilagna-maṇi-gems and is decorated with eighty thousand diamonds, kiṃśuka-gems, brahma-maṇi-gems, and also with exquisite pearl nets. On the dais four columns with jeweled banners spontaneously arise, each appearing to be as large as a thousand million koṭis of Mount Sumerus. On the columns rest a jeweled canopy similar to that in the palace of the Yāma Heaven. It is also adorned with five hundred koṭis of excellent gems, each emitting eighty-four thousand rays shining in eighty four thousand different tints of golden color. Each golden light suffuses this jeweled land and transforms itself everywhere into various forms, such as diamond platforms, nets of pearls, and nebulous clusters of flowers. In all the ten directions it transforms itself into anything according to one’s wishes and performs the activities of the Buddha. This is the visualization of the lotus throne and is known as the seventh contemplation.” The Buddha further said to Ānanda, “This majestic lotus flower was originally produced by the power of Bhikṣu Dharmākara’s [Original] Vow. Those who wish to see Buddha Amitāyus should first practice this contemplation of the flower throne. In doing so, do not contemplate in a disorderly way. Visualize the objects one by one—each petal, each gem, each ray of light, each dais, and each column. See all of these as clearly and distinctly as if you were looking at your own image in a mirror. When this contemplation is accomplished, the evil karma that would bind you to birth and death for five hundred koṭis of kalpas will be extinguished, and you will certainly be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”