After Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, he spoke as many as 84,000 Dharma-doors (methods of practice). Each one of them teaches living beings how to cultivate and accomplish Buddhahood. One must first bring forth the Bodhi mind, then cultivate all kinds of merit and virtue, and practice the Bodhisattva path. Only then can one hope to become a Buddha. However, the process takes an immeasurable amount of time. Among these 84,000 Dharma-doors is one called the Pure Land Dharma-door, which teaches people to concentrate on reciting the Buddha's name. This Dharma-door was created by a Bhikshu named Fa Zang (Dharma Treasury). When Bhikshu Fa Zang was a left-home person, he made forty-eight great vows. These vows said that when he became a Buddha in the future, his land would be one which had "none of the sufferings, but every kind of bliss." If any living being in the ten directions, in whatever world or planet, recites his name, he would receive and lead that living being to his land to be born from a lotus flower by transformation and eventually become a Buddha.
If a living being recited his name but did not become a Buddha, Bhikshu Fa Zang would never realize Buddhahood. If he became a Buddha, then living beings who recite his name would surely be born in his land—the Land of Utimate Bliss. Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Pure Land Dharma-door without being requested to do so. All other Dharma-doors or Sutras were spoken by the Buddha only after they were requested. Why was the Pure Land Dharma-door spoken without request? It was because this Dharma-door is inconceivable. The great Bhikshus and Arhats did not have the wisdom to request this Dharma-door. So when Shakyamuni Buddha saw that the time was ripe, even though no one made the request, he went ahead and spoke this Dharma-door.
The Pure Land Dharma-door is suitable for all living beings. It is said, "With little effort, one can achieve great success." Thus, this Dharma-door not only tallies with principles, it also tallies with the appropriate potentials. This session at Gold Mountain Monastery proves it. There were only twenty people during the Chan meditation session, but now that we are having a recitation session, there are over thirty participants.
This proves that this Dharma-door is suitable for all people. It's only to be feared that you don't recite. As long as you recite, the vow power of Amitabha Buddha will bring you to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This is the most inconceivable Dharma door.
In the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, Amitabha Buddha has a wire connecting to all living beings who recite the Buddha's name. When we recite here, Amitabha Buddha's telephone
rings and tells him that in the Saha World there is a living being reciting the Buddha's name! Where is Amitabha Buddha's phone located? The phone is located in every one of his hair pores. Each hair pore has a phone in it. When the phone rings, he says, "Hello!" When that phone rings, he says, "Wei!" (Greeting on phone in Chinese) Another phone rings, he says, "Yes!" Yet another phone rings, he says, "Mashi! Mashi!" (Greeting in Japanese) So, limitless phones have been installed on Amitabha Buddha's body. It's only to be feared that you don't make the call. As long as you call, Amitabha Buddha will surely hear you reciting "Amitabha Buddha." This is not a joke. It's true.
If you recite "Namo Amitabha Buddha" once, Amitabha Buddha will hear you once. If you recite ten times, Amitabha Buddha will hear you ten times. If you recite a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred million times, Amitabha Buddha will make a note of you saying, "When this person comes to the end of his life, I will go and pick him up!" He makes a note. When your time comes, "your body will suffer no illness, your mind will have no greed, and your mind will not be disoriented." Your body will not feel pain, your mind will not be confused, and you won't have any sickness; it will be like entering samadhi. Amitabha Buddha, holding a golden dais in his hand, will come to welcome you to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. There, you will be born from a lotus flower by transformation, with the nine grades of lotus flowers as your parents. This is for sure. Whoever cultivates this Dharma-door will go!
Why should we recite before we die, or when we are still very young? It is because what we cultivate is the "one thought before death." In this one last thought, you may remember to recite, or you may forget. The most important thing is that on the verge of death, if you can remember to recite "Namo Amitabha Buddha," then you will surely be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Since Amitabha Buddha does not lie to living beings, he will definitely take us to the western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Someone may say, "Okay! Amitabha Buddha, Amitabha Buddha... I will recite every day but I don't understand what it means." Well, I'll explain for you the meaning of "Amitabha Buddha." "Namo" is Sanskrit and it is translated as "return one's life to," or, "respectfully offer oneself to." It means We return our lives to and respectfully offer ourselves up in front of Amitabha Buddha. "Amitabha Buddha" is also Sanskrit. The Sanskrit "Amita" means "immeasurable life span." Another meaning is "limitless light." Not only is Amitabha Buddha's life span limitless, his bright light is also limitless. His life span is immeasurable; his bright light is also immeasurable; and his wisdom and spiritual power are also limitless. Everything about him is limitless. Thus, he is called "one with an immeasurable life span" as well as "one with limitless bright light." His life has neither a beginning nor an end. We do not know when it began nor when it will end. However, in The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra, it says, "Since Amitabha realized Buddhahood, ten kalpas (eons) have passed." Since Amitabha Buddha has a limitless life span, limitless light, limitless spiritual power, limitless transformations, and limitless wisdom, and everything about him is limitless, he is called Amitabha Buddha.
When we recite the name of this Buddha, he will take us to the Land of Ultimate Bliss to become his disciple. We are all familiar with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva is Amitabha Buddha's disciple. So is Great Strength Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and Great Strength Bodhisattva stand to the left and right of Amitabha Buddha. The three are called the Three Sages of the West. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and Great Strength Bodhisattva are Amitabha Buddha's Dharma-protectors; they are also Amitabha Buddha's representatives. Amitabha Buddha receives living beings in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. Sometimes, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will also come and take living beings to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and so will Great Strength Bodhisattva. So, when you recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva or Great Strength Bodhisattva, you will also be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. These Three Sages of the West take living beings of the ten directions to the Land of Ultimate Bliss to become Buddhas.