Of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, the one that stands out prominently in terms of popular-following and devotion is Amitabha Buddha. Tradition asserts that Bodhisattva Dharmakara proclaimed that when he attained Buddhahood (Amida Buddha), that anyone who should call upon his name would achieve entrance into his Western Pure Land Province. His mantra (one popular variable being Namu Amida Butsu that is mantra-like [constant repetition]] in scope) chanted by untold numbers throughout the millennia, intoned frequently assures salvific union with Amida’s Buddha-land. The mantra is a wonderful medium to enter into this union; the corresponding Chakra is the Dharmasota (see Bardo 1 part 5, for breakdown of the Chakras as seen in Light of the Unborn), or throat Chakra. This makes perfect sense since it is the location through which actual intonation occurs. One difference, though, it terms of the Dharmasota realization is that this is activated through the sound (Parato ghosa) of deathlessness; so the actual “intonation is symbolic” of a greater-realization—meaning not heard in the conventional sense of hearing, but rather ineffably experienced in the very Heart of Suchness—and is not, “in itself”, the Source of the salvific-grace. There is a real source of consternation here since it is automatically assumed that even just lazily uttering Amida’s name is all one need do to achieve liberation from samsara. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would refer to this as “Cheap Grace”—without that cost of disciplined discipleship. A Lankavatarian understanding would concur with Bonhoeffer. Liberation from the cursed and diurnal Wheel of Samsara is not assured through some cheap-trick of the vocal-chords, but rather a disciplined assent through a ten-fold stage of Mind development.
There is also another misunderstanding that the popular imagination has in terms of Amidism referring to dependence upon an “other” vs. a “self” directed power. For the Lankavatarian, there is no “other”—and certainly no dependence upon the “skandhic-self” who strives for liberation. Once again, there is no “other” here—that would only foster a dualistic frame of reference. There is only the Unborn Mind in a perfect state of actuosity. One ascends to this Noble Self-Realization through that ten-fold path to Mind’s Recollection of this perfected actuosity. It is an ascent and not a descent into dualism’s bifurcation of the Unborn into “other” and “self”. When fully attuned with the Dharma-ear (Dhammasota), one ascends all skandhic-dependencies (like intoned or mental utterances) and singularly awakens—through great faith AND reason in the Unborn—from the mad dream of samsara with the Great Realization that the dreaming phenomenal world is nothing apart from the Self-Same Mind Itself.
One also develops the understanding that Buddha Amitabha does not desire to capitalize his Sacred Quadrant over the other Tathagatas. This would be a passion-filled endeavor to say the least. Rather, all the “passions” subside with the Setting-Sun of Amitabha’s marvelous Western Pure-Land as all skandhic-perceptional and phenomenal nominalizationas are rendered null and void in the Clear-Light of the Dharmakaya. Also, like the beautiful unfolding of a Lotus-flower, Amitabha’s Buddha-field is not just one dimensional, but multifaceted. His domain is not an end-in-itself, but rather an ideal-setting for further spiritual progress. That’s the hallmark of Amitabha’s Love and Compassion—for his realm is there for those whose journey towards Liberation needs further refinement. It’s like stopping off into a Cosmic Health-Spa for rest and spiritual rejuvenation. Amitabha’s Sacred-Symbol is the Lotus itself, a gentle and unfolding sign of total and unequivocal embrace, acceptance, and reception for anyone (at whatever level of gnosis) who is willing to be “fine-tuned” by the life-giving Dharma. Meditation with Amitabha will assure rest and absolution from the restless and unfulfilled skandhic-mind, enhancing a more refined taste for eventual Self-Realization and transcendence from all karmic associations and attachments. His mudra is the Dhyana-Mudra—the meditational posture par excellence since it allays all vijananic-disturbances and tribulations. It is a gesture of becoming One with that Unifying Space away from all distracting otherness. Indeed, a Pure-Realm of Infinite Light that dissolves away the darkness of ignorance and enlightens the way to true Self-Liberation.
You wrote: “There is also another misunderstanding that the popular imagination has in terms of Amidism referring to dependence upon an “other” vs. a “self” directed power. ”
But is that really a product of popular imagination? I see the distinction between self-power and other-power as originating in the works of the Chinese Pure Land patriarchs, T’an-luan and Shan-tao.
You also write: “There is a real source of consternation here since it is automatically assumed that even just lazily uttering Amida’s name is all one need do to achieve liberation from samsara.”
I’m not sure who you mean here (“it is automatically assumed”), I suspect you have in mind the masses of Pure Land followers, the vulgus.
Because it seems to me that it is not assumed by authentic Pure Land practitioners that “vocal chord” practice does the truck, much like authentic Zen students do not assume “ass practice” does it.
You write: “Cheap Grace—without that cost of disciplined discipleship.”
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna states in his Commentary on the Ten Bodhisattva Stages:
“In practicing the Buddha-way there is a path of difficult practice and a path of easy practice. The path of difficult practice is like going overland on foot; the easy path is like receiving a favorable wind upon the sea-lanes. The difficult path consists in seeking to attain the stage of nonretrogression within the world of the five defilements; the easy path consists of being born in the Pure Land by virtue of simply entrusting oneself to the Buddha.”
Keep up the wonderful exploring of the mindfield.
PS: forgot to add: I loved the cool metaphor of the pure land health spa! I imagine Pure Land to be just like that.
“One also develops the understanding that Buddha Amitabha does not desire to capitalize his Sacred Quadrant over the other Tathagatas. This would be a passion-filled endeavor to say the least. Rather, all the “passions” subside with the Setting-Sun of Amitabha’s marvelous Western Pure-Land as all skandhic-perceptional and phenomenal nominalizationas are rendered null and void in the Clear-Light of the Dharmakaya.”
Magnificently put. I think this passage from the Garland Sutra testifies to the same:
“The bodies of all Buddhas
Are solely the one dharma-body.
Their minds are one, their wisdoms are one;
So are their powers and fearlessness.”