At that time, Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the Buddha has explained the merits acquired by Tathāgata Akṣhobhya when he was cultivating the Bodhisattva practices. I hope that the World-Honored One will reveal and elaborate on the merits and magnificence of the present land of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya.
Why? So that sentient beings who follow the Bodhisattva-path may delight in the merits of that land after hearing them and desire to see, worship, and make offerings to the Buddha there; and so that sentient beings in the Śrāvaka stage who have realized Arhatship may also wish to worship, make offerings to, and serve that Tathāgata after hearing of the merits and magnificence of his land.”
Śrāvaka stage: usually this term is reserved for those who are “hearers” of the Buddha’s word; in this context it is more generally known as the distinguished-disciples of the Buddha.
who have realized Arhatship: as indicated earlier-on, in the context of this sutra these are no ordinary Arhats, but rather are Transcendental Nirvanists—distinguished as the Worthy-Ones and sealed with a singular anointment by the Tathagatas.
Thc Buddha told Śāriputra, “Well said! It is excellent that you can make a request of such significance. Now listen attentively and think well about this; I will explain it to you in detail.”
Śāriputra said, “Yes, ‘World-Honored One, I am willing and glad to listen.”
Thc Buddha told Śāriputra, “When Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, realized all-knowing wisdom, he emitted a great light over the entire billion-world universe. At the same time, the earth quaked in the six ways. Knowing that Tathāgata Akṣhobhya had realized supreme enlightenment, the sentient beings of that world did not think of food, hunger, thirst, fatigue, a resting place, or sleep for seven days and nights; they felt only peace, happiness, joy, love, and kindness. At that time, all sentient beings in that land, including the gods in the Realm of Desire, were rid of sexual desire. Why were those sentient beings able to enjoy such blessings in that lifetime? It was because of the power of that Tathagata’s original vows. Śāriputra, when Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, realized all-knowing wisdom, all the sentient beings in that land joined their palms with utmost sincerity toward him. Due to this earnest admiration for the Tathāgata, they were able to enjoy such innumerable blessings in that lifetime.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, that Buddha-land is peerless in merit and magnificence among the innumerable Buddha-lands. Śāriputra, that Tathāgata has achieved a superbly adorned Buddha-land because he made those great vows when following the Bodhisattva path, just as I have now achieved what I originally vowed to achieve.
the earth quaked in the six ways: this is tied-in with the seven emotions of sentient beings accompanied by their six desires, and how the very earth quaked when they were set into motion.
The seven emotions: joy, anger, grief, worry, fear, sentiments, affection.
The six desires: lust, vanity, dignity, pleasant sounds, good life/death, sensual pleasures.
It is interesting to note how, in Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land, the usual sensual desires of sentient beings are quieted; most notably here, sexual desires. How is this so? Due to Akṣhobhya’s original vows—they all now become confirmed amidst all the inhabitants of his realm.
“Śāriputra, when Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, realized supreme enlightenment, at that instant, at that very moment, all the sentient beings of that billion-world universe, with or without the deva-eye, could see Tathāgata Akṣhobhya. Śāriputra, it was also the fulfillment of that Tathāgata’s original vows that caused the sentient beings to attain this blessing.
with or without the deva-eye: having the power to see through the extrasensory power of devas.
“Moreover, Śāriputra, when Tathāgata Akṣhobhya realized supreme enlightenment while sitting on the bodhi-site, Papiyan, the king of demons, did not try to hinder him. Also, innumerable hundreds of thousands of gods made offerings to the Tathāgata with fragrant flowers and celestial music; and each one brought fine, powdered sandalwood to sprinkle over the Buddha. The powdered incense and garlands of flowers formed a canopy in the air. Śāriputra all this was made possible by the power of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s original vows.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, when that Buddha attained enlightenment, a great light illuminated the whole billion-world universe, outshining the lights of the sun, moon, and heavens. The appearance of this auspicious sign was also due to the fulfillment of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s past vows.”
while sitting on the bodhi-site: similar to when Gautama sat beneath the Bodhi-tree. The bodhi-site is also known as the bodhimanda—where ALL Buddhas receive Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi (Supreme Enlightenment).
Papiyan, the king of demons: like Māra before him who attempted to disturb Śākyamuni Buddha, yet Papiyan “dare-not” make the attempt with Akṣhobhya, since he IS the Immovable One par-excellence.
Notice again the reiteration of Akṣhobhya’s vows in making all this possible. This reveals the absolute import concerning the nature of vows; when one is faithful to them, then blessings will flow.
At that time, Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, when Bodhisattva Akṣhobhya was following the Bodhisattva path in the past, he wore the great armor of vigor and was therefore able to make those great vows. Because he had cultivated the practices and vows of a Bodhisattva, he could cause innumerable hundreds of thousands of sentient beings to plant good roots leading to supreme enlightenment. He further dedicated those good roots to the attainment of supreme enlightenment and of a pure Buddha-land, which were both fulfilled through the power of such a vow of dedication.
In wearing the ‘armor of vigor’ Akṣhobhya’s power to remain faithful to his vows was sealed through the undivided-power of Bodhi. The fulfillment of his vows was the establishment of his own pure-land, one that was instituted on the self-same power of his great vows.
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Moreover, in that Buddha-land, there is a bodhi-tree made of the seven treasures, one league in height. The trunk of the tree is half a mile in circumference; the shade of its branches and leaves, one league in circumference. Under the tree is a platform, four leagues in circumference, with steps leading down to the ground. That Buddha was seated on the platform when he realized enlightenment. Around the bodhi-tree are rows of palm trees and jasmine trees, which, in the gentle breeze, gave forth a harmonious and elegant sound surpassing all worldly music.
An indication here that in all Buddha-lands there is, in a prominent setting, a Bodhi-tree. Of all the symbolic representations within Buddhism, it is the Bodhi-tree that demands the most praise. Yea, it is the immovable-seat of the One and Undivided Bodhi-mind—the premier venue of a Buddha.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, that Buddha-land does not have the three miserable planes of existence. What are the three? They are: the plane of hell-dweller, the plane of animals, and the realm of Yama. All sentient beings in that Buddha-land have accomplished the good deeds. The ground is as flat as a palm and the color of gold, with no gullies, brambles, or gravel; it is as soft as cotton, sinking as soon as one’s foot steps on it and returning to its original state as soon as the foot is lifted.
“ Śāriputra, that Buddha-land is free of three kinds of sickness. What are the three? They are: the diseases caused by wind, coldness, and phlegm. Śāriputra, in that Buddha-land, all sentient beings are free from lying, an ugly appearance, bad odor, and filth. They have little desire, hatred, and ignorance. There are no jails or prisoners.
“Śāriputra, in that Buddha-land, no one learns or follows heterodox doctrines. The trees there are always laden with flowers and fruits, and there is also a special kind of tree named kalpataru, which produces fine garments of five colors. The garments remain bright, beautiful, fresh, clean, and extraordinarily fragrant all the time. Just as celestial flowers give forth various kinds of fragrance, so do the garmcnts. The fragrance issuing from the bodies of those who wear these garments is exactly the same as that issuing from the garments. The sentient beings in that land, like people in this world who are rich and happy, have plenty of wonderful garments to wear as they please.
no one learns or follows heterodox doctrines: fascinating; the teachings of the Buddhadharma are without end, and lo to those who attempt to interject alien doctrines.
“Śāriputra, the sentient beings in that land, like those in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, obtain the food and drink they need whenever they wish; and they do not discharge excrement, filth, or anything impure.
the heaven of the Thirty-Three: Trayastrimsha Heaven. According to ancient Indian cosmology, the second lowest of the six heavens in the world of desire.
“Śāriputra, the palaces and towers of that land are all decorated with the seven treasures and surrounded by many ponds filled with the water of eight meritorious qualities, to be enjoyed at will. There are also many gardens and pavilions, all pure and clean. The sentient beings there all live with joy in the Dharma.
Seven Treasures: Gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, red pearl and carnelian.
live with joy in the Dharma: Yea, the Land of Wonderful Joy IS Joy IN the Buddhadharma.
“Śāriputra, in that land, there is no jealousy among human beings. Every woman is better than the best in this world, and has achieved celestial merits of which earthly merits are less than one hundredth, one thousandth, one hundredth, one thousandth, one of a hundred thousand million myriad parts, one of any number of parts, numerical or figurative, down to one infinitesimal part.
“Śāriputra, the people of that land possess lavishly decorated couches made of the seven treasures, in accordance with their karmic results. When they sleep or rest, they use pillows made of cotton floss. All these splendid things are achieved by virtue of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s past vows.
“Śāriputra, the food and drink of the people in that land are the same as those of the gods in color, fragrance, and taste. Just as the people of Urtarakuru have only one king, so the people of the Land of Wonderful Joy have only Tathāgata Akṣhobhya as their Dharma-Lord; and just as the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three attend on Sakra, so the people of the Land of Wonderful Joy all attend on Tathāgata Akṣhobhya.
Urtarakuru: one of the four continents in Buddhist cosmology.
“Śāriputra, you should know the merits and magnificence of Akṣhobhya Buddha’s land, Śāriputra, none of the sentient beings of that land arc mentally unrestrained. Why? It is also because of the power of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s original vows.”
Once again, the supreme emphasis on Akṣhobhya’s original vows, like a form of “saving grace” upon the populace of his Buddha-land. Analogous to Christ’s sacrifice, it is through the meritorious nature of his vows that liberation is won in his Buddha-land.