Risk and Reliance in the Pure Land

In modern Western Buddhism today, I feel that there is too much comfort, and not enough risk. Our materialism has turned Buddhism into a religion of material, where formally it was not. People commonly say “here is my Zen space” or “that is so Zen”  without even understanding a single thing about Zen. Other people may surround themselves with images of the Buddha, statues and trinkets, not for contemplation, but merely as décor for their office or household. This is comfort, and not risk, and is what I mean when I say too much comfort and not enough risk. This comfort, in my opinion is not Buddhism at all, and has turned Western Buddhism into a Capitalist commodity. In ancient times, monks would peel the clothe from dead bodies in order to make their robes, today’s monks can wear Nikes. This is what I refer to when I say that risk, rather then comfort, is true Buddhism. This risk stems purely out of our reliance to the Dharma. When we are able to rely entirely on the Dharma, giving our self to it fully, all notions of an ego can vanish, and our actions can become those of a being destined for the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

When we understand risk in the Dharma, we understand Emptiness, we subsequently allow our unhindered reliance in the Primal Vows of Amitabha, become our own devotion to all sentient beings. We should not question the expediencies that the One True Dharma shows us. Some suffering may be a trial, whilst others may be completely self-inflicted, our deluded minds most times, do not allow us to know which is which, and we may lament when we suffer along in our Dharmic Path, thinking, “perhaps this is not for us…”, when this happens we must be willing to take the plunge and risk our faith in Amitabha and the Dharma, by placing our reliance entirely on the Other Power of Amitabha. We should devote ourselves single-mindedly, to chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha, to ease the suffering of all sentient beings, before our own existence.

Relying on the Other Power

One risks their self for the selves of countless others

Knowing all suffering beings have their place

Before the Lion Throne of Amitabha;

Care less about this revolving world of dust

And care more for the Pure Land Gates

We can find an example of risk in, and reliance on the Dharma resulting in a rebirth in the Pure Land in the Amitayurdhana Sutra(Visualization Sutra). In this Sutra, we find Queen Vaidehi, who must take a risk in order to assure the survival of the dispossessed King Bimbisara, her husband, who has been locked up in a prison of seven walls by their own son, Prince(now King) Agatasatru. This risk is taken by covering her body with honey and ghee mixed with a flour, and hiding wine in her garlands, so that Bimbisara, in his prison cell was able to eat. Vaidehi risks her own life, for that of her husband, against the wishes of the new King, who has ordered Bimbisara to be starved to death. This risk, eventually lands Vaidehi in a Prison of her very own, and  just barely misses the sting of matricide because of the virtue of some nobles in Agatasatru’s court. 

Even while in this prison, Vaidehi continues her practice on the Dharma, solely due to her reliance in her faith. Even in isolation, and in the fits of sorrow and despair, her risk in relying on the Dharma, devoting herself entirely to it, proves to be her reward. The Buddha Shakyamuni comes to visit her while she is paying homage in her prison cell, by means of teleportation no less, in order to show her countless Pure Lands which she has a choice to be reborn in. Of these countless Pure Lands, Queen Vaidehi chose the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Even while locked up or imprisoned, both Bimbisara and Vaidehi were able to continue their practice in the Dharma. In modern times, we are imprisoned more and more by our desires, but this does not mean we shouldn’t make time to cultivate the Dharma, on the contrary, it suggests we should take every possible moment to practice and cultivate the Dharma. When we can do this, all risks we take or encounter because of our unhindered  reliance on the Primal Vows of Amitabha, can have their reward, that guaranteed reward of rebirth in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss

Even while in prison or imprisoned

To this world of gathering dust

One can still rely on the compassion of Amida

To take risks and find the reward

In his Primal Vows which spare none

Allowing all, an easy entry to the Land of Bliss


2 thoughts on “Risk and Reliance in the Pure Land

  1. A wonderful sermon, you speak true and profound words with faith and eloquence! The message about the commercialization of the Dharma nowadays is well said and something we must all be aware of. Moreover, it is very true that to realize the Way, one must go all in, just like you cannot swim to the other shore with one foot in the water and one firmly planted in the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One foot on the beach
      The other in the water
      To be afraid of drowning
      Means one never learned to swim

      I enjoyed your metaphor. And thank you. Sermon? I dont feel quite that honored to say that my work is a Sermon but thank you. Coming from you, who has studied the Dharma alot more then I have, I am humbled.
      I Recently started to watch the documentary on Venerable Hai Xian that you suggested. What a remarkable Bodhisattva, who was true to the cultivation of Dharma and the practice of singlemindedly chanting the Buddha’s Name. He is a great inspiration for all Buddhists. It is a shame he is not more well known in the west.


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