Sutra on the Cause and Condition of the Great Matter of the Benefits of the Name of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life
The Three Saints of Western Paradise (L-R):
Mahastamaprapta Bodhisattva, Amitabha Buddha, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
A Purelander friend brought to my attention this less popular but nevertheless important Pureland Sutra. It’s so important that I decided to spend one and a half off-days to translate it. I hope it inspires you as much, if not more than it inspired me.
If you can’t see the Chinese text, please click > View > Encoding > Chinese Simplified
The Buddha Speaks the Sutra on the Cause and Condition of the Great Matter of the Benefits of the Name of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life
Translated from Sanskrit to Chinese during the Cao-Wei Dynasty
by the Tripitaka Master Samghavaram from India
我闻如是, 一时佛在王舍城耆阇崛山中, 与大比丘众, 千二百五十人俱。诸漏已尽, 神通明达。诸众圣其名曰：尊者阿难、尊者目犍连、尊者舍利弗、尊者大牛王、尊者摩诃迦叶、尊者摩诃伽耶迦叶、尊者大周那、尊者名闻迦叶、尊者大净心志等，皆如斯等以为上首。又普贤菩萨、文殊师利菩萨、信净慧菩萨、善解脱菩萨等诸大正士满足无量愿行，安住不可思议功德之法，智慧圣明。如是等诸菩萨众，不可称计，即时来会。
Thus have I heard, the Buddha was once at Rajagriha City’s Gridhrakuta Peak [Vulture Peak], with great Bhikksus, numbering a thousand two hundred and fifty in all. All were already free from leaks [of passions], with mastery of supernormal powers. The names of all Aryans present are Arya Ananda, Arya Maudgalyayana, Arya Shariputra, Arya Maha Bull King, Arya Maha Kasyapa, Arya Maha Gaya Kasyapa, Arya Maha Cunda, Arya Renowned Kasyapa, Arya Maha Pure Mind Aspiration, all such and more being the foremost. Also present were Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Faithful Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva, Good Liberation Bodhisattva and more, all great upright ones who have fulfilled immeasurable aspirations and practices, who abide in the Dharma of inconceivable merits, the sacred illumination of wisdom. Such and many other Bodhisattvas, who are impossible to name and count, have gathered there.
Then, the World-honoured One said to Ananda: A distant immeasurable and boundless number of kalpas ago in the past was a great Bhikkshu, whose name was Dharmakara. Having encountered countless hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, he fulfilled immeasurable great vows, and transcended the practices of all Buddhas. That Dharmakara Bhikkshu, who has now already attained right awakening, now resides in the Western Land of Purity, Peace and Bliss [Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land], and is called the Tathagata of Inconceivable Light and Immeasurable Life. Due to the power of this Buddha’s original vows, with inconceivable and mighty supernormal powers, he fully pervades the worlds of the ten directions, using a great voice to declare the merits of his name.
This is so as if all sentient beings of the worlds of the ten directions are to hear the merits of this name, they will immediately enter the stage of non-retrogression, and be born in this Buddha’s Land of Purity, Peace and Bliss [Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land]. This is so as sentient beings, though born as humans as a result of past karma, be they deaf, blind, mute, deluded or wildly evil, due to the cause and condition of [being mindful of] this Buddha’s name of brightness, will all attain liberation. And those born in the three lower realms of hardship with uninterrupted suffering, due to the cause and condition of [being mindful of] this Buddha’s name of brightness, will all receive liberation. Hearing this name of brightness, if one faithfully receives, if one calls [recites] it [mindfully], one will instantly eradicate negative karma of immeasurable and countless kalpas.
This is so, Ananda, as when calling that Buddha’s name, if once, if ten times, even if up to hundreds of thousands of times and from thought to thought, the countless manifestations of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life will always protect this person. Also, there are two Bodhisattvas, one called Avalokiteshvara, one called Mahastamaprapta. These two Bodhisattvas who aspire to be the foremost, together with all great Bodhisattvas, will come forth to protect one. After this person’s lifespan ends, one will be born in that Land of Immeasurable Life, Purity, Peace and Bliss [Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land].
This is so, Ananda, as if there is ferocious fire filling the three thousand great thousand world system, that one has to cross, when one hears the name of that Buddha, this person will call forth the birth of a white lotus within the fire. This is named the inconceivable name, which benefits the cause and conditions of the one great matter. Due to the power of this Buddha’s original vows, all Buddhas of the ten directions together praise the merits of that Buddha’s name, also praising the kinds of sentient beings who are mindful of that Buddha, which is why you and all should believe and accept that Buddha’s name.
The World-honoured One said to Ananda: The Tathagata arose within this world, so as to speak of the inconceivable true meritorious virtues of the name of brightness, that benefits the cause and conditions of the one great matter. Thus, I say this is difficult to encounter, difficult to see, difficult to attain, difficult to hear of. If there are beings, who hear this Dharma, they should all believe and follow it, to cultivate accordingly.
The World-honoured One said to Ananda: That Dharmakara Bhikkshu, for the sake of saving all sentient beings of the ten directions, though having given rise to transcendental aspirations and cultivation of immeasurable great practices, is originally, in the distant past the true and ever-present Dharmakaya. By the inconceivable supernormal powers of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, he fully pervades the worlds of the ten directions, to teach, transform and safely establish countless sentient beings, to abide on the unsurpassable path to truth. This he does in the form of Ksatriya kings, Wheel-turning kings, householder elders, of a noble family, or kings of the heavens of six desires, Brahma kings and so forth, or hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals or asuras, always doing everything with the four respect-inspiring forms of conduct. Ananda, that distant Buddha of Immeasurable Life who is truly the ever-present Dharmakaya, is but no different person! Today, the World-Honoured One, with this body of mine is such [a manifestation]. Being compassionately mindful of you and all sentient beings in the great dark night of delusion, from that unconditioned World of Peaceful Nurturing [Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land], I manifest within these evil times’ evil worlds, in Gaya, Rajagriha and so forth, to speak of the inconceivable cause and condition of the merits of that Buddha’s name. This is thus difficult to encounter, difficult to see, difficult to attain, difficult to hear of. Therefore, if there are any sentient beings who hear of this Dharma, they should all believe and accept it, and cultivate themselves accordingly.
The World-honoured One said to Ananda: Even though all sentient beings, have afflictions and evil karma, deep obstacles with heavy retribution, that Buddha’s name of brightness, has supernormal powers that cannot be obstructed. This is so as that Buddha’s name has unobstructed and unparalleled purity, wisdom, rejoice and so forth. As the wisdom is unobstructed, the mighty supernormal powers are unobstructed; as the supernormal powers are unobstructed, the great loving-kindness and compassion is unobstructed. This is so as all sentient beings in the evil world of turbidities, if they have little wisdom, which obstructs, have doubt of the Buddha’s unobstructed wisdom, inconceivable wisdom, incalculable wisdom, victorious Mahayana wisdom, incomparable supreme wisdom, are doubtful without faith, and due to doubt, for many countless kalpas, fall into Samvara hell or enter Pindala hell, experiencing boundless suffering, with no [definite] date of exit. This is so as if there are sentient beings, who have right faith in the wisdom of the Buddha, they can immediately enter the state certain of attaining enlightenment, that is the non-retrogressible Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi. This is named the inconceivable meritorious virtues of the name, which benefits the cause and conditions of the great matter.
When the Buddha has thus spoken this Sutra, the great Earth at once shook in six ways, and the sky rained wondrous flowers. Naturally in the air was a great wondrous voice, praising that Buddha’s name of inconceivable light, immeasurable life and purity, and the World-honoured One’s speaking today, of the cause and conditions of the great matter’s benefits. When the World-honoured One was speaking this Sutra, immeasurable sentient beings aspired towards the unsurpassable true path. All devas and humans realised the fruit of Anagamihood, all great Bodhisattvas used the Four Great Vows to adorn their merits, becoming bound for right awakening in future lives. When the Buddha has thus spoken this Sutra, all great Bodhisattvas, Ananda and all great Sravaka disciples, having heard what the Buddha taught, rejoiced and venerated the Buddha before departure.
(Respectfully translated from Chinese to English by Shen Shi’an. Amituofo)