afflictions. Condition or cause of pain, distress, and suffering which disturbs the
body and mind. They can be thoughts of gain or loss, of wanting to control others,
of criticism or slander. They might be worries, doubts, regrets, and so much more.
Amitabha. The name of the Buddha of the Western Pure Land, primarily meaning "Infinite
Life and Infinite Light." To help all beings attain Buddhahood, Amitabha Buddha created
the Western Pure Land, an ideal place of cultivation.
attachments. These are desires, the emotional cravings for family, friends, possessions,
sensuous pleasures, erroneous views, life, the idea of the self as an individual,
bodhisattva. One who has vowed to attain Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment for themselves
as well as for all beings. While Buddhas symbolize our virtuous nature, bodhisattvas
represent the virtue of practice, without which, the innate virtuous nature cannot
Buddha. Buddha is a Sanskrit word, meaning "wisdom and enlightenment." A Buddha is
one who has reached supreme perfection both in self-realization and in helping others
to attain realization. The innumerable Buddhas are not gods to be worshipped but
compassionate and wise beings to be respected and emulated.
causality, or cause and effect. Everything that happens to us is the result of what
we have thought, said, or done. In this lifetime, we are undergoing the consequences
of what we had done primarily in our previous lifetimes and sometimes earlier in
our current lifetime. What we do now will determine what we will undergo in our future
Dharma. When capitalized, Dharma means the teachings of the Buddhas. When lowercased,
dharmas can either mean laws and doctrines, or things in general, phenomena, and
enlightenment. Generally means Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, the enlightenment
of the Buddhas. It is to see one’s true nature and to comprehend reality perfectly.
Five Practice Guidelines. (1) The Three Conditions, (2) the Six Harmonies, (3) the
Threefold Learning, (4) the Six Paramitas, and (5) Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Ten
Five Precepts. The Five Precepts are abstentions from (1) killing; (2) stealing;
(3) committing sexual, or sensual, misconduct; (4) lying; and (5) taking intoxicants.
five Pure Land sutras and one treatise. (1) Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra
of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School (Infinite
Life Sutra);(2) Amitabha Sutra; (3) Visualization Sutra; (4) the “Chapter on the
Vows and Practices of Samantabhadra” from the Avatamsaka Sutra; (5) the “Chapter
on the Perfect and Complete Realization of Mahasthamaprapta” from the Surangama Sutra;
and (6) the Rebirth Treatise.
forty-eight vows. Different Bodhisattvas make different vows. Dharmakara Bodhisattva
made forty-eight vows before he became Amitabha Buddha. He wished to create an ideal
land for all those who wished to transcend rebirth within samsara. These beings would
be born in the Pure Land as Bodhisattvas who would never regress in their practice.
They would learn all the ways to help other beings transcend birth and death, and
to attain Buddhahood.
Four Kindnesses. The Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), parents, teachers, all
good fortune. All the goodness in one’s life. It may manifest as happiness, friends,
family, health, longevity, intelligence, prosperity, position, and more. Good fortune
is the benefit of the human and heaven realms, and can be carried with us from one
life to another but it cannot help us to transcend rebirth within samsara.
ignorance or delusion. In the Mahayana tradition, this term comprises two aspects:
the first is wrong views and knowledge; the second is lack of correct knowledge.
To eradicate ignorance of delusion, we need to eliminate our incorrect views and
to uncover our innate, all-knowing wisdom.
Infinite Life Sutra. One of the three primary sutras of the Pure Land school, the
Infinite Life Sutra is often called the longer Amitabha Sutra. The shorter version
is called the Amitabha Sutra. The Amitabha sutras are unusual in that they were self-spoken.
Shakyamuni Buddha, knowing that the time was right for this teaching, initiated the
teaching himself. This was unusual because almost all of the teachings by the Buddha
were the result of a question being raised by one of his students.
karma. A deed. Karma is divided into three types: good, bad, or pure—that which is
neither good nor bad. Good karma leads to favorable results and rebirth in the higher
realms of samsara. Bad karma leads to bad results and rebirth in the lower realms
of samsara. Pure karma leads to enlightenment and enables one to transcend samsara.
Mahayana. One of the two major branches of Buddhism, it is the bodhisattva path of
aspiring to help all sentient beings to attain enlightenment.
merits and virtues. Merits are accumulated by selflessly doing good deeds without
wandering thoughts, discriminations, or attachments, as well as through the correction
of our erroneous thoughts and behavior. Virtues arise from deep concentration and
phenomena. Things, events, happenings: everything in the universe. Noumenon is the
principle or essence and is perceived through intuition or thought while phenomena
is the event or form and is perceived through the senses. Noumenon is the theory:
Phenomena is the reality.
precepts. In Buddhism, precepts are rules that were laid down by the Buddha to guide
his students from erroneous thoughts, speech, and behavior. However, one need not
be a Buddhist to uphold these precepts. In the more general sense, precepts are rules
or principles that prescribe a particular course of action or conduct.
pure mind. The mind without wandering thoughts, discriminations, or attachments.
The pure mind has no thoughts of like or dislike, favorable or unfavorable. It has
no greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, or wrong views. It is the calm mind
that is no longer affected by the environment. It is the serene and natural state
of all beings.
root of goodness. Good qualities or seeds sown in a good life to be reaped later.
The ultimate benefit of deep roots of goodness for Pure Land practitioners is rebirth
in the Western Pure Land.
samsara. The relentless cycle of rebirth in which ordinary beings are deeply entangled.
The three upper realms are heavens, demi-gods, and humans. The three lower realms
are animals, hungry ghosts, and hells.
Sangha. A group of four or more people who properly practice the Buddha’s teaching
together, especially the Six Harmonies.
Sanskrit. A language of ancient India.
sentient-being.A living being that is self-aware and that can experience feeling
Six Harmonies. The Six Harmonies, the second of our five practice guidelines, are
the basis for harmonious interaction in the family, the Sangha, and in groups. Especially
for practitioners, they harmony in (1) having the same viewpoints, (2) observing
the same precepts, (3) living together, (4) speaking without conflict, (5) experiencing
the Dharma bliss, and (6) sharing benefits.
Six Paramitas. The fourth of our Practice Guidelines. Bodhisattvas abide by six guidelines
that are called the Six Paramitas, or Perfections. These teach us how to remedy our
major afflictions. The six are (1) giving, (2) precept observation (moral self-discipline),
(3) patience, (4) diligence, (5) meditative concentration, and (6) wisdom.
sutra. Teachings by the Buddha, initially given verbally, later compiled, and written
down by the Buddha’s students; as well as teachings by bodhisattvas.
Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. SamantabhadraBodhisattva personifies
the vows and conduct of the Buddhas. He is usually depicted seated on an elephant
with six tusks that represent the Six Paramitas, which are the fifth of our practice
guidelines. The ten vows are to (1) Respect all Buddhas, (2) Praise Tathagata, (3)
Make offerings extensively, (4) Repent karmic obstacles, (5) Rejoice at others’ meritorious
deeds, (6) Request the turning of the Dharma wheel, (7) Request the Buddha to remain
in this world, (8) Constantly follow the Buddha’s teachings, and (10) Accommodate
all sentient beings.
Ten Virtuous Conducts. The Ten virtuous Conducts are basic to our practice of Buddhism.
The ten can be categorized as physical, verbal, and mental conducts to protect the
three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. Physically, we are prohibited from (1) killing,
(2) stealing, and (3) engaging in sexual, or sensual, misconduct. Verbally, we are
prohibited from (4) using false speech, (5) using harsh speech, (6) using divisive
speech, or (7) using enticing speech. Mentally, we are prohibited from giving rise
to thoughts of (8) greed, (9) anger, and (10) ignorance.
Three Conditions. The first of our Five Practice Guidelines. The First Condition
is be filial and care and provide for parents, be respectful to and serve teachers,
be compassionate and do not kill, and cultivate the Ten Virtuous Karmas. The Second
Condition is take the Three Refuges, abide by all precepts, and behave in a dignified
and appropriate manner. The Third Condition is generate the Bodhi mind, believe deeply
in the law of cause and effect, recite and uphold the Mahayana sutras, and encourage
others to advance on the path to enlightenment
three karmas. Created by our body, mouth, and mind, they are our actions, speech,
Threefold Learning. The third of our Practice Guidelines. Moral self-discipline,
or precepts keeping, leads to meditative concentration that gives rise to innate
wisdom. The Threefold Learning is the fourth of our five practice guidelines. To
practice according to the teachings is self-discipline. When our minds are settled
and focused on one method of cultivation, we will have meditative concentration.
With meditative concentration, we will uncover our innate wisdom.
true nature. Our original, true self that we still have, but is which is currently
covered by deluded thoughts and evil karma. In essence, since we have the same true
nature as Buddhas have, we are equal in nature to the Buddhas. Once we eliminate
our delusion, we will uncover this true nature and attain Supreme Enlightenment.
virtues. See merits.
Visualization Sutra.The third of the primary sutras of the Pure Land School. In
the Visualization Sutra, we learn that when Queen Vaidehi suffered from overwhelming
family misfortune, she bitterly said to Shakyamuni Buddha: "Life is filled with
suffering. Is there not a place without it? I wish to live in such a world." Shakyamuni
Buddha displayed for her all the Buddha lands in the universe. After seeing all the
worlds, she herself chose the Western Pure Land and vowed to be reborn into that
world. Concerned about those who would come after her and, consequently, be unable
to learn directly from the Buddha, she asked on their behalf how to achieve rebirth
into the Pure Land.
wandering thoughts. Afflictions that cloud our true nature. To have no wandering
thoughts means to have absolute proper and virtuous thoughts, not that our minds
are empty of all thoughts. As ordinary beings, we use an illusory mind, the mind
that arises and ceases, and that has innumerable wandering thoughts. Enlightened
beings use the true mind that constantly dwells on truth. They do not have wandering
thoughts but meditative concentration, the state without discriminatory, wandering
thoughts or attachments.
Western Pure Land. The world created by Amitabha Buddha. It is an ideal place of
cultivation, for those who are born there are no longer subject to rebirth.