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Selections from The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus (vegan): 1st – 4th Contemplation, Part 1 of 2

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Amitayurdhyana Sutra or Sutra on Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life or Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus, is a Mahayana sutra in Pure Land Buddhism. It is one of the three major most important Pure Land sutras beside the Infinite Life Sutra and the Amitabha Sutra. The sutra is mainly on meditations via complex visualization. The Buddha of Infinite Light and Life, or Amitābha and Amitāyus in Sanskrit, or O-mi-tuo fo in Chinese, and Amida in Japanese, is said to reside in the Land of Utmost Bliss (Sukhāvatī), to the far west of this world, well beyond the realm of samsara.

In the Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha describes the sixteen stages of contemplations, or mental visualization exercises that are to be followed in sequence. Through deep contemplation on the various aspects of the Pure Land and visualizing them in detail, the aspirant will be able to draw closer to the Pure Land. We will now share with you “Selections from The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus (vegan): 1st – 4th Contemplation.”

1) Contemplation of the setting sun “The Buddha said to Vaidehi, ‘You and other sentient beings should concentrate and, with one-pointed attention, turn your thoughts westward. How do you contemplate? All sentient beings except those born blind -- that is, all those with the faculty of sight -- should look at the setting sun. Sit in the proper posture, facing west. Clearly gaze at the sun, with the mind firmly fixed on it; concentrate your sight and do not let it wander from the setting sun, which is like a drum suspended above the horizon. Having done so, you should then be able to visualize it clearly, whether your eyes are open or closed. This is the visualizing of the sun and is known as the first contemplation. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”

2) Contemplation of the water “The Buddha said to Ananda and Vaidehi, ‘After you have accomplished the first contemplation, next, practice visualization of water. Envision the western quarter as entirely flooded by water. Then picture the water as clear and pure, and let this vision be distinctly perceived. Keep your thoughts from being distracted. After you have visualized the water, envision it becoming frozen. After you have visualized the ice as transparent to its depth, see it turning into beryl. When you have attained this vision, next, imagine that the beryl ground shines brilliantly, inside and out, and that this ground is supported from below by columns, which are made of diamond and the seven jewels and hung with golden banners. These columns have eight sides and eight corners, each side being adorned with a hundred jewels. Each jewel emits a thousand rays of light, each ray in turn having eighty-four thousand colors. As they are reflected on the beryl ground, they look like a thousand kotis of suns, so dazzling that it is impossible to see them in detail.’ ‘On this beryl ground, golden paths intercross like a net of cords. The land is divided into areas made of one or the other of the seven jewels, so the partitions are quite distinct. Each jewel emits a flood of light in five hundred colors. The light appears in the shape of a flower or a star or the moon; suspended in the sky, it turns into a platform of light, on which there are ten million pavilions made of a hundred jewels. Both sides of this platform are adorned with a hundred kotis of flowered banners and innumerable musical instruments. As eight pure breezes arise from the light and play the musical instruments, they proclaim the truth of suffering, emptiness, Impermanence, and no-self. This is the visualizing of the water and is known as the second contemplation.’”

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