Pure Land

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Pure Land (Skt., sukhāvatī; Chin., ching-t'u; Jap., jōdo). An untainted transcendent realm created by the Buddha Amitābha (Amida), to which his devotees aspire to be born in their next lifetime. Since all the conditions in Pure Land propel one toward enlightenment, anyone born there will attain nirvāna quickly and easily. According to Mahāyāna doctrine, there are countless Pure Lands or Buddha Lands (Skt., buddhakṣetra; Chin., fo-t'u; Jap., butsudo), each produced by a different Buddha. In addition to Amitābha's, the one created by the Buddha Akṣobhya is frequently mentioned in Buddhist writings. None the less, only the Pure Land of Amitābha ever achieved widespread popularity in E. Asian Buddhism. Hence, in China, Korea, and Japan the expression ‘Pure Land’ came to be used as a proper noun signifying Amitābha's transcendent realm rather than as a generic term for any Buddha Land.

Detailed descriptions of the Pure Land are contained in three Pure Land sūtras (Sukhāvatīvyuha Sūtras) revered by E. Asian Buddhists: Wu-liang-shou ching (Jap., Muryojukyo; Larger Pure Land Sūtra); O-mi-tʾo ching (Jap., Amidakyo; Smaller Pure Land Sūtra); Kuan wu-liang-shou-fo ching (Jap., Kanmuryōjukyō; Pure Land Meditation Sūtra). According to them, Amitābha's realm is located in the western direction, and it is known by the name Sukhāvati (Skt.; Chin., chilo; Jap., gokuraku), meaning ‘Utmost Bliss’. The chanting of Amitābha's name, known in Japan as the nembutsu, emerged as the most common practice.