Shakyamuni Buddha declares that there are COUNTLESS
Buddha-lands (countless worlds) in a universe that is so
vast and stretches so far beyond our own conceptual
boundaries of time and space - that we cannot even
comprehend it properly in our current state as BOMBUS -
even as brilliant scientific BOMBUS.
Shakyamuni's vision extends far beyond the vision of even
our best theories and theorists. It includes a time BEFORE
the Big Bang, and is not at all bounded by what scientists
think of as the bounds of the particular universe we are
able to see via our astro-physics and our mathematics.
In fact, the more scientists seem to discover, the more
clear it becomes that these "discoveries" were well known
by Shakyamuni when He walked among us twenty five
Two brief examples:
Example #1: Recently there was a big hullabaloo among the
scientific set, because apparently there are many more
stars that are capable of having life-supporting planets
than they ever imagined before. Scientists now believe
that there are 30 BILLION stellar environments capable of
supporting planets like ours, with life forms of one sort
Example #2: Some of the most widely respected of our
scientists are increasingly considering the possibilities
of ALTERNATE UNIVERSES. Of course, this has been the stuff
of science fiction, but now the idea is being taken
These two examples of our evolving understanding dovetail
perfectly with Shakyamuni's declarations about the
countless Buddha-lands in the ten directions.
Now...each of these countless Buddha-lands has its own
Buddha who is spiritually "in charge". That does not imply
that there is only one Buddha per Buddha-land. Shakyamuni
and our Dharma masters teach that there are COUNTLESS
Buddhas, and that many of them are involved with us, right
here in this Buddha-land, working ceaselessly to lead each
and every sentient being to Buddhahood, over time.
Now let's talk about the FORM of the Buddha - because this
is an essential BIG PICTURE idea in order to understand
what we've said so far.
There is a very BASIC teaching to which all of the
Mahayana Buddhists (including the Vajrayana, or Tibetan,
Buddhists) subscribe to: It is called the TRIKAYA teaching
– a.k.a. the teaching of the THREE BODIES (or FORMS) OF
Here's a brief description of these three Buddha bodies:
Buddha Body #1: The DHARMAKAYA Body - This is the form of
Buddha that is all pervasive, formless, and truly
inconceivable in terms of rational thought or discourse.
It is the universal consciousness that penetrates and
permeates everything, everywhere.
When we have a brief period in which our egoic
consciousness seemingly drops away, we can and do have
moments of primal apperception of this Buddha body. It is
the common thread of all mystics and mysticism, even
though it is named and described differently in various
spiritual and religious traditions.
Buddhists on the Path of the Sages do various practices in
order to CULTIVATE this primal apperception - which in
some Buddhist writing is called SUCHNESS.
Some people refer to it as THE VIEW.
Now...having this experience of the Dharmakara Body - or
Suchness - or The View - is a wonderful thing. It's an
incredible spiritual bread crumb - a bread crumb that
awakens our deepest desire - which is to stabilize this
experience, which happens when a being becomes a Buddha.
The problem is, it is impossible for us to stabilize this
experience – a.k.a. to become Buddhas - in this Dharma age
known as Mappo or the Age of Declining Dharma.
Buddha Body #2: The NIRMANAKAYA Body - The Nirmanakaya
body is the body of an individuated, fully enfleshed
Buddha. The last Buddha in our world to inhabit such a
body was Shakyamuni. That body was a prison for Him -
chosen voluntarily - until He left it behind at age 80,
when it was old and worn out...just as any human body will
As Shakyamuni Buddha taught in the Larger Sutra, it is
VERY RARE for an individuated Buddha to actually inhabit a
Nirmanakaya body. In this Buddha-land, the next Buddha who
will do so is currently the great Bodhisattva MAITREYA.
And he will not become a Nirmanakaya Buddha until
5,670,000,000 years from now.
In the beginning of the Larger Sutra, Shakyamuni names 53
separate Nirmanakaya Buddhas, ending with the Buddha
Lokeshvararaja. He was the Buddha of His time and place
when Dharmakara (a king) renounced his kingdom, took up a
monk's vocation, and came to visit Lokeshvararaja, seeking
guidance and counsel.
What was he seeking guidance and counsel about? Of course,
it was how to become a Buddha himself, and how to help
everyone else become a Buddha as well.
Buddha Body #3: The SAMBOGHAKAYA Body - Since the
appearance of a NIRMANAKAYA body Buddha is so rare, what
form are the countless individuated Buddhas all in? They
are the form of TRANSCENDENTAL, NON-PHYSICAL Buddhas -
often called Buddhas of REWARD BODY. This is the third
form of Buddha Body.
When Dharmakara Bodhisattva finally completed His great
work, took possession of the Pure Land and became the
Buddha Amida, he became the greatest of all the
individuated Buddhas. The Larger Sutra makes this totally
clear, when it talks about the size and strength of the
various Buddhas' Buddha-fields.
Some Buddha's buddha-fields are a meter long. Some a
kilometer. Some a hundred kilometers. But the Buddha-field
of Amida Buddha is INFINITE. There is no place in the
universe into which it does not penetrate...there is no
sentient being who is not touched, and ultimately
transformed, by His light. Amida’s Buddha-light shines,
unimpeded, into the deepest depth of the Hell realms, so
ultimately ALL beings are respond to it. No one - NO ONE -
is beyond Amida's life and light.
So...our great, BIG PICTURE, purpose and goal is to
complete, as soon as possible, our endless journey of many
lifetimes, and finally become what we were always destined
to one day be.
Our goal is to become BUDDHAS.
Not NIRMANAKAYA Buddhas...but rather SAMBOGHAKAYA Buddhas.
Not flesh-bound Buddhas...but rather Buddhas who are
transcendental, capable of doing things and taking forms
that no flesh-bound Buddha could.
Master Shinran talks a lot about this. He says, over and
over again, that when we go to the Pure Land as people of
settled SHINJIN, we IMMEDIATELY experience the final
transformation and become transcendental Buddhas.
And then, once we are transcendental Buddhas, we
IMMEDIATELY return to this Saha world (or perhaps some
other like it), and begin to join in the great work of ALL
the Buddhas, which is to lead all sentient beings to
become Buddhas, too.
This great purpose, and great work, is summed up so
wonderfully in the Bodhisattva Vow: "Beings are
numberless; I vow to save them ALL".
So that's the BIG PICTURE of the Buddha-Dharma...the
teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. First we become Buddhas
ourselves...and then, using skillful means and the
unimpeded power that only transcendental Buddhas have, we
will join with all the other Buddhas to help everyone else
come to Buddhahood as well.
Finally, when Dharmakara Bodhisattva finally completed His
Pure Land and became Amida Buddha, ruling over it, it was
the game changer of the ages.
All the Buddhas recognized what Amida had done - and they
all worshipped and praised Him for it - and then they all
joined in as His own co-workers to lead everyone along,
until each and every one entrusts himself (or herself)
FULLY to Amida and His Primal Vow.
It IS the work of the ages...the great existential
purpose...the great cause...the great teaching.
"Everything I teach is about suffering...and the END of
suffering"...so said Shakyamuni Buddha.
And so, at the end of this life, whether it comes today or
many years from now, I too will go to the Pure Land, and
become a Buddha, and return to "play in the forests of
Samsara". No doubt, I will first seek out those with whom
I have had the closest karmic relations in this lifetime.
But no doubt my assistance will go far beyond that, too.
As Master Shinran said, in some life hidden in the
unknowable past, EVERY being was once my mother, my
father, my sister, my brother, or my child.
It's an incredible vision - not just in its scope, but in
its benign compassion. It's a UNIVERSAL vision - a vision
where NO ONE is eternally condemned no matter how evil
their karmic actions once were.
ALL - each and every one - is fully and completely saved
and brought to the pinnacle of existence - TRUE
Amida, joined by all the other Buddhas, and countless
advanced Bodhisattvas too, will not stop until the work is
How wonderful it is to know that!
Thank You, Amida Buddha!
NAMU AMIDA BUTSU!