Hello, I've joined this forum in order to express some doubts that I have. I've read the story about Dharmakara before he became Amitabha Buddha. My question is how really likely is it for some ordinary human to be able to go through five aeons (that's five big bangs) of nothing but sheer practice without retrogressing on the path in order to become a Buddha and create this pure land? I really don't mean to be offensive in any way, but how can anyone with a sane mind believe in something that sounds so irrational and fairy tale like? Not to mention the anti woman sentiments in one of the vows? Is a perfectly enlightened Buddha really supposed to have a discriminatory mind like that? Just doesn't make sense. I do not wish to offend anyone, if I did then I apologize.
I have a lot of confidence, based on my own experience, in Pure Land practice.
And, it's totally stupid. It's brilliantly, stupidly simple.
It cuts through the most developed level of intellectual processing.
In other words, you have obviously given this matter considerable thought,
carefully analyzed the situation, and looked at it quite logically.
But in spite of that, all hope is not lost!
Pure land is perfect for deep thinkers such as yourself.
It is not very easy for somebody to become Amitabha, as you have noted. So far, it looks as though it has only happened once. Amitabha made 48 vows specifically for people like you and me, who still cling to the safety net of having a sane mind. There is nothing quite like nice square thinking in neat logical little boxes, to give one something solid to hold onto. What a shame!
So, don't worry about your doubts. Don't worry about fairy tales.
just recite Amitabha's name.
That's all it's about...letting go of your calculating mind.
Regarding Vow #35, which promises women that they will be reborn as men, that appears pretty sexist alright. But before that, in Vow #10 he says that if beings reborn in the Pure land are still "cherish any thought of attachment to the body, may I not achieve the highest enlightenment" and so, the body naturally must also include gender.
So, male or female in the Pure land really doesn't matter. You have to examine this in that context, as well as in the context of ancient Indian society, which in some ways is similar to modern Indian society, especially regarding the status of women. What you might call this is a patchwork solution. He could have said, "if men and women are not given equal status in the Pure land, then the deal's off" but that would have still maintained attachment to the (differing) forms of the physical body. I think, in fact, what he is actually saying is that very thing, that women and men will have equal status.
The language is problematic, and there are various translations, and what ever was originally recorded may have been distorted over time as well. This is speculation, but it is valid speculation because of the fact that one's physical bodily form must be of no consequence in the Pure Land.
The problem arises from a somewhat convoluted way of seeing things,
and it is not a big deal to assume that this is because so much of this stuff is written by men.
"Feminine" as a concept can be regarded as a negative trait in a purely misogynist way, meaning really being anti-woman. That's one thing.
But can also refer to the (very convoluted) idea that inequality, some weakness or lesser ability is an inherent female trait. In other words, "I'm not against women, I'm just against all that weakness which is a characteristic of femininity, and that that women wouldn't have if they were men" which, by today's understanding is obviously all bullsh## but even in the last century in our "modern" western world, Europe & America, you see this kind of thinking. Even today, there are women as well as men who assert that the qualities of being feminine include subservience to masculinity.
The Buddha was quite remarkable in that he allowed women to be "monks" which was quite an unusual thing in Ancient India. Of course, you can't ever move too far ahead of the prevalent sexism of the day, and I think Vow #35 is a reflection of this. It is, I think, a guy's attempt at grasping some notion of women's equality. It doesn't really make sense otherwise.