The sutra’s audience is Queen Vaidehi, who’s been imprisoned by her own son. Shakyamuni Buddha visits her, and she asks how one can be reborn in the Pure Land.
By the sutra’s end, however, she’s already enlightened, rather than waiting for rebirth in the Pure Land:
According to the sutra, Amida is “not very far from here,” rather than billions of galaxies to the west:When Buddha had finished this speech, Vaidehi, together with her five hundred female attendants, could see, as guided by the Buddha’s words, the scene of the far-stretching World of the Highest Happiness, and could also see the body of Buddha and the bodies of the two Bodhisattvas. With her mind filled with joy she praised them, saying: ‘Never have I seen such a wonder!’ Instantaneously she became wholly and fully enlightened, and attained a spirit of resignation, prepared to endure whatever consequences might yet arise.
In fact, the sutra promises that by visualizing Amida Buddha, we can realize him as our own Buddha-nature:Then the World-Honored One said: 'Now do you not know, Vaidehi, that Buddha Amitayus is not very far from here? You should apply your mind entirely to close meditation upon those who have already perfected the pure actions necessary for that Buddha country.
The historical Buddha’s last words were to be a “lamp unto yourself,” seeking “no external refuge” in an outside Buddha. It is only because of our delusion and selfishness that we perceive Amida as separate from ourselves.Every Buddha Tathagata is one whose spiritual body is the principle of Dharma-nature, so that he may enter into the mind of any beings. Consequently, when you have visualized Buddha, it is indeed that mind of yours that possesses those thirty-two signs of perfection and eighty minor marks of excellence which you see in a Buddha. In conclusion, it is your mind that becomes Buddha, nay, it is your mind that is indeed Buddha. The ocean of true and universal knowledge of all the Buddhas derives its source from one’s own mind and thought.
The ‘Other-Power’ of Amida Buddha is really our higher self, when the ego is peeled away. In reciting the name of Amida Buddha, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are therefore made to gradually remember our original nature.
The Platform Sutra is one of the most influential texts in the history of Zen, especially for the Zen understanding of Pure Land practice. The Sixth Patriarch’s teaching on Amida and the Pure Land was based on the Contemplation Sutra:
Both conceptually and methodologically, the kind of Buddhist faith in self-nature advocated by Platform Sutra naturally came into conflict with the belief in rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Pure Land emphasizes rebirth in Buddha’s land relying on the power of the Buddha.
Ch'an (Zen), on the other hand, teaches the purification of one’s own mind, achieving sudden enlightenment… It does not see a Buddha outside one’s mind. For all these reasons, it is logical that Ch'an must argue against the faith in Amitabha’s Pure Land.
However, it does not totally negate the value of Pure Land practice. That is why Platform Sutra quotes from the Meditation on Amitayus Sutra this sentence: “Amitabha Buddha is not far from here. You ought to concentrate your thoughts on that land and when you do so, your pure deeds will succeed in your endeavors.” The emphasis is placed on “pure deeds”.
Therefore the Platform Sutra declares, “If you can purify your mind, you will destroy the obstructions of ten evils and see into your nature in every thought.” It is because of this that “Amitabha’s land is not far from here”. This is the same idea as the understanding put forward by scholars of later generations who claim that “Self-nature is Amitabha, Mind is no other than Pure Land”.
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/His ... riarch.htm