I have been studying the Lotus Sutra this days and I found the concept of Pure Land to be different from the general accepted view. It's like the Pure Land concept and theory (or comoslogy, perhaps) has evolved from it's inception.
Of course it's different because of its purpose, function and emphasis.
Comparison will only lead one to understand the differences of what is emphasised in both.
Again, its 'evolution' is nothing strange as a near similar idea of an ideal place of cultivation and perfection of the Path & Stages can also be found in 'early Buddhism'.
So, what I see is that ealier sutras are not so "metaphysical", but more like a place you can find in a map, similar to the view of the other realms of gods, like levels in Sumeru Mountain, and if you climb it, you can go to the gods realms.
LOL and I always thought that 'metaphysical' oft includes 'gods', 'Sumeru' and you're one of those who take Mt Sumeru's existence as literal? Even HHDL
doesn't. I find it more helpful to think of it as a meaningful spiritual metaphor. Sukhavati has Nine Lotus Grades and each Grade again has its subcategories, 'you can climb on' those too, no?
Similarly in what is described in other innumerable Buddha ksetras...
Some Pure Landers says that Amitabha's Pure Land will come to an end and Guanyin will take it. But the idea from the Lotus Sutra is that it will end.
Pure Landers didn't say it but a Sutra
did and it did not say that the Pure Land will come to an end. What will 'end' is a Buddha's Dispensation like how in our world system for instance, Sakyamuni's will end after such and such a time after the Dharma Ending Age before a new future Buddha's Dispensation can start, in this case Maitreya and in Sukhavati's, it's Avalokitesvara's turn. And on top of that, Amitabha's Dispensation lasts way longer than Sakyamuni's before the 'baton' is passed on. Read that Sutra link to find out how long it takes for this baton to be passed on compared with our Saha World between Sakyamuni & Maitreya. A Buddha ksetra exists as an expedient as long as sentient beings exists and also the purpose of benefitting & liberating them all. In Amitabha's case, His Vows serve as the foundation of Sukhavati and even way after he manifests Mahaparinirvana, Sukhavati remains for the benefit of all parent sentient beings as a great expression of fulfilled Bodhicitta as long as there are still sentient beings not liberated. Read about a similar resolve in Chapter 40 of the Avatamsaka Sutra
where Samantabhadra mentions about 10 His Great Vows and He mentions...
Realms of worlds in empty space might reach an end,
And living beings, karma and afflictions be extinguished;
But they will never be exhausted,
And neither will my vows
Does not the 48 Great Vows of Amitabha encapsulates this? It's like a company founded and the purpose of its existence is to serve customers and profit being its aim.
As long as there are customers and profitability, it will continue no? Yes, the company founder may be long gone but its new Board of Directors / President will ensure its continuity based on the similar basic underlying principles for which the company exists for.
Some other Pure Landers tsays that Amitabha is eternal, because he is Nirvana itself.
All Buddhas are 'eternal'. This is a standard Mahayana teaching and by extension as some scholars believe, it's also what some Early Schools posit about a Buddha's attributes. By the way, isn't one of Nirvana's qualities / attributes 'eternal' too for which They embody / personify, e.g re-Mahaparinirvana & Lotus Sutras? So, it's not unique to Pure Landers alone. I will not go into elaboration on this again because there are numerous threads on it.
The Pure Land and other buddhist concepts evolved from time to time. Earlier sutras didn't talk about Buddha-Nature, but later did.
Sure and well, depends who you're talking to. In the Nikayas/Agamas, the Buddha talked about a 'luminous mind'. Later, this idea of a 'luminous mind' had other connotations by various quarters but as what I have read, it seems to retain some level of faithfulness to its original position. To me, it just represents one's own Buddha potential. Of course, there are other ways of looking at it but I prefer to keep things simple.
Right now, undersating and seeying this evolution of concepts and ideas, give me a broader view of Mahayana buddhism, very different from Theravada, and that is, Mahayana is a living religion, evolving with new views and interpretations (I accept that not all interpretations are good, but you got the idea).
By the way, Theravada is not the only comparison we have. If you have dug deep enough, you will find traces of Mahasamghika, Sarvastivada and some others in doctrinal Mahayana stuff via Sutras & Sastras, who were at one time cousin to or rival to Theravada. It's only a modern phenomena of say in the last 200 years or so, that we are fortunate to have encountered Theravada in a formal way in studies and critical evaluation for which the traditional treatises in the Mahayana literature corpus, that when they compare and contrast early ideas with Mahayana, it was Theravada's ancient rivals and cousins and not Theravada per se. The modern generation for want of knowing about the history and early times, superimposed them on Theravada, making it as if it was totally Theravada's ideas too when in actual fact, it wasn't, just because Theravada managed to survive from back then until now but it is not that others are totally dead too as we have 2 surviving Vinaya lineages plus a huge corpus of Sutra & Sastra literature from several ancient Schools. And it is not too far stretched to be reserved about traditional histories from Buddhist Traditions which purport to give an 'accurate' view of what went on back then and needs to be examined in the light of modern scholarship and evidence.
So, the way that ancient India or China saw the world, it is now very different from us.
Like DOH! Of course LOL
Much of us place Pure Land not only far way, but also in invisible to human eyes.
Yes, this is similar for some who think that the PhD level in studies is as far for them as Pluto is from Earth, no? Now if only such would spend their time and effort in deepening & widening one's own study, practice and realisation, then this would soon become an initial hurdle?
If people wish to understand
The Buddhas of the three periods of time,
They should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything is made from the mind.
The Flower Adornment Sutra
First, the glorious description...
The Buddha then said to the Elder Shariputra: "If you travel westward from here, passing a hundred thousand kotis of Buddha-lands, you come to the Land called 'Utmost Bliss,' where there is a Buddha named 'Amida.' He is living there now, teaching the Dharma.
The Smaller Sutra on Amida Buddha
Then the practical description...
Then the World-Honored One said to Vaidehi, "Do you know that Amitayus is not far away?
Fix your thoughts upon and contemplate that Buddha-land, then you will accomplish the pure acts.
I shall describe it to you in detail with various illustrations, so that all ordinary people in the future who wish to practice the pure karma may also be born in that Western Land of Utmost Bliss.
The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus
From the 'Ten Doubts about Pure Land'
by the 4th Tiān Tāi Patriarch, Great Master Zhì Yǐ...
The Western Pure Land is ten billion Buddha Lands away from here. Common, ordinary people are weak and frail. How can they reach it?
The Western Pure Land is described as being ten billion Buddha Lands away from here only with respect to the limited concepts of ordinary people with eyes of flesh and blood, mired in birth and death. For those who have attained the pure karma of rebirth in the Pure Land, the Mind in samadhi at the time of death is precisely the Mind reborn in the Pure Land. As soon as the thought (of rebirth) arises, rebirth is achieved.
Thus, the Meditation Sutra states that “the Land of Amitabha Buddha is not far from here!” Moreover, the power of karma is inconceivable.
In the space of one thought, rebirth in the Pure Land is achieved. There is no need to worry about distance.
This is analogous to a person asleep and dreaming. Although his body is on the bed, his Mind is travelling all over, to all worlds, as though he were awake.
Rebirth in the Pure Land is, generally speaking, similar to this example.
After all, much Mahayana sutras evolved in different places and times.
To me, I can accept this. But tell that to a traditionalist, you may get a range of baffled stares to annoyance to...