This Pure Land treatise is, to our knowledge, the first and only compendium of Pure land teaching and thought currently available in a Western language. In the tradition of theAvatamsaka Sutra (which D.T. Suzuki described as the epitome of Buddhist thought, sentiment and experience), the author sometimes shifts from one plane of meaning to another, at times down-to-earth, at times metaphysical, so as to reach readers at every level and to sever attachment to his very words. It is in this light that certain paradoxes already familiar to students of Zen (illusory but not non-existent, recitation with no thought of recitation, etc.) should be viewed and understood.
While the primary focus of this treatise is Pure Land theory and practice, more than half of the book is devoted to questions of concern to all Buddhist schools. Therefore, we suggest the following approach to reading the text, according to the background of the reader:
- Zen School: Chapters VII to IX first.
- Tantrism: Chapters VI to X first.
- Pure Land: Chapters I to V first.
- The bereaved: Chapter X.
- All others: Note on Pure Land and Epilogue.
The reader might also familiarize himself with a number of key concepts explained in the Glossary (Amitabha, Awakening vs. Enlightenment, Buddha Recitation, Merit and Virtue, Noumenon/phenomena, Pure Land, etc.).
Whatever his approach, he will be forever enriched. Once reborn in the Pure Land, like the proverbial seeker of the Way, he will not only discover the treasure trove (Great Awakening), but also, in time, partake at will of its priceless gems (attain Enlightenment) -- for the common benefit of all sentient beings.
Van Hien Study Group
New York, Vesak '94