A Brief Introduction to Pure Land Buddhism

Standing Amida Buddha. 13th C.

We practice Pure Land Buddhism by saying Namo Amida Bu — a way of aligning ourselves with wholesome energy.

This is called nembutsuAs ordinary — sometimes foolish — human beings, we turn towards this wholesome energy to guide and transform us.  Namo means ‘I call out to’ or ‘I give thanks for’ or ‘I entrust myself to’. Amida Bu is Amida Buddha — the Buddha of Infinite Light — our name for this wholesome energy.

Pure Land Buddhism allows foolish beings such as ourselves to rely on being loved just as we are by Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light.Our main practice is saying the name of Amida Buddha (Namo Amida Bu), also known as the ‘nembutsu’, which connects us to what is infinitely loving and wise in the universe.

“Only repeat the name of Amida with all your heart… This is the very work which unfailingly issues in liberation…” Honen Shonin

The essence of Pureland Buddhism is the same as is at the heart of all great spirituality: how we can put ourselves in relationship with unconditional love, and live a life that is open, spontaneous, compassionate and full of faith. In Pureland, that great unconditional love is embodied by Amida, the Buddha of infinite life and light. We recognize that as foolish human beings we are full of greed and hate, and that we act selfishly and make many mistakes. Crucially we also recognize that, despite this, we are completely acceptable and lovable in that condition. Just as we are.

In the language of Pureland Buddhism what we are accepted by is the love of the Buddhas, and Amida Buddha in particular. We practice reciting the Buddha’s name in order to allow some of the spirit of that great love into our lives. Practising in this way, our lives become more meaningful. As we recognize our nature as ordinary flawed and fallible human beings, we become more sympathetic to the failings of others. We feel loved and more able to love others in return.