Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra


Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra
(or Infinite Life Sutra)

The Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra or else known as Infinite Life Sūtra is one of the three most significant Buddhist Sūtras in the Pure Land Buddhism school, extolling the story of Buddha Amitābha (Amitāyus), his wows to help all living beings in the after-death state and how to reach his Land of Ultimate Happiness (Sukha) or otherwise known as the Pure Land of Amitābha.

In the Infinite Life Sutra, the Buddha begins by describing to his attendant Ānanda a past life of the Buddha Amitābha:

He states that in a past life, Amitābha was once king who renounced his kingdom and became a bodhisattva monk named Dharmakāra ("Dharma Storehouse").

Under the guidance of the Buddha Lokeśvararāja ("World Sovereign King"), innumerable Buddha-lands throughout the ten directions were revealed to him.

After meditating for five eons as a bodhisattva, he then made a great series of vows to save all sentient beings, and through his great merit, created the realm of Sukhāvatī ("Ultimate Bliss"). This land of Sukhāvatī would later come to be known as a Pure Land in Chinese translation.

The sutra describes in great detail Sukhāvatī and its inhabitants, and how they are able to attain rebirth there. The text also provides a detailed account of the various levels and beings in the Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmology.

The sutra also contains the forty-eight vows of Amitābha to save all sentient beings. The eighteenth vow is among the most important as it forms a basic tenet of Pure Land Buddhism: This vow states that if a sentient being makes even ten recitations of the Amitābha's name (Nembutsu) they will attain certain rebirth into Amitābha's pure land.

Lastly the sutra shows the Buddha discoursing at length to the future Buddha, Maitreya, describing the various forms of evil that Maitreya must avoid to achieve his goal of becoming a Buddha as well as other admonitions and advice.

Index of Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra

  1. Preface
  2. Virtues of the Bodhisattva audience
  3. Glorious features of the Buddha
  4. 53 Past Buddhas
  5. Lokeshvararaja Buddha and Dharmakāra
  6. Sanbutsuge - Verses praising the Buddha
  7. Dharmakāra's resolution to become a Buddha
  8. Dharmakāra's 48 Vows
  9. Juseige - Verses confirming the 48 Vows
  10. Dharmakāra's practices of the Bodhisattva Path
  11. Dharmakāra's attainment of Buddhahood
  12. Amida's light
  13. Amida's life-span
  14. The number of the audience at the first assembly
  15. Jewelled trees
  16. The Bodhi-tree
  17. Glorious adornments
  18. Bodily appearance of the inhabitants and the pleasures they enjoy
  19. Karmic rewards of a beggar and a king
  20. Comparison between heavens and the Pure Land
  21. Pleasures in the Pure Land
  22. Flowers and innumerable rays of light emitted from them
  23. Fulfillment of the 11th, 17th, and 18th vows
  24. Three grades of aspirants
  25. Bodhisattvas' visit to the Pure Land from other lands
  26. Verses on Bodhisattvas' visit
  27. Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land
  28. Amida's preaching and exquisite sounds produced by the trees, etc.
  29. Bodhisattvas' virtues
  30. Three kinds of evil passions and their consequences
  31. Shakyamuni's encouragement to do good
  32. Shakyamuni's admonition against evil acts
  33. Admonition against five evils
  34. Further admonition by the Buddha
  35. Amida and the Pure Land shown to the audience
  36. Two kinds of birth in the Pure Land
  37. The cause of the two kinds of birth
  38. Shakyamuni's encouragement of faith
  39. Embryonic birth
  40. Bodhisattvas' visits to the Pure Land from other Buddha-lands
  41. Shakyamuni's encouragement to accept this sutra
  42. Epilogue