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A Brief Introduction to the Pure Lands of Tibetan Buddhism

Believe, Enchant

In a place outside of the imagination of any human being there are these celestial dwellings to help us reach enlightenment.

To talk of the pure lands of Tibetan Buddhism it is important to understand what is life for an ordinary sensitive being. A sensitive being, according to this philosophy, has been forever rotating around six kingdoms of existence. In each life it is born in one of those kingdoms based on what it has been thinking about and done and said in a previous life, meaning that its life is governed by the law of cause and effect or karma. These kingdoms are:

  1. Gods.
  2. Jealous gods.
  3. Humans.  
  4. Animals.
  5. Hungry spirits.
  6. Kingdom of hells.

Pure lands, such as Shambala, are outside those six kingdoms and can be seen as something real or metaphorical. A pure land is the celestial dwelling of Buddha, a place for enjoyment, and an extremely profound, splendid and inconceivable kingdom. That place is bereft of sensual desire, and it is not relative but absolute, it transcends space and time. It is, in short, the kingdom of unconditional nirvana and therefore exists in a place that is totally outside our imagination.

an old wall fresco of an individual carrying a bonzi tree


The easiest way of leaving behind the cyclical lives is to enter a pure land upon dying, but nobody can simply be born there on merit or by ordinary meditative achievements. To be born in a pure land one has to have embarked on the path toward illumination, overcome disturbed emotions and ignorance, and only then will they be able to reach full illumination once there.

There are numerous pure lands for all those realized beings, such as Tushita, of the Maitreya Buddha and the mountain of copper, or that of Padmasambhava. But there is one that is a little easier to access: Sukhavati, the pure land of the Amitabha Buddha. He contrived that all of those who heard his name and wanted to enter his kingdom and had established the roots of virtue and dedicated their merit to the desire to be reborn in his pure land could do so.

It is said that, to enter the pure land of Amitabha, a follower would be instructed by Amitabha and numerous bodhisattvas until they achieved full enlightenment.


* Image: The Pure Land of Bhaisajyaguru, i.e. the Buddha of Medicine. / Public Domain

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