48 Vows of Amitabha ~ The Art of Jumping Boxcars

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Within the Larger Pure Land Sutra (also known as the  Infinite Life Sutra), Sakyamuni Buddha spoke of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who spent lifetimes at study after seeing the persistent suffering of all sentient beings.

At the conclusion of his studies, Dharmakara then made forty-eight vows, which when fulfilled would create the Western Pure Land.  Declaring that he would not attain Buddhahood unless his vows were accomplished, he settled in for the long haul – the perfect pure land, where all sentient beings practice beyond the persistent suffering of clinging and attachment.  Once completed, Dharmakara Bodhisattva (now Amitabha Buddha) teaches the Dharma in the Pure Land.

The first 10 of these Vows were…

  1. If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be in my land a hell, a realm of hungry spirits or a realm of animals, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  2. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should after death fall again into three evil realms, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  3. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of pure gold, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  4. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not all be of one appearance, and should there be any difference in beauty, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  5. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not remember all their previous lives, not knowing even the events which occurred during the previous hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  6. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine eye of seeing even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of the Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  7. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine ear of hearing the teachings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas and should not remember all of them, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  8. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the faculty of knowing the thoughts of others, at least those of all sentient beings living in a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  9. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the supernatural power of travelling anywhere in one instant, even beyond a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
  10. If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should give rise to thoughts of self-attachment, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

I would like to include some additional vows as described by the Bodhisattva Gary Snyder…

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land gets tossed into jail on a vagrancy rap, may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

wild geese in the orchard
frost on the new grass

If, after ontaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land loses a finger coupling boxcars, may I not attain Highest perfect enlightenment.

mare’s eye flutters
jerked by the lead-rope
stone-bright shoes flick back
ankles trembling: down steep rock

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land can’t get a ride hitch-hiking in all directions, may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

wet rocks buzzing
rain and thunder southwest
hair, beard, tingle
wind whips bare legs
we should go back
we don’t

~ Amitabha’s Vows by Gary Snyder

Gary applies the vows taken by Amitabha to his own current reality by invoking the images of a working class struggle and describing the physical manifestations of the primordial reality of Absolute that surrounds each vow.  The horse ridden is an untamable beast but taking the rider’s lead it gallops into that reality.  Once the realization of no-mind hits, the physical reality of “horse” and “rider” dissappear.  Forms intertwined, scared shitless but holding on to the reins of the vows made, the rider runs directly into the void….led only by himself through the windy plains of the Pure Land.

Not to leave well enough alone, I’ll drive my mare into the Absolute and add few of my own…

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land is restricted by dogma or fear, may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land is spit upon or shunned for exercising free-inquiry and skepticism, may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, anyone in my land has a similar feat and then calls themselves “enlightened,” may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

If, after obtaining Buddhahood, the crows of Dharma are turned away from the Body of Buddha, may I not attain highest perfect enlightenment.

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