Amitayurdhyana Sutra

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The Amitayurdhyana Sutra (Skt. Amitāyurdhyāna-Sūtra), or Sutra of Contemplation on Buddha Amitayus, describes the Pure Land of Amitayus/Amitabha Buddha, Sukhavati, and gives a method of contemplation on the details of the Pure Land in thirteen stages, then continues with a further three meditations, each of which refers to three types of birth in the Pure Land, making nine grades or levels of rebirth.

The different levels or grades of rebirth

For sentient beings of the highest capacity, those with the three kinds of faith, those who have a compassionate heart, abstain from killing and observe the precepts, those who chant the Mahayana sutras of greater scope, those who practice the six forms of mindfulness, who aspire to be born in that buddha land by transferring there the merit of practice, their lotus opens immediately, they will see Amitabha, receive his Dharma teachings and the prophecy of their enlightenment and attain the insight into the non-arising of all dharmas[1] and innumerable dharanis.[2]

The description of the lowest level of rebirth shows even people with little virtue can attain rebirth, if they have faith and invoke Amitabha when they are about to die:

The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Those who attain birth on the lowest level of the lowest grade are the sentient beings who commit such evils as the five grave offenses, the ten evil acts, and all kinds of immorality. Owing to such evil karma, a fool like this will fall into lower realms and suffer endless agony for many kalpas.
When he is about to die, he may meet a good teacher, who consoles him in various ways, teaching him the wonderful Dharma and urging him to be mindful of the Buddha; but he is too tormented by pain to do so. The good teacher then advises him, ‘If you cannot concentrate on the Buddha then you should say instead, “Homage to Amitāyus Buddha.”’ In this way, he sincerely and continuously says, ‘Homage to Amitāyus Buddha’ ten times.
Because he calls the Buddha’s Name, with each repetition the evil karma that would bind him to birth and death for eighty koṭis of kalpas is extinguished. When he comes to die, he sees before him a golden lotus flower like the disk of the sun, and in an instant he is born within a lotus bud in the Land of Utmost Bliss. After twelve great kalpas the lotus bud opens. When the flower opens, Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta teach him with voices of great compassion the method of extinguishing evil karma through the realization of the suchness of all dharmas. Hearing this, he rejoices and immediately awakens aspiration for enlightenment.[3]


This sutra only appears in the Chinese Buddhist Canon, not in Sanskrit or Tibetan ones.[4]



  1. Either the third level, acceptance, of the path of joining or the first bhumi
  2. Hisao Inagaki, The Three Pure Land Sutras, page 80
  3. Ibid., page 85
  4. Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd edition. Routledge, 2009, p. 239.

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