Pure Land Cause and Effect
Q: In Pure Land Buddhism it's said that if we recite the name of Buddha Amitabha we can be born in the Pure Land. Is this idea contradictory to the law of karma? It sounds like we don't have to be responsible for what we did in the past and this sounds very much like Christianity, which I never found too attractive. I would be grateful if I could get some insights on Pure Land Buddhism in this regard.
A: Actually, rebirth in the Pure Land is not at all contradictory to the law of karma. Remember that through our actions such as reciting the Buddha's name, visualization, vowing to be reborn in the Pure Land, living a compassionate and ethical life and so forth, we are setting up the conditions that allow us to be reborn in the Pure Land, both as a literal realm of rebirth and as the Pure Mind itself. So it's not a matter of a Buddha carrying us to some heavenly realm, it's a cooperative practice between us and the spirit of Infinite Compassion and Wisdom.
According to Pure Land teaching, reaching the Pure Land does not mean that we are not responsible for our previous karma. It simply means that through our actions, we have entered a realm of rebirth in which we can work to purify this karma without hindrance until it is exhausted. Then we can perceive and enjoy the Pure Land fully. Classical Pure Land literature says that when one is reborn into the Pure Land, one is reborn into a "closed lotus flower" where we stay and work on purifying our previous karma until it is exhausted, at which time the lotus flower opens and the Pure Land is seen in all its radiance. And so the laws of karma still apply. We simply have the advantage of having established a resonance with the spirit of Boundless Compassion and Wisdom, a resonance which causes us to be reborn into a realm in which it's much easier to work on our karma until it's all gone.