Translated by Hisao Imagaki, these three early Mahayana texts—The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus (Ch. Wuliangshou jing), The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus (Ch. Guan wuliangshou fo jing), and The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus (Ch. Amituo jing)—were chosen by Hōnen as the foundational scriptures of the Jōdo (Pure Land) tradition in Japan.
The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus
The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus is also known as the Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha, and more informally as the Large Amida Sutra. It is one of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith. It relates how the mendicant monk Dharmākara, practicing under the Tathāgata Lokeśvararāja, made 48 vows to save all suffering people. To fulfil these vows he created a paradise in the west called Sukhāvatī, and in fulfilling his vows he became the Buddha Amitāyus. The sūtra states that if anyone believing in these 48 vows should chant the name of Amitāyus, he will be born in the paradise of Sukhāvatī and there become a buddha.
In Japan the various Pure Land sects turn to this sūtra, known as the Muryō Jukyō, as the source of frequently recited excerpts, including the Sanbutsu Ge, a poem in which Dharmākara extols his teacher Lokesvararaja, and the Jūsei Ge, a summary of the 48 vows.
Skt. Sukhāvatīvyūha, translated into the Chinese by Saṃghavarman as Wuliangshou jing (無量壽經). 2 fascicles.
The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus
This Sūtra on the Meditation of Amitāyus, known informally as The Meditation Sūtra or The Contemplation Sūtra, is one of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith. It relates the story of King Ajātaśatru and his mother Vaidehī. One day Vaidehī, who was in a state of continual anguish owing to the wicked practices of her son, invokes the help of Śākyamuni. He comes to her, and to assuage her anguish, shows her countless paradises in all directions,and asks her to choose one. She chooses the Sukhāvatī Paradise of Amitāyus in the west, and so Śākyamuni gave a detailed description of this paradise by means of 16 types of visualization.
Skt. Amitāyurdhyāna-sūtra, translated into the Chinese by Kālayaśas as Guan wuliangshou fo jing (觀無量壽佛經). 1 fascicle.
The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus
The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus is the shortest of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith, and is known informally as The Smaller Sukhātīvyūha or The Smaller Amida Sutra, and is frequently recited at religious services. It starts by describing the splendors of Sukhāvatī, the western paradise of Amitāyus, and then explains what must be done to be born there. The Buddhas of the six directions (east, west, north, south, above and below) extol the virtues of the Buddha Amitāyus, and in conclusion it is recommended that one should generate the desire to be born in this paradise by believing in and chanting the name of Amitāyus.
Skt. Sukhāvatīvyūha, translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva as Amituo jing (阿彌陀經). 1 fascicle.