Pure Land Glossary

This glossary is a work in progress. For suggested terms, please contact the webmaster at shakushingan@gmail.com.


Ajita Bodhisattva

(Skt.; Ch. 阿逸多) Meaning "Unconquered," an epithet for Maitreya Bodhisattva.

Amitābha Buddha

The Buddha of Infinite Light (Skt. amita + ābha; Ch. 阿弥陀佛), equivalent to Amitāyus Buddha. Through the fulfilment of his vow to establish a Pure Land, he enables all beings to attain buddhahood after being born in his land. Infinite light indicates that he reaches all directions in the universe.

Amitāyus Buddha

The Buddha of Infinite Life (Skt. amita + āyus; Ch. 無量壽佛), equivalent to Amitābha Buddha. Infinite life indicates that he abides in all times and that, with the exception of manifestations, he will not enter final nirvāṇa but abide eternally.


(Skt.; Ch. 阿難陀) His name means joyful. The cousin of Śākyamuni Buddha and his personal attendant, gifted with a perfect recollection of the Buddha's discourses. While he did not attain arhatship in the Buddha's lifetime, he did so shortly after his parinirvāṇa and recited the Buddha's discourses at the first council of the Saṅgha. His recitation is the origin of the phrase that starts each sūtra: "Thus have I heard."


(Skt; Ch. 阿那陀擯荼駄) A wealthy and generous merchant who lived in Śrāvasti, who bought Jetavana grove from Prince Jeta and donated it to the Saṅgha. This is where his name derives from, which means "One Who Gives Alms to the Masterless." His given name was Sudatta (Skt.; Ch. 須達).

Anikṣiptadhura Bodhisattva

(Skt.; Ch. 不置遠/不休息) A bodhisattva whose name means "not resting his burden," i.e., unresting. His endurance typifies bodhisattvas of great resolve.


(Skt. tiryagyoni; Ch. 帝利耶瞿楡泥伽; 傍行) The animal realm, one of the six realms of existence. These include birds, beasts, fish, and insects, and beings are born there due to foolish activity. It is one of the three evil realms. This realm does not exist in the Pure Land, which is free from evil existences. The appearance of animals, such as birds, is manifested by Amitābha Buddha in order to give rise to constant awareness of the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha.


(Skt.; Ch. 阿那律) His name means unresting. He is a prominent disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, well known for his divine eye by which he can see far.


(Skt.; Ch. 阿耨多羅三貘三菩提/阿耨多羅三藐三菩提) Literally, highest, perfect, full awakening. This term is left untranslated in my translations because it is well known in Buddhist English, but also usually left untranslated in Chinese (when translated, rather than transcribed, the term is translated into English). This signifies the attainment of buddhahood as a buddha, which is awakening in order to bring benefit to all beings, as opposed to awakening for the purposes of individual liberation. 


(Skt.; Ch. 阿羅漢) Literally, a "worthy one" or "foe destroyer" (from Skt. arihan). This can be an epithet of one who is "worthy" of offerings, such as a Buddha, but more typically refers to one who has fulfilled the path, destroyed the afflictions, and upon death, will enter nirvāṇa. Thus, it refers to one on the śrāvaka (Ch. 聲聞) path, rather than the bodhisattva (菩薩) path which results in buddhahood, but takes multiple lives. The path to buddhahood, however, is expedited by birth in the Pure Land.


(Skt. citta; Ch. 心) The term citta literally means mind, but even in pre-Buddhist texts it also took on the meaning of an aim or aspiration. In the case of bodhicitta, it implies the aspiration for awakening. In the Tathāgatagarbha tradition, since the mind-essence or mind of thusness is the ground from which the buddhas manifest and with which all beings are endowed, the sense of aspiration takes on a dual meaning of "mind ground" or Buddha-nature and the aspiration—thus the aspiration to attain awakening is an alignment of the aspiring being's unawakened mind with the Buddha-nature to which they seek to awaken.


(Skt.; Ch. 阿修羅) This term refers to one of the six realms and corresponds to spirits or deities who are fond of fighting (often against the devas), but also have some virtues and frequently serve as protectors to the Dharrma. They are said to abide in the waters north of Mount Sumeru and in the caves to its west.


(Skt. bodhi; Ch. 菩提) This is the awareness that arises upon the removal of ignorance. It is the accurate knowledge of a Buddha. Buddha is the past participle of the root budh, to awaken, whereas bodhi is the noun form.


(Skt. manasikāra; Ch. 作意) This simply means the application of the mind, i.e. thinking on or paying attention to something. It does not further denote concentration (samādhi) or absorption (samāpatti), but may serve as a prerequisite to them.



Literally, the fortunate one. A common respectful term of reference for any buddha. The Buddhabhūmisūtraśāstra (佛地經論, T1530) suggests that the implications in the Buddhist case are (1) powerful, (2) blazing, (3) of superior form, (4) renowned, (5) auspicious, and (6) honoured. The typical Chinese translation of the term is 世尊, World-honoured One, which strictly speaking is a translation of the less common lokanātha (literally, Lord of the World), but came to be a standard epithet.


(Skt.; Ch. 頗羅墮) A prominent arhat in Śākyamuni Buddha's saṅgha, known for his bushy eyebrows. Born as a brahmin, he joins the saṅgha after the Buddha convinces him that a true brahmin is not one based on caste and birth, but one who is noble in conduct.


The bhūmis (Skt.; Ch. 地), literally, grounds, typically refers to the ten stages of the bodhisattva path. Each of these stages involves sublime attainments and visions of buddhas. Rather than stages from the start to the end of the bodhisattva path, the source text for these stages, the Daśabhūmika Sūtra, makes clear that the first stage occurs when one is well-along on the bodhisattva path. The first stage, the stage of "joy," is one such stage and is named for the joy one undergoes at having overcome the difficulties of earlier parts of the bodhisattva path. Another important stage is the eighth, the stage of "immovability," at which point a bodhisattva is irreversible. In Pure Land Buddhism, by relying on the power of the Vow of Amitābha Buddha, one instead attains both joy and irreversibility in this life—joy at the knowledge that despite one's karmic obscurations one only has one more life until one can attain buddhahood, and irreversibility because, being embraced by the Buddha's Vow, one can no longer fall back to any other realm but will, without doubt, be born in his Pure Land and there attain nirvāṇa and buddhahood.


Blue is a colour that represents patience and the pacification of aversion. It is typically associated with the eastern direction and Akṣobhya Buddha. Among the five knowledges, it represents mirror-like knowledge (ādarśajñāna).


(Skt., Ch. 菩提薩埵, abbrv. 菩薩) A being (sattva) who aspires to attain awakening (bodhi). The term thus refers to one on the Mahāyāna 大乘  path to buddhahood, which normally takes countless lives. However, according to the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, all beings who are born in the Pure Land are "pure bodhisattvas, who are irreversible and are bound to only one more birth." Thus, birth in the Pure Land is regarded as the fastest way to attain full buddhahood. 

Bound to Only One More Birth

One bound to one more birth (Skt. ekajātipratibaddha; Ch. 一生補處) is one who will attain buddhahood or nirvāṇa in one's next life and consequently will not continue to be reborn in uncontrolled saṃsāra. It typically is thought to refer to Maitreya Bodhisattva.


(Skt.; Ch. 梵/梵天王/梵王) This refers to the deva who is the king over the Brahmā heaven (梵天), because of his pre-eminent position, he is also referred to as "Lord of the Sahā World" (Skt. sahāṃpati). 


(Skt.; Ch. 佛) An awakened one, who has fully extinguished all afflictions and has realised the nature of all dharmas. He teaches the Dharma in order to liberate sentient beings from cyclic existence in saṃsāra.


(Skt. buddhatva; Ch. 佛果) The fruit of the bodhisattva path, the attainment of awakening.


(Skt. buddhakṣetra; Ch. 佛刹/佛土/佛國) Also translated as "Buddha-field," this is a world established by the dedication of the merits of a Buddha and the fruition of his vows to establish such a land. This can also simply refer to any world in which a buddha resides. Consequently, every buddha abides in a Buddha-land, but only some are specifically set up by the fruition of vows, such as the land of Amitābha, Sukhāvatī. Since such a land is purified by the activities of a buddha, it is called a Pure Land (Ch. 淨土).


Buddha-nature is both the underlying awakened nature of beings, their mind-ground, which must be cleared of obscurations to be fully realised, and it is their potential to so purify and awaken. All sentient beings are imbued with this potential.

By Insignificant (Wholesome Roots)

The Sanskrit avaramātraka appears to be related to the Pāli oramattako. The term means only a few, but avara also carries the implication of this-worldly. In the former case, the term means only a few, and in the latter case it means only this-worldly. In either case, the implication, when written with "kuśalamula" (wholesome roots) is that one cannot be born in the Pure Land only by insignificant or this-worldly merit (i.e. the methods of other Buddhist practices), but rather by the method prescribed in the sūtra—recollection of the Buddha, which is the otherworldly, non-insignificant wholesome root, as it was planted by Dharmākara Bodhisattva.



The meaning of the Sanskrit musāragalva is not entirely clear. In classical Sanskrit, the term appears to mean coral, but in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit uses, the term might imply either sapphire, emerald, or cat's eye. The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter 15 suggests that it, among with other jewels, comes from caves. Jaehee Han's study of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā suggests that it is coral in that text.


(Skt. krauñca) A kind of bird with a long, slender bill. The term krauñca, however, can also simply mean curlew-like.


Daily Rest

(Skt. divāvihāra) This is a regular activity of the Buddha and his saṅgha and appears to also occur in the Pure Land as a matter of ritual regularity in the afternoon after visiting countless other buddha-lands.

Daughter of Good Family

(Skt. kuladuhitā; Ch. 善女人) While this originally referred to a daughter of a noble family, in the Buddhist context it means a disciple of the Buddha—by taking refuge in the Buddha, one enters the Buddha's family.


(Skt.; Ch. 法) When capitalised, this refers to the Buddha's teachings or the law of reality. When uncapitalised, it refers to phenomena—things that can be perceived.

Degeneration of the Kalpa

(Skt. kalpakaṣāya; Ch. 劫濁) One of the five degenerations (Skt., pcañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁). This refers to a kalpa wherein the other degenerations spread: lifespan decreases, diseases increase, and so forth.

Degeneration of Beings

(Skt. sattvakaṣāya; Ch. 衆生濁) One of the five degenerations (Skt., pcañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁). This refers to how beings gradually become more ignorant, impure, and evil as the kalpa degenerates.

Degeneration of Views

(Skt. dṛṣṭikaṣāya; Ch. 見濁) One of the five degenerations (Skt., pcañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁). This refers to how wrong views gradually increase as the kalpa degenerates.

Degeneration of Lifespans

(Skt. āyuḥkaṣāya; Ch. 命濁) One of the five degenerations (Skt., pcañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁). This refers to how human lifespan becomes shorter and shorter as the kalpa degenerates until humans only live to around ten years of age.

Degeneration of Defilements

(Skt. kleśakaṣāya; Ch. 煩惱濁) One of the five degenerations (Skt., pcañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁). This refers to how the defilements, such as greed, anger, and ignorance, gradually increase as the kalpa degenerates.


(Skt.; Ch. 天/天神/提婆) This refers to a being who lives a long life in a heavenly realm. As they are neither creators nor have an infinite lifespan, they are not necessarily equivalent to the English term "god," but that is the more typical translation. For this reason, I tend to leave the term untranslated. They have successively more purified heavens, subtle bodies, and longer lifespans as they proceed from deva realms of the desire realm (kamaloka), the form realm (rūpaloka), and the formless realm (arūpaloka).


(Skt.; Ch. 天子) Literally, sons of gods or god princes, but not in the lineage sense. Rather, this refers to devas who are not the kings of their respective heavens. Thus, Śakra is the Lord of Devas in Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, where the eight gods in each of the four directions and also their underlings are like princelings (devaputras) in relation to Śakya (Lord of Devas).


(Skt. satkṛtya) Literally, having done respect. In the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha, one "should devotedly make vows of aspiration towards the buddha-land," meaning one should not do so casually, but with respect and sincerity—actually intending to be born there and not thinking of another destination in the back of one's mind or mixing one's practice with those that result in births elsewhere, such as other Pure Lands.



(Skt. sukha; Ch. 極樂) The Sanskrit literally comes from the meaning "having a good (su) axle-hole (kha)," and thus means one is able to act and abide without difficulties or troubles. The Chinese 極樂 is made up of a character which means ultimate 極 and bliss or enjoyment 樂, hence the occasional translation of the term Sukhāvatī in English as "the Land of Ultimate Bliss."

Eight Consciousnesses

(Skt. aṣṭavijñānāni; Ch. 八識) This is a scheme found in texts such as the Laṅkāvatāra. It explains how our experience of the world is a false projection based upon karmic impressions, which, when purified, can result in buddhahood. The first five (1-5) are the five sense consciousnesses, which arise dependent upon the conditioning of the five sense faculties (sense organs) and five objects. The sixth (6) is the mind consciousness (manovijñāna) that arises based on the condition of the mind faculty and dharmas (mental phenomena). It thus involves thought, reflections, emotions, intentions, and can function while sleeping and produce dreams. The seventh (7) consciousness is the defiled mentation (manas) consciousness (kliṣṭamanovijñāna) and refers to thought that engages in reflection on the imputed idea of a "self" or identities. It mistakes the prior six consciousnesses for real entities, rather than conditioned illusions, and thus further perpetuates ignorance and activities characterised by clinging. The eighth (8) consciousness is the storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna) and is a base repository of karmic seeds. Direct knowledge of the storehouse consciousness is not possible while defiled knowledge persists, but with the attainment of buddhahood and purification of defilements, one can directly see and transform it—realising it to be the obscured mind ground. When defiled, these seeds come to fruition in the constant arising of the prior seven consciousnesses and consequently mean that our perception of the world, until fully purified, is always a projection of the mind. When purified, one either speaks of the storehouse consciousness as being transformed, or as the pure consciousness simply being a separate ninth (9) stainless consciousness (amalavijñāna) which continues to exist after the prior eight consciousnesses are eliminated. In schemes which see the storehouse consciousness as transformed, it is that its fundamental nature is stainless, but obscured by illusion—thus all ordinary beings carry with them this seed of purity as their Buddha-nature which is inherently pure, but just can't see it because of extrinsic coverings (like clouds covering the pure blue sky).


The effluents, or outflows (Skt. āsrava; Ch. 漏). These are activities based on ignorance including the effluent of desire, the effluent of existence or becoming, and the effluent of ignorance. These also correspond to three realms.



(Skt. pañcendriya; Ch. 五根) These are five faculties developed through spiritual cultivation. They are the faculty of faith (śraddhendriya; 信根), the faculty of effort (vīryendriya; 精進根), the faculty of mindfulness or recollection (smṛtīndriya; 念根), the faculty of samādhi (meditative concentration) (samādhīndriya; 定根), and the faculty of wisdom (prajñendriya; 慧根).

Five Degeneracies

(Skt. pañcakaṣāya; Ch. 五濁) These are five characteristics of decay which emerge when human lifespan reaches below 20,000 years, and thus they are constants that were ongoing at the time of Śākyamuni Buddha and continue in our time.

Five Knowledges

(Skt. pañcajñānāni; Ch. 五智) The five knowledges are five aspects of the cognition when the eight consciousnesses are purified. They are thus either aspects of the purified eighth storehouse consciousness or the ninth stainless consciousness. They are (1) mirror-like knowledge (ādarśajñāna; 大圓鏡智) which reflects the true nature of all things in the three worlds, directly perceiving thusness and buddha-nature; (2) knowledge of equality (samatājñāna; 平等性智) which is recognition of the perfect equality of all dharmas, including other beings, thus enabling compassion through wisdom; (3) observing knowledge (pratyavekṣajñāna; 妙觀察智), knowledge from observing and reflecting on the true nature of all dharmas, allowing one to teach according to the inclinations of beings, (4) unrestricted activity knowledge (kṛtyānusthānajñāna; 成所作智), knowledge which allows one to manifest in infinite ways to help liberate beings, (5) knowledge of the nature of the dharma-realm (dharmadhātuprakṛtijñāna; 法界體性智), which is knowledge of the interpenetration of all things in the universe and their equivalence with buddha-nature.

Four Jewels

The four jewels (Skt. catūratna; Ch. 四寶) are gold, silver, vaiḍūrya, and crystal. According to Master Ou-yi, being four indicates that they represent the four qualities of Nirvāṇa (see the Nirāṇa Sūtra for more details): 1. Eternal, 2. Blissful, 3. Self, and 4. Pure.


Gandhahastin Bodhisattva

(Skt.; 乾陀訶提; 香象; 衆手) The name of this bodhisattva means musk elephant. Rather than Amitābha, he has close ties to Akṣobhya Buddha and will receive a prediction (vyākaraṇa; 受記) of his buddhahood from him.


(Skt.; 乾闥婆) A gandharva is a spiritual being which specialises in playing heavenly music. They originate from beings who failed to complete their rebirth process, and thus are technically between lives and while they do not fit into the six realms, they are also not beyond them like buddhas. The term, thus, also acts as a shorthand for a being between lives, prior to birth, although only those who are stuck in that state end up fully-fledged gandharvas. They also developed a reputation for attempting to undergo birth by kidnapping brides on their wedding night or before birth so as to expropriate a human foetus.


(Skt.; Ch. 憍梵波提) A monk who was born with the defect of always having a moving mouth, thus he gained the name "Cow-Herder" (Gavāṃpati) since he appeared to be chewing cud like a cow. He took refuge and joined the saṅgha and overcame this defect, and he soon attained arhatship with supernormal powers.

Glad in his Mind

(Skt. attamana) This description is found in the Sanskrit Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha to characterise the Buddha's mindstate after he taught the sūtra. It means his mind is transported or seized by gladness. Such gladness is remarkable for a buddha and is meant to emphasise the specialness of this particular sūtra.

Gone to Other World Systems

This is a feature of bodhisattvas who are born in Amitābha's Pure Land of Sukhāvatī. They are able to visit any land they wish in order to pay homage to all the buddhas there, and then return before their morning meal. This is to emphasise on the one hand the interpenetration and identity of all lands in all directions, but also that the focus returns to Amitābha—while all buddhas are equally respected in worshipping Amitābha, it is through Amitābha and the practice that he enabled that such worship and respect is rendered possible. This feature, therefore, emphasises that in focusing solely on Amitābha, one also respects and does not forsake all buddhas.

Good Person

(Skt. satpuruṣa; Ch. 善人) While in the broader sense, this refers to anyone who takes refuge and forsakes wrong views in favour of the Buddha-Dharma, in the case of Pure Land practice, it refers to the Buddha Amitābha and all of the other noble bodhisattvas who one can meet with and practice the Dharma with in his land.



(Skt. śru; Ch. 聞) To hear the name of the Buddha is one of the primary ways of bringing the Buddha to mind. As Master Ouyi writes, "once you hear a Buddha-name, no matter whether you are mindful or not, or whether you believe in it or not, it always becomes the seed of an affinity with the truth... If you hear the Buddha-name, Buddha is bound to protect you. How can there be any doubts about this?" The Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha suggests that by hearing the calls of the birds in the Pure Land, as well as the sound of the adornments, one naturally gives rise to mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha—hearing is the manner through which Amitābha reaches the consciousness of beings in the Pure Land, and yet he does not teach using words from his mouth but through his adornments. Again, for beings in this world, the sūtra suggests that those who hear of it and then think of it will die with an undisturbed mind and be born in the Pure Land.


(Skt. niraya/naraka; Ch. 地獄/奈利/泥梨) One of the six realms of saṃsāra, realms where beings are born as the fruition of various kinds of unwholesome karmic seeds planted during their lives in various realms. The term niraya literally means "without happiness." Resources on the hells will be able to document all of the varieties of them, from hot to cold, from central to isolated—most of them are below the ground level of a world system on which the four continents are located. For the purposes of the Pure Land, it is important to note that there are no hells in the Pure Land, which is free from evil existences.

Higher Knowledges

These are the attainments with which the bhikṣus in the assembly of the Pure Land sūtras are renowned for (Skt. abhijñātābhijñātaiḥ). This refers to the five higher knowledges or five supernormal powers (Skt. pañcābhijñā; Ch. 五神通). These are (1) the divine eye capable of seeing everywhere in the form-realm, (2) the divine ear, capable of hearing everywhere, (3) knowledge of other's minds, (4) knowledge of former existences, and (5) the ability to do as one wills or be anywhere by supernormal power. A set of six adds (6) the power of the extinction of the effluents.



(Skt. aparimita; aprameya; Ch. 無量) Unquantifiable or incalculable. According to the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Śāstra, the "life-span (āyuḥpramāṇa) of the buddhas is truly limitless (aparimita). In order to save beings, the Buddhas manifest a long life (dīrgha) or a short life (alpa) [according to the circumstances]." This is signified by the name Amitāyus, or "Infinite Life" which transcends the limits of time.


(Skt. asaṃkhyeya; 無數) Beyond number or reckoning, uncountable. In Buddhist texts, this term also indicates a "high number" and can appear as a length of time, e.g. "an asaṃkhyeya." This is sometimes defined as being a kind of kalpa between the length of a mahākalpa and antarakalpa.


Music on face value represents sound and the presence of music in the Pure Land indicates the development and attainment of purity of the ear faculty for beings there. Instruments also manifest the Buddha's way of skilfully adapting to the inclinations of sentient beings. As the Tathāgataguhya Sūtra (Secrets of the Tathāgata), Chapter 8, puts it: "It is like an illusion of many skilfully fashioned musical instruments, which, without being touched and without human power, play music when wafted by a gentle breeze and make beautiful music emerge. The music that emerges is all from being wafted by the wind of beings’ various prior karmas. The speech of the Tathāgata is also like this: it accords with the mental proclivities of all sentient beings, and knowing them, a breeze makes a sound. Similarly, the Tathāgata does not exert any power in making this sound emerge."


(Skt. avinivartanīya/avaivartika; Ch. 不退/阿惟越致) Simply stated, this is the point on the bodhisattva path at which a bodhisattva no longer backslides and returns to an earlier level or position. There are multiple systems within the sūtras for describing how and when this happens. In the Pure Land scheme, it is the point at which one hears the name of Amitābha and gives rise to faith and believes that they will, indeed, be born in his land. Thereafter they will never be released by the power of Amitābha's vow, but naturally be brought to birth in the Pure Land.



(Skt.; Ch. 祇園精舍) A park near Śrāvastī, which was gifted to the Buddha by the lay donor Sudatta (called for that sake "Anāthapiṇḍada"). It was the first major centre of the Buddha's teaching in India.

Jewel Trees

In the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha, jewel trees line the sides of the ponds made of the seven jewels. The jewel trees themselves are made of the seven jewels as well. The import of these trees is given in other sūtras, but in general, trees are that which bear fruit. The best of all fruit trees, then, is a jewel tree and the signify the fruit of awakening.

Just as I Declare it Here

This phrase begins the passage sections within the Smaller Sukhāvatīvyūha which declare that just as Śākyamuni Buddha declares the sūtra, likewise buddhas in the various directions declare it, and thus the listener should believe in it. The names of the buddhas in the various directions indicate some quality of buddhahood, often those which are typically associated with those directions. Master Ouyi suggests that each name indicates an aspect of buddhahood, but for ease of brevity, only stops with a limited number, as the true number is beyond human reckoning. Moreover, he also suggests that there are an infinite number of worlds—buddhas in that many worlds are urging the listener to have faith in and believe this sūtra, to do so otherwise and rather follow one's blind whims would be "utterly stupid and benighted."



(Skt. also, Udāyin; Ch. 迦留陀夷/烏陀夷) His name means Black Coming-forth. He was a friend of Śākyamuni Buddha when a youth, and was sent as an envoy to the Buddha by his father Śuddhodana after he attained awakening. 


(Skt.; Ch. 劫) An aeon of time. There are a number of kinds of kalpa, and whether it makes sense to estimate even a minor kalpa in years is not clear. For instance, a minor kalpa is often said to not have even passed in the time it takes for a mountain 20,000 metres tall to be finally worn away by a soft cloth wafting over it once in a hundred years. If a minor kalpa is such an inconceivable span, a regular kalpa is twenty times that, and a larger kalpa, or mahākalpa, is eighty regular kalpas. A mahākalpa is divided into a kalpa of creation, abiding, destruction, and annihilation. Each of these is called an immeasurable, or asaṃkhyeya kalpa. Each of the four asaṃkhyeya kalpas is further divided into twenty minor, or antara kalpas, kalpas. Each antara kalpa has its own periods of increase and decrease, with the periods of increase ruled over by four wheel-turning monarchs (cakravartins) in the order iron, copper, silver, and gold. A period of increase sees human life increase until it reaches 84,000 years. When the period of decrease occurs, lifespan decreases until it reaches ten years. Periods of decrease are thus characterised by the five degeneracies. Some kalpas have the appearance of buddhas, and some do not. Our kalpa is called the bhadrakalpa, or good kalpa, and has 1000 Buddhas (see Tathāgataguhya Sūtra (Secrets of the Tathāgata), chapter 5.


(Skt.; 倶胝/億) This is a measure which has a variety of interpretations, therefore it is best left untranslated. Some reckon that it is ten million (as the ancestor of the contemporary Indian and Nepali counting unit "Crore"), others say that it is a hundred million. 



(Skt. ābhā; Ch. 光明) Radiance, which, when it is the light of Amitābha is light that is both infinite and unobstructed. That light is also an external manifestation of his wisdom functioning and reaching everywhere in the world. 

Limbs of Awakening

(Skt. bodhyaṅga; Ch. 覺支) These are seven limbs of awakening, and are thus thought of as supports upon which awakening is attained. They are: (1) Mindfulness or memory (smṛti), (2) non-negligence (apramāda), (3) investigation of the Darma (dharmavicaya), (4) effort (vīrya), (5) rapture as experienced through meditation due to detachment from the unwholesome (prīti), (6) serenity (praśrabdhi), (7) meditation (samādhi), and (8) equanimity (upekṣā).


(Skt. padma; Ch. 蓮華) A common symbol in Buddhism for the nature of the Buddha or bodhisattva who attains awakening in the world (like the mud) but is unsullied by it. The lotus thus, also, represents beings' Buddha-nature, which is pure and yet abides amid not only the world of pollution but minds of pollution. When defilements are cleared and awakening is attained, the pure Dharma is realised without it being stained by the former defilement.



(Skt.; Ch. 摩訶劫賓那) A king from a kingdom in the northwest frontier of India who renounced his throne upon hearing that there was a Buddha in the world. He attained arhatship after being taught by the Buddha who flew through the air to meet him halfway. He became foremost among those who taught the monastics.


(Skt.; Ch. 摩訶迦葉) One of Śākyamuni Buddha's foremost disciples, known for his ascetic practice both before and after his ordination. He was given the Buddha's robe and staff and headed the saṅgha after the Buddha's parinirvāṇa and led the first council.


(Skt.; Ch. 摩訶迦旃延) One of Śākyamuni Buddha's foremost disciples. He became known as foremost in debate.


(Skt.; Ch. 大拘絺羅/摩訶絺羅) One of Śākyamuni Buddha's foremost disciples. He became known as foremost in analysis.


(Skt.; Ch. 摩訶目乾連) One of Śākyamuni Buddha's foremost disciples, he became as foremost in supernormal powers. He joined the Saṅgha together with Śāriputra.


(Skt.; Ch. 摩訶薩埵) Literally, "great being." Termed so because they are intent on the benefit and awakening of a "great" many beings, and they are firmly established on the "great" vehicle (i.e. Mahāyāna). It is generally held that a bodhisattva who is a mahāsattva has reached at least the seventh bhūmi. Well-known bodhisattvas, such as Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta are also frequently termed "mahāsattvas."


(Skt.; Ch. 大乘) Meaning "Great Vehicle," this refers to the path to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of a "great" number of beings, hence "great." Those who follow this path are bodhisattvas.

Maitreya Bodhisattva

(Skt.; Ch. 彌勒) The next buddha of the Sahā World, who presently resides in Tuṣita Heaven from which he will descend after the end of Śākyamuni Buddha's Dharma era.

Māndārava Flower

(Skt.; Ch. 曼陀羅華) The flower of the Mandāra tree, a heavenly tree in Indra's heaven.


(Skt. nirmita; Ch. 權現) This refers to an appearance created by the formless Buddha as the Dharma-body, for the sake of aiding sentient beings in coming to an understanding of the Dharma in ways that can be understood by them.


(Skt.; 文殊) A bodhisattva who is well known for being the wisest of all. He is said to be eternally youthful.


(Skt. smṛti; Ch. 念) This term literally means memory or recollection. It is frequently employed in the context of meditation, in which case it means remembering the object of meditation. In Pure Land practice, it refers to recollection of the Buddha.

Mind that is Undistracted

(Skt. avikṣiptacitta) This is how the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha characterises the mind that thinks of Amitāyus Buddha's name for one to seven nights and as a result is born in the Pure Land. If we compare this sūtra with the longer varieties (particularly in regard to the 18th vow), we see that some qualities of mind considered essential elsewhere appear to be missing here. However, they are encapsulated in the "mind that is undistracted." Hence we can see that being "undistracted" means a mind of faith (prasannacitta) and aspiration (adhyāśaya) to be born there. Thus the non-distraction aspect can be taken as meaning not giving rise to doubts (holding only Amitābha firmly in mind as one's refuge) and not aspiring to be born elsewhere than his Pure Land. That meditative concentration is not intended is implied by the "or" in "having heard it will thing of it, or will think of it with a mind that is undistracted." Meaning such concentration would not be necessary and that simply thinking with the mind of faith and aspiration would be sufficient. That meditative concentration is implied, is seen in the sense of continuing for one night up to seven nights—meaning that those who also practice conventional Buddhist meditative practice with faith and the intention of birth in his land will also thereby be born. In the longer sūtra, this would be characterised as the distinction between the eighteenth and the nineteenth and twentieth vows. On "singleminded recitation," Cleary writes in his commentary on Ou-yi, that "on the everyday level, this means focusing on Buddha Amitābha and Buddha Amitābha alone, to the exclusion of all other thoughts while reciting the Buddha's name. At a deeper level, the practitioner always focuses on Buddha Amitābha, be it during recitation sessions or outside of such sessions, when he is engaged in mundane activities—i.e., at all times."

Most Difficult to Accept

The "most difficult to accept" is the way in which all the buddhas characterise the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha as taught by Śākyamuni Buddha. This means on the one hand that it is difficult to come about the karmic roots required to obtain a hearing of the sūtra, and then to accept it in faith and practise it as prescribed. This is because all other practice works with human calculation and inclinations toward reliance upon one's own power (i.e. self power), but the practice of the Pure Land demands abandoning human calculation and relying solely upon the working of the power of Amitābha Buddha's vow. This does not mean that faith only comes about when one negates the self, but that one must reorient one's perspective in a way that is not conventionally done in Buddhist practice or human conduct.

Most Difficult to Do

The Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha characterises the teaching of the Pure Land doctrine as that which is "most difficult to do." This is because, amidst the five degeneracies, it is unlikely that disciples will be able to arouse faith in the sūtra and practice it. This is therefore similar to being the "most difficult to accept."

Mount Sumeru

(Skt. sumerukūṭa/sumeruparvata/sumeru; Ch. 須彌山) The immense mountain at the centre of the world, it is surrounded in the four cardinal directions by the four continents and eight subcontinents.


(Skt. vicitra) This can mean both multicoloured and charming. Thus, it may not indicate a particular colour (which is how the Chinese appears to have interpreted it), but that it follows the same formula as other colours in the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha indicates that this, indeed, is intended to indicate a colour. The intention, certainly, however, is that being multicoloured is charming and this is a quality of the Pure Land.



(Skt. nāmadheya; Ch. 名號) The Name of Amitābha/Amitāyus Buddha is fundamental to the Pure Land sūtras' presentation of the method of birth in the Pure Land. It is not just the designation of the Buddha who created that land, but the means by which ordinary beings like ourselves are enable to be born there. Not being able to conceive of the ineffible, Amitābha Buddha provided this method for limited beings who must rely on dualistic phenomena. In this sense, it is said that the Name is not only that which is recited or recalled by the aspirant for birth, but it is the calling of Amitābha Buddha himself. In this light, the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha says that anyone who "will hear the name of that bhagavān, Amitāyus Tathāgata, and having heard it will think of it" or contually think of it for one to seven nights with an undistracted mind, will certainly be born in his land. Thus, if one hears the calling of Amitābha Buddha and realises that one is already enabled to be born, one is thereby born at the end of one's life.


(Skt.; Ch. 難陀) His name literally means joy. Nanda was the half-brother of Śākyamuni Buddha and came to attain arhatship after a long struggle with his attachment to his wife. His story is most well-known as recounted in Aśvaghoṣa's poem, Saundarananda or Handsome Nanda.


(Skt.; Ch. 那由他) This is a Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit term, equivalent to the Classical Sanskrit "niyuta" which simply means a vast amount.

Nets with Bells

(Skt. kinkinījāla; Ch. 寶羅網) While the "seven" rows or layers of nets is omitted in the Sanskrit, it can be inferred to follow as per the pattern of seven railings and seven rows of palm trees. According to Master Ou-yi, being seven in number indicates the seven catogires of the thirty-seven factors of awakening (1. four bases of mindfulness, 2. four right efforts, 3. four bases of supernormal power, 4. five roots, 5. five powers, 6. seven limbs of awakening, and 7. the Noble Eightfold Path). They are also made of the four jewels. That they surround everyone in the suggests that everyone surrounding beings in the Pure Land are endowed with such immeasurable merits. Master Hsuan Hua suggests that the nets represent samādhi, since nets restrain just as the mind is restrained from evil in samādhi, neither entering nor exiting. As regards the bells, these hang between the joints in the net, and when wafted by the breeze they create a pleasing sound, and give rise to mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha in beings bodies.


(Skt.; Ch. 涅槃) Meaning extinction, this indicates the extinction of suffering. Nirvāṇa is itself not buddhahood, but is often considered its equivalent because upon awakening, a buddha ceases to experience suffering. However, final nirvāṇa (parirnirvāṇa) is essentially equivalent to Buddha-nature and has the qualities of 1. eternity, 2. bliss, 3. self, and 4. purity.  This is also considered ultimate nirvāṇa. In the śrāvakayāna, it is held that there is a final emancipation upon the death of an arhat or buddha, but in the Mahāyāna, it is held that ultimately the Buddha neither comes nor goes from or into nirvāṇa. Thus, the Buddha's parinirvāṇa is a display to encourage beings to practice and to realise the impermanence of all compounded things. Most importantly for Pure Land Buddhism, Amitābha Buddha likewise never enters nirvāṇa, but is eternally in nirvāṇa—however for the sake of some beings for whom it is useful to see such a display, he may display entering parinirvāṇa.

Nityodyukta Bodhisattva

(Skt.; Ch. 常精進菩薩) His name means making constant effort, which indicates the quality of bodhisattva conduct that is always aiming to aid beings. He was a lay bodhisattva and is present, but largely silent, during the teaching of many major sūtras such as the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, the Teaching of Vimalakirti, and the Lotus Sutra.



Knowledge of all (Skt. sarvajñā; Ch. 一切智), used in the opening praise for the Sanskrit versions of the Pure Land sūtras ("Homage to Omniscience;" Skt. namaḥ sarvajñāya). This is the knowledge possessed by the Buddha (Skt. buddhajñāna; Ch. 佛智). Wonhyo divides it into inconceivable wisdom (不思議智), incalculable wisdom (不可稱智), vast wisdom of the Mahāyāna (大乘廣智), and unequalled, unmatched, highest wisdom (無等無倫最上勝智). These are cognates of the four kinds of purified knowledge (Skt. catvārijñāni; Ch. 四智) in Asaṅgha's Mahāyānasaṅgraha, the untainted counterparts to the eight consciousnesses.

One Night

This is the shorter length of time for practicing with the mind that is undistracted for birth according to the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha. This means that those who do not have the faculties for practicing for an extended period (i.e. seven nights) will also be able to attain birth by this method. But those who merely think of Amitābha's name (with faith), will also be able to be born if they do not engage in undistracted practice. What this is saying is that while a simple practice with faith is sufficient and those who lack the conditions to develop diligence will be embraced, those who are still attached to self-power practices and exerting effort will not be abandoned by Amitābha on account of their diligence.



(Skt.; Ch. 般涅槃) Final extinction. This term is used to indicate the passing of a buddha into final extinction after the death of their body, rather than the nirvāṇa they abide in throughout their day to day lives. The Nirvāṇa Sūtra, however, teaches that ultimately the buddhas do not enter into parinirvāṇa, but always abide in Great Nirvāṇa, which is thusness and Buddha-Nature.


(Skt. mayūra; Ch. 孔雀) One of the birds that appears in the Pure Land. Such birds are not born as such as the result of their evil karma, but rather are manifestations of the Buddha. Master Ou-yi explains that birds are manifested for four reasons: 1. People delight in those birds and they make them happy, 2. They teach the Dharma and encourage listeners to be virtuous, 3. Since they are not born by karma, they teach us to overcome our habitual tendency to make pejorative distinctions, and 4. They are the same as Amitābha, and allow us to awaken to the omnipresent nature of the Dharmakāya. Such birds make beings become mindful of the Triple Gem, and therefore to develop bodhicitta and overcome their afflictions.


(Skt. puṣkariṇī; Ch. 池) The ponds in the Pure Land are made (in their containing structure) of the seven jewels. They are also filled with waters of the eight qualities, and are filled to the brim so that crows can drink from them, i.e. without bending its neck, this is just a term that means "full to the brim," crows are not among the birds actually manifested in the Pure Land. The bottom of the ponds are lined with golden sand, which is to contrast them with the mud of ponds in our world. Importantly, the ponds give rise to the lotuses on which beings are born in the Pure Land.


(Skt. bala; Ch. 力) This refers to the supernormal powers of a Buddha. There are a few formulations with different enumerations, but the most common is the ten powers. The ten powers are 1. knolwedge of right and wrong, 2. knowledge of one's own and others' karma, 3. knowledge of all dhyānas and samādhis, 4. knowledge of the faculties of sentient beings, 5. knowledge of the inclinations of sentient beings, 6. knowledge of the various karmic seeds of sentient beings, 7. knowledge of the paths pursued by sentient beings, 8. knowledge of past lives, 9. knowledge of where beings will be born and die, and 10. knowledge of the destruction of the effluents.

Protected by All Buddhas

This is another name of the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha, and characterises how, when one hears and upholds it, they will be protected by all buddhas and will not turn back from awakening.


(Skt. śuddha; Ch. 淨) This, when used in the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha to characterise the disciples of Amitābha, means that when they are born in the Pure Land, they no longer give rise to defilements or tainted action because the conditions to ripen the karma that causes such actions are not presnt.

Pure Land

(Ch. 淨土) This term refers to Buddha Lands, and it means that the land has been purified by the actions of the Buddha (Skt. buddhakṣetrapariśuddhi). It comes to be the more common term, over Buddha Land, and also comes to almost universally mean the Pure Land of Amitābha, i.e. Sukhāvatī.



(Skt.; Ch. 羅睺羅) The son of Śākyamuni and Yaśodharā. He remained in his mother's womb for six years until Śākyamuni attained Buddhahood. Since he was born during an eclipse, he was given the name Rāhula which means obstruction (Ch. 障月). He became known for his intense practice.


Red is a colour that represents non-attachment and the pacification of selfishness. It is typically associated with the western direction and Amitābha Buddha. Among the five knowledges, it represents knowledge of observation (pratyavekṣajñāna).

Red Pearls

(Skt. lohitamuktā) This is one of the seven jewels and refers to a kind of red gem, but apparently not a ruby.


(Skt. abhyananda; Ch. 歡喜) This is the reaction that the audience had to Śākyamuni Buddha's teaching of the Pure Land sūtras. According to Master Ou-yi, "'Rejoiced' means they felt delight of the body and mind." 


(Skt.; Ch. 離婆多) The younger brother of Śāriputra and was originally a brahmin hermit before he joined the saṅgha. He was known for his commitment to meditative practice.



(Skt.; Ch. 如來) Thus come (tathā-āgata) and thus gone (tathā-gata). This is an epithet for the Buddha, and indicates that he comes into the world having practised the bodhisattva path, and goes into Nirvāṇa


(Skt. manasikāra) See also, awareness.

Three Realms

The three realms (Skt. traidhātuka or trailokya; Ch. 三界) are the three realms of saṃsāric existence. They are the desire realm (Skt. kāmadhātu; Ch.  欲界), form realm (Skt. rūpadhātu; Ch. 色界), and formless realm (Skt. arūpadhātu; Ch. 無色界). The desire realm includes the world of the four continents (including the human realm), the hells, and six lower deva realms. The form realm is a realm of devas who are free from sensual desires, but not yet free from subtle form. The formless realm is the realm of devas who have neither physical form nor desire and corresponds to the attainment of the four formless dhyānas.


(Skt. tathatā; Ch. 眞如) Reality as it is, the inexpressible truth that is equivalent to the Buddha's Dharma-body and emptiness.


A long and broad tongue (prabhūtatanujihva; 廣長舌相) is one of the marks of a Buddha and symbolises his mastery of the truth and its teaching. That each Buddha in the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha can cover their own buddha-lands with their tongues and expound the Dharma is another way of saying they expound the truth which encompasses the whole world. It is unbounded and equivalent to thusness.


Sahā World

(Skt. sahālokadhātu; Ch. 娑婆國土) Sahā means endurance, meaning beings who live there have to bear the sufferings of the five degeneracies.


(Skt.; Ch. 釋提桓因; 帝釋天) The lord of devas in his heaven of the Thirty-Three (trāyastriṃśa) on the summit of Mount Sumeru. He bears a thunderbolt (vajra). He inquired of the Buddha frequently and became one of his heavenly disciples.


(Skt.; Ch. 三昧) This term means putting together, which refers to the joining of the mind and object of concentration. Such an object could be the breath or a contemplated image of the Buddha. Dhyāna (定) refers to the successively more subtle states of mind, with attendant qualities and fewer defilements. The attainment of equanimity in the fourth dhyāna is characterised as meditative equipoise, or samāpatti (三摩鉢底). Samādhi progresses beyond that and sees the yoking (yoga) of the mind and object without any distraction or wavering. Samādhi, however, can also arise without going through dhyānas. The samādhi of the recollection of the Buddha (buddhānusmṛtisamādhi; 念佛三昧) refers on the one hand to a meditative samādhi in formal practice but ultimately refers to the recognition that the Buddha and oneself are one while retaining a separate individual identity. This is either a spontaneous realisation or conscious recognition marked by recitation or recollection of the Buddha's name.


(Skt.; Ch. 三藐三佛陀) Meaning, perfect and fully awakened one. This refers to fully awakened buddhas. The term is left untranslated because by tradition it is usually left untranslated in Chinese. This has the effect of creating a sense of reverence.


(Skt.; Ch. 僧; 僧伽) This means assembly. It refers to the community of monastics, novices, and laity. On the Mahāyāna level the term ārya saṅgha, or Noble Saṅgha, refers to the community of bodhisattva mahāsattvas.


(Skt.; Ch. 舍利弗) Also known by the name Upatiṣya, he was a brahmin disciple of the philosopher Sañjaya, but joined the Buddha at the same time as Maudgalyāyana. The two, together, brought many of Sañjaya's other students with them. He became well known as the disciple of the Buddha who was foremost in wisdom. 

Seven Jewels

The seven jewels are defined in the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha as gold, silver, vaiḍūrya, crystal, red pearls, emeralds, and coral. On the one hand, they indicate the immense value of qualities in that land and how unlike this world it is, on the other hand, they represent that the lord of that land is replete with the seven limbs of awakening.

Seven Nights

This is the upper length of time indicated in the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha for those practising recollection of the Buddha without distraction. The lower length indicated being one night. This represents those who are of superior faculties and determination.

Seven Railings

Seven rings of railings surround the Pure Land and are made of the four precious jewels. According to Master Ou-yi, seven represents the seven categories of the thirty-seven factors of awakening. Master Hsuan Hua suggests that "railings represent the precepts (prohibiting evil and preventing error."

Seven Rows of Trees

Seven rows of trees surround the pure land and are made of the four precious jewels. According to Master Ou-yi, seven represents the seven categories of the thirty-seven factors of awakening. Master Hsuan Hua suggests that the trees represent wisdom.

Six Realms of Existence

(Skt. ṣaḍgati; Ch. 六趣) Literally, six destinies. This refers to the six realms that beings are born into based on their karma in saṃsāric existence: 1. Hell, 2. Ghosts, 3. Animals, 4. Asuras, 5. Humans, 6. Devas.

Son of Good Family

(Skt. kulaputra; Ch. 族姓子; 善男子) A term of address for a listener in the sūtras. While this term originally referred to a son of a noble family, in the Buddhist context it means a disciple of the Buddha—by taking refuge in the Buddha, one enters the Buddha's family.


Literally a hearer or listener (Skt.; Ch. 聲聞). This refers to disciples of the Buddha who hear his voice. In the sūtras, it does not necessarily refer to beings who are not bodhisattvas, simply direct disciples of the Buddha. However, in the scheme of the vehicles (Skt. yāna; Ch. 乘), this can refer specifically to disciples who are engaged in practice for the attainment of arhatship rather than full Buddhahood and as thus placed on the vehicle of the śrāvakas, or śrāvakayāna (Skt.; Ch. 聲聞乘).


(Skt.; Ch. 舍衞; 舍衛國) The capital city of the kingdom of Kośala, and the location of Jetavana, Śākyamuni Buddha's first major monastery.  


(Skt.; 周陀) His name is also apparently Cūḍika and Cunda, and sometimes goes by Cūḍapanthaka. He was the son of a wealthy girl of Rājagṛha and a slave. He was born at the side of a highway, and his name means Lesser Path, and his older brother, Mahāpanthaka, means Greater Path. He ordained shortly after his brother but had trouble memorising verses and thus had difficulty progressing in his understanding of the Dharma. However, after being instructed to sweep dust and reflect on how it was also sweeping the mind, he swept away his defilements and attained arhatship. His name changed thereafter from Cūḍapanthaka (Lesser Path) to Śuddhipanthaka (Pure Path), because he purified his mind and also could teach others how to purify their minds and follow the bodhisattva path.


(Skt.; Ch. 極樂) The Pure Land of Amitābha/Amitāyus Tathāgata. Its name means Blissful or Ease. The Chinese name means Ultimate Bliss. It is located in the Western Direction and is described in each of the Pure Land sūtras.



(Skt. aviparyasta; Ch. 不顚倒) This characterises the state of mind of the practitioner at the time of death if they have thought of Amitāyus Tathāgata. This means not going in the wrong direction or not falling into error. In the case of Pure Land practice, it means that at the time of death, the practitioner will entertain no doubts that they will be born. This is a state of mind that is bestowed by the Buddha, because it is incredibly difficult to attain by one's own power.


(Skt. apratihata; Ch. 無所障礙) This means that nothing obstructs something, in the case of the Pure Land texts, it is used in reference to Amitābha's light. This means that he is present everywhere, and the presence of physical obstructions or mental distortions will not negate the ability of his light to reach everywhere. His wisdom, which is embodied by that light, is equivalent to thusness and Buddha-nature, it is Nirvāṇa and is without bounds.



(Skt.; Ch. 瑠璃) This is often taken to mean lapis lazuli, but based on references to it as being transparent or translucent, it is more likely to be blue beryl in the context of Buddhist texts. It is one of the four jewels and one of the seven jewels. According to Nāgārjuna, moreover, there are three types of vaiḍūrya: human jewels, divine jewels, and bodhisattva jewels. They can remove the poverty and suffering of beings.


(Skt.; Ch. 薄拘羅) An arhat who mastered the ability to overcome illness, which is grounded on his strict refusal to take life. He apparently lived up to 160 years without illness.


(Skt. praṇidhāna; Ch. 願) On the one hand this simply means the aspiration or desire of a being to do something, such as to be born in Sukhāvatī. On the other hand, it refers to a solemnly pledged promise, such as that one will attain buddhahood. When capitalised, Vow, it tends to refer to Amitābha's vows, the 48 of which are enumerated in the longer versions of the Pure Land sūtras.


Waters of the Eight Qualities

(Skt. aṣṭāṅgopetavāri; Ch. 八功德水) According to Master Ou-yi, these are (1) purity and clarity, (2) coolness, (3) sweet pleasing taste, (4) light and limpid, (5) sparkling bright, (6) peaceful, (7) eliminates hunger and thirst, and (8) nurtures the capacities of sentient beings. These are all qualities rarely found in water in the Sahā World.


White is a colour that represents wisdom and the pacification of ignorance. It is typically associated with the central direction and Vairocana Buddha. Among the five knowledges, it represents knowledge of the essence of the Dharma-Realm (dharmadhātuprakṛtijñāna; 法界體性智).

Wholesome Roots

(Skt. kuśalamūla; Ch. 善根) Good actions that plant karmic seeds that ripen in good results.


In the Tathāgataguhya Sūtra, winds represent the karmic inclinations of beings which stir the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who teach without intentionality or calculation. In the Pure Land sūtras, it is what blows the trees and bells to give rise to sounds that are pleasing to the mind and which give rise to mindfulness in the Triple Gem. It can thus be seen that they are acting in the same way.

World System

(Skt. lokadhātu; Ch. 界) One world in which sentient beings inhabit.


Yama World

(Skt. yamaloka; Ch. 琰魔界) One of the worlds, or kind of being, that doesn't exist in the Pure Land. Yama is the judge of those who are destined to hell, but his world is in the third heaven above the human world. This exclusion, therefore, signifies the lack of a certain kind of deva that is not needed because there are no hells in the Pure Land.


Yellow is a colour that represents non-pride and the pacification of greed. It is typically associated with the southern direction and Ratnasaṃbhava Buddha. Among the five knowledges, it represents knowledge of equality (samatājñāna).


References to Master Ou-yi and Master Hsuan Hua come from:

Cleary, Jonathan C., Mind-Seal of the Buddhas - Patriarch Ou-i's Commentary on the Amitabha Sutra, New York: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada, 1997.

References to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit rely on:

Edgerton, Franklin, Buddhist hybrid sanskrit grammar and dictionary, 2 volumes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953.