Pure Land

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Pure Land Buddhism (traditional Chinese: 淨土宗; simplified Chinese: 净土宗, Jìngtǔzōng; Japanese: 浄土教, Jōdokyō; Korean: 정토종, jeongtojong; Vietnamese: 浄土宗, Tịnh Độ Tông), also sometimes referred to as Amidism, is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and currently one of the most popular schools of Buddhism in East Asia, along with Chán (Zen). In Chinese Buddhism, most monks practise it in combination with Chán or other practices. It is a devotional or "faith"-oriented branch of Buddhism focused on Amitabha Buddha.

Pure Land Buddhism is often found within Mahayana Buddhist practices such as the Chinese Tiantai school, or Japanese Shingon Buddhism. However, Pure Land Buddhism is also an independent school as seen in the Japanese Jōdo Shū and Jōdo Shinshū schools. There is not one school of Pure Land Buddhism per se; rather it is a large subset of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.

One key concept behind Pure Land Buddhism is that Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana) has become increasingly difficult to obtain through meditative practices. Pure Land Buddhism teaches that only through devotion to Amitabha Buddha can one be reborn in the Pure Land, a perfect heavenly abode in which enlightenment is guaranteed. Pure Land Buddhism was popular among commoners and monastics as it provided a straightforward way of expressing faith as a Buddhist. In medieval Japan it was also popular among those on the outskirts of society, such as prostitutes and social outcasts who, though often denied spiritual services in society, could find a form of religious practice in the worship of Buddha Amitabha.

The Pure Land is described in the Limitless Life Sutra as a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms. More importantly for the Pure Land practitioner, once one has been "born" into this land (birth occurs painlessly through lotus flowers), one will never again be reborn. In the Pure Land one will be personally instructed by Amitabha Buddha and numerous Bodhisattvas until one reaches full and complete enlightenment. In effect, being born into the Pure Land is akin to achieving enlightenment, through escaping samsara, the Buddhist concept of "the wheel of birth and death."

It is believed, that if practitioners chant Amitābha Buddha's name, or the nianfo, when their current life comes to an end they can be received with their karma by Amitābha Buddha (帶業往生). This fairly simple form of veneration has contributed greatly to its popularity throughout East Asia. This practice is called nembutsu in Japanese, or Buddha recitation, or "Being Mindful of the Buddha."

Another alternate practice found in Pure Land Buddhism is meditation or contemplation of Amitābha and/or his Pure Land. The basis for this is found in the Contemplation Sutra, where The Buddha describes to Queen Vaidehi what Amitābha looks like and how to meditate upon him. Visualization practices for Amitābha are more popular among esoteric Buddhist sects, such as Japanese Shingon Buddhism, while the nianfo is more popular among lay followers.

According to the Amida Sutra, people with "few roots of goodness or a small stock of merit" cannot go there. A dying person might have his thoughts in chaos, or someone might prevent him from saying the nianfo. A dying animal may have many people say nianfo for it. Within 8-12 hours after death, family and friends should not move the dying person's body and should not cry (the soul would feel unable to leave this world, while asking the majority buddhist monks may agree someone to donate organs), nianfo to the dying person. The effect of nianfo to death of traffic accidents or cancer were the most.

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