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Amida Buddha's Five-Kalpa Contemplation

How Amida Buddha, who is the master of all the buddhas in the universe, struggled to eliminate the root cause of our suffering of all people. His endeavor is written in the sutra as For five kalpas of contemplation. For five kalpas, which is an unimaginably long period of time, Amida Buddha contemplated. “Five kalpas of contemplation” signifies that Amida Buddha contemplated for a long period of time. In Buddhism, one kalpa is 432,000,000 years, so five kalpas is an unimaginably long period of time. Why did Amida Buddha have to contemplate for so long? It is written in the sutra as follows: Long ago, when Amida Buddha was still an ascetic named Dharma-kara, he wondered how he could make all people be born into the Pure Land equally. If Amida promised that he would save those who donated Buddha’s statue or pagoda, then poor people could not be saved. If Amida promised that he would save those people who have wisdom and talent, then foolish people would not be saved. If Amida’s Vow would only save those who listened to Buddhism often, then people who listened to Buddhism infrequently would not be saved. If the Vow would save those people who followed the Buddhist precepts, then those people who broke the precepts would not be saved. In this way, if Amida set a particular goodness as a condition of gaining birth in the Pure Land, then he would not be able to save all people. So Dharma-kara decided to create the Name, Namu Amida Butsu, which contained all the treasures of the universe, and he pledged that any kind of person would be able to go to the Pure Land just by receiving the Name.

“In order to save all people equally, there is no other way of saving them than to grant the Name,” he declared. So, after five kalpas of contemplation, Amida took this one path alone. We, who cannot be free from suffering, are the ones Amida wants to save. Master Shinran wrote in the Hymn of True Faith about this process: “When Bodhisattva Dharmakara, in his causal stage, was in the presence of Lokeshvararaja,” so is written. Innumerable eons ago, when Amida Buddha was still a bodhisattva by the name of Dharmakara, he began to practice under the guidance of Lokeshvararaja Buddha. Bodhisattva Dharmakara kneeled down in front of Lokeshvararaja, and made a respectful bow to him with his palms merged, and said, “My teacher Buddha, when I see those people in agony and distress, I mustn't sit still without doing something. Please let me save them.” Hearing his wish, Lokeshvararaja said “Your wish sounds very noble. However, these people are stained with worldly passions and their sins weigh heavy. All the buddhas in the universe have already given up on saving them. That’s how exceedingly evil they are. Did you know that?” Lokeshvararaja asked him. Bodhisattva Dharmakara quickly replied “I know that very well.” He continued “That’s the very reason I want you to let me save them. Please teach me thoroughly. I would like my practice to be based on creating an excellent Pure Land, and would then like to eliminate the root cause of their suffering.”

Lokeshvararaja realized that the wish of Dharma-kara was not ordinary, and was noble indeed. Lokeshvararaja Buddha repeatedly inquired about Dharma-kara’s wish. “Dharma-kara,” he asked, “do you think it’s possible to scoop out all the water in the vast ocean, spending aeons of labor, until you see the bottom of the ocean, and obtain the treasure that lies there, without having your body get wet? To save all sentient beings is much more difficult than that. Do you still want to do it?” he asked. Bodhisattva Dharma-kara said, “Yes, master. Because all the buddhas have abandoned them, and if I would give up on them as well, their suffering would continue from the present world forever into the future world.” Bodhisattva Dharma-kara continued, “From suffering to suffering, from darkness to darkness, they just continue on their way. They would sink in endless suffering. Please let me save them by any means. I will go through any hardship to accomplish this,” implored Dharma-kara.

Realizing his firm resolution, Lokeshavararaja Buddha said, “If you devote yourself to your practice with full devotion and true mind, you will surely accomplish your purpose and it will come true.” With these words, he gave Dharma-kara permission. Then Bodhisattva Dharma-kara rejoiced as if he himself was saved, and established the supreme Vow. His aspiration was so pure that nothing in this world could surpass it. It took five kalpas of contemplation to establish his Vow. “I will save people by granting them the Name.” After establishing this Vow, Amida Buddha, in order to fulfill his promise, went through ascetic practices for an unimaginably long period of time; It was a period of time that was longer than a thousand billion years. Then he completed the Name, which has the power to save all people into absolute happiness. Amida Buddha, in order to save all people, took five-kalpas of contemplation to establish the Vow that says “Rely on me. I will save any kind of people into absolute happiness, without fail.”

This was his Vow. Amida Buddha, in order to fulfill his noble Vow, made the six-character Name, Namu Amida Butsu, which is known as Myogo, or the Name. The mere existence of principles for curing illness is not enough to cure illness. These principles must be discovered, and a physician must prepare medicine based on them. Then, for the first time, the patient will be saved. Namu Amida Butsu is the medicine. The doctor, whose name is Amida Buddha, created this medicine based on the truth that cures the illness of all people and saves them into eternal happiness. We human beings, from untold ages past until now, have been, and are, stained with worldly passions. We lack any grain of truth, and are unable to free ourselves from suffering. Having taken pity on all people with this grave affliction, Amida Buddha risked his life and created the miracle medicine. His endeavor lasted an unimaginably long period of time, nearly an infinite period of time.

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