Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas: The Buddha Speaks of Amitābha Sūtra

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Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was dwelling at Prince Jeta’s Grove in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Śrāvastī together with a great assembly of 1,250 monastics, all great arhats well known to everyone. Among them were the Elder Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākāśyapa, Mahākātyāyana, Mahākauṣṭhila, Revata, Śuddhipaṃthaka, Nanda, Ānanda, Rāhula, Gavāṃpati, Piṇḍola-Bhāradvāja, Kālodayin, Mahākapphiṇa, Vakkula, Aniruddha, and other such great disciples. He was also accompanied by many bodhisattvas, those great beings: Mañjuśrī Prince of the Dharma, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, Constant Joyous Effort Bodhisattva,1 and other such great bodhisattvas. Also, Śakra, lord of the gods and others, an immeasurable assembly of all the gods, were present.

At that time the Buddha said to the Elder Śāriputra, “To the west from here, beyond a hundred thousand million buddha lands, there is a world called ‘Supreme Bliss.’ In that land there is a Buddha named Amitābha. He is there now, teaching the Dharma.

“Śāriputra, why is that land called ‘Supreme Bliss?’ Sentient beings in that land do not have various sufferings, they only experience all bliss. For this reason, that land is called ‘Supreme Bliss.’

“Further, Śāriputra, the Land of Supreme Bliss is completely encircled by seven layers of balustrades, seven layers of nets, and seven layers of trees in rows, all made of four kinds of precious materials. For this reason, that land is called ‘Supreme Bliss.’

“Further, Śāriputra, in the Land of Supreme Bliss there are ponds made of seven kinds of precious materials brimming with water with eight good qualities.2 The beds of the ponds are covered solely in golden sand. On their four sides are stairs made of gold, silver, beryl, and crystal. Above there are towered pavilions, also adorned with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, tridacna,3 red pearl, and agate. In the ponds are lotuses large as chariot wheels—the green-colored have a green luster, the yellow-colored a yellow luster, the red-colored a red luster, and the white-colored a white luster. They are exquisite, wondrous, fragrant, and pure. Śāriputra, the Land of Supreme Bliss is adorned by such good qualities brought to perfection.

“Further, Śāriputra, in that buddha land heavenly music plays continuously. The ground is made of gold. Six times during the day and night māndārava4 flowers rain down from the sky. In the quiet of dawn, sentient beings of that land fill cloth bags with many wondrous flowers and make offerings to a hundred thousand million buddhas in all other directions. When it is time for a meal, they return to their own land to eat and walk in meditation. Śāriputra, the Land of Supreme Bliss is adorned by such good qualities brought to perfection.

“Again, Śāriputra, in that land there are always many kinds of marvelous birds of various colors: white cranes, peacocks, parrots, śāris, kalaviṅkas,5and birds that are conjoined.6 Six times during the day and night they make harmonious and melodious sounds, which elucidate the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening factors, noble eightfold path, and such Dharma teachings. When sentient beings of that land hear these sounds, they are completely mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Saṅgha.

“Śāriputra, you should not say that these birds are reborn as the result of negative karma. Why is this so? In that buddha land, the three lower realms do not exist. Śāriputra, in that buddha land, even the names of the lower realms do not exist, much less the actual realms themselves. All these birds have been manifested by Amitābha Buddha in order to proclaim and spread the sound of the Dharma.

“Śāriputra, in that buddha land, when gentle breezes waft through the rows of jeweled trees and jeweled nets, they produce subtle, wondrous sounds, as if a hundred thousand types of musical instruments were playing in concert. Those who hear these sounds are spontaneously mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Saṅgha. Śāriputra, that buddha land is adorned by such good qualities brought to perfection.

“Śāriputra, what do you think, why is that Buddha called Amitābha? Śāriputra, that buddha’s brilliance is immeasurable and radiates without obstruction to all the worlds in the ten directions, therefore he is called Amitābha.7 Further, Śāriputra, the lifespan of that buddha and the people of his land lasts for immeasurable, limitless, incalculable eons, therefore he is called Amitābha. Śāriputra, since Amitābha attained buddhahood, ten eons have passed till the present.

“Further, Śāriputra, that Buddha has an immeasurable and limitless number of hearer disciples, all of them arhats, whose number cannot be reckoned by any means. His assembly of bodhisattvas is similarly vast. Śāriputra, that buddha land is adorned by such good qualities brought to perfection.

“Further, Śāriputra, all sentient beings born in the Land of Supreme Bliss have attained the stage of nonregression.8 Among them, many are one lifetime away from attaining buddhahood. Their number is so great it is beyond reckoning; it can only be described as immeasurable, limitless, and incalculable.

“Śāriputra, sentient beings who hear this should generate an aspiration: the aspiration to be born in that land. Why is this so? They will be able to gather in the same place with highly virtuous beings. Śāriputra, those who lack roots of virtue and meritorious causes and conditions cannot attain birth in that land.

“Śāriputra, if a virtuous man or virtuous woman hears of Amitābha and keeps his name in mind firmly9 for even one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, or seven days with a one-pointed undistracted mind, when that person’s life is about to end, Amitābha and the entire assembly of āryas will appear before them. When their life ends, their minds will not be confused, and they will immediately attain rebirth in Amitābha’s Land of Supreme Bliss. Śāriputra, I have given this discourse because I see these benefits. If there are sentient beings who hear what I have said, they should generate the aspiration to be born in that land.

“Śāriputra, just as I now praise Amitābha Buddha for the benefits of his inconceivable qualities, so do the buddhas in the east, such as Akṣobhya Buddha, Sumeru Emblem Buddha, Great Sumeru Buddha, Sumeru Light Buddha, Wondrous Voice Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm,10 and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, in the southern world systems there are Lamp of the Sun and Moon Buddha, Light of Renown Buddha, Great Heap of Flames Buddha, Sumeru Lamp Buddha, and Immeasurable Joyous Effort Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm, and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, in the western world systems there are Immeasurable Life Buddha, Immeasurable Emblem Buddha, Immeasurable Banner Buddha, Great Light Buddha, Great Brilliance Buddha, Jewel Emblem Buddha, and Pure Light Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm, and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, in the northern world systems there are Heap of Flames Buddha, Most Excellent Sound Buddha, Unstoppable Buddha, Arisen from the Sun Buddha, and Brilliant Net Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm, and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, in the world systems below there are Lion Buddha, Renowned Buddha, Brilliant Renown Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma Banner Buddha, and Upholder of the Dharma Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm, and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, in the world systems above there are Brahma’s Voice Buddha, King of Constellations Buddha, Foremost Fragrance Buddha, Fragrant Light Buddha, Great Heap of Flames Buddha, Body Adorned with a Multicolored Jeweled Flower Buddha, King of the Śāla Tree Buddha, Jeweled Flower of Virtue Buddha, Discerning all Meanings Buddha, and Sumeru-Like Buddha, such buddhas numerous as sand grains in the Ganges River. Each dwelling in their own land, they extend their long and broad tongue, completely covering the trichiliocosm, and proclaim this truth, ‘You sentient beings should have faith in this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, which praises inconceivable qualities.’

“Śāriputra, what do you think, why is this sūtra called Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas? Śāriputra, if a virtuous man or woman hears and retains this sūtra, and hears all the buddhas’ names, all these virtuous men and women will be protected and remembered by all buddhas and attain the irreversible state of unsurpassed, complete, and perfect awakening. This is why, Śāriputra, all of you should accept with faith what I have said and what all buddhas have said.

“Śāriputra, if someone has already generated the aspiration, is now generating the aspiration, or will generate the aspiration wishing to be born in Amitābha Buddha’s land, these people will attain the irreversible state of unsurpassed, complete, and perfect awakening, whether they have already been born, are now being born, or will be born in that land. Thus, Śāriputra, all virtuous men and women, if they have faith, should generate the aspiration to be born in that land.

“Śāriputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable qualities of all buddhas, so too do all buddhas praise my inconceivable qualities, saying, ‘Śākyamuni Buddha has been able to accomplish an extremely difficult and rare deed. In the Sahā world,11 in the adverse age of the five degenerations—the degeneration of the eon, degeneration of views, degeneration of afflictions, degeneration of sentient beings, and degeneration of lifespan—he has been able to attain unsurpassed, complete, and perfect awakening. For the sake of all sentient beings, he teaches the Dharma that is difficult for the entire world to have faith in.’

“Śāriputra, you should know that in the adverse age of the five degenerations, I have performed this difficult deed of attaining unsurpassed, complete, and perfect awakening. To teach the Dharma that is difficult for people to have faith in, for the sake of the entire world, is indeed extremely difficult.”

When the Buddha had delivered this sūtra, Śāriputra and all the monastics, gods, humans, and demigods of the entire world heard what the Buddha had said, rejoiced and received it with faith, paid respect to the Buddha, and departed.

 

The Sanskrit title of the sūtra is Sukhāvatīvyūha, which translates as The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī. It is best known in Chinese as The Buddha Speaks of Amitabhā Sūtra (Ch.《佛說阿彌陀經》, Foshuo amituo jing). We have added the title given by the Buddha, Protected and Remembered by All Buddhas, to this translation of the sūtra from Chinese.

This sutra was translated into Chinese during the Later Qin (384–417 CE) by Tripiṭaka Master Kumārajīva12 of Kucha.13

Translated from Chinese by Bhikṣuṇī Thubten Damcho based on the translations by Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center (2016), Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research (2003), and Luis O. Gomez (1996). Edited by Bhikṣuṇī Thubten Chodron.

The translation of this sūtra from Tibetan into English can be found on the 84000 website here.


  1. This translation employs Sanskrit proper names when they have been transliterated in Chinese, and English translations when Sanskrit proper names have been translated into Chinese. 

  2. Pure and clear, cool, sweet, light and soft, soothing, calming, thirst-quenching, and nourishing. 

  3. Shell and pearl of the tridacna gigas, the largest species of clam on earth. 

  4. The coral tree, erythrina indica. One of the five trees of Śakra’s celestial realm that has brilliant scarlet flowers. 

  5. The śari is a bird with the ability to talk, often interpreted to be a myna. The kalaviṅka is a bird with a melodious voice native to the Himalayas, which could be the cuckoo. 

  6. Skt. jīvajīva, a bird said to have two heads on one body. Translated into Chinese literally as “birds that share a life.” 

  7. Amitābha’s name is a compound of the Sanskrit words “amita” (boundless, infinite) and “ābhā” (light, splendor). He is also known as Amitāyus, a compound of “amita” and “āyus” (life). 

  8. Skt. avaivartika. A stage on the path at which further progress is ensured with no possibility of regressing to a previous stage. Posited as the path of preparation or the first or eighth ground for bodhisattvas. 

  9. Ch. 執持名號 (zhichi minghao). Literally “to hold his name firmly.” The Sanskrit term manasikariṣyati is translated into Tibetan as yid la byed, “to pay attention to, to take to mind.” 

  10. Skt. trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu. The largest possible universe composed of one billion world systems. A world system is any world or group of worlds illumined by one sun and moon. 

  11. The name of the world system we inhabit where Śākyamuni Buddha taught. 

  12. 344–413 CE. One of the greatest translators of Buddhist texts into Chinese. 

  13. An ancient Buddhist kingdom located in Chinese Turkestan, corresponding to parts of the present-day Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.