I have already written about the The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life Delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha (Larger Sutra) more than once. Very often people pick up the Larger Sutra after they have discovered that Shinran Shonin saw it as ‘the true teaching of the pure land way’ (CWS, p. 5) Strange to say, my own personal experience was the other way around. I discovered the Larger Sutra before I knew that Shinran was its finest advocate.
On the other hand, there is a logic in discovering the Larger Sutra first. For it is a long and well-established idea that the study of sutras needs the guidance of wise guides. On a first reading of the sutra, the question naturally arises: ‘How can I understand this wonderful scripture well; in a way that is not distorted by my own delusions and conceit? In a way that is not blinded by my preconceptions and prejudices.’
There are three ‘baskets’ of teachings in the Buddhist tradition. One of these is the commentaries (sastras). It is widely understood that the sastras play a vital role in carrying the way of the Buddha Dharma from generation to generation, allowing it to thrive and reach into the hearts of people living in ‘the floating world’ of change and uncertainty. It was the very fact that Shinran realised for himself the unique and powerful teaching of the Larger Sutra that drove him to expound it in such a way as to enable it to find a home in the hearts of millions of ordinary men and women, as it has for you and me.
Apart from Shinran’s profound and special understanding in the Larger Sutra, it is a resource for all people who seek wise guidance on to how to understand life; to know what it is that is the true and real. It tells us of the Buddha of immeasurable light. Light is wisdom and wisdom is compassion. The Larger Sutra is the epitome of the working of the perfection of wisdom and the resulting deliverance of all beings.
To reveal the true teaching: It is the Larger Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. The central purport of this sutra is that Amida, by establishing the incomparable Vows, has opened wide the dharma-storehouse, and full of compassion for small, foolish beings, selects and bestows the treasure of virtues. [The sutra further reveals that] Sakyamuni appeared in this world and expounded the teachings of the way to enlightenment, seeking to save the multitudes of living beings by blessing them with this benefit that is true and real. Thus, to teach the Tathagata’s Primal Vow is the true intent of this sutra; the Name of the Buddha is its essence. (CWS, p. 7)