I have encountered people who say that the Pure Land is here, or that we can create the Pure Land on earth. Unfortunately, I am an ordinary being – in Sanskrit this is prthagjana and in Japanese it is bombu – full of blind passions, starting with greed anger and delusion, to say the very least. How often am I envious, frustrated, irritable, disdainful, unforgiving – how often do I experience the unenlightened emotions of an ordinary human being? If I were to say that I live in the Pure Land or that I can create a Pure Land …. this would just be a sign of madness and delusion.
It was not the same in the early times of the Buddha Dharma, and there are no doubt arhats and accomplished bodhisattvas living in the world today. I do not know, and doubt that I have ever met one. I must say, however, that I have encountered people who are close at least. But in ancient times (closer to the age of Shayamuni Buddha) there were enlightened sages who could go to the Pure Land in meditation (samadhi):
These bodhisattvas mahasattvas do not see through [the obstructions] with the divine eye, nor hear through them with the divine ear, nor travel to the Buddha-field there, and only then see; rather, while sitting here they see the Buddha Amitâbha, hear the sutras which he preaches, and receive them all. Rising from meditation they are able to preach them to others in full. (ET 25-II)
In our own time there is not even a Buddha in the world. Is there anywhere like this? –
Wherever the Buddha travels, be it country, province, town, or village, there is no place which does not benefit from his virtue. Peace and harmony reign throughout the land. The sun and moon shine brightly, the wind and rain are timely, and no disaster or disease ever occurs. The land is prosperous and the people live in peace, so there is no need to use soldiers or weapons. People respect virtue, cultivate benevolence, and diligently observe propriety and humility. (Larger Sutra, Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-ha, p. 93)
There may be places where there are some elements of the Buddha’s presence – hopefully in a temple, for example – but even sanghas can be torn apart by greed, anger and folly. To create a pure land in this world we would need to be fully awakened bodhisattvas at least – certainly I cannot count myself in that august cohort. Nevertheless, we naturally strive for a better, more peaceful and harmonious world, and our understanding of the reality of things strengthens our resilience and purpose.
And there is wonderful news, too. A person who attains shinjin through the working of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha enters the stage of the truly settled, becoming a Buddha when their life ends. In the meantime such people live a life of nembutsu with strength and joy – no matter how grim things may be sometimes; and live life to the full.
When we are grasped by Amida, immediately – without a moment or a day elapsing – we ascend to and become established in the stage of the truly settled. (CWS, p. 475)
… and then there’s this …
In the Hymns [on the Samadhi] of All Buddhas’ Presence Shan-tao, the Master of Kuang-ming temple, explains that the heart of the person of shinjin already and always resides in the Pure Land. ‘Resides’ means that the heart of the person of shinjin constantly dwells there. (CWS, p. 528)