Cover of The Three Pure Land Sutras
BDK America
Publish Date: 
Hisao Inagaki, with Harold Stewart


9.5 x 6.6 x 0.7
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The three most important sutras of Japan's Pure Land tradition are here brought together in this single volume: The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus, The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus, and The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus.

Classic translation of the three most important sutras in the Japanese Pure Land tradition.


Translated by Hisao Imagaki, these three early Mahayana texts—The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus (Ch. Wuliangshou jing), The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus (Ch. Guan wuliangshou fo jing), and The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus (Ch. Amituo jing)—were chosen by Hōnen as the foundational scriptures of the Jōdo (Pure Land) tradition in Japan.

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The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus

The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus  is also known as the Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha, and more informally as the Large Amida Sutra. It is one of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith. It relates how the mendicant monk Dharmākara, practicing under the Tathāgata Lokeśvararāja, made 48 vows to save all suffering people. To fulfil these vows he created a paradise in the west called Sukhāvatī, and in fulfilling his vows he became the Buddha Amitāyus. The sūtra states that if anyone believing in these 48 vows should chant the name of Amitāyus, he will be born in the paradise of Sukhāvatī and there become a buddha.

In Japan the various Pure Land sects turn to this sūtra, known as the Muryō Jukyō, as the source of frequently recited excerpts, including the Sanbutsu Ge, a poem in which Dharmākara extols his teacher Lokesvararaja, and the Jūsei Ge, a summary of the 48 vows.

Skt. Sukhāvatīvyūha, translated into the Chinese by Saṃghavarman as Wuliangshou jing (無量壽經). 2 fascicles.

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The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus

This Sūtra on the Meditation of Amitāyus, known informally as The Meditation Sūtra or The Contemplation Sūtra, is one of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith. It relates the story of King Ajātaśatru and his mother Vaidehī. One day Vaidehī, who was in a state of continual anguish owing to the wicked practices of her son, invokes the help of Śākyamuni. He comes to her, and to assuage her anguish, shows her countless paradises in all directions,and asks her to choose one. She chooses the Sukhāvatī Paradise of Amitāyus in the west, and so Śākyamuni gave a detailed description of this paradise by means of 16 types of visualization.

Skt. Amitāyurdhyāna-sūtra, translated into the Chinese by Kālayaśas as Guan wuliangshou fo jing (觀無量壽佛經). 1 fascicle.

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The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus

The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus is the shortest of the three basic sūtras of the Pure Land Faith, and is known informally as The Smaller Sukhātīvyūha or The Smaller Amida Sutra, and is frequently recited at religious services. It starts by describing the splendors of Sukhāvatī, the western paradise of Amitāyus, and then explains what must be done to be born there. The Buddhas of the six directions (east, west, north, south, above and below) extol the virtues of the Buddha Amitāyus, and in conclusion it is recommended that one should generate the desire to be born in this paradise by believing in and chanting the name of Amitāyus.

Skt. Sukhāvatīvyūha, translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva as Amituo jing (阿彌陀經). 1 fascicle.

Table of Contents

A Message on the Publication of the English Tripiṭaka    NUMATA Yehan    v
Editorial Foreword    MAYEDA Sengaku    vii
Publisher’s Foreword    Francis H. Cook    ix
Translator’s Introduction    Hisao Inagaki    xiii

Outlines of the Three Sutras  xvi
Synopses of the Three Sutras  xxii

The Three Pure Land Sutras
The Larger Sutra [on Amitāyus]
(Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life Delivered by Śākyamuni Buddha) 1

Part One   3
Part Two   31

The Contemplation Sutra [of Amitāyus]
  (Sutra on the Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life Delivered by Śākyamuni Buddha) 63

The Smaller Sutra [on Amitāyus]
  (Sutra on Amitāyus Buddha Delivered by Śākyamuni Buddha) 89

Notes 97
Appendix 101
Glossary 105
Bibliography 129
Index 133
A List of the Volumes of the BDK English Tripiṭaka (First Series)