He has made forty-eight vows
to deliver sentient beings,
Enabling them to arrive in nine levels
at the opposite shore.
Namo Greatly Loving and Compassionate Amitābha of the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss
On the seventeenth day of the eleventh lunar month, we celebrate the birthday of Amitābha. Amitābha is a celestial buddha and the founder of the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Along with Avalokitêśvara Bodhisattva and Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva, they are regarded as "the Three Sages of the West." The name Amitābha means "Immeasurable Light."
Amitābha has deep connection with sentient beings in the Saha world. His merits are so vast, the very name of Amitabha is a practice for embodying compassion and happiness. In history, Master Yongming Yanshou, the sixth patriarch of the Pure Land school, has been generally recognized as the emanation body of Amitâbha Buddha. Hence his birthday, the seventeenth day of the eleventh lunar month, has been celebrated by the posterity as the birthday of Amitābha.
Śākyamuni Buddha praised those who single-mindedly chant Amitābha Buddha's name as his foremost disciples. In the Sukhāvatīvyūha-sūtra, the Buddha said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, "You see the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas are able to obtain great benefits. If men and women of good lineage, after hearing the name Amitābha Buddha, give rise to one pure and joyful thought, take refuge in and make obeisance to the Buddha, and practice in accordance with his teachings, you should know that they have gained great benefits and will attain the above-mentioned merits and virtues." "Their mind is not of inferiority nor arrogant. Their roots of goodness are realized, which are all superior. You should know that they are not Hinayana practitioners; rather, they are the foremost disciples in my teaching."
Having heard of his name, we are fully aware that Amitābha vowed to become a buddha for the sake of all sentient beings and formed the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, which is ten trillion Buddha-lands away from this world. He is still teaching the Dharma on that land and receiving and leading those who chant his name to his Pure Land, which provides nine levels of rebirth and four kinds of realm. Bodhisattvas who have truly aroused the determination for supreme enlightenment aspire to go there not for enjoying favorable conditions. Their purpose of getting rebirth in the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is to seek a perfectly purified environment for learning and practice, following the ultimate Dharma teachers and friends. After finishing their study, they will return to the Saha world by their original vows to liberate all sentient beings.
On this special day, let us chant Amitābha Buddha's name and Pure Land Rebirth Dhāraṇī
whole-heartedly, and pray for the Buddha's light to shine upon us and his power to bless us; let us deepen our faith and make great vows to be guided to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, and attain supreme perfect enlightenment for the sake of benefiting sentient beings.