Records of Home Coming to the Pure Land – Story 1

I’ve been wanting to share some real Pure Land Buddhism stories with you guys for years now.

There is an extremely rare book that can’t be found on the internet (because I’ve tried) called Records of Home Coming to the Pure Land – which details real life stories of people who recited the Buddha’s name (i.e., the name of Amitabha Buddha) and have had success in evoking a response from this great Buddha.

The first story is about an Indian Man in the time of Emperor Asoka (you can google this Emperor as he conquered India but reflected on all the killing he did and decided to turn over a new leaf and so, followed the Buddhist teachings and set up monuments with inscriptions of the Buddha’s teachings for his people to learn).  In any case, here’s what happened to this Indian man:

Once there was a Brahman in the kingdom of Asoka in India.  He was very stupid and lacked in wisdom.  He loved his wife very much and he was very attached to the pleasures of the flesh.

His wife was a Buddhist disciple and every night, she would beat a golden drum while she sang the name of Amitabha [Buddha].  The husband would then demand her to go to bed with him.

The wife made a pact with him.  After he had beaten the golden drum and sang Amitabha together with her, they would go to bed together.  The Brahman did as he had agreed.

After 3 years, he died of sickness but revived after 5 days and cried out, “I died and was being prepared for torture in the hell of iron cauldrons containing boiling oil!”

“The ghost soldiers beat the sinners with iron sticks which were heated up by the cauldrons of molton iron.  While the cauldron was struck by the iron stick, it made a sound.

“I was so frightened and became very confused that suddenly, on hearing the sounds of beating in hell, I remembered your voice of repeating the name of Buddha Amitabha with the beating of the golden drum.

“Then I sang ‘Namo Amitofo” and immediately, the boiling oil of the hell of cauldrons changed into a cool pond of lotus and all the boiling sinners were sitting on the lotus ready for birth in the Pure Land.  The King of Hades (i.e., King Yama) was very glad so he sent me back to this world”.

A gatha says, “If people commit much sin they have to go to hell but if they hear the name of Amitabha, the violent fires will be changed into cold ponds of water.” Response from the Triple Gem (Tritratna).

Source:  Records of Home Coming to the Pure Land (an abridged translation), Chapter IV, Anecdotes of the Pure Land Sect (1), p 52.

In the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earthstore Bodhisattva, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva asks Earthstore Bodhisattva what are the retributions people have to undergo in the hells?  Earthstore Bodhisattva replies:

Earth Store said, “Humane One, this is what happens during retributions in the hells. Offenders may go to a hell in which:’

  • Their tongues are stretched out and plowed through by cattle;
  • or to a hell in which their hearts are pulled out and eaten by yakshas;
  • or to a hell in which their bodies are cooked in cauldrons of boiling oil;
  • or to a hell in which they are forced to embrace red-hot copper pillars;
  • or to a hell in which they are forced to embrace red-hot copper pillars;
  • or to a hell in which they are burned by a fire that constantly pursues them;
  • or to a hell in which cold and ice are all-pervasive;
  • or to a hell in which excrement and urine are endless;
  • or to a hell in which flying maces are unavoidable;
  • or to a hell in which fiery spears stab them repeatedly;
  • or to a hell in which they are constantly beaten on the chests and backs;
  • or to a hell in which their hands and feet are burned;
  • or to a hell in which they are bound by iron snakes that coil around them;
  • or to a hell in which they are pursued by racing iron dogs;
  • or to a hell in which their bodies are stretched stomped by iron mules.

So this Indian man experienced a particular type of hell mentioned in the Earthstore Sutra.  Sounds like his spirit had descended into one of the hells but was saved because he could subconsciously recite the name of Amitabha Buddha when he was scared whilst being in hell.

And so, his body revived several days after (the Medicine Master Buddha Sutra also speaks of the possibility of this happening – and says that when people come back – they won’t dare to commit evil acts that harm others again because they’ve seen for themselves the direct results of their own evil karma).

Now some of you might be thinking, “There are no such things as heaven or hell!”  Well, we don’t know that – we’ll only know once we die or if we can meditate to such skill that we can travel there during our meditations and see for ourselves.

There are also some Buddhists who think that heaven and hell is just a mental state in this life – like happiness vs depression.  Though you can have happy and sad states in this life and you can liken them to heavenly experiences and hellish experiences in this life, the Buddha was very clear in his language, recorded in the Suttas and Sutras that there are heavenly realms and hell realms that people are reborn in AFTER the body dies:

Here some person kills living beings, takes what is not given, misconducts himself in sexual desires, speaks falsehood, speaks maliciously, speaks harshly, gossips, is covetous, is ill-willed, and has wrong view.[4] On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell.

Source:  Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta

There is actually a person who sounds like he can go to the hells accidentally in this video – so he or she must have special abilities or special vows from past lives – because normally, people can’t go there unless you die and you had done lot of evil things that harmed others in your life – your spirit descends there due to the force and weight of your bad karma.  Either that or you made vows to save those who were in hell – just like Earthstore Bodhisattva did – in which case whilst in hell, you are not receiving the tortures or torments that are being inflicted all the other poor suffering souls there:



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