http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
"For a long time, Lord, I have wanted to come and set eyes on the Blessed One, but I had not the strength in this body to come and see the Blessed One."
"Enough, Vakkali! What is there to see in this vile body?
He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees Me; he who sees Me sees Dhamma.
Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees Me; seeing Me one sees Dhamma."
Shariputra, those living beings who hear of this should vow: 'I wish to be born in that Country.'
And why? Because those who are born there assemble in one place with people whose goodness is unsurpassed.
Shariputra, if one has few good roots, blessings, and virtues, one cannot be born in that Land.
Shariputra, if there is a good man or good woman who hears of Amitabha and holds His Name whether for one day, two days, three, four, five days, six days, as long as seven days with one mind unconfused, when this person nears the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the Assembly of Holy Ones.
When the end comes, his mind will not be utterly confused, and in Amitabha's Land of Utmost Happiness he will quickly be reborn. Shariputra, because I see this benefit, I speak these words; and, if living beings hear this teaching they should make the vow:
'I wish to born in that Land'.
http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/purelan ... s/id2.html
(18) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to Me, desire to be born in My Land, and call My Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma.
(19) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters, who awaken aspiration for Enlightenment, do various meritorious deeds and sincerely desire to be born in My Land, should not, at their death, see Me appear before them surrounded by a multitude of Sages, may I not attain Perfect Enlightenment.
(20) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who, having heard My Name, concentrate their thoughts on My Land, plant roots of virtue, and sincerely transfer their merits towards My Land with a desire to be born there, should not eventually fulfill their aspiration, may I not attain Perfect Enlightenment.
If we are not diligent and do not exert efforts along the path of cultivation, nothing usually happens; however, if we are diligent and exert a great deal of effort, we will definitely witness different realms. They either come from within the mind or are caused by outside sources. I will speak first about the realms originating from the mind, called internal realms.
Internal realms are also called "realms of the Self-Mind" because they do not come from outside, but develop from the mind. Those who do not clearly understand the truth that "the ten thousand dharmas are created by the mind," think that all realms come from the outside. This is wrong. When the practitioner reaches the stage of mutual interpenetration [of mind and realms], completely severing external conditions, the seeds of latent dharmas in the Alaya consciousness suddenly manifest themselves.
For the Buddha Recitation or mantra-chanting practitioner, the power of the Buddha's Name or the mantra penetrates deep into the mind, eliciting a reaction from the wholesome or evil seeds in the Alaya consciousness. The realms that result are very complex and usually appear in dreams, or even when the practitioner is awake and striving to recite the Buddha's Name. In Buddhism, this condition is called "changing manifestations of the Alaya consciousness.
External realms are realms which are not created by the mind, but come from the outside. For example, some practitioners might see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appearing before them, preaching the Dharma, exhorting and praising them. Others, while reciting the Buddha's name, suddenly experience an awakening and immediately see the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Some practitioners, in the midst of their pure recitation, see deities and Immortals arrive, join hands and circumambulate them respectfully, or invite them for a leisurely stroll. Still other practitioners see "wandering souls of the dead" arrive, seeking to "take refuge" with them. Yet others, having reached a high level in their practice, have to endure challenges and harassment from external demons. Some might ask, "To see Buddhas and lotus blossoms -- is it not to see demonic apparitions?"
Answer: If cause and effect coincide, these are not "demonic realms."
This is because the Pure Land method belongs to the Dharma Door of Existence; when Pure Land practitioners first set out to cultivate, they enter the Way through forms and marks and seek to view the celestial scenes of the Western Pure Land. When they actually witness these auspicious scenes, it is only a matter of effects corresponding to causes.
If cause and effect are in accord, how can these be "demonic realms"?
In the Zen School, on the other hand, the practitioner enters the Way through the Dharma Door of Emptiness. Right from the beginning of his cultivation he wipes out all marks -- even the marks of the Buddhas or the Dharma are destroyed. The Zen practitioner does not seek to view the Buddhas or the lotus blossoms, yet the marks of the Buddhas or the lotus blossoms appear to him. Therefore, cause and effect do not correspond. For something to appear without a corresponding cause is indeed the realm of the demons. Thus, the Zen practitioner always holds the sword of wisdom aloft. If the demons come, he kills the demons, if the Buddha comes, he kills the Buddha -- to enter the realm of True Emptiness is not to tolerate a single mark.
A caveat: we are only talking here about novice cultivators. High-level Zen practitioners do sometimes see various marks which are not demonic realms. When their minds become enlightened, Zen Masters who have practiced meditation for many eons can see evil as well as transcendental realms, including the pure and defiled lands of the ten directions. This is because all worlds are within the light of the True Mind. On the other hand, despite what we have said earlier, Buddha Recitation practitioners sometimes see various marks which are "demonic realms," as will be explained later.
In short, when we refer to "internal" and "external" realms, we are speaking at the level of beginning cultivators. For those who have attained the Way, Mind is realm, realm is Mind, the ten thousand dharmas and ourselves have but one common Nature. There is no inside or outside at all.
3. The Land of Ultimate Bliss is so extremely lofty and beautifully adorned that we cannot rely merely on "a few good roots, blessings, virtues, causes and conditions" to achieve rebirth in that Land. Reflecting upon ourselves, we see that our good roots, merits and virtues are indeed shallow, while our bad karma and obstructions are heavy; how can we expect to attain, in this very life, conditions favorable to rebirth in the Pure Land?
I respectfully beg of you, ten million times, not to have such doubts!
For, if you can finger a rosary and recite the Buddha's Name, you already have deep roots of merit and virtue. Do think again.
How many people are there on this very earth who lack the opportunity to hear the Buddha's Name?
How many, even after hearing Amitabha Buddha's Name, continue to seek fame and profit, chasing after mundane dusts and refusing to recite the Buddha's Name?
You have now heard the Dharma and recited the Buddha's name in all sincerity.
Is this not proof enough that you already have many good roots, merits and virtues?
In the Longer Amitabha Sutra, Buddha Sakyamuni said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya:
If any sentient being hears the name of Amitabha Buddha and is transported with delight even for a moment, you should know that he has received great benefit and has perfected supreme merit and virtue.
This quote should be proof enough: the very fact that a person practices Buddha Recitation shows that he already has many good roots, merits and virtues. The book, Biographies of Pure Land Sages and Saints, records the life histories of individuals who committed extremely heavy transgressions, yet achieved rebirth in the Pure Land through singleminded recitation of the Buddha's Name at the time of death. Your good roots, merits and virtues far surpass those of the evil beings cited in these biographies. Therefore, why should you have doubts about being reborn in the Pure Land in this very lifetime?
As we earnestly recite the Buddha's Name, our mind-power keeps developing. When one-pointedness of mind is achieved, the mind-power manifests itself perfectly. At that point the power of our karma is subdued and is no longer a hindrance. If we add to that Amitabha Buddha's power to "welcome and escort," we will achieve rebirth in the Pure Land in spite of the fact that not all of our bad karma is extinguished. Once reborn, our lifespan extends over innumerable eons. Non-retrogression until complete Enlightenment and Buddhahood are attained is therefore an easily understandable occurrence.