CULTIVATION (SUKHAVATI / PURE LAND)
When Buddha Sakyamuni was alive, during His many travels, a group of devotees sought to join His order. He assigned two of the most promising to Maha-kasyapa, the highest in wisdom among Arhats. Maha-kasysapa accordingly taught the first disciple the breath-counting meditation (to counter mind-scattering) and assigned to the second disciple the meditation on corpses (to extinguish desire).
A long time elapsed however but despite their best efforts, neither of the two achieved any breakthrough. The Buddha, having learnt of this, met with them and asked the first one: "When you were at home, before you cut your hair, what was your family doing for a living?" "Lord Buddha, my father and my grandfather before him were gate-keepers at our local charnel-ground (cemetery)," came the reply. "And what were you doing for a living?" the Buddha inquired of the other. "Since a young age, I helped my father in his work," came the reply. "I fanned the fire in my father's kiln." The Buddha then and there decided to switch the meditation topics of the disciples based on their previous experiences. The first one was reassigned the meditation on corpses and the second the counting of the breath practice. In a short time, both made significant progress and ultimately achieved liberation.
This story illustrates the crucial role of a good spiritual advisor--as even Maha-kasyapa, the wisest of Arhats, could err. Since Buddha Amitabha and the highest Bodhisattvas themselves are teachers and guides in Sukhavati (the Land of Bliss), the Buddha taught that rebirth in this Pure Land is the safest shortcut to Enlightenment and Buddhahood.
Namo Amitabha Buddha!