The Buddha Pronounces the Sutra of Amitabha Buddha
"Also Sariputra, in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are ponds made of the seven treasures, filled with water with the eight virtues. Covering the bed of each pond is gold dust. The stairs and walkways on the four sides of each pond are made of gold, silver, aquamarine, and crystal. Standing majestically are lofty towers, all adorned with gold, silver, aquamarine, crystal, conch shell, ruby, and emerald. The lotus flowers in the ponds are as large as carriage wheels. The blue colors gleam with blue light; the yellow colors, yellow light; the red colors, red light; the white colors, white light. They are wonderful, fragrant, and pure. Sariputra the Land of Ultimate Bliss is formed with such virtues as its adornments!"
Thich Hai Quang commentary
Four Jewels: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal (diamond)
Seven Jewels: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal (diamond), mother-of-pearl, red pearl, and carnelian
Water of eight virtues and merits: Light, Refreshing, Soft, Pure, Clean, Clear, Delicious, and Illness will not arise from great consumption but will nourish and develop one's cultivated path.
Hsuan Hua commentary
Lapis Lazuli is an opaque, blue semi-precious stone, found near Magadha
Crystal is also called "water jade."
Mother-of-pearl has what looks like cart tracks running across it. Translated form the Chinese it is "great shells."
Waters of eight meritorious virtues:
1. Tepid - warm and yet cool. If you want the temperature adjusted it does so automatically.
2. Pure - the water doesn't get dirty. Feels like milk running over your body, smooth, comfortable, and extremely fine and subtle to the touch. The more you wash with it, the nicer you feel, there is no better feeling than this.
3. Sweet - You don't have to drink it. Just wash with it, and you will know that it is very sweet.
4. Soft - The water is not hard. It is very light and soft.
5. Moistening - When dirty people wash with it, they become clean. This water will wash any filth right off your body and leave you bright and clean.
6. Harmonising. If you wash with this water, your heart and mind will be at peace, without the slightest trace of bad temper. Without a hot temper, without the fire of ignorance, and without affliction, you will be in harmony with everyone. If they scold you, you won't get angry, and if they knock you over, it won't create a problem. "So what if they hit me?" you will say. You will be at peace with everyone. See how fine this is?
7. Banishes hunger and thirst.This is most important. After bathing in the waters of eight meritorious virtues, when it's time to eat, you are not hungry, and when it is time to drink, you are not thirsty. No milk and no bread and yet no hunger or thirst. The Land of Ultimate Bliss is unspeakably wonderful.
8. Nourishes all roots. It gives sustenance to all your sence organs. your eyes become bright and light and your ears, if once deaf, now can hear. If your nose is stopped up, wash with the water of eight meritorious virtues and it will get to work again. Whatever you eat tastes good, and your hands and feet work without feeling tired. Not only that, the water also nourishes your good roots and gets rid of your bad karma. How great would you say this merit and virtue is? We should quickly seek rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss so that we may bathe in the pools of the waters of eight meritorious virtues, and have our good roots nourished.
These waters have eight independent merits and virtues, eight happy merits and virtues, eight subtle, wonderful, inconceivable merits and virtues, and more. No matter what karmic obstacles you have, they all dissolve when you get into these pools.
The stairways - We may think our stairways of marble are spendid, but those in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are inlaid with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal, and the pathways emit multicolored rays of light.
The towers - Why are they adorned with so many treasures? To make them beautiful to look at! The seven jewels used to adorn the pavilions represent the perfection of Amitabha Buddha's ten thousand virtues. The great adornments are the measure of his great virtuous practices, for without virtuous practice, there can be no seven jeweled adornments.
The loutuses - Then how big are the pools? Each is as big as a hundred great seas. One great sea is big indeed, how big would you say a hundred great seas are? The lotuses in these pools are as large as carriage wheels, which are much bigger than automobile tires. The carriage wheels on the chariot of the Wheel-turning Sage King are one yojana in diameter. A small yojana is forty miles, a middle-sized one is sixty-miles, and a large one is eighty miles. This lotus, then, is eighty miles in diameter. Lotuses growing in pools as large as a hundred great seas would have to be at least that big. Tiny flowers in such big pools wouldn't look right.
A song about Amitabha BUddha goes like this:
"Amita, the great sage and master,
Serene, subtle wonderful, beyond all others...
Pools of seven gems,
Flowers of four colors and waves of solid gold."
The water is subtle and soft. It looks like water, but when you reach out to touch it, it feels as if nothing were there. It feels like water, but it is so fine that you can't grab a hold of it. It is like there's nothing there, but still it is there. It is just that subtle.
"Wonderful" means ineffable. There is no way you can even think about it. The water is also fragrant. Once you get in it you won't want to get out. As soon as you smell its fragrance, you will bring forth the Bodhi mind. In this world, we chase after good smells, but in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the fragrances cause one to say, "Too fine! I did better hurry up and cultivate the Way."
The smells of this world cause you to think, "Not bad... it is really bitter at the Temple. Cultivation isn't as good as..." But smells are defiled dharmas. Forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible objects are the five sense objects, and cultivators of the Way must certainly see through and break all attachment to them. First of all, do not become attached to beautiful form. Beauty is only skin deep; beneath the skin there is just pus, blood, and flesh.
So you should not become attached to forms. In order to cultivate, you should borrow forms and sounds and yet not become attached to them. Don't say, "Ah, this music is so beautiful. When I hear it, I... get all confused and don't know what I'm doing." If you must sing, sing in praise of Amitabha Buddha. Don't become attached to smells either.
...Everything is made from the mind alone. If you have samadhi power, then fragrances aren't fragrant and bad smells don't stink; good sounds aren't good sounds, and bad sounds aren't bad; beauty isn't beautiful, and ugliness isn't ugly. Samadhi power is the skill one derives from cultivation. If you have this skill, when people are good to you, you are not happy and when they are bad, you don't become afflicted. With samadhi power, you won't listen to the talk of your tongue when it says to you, "Take a taste of this and see if it tastes better than..." I often tell you that when I eat, I don't know if the food is good or not. It is not that I don't know. If I didn't know I would be like wood or stone. I am just not affected by the taste. I eat the same amount, whether it tastes good or not, without discrimination.
The lotuses of four colors in the Land of Ultimate Bliss shine with four colors of light which represent the Four Applications of Mindfulness, the Four Right Efforts, and the Four Bases of Supernatural Power. In reciting and studying the Amitabha Sutra, we should cultivate samadhi power. If you have samadhi power, then the Land of Ultimate Bliss is right here. If you don't, even if you went to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, you would run right off to the Land of Ultimate Misery. With samadhi power, the Land of Ultimate Misery is the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Without affliction, you can say, "Everything is okay." If that is not the Land of Ultimate Bliss, what is?
Probably not going to fully grasp the significance of the numbers until I finish reading more sutras (like the Anguttara Nikaya - Numbered Discourses). The 4 jewels, 7 jewels, and 8 virtues all have significance. At the end of his commentary, Hsuan Hua's coverage of the four colors of lotuses is a nice start. Something tells me the 8 virtues of the water have something to do with mental purification and nothing to do with actual water (probably a loose allusion to the river Ganges).