The sutra says: "In the Dharma-Ending Age, hundreds of millions of people will cultivate Buddhist practices, but there will rarely be even one who attains enlightenment. They will only find salvation if they rely on reciting the Buddha-name."
Alas! Our contemporary age is precisely the time of which the sutra is speaking. If we abandon this inconceivably powerful method of reciting the Buddha-name, how can we become pure?
When I first left home and became a monk, I prided myself on being a follower of Zen, and I looked down on the scriptures. I wrongly imagined that reciting the Buddha-name was an adaptation of Buddhism suited for those of average and below average capacities.
Later on, due to a grave illness, I developed the aspiration to go to Amitabha's Pure Land. After I studied various Pure Land writings, like the commentaries Miao--tsung and Yuan-chung as well as the Commentary on the Amitabha Sutra by Chu-hung, I finally came to realize that the Buddha-Recitation samadhi is truly the supreme jewel. Only then did I become utterly focused on reciting the Buddha-name -- wild horses couldn't drag me away from it.
A friend of mine who was a long-time Pure Land practitioner wanted to make the great meaning of the Amitabha Sutra clearly apparent in straightforward language, so he asked me to set forth an explanation of the essentials of the sutra. My wish is to enable all sentient beings in the world to be born together in the Pure Land. I could not refuse to serve a good cause, so I set to work writing a commentary on the sutra in late autumn, 1647, and completed the draft nine days later.
My hope is that every line and every word of this commentary will serve as "life provisions" for Pure Land practitioners, and that everyone who reads or hears about it will progress to the level where there is no falling back.
May those who have faith in the Pure Land and those who are in doubt about it both plant seeds of enlightenment. May those who praise the Pure Land and those who slander it alike reach liberation. I hope that this commentary is accepted and approved by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I hope my fellow students and friends will be happy with this work and grant me their protection.
Written by Ou-i, a man of the Path, age forty-nine.