The Buddha’s last words were to let the Dharma be your light, seeking no external refuge. While the Nembutsu might seem like prayer to a divine being, this is not the case. In reciting Amida’s name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we awaken to the symbolic light of Dharma-wisdom, the truth of reality, in our daily lives. The name Amida means boundless light.
Note that light is not the right translation, it should be island, in the sense of a refuge, a place that is protected.
This is in line with what is explained by the Buddha in many suttas similar to SN22.43:
“Mendicants, be your own island, your own refuge, with no other refuge.
Let the teaching be your island and your refuge, with no other refuge."
And of course, this is what we find in DN16:
"So Ānanda, be your own island, your own refuge, with no other refuge.
Let the teaching be your island and your refuge, with no other refuge.
And how does a mendicant do this?
It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. They meditate observing an aspect of feelings … mind … principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
That’s how a mendicant is their own island, their own refuge, with no other refuge.
That’s how the teaching is their island and their refuge, with no other refuge.
Whether now or after I have passed, any who shall live as their own island, their own refuge, with no other refuge; with the teaching as their island and their refuge, with no other refuge—those mendicants of mine who want to train shall be among the best of the best.”
Hence, from the perspective of the sutta describing Buddha’s last teaching, for someone to be his/her own island all he/she needs to do is to develop the four foundations of mindfulness.
It is very straightforward and does not leave much room for alternative interpretations in my opinion.
So is reciting Amidas name an alternative to the 8-fold path?
Actually, his last words were this:
Come now, mendicants, I say to you all: ‘Conditions fall apart. Persist with diligence.’” These were the Realized One’s last words. (DN16)
I would say all of the above! But seriously chanting nembutsu all day and night might lead you to a heavenly realm. I don’t think it will take you to nibbana according to EBTs.
So is rebirth in the Pureland the goal of chanting Amida? I think it’s called “Sukhavati”?
Suddhāvāsa is the land only anagamins can go, according to the EBTs. And anagamins have completed their sila and samadhi (jhana etc.) aspects of their training.
The Pali dipa can mean either lamp or island. I believe that lamp makes more sense in the context of the Buddha’s final discourse. In regard to Amida Buddha, if he’s seen as a symbolic personification of the Dharma itself as the natural order of the universe, then calling to mind the name of Amida is calling to mind the Dharma. This is one of many devices a person can use to be mindful of the Dharma.
Closed because it is not clear what the topic of discussion is.