Buddhist Stairways to Heaven
Abstract: Buddha’s stairway to heaven traced a route most Buddhists aspired to follow. Pāli suttas and abhidharma offer ascent to radiant, pure, blissful lands ideal for enlightenment, through devotion, “a single mind of faith to the marrow of one’s bones,” and deathbed aspiration practices. Contrary to established opinion, “pure land” is a term of Indian origin developed from earlier “pure abodes.” Kumārajīva used “jing tu” to translate literal Sanskrit equivalents. The central concern of early Buddhists for heavenly rebirth set a strong Indian precedent for East Asian Pure Land. This complex of ideas and practices is crucial for understanding Mahāyāna Buddhology and the role of deities in ancient texts and modern Buddhist practice.