Recently, I heard the terms Buddha-fields and Dharma-fields. It was explained as a place to do good deeds for gaining good karma. However, I'm not sure about the explanation or what it means. What are Buddha-fields and Dharma-fields? What role do they play in Buddhism?
A Buddha-Field is another word for a Pure land, a realm associated with a Buddha. In the Pure Land Buddhism followers chant to a Buddha such as Amitabha in order to be reborn in his pure land where enlightenment is guaranteed thereafter.
To be honest I'm not seeing much about Dharma-Fields when I look. But if you are seeing the term used in the same context as Buddha-Field I'm going to go out on a limb and say they mean the same. I'd be interested if someone else knows otherwise.
The question about pure lands give more information.
I hope that helps some.
They may have been referring to "fields of merit"--our parents, our sangha, the poor, etc. Basically, they are wherever we have the opportunity to do good deeds (meritorious actions) so we produce good karma (merit) for the benefit of ourselves and others, living or dead.
Here is a small booklet (PDF) outlining how to reap and sow these "fields" through meritorious action:
- Giving or generosity (Dāna-mayaŋpuñña-kiriya-vatthu)
- Moral conduct or virtue (Sīla-mayaŋ........................... )
- Meditation or mental development (Bhāvana-maya .... )
- Respect or reverence (Apaciti-sahagataŋ....)
- Service in helping others (Veyyāvacca-sahagataŋ.... )
- Transference of merit (Pattānuppadānaŋ ..................)
- Rejoicing in other’s merit (Abbhanumodanaŋ ......... )
- Expounding or teaching the dhamma (Desana-mayaŋ .....)
- Listening to the dhamma (Savana-mayaŋ.................)
- Correcting one’s views (Diññhijjukammaŋpuñña-kiriya-vatthu)
This text is Theravadin, and I mostly practice Mahayana, but there isn't any contradiction between the two schools of thought on this matter as far as I can tell.
The term Buddha-field is a literal translation of a compound Sanskrit word Buddhakṣētra, which is composed of two words Buddha (literal meaning: awakened one) and kṣētra (literal meaning: field, area, or tract of land). The term Buddha in Buddhism may referred to someone who has realized enlightenment or to Siddhartha Gautama, however these meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive from each other and the emphasized meaning is based on context. Kṣētra is used to denote a sacred space or precinct where a temple, shrine, or place where a sacred person is held or an event occurred in that particular location commemorating religious or historical importance. The term Kṣētra may generally be used to mark a physical location with religious significance associated with pilgrimage, yet it may also be used to indicate abstract phenomena of conscious realizations independently or simultaneously associated with a physical location, a narrative, sacred art (like a yantra or mandala), or another dimension in space and time.
The term Buddhakṣētra or Buddha-field may be applied to a multitude of conventional understandings within the context of Buddhist traditions such as Pure Land, Merit Field, Refuge Tree, and Mandala just to name a few. Yet all these terms all have the same underline meaning of a sacred space in which a sentient being encounters a buddha through the practice of the dharma in a physical environment, an abstract environment or simultaneously in an environment conjoining the physical and abstract.
Relatively the Buddha-field may be experience in the present moment:
During a recent seminar, Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje had the following to say about Pure Lands or Buddha-fields:
“I’m just using the term “Pure Land” to interest you all, but basically I will be talking about the same old Buddha dharma… All the great, extremely wonderful descriptions of the Pure Land are mentioned so that the practitioner will do whatever is necessary to develop a clear and well-structured mindset. But once we have such a mindset then the Pure Land is very much right here and now..”
The earliest known references to a Buddha-field may be found in the avadānas that associate religious practices associated with events held at stūpas. “The avadānas (Pali: apadānas) added three important ideas associated with the Buddha-field: (1) the Buddha-field surrounding a relic of the buddha is equally fertile to that surrounding a living Buddha; (2) there are innumerable Buddha-fields in every direction beyond the limits of our cosmos; and (3) a Buddha-field is absolutely necessary to the path of Awakening, for only by planting a merit-seed in such a field can one embark on the path of Awakening at all. Thus the Buddha-field becomes the ground from which further awakened beings will grow.”1
In India during the early development of Buddhism, the practitioner would make vows and leave gifts at a stūpa to plant the seeds of merit for a future rebirth to reach nirvāna, which for the practitioner was an encounter with a Buddha-field both physically and meta-physically.2 These early acts of devotion inspired by avadānas teachings laid the framework for further elaboration of Buddhakṣētra found in one form or another in Theravādin devotionalism, Mahāyāna teachings, Pure Land Buddhism, and Vajrayana devotionalism and teachings.