Author Topic: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?  (Read 768 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« on: October 03, 2019, 01:59:30 pm »
Western propagators of Theravada Buddhism are sometimes known to reject devotional practices, metaphysical beliefs, and anything else that doesn’t fit their personal vision of “original Buddhism.”

This is not how Theravada has traditionally been taught, and neither does it reflect how Theravada is widely practiced in Southeast Asia. In popular practice, Theravada Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism are not so different:
http://www.foryou.sg/qql/slot/u401/ForYouPDF/325P60.pdf

Pure Land Buddhists in East Asia and Tibet dedicate various practices to Amitabha Buddha or Guanyin Bodhisattva, such as Buddha-name recitation, toward rebirth in the Pure Land after death. This is not a corruption of Buddhism.

Even in the Pali canon, which Western Theravadins claim is the most reliable record of the Buddha’s teachings, devotional practices to the Buddha are encouraged and rebirth into heavenly realms is a legitimate goal.

When the Buddha of the Pali scriptures attains enlightenment, he doesn’t decide to teach until after Brahma supplicates him to do so. This is why Brahma is honored as a deity in Theravada countries today.

Also, the Buddha of the Pali canon saw the attainment of Nirvana in this lifetime as an unrealistic goal for most lay people tied to worldly concerns. Instead, he often taught rebirth into heavenly realms as a goal for lay practice.

Western Zennists as well are known to misrepresent the teachings of the tradition they claim to advocate.  Soto and Rinzai Zen both traditionally teach rebirth and practice devotion to Guanyin and Shakyamuni Buddha.

How much does Western chauvinism account for this mentality that we know Buddhism better than traditionally Buddhist countries? While this chauvinism might not be conscious or intentional, it’s nonetheless troubling.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2019, 02:19:58 pm by Dharma Flower »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2019, 03:14:19 am »
Traditional Buddhism has it's merits and it's good that people such as yourself are working to keep it alive. Having studied quite a lot about how different strands of Buddhism developed over the years in many different places it's pretty clear that the underlying teachings have not disappeared, whatever the focus of concentration on the part of each different school of Buddhism. The same is true of developments here in the West. We here don't need to focus on rebirth or have beliefs in life after death to maintain the teachings, just as we don't need to deny those who do believe the right to carry on believing. Buddhism is bigger than that.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline stevie

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2019, 06:00:09 am »
I think it is necessary to differentiate between present 'folk buddhism' practiced in traditionally Buddhist countries and the Dharma transmitted in Buddist scriptures.

I would not follow devotional practices and metaphysical beliefs of present 'folk buddhism' but I do acknowledge that so called 'secularized' Western buddhism of today - which is especially predominant in the area of Theravada related teachings - even does reject teachings transmitted in Buddist scriptures if they consider these to be irrational metaphysical beliefs originating from the cultural/religious background of the time the teachings were given by the Buddha and/or Arya-Bodhisattvas.
From my perspective it is a serious fault to reject transmitted teachings. But I do not say that one should believe everything literally. What I say is that one should merely put aside teachings that one cannot accept because they go counter one's conditioned views but one should not reject them because rejection of transmitted teachings may cause big obstacles on the path.


Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2019, 07:03:52 am »
I think it is necessary to differentiate between present 'folk buddhism' practiced in traditionally Buddhist countries and the Dharma transmitted in Buddist scriptures.

Thank you for your response. Could you please give some examples of folk beliefs?

What I say is that one should merely put aside teachings that one cannot accept because they go counter one's conditioned views but one should not reject them because rejection of transmitted teachings may cause big obstacles on the path.

As the Supremely Awakened One, would the Buddha know if his teachings were true or not? How much can one put aside before the Buddha's enlightenment is called into question?
« Last Edit: October 04, 2019, 07:41:03 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline stevie

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2019, 10:05:21 am »
I think it is necessary to differentiate between present 'folk buddhism' practiced in traditionally Buddhist countries and the Dharma transmitted in Buddist scriptures.

Thank you for your response. Could you please give some examples of folk beliefs?
Sorry I can't be more specific because all I remember is reading about rituals in buddhist countries that do not have any basis in scripture. Often those rituals are performed in the context of ghosts or to incease crop, success in life or the like.


What I say is that one should merely put aside teachings that one cannot accept because they go counter one's conditioned views but one should not reject them because rejection of transmitted teachings may cause big obstacles on the path.

As the Supremely Awakened One, would the Buddha know if his teachings were true or not? How much can one put aside before the Buddha's enlightenment is called into question?
I used the expression 'put aside' to stress that it is NOT 'to reject'. Maybe I should have made explicit that 'put aside' is meant to temporarily not further engage oneself in it ... until later follow-up when one has progressed on the path and acquired the capacity to understand.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2019, 10:26:02 am »
I think it is necessary to differentiate between present 'folk buddhism' practiced in traditionally Buddhist countries and the Dharma transmitted in Buddist scriptures.

Thank you for your response. Could you please give some examples of folk beliefs?
Sorry I can't be more specific because all I remember is reading about rituals in buddhist countries that do not have any basis in scripture. Often those rituals are performed in the context of ghosts or to incease crop, success in life or the like.


What I say is that one should merely put aside teachings that one cannot accept because they go counter one's conditioned views but one should not reject them because rejection of transmitted teachings may cause big obstacles on the path.

As the Supremely Awakened One, would the Buddha know if his teachings were true or not? How much can one put aside before the Buddha's enlightenment is called into question?
I used the expression 'put aside' to stress that it is NOT 'to reject'. Maybe I should have made explicit that 'put aside' is meant to temporarily not further engage oneself in it ... until later follow-up when one has progressed on the path and acquired the capacity to understand.

I think you might have some legitimate concerns regarding folk beliefs, especially when they are used by religious authorities for financial gain. Regarding temporarily putting aside certain teachings of the Buddha, I agree with you, especially if we remain nonjudgmental of those who hold the beliefs literally.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2019, 05:43:23 pm »
How much does Western chauvinism account for this mentality that we know Buddhism better than traditionally Buddhist countries? While this chauvinism might not be conscious or intentional, it’s nonetheless troubling.

I totally agree.

It's occurred to me that there is a certain level of chauvanism in Western Buddhism.  Practitioners in countries where Buddhism is still considered fringe sometimes present an attitude that the Buddism they practice is somehow superior to that practiced in countries where it has been around for more than 1000 years.  I also agree that this is unintentional, at least to a point.  There are many Western Buddhists, especially on line who feel their practice is better than that of other westerners.  It's cultural, I'm sure, because other than that, I can't see any reason why these people believe it.

Anyway,  I think that the difference between Theraveda and Mahayana is actually pretty slim.  There are more similarities than difference, although there are people who promote a great divide, too.


Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2019, 06:18:58 pm »
Anyway,  I think that the difference between Theraveda and Mahayana is actually pretty slim.  There are more similarities than difference, although there are people who promote a great divide, too.

I've honestly never heard of any modern-day conflict going on between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists in Asian countries. It might be going on in some instances but I haven't heard of it. More often than not, there seems to be mutual cooperation and appreciation, if there's contact between different Buddhist traditions at all.

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2019, 09:29:41 am »
I've honestly never heard of any modern-day conflict going on between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists in Asian countries. It might be going on in some instances but I haven't heard of it. More often than not, there seems to be mutual cooperation and appreciation, if there's contact between different Buddhist traditions at all.

Likewise although the post of mine that you quoted didn't say that specifically.  Should have been more carefull.

I think the reason you see such behavior in the west is due to the judeo/christian background most of us have.  That behavior includes basing the correctness of your beliefs on the incorrectness of others.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2019, 04:04:06 pm »
That behavior includes basing the correctness of your beliefs on the incorrectness of others.

In Asian countries, a person can even be more than one religion, like Buddhist and Taoist in China or Buddhist  and Shintoist in Japan. Western statisticians might be dramatically under-counting the number of Buddhists in the world, because so many people in Asia can't easily be fit into just one religious category.

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Re: Pure Land & Theravada Buddhism: Not so different?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2019, 12:34:41 pm »
When asking if the celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas of Mahayana scriptures are literal beings, what is meant by ‘literal’? Does one mean a flesh and blood Buddha like Shakyamuni, who walked this earth and passed away 2,500 years ago, as if this material world is the only reality?

In the Pali scriptures, which scholars generally agree are the oldest and most reliable record of the Buddha’s teachings, the Buddha routinely speaks of realms above our level of existence. Can we trust in the Buddha’s enlightenment if we insist that higher realms don’t exist?

Quote
Scattered throughout the suttas are references to as many as thirty-one distinct “planes” or “realms” of existence into which beings can be reborn during their long wandering through samsara.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html

Amida, as a sambhogakaya Buddha, is trans-historical. His body is a spiritual body that pervades the universe. His Pure Land is mind-made, like a dream, not a material world like our own. If one already accepts the multi-tiered universe of Buddhist cosmology, this is not hard to accept as true. 
« Last Edit: October 07, 2019, 12:36:53 pm by Dharma Flower »

 


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