Author Topic: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land  (Read 4316 times)

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2015, 05:34:53 am »
What attracts me to Jodo Shinshu is not belief in a divine personage sitting on a lotus flower in a perfect world, billions of light years away. Instead, it's the humility that we learn by trusting in the Nembutsu rather than our own efforts that sets Jodo Shinshu apart from other schools of Buddhism.

As Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, we need not be afraid of the Buddha of the Pali canon. If the Pali canon gives the earliest teachings of and about the Buddha (though I recognize there may be some dispute about this), then what Jodo Shinsu presents is a particular way of interpreting this original teaching, not a deviation from it.

If the Buddha is one and the Dharma is one, then there is nothing to fear in this. Theravada has its own way of interpreting the Pali texts, but it need not be ours. They don't belong to any one school of Buddhism. The idea of expedient means is that there is one Ultimate Truth, the compassion which pervades the universe, which for the sake of us foolish beings, is presented in various ways for the sake of our diverse personality types and understandings.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2015, 06:32:15 am by Namaste253 »

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2015, 06:24:34 am »
The most important idea in this podcast is that if Jodo Shinshu is about getting your beliefs exactly right, then it's just another form of self-power, since insistence on getting your beliefs exactly right is another form of personal pride. Jodo Shinshu is the path of true entrusting, but it is trusting in the compassion that pervades the universe, rather than in a set of propositional beliefs.

http://www.dharmarealm.com/?p=202

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2015, 06:28:02 am »
In the Jodo Shinshu teaching, we talk about those with Shinjin (“faith”) living with the assurance of enlightenment (Pure Realm) at the moment of
death.

Therein lies the source of much of the criticism that Pure Land traditions receive, where if Shinjin is understood as "faith alone" it would be no different than the evangelical doctrine of justification, where the practice of virtue gets placed on the back-burner, if practiced at all --- Shinjin (信心) was originally the Japanese word for the Buddhist concept of citta-prasada (clear or clarified heart-mind), but now carries a more popular related meaning of faith or entrusting.
 

Dark is the night
     When I have lost my way
Amida Tathagata leads me by the hand;
     How great the Vow-Power is!

When you die
     Where do you go?
          Darkness awaits you.
Absolutely dark, absolutely hopeless;
     Absolutely lonely, absolutely powerless.
Such a time will come; it will come any minute.
     What will you do? What can you do?

No use thinking of attaining Shinjin;
     No use being proud of having attained it.
The end of your life is painful;
     You will cease to breathe -
          That’s why it will be painful.
This pain is the result of your evil karma;
     There is no way to escape from
          The law of cause and effect
               Nothing you can do about it.

You commit evils like torrential rain, as Shinran says,
     What will be the result of evils?
The law of causality
     Sends you to hell
          Willy-nilly.

Hell is the outcome of your karmic evils.
     Though there is no knowing where it is,
          It certainly comes to be
               Definitely!



The Nembutsu is not a form of petitionary prayer.

You can say that as many times as you want, but the Nembutsu is in fact the very definition of a petitionary prayer --- to say anything other than that would be disingenuous at best.

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2015, 09:02:21 am »
In the Jodo Shinshu teaching, we talk about those with Shinjin (“faith”) living with the assurance of enlightenment (Pure Realm) at the moment of
death.

Therein lies the source of much of the criticism that Pure Land traditions receive, where if Shinjin is understood as "faith alone" it would be no different than the evangelical doctrine of justification, where the practice of virtue gets placed on the back-burner, if practiced at all --- Shinjin (信心) was originally the Japanese word for the Buddhist concept of citta-prasada (clear or clarified heart-mind), but now carries a more popular related meaning of faith or entrusting.
 

Dark is the night
     When I have lost my way
Amida Tathagata leads me by the hand;
     How great the Vow-Power is!

When you die
     Where do you go?
          Darkness awaits you.
Absolutely dark, absolutely hopeless;
     Absolutely lonely, absolutely powerless.
Such a time will come; it will come any minute.
     What will you do? What can you do?

No use thinking of attaining Shinjin;
     No use being proud of having attained it.
The end of your life is painful;
     You will cease to breathe -
          That’s why it will be painful.
This pain is the result of your evil karma;
     There is no way to escape from
          The law of cause and effect
               Nothing you can do about it.

You commit evils like torrential rain, as Shinran says,
     What will be the result of evils?
The law of causality
     Sends you to hell
          Willy-nilly.

Hell is the outcome of your karmic evils.
     Though there is no knowing where it is,
          It certainly comes to be
               Definitely!



The Nembutsu is not a form of petitionary prayer.

You can say that as many times as you want, but the Nembutsu is in fact the very definition of a petitionary prayer --- to say anything other than that would be disingenuous at best.

Hi Dharmakara, if often seems to me that Pure Landers can get it in the neck from both sides.... :) When seeking to speak of the Nembutsu to Christians most are insistent that it is a way of "works" and with most Buddhists it is a way purely of "faith" and thus becomes
 "petitionary".

Initially, in my own studies - aligned with practice - it was akways explained to me as more an expression of gratitude for that which is a given. Certainly, as a result of my practice, it has morphed - without any express decision on my part - into a saying of "thank you, thank you" to each and every experience, good or bad. Which as I see it links in many ways with the oft spoken zen way of ceasing to cherish opinions.

It seems that only "the cushion" - and plenty of time on it - will qualify as
"true" practice for some. So be it.

(Obviously this does not argue against "cushion time". My own reading and study has told me that the "ways" of Pure Land and Zen have often been practiced side by side throughout history in the same monasteries)

Thanks




Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2015, 09:48:08 am »
Yes, total agreement, and no one should tell you different.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #20 on: July 17, 2015, 12:05:45 am »
Coming from a Christian background, I am struck by the differences between Shinran and Jesus. While Jesus was most likely celibate, Shinran left the austere life of a monk to marry and have children. While Jesus yelled at people who disagreed with him, even threatening them with hell, Shinran showed a milder attitude in the face of opposition. While Jesus chose apostles and told them to baptize all nations, Shinran humbly insisted that he didn't have a single disciple. While Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father, Shinran referred to himself as "foolish, bald-headed one."

These and other reasons make Shinran a more appealing figure to me. His relatives and followers believed Shinran to be the Buddha for our age of dharma decline, and the more I learn about his life story, the more I agree with that assessment:

 
Quote
Master Kakunyo commenting this last testimony said: „Jozen portrayed Shonin’s face only. Jozen had this dream in the night of the twentieth day of the month in the third year of Ninji[13]”

He then concludes:

„As I deeply contemplate this miraculous and portentous event, I clearly see that Shonin was an incarnation of Amida Tathagatha. It follows then that the teaching he promulgated was most likely Amida’s direct exposition. Amida holds up the brilliant lamp of undefiled wisdom to disperse the darkness of delusion in the world of defilement; furthermore, he showers the rain of Dharma everywhere in order to moisten the dried-up hearts of ordinary and deluded beings in the distant future. Let us revere and entrust ourselves to his teaching.”
http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.com/2010/03/shinran-manifestation-of-amida-buddha.html


If you look at Jodo Shinshu as it's practiced in Japan, its central historical figure is not Shakyamuni Buddha but Shinran, who taught faith in the celestial Buddha. There is nothing wrong with this whatsoever if you view Shakyamuni as merely a human vehicle or manifestation of the Eternal Buddha, as Shinran taught:
Quote
Amida, who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past,
Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements,
Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha
And appeared in Gaya
http://www.adelaideshinbuddhistdojo.com.au/shinranwasan/jw88.htm


 Shinran is often called "Saint Shinran," though he went against the usual idea of a saint being detached from family life and everyday concerns. What Shinran did is he sanctified day-to-day life. When Shinran taught that it is the wicked man who Amida Buddha saves, he was not condoning immoral behavior as much as he was opening up salvation to those traditionally rejected by society, such as hunters, fishers, and prostitutes.

Shinran showed the same mercy and kindness for Bennen, who wanted to kill him, that Shakyamuni had for Angulimala, a ruthless serial killer:
Quote
Bennen, who had never met Shinran, developed a hatred for Shinran because Bennen’s followers were leaving his teaching and practice and taking up the nembutsu. In one of his letters, Shinran says, that Bennen, now called Myoho-bo, ‘originally had thoughts of unimaginable wrongdoing.’ We are told that Bennen wanted to kill Shinran.
http://www.georgegatenby.id.au/?p=43
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 01:52:57 am by Namaste253 »

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #21 on: July 17, 2015, 11:25:28 pm »
If we are saved wholly by Other-Power, rather than our own efforts, how do we receive the gift of faith? If we don't believe in petitionary prayer, how do we request Amida Buddha to give us more faith? I ask this in all seriousness.

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2015, 12:46:57 am »
If we are saved wholly by Other-Power, rather than our own efforts, how do we receive the gift of faith? If we don't believe in petitionary prayer, how do we request Amida Buddha to give us more faith? I ask this in all seriousness.

Relating this to "anatta" (not-self), yes it is an important question. How do we become that which we already are? Long ago I was raising questions concerning the "scope of effort", in the sense that effort will fall away at the moment of emancipation?

Within the Pure Land Tradition, the writer Taitetsu Unno has said that it is a necessary step on the path when we recognise that what we first understood to be self power was in fact the working of Other Power.

Again, Suzuki has spoken of the paradox at the heart of all "paths", that though there is in one sense nothing to do, to do nothing is never an option. Hope fully it will be accepted to quote a Christian here, Thomas Merton. His words are taken from a discussion he had with D T Suzuki "Wisdom in Emptiness", as recorded in the book of essays "Zen and the Birds of Appetite"........

"The innocence and purity of heart which belong to paradise are a complete emptiness of self in which all is the work of God, the free and unpredictable expression of His love, the work of grace. In the purity of original innocence, all is done in us but without us, in nobis et sine nobis. But before we reach that level, we must also learn to work on the other level of 'knowledge' - scientia - where grace works in us but 'not without us' - in nobis sed non sine nobis."

As I see it (theistic language aside)  there is a transition between the two that we all must walk in our own unique way. Again, as I see it, that transition can never be the product of one exclusive creed or set of doctrines, not of a "belief" as such, in anyone or anything. We get back to expedient means and the nature of Reality-as-is.

I bring fullness and satisfaction to the world,
 like rain that spreads its moisture everywhere.
 Eminent and lowly, superior and inferior,
 observers of precepts, violators of precepts,
 those fully endowed with proper demeanor,
 those not fully endowed,
 those of correct views, of erroneous views,
 of keen capacity, of dull capacity -
 I cause the Dharma rain to rain on all equally,
 never lax or neglectful.
 When all the various living beings
 hear my Law,
 they receive it according to their power,
 dwelling in their different environments.....
 ..The Law of the Buddhas
 is constantly of a single flavour,
 causing the many worlds
 to attain full satisfaction everywhere;
 by practicing gradually and stage by stage,
 all beings can gain the fruits of the way.

 (The Lotus Sutra, Parable of the Dharma Rain)

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2015, 01:17:24 am »
I asked a Shin Buddhist sensei on Facebook how to receive the gift of faith, and this was his response:

Quote
Petitionary prayers would mean that we ask Amida to give us women, cars and jewelry smile emoticon This does not mean that we cannot say, “Amida, please help me to become more open, to understand your Dharma and to receive faith”.

But Amida is already willing to save you, it is already there near you, trying to give you the gift of faith. No matter you say, “please, Amida, give me faith”, He is already there, near you, since He became a Buddha, trying to do just that.

So, what you need to do is to listen to Amida Dharma again and again. Listen, ask Dharma questions, reflect upon what you hear and upon your condition as unenlightened being without the capacity to save yourself by yourself, and stay focus on Amida.

Master Rennyo said:

"Regardless of our doubts, if we listen intently with our entire being, we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion. The Buddhist teaching begins and ends in hearing."

So, in our tradition, listening to the teaching is the most important practice. You have to listen again and again, and one day, you will become open and you will receive shinjin. The words "we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion" shows that shinjin comes from Amida, but the first part "if we listen intently with our entire being" shows what we have to do, if we wish to receive the gift of faith from Amida.

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #24 on: July 18, 2015, 01:55:23 am »
I asked a Shin Buddhist sensei on Facebook how to receive the gift of faith, and this was his response:

Quote
Petitionary prayers would mean that we ask Amida to give us women, cars and jewelry smile emoticon This does not mean that we cannot say, “Amida, please help me to become more open, to understand your Dharma and to receive faith”.

But Amida is already willing to save you, it is already there near you, trying to give you the gift of faith. No matter you say, “please, Amida, give me faith”, He is already there, near you, since He became a Buddha, trying to do just that.

So, what you need to do is to listen to Amida Dharma again and again. Listen, ask Dharma questions, reflect upon what you hear and upon your condition as unenlightened being without the capacity to save yourself by yourself, and stay focus on Amida.

Master Rennyo said:

"Regardless of our doubts, if we listen intently with our entire being, we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion. The Buddhist teaching begins and ends in hearing."

So, in our tradition, listening to the teaching is the most important practice. You have to listen again and again, and one day, you will become open and you will receive shinjin. The words "we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion" shows that shinjin comes from Amida, but the first part "if we listen intently with our entire being" shows what we have to do, if we wish to receive the gift of faith from Amida.

That is good. Unno speaks of the need of "deep hearing" in his fine books on Shin Buddhism.

I was just looking up  a small verse and found a post I made on another Forum a while back. Here it is.....

For me the Pure Land way offers the encouragement to be totally honest with oneself and ones feelings and fears, such is one's trust in Amida's (Reality-as-is) Compassion and Infinite Light. For me, Amida is another name for the nameless, that can take whatever name, the will that works tirelessly throughout Reality - or, as reality - for the ultimate enlightenment of all. All experience has the potential to bring enlightenment; even the moments of apparent failure, of deep existential anxiety, can be transformed by pure acceptance, the embrace of Infinite Compassion. And my own experience is that this can be so virtually in spite of our own "beliefs" and "strategies" rather than because of them. There is a technical term in the Pure Land teachings that means "to become so of itself, not by calculation" and for me this means that it is not my own "understanding" or grasp of truth that brings genuine trust/faith, but Other Power.

This is expressed by some words of a Pure Land devotee......

In the timeless process of birth-and-death,
for the first time I was made to realize
the Other Power of Amida Buddha.
My understanding resulted from listening,
but listening is nothing but a little scratch on a precious gem.
I trusted my understanding instead of trusting Amida.
Until now I was satisfied with my understanding.
But, my understanding does not save me;
It is Amida who saves me.


For me, all the theologies of the world are "little scratches on a precious gem". They have their uses yet ultimately faith is more a letting go (of "self" and its strategies) than a clinging to them, or in Christian apophatic (negative) terms, more a "darkness" than a light.

Anyway, just to finish, another "ode" from the pen of the Pure Land "saint" Saichi.........

Nothing is left to Saichi,
Except a joyful heart nothing is left to him.
Neither good nor bad has he, all is taken away from him;
Nothing is left to him!
To have nothing - how completely satisfying!
Everything has been carried away by the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.
He is thoroughly at home with himself:
This is indeed the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #25 on: July 18, 2015, 05:25:52 am »
This sensei has also helped me to see that we shouldn't take the descriptions of the Pure Land too literally, but should instead focus on the higher reality that they convey:

Quote
It is very important to realize that Shakyamuni does not speak about the Pure Landof Amida in terms of ultimate reality beyond form (Dharmakaya) but instead he uses many images and colourful words[2]. The language of the Three Pure Land sutras is descriptive and effusive, clearly not intended to practitioners who are trying to go beyond forms...
Although the true nature of all Buddhas and their manifestations is ultimate Dharmakaya, one cannot take refuge, have faith or aspire to be born into Dharmakaya. This is why we have a Buddha in Form and Name called Amida in whom we can entrust and a Pure Land where we might wish to be born after death[3]. Without them, our attainment of Buddhahood would be impossible.
http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.ro/2012/05/manifestations-of-pure-land-commentary.html


Quote
We ourselves will attain Enlightenment when we are born in the Pure Land, because the essence of the Pure Land is Enlightenment/Nirvana/Dharmakaya itself...
The Light of the Pure Land is the Light of Amida Buddha, the Pure Land itself being the transcendental manifestation of Amida Buddha...
 It is obvious that the treasures found in the Pure Land are not intended for the enjoyment of the six senses but for expressing the Dharma, calling beings to the Dharma, praising Amida’s virtues and showing the supreme place this enlightened land occupies among other Buddha lands. They are spiritual treasures, even if they are described using the terms we are familiar with, like palaces, pavilions, ponds, streams and trees, aromatic wood, etc.
http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.ro/2015/07/the-two-aspects-of-pure-land.html

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #26 on: July 18, 2015, 06:15:39 am »
Also, this is Koshin Ohtani, the 24th successor of Shinran Shonin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk0Xshu3hQQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBYEDCFfJGg

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #27 on: July 18, 2015, 02:20:07 pm »
Also, this is Koshin Ohtani, the 24th successor of Shinran Shonin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk0Xshu3hQQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBYEDCFfJGg

I used to think that anyone who insisted that the story of Dharmakara is literally true must be ignorant or misinformed. But then I gave it more thought, and I realized that if you went into a mosque and said that the Koran is fictional, or if you went to a church and insisted that Jesus is fictional, you would get a negative response. Telling people that the source of their salvation is fictional elicits a negative reaction. So I find myself gravitating toward a more literal understanding of Amida Buddha and the Pure Land, though I still welcome difference of opinion.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #28 on: July 18, 2015, 04:54:12 pm »
though I still welcome difference of opinion.

It would certainly be nice if this were true, but a little over a week ago you were wearing a different face, where in this very thread you not only claimed I was ignorant and misinformed, but also stated that I was misrepresenting the Pure Land tradition, so my own experience with you would imply that this is not true.

So there's no misunderstanding, I'm not saying this to humiliate you or open festering sores, but to stress the importance of humility, doing so out of compassion and loving-kindness, where if a person were to feign humility it only gives them a deeper hole to climb out of:

"There are also certain individuals of great talent and ability, whose writings can astound the gods. However, their actions are no different from those of the dullards in the marketplace. The root cause is their rejection of phenomenal cultivation and cause and effect [karma]. This grave error is repeated by other people; it is a case of betraying the Dharma with one’s body (actions). The depth of such offenses and transgressions is immeasurable! Witnessing this, those endowed with profound wisdom can only sigh in pity and compassion."

Pure-land Zen, Zen Pure-land
Yin Kuang / Sutra Translation Committee (1993)
p. 26


Offline Namaste253

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Re: Amida Buddha and the Pure Land
« Reply #29 on: July 18, 2015, 06:06:16 pm »
I'm sorry for giving a wrong impression. I don't always take the time that I should to consider how my postings will come across.


 


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