Author Topic: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?  (Read 4486 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2018, 11:15:01 am »
If you recite the name of Amida Buddha you recite it through craving, and it is the self-effort of reciting it that brings about its efficacy.

According to Shinran, our future rebirth in the Pure Land is already settled in the Nembutsu, and therefore there's nothing to crave. This is similar to Dogen's teaching that we are buddhas just as we are, and therefore there's nothing to attain.

According to Shinran, we recite the Nembutsu in gratitude, rather than craving, for our future rebirth into the Pure Land, the realm of Nirvana.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2018, 06:30:39 pm by Dharma Flower »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2018, 02:01:30 am »
If you recite the name of Amida Buddha you recite it through craving, and it is the self-effort of reciting it that brings about its efficacy.

According to Shinran, our future rebirth in the Pure Land is already settled in the Nembutsu, and therefore there's nothing to crave. This is similar to Dogen's teaching that we are buddhas just as we are, and therefore there's nothing to attain.

According to Shinran, we recite the Nembutsu in gratitude, rather than craving, for our future rebirth into the Pure Land, the realm of Nirvana.
Yes, I think he meant to explain that practice is at its best when there are no expectations. There is no difference between that stance and what you get in Zen. To be fair, a lot of other Buddhist practice is aimed at that too.
“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 Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2018, 07:01:08 am »
According to the Christian theologian Paul Tillich, the word “God” is only a symbol for Ultimate Reality, not the Ultimate Reality itself, since anything that’s ultimate will surpass what human language can describe:

Quote
Since God is infinite and ultimate and faith in God is the ultimate concern, Tillich asserts that only symbolic language is sufficient to express faith and God.  Thus, he outlines the definition of the term “symbol.” 

Like signs, symbols refer to that which is beyond themselves.  For instance, a stop sign points to the command to stop the movement of a vehicle.  Similarly letters refer to sounds and meanings.  However, unlike signs, symbols play a part in that which they represent and cannot be easily replaced. 

For instance, a country’s flag not only represents the nation that it stands for but also is an active participant in portraying the country’s “power and dignity.”  Thus, it cannot simply be replaced unless the character of the nation itself is also changed. 

Tillich also asserts that symbols allow us to experience other levels of reality that are normally off limits to us.  For instance art creates a symbol for a plane that we cannot move toward by science alone. 

Additionally, symbols open aspects of our souls which allow us to experience awareness of ourselves that we were not conscious of prior to experiencing the symbol (such as the depths that we can reach by listening to the “melodies and rhythms in music”).

 Another characteristic of a symbol is that it cannot be manufactured.  Symbols arise from the unconscious and must be accepted on that level before conscious acceptance.
http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/PHIL_of_RELIGION_TEXT/CHAPTER_10_DEFINITION/The-Definition-of-Religion.htm


From a Buddhist perspective, Amida is a symbolic expression (upaya) of the Ultimate Reality described as Nirvana, Buddha-nature, Dharma-body, etc. Amida is thus more than a literal flesh and blood Buddha from eons before the Big Bang.

Furthermore, in reciting his name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, depths of our own being are realized which we wouldn’t be aware of otherwise, our own Buddha-nature which connects us with the Buddha-nature in all things and beings.

Rather than a fictional story manufactured to deceive the gullible, the narratives of Amida which we read in the Pure Land sutras developed from the unconscious mind of meditators who encountered Amida while in samadhi:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi#Indian_Mahayana

As a religious symbol, Amida’s Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, rather than a geographic place galaxies away. Entrusting in the name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we gratefully await our future rebirth into the Pure Land, the land of Nirvana.

Rather than clever deceptions, Buddhist teachings are a finger pointing to the moon of enlightenment:
https://essenceofbuddhism.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/what-the-finger-pointing-to-the-moon-analogy-really-means-from-zen-buddhism-the-buddha-in-the-shurangama-sutra/

Offline Chaz

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2018, 07:35:15 am »

As a religious symbol, Amida’s Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, rather than a geographic place galaxies away. Entrusting in the name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we gratefully await our future rebirth into the Pure Land, the land of Nirvana.


Interesting.  In Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha is called Amithaba and is counted among the so-called Dhyani Buddhas.  These are treated as Sambhogakaya Buddhas rather than Dharmakaya.  Amithaba's pure land is called Sukhavati (Dewachen in Tibetan).  This not Nirvana per se.  Rather the Pure Land if for fortunate beings to recieve teaching from Amithaba and compete the "Bhumis and Paths" -  attaimnents prior to enlightenment and Nirvana.

In the Shambhala tradition, funerary rites are refered to as "Sukhavati" and it's intention is to promote  the deceased's passing through the Bardos and taking birth in the Pure Land of Sukhavati.  Similar rites are performed in Kagyu and Nyingma sanghas that are influended by Chogyam Trungpa's teachings or made up of Trungpa's students.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2018, 03:35:14 am »
In Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha is called Amithaba and is counted among the so-called Dhyani Buddhas.

In Tibetan Buddhism, it's commonly understood that celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas are symbolic of the Dharmakaya or of one's own Buddha-nature, rather than being literal historical persons.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2018, 02:05:28 am »
In Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha is called Amithaba and is counted among the so-called Dhyani Buddhas.

In Tibetan Buddhism, it's commonly understood that celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas are symbolic of the Dharmakaya

Not in any Tibetan Buddhism I've studied.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2018, 08:45:13 am »
In Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha is called Amithaba and is counted among the so-called Dhyani Buddhas.


In Tibetan Buddhism, it's commonly understood that celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas are symbolic of the Dharmakaya


Not in any Tibetan Buddhism I've studied.


This is from The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

Quote
Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns, the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest.
Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home…
No matter where or how far you wonder, the light is only a split second, a half-breath breath away. It is never too late to recognize the clear light…

Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light-Buddha Amitabha.


Deity yoga is a central practice of Tibetan Buddhism, with the term “deity” referring to enlightened beings. Amida Buddha is one of many such meditation deities utilized for the sake of realizing one’s Buddha-nature:

Quote
The purpose of Deity yoga is to bring the meditator to the realization that the yidam or meditation deity and the practitioner are in essence the same, that they are non-dual (advaya). According to John Powers. “Deity yoga is a technique for becoming progressively more familiar with the thoughts and deeds of a buddha, until the state of buddhahood is actualized through repeated practice.”[4]

According to Gyatrul Rinpoche, the point of this practice is to “understand your buddha nature, which is the very essence of your being” and is “intrinsically present” in all beings.[5] The fact that the deity is a reflection of qualities already inherent in the practitioner is what makes this practice different than mere deluded or wishful thinking.[6]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deity_yoga


Quote
Deity yoga, then, is a practice which helps us identify with a particular fully enlightened being or Buddha in order to realize our innate Buddha nature. Using visualisation, chanting, mantra recitation, and meditation, we focus upon a particular deity and in many practices visualize ourselves as that deity, non-dual with them…

The deity mirrors to us our true enlightened nature. As our practice deepens, and we reach an ever closer identification/relationship with the deity, delusion and obscuration are revealed as illusory, and the energies of deluded mind transform into their non-dual, naturally enlightened qualities.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it.”
http://www.rigdzindharma.org/deity-yoga-practice.html
« Last Edit: May 14, 2018, 08:57:13 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Chaz

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2018, 09:34:50 am »
In Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha is called Amithaba and is counted among the so-called Dhyani Buddhas.


In Tibetan Buddhism, it's commonly understood that celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas are symbolic of the Dharmakaya


Not in any Tibetan Buddhism I've studied.


This is from The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

Quote
Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns, the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest.
Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home…
No matter where or how far you wonder, the light is only a split second, a half-breath breath away. It is never too late to recognize the clear light…

Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light-Buddha Amitabha.


Deity yoga is a central practice of Tibetan Buddhism, with the term “deity” referring to enlightened beings. Amida Buddha is one of many such meditation deities utilized for the sake of realizing one’s Buddha-nature:

Quote
The purpose of Deity yoga is to bring the meditator to the realization that the yidam or meditation deity and the practitioner are in essence the same, that they are non-dual (advaya). According to John Powers. “Deity yoga is a technique for becoming progressively more familiar with the thoughts and deeds of a buddha, until the state of buddhahood is actualized through repeated practice.”[4]

According to Gyatrul Rinpoche, the point of this practice is to “understand your buddha nature, which is the very essence of your being” and is “intrinsically present” in all beings.[5] The fact that the deity is a reflection of qualities already inherent in the practitioner is what makes this practice different than mere deluded or wishful thinking.[6]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deity_yoga


Quote
Deity yoga, then, is a practice which helps us identify with a particular fully enlightened being or Buddha in order to realize our innate Buddha nature. Using visualisation, chanting, mantra recitation, and meditation, we focus upon a particular deity and in many practices visualize ourselves as that deity, non-dual with them…

The deity mirrors to us our true enlightened nature. As our practice deepens, and we reach an ever closer identification/relationship with the deity, delusion and obscuration are revealed as illusory, and the energies of deluded mind transform into their non-dual, naturally enlightened qualities.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it.”
http://www.rigdzindharma.org/deity-yoga-practice.html



I hope you realize that none of what you posted even mentions Dharmakaya, let alone describing it as the state of Dhyani Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.

But don't worry, it's ok to get a bit confused over that the various meditative deities are and what they represent.  This is esecially true with people whose practice doesn't include deity yoga.

My orginal point was that in TB there is a difference between a Pure Land and Nirvana.  Just sayin.  If your practice needs to be a Pure Land as Nirvana, then by all means practice that way.  If you are confident that recitation of Nembutsu will result in attainment of Nirvana, then practice that way like your hair's on fire if that's what you want to do.

This was posted in the Beginner Zone, as such it' quite right to offer compared views regarding what you post.  If you say that Shinran  taught that Amida is a Dharmakaya emanation and His Pure Land is Nirvana, by all means, share.  But I think we do more of a service by offering alternative teaching such as the Tibetan take of Pure Land practice, which is quite different.

Not better, just different.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2018, 10:05:53 am »
This was posted in the Beginner Zone, as such it' quite right to offer compared views regarding what you post.  If you say that Shinran  taught that Amida is a Dharmakaya emanation and His Pure Land is Nirvana, by all means, share.  But I think we do more of a service by offering alternative teaching such as the Tibetan take of Pure Land practice, which is quite different.

I made a basic point that, in both Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha can be seen as symbolic of a higher truth or reality, rather than as a literal historical person. This might be comforting and helpful for beginners to Buddhism, who are often unsure of what to make of the various celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas in Buddhism.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2018, 11:01:18 am »
This was posted in the Beginner Zone, as such it' quite right to offer compared views regarding what you post.  If you say that Shinran  taught that Amida is a Dharmakaya emanation and His Pure Land is Nirvana, by all means, share.  But I think we do more of a service by offering alternative teaching such as the Tibetan take of Pure Land practice, which is quite different.

I made a basic point that, in both Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, Amida Buddha can be seen as symbolic of a higher truth or reality, rather than as a literal historical person. This might be comforting and helpful for beginners to Buddhism, who are often unsure of what to make of the various celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas in Buddhism.

And that's a good point to make.  A lot of people look at so-called deities in the Mahayana and Vajrayana and jump the conclusion that these represent real, live beings that really exist somewhere.

They "might".

That said, it's more important and vastly more helpful to view this imagery as a graphic representation of the qualities  of enlightened being rather than a physical reality.   Each of these being posess qualities that are shared or unique.  Nowing this can be a huge benefit in practice for those inclined to take that path.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #25 on: May 15, 2018, 03:45:36 am »
A lot of people look at so-called deities in the Mahayana and Vajrayana and jump the conclusion that these represent real, live beings that really exist somewhere.

It took over three years for me to become a Buddhist after visiting a temple for the first time, one reason being that Amida Buddha seemed too much like a god and the Nembutsu seemed too much like a prayer. After learning about the Buddhist concept of upaya or skillful means, I later came to understand Amida and the Nembutsu as pointing to a higher truth.

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #26 on: May 15, 2018, 09:57:17 am »
A lot of people look at so-called deities in the Mahayana and Vajrayana and jump the conclusion that these represent real, live beings that really exist somewhere.

It took over three years for me to become a Buddhist after visiting a temple for the first time, one reason being that Amida Buddha seemed too much like a god and the Nembutsu seemed too much like a prayer. After learning about the Buddhist concept of upaya or skillful means, I later came to understand Amida and the Nembutsu as pointing to a higher truth.

I have a similar history with Tibetan Buddhism.  When I first encountered it, it seemed to me to be a bit ...... extreme, but over time I got to know more about it.  Actually, kinda forced to it.  My first exposure to Buddhism with a Chinese Pure Land group near my home.  They had an outreach program for western students, but few members of that sangha seem genuinely interested in it or us, so when the person who was handling this program decided to move on, no one was willing to step up, so our small group of westerners were on our own.  About a year later I ended up with the local Shambhala sangha.  This has it's roots in Tibet, but isn't, strictly speaking, "Tibetan" Buddhism.  It did, however give me a taste and that's all it took.  I gravitated towrds TB and been there ever since.

I'd like to know what this "higher truth" you speak of, is.

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #27 on: May 15, 2018, 10:24:34 am »
I'd like to know what this "higher truth" you speak of, is.


Here is a quote of Shinran on the subject:

Quote
The Supreme Buddha is formless, and because of being formless is called Suchness. The Buddha, when appearing with form, is not called the Supreme Nirvana. In order to make us realize that the true Buddha is formless, it is expressly called Amida Buddha; so I have been taught. Amida Buddha is the medium (relative truth) through which we are made to realize Suchness (Ultimate Truth).


Here is an explanation:

Quote
Shinran Shōnin goes even further in explaining the importance of religious symbols. He teaches us that the Buddha’s enlightenment is formless; we cannot see it, touch it, or grasp it. But, because it is true, it makes itself known to us by taking form.

Shinran says that formless truth (Dharma-body) takes the form of the light of wisdom and the Name of Amida Buddha—Namu Amida Butsu. The images and stories of Amida Buddha are all religious symbols, the form taken by wisdom and compassion in order to guide us to enlightenment.

This is pretty confusing stuff. So Shinran Shōnin and Nâgârjuna (ca. 150–250 C.E.) used the idea of a finger pointing to the moon to explain it.

Picture this: We are walking along a path at night, staring at our footsteps as we try not to stumble. Suddenly, someone comes up to us, taps us on the shoulder, and points up into the sky. We follow the direction of his finger and, for the first time, we see the moon, gleaming high up in the dark sky.

Here, the finger is a symbol. It represents the teachings or imagery which point us to the moon. The moon is like enlightenment itself. Normally, we don’t see it and, when we do, we don’t know what it is. It seems so far away. We’re disconnected to it.

Shigaraki-sensei says, “What we need is a finger that can point us to the moon—the dharma, a teacher or a symbol, which can connect us to it. Teachings of Amida Buddha, also painting and statues of Amida are the finger. Enlightenment, to which a Buddha awakens, constitutes the moon.”

Religious symbols, such as teachings, images, songs and stories, all help to direct our attention away from worldly matters and toward ultimate truth. Without the finger, we could not see the moon. But, we should not mistake the finger for the moon. Religious symbols all help to change the direction of our lives or the way we see things.

A statue of Amida Buddha may focus our reverence and help to generate a sense of joyful faith in our hearts. But it is a statue nonetheless; it is not the Buddha. At the same time, however, Shinran Shōnin’s insight was deeper.

A finger is just a finger. It simply points to the moon. However, without the light of the moon, we could not see the finger. It could not guide us to see the moon. In other words, a symbol takes on religious power only when it acts together with the working of enlightenment.

A statue, story or word can only do its “symbolizing work” when enlightenment makes itself known to us through it. Through the images of the Buddha, the story of Amida Buddha and even the Name of the Buddha, timeless and formless truth takes the form of a symbol, pointing us to that truth and revealing the deepest levels of our lives.
http://www.berkeleysangha.org/newsletter/Padma-2010-10-web.pdf
« Last Edit: May 15, 2018, 10:36:10 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Chaz

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #28 on: May 15, 2018, 10:48:26 am »
I'd like to know what this "higher truth" you speak of, is.


Here is a quote of Shinran on the subject:

Quote
The Supreme Buddha is formless, and because of being formless is called Suchness. The Buddha, when appearing with form, is not called the Supreme Nirvana. In order to make us realize that the true Buddha is formless, it is expressly called Amida Buddha; so I have been taught. Amida Buddha is the medium (relative truth) through which we are made to realize Suchness (Ultimate Truth).


Here is an explanation:

Quote
Shinran Shōnin goes even further in explaining the importance of religious symbols. He teaches us that the Buddha’s enlightenment is formless; we cannot see it, touch it, or grasp it. But, because it is true, it makes itself known to us by taking form.

Shinran says that formless truth (Dharma-body) takes the form of the light of wisdom and the Name of Amida Buddha—Namu Amida Butsu. The images and stories of Amida Buddha are all religious symbols, the form taken by wisdom and compassion in order to guide us to enlightenment.

This is pretty confusing stuff. So Shinran Shōnin and Nâgârjuna (ca. 150–250 C.E.) used the idea of a finger pointing to the moon to explain it.

Picture this: We are walking along a path at night, staring at our footsteps as we try not to stumble. Suddenly, someone comes up to us, taps us on the shoulder, and points up into the sky. We follow the direction of his finger and, for the first time, we see the moon, gleaming high up in the dark sky.

Here, the finger is a symbol. It represents the teachings or imagery which point us to the moon. The moon is like enlightenment itself. Normally, we don’t see it and, when we do, we don’t know what it is. It seems so far away. We’re disconnected to it.

Shigaraki-sensei says, “What we need is a finger that can point us to the moon—the dharma, a teacher or a symbol, which can connect us to it. Teachings of Amida Buddha, also painting and statues of Amida are the finger. Enlightenment, to which a Buddha awakens, constitutes the moon.”

Religious symbols, such as teachings, images, songs and stories, all help to direct our attention away from worldly matters and toward ultimate truth. Without the finger, we could not see the moon. But, we should not mistake the finger for the moon. Religious symbols all help to change the direction of our lives or the way we see things.

A statue of Amida Buddha may focus our reverence and help to generate a sense of joyful faith in our hearts. But it is a statue nonetheless; it is not the Buddha. At the same time, however, Shinran Shōnin’s insight was deeper.

A finger is just a finger. It simply points to the moon. However, without the light of the moon, we could not see the finger. It could not guide us to see the moon. In other words, a symbol takes on religious power only when it acts together with the working of enlightenment.

A statue, story or word can only do its “symbolizing work” when enlightenment makes itself known to us through it. Through the images of the Buddha, the story of Amida Buddha and even the Name of the Buddha, timeless and formless truth takes the form of a symbol, pointing us to that truth and revealing the deepest levels of our lives.
http://www.berkeleysangha.org/newsletter/Padma-2010-10-web.pdf



Interesting, but not exactly exclusive to Pure Land.  Much of this is straight-up Mahayana.

One curious thing, that you included makes enlightenment, compasion and wisdom sound sentient and capable to performing volitional action like "taking form".

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Re: Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?
« Reply #29 on: May 15, 2018, 11:58:45 am »
One curious thing, that you included makes enlightenment, compasion and wisdom sound sentient and capable to performing volitional action like "taking form".

Shinran taught that the Dharmakaya or the Buddha-nature in all things is without name and form. Amida Buddha, his image, and the recitation of his name are religious symbols for awakening us to the boundless wisdom and compassion of Dharma-body.

 


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