Author Topic: Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra  (Read 1731 times)

Offline Namaste253

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Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra
« on: June 12, 2015, 02:00:21 pm »
I found a translation and commentary of the Infinite Life Sutra by Chin Kung, a well known Chinese Pure Land Buddhist teacher:
http://www.amitabha-gallery.org/pdf/plc/Essence%20of%20the%20Infinite%20Life%20Sutra.pdf

This is his Wikipedia article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin_Kung

 This is him on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_sort=video_view_count&search_query=%22chin+kung%22

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2015, 08:47:24 pm »
As moderns, it's easy for us to look at the Pure Land sutras as purely mythological, but they were written around the same time as the other Mahayana sutras and were likewise based on earlier oral tradition. If the Pure Land sutras are somehow a mythological corruption of the Buddha's teachings, how can we be sure about any of the sutras?

Claiming that Amida Buddha never existed and instead is merely a symbol of our higher self is just as condescending to Honen and Shinran as claiming that Jesus never existed would be to the early Christians. As far as I know, Honen and Shinran were thinking, reasonable people, and they wouldn't have knowingly entrusted their salvation to an imaginary character.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2015, 08:53:45 pm by Namaste253 »

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2015, 12:56:23 am »
Although it certainly wouldn't be appropriate to describe the Pure Land sutras as being purely "mythological" in nature, it would be no less appropriate if person were to present these sutras as having been taught by the historical Buddha of the Pali Canon --- so there's no misunderstanding, I'm speaking not only as an heir of the Ch'an tradition, but also as a Buddhist practitioner who recognizes the value and great inspiration that's contained within many Pure Land sutras.

Amida Buddha is indeed a symbol of our higher self, not "merely" a symbol thereof, but the very embodiment of the ideal contained within the Pure Land sutras --- to quote Fujita Kotatsu:

Quote
As in the case of Amida, various scholars have debated the origin of the Pure Land concept. The theories proposed may be summarized and divided into two groups: the external origin theories, ascribing the source to concepts in Zoroastrianism, the Garden of Eden, Elysium, etc., none of which is substantiated; and the internal origin theories, including suggestions from early Buddhist mythology, cult of stupa worship, and the Hindu mythology of Brahma, Varuna, Visnu, and Yama.

Among the latter, four sources may have provided significant material for the formation of the Pure Land ideal: [1] the mythology of the universal monarch (cakravartin), especially the description of King Mahasudarsana's royal city Kusavati, [2] the mythology of the Northern Kurus (Uttarakuru), [3] the mythology of the heavens of various deities, such as Brahma, Paranirmitavaeavartin, and others, and [4] the model of the idealized and glorified Buddhist stupa and its environs.

The positing of a Pure Land to the West presents another problem, but various hypotheses are possible without recourse to sources outside of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. That is, the compilers of the Pure Land sutras gathered various descriptions of an ideal realm, created a composite picture in enchanting and magnificent terms, and portrayed it as the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path, always maintaining liberation and nirvana as the core experience. The question regarding the inhabitants of the Pure Land cannot be fully discussed here, but essentially the same buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as the disciples of buddha, who were becoming increasingly popular in the new Mahayana movement also peopled the Pure Land of Amida
.

The Pure Land Tradition: History and Development
Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series, Vol. 3 (1996)
pp. 23-24




« Last Edit: June 15, 2015, 01:06:46 am by Dharmakara, Reason: formatting »

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2015, 10:44:52 am »
This summarizes my view of Amida Buddha:

Quote
First, "Amida" symbolizes Shakyamuni, a historical person. Just as Strickland, the hero in Summerset Maugham’s novel The Moon and Sixpence, is a symbol of the painter Gauguin, a historical person, "Amida" can be considered a symbol of Shakyamuni, a historical person. We can say that "Amida" symbolizes the "humble and dynamic spirit" of Shakyamuni. As we have seen, Mahayanists created the concept of "Amida" in order to criticize the fossilized doctrines of Hinayanists and restore the vital spirit of Shakyamuni.
Second, "Amida" symbolizes the Dharma or universal Buddhahood. Mahayanists created the concept not only to express the vital spirit of Shakyamuni, but also to show the spiritual basis of Shakyamuni and all human beings. They wanted to show that just as Shakyamuni was awakened and liberated by the Dharma (or universal Buddhahood), all human beings are awakened and liberated by it.
http://www.livingdharma.org/Living.Dharma.Articles/WhatIsAmida-Haneda.html

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2015, 04:07:34 am »
Quote

    This post is an attempt to explain the Jodo Shinshu approach to Amida Buddha. I’ve mentioned this before in passing, but a debate recently came up on E-sangha about Amida Buddha in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism when someone cited a helpful article by Dr. Haneda. I’ll let you read the article for yourself, but to me, two things stood out:

        By focusing on Amida not the historical Buddha, it gets people out of the trap of “did the Buddha really say this?” or arguments about which sutras are historically accurate or not. According to Dr. Haneda, this is what the Mahayana Buddhists tried to do in writing new sutras: break the trend toward dogma and ossification.
        Dr. Haneda views Amida as a timeless, idealization of Shakyamuni Buddha the founder. It’s interesting to note that in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, the beginning describes the process where a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, and this process mirrors the life of Shakyamuni Buddha perfectly. I don’t think this is an accident.

    Again, notice in the Buddhist texts that Amida is described as being:

        Very compassionate as the Pure Land path is available to all.
        The wisest of all Buddhas, hence the symbolism of infinite light.
        The true eternal Buddha, hence the symbolism of infinite lifespan. Near identical to Shakyamuni of the Lotus Sutra.
        Endlessly striving to save all beings. Note the descriptions of how Amida strove and strove endlessly to master various practices, and create the Pure Land.

    These are all the same traits that Shakyamuni Buddha had, but in a more timeless quality. So when Jodo Shinshu Buddhist recite the nembutsu, or “hail Amida Buddha”, they are actually praising the real Buddha, not some made-up fantasy. We praise the Buddha and all the wonderful Dharma teachings that he embodies. This simple act of devotion has a great sense of humility, and also appreciation for the Dharma. When people stop appreciating the Dharma, stop appreciating the Buddha, then Buddhism becomes dead and tired for them.

    I think this is why Dr. Haneda speaks of “dynamic” Buddhism. We develop a living relationship with the Buddha and the teachings that sustains us during good times and bad.
    http://jkllr.net/2008/09/03/amida-the-buddha-of-unhindered-light/


It's also worth mentioning that the life stories of Gautama Buddha and Amitabha are almost identical, both are men of royalty and wealth who renounced their worldly pleasures and prestige for the sake of bringing all beings to salvation.

 


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