Author Topic: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism  (Read 130 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« on: October 12, 2017, 02:30:11 pm »
The Contemplation Sutra is one of the three canonical Pure Land sutras. It is perhaps the most important sutra for understanding the deeper meaning of Pure Land practice.

The sutra’s audience is Queen Vaidehi, who’s been imprisoned by her own son. Shakyamuni Buddha visits her, and she asks how one can be reborn in the Pure Land.

By the sutra’s end, however, she’s already enlightened, rather than waiting for rebirth in the Pure Land:

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When Buddha had finished this speech, Vaidehi, together with her five hundred female attendants, could see, as guided by the Buddha’s words, the scene of the far-stretching World of the Highest Happiness, and could also see the body of Buddha and the bodies of the two Bodhisattvas. With her mind filled with joy she praised them, saying: ‘Never have I seen such a wonder!’ Instantaneously she became wholly and fully enlightened, and attained a spirit of resignation, prepared to endure whatever consequences might yet arise.
http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html


According to the sutra, Amida is “not very far from here,” rather than billions of galaxies to the west:

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Then the World-Honored One said: 'Now do you not know, Vaidehi, that Buddha Amitayus is not very far from here? You should apply your mind entirely to close meditation upon those who have already perfected the pure actions necessary for that Buddha country.
http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html


In fact, the sutra promises that by visualizing Amida Buddha, we can realize him as our own Buddha-nature:

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Every Buddha Tathagata is one whose spiritual body is the principle of Dharma-nature, so that he may enter into the mind of any beings. Consequently, when you have visualized Buddha, it is indeed that mind of yours that possesses those thirty-two signs of perfection and eighty minor marks of excellence which you see in a Buddha. In conclusion, it is your mind that becomes Buddha, nay, it is your mind that is indeed Buddha. The ocean of true and universal knowledge of all the Buddhas derives its source from one’s own mind and thought.
http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html


The historical Buddha’s last words were to be a “lamp unto yourself,” seeking “no external refuge” in an outside Buddha. It is only because of our delusion and selfishness that we perceive Amida as separate from ourselves.

The ‘Other-Power’ of Amida Buddha is really our higher self, when the ego is peeled away. In reciting the name of Amida Buddha, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are therefore made to gradually remember our original nature.

The Platform Sutra is one of the most influential texts in the history of Zen, especially for the Zen understanding of Pure Land practice. The Sixth Patriarch’s teaching on Amida and the Pure Land was based on the Contemplation Sutra:

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Both conceptually and methodologically, the kind of Buddhist faith in self-nature advocated by Platform Sutra naturally came into conflict with the belief in rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Pure Land emphasizes rebirth in Buddha’s land relying on the power of the Buddha.

Ch'an (Zen), on the other hand, teaches the purification of one’s own mind, achieving sudden enlightenment… It does not see a Buddha outside one’s mind. For all these reasons, it is logical that Ch'an must argue against the faith in Amitabha’s Pure Land.

However, it does not totally negate the value of Pure Land practice. That is why Platform Sutra quotes from the Meditation on Amitayus Sutra this sentence: “Amitabha Buddha is not far from here. You ought to concentrate your thoughts on that land and when you do so, your pure deeds will succeed in your endeavors.” The emphasis is placed on “pure deeds”.

Therefore the Platform Sutra declares, “If you can purify your mind, you will destroy the obstructions of ten evils and see into your nature in every thought.” It is because of this that “Amitabha’s land is not far from here”. This is the same idea as the understanding put forward by scholars of later generations who claim that “Self-nature is Amitabha, Mind is no other than Pure Land”.
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/HistoricalZen/PlatformSutraoftheSixthPatriarch.htm
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 04:08:01 am by Dharma Flower »

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2017, 02:18:54 am »
The name Amida means “boundless light.” This is because, archetypally, Amida is the originally pure or luminous nature of the mind, before it became tainted with the Three Poisons of passion, aversion, and delusion:
https://www.thoughtco.com/the-three-poisons-449603

This luminous mind is also referred to as Buddha-nature, which is every being’s innate potential for enlightenment. In reciting the name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are calling forth the primally radiant nature of our mind:   

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“Luminous, monks, is the mind.[1] And it is defiled by incoming defilements.” {I,v,9}

“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements.” {I,v,10}

“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn’t discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind.” {I,vi,1}

“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind.”
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an01/an01.049.than.html

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2017, 07:07:31 am »
This luminous mind is also referred to as Buddha-nature, which is every being’s innate potential for enlightenment. In reciting the name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are calling forth the primally radiant nature of our mind:   

How does that work, practically speaking?  Is there an element of faith involved?  There are many different Buddhist mantras of course.

My favourite is the Prajnaparamita.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2017, 02:50:39 pm »
This luminous mind is also referred to as Buddha-nature, which is every being’s innate potential for enlightenment. In reciting the name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are calling forth the primally radiant nature of our mind:   

How does that work, practically speaking?  Is there an element of faith involved?  There are many different Buddhist mantras of course.

My favourite is the Prajnaparamita.

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At the popular level, the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is an ideal training ground, an ideal environment where the practitioner is reborn thanks both to his own efforts and the power of Amitabha Buddha’s vows…

At the advanced level, i.e. for cultivators of high spiritual capacity, the Pure Land method, like other methods, reverts the ordinary, deluded mind to the Self-nature True Mind. In the process wisdom and Buddhahood are eventually attained.

The high-level form of Pure Land is practiced by those of deep spiritual capacities:

“When the mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure …to recite the Buddha’s name is to recite the Mind.”

In its totality, Pure Land reflects the highest teaching of Buddhism as expressed in the Avatamsaka Sutra: mutual identity and interpenetrating…

Faith means faith in Amitabha Buddha’s Vows to rescue all who recite His name, as well as faith in one’s own Self-Nature, which is intrinsically the same as His (to recite the Buddha’s name is to recite the Mind).

Vows are the determination to be reborn in the Pure Land - in one’s pure mind - so as to be in the position to save oneself and others.

Practice generally means reciting the Buddha’s name (NAMU-AMIDA-BUTSU) to the point where one’s Mind and that of Amitabha Buddha are in unison…
https://quangduc.com/a31792/introduction-to-pure-land

The highest level of Pure Land practice is beyond belief and disbelief in a dualistic sense, since it seeks to experience and realize Amida as our own Buddha-nature.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2017, 02:51:06 pm »
In the words of Zen master Dogen, “You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest.”

Reciting the name of Amida Buddha is not based on intellectual understanding, through words and speech. It is instead the backstep to realizing Amida as our inward light, our original face from before our parents were born.  The name Amida means “boundless light,” our true nature when body and mind, the false ego-self, drop away.

At the conventional level of understanding, Amida is a being outside ourselves, and the Pure Land is a realm we can be reborn into after death. At the highest level of understanding, Amida is our own true nature, and the Pure Land is the mind when purified of delusion and selfishness.

The higher understanding of Pure Land practice isn’t superior to the conventional understanding. It’s instead based on whatever people need to get them to recite the Nembutsu. It’s adapting the teaching to the different understandings of people as upaya or skillful means:
https://www.thoughtco.com/upaya-skillful-or-expedient-means-450018

Seeing the Pure Land as a reality accessible here and now doesn’t reject that there is a Pure Land after death. But all we have right now is the here and now, and the Buddha emphasized the here and now. We can’t be 100% sure what happens after death until we experience it ourselves:

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The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.” Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.” Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.[2]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Poisoned_Arrow
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 03:42:22 pm by Dharma Flower »

 


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