Author Topic: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism  (Read 248 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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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2017, 12:50:48 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.


The Pure Land sutras were written hundreds of years after the historical Buddha’s passing, about a Buddha from eons before the Big Bang, galaxies away. Is Amida a historical person, like Shakyamuni who lived in ancient India?

Buddhism has always taught that scriptures are a finger pointing to the moon of enlightenment, rather than ultimate truths in and of themselves:
https://www.thoughtco.com/upaya-skillful-or-expedient-means-450018

In turning to the Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus, one of the three traditional Pure Land sutras, we see into the ultimate nature of Amida Buddha as beyond historicity:

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Then the World-honored One said to Vaidehī, “Do you know that Amitāyus is not far away?… 
Your mind produces the Buddha’s image and is itself the Buddha. The ocean of perfectly and universally enlightened buddhas thus arises in the meditating mind. For this reason, you should singlemindedly concentrate and deeply contemplate the Buddha Tathāgata, Arhat, and Perfectly Enlightened One.
http://www.bdk.or.jp/document/dgtl-dl/dBET_ThreePureLandSutras_2003.pdf


From this, we can conclude that Amida is Buddha-nature, our true mind when freed of selfishness and delusion.

Shinran saw Amida as the Buddha-nature in all things:

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Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata (Amida Buddha). This Tathagata pervades the countless worlds; it fills the hearts and minds of the ocean of all beings. Thus, plants, trees, and land all attain Buddhahood.
http://shinranwritings.blogspot.com/p/notes-on-essentials-of-faith-alone.html


Shinran also wrote that there is no Buddha separate from the mind which aspires for the attainment of Buddhahood:

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To aspire to be born in the Pure Land of happiness is necessarily to awaken the mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment… This mind attains Buddhahood means that the mind becomes Buddha; this mind is itself Buddha means that there is no Buddha apart from the mind…
This mind attains Buddhahood. This mind is itself Buddha. There is no Buddha apart from this mind.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expositions/chapter-on-shinjin/


Pure Land practice is the most widely practiced form of Buddhist practice in East Asia. It is an easy path of practice, especially intended for ordinary, everyday people who aren’t able to live the austere life of monks and nuns. 

In reciting the name of Amida Buddha, we are gradually and effortlessly made to awaken our Buddha-nature. Rather than a literal flesh and blood Buddha from ten kalpas ago, Amida is a mirror into our True Self.

If Amida is an external being to whom I beg for enlightenment, then I’m in a state of helplessness. Instead, I recite the Nembutsu to realize Amida as our True Self.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2017, 01:58:45 am by Dharma Flower »

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2017, 10:20:17 pm »
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When we search for the pure land, the place of peace, the right philosophy, the ultimate abode, or whatever, believing there’s really something “out there” waiting to be found, we set ourselves up for disappointment. There isn’t any such thing. But as long as we keep thinking in such terms, we’re headed for either of two destinations.

Either we remain naive and callow or we become grim, crusty, and cynical. We overlook that this all comes about because of our thought. As long as we hold to anything at all, doubt and despair will fester deeply in our minds.

But this despair only comes about because we’ve locked on to the notion that there has to be some wonderful, perfect, healing object or concept or philosophy or answer in the first place. And since there isn’t, we react as though human life has no meaning.

As long as we’re stuck in this place, there appears no way to resolve this profound human problem. Either we’re ultimately doomed to realize that we live in a meaningless universe or we’re doomed to abandon our intellect and live in a fool’s paradise. Both of these are forms of hell. Is there any other option outside of these two terrible extremes?

Consider what another ancient Chinese Zen teacher, Baizhang, spoke of as the “elixir of immortality.” An elixir is a medicine that cures all ills. The elixir that Baizhang refers to is pure, naked, objectless Awareness.

To Baizhang, we suffer because we buy in to the notion of substance. That is, we think that the things we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think are real, solid, and enduring. But naked, objectless Awareness reveals to us a very different Reality.

In speaking of the elixir of immortality, Baizhang is speaking not just figuratively or poetically; he’s speaking of the Awareness that nothing really dies—and that nothing is ever born. To the extent that this is seen, our experience of the world is utterly transformed.

And virtually all that we suffer from— confusion, pain, longing and loathing, loss and sorrow, fear of death—comes to an end. Indeed, it doesn’t even arise anymore because we’re no longer looking “out there” for anything that will satisfy. We can see that there is no “out there”—and no “in here.”…

When the Buddha said that those who are ignorant live as though dead already, he was saying that when we imagine permanence within the forms that appear to come and go, we necessarily live with fear, confusion, and the sense that human life is ultimately meaningless.

It’s a huge burden to bear—and it all comes from our marvelous ability to abstract our experience into things and thoughts. It’s a grand illusion that easily takes us in—and we are left trembling in our boots at the thought that we will die, that everything else will also pass out of existence (at least for us), and, worst of all, that we really don’t understand anything.

Thus we miss the field and fabric of just this—dynamic Reality itself. We are, in the Buddha’s words, “as if dead already.”
https://books.google.com/books?id=XuNoeJAgJJsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Reciting the name of Amida Buddha, in its deeper sense, is for realizing Amida as our true nature, rather than escaping our present existence to meet him in the Pure Land.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 10:23:22 pm by Dharma Flower »

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: The Contemplation Sutra of Buddha Amitayus & Zen Buddhism
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2017, 03:33:00 am »
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The Fruits of Pure Land Practice

The simplest way to practice Pure Land is by chanting “Amituofo,” which is Amitabha Buddha in Chinese. It does not matter whether we chant in Chinese or any other language as long as we do it properly.

When we chant, the sound of “Amituofo” arises in our minds. And as we utter “Amituofo,” our minds concentrate on and embrace that sound. While chanting, do so sincerely and continuously.

As one keeps chanting and the mind focuses on the sound of “Amituofo,” errant thoughts are replaced with pure thoughts. In this way, we also create less negative karma. After Amitabha has been in our mind continuously for a long time, our true nature—our Buddha-nature—will gradually be uncovered…

When we chant to the point of single-mindedness with the sole thought of “Amituofo,” we successfully form a connection with him—in fact, we become one with him. In that instant we are in the Pure Land—far to the west and deep within us…

The practice of concentrating on “Amituofo” will help us to become one with perfect compassion, perfect happiness, and perfect peace. No longer will we feel that we need to attain perfection on our own as we realize that we are already one with that which is perfect.
http://www.abrc.org.au/In%20One%20Lifetime_%20Pure%20Land%20Buddhism.pdf

 


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