Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:47 pm

Let's remember that the "three Pure Land sutras" were not recognized as such in India, and there was never any "Pure Land school" there. However, the longer Sukhavativyuha is mentioned by some other Indian literature as a typical Mahayana sutra. There are also other such texts for other figures such as Bhaisajyaguru, Maitreya, etc. Considering that these are part of a broad and loose genre of sutra literature, there is nothing remotely un-Mahayana about the Pure Land sutras. However, people in 2nd century Gandhara probably wouldn't agree with interpretations of some modern Pure Land traditions. Since that's the case, we should pay more attention to the teachings of these sutras themselves, including Indian practice of them, and consider their place in Mahayana sutra literature.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:57 pm

daverupa wrote:This is why I was earlier reminded of Mormons.


Okay, so the vast majority of Mahayana practitioners are Mormons?
I guess I don't see the need for the comparison. Maybe it's my own gut aversions to Mormons. Looking at it rationally, I probably shouldn't have a problem with the comparison - the Mormons, they never slaughtered people in the crusades for example.

daverupa wrote:Earlier, it was shown to me how these Limbs were present in some core Pure Land texts, connecting these texts to the Buddhadhamma, but I'm left wondering if these Limbs are practiced or are simply otherwise held in mind while other Pure Land practices occur. Those Pure Land practices may be skillful means for engaging with the Limbs, or they may be the poetic words of disciples which are preferred over the Limbs. This is a significant difference, because this last option isn't distinguishable from e.g. New Age approaches, while the first is.


First option is pretty dead on. I really don't see the difference between Pure Land practice and buddhanussati practice from the Nikayas, AN 11.12 where the Buddha taught Mahanama mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha as a sole practice method. Even the words are translations of each other: buddhanussati = buddhanusmrti = nianfo = nembutsu. The goal of the Pure Land practitioner and the Anagamin is the same and at the very least the practice should get one to Stream Entry.

daverupa wrote:The provenance of Pure Land simply does not go back as far as the Nikaya/Agama formulation period, which post-dates the teaching period of the historical Buddha. It's a simple conclusion, and according to (1) above it shouldn't matter because Pure Land is simply one teaching approach to this core Buddhadhamma material.


I don't argue this at all.

daverupa wrote:It's not even possible to slander the Dhamma by slandering Pure Land texts unless one slandered, say, the 37 Limbs within them.


Not according to Mahayana. Slandering Mahayana sutras is a pretty big no-no, especially for a monk ordained in a Mahayana school. Given that Pure Land references exist in something like 290 Mahayana sutras, then the question of why not ordain in Theravada instead is a valid one.

daverupa wrote:Just simple statements. This intense, vituperative defensiveness is surprising to me, and must relate to previous history, such as at E-Sangha or elsewhere. I am simply trying to get accurate descriptions of what's on the ground, so I apologize for bumpkin-ing around in this minefield.


Try everywhere else.
We're talking about one of the most often-dismissed forms of Buddhism on the West, one that at least enjoys a modicum of respect in the East.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:10 pm

Indrajala wrote:
I basically told him that Śākyamuni never taught Pure Land sūtras. He was rather upset by this remark and insisted otherwise. I told him this is the opinion of scholars.


The way you phrased it definitely seemed like you were satisfied getting a rise out of him.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:13 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Not according to Mahayana. Slandering Mahayana sutras is a pretty big no-no, especially for a monk ordained in a Mahayana school. Given that Pure Land references exist in something like 290 Mahayana sutras, then the question of why not ordain in Theravada instead is a valid one.


This is what I want to know myself but he hasn't answered back yet. The fact that he disagrees with pure land teachings is perfectly fine with me, but the fact that he does this as a Mahayana monk is beyond me.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Jikan » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:45 pm

rory wrote:Jikan; as a Tendai doshu you owe Ven. Indrajala an apology, first, accusing him of slander (bad enough!)


Where did I make such an accusation against anyone? I stated directly that someone's comment seemed slanderous to specific persons and no further.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:53 pm

Thanks to all for these perspectives.

It's probably going off-topic, but given that

PorkChop wrote:the question of why not ordain in Theravada instead is a valid one.


was mentioned, I wanted to ask: since there isn't a Mahayana ordination lineage, but rather two extant ordination lineages alongside Theravada - neither of which require Mahayana vows - I wondered if it wasn't possible to remain an ordained bhikkhu in, say, the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya lineage while not being considered as a Theravada or Mahayana monastic.

It should even be possible to ordain in Theravada and be a Mahayana monastic, neh?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby rory » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:19 pm

again from James Ford's "Jokei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan"

"Honen deviated from both Shan-tao and Genshin in two important ways. First he rejected the efficacy of all practices other than recitation of the nenbutsu. Wheras both Shan-tao and Genshin may have advocated the verbal nenbutsu for the common folk, they did not reject outright the Path of Sages and even recommended the use of meditation/visualization practices in tandem with nenbutsu recitation. This view was especially true of Genshin......p.165.

Practially speaking, such an absolute and preemptive claim of salvation, unprecedented within Buddhism, may have appealed to a human desire for soteriological certitude, particularly in the context of mappo and fear of karmic retribution. Moreover, once the precedent for such an exclusive claim was introduced, a new paradigm of discourse arose. Thus, Shinran and Nichiren followed with their own exclusive claims of salvation. In this sense, Honen may be credited with introducting an entirely new rhetorical framaework for Buddhist salvation in Japan." p. 168

"Traditonal Buddhist practices other than the five miscellaneous Pure Land practices are ineffectual, which clearly undermines most practices central to the tradtional schools and monastic institution in general." pl 174.

"In this chapter we examined Honen's senju nenbutsu teaching..and Jokei's criticism of it...With respect to the Senchakushu recent scholarship notes problems with at least three of Honen's important assertions.First his claim of a preexisting, independent Pure Land school in China is suspect. Second, whether Tao-chan'o or Shan-tao Honen's chosen patriarch's were ever exclusive in their advocation fo the nenbutsu is questionable. Third, whether Tao-ch'o or Shan-tao interpreted nenbutsu practice as only verbal recitation of the nenbutsu is also questionable." p. 184

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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:23 pm

daverupa wrote:was mentioned, I wanted to ask: since there isn't a Mahayana ordination lineage, but rather two extant ordination lineages alongside Theravada - neither of which require Mahayana vows - I wondered if it wasn't possible to remain an ordained bhikkhu in, say, the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya lineage while not being considered as a Theravada or Mahayana monastic.

It should even be possible to ordain in Theravada and be a Mahayana monastic, neh?


Well he's not much of a Vinaya fan,; which you can gather from his blog if you get the chance, so I imagine that shapes much of the decision.
His current situation probably allows for a lot more freedom than would be allowed otherwise.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:33 pm

Jikan wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
Jikan wrote:Ven. Indrajala, with some time having passed since you wrote this... do you think the bolded bits are a fair assessment of any Pure Land teachings? To many of us, they appear instead to be a slander of the Dharma.


[Ven Indrajala]As a Buddhist monk I don't slander the Dharma.


I'm interested to find out if you stand by your earlier characterization of Pure Land practice (quoted in my earlier post, to which you replied here). I asked because it seemed to some of us, as I said above, not representing the Dharma adequately or accurately, and hence slandering it. I take for granted that you keep your precepts purely, and I hope my comment did not imply that you did not.

The question still stands. Do you stand by your description of Pure Land practice as...
assume if you just change your diet and recite a mistranslated Sanskrit phrase you'll somehow get an entry ticket into heaven, and maybe get your less than virtuous relatives in as well provided you get the good graces of a certain buddha or two.


Jikan, you said Ven. Indrajala's words slander the Dharma and then repeated the charge. You should apologize and do zange at your altar.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Astus » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:36 pm

Indrajala wrote:I find Pure Land philosophy inconsistent and simply unappealing. It moreover seems contrary to a lot of what I would think constitutes Buddhadharma. The idea of attempting to escape the world and achieve eventual liberation by hoping for rebirth in a celestial paradise at death based on the purported vows of a buddha is hardly in line with early Buddhism or even more mainstream Indian Mahāyāna.


Bodhisattvas postpone their complete liberation till all beings are liberated. Also, bodhisattvas visit numerous buddha-lands to serve, respect and learn from many buddhas. This is taught in early Mahayana. Aspiring for birth in Amitabha's land fits into this perfectly. Sukhavati is recommended over other lands because it is said to be the easiest to get into, that it does not require one to be an arya-bodhisattva. Among the various practices recitation is recommended simply because it is easier than visualisation. How is all this contrary to Buddhadharma?
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby LastLegend » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:11 am

Indrajala,

You have so much time on your hand, for a monk. My advice to you is abandon your scholarly knowledge and focus on your own liberation.

As for faith based of Pure Land, you do realize that you have faith in Dharma as well right. The only way for you prove that your beliefs or thoughts regarding your path is true and correct is through your own experience of liberation. Why don't you focus on doing that first? Then come here and tell me how it's supposed to be done. Otherwise, what benefits of discussing "this is the right path, that is not the right path?"
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:53 am

daverupa wrote:It should even be possible to ordain in Theravada and be a Mahayana monastic, neh?

Not only is it possible, but once Mahayana Theravada was the dominant Theravada group in Sri Lanka. For most of the first millenium, the Abhayagiri Nikaya in Sri Lanka received greater patronage, had more monks, and included both "Hinayana" and "Mahayana" teachings. This only stopped when the Theravada monks from the Mahavihara Nikaya gained political favor and had the others defrocked, and had all their Mahayana sutras burned. This is the only reason why there is no Mahayana in Theravada Buddhism today.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:19 am

rory wrote:again from James Ford's "Jokei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan"

"Honen deviated from both Shan-tao and Genshin in two important ways. First he rejected the efficacy of all practices other than recitation of the nenbutsu. Wheras both Shan-tao and Genshin may have advocated the verbal nenbutsu for the common folk, they did not reject outright the Path of Sages and even recommended the use of meditation/visualization practices in tandem with nenbutsu recitation. This view was especially true of Genshin......p.165.


Genshin taught advanced monks as well as lay people. Honen targeted laypeople, but also included monks that left Hiei with him. Honen said it was difficult for common people. This was common thought dating back before Shan Tao's teacher. Depends what you mean by "reject" - Honen never criticized them and always advised against criticizing those of other schools - something you'd do well to learn. This is a misreading of Honen by Ford and he doesn't even bother to cite himself. It makes most of the rest of the assertions in this post false.

rory wrote:Practially speaking, such an absolute and preemptive claim of salvation, unprecedented within Buddhism,


First off, both premises are incorrect.

"Absolute" implies the the only way, which Honen never posited. The entire Shenchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shu is filled with quotes pointing out the difficult it is to practice the Path of Sages, but not that the Pure Land path is the only way.

Second, "unprecedented within Buddhism" is not really true. For that, I'll direct you to the Pali Canon: Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta (MN 140, M iii 237), Sarakaani Sutta (SN 55.24, S v 375), Gihi Sutta (AN 5.127, A iii 211), Mahanama Sutta 1 (AN 11.12, A v 328), Mahanama Sutta 2 (AN 11.13, A v 329), Mahanama Sutta (AN 8.25, A iv 220)...

rory wrote:First his claim of a preexisting, independent Pure Land school in China is suspect.

While many Chinese schools didn't have hard divisions like came to exist in Japan, to say that there was no Pure Land school in China is patently false - just look up Hui-Yuan (慧遠). This really isn't up for debate. The implication is that Chinese Pure Land schools which have existed for centuries, only did so as a result of Japanese Pure Land thought. This thesis is so laughable, it would have to assume half the commentaries in the Taisho Tripitaka are complete fabrications made by Japan.

rory wrote:Second, whether Tao-chan'o or Shan-tao Honen's chosen patriarch's were ever exclusive in their advocation fo the nenbutsu is questionable.

Actually it was Tan-Luan's idea and he was a great inspiration to Tao-Chuo, Shan-Tao's teacher. Chinese writings are pretty supportive of the idea that Shan-Tao recited the Buddha's Name FWIW. The research backing up Ford's assertion is questionable IMHO and quite obviously polemical.
Here's some Chinese research on Tan Luan for you (don't worry, English synopsis at the end):
http://nhuir.nhu.edu.tw:8085/ir/bitstre ... 000803.pdf
Another one showing the influence of Pure Land sect on modern Chan, mentioning Tanluan & Daochuo (Tao-Chan'o, Tao-Chuo), but not influenced by Japan:
http://etd.npue.edu.tw/ETD-db/ETD-searc ... 171745.pdf

rory wrote:Third, whether Tao-ch'o or Shan-tao interpreted nenbutsu practice as only verbal recitation of the nenbutsu is also questionable." p. 184[/b]

See Tan Luan reference above... Tan Luan invented the 6 character nembutsu, preached 10 recitations at death.

Seriously, verbal recitation is only a vocalized form of the original which was just "thinking about" not the advanced visualizations from the Visualization Sutra. This idea that verbal recitation is somehow a simplified form of the "real" practice is off-base. The original practice, which dates back to the Mahanama Sutra (1) that I referenced above is not some complex visualization.

rory wrote:Jikan, you said Ven. Indrajala's words slander the Dharma and then repeated the charge. You should apologize and do zange at your altar.

Indrajala disparages the idea that a simple practice + faith could lead to a celestial abode from which to attain enlightenment.
Not only is this explicitly stated in the Mahayana sutras, but it's implied in a lot of the Pali suttas I referenced above.
It's pretty cut and dried... Not sure why you're sticking up for Indrajala anyway, have you read his views on feminism?
You probably owe Jikan an apology.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby rory » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:23 am

LastLegend wrote:Indrajala,

You have so much time on your hand, for a monk. My advice to you is abandon your scholarly knowledge and focus on your own liberation.

As for faith based of Pure Land, you do realize that you have faith in Dharma as well right. The only way for you prove that your beliefs or thoughts regarding your path is true and correct is through your own experience of liberation. Why don't you focus on doing that first? Then come here and tell me how it's supposed to be done. Otherwise, what benefits of discussing "this is the right path, that is not the right path?"


Ven. Indrajala is a scholar and a a monk; being ignorant has no place in Buddhism! It requires understanding our minds, purifying them, various philosophies of reality, emptyness, dharani (in correct Sanskrit), sutra study. Nalanda was a great Buddhist university for a reason.

I've shown via scholarship that Ven. Indrajala is correct and speaks from Orthodox Mahayana when he exorts us to employ a variety of practices and to meditate. He has always been generous with his scholarship and encouragement in Dharma, even when it's uncomfortable. Buddhism isn't about staying in your comfort zone and feeling pleased with yourself. I've corresponded with Ven. Indrajala privately and he told me the same things; well he is right and I've been spurred on to make greater strides in the Dharma. I'm very grateful to him! You should be too.

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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:29 am

rory wrote:Ven. Indrajala is a scholar and a a monk; being ignorant has no place in Buddhism! It requires understanding our minds, purifying them, various philosophies of reality, emptyness, dharani (in correct Sanskrit), sutra study. Nalanda was a great Buddhist university for a reason.


We're well aware of Indrajala's attempts at completely disregarding the householder path in Buddhism.
If his words were true, then only scholar monks would make any progress along the path.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:06 am

PorkChop wrote:
rory wrote:Ven. Indrajala is a scholar and a a monk; being ignorant has no place in Buddhism! It requires understanding our minds, purifying them, various philosophies of reality, emptyness, dharani (in correct Sanskrit), sutra study. Nalanda was a great Buddhist university for a reason.


We're well aware of Indrajala's attempts at completely disregarding the householder path in Buddhism.
If his words were true, then only scholar monks would make any progress along the path.


Now you're simply misrepresenting me.

I have said in the past I think sexual desire needs to be addressed as a prerequisite for progress.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:12 am

Astus wrote:How is all this contrary to Buddhadharma?


Focusing exclusively on gaining entry into the Pure Land while largely ignoring and/or disregarding the core teachings of Buddhadharma is unwise.

Pure Land as it is commonly practiced is more Devayāna in my estimation. You attempt to gain the graces of a certain buddha in the hopes of being freed from the pains of this world and thereafter ascend into a higher realm, but this is said to only be possible postmortem.

You can say the whole point is to advance one's bodhisattva career thereafter, but this is hardly what I have observed in real life.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:14 am

PorkChop wrote:His current situation probably allows for a lot more freedom than would be allowed otherwise.


You really know next to nothing about my personal life or practice.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:22 am

Indrajala wrote:
PorkChop wrote:We're well aware of Indrajala's attempts at completely disregarding the householder path in Buddhism.
If his words were true, then only scholar monks would make any progress along the path.
Now you're simply misrepresenting me.
I have said in the past I think sexual desire needs to be addressed as a prerequisite for progress.

Even with quotes in the Pali canon saying explicitly that the householder doesn't necessarily give up sensuality in order to make progress along the path.

Indrajala wrote:
PorkChop wrote:His current situation probably allows for a lot more freedom than would be allowed otherwise.

You really know next to nothing about my personal life or practice.


I only know what you've said on the posts I've read here and on your blog.
Are you not the one that complained about the lack of freedom in Chinese Buddhism?
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:41 am

Nighthawk wrote:This is what I want to know myself but he hasn't answered back yet. The fact that he disagrees with pure land teachings is perfectly fine with me, but the fact that he does this as a Mahayana monk is beyond me.


Pure Land Buddhism as I often have seen or observed is Devayāna.
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