Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:54 pm

Zhen Li wrote:But the sutras don't need to be placed in the context of the larger world of Mahayana Buddhism to allow one to use them to practice the Bodhisattvayana.


They are already in a larger context whether we attend to that fact or not; the point is not to slam Pure Land, but to parse whether something adhamma, such as devayana, is being perpetuated under a dhamma label, neh? It's in understanding the provenance of Pure Land that we attain a scale for assessment, and so far most Pure Land doctrine isn't coming up for this sort of criticism, only anecdotes about apparent mistakes in understanding (or, less generously, clinging to preference, rites, & rituals).
    "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.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:30 pm

daverupa wrote:They are already in a larger context whether we attend to that fact or not

That is very true, the texts arose as part of a network of discourse which exists between various salvific ideologies, texts and the opinions of individuals, which is not apparent if one takes them merely as existing in a vacuum - which I think is what some people think of them as doing, or at least as what some other commenters in this thread suggested people were doing. Which, were they doing such a thing, would not be conducive to the devayana anyway. There are texts in the Pali canon which are devayana, but not the pureland sutras - going to the pureland isn't becoming a deva.
daverupa wrote:the point is not to slam Pure Land, but to parse whether something adhamma, such as devayana, is being perpetuated under a dhamma label, neh?

Whoever said that being reborn as a deva is not something you can find in dharma? The Buddha taught people explicitly how to do this, and thousands of Buddhists hope for rebirth as a deva. Just by cursory gloss, I can refer you to the following texts: <It 22; 14-15> <AN 8:36; IV 241-43> <AN 4:34; II34-35> <AN 8:33; IV 236-37> <AN 4:57; II 62-63> <AN 8:35; IV 239-41> <AN 8:41; IV 248-51> <MN 99: Subha Sutta; II 206-8>. I don't know where people get these views about what the Buddha taught.
daverupa wrote:It's in understanding the provenance of Pure Land that we attain a scale for assessment

Why???

Are you suggesting that stuff which is temporally earlier is more normative? What contrivance and uncreativity! Who makes up these rules? :stirthepot: This is taken straight from fundamentalist Christian apologetics.
daverupa wrote:far most Pure Land doctrine isn't coming up for this sort of criticism, only anecdotes about apparent mistakes in understanding

Why do you want to critique it? What do you have to gain? Are you going to go on a crusade after you prove true your conclusions and slay the heretics? :jedi:
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:14 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
daverupa wrote:the point is not to slam Pure Land, but to parse whether something adhamma, such as devayana, is being perpetuated under a dhamma label, neh?

Whoever said that being reborn as a deva is not something you can find in dharma? The Buddha taught people explicitly how to do this, and thousands of Buddhists hope for rebirth as a deva.


Nevertheless, laying aside one body and taking up another is blameworthy. Sariputta was berated for getting up from his seat while there was still more to be done, i.e. teaching only to rebirth, and not to liberation, based on what people were already set on.

As for many Buddhists hoping for such rebirths, that looks like an argumentum ad populum getting warmed up. Many people hope for a permanent Heaven, too, but see below.

Are you suggesting that stuff which is temporally earlier is more normative?


Well, I consider the Dhamma to be normative for Buddhism, and throughout these discussions have simply referred to that foundation. Without it, there are only castles in the sky, New Age pastiches, and other cafeteria Buddhisms.

We are able to say that some things are adhamma. The existence of a permanent, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator deity is one example, and a practice designed to bring one into contact with such a being simply cannot succeed, nor would it lead to release from samsara. There are other examples;

Why do you want to critique it? What do you have to gain? Are you going to go on a crusade after you prove true your conclusions and slay the heretics?


it helps to have a clear indication of what is Dhamma and what is not, if for no other reason than to save time. It's a precious human resource.

I am not willing to grant that anything goes when under a flag of skillful means, but there is nevertheless a huge swath of highly varied exegetical effort which can be perfectly serviceable; you earlier referred to part of this as the spectrum of Mahayana. There are any number of ways to approach the Dhamma, and there are many more paths which do not. Without criticizing people, we can simply discuss what this difference means and how it manifests in the world.

:shrug:
    "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.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:58 pm

daverupa wrote:Nevertheless, laying aside one body and taking up another is blameworthy. Sariputta [referring to Dhānañjāni Sutta] was berated for getting up from his seat while there was still more to be done, i.e. teaching only to rebirth, and not to liberation, based on what people were already set on.

Actually, as Bhikkhu Bodhi rightly comments, "This remark has the force of a gentle reproach. The Buddha must have seen that Dhānañjāni had the potential to attain the supramundane path, since elsewhere (e.g., MN 99.24–27) he himself teaches only the way to the Brahma-world when that potential is lacking in his listener."

That there are blameworthy, sāvajjaṃ, elements in the devayana (but by all means, less than most other paths), does not mean that it should not under any circumstances be practised, and definitely doesn't make it adharma - especially when the Lord Buddha taught it.
daverupa wrote:As for many Buddhists hoping for such rebirths, that looks like an argumentum ad populum getting warmed up. Many people hope for a permanent Heaven, too, but see below. ... Well, I consider the Dhamma to be normative for Buddhism, and throughout these discussions have simply referred to that foundation. Without it, there are only castles in the sky, New Age pastiches, and other cafeteria Buddhisms.

We are able to say that some things are adhamma. The existence of a permanent, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator deity is one example, and a practice designed to bring one into contact with such a being simply cannot succeed, nor would it lead to release from samsara. There are other examples;

The fact that many Buddhists hope for rebirth as a deva is significant to the question of what is 'generally' considered Buddhist. That it is also dharmic and taught by the Buddha, adds further weight to the fact that it is simply not an idea which you should brush away like dirt. Many people are motivated to do good deeds and to respect the triple gem with the devayana, and it should be respected (as should those who follow it) for that alone.

Devayana isn't a path to a permanent heaven, so the analogy is bunk. And this is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether devayana is dharmic or not.
daverupa wrote:I am not willing to grant that anything goes when under a flag of skillful means, but there is nevertheless a huge swath of highly varied exegetical effort which can be perfectly serviceable; you earlier referred to part of this as the spectrum of Mahayana.

I believe you're mixing me up with someone else.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:19 pm

Zhen Li wrote:...does not mean that it should not under any circumstances be practised,


No one has said this.

Zhen Li wrote:Devayana isn't a path to a permanent heaven, so the analogy is bunk.


I'm drawing out the fact that some things aren't dhammic and that this can be stated; I am not drawing an analogy between e.g. monotheism and devayana.

Zhen Li wrote:
daverupa wrote:I am not willing to grant that anything goes when under a flag of skillful means, but there is nevertheless a huge swath of highly varied exegetical effort which can be perfectly serviceable; you earlier referred to part of this as the spectrum of Mahayana.

I believe you're mixing me up with someone else.


:thinking:

Zhen Li wrote:Practising Mahayana isn't an all or nothing deal, there is a spectrum of approaches...


I must have misunderstood.
    "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.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:40 pm

daverupa wrote:I must have misunderstood.

Sorry, you lost me because when you discussed exegetical effort and skilful means I didn't recall ever mentioning this. I discussed the spectrum of approaches in Mahayana more in a strictly soteriological sense, as approaches to Buddhahood.
daverupa wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:...does not mean that it should not under any circumstances be practised,
No one has said this.

But you claimed that devayana should not be taught in isolation - which the Buddha did on occasion. And that teaching it is blameworthy - which would make the Buddha blameworthy.

You also claimed that devayana is adharma a few posts up... Unless you suggest that adharma should be practiced? That'll be something new.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:29 pm

Zhen Li wrote:But you claimed that devayana should not be taught in isolation - which the Buddha did on occasion.


Well, what I said was

daverupa wrote:To put it another way: these texts make reference to the 37 limbs which the Buddha did teach, as we know from the Nikayas/Agamas, so it is indeed the Buddhadhamma of the historical Buddha if we are enjoined to practice these things. If we are enjoined to engage other practices alongside that effort, as supports and aids, then this, too, may be the teaching of the Buddha in terms of its usefulness in supporting us on the Path.


I consider the brahmaviharas as an 'alongside', not an 'instead of'; I'm unaware of any occasions of the Buddha encouraging others to attain specific rebirths instead of practicing the Path - if He did one, He did the other. (Surely stream-entrants take up to seven more, for example, but in a manner of speaking this is a bug, not a feature.)

And that teaching it is blameworthy - which would make the Buddha blameworthy.


I said only that taking up another body was blameworthy. This can be found in an almost offhand remark at MN 144:

"Sariputta, when one lays down this body and clings to a new body, then I say one is blameworthy."

As far as I can tell, the Buddha always taught about what led to various rebirths as a lesson in paticcasamuppada, such as here. Seeing this is a dhammic goal, not taking rebirth.

As for devayana being adhamma, this is a very truncated phrase which ought to be unpacked. By devayana, I mean just that goal of taking rebirth as one. All manner of scenarios can be envisaged, but to take rebirth as a goal in and of itself is adhamma.
    "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.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:26 am

Indrajala wrote:
LastLegend wrote:Wearing robes does not make you monk.


Perhaps I shall take them off and walk around like a Jain monk.

If ya' know whad' I mean...

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Yea........ummmmmmmmmm.....heyyyy am I the only one that notices the used condom at his feet? :shock:
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby TheSpirit » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:59 am

Son of Buddha wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
LastLegend wrote:Wearing robes does not make you monk.


Perhaps I shall take them off and walk around like a Jain monk.

If ya' know whad' I mean...

Image



Yea........ummmmmmmmmm.....heyyyy am I the only one that notices the used condom at his feet? :shock:


lmao...i just noticed that to... Did not know Mahavira advocates safe sex.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Oct 21, 2013 1:06 am

He is giving the snake a discourse on safe sex.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Oct 21, 2013 2:32 am

daverupa wrote:As for devayana being adhamma, this is a very truncated phrase which ought to be unpacked. By devayana, I mean just that goal of taking rebirth as one. All manner of scenarios can be envisaged, but to take rebirth as a goal in and of itself is adhamma.

Ok, I don't think we'll come to an agreement, we'll just keep repeating the same things over and over again, and the matter has seem to have passed out of the focus of the discussion. :jumping:
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Mon Oct 21, 2013 10:57 pm

Zhen Li wrote:But the sutras don't need to be placed in the context of the larger world of Mahayana Buddhism to allow one to use them to practice the Bodhisattvayana. Anyone who is practising them is on the Bodhisattvayana.

A wrong interpretation of Indian Buddhist practices described in a sutra will lead to wrong practice, and wrong practice doesn't necessarily lead to the benefits stated in the sutra. As the shorter Sukhavativyuha itself states, "Śāriputra, those with few good roots and the causes of merit, may not attain birth in this land." In other words, it's not so easy. Indian Buddhists were practicing buddhanusmrti as meditation on Amitabha Buddha, whereas some Buddhists these days are practicing Pure Land as though they were wishing on a star. At the time of death, each will go somewhere according to his or her own karma, and those good intentions may or may not lead to rebirth in a pure land.

Zhen Li wrote:Practising Mahayana isn't an all or nothing deal, there is a spectrum of approaches - from just reciting the Buddha's name, to trying to uphold all the Bodhisattva precepts and fulfil the perfections, and if you actually talk to Buddhists in a continuing modern Indian tradition in the Kathmandu valley about pureland practice, there will be some who even claim that after certain pureland practices you're set for life with a guaranteed rebirth in Sukhavati and consequently Buddhahood, and don't need to worry about karma or your next life any more.

Sure, but rebirth in a pure land doesn't happen by accident, and it doesn't happen just because you tried. Buddhists in Nepal can promise Nirvana, a pure land, or whatever they like, but whether the individuals ever accomplish these things is another matter. Additionally, Nepalese Buddhism is not exactly the Buddhism of ancient Gandhara, so we can't look to Nepalese Buddhism for definitive interpretations of these texts.

Wasn't it Paul Harrison who was pointing out that the structure of the longer Sukhavativyuha leads one to believe that all the adornments, and the pure land itself, were originally meant to be visualized by the reciter? Even secular scholars can see that the exaggerated and oversimplified explanations given by modern Pure Land schools are missing the mark in their interpretations. Monks in ancient Gandhara may have been engaged in progressive, complex, vast visualizations of Amitabha's pure land as their main practice as they recited the text.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:34 am

longjie wrote:As the shorter Sukhavativyuha itself states, "Śāriputra, those with few good roots and the causes of merit, may not attain birth in this land."


True, but apparently takes some pretty good roots & merit to be born in this land & be able to listen to the Dharma...
Wouldn't automatically assume such causes weren't already in place...

longjie wrote:Sure, but rebirth in a pure land doesn't happen by accident, and it doesn't happen just because you tried.


The 18th Vow of the Larger Sutra is pretty specific about what's required.

longjie wrote:Wasn't it Paul Harrison who was pointing out that the structure of the longer Sukhavativyuha leads one to believe that all the adornments, and the pure land itself, were originally meant to be visualized by the reciter?


That's not quite what he says in his book on Mahayana Buddhism. He says that the descriptions of the Pure Land are prescriptive for visualizing Amitabha, as in: when one is thinking of him - which is the main form of the practice regardless of school. This statement does not imply the complex visualizations of the Meditation Sutra. The adornments are representative of the features of an Enlightened mind. The Meditation Sutra gives techniques for creating such complex visualizations, but nowhere does it say these visualizations are mandatory. This seems to be the desire of those that want to over-complicate the process.

longjie wrote:Even secular scholars can see that the exaggerated and oversimplified explanations given by modern Pure Land schools are missing the mark in their interpretations.


What a polemical and arrogant thing to say (not to mention ignorant)...
A non-practitioner doesn't "get it", talks trash, and they're somehow the more valid source?
I think your major mistake here is the idea of academia & interpretations - for practitioners their explanations were based in experience.
These are not objective texts & doctrines that only exist because of a perfectly pure lineage, they are subjective texts and should be read as such.

longjie wrote:Monks in ancient Gandhara may have been engaged in progressive, complex, vast visualizations of Amitabha's pure land as their main practice as they recited the text.


If that were the case, then why is it that the sutra that has the most complex visualizations is likely a Chinese invention?
Why don't the vows include such complex visualizations?
It's the Shorter Sutra that was the one that was likely recited.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:59 pm

PorkChop wrote:True, but apparently takes some pretty good roots & merit to be born in this land & be able to listen to the Dharma... Wouldn't automatically assume such causes weren't already in place...

On the same note, we shouldn't assume they are either.

PorkChop wrote:The 18th Vow of the Larger Sutra is pretty specific about what's required.

I just want to point out that if it were really this simple, the rest of Buddhism would be essentially redundant or unimportant. If someone wants to base their practice of Buddhism on one tiny passage in one sutra, then that's fine, but it is still a rather idiosyncratic form of Buddhism that has little precedent in its homeland of India. Remember that there was no such "Pure Land sect" originally, and pure land teachings of various buddhas were just part of the Mahayana as a whole.

PorkChop wrote:That's not quite what he says in his book on Mahayana Buddhism. He says that the descriptions of the Pure Land are prescriptive for visualizing Amitabha, as in: when one is thinking of him - which is the main form of the practice regardless of school. This statement does not imply the complex visualizations of the Meditation Sutra. The adornments are representative of the features of an Enlightened mind. The Meditation Sutra gives techniques for creating such complex visualizations, but nowhere does it say these visualizations are mandatory. This seems to be the desire of those that want to over-complicate the process.

If the adornments of Sukhavati are representative of the features of an enlightened mind, then do they also exist in the actual physical buddha-land in a similar form? If they are representative of the features of an enlightened mind, then is that true of all buddha-lands for all buddhas, despite their varying descriptions?

PorkChop wrote:What a polemical and arrogant thing to say (not to mention ignorant)...
A non-practitioner doesn't "get it", talks trash, and they're somehow the more valid source?
I think your major mistake here is the idea of academia & interpretations - for practitioners their explanations were based in experience.
These are not objective texts & doctrines that only exist because of a perfectly pure lineage, they are subjective texts and should be read as such.

If your method of discourse is to accuse others of being polemical, arrogant, and ignorant, then how are the adornments of your own mind? Maybe you should be discussing the topic rather than engaging in name-calling.

Some practitioners have had explanations that are based on experience, no doubt, but if you have dozens of different explanations and theories, can they all be true? People should be able to discuss these things and question them without being accused of heresy. For my own purposes, I prefer to examine the way they were originally used, and the way the practices developed in India.

PorkChop wrote:If that were the case, then why is it that the sutra that has the most complex visualizations is likely a Chinese invention?
Why don't the vows include such complex visualizations?
It's the Shorter Sutra that was the one that was likely recited.

If the sutra were a Chinese invention -- and there is no clear evidence for this theory -- then its contents would have no bearing on the contents of the other sutras, or how they were used hundreds of years before. As for the vows, just because the sutra contains visualization imagery doesn't mean that this is the only feature of the sutra.

Also, during the era when these sutras emerged, in the early first few centuries of the common era, memorization and recitation of Buddhist texts in India was still the norm, with reading and writing serving a mere auxiliary function. This was true even for texts which were even longer than the Longer Sukhavativyuha.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby LastLegend » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:48 pm

longjie wrote:Remember that there was no such "Pure Land sect" originally, and pure land teachings of various buddhas were just part of the Mahayana as a whole.
.


1) Why do you think pure land teachings of various Buddhas are mentioned in Sutras? Obviously, it is not for the purpose of displaying Buddhas' miraculous abilities.

2) If cause and effect applies, will recite Amitabha eventually lead one closer to Amitabha? Likewise, will recite samsaric habitual thoughts with followed actions bind one to Samsara?
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:54 am

LastLegend wrote:1) Why do you think pure land teachings of various Buddhas are mentioned in Sutras? Obviously, it is not for the purpose of displaying Buddhas' miraculous abilities.

Well, let's look at the matter. Usually at the beginning of a Mahayana sutra, the Buddha receives a question from a monk or a bodhisattva, and that precipitates the entire rest of the teaching. There are a few exceptions to this, though, like the Shorter Sukhavativyuha, which contains no beginning question. We can start with another "pure land" sutra, though, Xuanzang's translation of the Medicine Buddha Sutra:

Medicine Buddha Sutra wrote:"Bhagavan, we merely with for you to expound the characteristics and titles of the buddhas, as well as their original great vows and special merits, causing those who hear them to have their obstacles of karma to melt away, because we wish to bring benefits and happiness to sentient beings living in the Semblance Dharma era. [...] Excellent, excellent, Manjusri! Out of great compassion, you ask me to speak of the titles of the buddhas, as well as their past vows and merits, to uproot obstacles of karma that fetter sentient beings, and bring benefits and comfort to sentient beings in the Semblance Dharma era."

Here there is nothing about saving sentient beings, but rather the main purpose of the sutra seems to be simply to help beings remove karmic obstacles, and to help them in difficult times (i.e. when the correct Dharma is not in the world anymore). Then there is the Longer Sukhavativyuha:

Longer Sukhavativyuha wrote:At that time all the senses of the World-Honored One radiated joy, his entire body appeared serene and glorious, and his august countenance looked most majestic. Having perceived the Buddha's holy intention, the Venerable Ananda rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, prostrated himself, and joining his palms in reverence, said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, today all your senses are radiant with joy, your body is serene and glorious, and your august countenance is as majestic as a clear mirror whose brightness radiates outward and inward. The magnificence of your dignified appearance is unsurpassed and beyond measure. I have never seen you look so superb and majestic as today. With respect, Great Sage, this thought has occurred to me: 'Today, the World-Honored One dwells in the rare and marvelous Dharma; today, the World-Hero dwells in the Buddha's abode; today, the World-Eye concentrates on the performance of the leader's duty; today, the World-Valiant One dwells in the supreme Bodhi; today, the One Most Honored in Heaven realizes the Tathagata's virtue. The Buddhas of the past, present and future contemplate each other. How can this present Buddha not contemplate all other Buddhas?' For what reason does his countenance look so majestic and brilliant?"

Then the World-Honored One said to Ananda, "Tell me, Ananda, whether some god urged you to put this question to the Buddha or whether you asked about his glorious countenance from your own wise observation."

Ananda replied to the Buddha, "No god came to prompt me. I asked you about this matter of my own accord."

The question that prompts the Longer Sukhavativyuha is nothing that clearly indicates a path of salvation for sentient beings, much less an alternate path of Buddhist practice. The question seems to be focused more on the manifestation of the Buddha's rupakaya or sambhogakaya.

LastLegend wrote:2) If cause and effect applies, will recite Amitabha eventually lead one closer to Amitabha? Likewise, will recite samsaric habitual thoughts with followed actions bind one to Samsara?

Personally, I think this is the case, but the exact details and requirements are not completely clear.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby LastLegend » Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:28 am

It helps to understand a Sutra not from a perspective of a scholar.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:46 pm

longjie wrote:I just want to point out that if it were really this simple, the rest of Buddhism would be essentially redundant or unimportant. If someone wants to base their practice of Buddhism on one tiny passage in one sutra, then that's fine, but it is still a rather idiosyncratic form of Buddhism that has little precedent in its homeland of India. Remember that there was no such "Pure Land sect" originally, and pure land teachings of various buddhas were just part of the Mahayana as a whole.

False, it was householder Buddhism to begin with, with very similar practices & goals (Pure Abodes), more formally systemized to fall within the newly developing Mahayana guidelines. In other words, a Mahayana take on a preexisting practice, not some insignificant subsect of a greater movement. I've already posted source material for these practices throughout this thread.

longjie wrote:If the adornments of Sukhavati are representative of the features of an enlightened mind, then do they also exist in the actual physical buddha-land in a similar form? If they are representative of the features of an enlightened mind, then is that true of all buddha-lands for all buddhas, despite their varying descriptions?

I'm going with what the sutra says, pointed out earlier in this thread, along with commentary that further elaborates.
Tons of references in Mahayana sutras of buddha-lands having the same qualities.
You mention Medicine Buddha in your post, which a good example of that.

longjie wrote:If your method of discourse is to accuse others of being polemical, arrogant, and ignorant, then how are the adornments of your own mind? Maybe you should be discussing the topic rather than engaging in name-calling.

And accusing every modern school of Pure Land Buddhism of over simplistic explanations and not understanding the course of study that they've devoted their lives to ISN'T engaging in name-calling (or polemics)? Maybe you should be a little less disrespectful of people with differing opinions. Engaging in such rhetoric and then crying "name-calling" is just too hypocritical for my tastes.

longjie wrote:Some practitioners have had explanations that are based on experience, no doubt, but if you have dozens of different explanations and theories, can they all be true? People should be able to discuss these things and question them without being accused of heresy. For my own purposes, I prefer to examine the way they were originally used, and the way the practices developed in India.

Who's to say who's true or not? I never said heretical, I said it was polemical to disregard, dismiss, and disrespect entire groups of schools based on the rather limited nature of academic study. What do we know of what was practiced in India? What still survives? I would argue not all that much... Even Nattier's paper is based off some pretty limited source material.

Whether or not it has been gleamed from my earlier posts, I'll make it clear. I have very little interest in trying to reconstruct supposed practices of people I'll never meet, based upon what little remains of rather sparse documentation, much of which was destroyed long ago. This becomes a pointless exercise when there are living traditions still active all over East Asia, producing followers who have displayed some rather impressive traits (praised by the wise) that I would be proud to emulate. Assuming only one group of privileged (and now extinct) people ever had it right is rather short-sighted. Attempting to somehow reconstruct a living tradition from scattered fossil remains is a fool's errand (more like larping than serious spiritual practice).

longjie wrote:If the sutra were a Chinese invention -- and there is no clear evidence for this theory -- then its contents would have no bearing on the contents of the other sutras, or how they were used hundreds of years before. As for the vows, just because the sutra contains visualization imagery doesn't mean that this is the only feature of the sutra.

Really? Because there are plenty of books that go into great detail the evidence for the Chinese creation of the Visualization Sutra:
"The Pure Land Tradition: History and Development" edited by James Harlan Foard, Michael Solomon, Richard Karl Payne
"Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light : Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras" Motilal Banarsidass Publishe, Jan 1, 2002
Just for starters...
I can only assume Nattier is not a fan of Kotatsu to make the case that the evidence is weak, I don't tend to share that opinion. In fact, the evidence that it was produced in China is absolute. It is whether or not the sutra was actually produced in India that is in question. Burden of proof and all that...
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:35 am

PorkChop wrote:False, it was householder Buddhism to begin with, with very similar practices & goals (Pure Abodes), more formally systemized to fall within the newly developing Mahayana guidelines. In other words, a Mahayana take on a preexisting practice, not some insignificant subsect of a greater movement. I've already posted source material for these practices throughout this thread.

This is your own theory. I haven't characterized Pure Land in India as being a subsect of a greater movement. I've said that it likely was never a separate sect or subsect in India, which is true.

PorkChop wrote:I'm going with what the sutra says, pointed out earlier in this thread, along with commentary that further elaborates.
Tons of references in Mahayana sutras of buddha-lands having the same qualities.
You mention Medicine Buddha in your post, which a good example of that.

Then why even write about the pure lands as being separate, or there being different buddhas in them? According to your theories, these would all be mythical?

PorkChop wrote:And accusing every modern school of Pure Land Buddhism of over simplistic explanations and not understanding the course of study that they've devoted their lives to ISN'T engaging in name-calling (or polemics)? Maybe you should be a little less disrespectful of people with differing opinions. Engaging in such rhetoric and then crying "name-calling" is just too hypocritical for my tastes.

I'm just saying that I find the explanations given by modern Pure Land schools to be unsatisfactory and narrow. That's my own opinion, and it has nothing to do with name-calling or polemics. You on the other hand, have directly called me arrogant, ignorant, etc. People should be able to talk about the Dharma and express disagreements without being shouted down and accused in this way. In my view, the Pure Land practices must be beneficial, but the path as described by modern schools seems rather vague and simplistic. Obviously some people agree with some of these sentiments, which is why this thread exists in the first place.

PorkChop wrote:Who's to say who's true or not? I never said heretical, I said it was polemical to disregard, dismiss, and disrespect entire groups of schools based on the rather limited nature of academic study. What do we know of what was practiced in India? What still survives? I would argue not all that much... Even Nattier's paper is based off some pretty limited source material.
Whether or not it has been gleamed from my earlier posts, I'll make it clear. I have very little interest in trying to reconstruct supposed practices of people I'll never meet, based upon what little remains of rather sparse documentation, much of which was destroyed long ago. This becomes a pointless exercise when there are living traditions still active all over East Asia, producing followers who have displayed some rather impressive traits (praised by the wise) that I would be proud to emulate. Assuming only one group of privileged (and now extinct) people ever had it right is rather short-sighted. Attempting to somehow reconstruct a living tradition from scattered fossil remains is a fool's errand (more like larping than serious spiritual practice).

Well, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and I haven't dismissed Pure Land. We might do well to first acknowledge that Indian interpretations and practices related to these sutras may have been different than what is practiced in modern Pure Land traditions. You may not be interested in Indian interpretations and practices of the Mahayana sutras, but some people are. If you think that's foolish, then that's your own opinion, but my view is that uncovering more of Indian Buddhism helps give the rest of us a valuable perspective.

PorkChop wrote:Really? Because there are plenty of books that go into great detail the evidence for the Chinese creation of the Visualization Sutra:
"The Pure Land Tradition: History and Development" edited by James Harlan Foard, Michael Solomon, Richard Karl Payne
"Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light : Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras" Motilal Banarsidass Publishe, Jan 1, 2002
Just for starters...
I can only assume Nattier is not a fan of Kotatsu to make the case that the evidence is weak, I don't tend to share that opinion. In fact, the evidence that it was produced in China is absolute. It is whether or not the sutra was actually produced in India that is in question. Burden of proof and all that...

The first source doesn't claim that it was invented anywhere, but suggests a possible origin in Central Asia. The second source says that it may have been composed somewhere outside India.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:16 am

longjie wrote:I'm just saying that I find the explanations given by modern Pure Land schools to be unsatisfactory and narrow. That's my own opinion, and it has nothing to do with name-calling or polemics. You on the other hand, have directly called me arrogant, ignorant, etc. People should be able to talk about the Dharma and express disagreements without being shouted down and accused in this way. In my view, the Pure Land practices must be beneficial, but the path as described by modern schools seems rather vague and simplistic. Obviously some people agree with some of these sentiments, which is why this thread exists in the first place.


That's not what you said though.
You said the modern Pure Land schools provided an overly simplistic view, without qualifying it as your opinion, which falls under badmouthing of other schools in the Terms of Service. You also proselytized the secular academic view as having a more correct interpretation, which is also addressed in the Terms of Service. I retract my ad-hominem statements but you had already established a debate style that exists outside of the Terms of Service, so harping on me for those statements comes off as hypocritical. I leave it up to the admins to address any ToS violations. For what it's worth, I apologize if my phrasing is harsh. These types of threads come up daily on various forums and it serves to put a lot of Pure Land practitioners on edge, which can be noted by the responses from various Pure Land practitioners. To be clear, this thread was split off from an earlier thread in order to give Pure Landers a chance to defend against accusations about their practice without derailing the pre-existing thread.

You are free to your opinion, I should never have implied that the academic view is completely invalid because that's not the case. If you believe everyone else is wrong except for a few academics who are not accepted as the final say on the matter, then that's your prerogative. It is just my opinion that the inherent assumption that the traditional doctrines are incorrect or overly simplistic is an arrogant view - but only in the case of being closed-minded towards any and all interpretations of existing schools. I mean, if that bias is already a hard stance to the exclusion of counter views, then what's the point of discussion other than to air perceived grievances?

longjie wrote:The first source doesn't claim that it was invented anywhere, but suggests a possible origin in Central Asia. The second source says that it may have been composed somewhere outside India.


I don't know if it's a case of intentional selective reading or not, but both sources discuss at length the inherent inconsistencies in the document as grounds for a later compilation and that later compilation is the view of the academic seen as the authority on the matter. There are also statements made in both sources that inconsistencies between the 3 sutras as they are preserved imply that they may have originated in separate schools with a similar root source. This makes it clear that the idea one, monolithic "Mahayana school" was not a reality on the ground. All we know is that no documents survived that would indicate a large Pure Land-only school, only that "Pure Land lines of thought" existed (as did Prajnaparamita lines of thought and Tathatagarbha lines of thought), and given the ad hoc nature in which texts were preserved and the acknowledged "cult of the book" among many Mahayana adherents (ie preserving one text or group of texts to the exclusion of others) makes it impossible to rule out the possibility.

Do I think every currently active Pure Land school is 100% correct in all doctrines and interpretations?
No. I think this is a very personal thing. Each practitioner is going to have their own take away. What works for me is not going to work for everyone else. 84,000 dharma doors and all that. I'm not going to assert that one view is correct to the exclusion of the others. I'm just not going to dismiss the thousand+ years of study, practice, and realizations from these living traditions; especially in the case where I'm not extremely well versed in all of their literature.

Do I think that a more educated view of Pure Land practice in India is a useless affair?
No. My point is that disregarding living traditions in favor of doctrines that are only preserved piecemeal is a mistake. Trying to recreate a school from such piecemeal doctrines and assert it as the "correct interpretation" is also a mistake.
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