Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby LastLegend » Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:13 am

longjie wrote: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.


Vague and simplistic? You don't practice it, how can you make such claim? I can claim Zen is this and that too.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:24 am

PorkChop wrote: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?

It isn't badmouthing a school to say that I don't find their explanations fully convincing, or that the explanations seem overly simplistic. I've stated several times now that I have this view because they seem to rely on selective interpretations of a small subset of Mahayana sutras. The earliest Pure Land traditions in China were not like this (for example, the Pure Land teachings at the time of Huiyuan and Tanluan). Nobody is attempting to judge modern Pure Land schools as "wrong," so I'm not sure why you would think that we are. Since I'm not a scholar and I don't have a high esteem for scholarship beyond providing historical, linguistic, and cultural information, I don't see how this could be proselytizing for anything.

PorkChop wrote: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.

That's fine, but other people should be able to talk about interpretations of the Dharma -- what they find useful and well-founded, and what they find questionable. I'm not attempting to dismiss or accept anything -- just to talk about the Dharma and discuss some ideas and history. Pure Land teachings developed over a process of hundreds of years, and the Pure Land traditions today definitely don't have the same interpretations as the earliest Chinese Pure Land traditions. Their interpretations are probably also different from those in 2nd century Gandhara. My view is that these older interpretations also matter -- they are also valuable and should be investigated and studied.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:59 am

longjie wrote:It isn't badmouthing a school to say that I don't find their explanations fully convincing, or that the explanations seem overly simplistic.


When you said the second part, qualifying it as the overwhelming view of all secular academics, then yes, it comes off as such.

longjie wrote:I've stated several times now that I have this view because they seem to rely on selective interpretations of a small subset of Mahayana sutras. The earliest Pure Land traditions in China were not like this (for example, the Pure Land teachings at the time of Huiyuan and Tanluan).


I'm not sure what assertions you're trying to make, as Tanluan's interpretations are standard faire across almost all Pure Land schools (faith, vows, verbal recitation, 10 recitations at death, etc - I sourced these views). Regardless, additional interpretations from later schools came from personal experiences of people on their own quests, I don't accept them all completely, nor am I arguing such, but who am I to dismiss them outright?

longjie wrote:Nobody is attempting to judge modern Pure Land schools as "wrong," so I'm not sure why you would think that we are.


No offense, but this judgement is exactly the reason this thread was broken off. Some posters do feel this way.

longjie wrote:That's fine, but other people should be able to talk about interpretations of the Dharma -- what they find useful and well-founded, and what they find questionable. I'm not attempting to dismiss or accept anything -- just to talk about the Dharma and discuss some ideas and history.


This is perfectly fine as long as such opinions are qualified with explanatory statements. Frankly, there were some assertions made earlier in this thread without qualifiers that other people take objection to.

longjie wrote:Pure Land teachings developed over a process of hundreds of years, and the Pure Land traditions today definitely don't have the same interpretations as the earliest Chinese Pure Land traditions. Their interpretations are probably also different from those in 2nd century Gandhara. My view is that these older interpretations also matter -- they are also valuable and should be investigated and studied.


Again, going back to my earlier statement, I'm not 100% sure that current interpretations are so inconsistent with early Chinese interpretations. Evolution did happen, that is not in debate. But a lot of that evolution was sourced with supporting sutras that were often not even the same tradition. The 15 second elevator pitch of various modern schools doesn't really apply to in depth study of their doctrines.

As far as 2nd century Gandhara, a lot of it's speculation because what's been preserved is so spotty. I've mentioned to people that I consider later developments to be obvious evolutions of early concepts of refuge, buddhanussati, and householder practices - tailored for export to countries that had different ideals & cultural identities. I do think we can learn from what's been preserved, but reading these texts is definitely influenced by our own biases. If we read these texts with secular biases that consider the supernatural to be some later defilement of the original teachings, then we're going to come away with impressions that are perhaps different than what the original authors intended. Take for example such an integral aspect to Buddhist practice as refuge, there are countless references in the Pali canon that explain that this concept is more than just the secular idea that refuge is just some small faith that the Buddha knew what he was talking about. Obviously, the two definitions of refuge are not going to be in complete agreement. Similarly, the bias that every country outside of India or Gandhara somehow missed the point and only received a completely speculative interpretation that they held as orthodoxy, is going to paint views of those schools that developed outside of India and Gandhara that will only be reified by such a reading.

Listen, it's good to have a critical view of modern schools, not to accept their views as some divine inspiration or unquestionable orthodoxy. But to those people who've tested these teachings and found value, they're not going to be so quick to completely dismiss a teaching because someone said it was a later development. Like it or not and contrary to the secular mindset; some people find a value in faith, find it to be a form of mind training, the same is to be said for some Pure Land school's views on self-directed power, the idea that we can control everything...anything even... even our own random thoughts & motivations.

To this end, there's a particular quote from Shinran that I not only find entertaining, but a very important lesson in our own nature. There's a quote where Shinran seems to be setting up his own doctrinal position, extending from Shakyamuni, through the great masters, to his own teacher, but then he trumps the whole thing by saying that his own personal experience validates his views. Even the earlier discussion of Genshin is interesting, eventhough he was dismissed as someone who had no realizations (and gave up), he said that someone who had secured birth in the Pure Land (Ojo) was the perfect person to teach others - and he wrote the definitive guide to securing birth in the Pure Land (Ojoyoshu). Because ultimately, that's what Buddhism really is, a personal quest to wrestle with our own defilements; defilements that the Buddha described in depth and made perfectly clear. Often what is assumed from the doctrines of these schools is carte blanche excusing of these defilements, and upon deeper research, that is clearly not the case.

These doctrinal positions are not to be accepted a priori, but as guides, after we've done serious self examination. This isn't Moses coming down from the mountain with commandments that can't be questioned, or Jesus asserting things to be taken as gospel. As Shinran is paraphrased in the Tannisho, he had no idea if his beliefs & practices would lead to hell, he only knew that left up to his own devices he would end up there anyway, and so he went with what he felt worked. If that doesn't work for other people, no harm no foul, in fact it is to be expected. Again, 84,000 doors and all that, heck even opposing views on Pure Land thought that are perfectly acceptable. Taking a certain position as orthodoxy without examination is not the point of any sort of Buddhism. Trying to assert such, over a thousand years after the fact, comes off as so much folly. Everything should stand up to examination, but on a personal basis. So if certain statements don't work for you after examination, then don't feel compelled to hold to them out of some loyalty to an orthodoxy. It's all a personal research project.

What causes friction is people asserting things that dismiss completely what others have found through their own introspective observations. Hence, someone's (Indrajala's?) earlier comment that certain mindsets & practices are absolutely required in order for one to practice dharma in order to make any sort of progress. What if one is found in the group left wanting? Are they then destined to hell and shouldn't do anything about it if their capacities don't allow? Personally, I say "no". People should do what they can in the capacities they are able. If they cannot be highly realized siddhis in their current capacities, then they should follow a practice that allows them to make some small headway. This is what is meant in Myonen's realization about the teachings of Honen being like simple gruel served out to the sick, ie. that striving for perfection shouldn't only be the goal of those who can aspire to such, and that more lower capacity folks should focus on small improvements that they can realistically achieve. To take an example from Honen's time, if the 5 precepts are the gate of entry that a Buddhist must be able to abide by in order to practice, then what do you do about fishermen on a small island without farmland? Seems hardly appropriate to assert they're left to hell given the concept put forth so eloquently (paraphrasing) in your Medicine Buddha quote of bringing "benefit and happiness to all sentient beings" (I know you said this has nothing to do with "salvation" but I beg to differ).

The only constant theme I've personally noted in the 3 Pure Land sutras as they exist is the concept of "faith". Again, the sources I list earlier are clear that bhakti (ecstatic faith) of the Hindus is never used, rather Saddha/Sradha and other terms that denote more an idea of "entrustment" (ie refuge). This is why this idea is so prevalent in the schools geared to teaching those that would otherwise be left out in the cold. So I really can't see doctrines based on these ideas as such a departure from the "original".

Sorry to ramble on so long. Whether you agree with this or not, I think we've made good headway on expounding on teachings versus outright dismissal or (in my case mostly) ad hominems. To maybe play a broken record, if this stuff doesn't sound appealing, then move on and find something else that fits better. Heck, even other forms of Pure Land thought may be more amenable. Just don't expect people who find value in these ideas to suddenly take a 180 because certain artifacts say something different.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby longjie » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:51 am

Great post. :namaste:

My concern has mostly been with interpretations that emphasize faith (sometimes) at the detriment of meditation. As I understand it, Huiyuan and Tanluan were both concerned with approaching Pure Land from a general Mahayana standpoint, and they were very interested in meditation including visualization of Amitabha's pure land. Maybe this is related to both coming from a Daoist background. Later in the history, the tradition came to emphasize salvation through Amitabha's own power, sometimes regarding recitation as a declaration of faith (whereas Tanluan regarded it more as a mantra). I think that by examining these different phases and understanding the principles taught in these sutras, it will strengthen the Pure Land tradition by uniting it with its own past and broadening its practices.

The interest in Gandhara is in part because I'm interested in the meditation traditions from this region. From what I've been able to learn, the main meditation practice for bodhisattvas in this region was buddhanusmrti. Just as the Sarvastivadin sravakas had special dhyana schools teaching anapanasmrti and impurity contemplations (including meditation manuals teaching them), the Mahayana bodhisattvas had their buddhanusmrti practices (including Mahayana sutras teaching them). These two formed parallel traditions that no doubt interacted quite a bit for centuries. Of course now it's difficult to get a full picture of the situation, but that may improve in the future.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:50 pm

This thread was a great read.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby LastLegend » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:08 pm

longjie wrote:
My concern has mostly been with interpretations that emphasize faith (sometimes) at the detriment of meditation. As I understand it, Huiyuan and Tanluan were both concerned with approaching Pure Land from a general Mahayana standpoint, and they were very interested in meditation including visualization of Amitabha's pure land. Maybe this is related to both coming from a Daoist background. Later in the history, the tradition came to emphasize salvation through Amitabha's own power, sometimes regarding recitation as a declaration of faith (whereas Tanluan regarded it more as a mantra). I think that by examining these different phases and understanding the principles taught in these sutras, it will strengthen the Pure Land tradition by uniting it with its own past and broadening its practices.


Amitabha's own power is a bit misleading, in my opinion. You have your own faith in yourself and Amitabha and make a connection with Amitabha through recitation or whatever method employed. Then let cause and effect unfolds itself.

Faith is very prevalent in Buddhist teaching. If there is no faith in teaching of Sakyamuni, people would not be practicing towards liberation.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:34 am

PorkChop wrote: Hence, someone's (Indrajala's?) earlier comment that certain mindsets & practices are absolutely required in order for one to practice dharma in order to make any sort of progress. What if one is found in the group left wanting?


Buddhadharma is understandably not necessarily an easy subject to approach and learn, but that being said simple practices and ideas can be provided which direct someone in the right direction. A fisherman can at the very least confess the act of killing out of necessity and cultivate good deeds where necessary. Promising him paradise because the alternative is disagreeable -- that his profession qualifies as wrong livelihood and he should probably look into something else if he is serious about Dharma -- is childish and dangerous.

With that line of thinking you might as well say being a brutal warlord is also fine because he'll get into the Pure Land regardless of how many lives he takes provided he says the right incantation and has faith in the right buddha.

The Dharma can sting unfortunately. Diluting it to make it more agreeable to worldly aims is simply dangerous.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:42 am

Porkchop:
Image

Good post.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:49 am

Porkchop:
Image

Good post.
So many, which one? :tongue:
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:18 am

Hence, someone's (Indrajala's?) earlier comment that certain mindsets & practices are absolutely required in order for one to practice dharma in order to make any sort of progress. What if one is found in the group left wanting?
Funny huh how the Lord said this...
"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha.
He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.

Sarakani Sutta
Buddhadharma is understandably not necessarily an easy subject to approach and learn, but that being said simple practices and ideas can be provided which direct someone in the right direction. A fisherman can at the very least confess the act of killing out of necessity and cultivate good deeds where necessary.
That's why even a 70 year old granny can start Pure Land practice even with the most basic of instructions and essence. I am unsure if she was expecting to have to start perusing through LaMotte, Harvey, Buddhaghosa, Nagarjuna...
Promising him paradise because the alternative is disagreeable -- that his profession qualifies as wrong livelihood and he should probably look into something else if he is serious about Dharma -- is childish and dangerous.
Of course, if one were to bring the Buddha Dharma teachings down to a reduced absurdity, an oversimplification, like anything else in life, then yes, expect childishness and danger. One should highlight the unskilful nature of a fisherman's profession and provide an alternative assistance at the same time. Mere talk is cheap, no?
In one video I watched about a snake hunter and trader in China who came down with a debilitating illness whose most visible sign was a strange scaly skin manifestation on his arms, legs and body and eventually became bedridden and even after much medical treatment, the doctors are baffled over his condition. Then the family met a local Pure Land Buddhist group which helped the family out by introducing the Buddha Dharma to them and provided medical and financial assistance during their crisis. Within a short period of time, the snake hunter recovered and gained his mobility again. This time, he gave up hunting and trading snakes and started cultivating and selling vegetables for a living in his village with the help of the group. There are so many of such stories of realistic heroic transformations.
With that line of thinking you might as well say being a brutal warlord is also fine because he'll get into the Pure Land regardless of how many lives he takes provided he says the right incantation and has faith in the right buddha.
Again, don't one get tired of repeating oversimplifications and absurd reductions like an old broken Beatle record?
The Dharma can sting unfortunately. Diluting it to make it more agreeable to worldly aims is simply dangerous.
Yes, what stings is one's own wrong grasping, not the Dharma. Diluting vs upaya? Where is the line drawn? What are the end results intended?
Look at this story of Kutthi...
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:14 pm

plwk wrote:"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha.
He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.



As with anything in the canon, it needs to be taken in a relative, not literal and absolute, sense. Faith helps, but it has limited function in the face of problematic lifestyles. I don't believe faith really helps a person much when they are leading an unhealthy lifestyle for example. What you're citing is really neyārtha.


That's why even a 70 year old granny can start Pure Land practice even with the most basic of instructions and essence.


That same could be said for Tibetan Buddhism or Theravada. Pure Land Buddhism isn't special in that regard.


In one video I watched about a snake hunter...


Basing the validity of your religion on claims of miracles is unwise.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:17 pm

plwk wrote:..."But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe."


Please note, here, that this is redefining saddha to mean not conviction, as usual, but to mean faith as in a traditionally theistic sense. Nevertheless, the faculties of energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom are still necessarily present in order to qualify such a one as not bound for states of woe.

One can perhaps start with this sort of faith, and be considered a saddha-nusari for a time, but the other faculties beckon for attention once that saddha is established, via e.g. satisampajanna, satipatthana, etc.
    "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 plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:16 pm

As with anything in the canon, it needs to be taken in a relative, not literal and absolute, sense. Faith helps, but it has limited function in the face of problematic lifestyles. I don't believe faith really helps a person much when they are leading an unhealthy lifestyle for example. What you're citing is really neyārtha.
Sure. Interpretations, interpretations, but is yours alone definitive of what is nitartha or neyartha?
How each of both are contributory factors and works in one's path, isn't for me to make a judgement call on that.
What one will insist that the Mahaparinirvana or the Saddharmapundarika is nitartha may just well be nothing or neyartha to one who holds the Nikayas/Agamas as supreme. How does one steer here? Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder? My opinion is just another opinion in the market.
I am always aware of the old saying of 'one man's meat is another's poison'... Context is as relevant here as what location is to marketing.
That same could be said for Tibetan Buddhism or Theravada. Pure Land Buddhism isn't special in that regard.
Of course it's nothing special. It's part of Buddha Dharma. What is 'high' or 'low' is merely some people's estimation of what they want it to be. Hence, I don't make a beef with any particular Dharma Door, just that if this fits and works for one, so be it, it doesn't have to be what works for me therefore it's the only way...
Basing the validity of your religion on claims of miracles is unwise.
Huh? What miracle claim? Everyday in hospitals and hospices, there are even terminal patients who can recover due to a variety of factors, what's so special about this snake hunter's recovery?
It's just that he and family had the good fortune of meeting up with a supportive group who could help him and his family out during a dark time: financially, morally and spiritually, that he could gain back his good health and managed to even learn a new trade which doesn't have to involve slaughter and trading of sentient life like what he used to do is not an occasion to rejoice for him and his family?
That he and his whole family have used this life lesson and turn around for the better is admirable, no?

By the way, adbhuta/abbhuta dharma is not ruled out in the Buddha Dharma and is even part of the traditional Nine/Twelvefold Division in the canon? Wasn't the Lord Himself also known for His Twin Miracle and the tale of how He won over the 3 Kasyapa brothers as instances?
I could go on but the point is, I never once thought that the Lord was dismissive of the value of such an upaya but of course, He did highlight the greater and superior value of the 'miracle of instruction' as in the Kevatta Sutta and elsewhere? Maha Maudgalyayana comes up as another good example. As practitioners, I assume that we know better not to make a 'big deal' of such upaya as the 'be all' now would we?
Context is relevant I guess.

Whilst I may not be so enthralled with such stuff, there are others with such a disposition where experiencing such means a lot to them and this upaya is hence useful although it's merely a finger pointing to the moon? Am I to be dismissive of them just because of my own personal preference for reason and logic?

I find reading on Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche for instance, useful when he notes that with different types of people, he would use different approaches. Like if he was in an urban area, he would use what is useful and befitting to that audience and not insist on the usual traditional theatrics but if he was going to Bhutan, the latter is necessary for such an audience. I still remember seeing him live in person once in a Karma Kagyu gompa some years back where he just walked past by a whole group of people with khatas without going through one by one and went up straight to the prepared place and ended up sitting on a plain cushion on the floor instead of the usual prepared traditional seat. But he would not repeat this stunt in a traditional audience. Is he practising double standards? I dunno and it's none of my business to think so.

To me, I am fine with all these, as long as the essence is preserved without having to 'dilute' it for the sake of it or to curry for favors or other nefarious motivations.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby plwk » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:19 pm

..."But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe."


Please note, here, that this is redefining saddha to mean not conviction, as usual, but to mean faith as in a traditionally theistic sense. Nevertheless, the faculties of energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom are still necessarily present in order to qualify such a one as not bound for states of woe.

One can perhaps start with this sort of faith, and be considered a saddha-nusari for a time, but the other faculties beckon for attention once that saddha is established, via e.g. satisampajanna, satipatthana, etc.
Agreed. I used that analogy of the old granny as there are those who would have just started some sort of serious spiritual practice at such an age or way after retirement, hence the usefulness of an initial platform but having in mind that one must move on to 'higher platforms' to move ahead.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:59 pm

Indrajala wrote:Buddhadharma is understandably not necessarily an easy subject to approach and learn, but that being said simple practices and ideas can be provided which direct someone in the right direction. A fisherman can at the very least confess the act of killing out of necessity and cultivate good deeds where necessary. Promising him paradise because the alternative is disagreeable -- that his profession qualifies as wrong livelihood and he should probably look into something else if he is serious about Dharma -- is childish and dangerous.

With that line of thinking you might as well say being a brutal warlord is also fine because he'll get into the Pure Land regardless of how many lives he takes provided he says the right incantation and has faith in the right buddha.

The Dharma can sting unfortunately. Diluting it to make it more agreeable to worldly aims is simply dangerous.


Let's just admit we're not going to see eye to eye on this, because we're not.
It's not really worth the debate for me.
I don't agree with you on your inflexible view on Karma.
I don't agree with you on the damnation that is "necessary" for not following Right Livelihood.
I don't agree with you on your belittlement of faith, vows, practice.
I don't agree with you on much really, and I really don't think I should have to, given that I already have a teacher, and that you're not the final say in the matter.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:04 pm

daverupa wrote:Please note, here, that this is redefining saddha to mean not conviction, as usual, but to mean faith as in a traditionally theistic sense. Nevertheless, the faculties of energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom are still necessarily present in order to qualify such a one as not bound for states of woe.

One can perhaps start with this sort of faith, and be considered a saddha-nusari for a time, but the other faculties beckon for attention once that saddha is established, via e.g. satisampajanna, satipatthana, etc.


I think in the Pure Land sense, faith is not Bhakti, but you are perhaps correct in pointing out it's not really a strict definition of Saddha either.
The Pure Land sense of "Saddha" actually comes in the "Vow" portion of their Faith-Vow-Practice formula.
Rather than Bhakti, the Pure Land concept of faith is more of an entrusting, as seen in the Candima Sutta
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:29 pm

PorkChop wrote:Let's just admit we're not going to see eye to eye on this, because we're not.


Sure.

I don't agree with you on your inflexible view on Karma.


Misrepresentation? I basically don't believe buddhas are omnipotent and can absolve you of all your past karma.


I don't agree with you on the damnation that is "necessary" for not following Right Livelihood.


The Buddha himself was pretty clear that the Eightfold Noble Path required right livelihood.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Astus » Sat Oct 26, 2013 11:47 pm

Indrajala wrote: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.


You refer to your observations among common Buddhists. However, no religion is defined by its lay followers, but by its canonical works and accepted interpretations. It is easy to point to ordinary people failing to follow the teachings of their chosen faith anywhere in the world. And here's an important difference between the Path of Sages and the Path of Pure Land (according to Honen): simply by nenbutsu people attain birth in the Pure Land. They don't need to understand anything about karma, buddhas, lands, or even the three minds and four practices. On the other hand, on the Path of Sages one needs not only to understand such concepts as emptiness, rebirth, mind only, merit, etc. but also actualise them. One needs to uphold not just the five precepts but also avoid minor offences and accomplish great deeds.

The Pure Land path is not Devayana, as the Pure Land is not merely a heavenly realm, and the goal of any informed practitioner is not to gain some sort of eternal salvation in Paradise but to fulfil the bodhisattva vows. One understands the impermanence of this world and every other realms in samsara, moreover one realises the deficiency in one's abilities and circumstances. As Shakyamuni was a rich prince who renounced worldly affairs, Honen was an erudite and respected monk who gave up all his studies and meditation for the nenbutsu.

The core teachings of Buddhism are not disregarded at all. In fact, the Pure Land teaching is built upon them. There is no meaning to the entire teaching of any Pure Land tradition without Mahayana. Madhyamaka teaches that the essence of the Buddhadharma is insight into emptiness. Yogacara teaches that the essence is insight into mind only. Zen teaches that the essence is insight into the nature of mind. All of them find insight into suchness as the cardinal point of the bodhisattva path, what separates ordinary people from noble beings. The path of Pure Land - in Honen's presentation - is something that presents an option for those who fail to gain such wisdom, and gives them a simple and easy practice to gain that liberating realisation in the next life. He does not say that such an insight is not important, nor does he say that practising the paramitas and upholding the precepts is meaningless. He just recognises that those are not easy things to accomplish, especially for common householders. He accepts that enlightenment in this life does not happen to everyone. How is that contrary to the Buddha's teachings?

What Honen observed in himself, and others, is not very different from what you say, that people mostly pretend to be practitioners, and even those who do it seriously often fail to show the qualities that the Blessed One's teachings should bring about. The majority of Buddhists are far from being saints, and among those with seemingly pure ethics it is difficult to find wise ones. But instead of criticising others, Honen pointed his finger to himself and said that he is just an ordinary human being who has no other choice but to rely on the nenbutsu. He did not write pamphlets and treatises about how wrong and corrupt everybody else are, rather he advised his followers to desist from quarrelling with other Buddhists and instead respect them. This is something one can rarely see even among the most outstanding masters.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:44 am

Astus wrote:You refer to your observations among common Buddhists. However, no religion is defined by its lay followers, but by its canonical works and accepted interpretations.


What you're referring to is the prescriptive. I'm referring to the descriptive. The latter is more potent in analysis and criticism because it refers to what actually goes on rather than what should.


And here's an important difference between the Path of Sages and the Path of Pure Land (according to Honen): simply by nenbutsu people attain birth in the Pure Land.


This is an article of faith that would seem contrary to traditional theories of karma, including what the Buddha described.


They don't need to understand anything about karma, buddhas, lands, or even the three minds and four practices.


Okay. As I've said, Buddhadharma is not necessarily an easily understood subject. Saying you can neglect proper study and get superior results to one who actually put in the time and effort to study is like saying the amateur surgeon is commendable for their good intentions.

The study of Buddhadharma is like training to be a surgeon. First you learn the theory, then you apply it to rid the mind of suffering and the causes of it.

To perform surgery without any understanding of the theory is unwise.



The core teachings of Buddhism are not disregarded at all. In fact, the Pure Land teaching is built upon them.


As I have demonstrated above, this is not so.



He accepts that enlightenment in this life does not happen to everyone. How is that contrary to the Buddha's teachings?


That in itself is fine, but his other ideas as noted above are problematic.
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Re: Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby Sherab » Sun Oct 27, 2013 3:51 am

Indrajala wrote:Okay. As I've said, Buddhadharma is not necessarily an easily understood subject. ....
The study of Buddhadharma is like training to be a surgeon. First you learn the theory, then you apply it to rid the mind of suffering and the causes of it.

To perform surgery without any understanding of the theory is unwise.

What would you prescribe for those who have no aptitude "to study surgery"?
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