Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Sat May 01, 2010 7:43 pm

I have two questions concerning the interpretation of the Pure Land on eagles peak (jp. 霊山浄土 ryōzen jōdo), which is mentioned in the 16th chapter of the Lotussutra:

"All harbor thoughts of yearning
and in their minds thirst to gaze at me.
When living beings have become truly faithful,
honest and upright, gentle in intent,
single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha
not hesitating even if it costs them their lives,
then I and the assembly of monks
appear together on Holy Eagle Peak.
[…]
Then when their minds are filled with yearning,
at last I appear and preach the Law for them.
Such are my transcendental powers.
For asamkhya kalpas
constantly I have dwelled on Holy Eagle Peak
and in various other places.
[…]
My pure land is not destroyed,
yet the multitude see it as consumed in fire,
with anxiety, fear and other sufferings
filling it everywhere."


Now Nichiren talks about the Pure Land as something, in which practitioners of the Lotussutra are born into after death:

„Even though I cannot see you, I am certain that your heart is here. If you find that you miss me, always look at the sun that rises [in the morning] and the moon that rises in the evening. Whatever the time, I will be reflected in the sun and the moon. And in our next life, let us meet in the pure land of Eagle Peak.” (Letter to the lay nun of Ko (1275))


“However Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that one who makes offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law for even a single day will gain incomparably greater fortune than he would by offering countless treasures to the Buddha for one hundred thousand aeons. How wonderful then is your heartfelt sincerity in supporting the votary of the Lotus Sutra over the years! According to the Buddha's own words, you are certain to be reborn in the pure land of Eagle Peak. What great good fortune you possess!” (The Person and the Law (1281))

My question is, on which passages of the Lotussutra does Nichiren base his interpretation, that the Pure Land on eagles peak is a place for rebirth after death and not, as the Lotussutra implies, as a place one can see in this lifetime? Does rebirth in the Pure Land on eagles peak make sense anyway, because it is identical to this saha world, isn’t it?





My second question is about this passages in Nichirens writings:

„Your late husband must certainly be in the pure land of Eagle Peak, listening and watching over this saha world day and night. You, his wife, and your children have only mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured that you will eventually be reunited [on Eagle Peak]. […] You should revere him as a Buddha. While he was in this world, he was a living Buddha, and now, he is a Buddha in death. His Buddhahood transcends both life and death.” (Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light (1274))

“It was this splendid sutra that the late Goro put his faith in and through which he attained Buddhahood. And today, on the forty-ninth day following his passing, all the Buddhas have surely gathered about him in the pure land of Eagle Peak, seating him on their palms, stroking his head, embracing him and rejoicing, welcoming him with affection as one would welcome a moon that has just risen or blossoms that have just burst into bloom.”
(Reply to the Mother of Lord Ueno (1280))


How is it, that someone, who has manifested Buddhahood in his lifetime, still is born in the Pure Land to listen to the dharma? What is the function of the Pure Land in Nichiren’s teachings, when it’s not, as in the Jodo Tradition, about being born in the Pure Land to achieve Buddhahood and then go back to the world to help living beings?
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Fri May 14, 2010 9:58 am

No Nichiren Buddhists in here? :spy:
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Astus » Fri May 14, 2010 10:34 am

Looks very much like that. :thinking:
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Chogetsu » Sun May 23, 2010 2:16 am

I seem to remember reading that one can attain Buddhahood in their present lifetime, but if someone fails to do so, then they will be reborn on Eagle Peak where they are certain to attain enlightenment.

However, Nichiren also said: ''Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside oneself; both lie only within one’s own heart. Awakened to this, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called an ordinary person. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.'' - WND V1 P456

From this passage, it would seem that the pure land is within us, like all the ten worlds.

Perhaps when Nichiren talked of Eagle Peak being a seperate place, he was talking to someone who was fairly new to the practice. :shrug:
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Sun May 23, 2010 1:08 pm

There seem to be two different approaches to the Pure Land on Eagle Peak.

First, by failing to achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime, but because of the Lotus Sutra related practices one becomes reborn in the Pure Land on Eagle Peak.

Second, as all 10 worlds are within ourselves, also the Pure Land is within ourselves. Even though this interpretation is in my opinion closer to the passage in the Lotus Sutra, i don't understand which of the 10 worlds this Pure Land belongs to. I don't think it equals with enlightenment, because to see the Buddha in the Pure Land one mainly needs to develop faith, which stands at the beginning of buddhist practice. Besides, the Buddha preaches for those in the Pure Land, which would not be required if one actually achieved Buddhahood.
If the Pure Land is not the world of a Buddha, then the following passage in Nichiren's writings doesn't make sense:

„Your late husband must certainly be in the pure land of Eagle Peak, listening and watching over this saha world day and night. […] You should revere him as a Buddha. While he was in this world, he was a living Buddha, and now, he is a Buddha in death. His Buddhahood transcends both life and death.”

So if the Pure Land does in fact represent the world of a Buddha, doesn't this imply, that for Buddhahood on only needs to develop faith? And why would a Buddha listen to teachings instead of giving them?


The first interpretation however doesn't seem to be backed up by the Lotus Sutra. Maybe that's why Nichiren also talks about birth in the Pure Land of Amida through faith in the Lotus Sutra:

"It may seem somewhat difficult for women of the age we live in to attain Buddhahood without changing their present form. But if they put their trust in the Lotus Sutra, there is no doubt that they will be reborn in the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss when they die. They will reach it more readily than the rivers and streams flowing into the great ocean, or more swiftly than the rain falling from the sky." (The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra)

Unlike the passage from the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which the Pure Land of Shakyamuni is described, which has no reference to rebirth there after death, the Lotus Sutra does say something about birth in a Pure Land after death, in the 23rd chapter, only this Pure Land is the Pure Land of Amida and not Shakyamuni's:

"If in the last Five Hundred year period after the Thus Come One has entered extinction there a woman who hears this sutra and carries out its practices as this sutra directs, when her life here on earth comes to an end she will immediately go to the world of Peace and Delight where the Buddha Amitayus dwells surrounded by the assembly of great bodhisattvas and there will be born seated on a jeweled seat in the center of a lotus blossom."

I think this passage shows, that if the Lotus Sutra would back up the first interpretation of the Pure Land as a place you reach after death, as Nichiren taught, it would have been as clear about it as it is in the passage about birth in Amida's Pure Land.

So maybe Nichiren does in fact speak about the Pure Land on Eagle Peak only to someone, who was new to this practice. On the other hand, even the Lotus Sutra does speak about a Pure Land as a separate place - not in the shakumon, but in the honmon section! And two of the letters concerning the birth in the Pure Land on Eagle Peak were written to the mother (Reply to the Mother of Lord Ueno) and to the wife (Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light) of Lord Ueno, who, as far as i know, was a long term believer, and, most likely, so were his mother and wife.
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Chogetsu » Sun May 23, 2010 6:57 pm

Sorry I couldn't give you a better reply Tatsuo. The same thing used to puzzle me. When I was new to the practice I used to ask the other SGI members (I've since gone independent) but none of them had an answer either.
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby kirtu » Sun May 23, 2010 9:08 pm

Chogetsu wrote:Perhaps when Nichiren talked of Eagle Peak being a seperate place, he was talking to someone who was fairly new to the practice. :shrug:


Perhaps he meant that Eagle Peak would arise as a vision in the mind of the reborn person and in this sense they would be reborn and attain enlightenment.

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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Sun May 23, 2010 11:14 pm

@ Chogetsu:
I am glad, that you've replied on my question, so please do not apologize. Maybe Nichiren isn't so clear on that point and you just have to practice it to find out... the interpretation of the Pure Land on Eagle Peak (and also Amidas Pure Land) isn't very central to Nichiren practice anyway and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be many articles on it (neither from a Nichiren Buddhist nor from an academic perspective).

@ kirtu:
I am not sure, if Nichiren had a vision of the Pure Land in mind, because he speaks about meeting believers there after his death. I think Nichiren thought of the Pure Land on Eagle Peak as a physical Pure Land, just like the Pure Land of Amida. Maybe this was to attract believers, because the idea of a Pure Land was very popular at that time. On the other hand, the letters in which Nichiren speaks about the Pure Land were all written to someone, who already was a follower and he didn't mention the Pure Land of Shakyamuni very often in writings which were intended to convert people. Most passages in his writings about the Pure Land are in letters, which were written to followers, who were in mourning. So maybe he used his interpretation to console the widow/er... but i still don't understand his interpretation of the Pure Land (premortal vs. postmortal )
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Namu Butsu » Wed May 26, 2010 1:30 pm

Lets ask Nichiren ;)
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Nosta » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:53 am

As far as i read about Pure Land in general, one can reach it on two ways:
1) In this lifetime, while you are alive: thats what may happen to a great meditator or master; after many recitations the person may reach Samaddhi and maybe Nirvana. Reaching Nirvana is the same as reaching Pure Land. So, in fact you dont reach the pyshical plane of Pure Land, but it doesnt matter, because on Nirvana state is like being on Pure Land everywhere.

2) You reach Pure Land, a plane (whatever you call it) after death. Thats what happens to most people.

Also, be aware that some masters says that Pure Land is not real, in the same way that Earth and objects etc are not real! And that may cause confusion to some people (but some schools dont really see Pure Land as real as Earth, its only a concept or state for them). This happens because you can speak on Pure Land at a noumenon level or phenomenon level. At noumenon level, the level of Suchness and Emptyness and Nirvana, nothing is real, so Pure Land is not real (like Earth, your body, etc) and Pure Land is see as the pure state of Nirvana. The Noumemon level is more for masters. The phenoumenon level (for normal guys like us :-)) tells that Pure Land is a real place. Both levels speaks about the same teaching but with different views.
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Sat Nov 26, 2011 1:13 pm

I just found an article explaining Nichiren's teachings on the Pure Land and the context of the prevalent Pure Land teachings to which Nichiren responded.
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Tatsuo » Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:26 pm

Now there is still something I don't quite understand. Jacqueline Stone speaks about the Pure Land on Eagles Peak as a "postmortem destination" which is "the continuation (...) of Buddhahood realized while alive." My question is, doesn't the principle of ichinen sanzen imply, that while Buddhahood is accessible in all states of existence, there is also the possibility to regress after having experienced a short moment of the state of Buddhahood? In other words, a practitioner, after having experienced the state of Buddhahood in practice (eg. recitation of the daimoku), can still experience the world of asuras, when anger arises in his/her mind. If that is the case, why should this be different when the practitioner dies? If regress is possible according to the principle of ichinen sanzen (in Nichiren's view), then why does the practitioner only experience the state of Buddhahood (that is the Pure Land on Eagles Peak) after death, and not also other worlds like Hell? Is there even a regress possible after revealing the state of Buddhahood? When there is no regress possible, does that mean, that all practitioners of the daimoku are fully enlightened Buddhas?
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:10 am

Tatsuo wrote:I just found an article explaining Nichiren's teachings on the Pure Land and the context of the prevalent Pure Land teachings to which Nichiren responded.


Good read. Thanks.
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby rory » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:08 am

Tatsuo;
if you have Stone's Original Enlightenment go to p. 270-271 where she discusses Nichiren's conceptions of busshu the seed of Buddhahood. The Daimoku plants the seed and by practice you progress. Mainstream Nichiren Buddhists such as Kempon Hokke Shu follow Kanjin Honzon Sho where it is stated that the Buddha Shakyamuni's cause and effect are transferred to the 5 syllables & when followers uphold the words the merits of the Buddha are transferred to followers, which is why they don't fall into hell, or asura realms

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heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Aemilius » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:51 am

The answer to the question is found in the Readings of the Lotus Sutra, there it says that this world is the Pure Land because Buddha Shakyamuni eternally abides here,( as Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya, & Nirmanakaya).This is said several times in the Lotus, that His Parinirvana is illusory. He didn't really die, but we have all kinds of simpletons that do not take it seriously that His life is really infinite, that He really exists!

What better place could you possibly find to develop the six Paramitas!? Here we have vast numbers of people to whom you can tell about the Three Jewels, about the Wonderful Mahayana Sutras, about the real truth of reincarnation and so on... That is the really effective way of gathering vast stores of merit and wisdom. What serious practitioner would want to go to some other, distant world !!??
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby plwk » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:03 pm

I swear there were some practicing Nichiren members here when the Forum started back then...where are they... :spy:
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby rory » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:12 pm

Right now I'm practicing Nichiren Buddhism with Kempon Hokke Shu. I was a member back in 2003 of Nichiren Shu. And that's Kempon's understanding. You chant the Daimoku which plants the Buddha seed & then remain in a parent/child relationship with the Eternal Buddha. Of course if you stop and take up other teachings you wont go to the Pure Land of Tranquil Light, but eventually you'll become a buddha. That's in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Shakyamuni Buddha is the nirmankaya form of the Eternal Buddha, the teachings of the Lotus Sutra are the dharmakaya form & Amida, Dainichi, are the sambhogaya form.
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Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Aemilius » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:46 pm

plwk wrote:I swear there were some practicing Nichiren members here when the Forum started back then...where are they... :spy:


The Lotus Sutra is a free subject of study for all buddhists. You don't have to be a Nichirenist to read it, to study it, to be inspired by it !!
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby plwk » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:20 pm

I swear there were some practicing Nichiren members here when the Forum started back then...where are they... :spy:


The Lotus Sutra is a free subject of study for all buddhists. You don't have to be a Nichirenist to read it, to study it, to be inspired by it !!

Of course dearie...but guess what's the title of this thread... :coffee:
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Re: Nichiren's interpretation of the Pure Land

Postby Virgo » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:09 pm

Tatsuo wrote:How is it, that someone, who has manifested Buddhahood in his lifetime, still is born in the Pure Land to listen to the dharma? What is the function of the Pure Land in Nichiren’s teachings, when it’s not, as in the Jodo Tradition, about being born in the Pure Land to achieve Buddhahood and then go back to the world to help living beings?

I don't recall Nichiren going into the subject and offering any explanations in any of his translated Gosho. Perhaps Chih I, who Nichiren adored and was influenced by, speaks more about it?

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