Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Thu Sep 20, 2012 12:03 am

Me:What is your opinion on Pure Land Buddhism? Do you also believe that to be a "hopeless" path? Didn't Amitabha Buddha vow that all sentient beings may take rebirth in his Pure Land regardless of their karma?

Paul: I have spoken about Pure Land in my ‘Unexpected Way’ book and of course I deal with it – I hope positively – in my ‘Mahayana Buddhism’. I greatly admire Pure Land, and I consider Shinran one of the greatest of all Buddhist thinkers who correctly saw the problems with ‘traditional own power’ Buddhism. But there are problems for me in Pure Land. The Buddhahood it offers is finally still our own Buddha Nature, which is something nonconceptual about me. In the last analysis it does not transcend Buddhist ‘subjectivism’, and hence does not reach the absolutely objective Other who is God, the Creator of all. The Buddha Nature in Pure Land, and/or Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land, are not the Creator God we as Christians depend on for our very being, and worship, and in fact are very far removed in doctrinal terms from God. But this is far too big a topic to deal with here. More importantly, I consider Pure Land is built on a myth (i.e. ‘myth’ in a sense including historical falsehood – some Pure Land followers argue the ahistorical nature of this is an advantage over Christianity), the myth of Dharmakara Bodhisattva and hence of Amitabha Buddha. I have no reason to accept the existence of Amitabha Buddha, whereas I do consider there are excellent reasons to accept the existence of God, and of course Our Lord was certainly a historical figure, as was the crucifixion and, for me, the resurrection. I deal with all of this in my ‘Unexpected Way’.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Jikan » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:55 am

It's not other-power enough to posit an other power distinct from one's own enlightened nature, such as the Christian God: which is to say, Williams doesn't like it because it doesn't coincide with his own beliefs.

Good for him...?
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby zamotcr » Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:01 am

LOL

He doesn't believe in Amitabha because he isn't buddhist. He is christian.
That's why he seen Jesus as historical figure, but the same Jesus lacks of a lot of evidence too.

It's a matter of faith, any of the two ways, Christians or Buddhists.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby plwk » Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:08 am

...and of course Our Lord was certainly a historical figure, as was the crucifixion and, for me, the resurrection.
Of course... :mrgreen:
I greatly admire Pure Land, and I consider Shinran one of the greatest of all Buddhist thinkers who correctly saw the problems with ‘traditional own power’ Buddhism.
Here we go again...another self/other power soap opera again... :thinking:
The Buddhahood it offers is finally still our own Buddha Nature, which is something nonconceptual about me. In the last analysis it does not transcend Buddhist ‘subjectivism’, and hence does not reach the absolutely objective Other who is God, the Creator of all. The Buddha Nature in Pure Land, and/or Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land, are not the Creator God we as Christians depend on for our very being, and worship, and in fact are very far removed in doctrinal terms from God.
Funny... are we expecting a screw to fit in a screw? :rolleye:
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby steveb1 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:07 am

plwk wrote:
...and of course Our Lord was certainly a historical figure, as was the crucifixion and, for me, the resurrection.
Of course... :mrgreen:
snipped [/i]


Actually, Jesus' historicity, which I support, illustrates an important disctinction between Pure Land and Christianity. For the mainstream Christian, it matters that Jesus was a human being who lived a human life and died a human death. Thus, as they say, "Christian claims are rooted in history".

But in Pure Land, salvation and the emergence into ultimate Buddhahood do not depend on Amida's historicity. Amida stopped being historical ... well ... in the moment he became Amida. As Amida, he "reigns in the Pure Land" in a not dissimilar way in which the victorious Christ is said to "reign in heaven at the right hand of the Father". But there's still a crucial difference:

Dharmakara may have been historical, on this planet or another, in this dimension or another. But, importantly, Dharmakara has no New Testament, and especially, no Gospels, which purport to convey details of his historical career. Pure Land's valuation of Dharmakara's historicity is that he, like Shakyamuni after him, left power and wealth, sought and obtained Buddhahood. But as far as I know, Pure Land's concern with Dharmakara's historicity ends there. The rest is concerned with Amida Buddha, and Amida Buddha is not said to relate to Dharmakara in any way similar to the way in which the risen Christ is said to relate to the "pre-Easter"/historical Jesus.

For most Christians, the exalted celestial Jesus is inextricably linked to the historical Jesus of the Gospels, who struggled and taught and suffered and died. But in Pure Land, all we know about Dharmakara is that he left wealth and power, sought enlightnenment, and became Amida Buddha. There is no detailed linkage between the transcendental Amida and the historical Dharmakara's purported activities, teachings, and physical death - for the simple reason that we have no explicit information on the details of Dharmakara's life and mission.

Because of this, Amida Buddha, his grace and his Dharma, are the center of Pure Land concern. Pure Land does not lean on the historical Dharmakara, aside from his spiritual attainment; whereas Christianity is constantly mixing and matching the attributes of the risen exalted Christ with the very many details reported of the suffering "earthly" Jesus. Stripped of his earthly life, the Christian Jesus becomes unrecognizable.

In a sense, and to stretch an analogy: Amida is like the exalted Jesus, but without the baggage of a detailed historical career or mission. I don't know if Paul Williams would care to hear it put that way, or if Purelanders themselves would appreciate the analogy very much. But it does seem that Pure Land adherents put their trust in the transcendent Amida and the eternal Dharma, with moderately little infatuation with Dharmarkara's mundane existence in the samsaric realm. And this is one large difference between Pure Land and Christianity (not to mention all the others, e.g., Amida is neither God nor Son of God, the Pure Land is not Heaven, etc.).
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nosta » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:29 pm

Honestly, the position of non-buddhists about Pure Land is completly useless for me. I really dont care about these guys.

Its like someone gay trying to convince a straight guy that kissing a man is much better than kissing a woman - or the opposite (the straight man convincing the gay guy about kissing a woman). Its useless. Even more: its dangerous because giving attention to such people will only dimnish your Faith and make you far away from Pure Land.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby gingercatni » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:24 pm

Nighthawk wrote:Me:What is your opinion on Pure Land Buddhism? Do you also believe that to be a "hopeless" path? Didn't Amitabha Buddha vow that all sentient beings may take rebirth in his Pure Land regardless of their karma?

Paul: I have spoken about Pure Land in my ‘Unexpected Way’ book and of course I deal with it – I hope positively – in my ‘Mahayana Buddhism’. I greatly admire Pure Land, and I consider Shinran one of the greatest of all Buddhist thinkers who correctly saw the problems with ‘traditional own power’ Buddhism. But there are problems for me in Pure Land. The Buddhahood it offers is finally still our own Buddha Nature, which is something nonconceptual about me. In the last analysis it does not transcend Buddhist ‘subjectivism’, and hence does not reach the absolutely objective Other who is God, the Creator of all. The Buddha Nature in Pure Land, and/or Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land, are not the Creator God we as Christians depend on for our very being, and worship, and in fact are very far removed in doctrinal terms from God. But this is far too big a topic to deal with here. More importantly, I consider Pure Land is built on a myth (i.e. ‘myth’ in a sense including historical falsehood – some Pure Land followers argue the ahistorical nature of this is an advantage over Christianity), the myth of Dharmakara Bodhisattva and hence of Amitabha Buddha. I have no reason to accept the existence of Amitabha Buddha, whereas I do consider there are excellent reasons to accept the existence of God, and of course Our Lord was certainly a historical figure, as was the crucifixion and, for me, the resurrection. I deal with all of this in my ‘Unexpected Way’.


This is a very interesting comment. Firstly those of us born into a Christian society will be familiar with the Christian doctrine. How Mr Williams rationales the superiority of Jesus/God and downgrades Amitabha and his human form to a myth is rather stupid. We could very easily downgrade the Christian god and faith by acknowledging that Jesus was a man who expounded information about a god unseen and unknown to the masses, we are then told that this man was the son of god, but yet actually god in human form who died to atone for the sins of his creations. We could also pick holes in the Christian doctrine that if their god created the heavens, the angels etc that he created Satan/lucifer/whatever he calls himself and therefore it was their god that created sin. So where Paul finds that Amitabha is a myth over Jesus who is his own dad and the holy spirit that looks like a pigeon I don't know.

In the end it is faith alone that drives people to believe and find comfort in any religion.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:02 am

In the end it is faith alone that drives people to believe and find comfort in any religion.

It does but living in the west, it's difficult to follow pure land where you either have chinese temples who do all their services in chinese and modern shinshu temples who teach a watered down version of pure land teachings. There's no way to connect to anyone other than online, even with that one always feels a sense of isolation and because of that it becomes difficult to keep the faith.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby steveb1 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:01 am

Nighthawk wrote:
In the end it is faith alone that drives people to believe and find comfort in any religion.

It does but living in the west, it's difficult to follow pure land where you either have chinese temples who do all their services in chinese and modern shinshu temples who teach a watered down version of pure land teachings. There's no way to connect to anyone other than online, even with that one always feels a sense of isolation and because of that it becomes difficult to keep the faith.


Yes. Although I usually enjoy being a solitary practitioner of Shin, it is as you say ... most sanghas are teaching flawed Dharma, e.g., Amida is a symbol, not a real Buddha, and they seldom deal with basics like the Nembutsu. I've dropped in on sangha lectures on You Tube - and their irrelevance to Shin and even to serious religious issues is shocking.

I've seen a lot of joking around, and lazy explanations of Buddhist attitudes and explications of Buddhist parables which at best are only tangential to Shin, at worst, contradictions of Shinran, Rennyo, and other teachers. I've seldom come across sermons on Amida's reality; his Other Power; shinjin. I've seldom seen "tales of the Myokonin" pragmatically utilized as entertaining but clear illustrations of life lived in the joy of Amida's Light. It's as if they don't even know, have forgotten, or worse, are deliberately rejecting the profound, simple truths taught by the Shin masters. There's a You Tube "video blog" type of show - which will remain unnamed - where two supposed Shin experts, one of them an ordained sensei, jabber on and on about inconsequential trivia, and treat the sacred essentials as peripheral and treat them as if they are puzzlers - really tough nuts to crack. What general Shin congregations can possibly get out of these ham-thumbed attempts at "Dharma teaching" beats the hell out of me. For "true Shin" I go to Paul Roberts', George Gatenby's, Richard St. Clair's Rev. Cirlea's urls, as well as a handful of others - which, although they do have their flaws, are teaching real Jodo Shinshu.

Although my practice is mostly reclusive, there are times when I would like to be in the company of others who revere the basics, study the masters, recite the nembutsu, understand that Amida is real, that the Pure Land is a real way-station to Buddhahood. But there are no such temples in my vicinity, even should I occasionally wish to attend. The closest town that has operative Shin centers unfortunately offers only the flawed "modernist", diluted teaching of which you speak. What a shame that the mainstream has surrendered to modernist, reductionist, materialist toxins. The good news is that there are still a few good places to go, even if only online, and that we can still imbibe the real teaching and read the Masters for ourselves.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby cheondo » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:33 am

Steveb1 and nighthawk,
I totally agree with your observations. My main dharma friend is Yin-Kwang in "Pure Land Zen, Zen Pure Land." A book can only be so good a friend -- flesh and blood is needed. I contacted the Amitabha Buddhist Society in Dallas and only got a monk who's not interested in Pure Land but rather "esoteric Buddhism". I don't think this state of affairs has to do with Pure Land per se but rather the mundane conditions now present. IOW, if there were a Pure Land Thich Nhat Hanh, things would be much different. It's hard to imagine the thousands of people who are now excited about walking meditation without TNH's influence. (Speaking of TNH, his Pure Land commentary is brilliant but one of his most obscure and least-selling books!)

Getting back to Williams -- it's not that Christianity has a more compelling or empirically verifiable message -- it's that one can find plenty of community, which = verification, support, etc. These are all essential on the path and sorely missing in PL communities in the West. Maybe a modern day Honen will emerge -- who knows. Sayagi U Ba Kin was a layman who had enormous benefit on the world with respect to Vipassana. Perhaps a PL layman can emerge and be a compelling voice for PL Buddhism.

Namu Amitabul.


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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:10 am

Steveb1, amen to that. I feel the same way. All of that just goes to show that the masters weren't joking around when they talked about this age being the age of dharma decline.

Cheondo, I doubt that pure land will ever gain a strong footing in the western world. Mainly due to the fact that both pure land and christianity have similarities when looked at on a superficial level. Most who come to Buddhism in the west have a strong christian background and they see pure land as a huge turn off.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby gingercatni » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:38 am

Nighthawk wrote:Steveb1, amen to that. I feel the same way. All of that just goes to show that the masters weren't joking around when they talked about this age being the age of dharma decline.

Cheondo, I doubt that pure land will ever gain a strong footing in the western world. Mainly due to the fact that both pure land and christianity have similarities when looked at on a superficial level. Most who come to Buddhism in the west have a strong christian background and they see pure land as a huge turn off.


Yes and no I think. I live in Northern Ireland one of the most religiously backward places on the planet. I'm surrounded by churches. When I began with Buddhism I started with Zen but really was unskilled with that so I went to Theravada for over a year I practiced, on some levels it worked and others it did not. I don't think I'm a stupid person, but Theravada and it implications in practice made it impossible for me to achieve what we all want, Nirvana.

So I pursued other avenues in Buddhism. I realised Tibetan Buddhism was not going to work without a teacher and it seemed way to complicated anyway. Then I found Pureland. It was a blessing from the Buddha's and Bodhisattava's themselves! :smile: A Buddha who made vows to secure my libersation from samsara, to secure me in a place where I could learn pure Buddhism without the fetter of daily life. And what would I have to do to achieve this? Recite his name with pure faith, vow to be reborn in his Pureland and remember him constantly with everything I do.

There have been bumps along the road as I have "deprogrammed" myself from christian influences and with the many Buddha's out there and my fascination with Ratnasambhava Buddha. But in the end Amitabha is a kind compassionate force which cannot be shaken. Far from putting me off Pureland, the inclusion of Amitabha really just strengthens it.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:34 am

Nighthawk wrote:
In the end it is faith alone that drives people to believe and find comfort in any religion.

It does but living in the west, it's difficult to follow pure land where you either have chinese temples who do all their services in chinese and modern shinshu temples who teach a watered down version of pure land teachings. There's no way to connect to anyone other than online, even with that one always feels a sense of isolation and because of that it becomes difficult to keep the faith.


Step up and grow the community,shinran saw how messed up the system was,he broke out of the system,and went around spreading the dharma,and history shows he was persecuted for it,apparently the master liniage holders and the system didnt like his teaching the simple dharma.

You want a community?it doesnt build itself.Ive read your posts you are one of the most knowledgeable people here on Pureland,go down to walmart,the mall,shpping centers,and post up a flyer asking for a gathering of Pureland Buddhists or any interested in knowing about Buddhism,and leave a little info(phone number,address,time ect...)

You will be surprised how many solitary Buddhists show up,saying finally,a sangha)
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:48 am

cheondo wrote:Steveb1 and nighthawk,
I totally agree

Getting back to Williams -- it's not that Christianity has a more compelling or empirically verifiable message -- it's that one can find plenty of community, which = verification, support, etc. These are all essential on the path and sorely missing in PL communities in the West. Maybe a modern day Honen will emerge -- who knows. Sayagi U Ba Kin was a layman who had enormous benefit on the world with respect to Vipassana. Perhaps a PL layman can emerge and be a compelling voice for PL Buddhism.

Namu Amitabul.


I vote you modern day Honen
The greatest step in the Noble 8 fold path is EFFORT without it the entire path is not followed.

What was so great about Shinran and Honen?I can garruntee that many many men had the same knowledge as them.so what made Shinran/Honen special?

While other men stayed silent an let their wisdom die with,great men stood up and wasnt affraid to speak out and build what once wasnt there.

Where does modern day Honens start?

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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:53 am

Nosta wrote:Honestly, the position of non-buddhists about Pure Land is completly useless for me. I really dont care about these guys.


I'd say that the problem is not that Williams ain't a Buddhist but that he is a born-again (which is to say, I'm very much afraid, partisan and fundamentalist) Christian. Which is why he no longer qualifies as a scientist/academician, having adopted a worldview that is entirely incompatible with that of the academia. And when he's neither a scholar of Buddhism nor a Buddhist, well, why would anyone really interested in Pure Land care what he thinks or doesn't think?

Have to say that, though. Williams has become a frightful (and most frightening) freak.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby plwk » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:25 pm

Honestly, the position of non-buddhists about Pure Land is completly useless for me. I really dont care about these guys.


I'd say that the problem is not that Williams ain't a Buddhist but that he is a born-again (which is to say, I'm very much afraid, partisan and fundamentalist) Christian. Which is why he no longer qualifies as a scientist/academician, having adopted a worldview that is entirely incompatible with that of the academia. And when he's neither a scholar of Buddhism nor a Buddhist, well, why would anyone really interested in Pure Land care what he thinks or doesn't think?

Have to say that, though. Williams has become a frightful (and most frightening) freak.
He became a Roman Catholic... I have never heard of any 'born again' Catholics unless it's yet another latest tango in town...
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nosta » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:57 pm

Gingercatni and others: at a few years ago i was frightened because i felt and knew that would be completly impossible to achieve Nirvana in this life. No matter what i do i am thousands of light-years from reaching the level of a well trained monk...so i am even further from Nirvana. If Buddha toke so many lives to reach buddhahood, why would a stupid portuguese like me reach Nirvana so fast? Even worst, i knew/felt that actually there are no people able to reach Nirvana right in this life.

All of that was making me to loose all my motivation and getting further from buddhism. Luckly i found Pure Land Buddhism and suddenly everything changed. Now i have something to believe: that there is indeed a real place [i always like to add: "real" as me, and you, and cars, rocks, etc] that i can reach right after the end of this life, where i can reach buddhahood smoothly and at my own pace. Thats great! So great and good thats impossible to believe. But i believe. Even Buddha advised that such teaching (Pure Land) is so great and "abnormal" that few people would believe on it.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Jikan » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:57 pm

plwk wrote:
Honestly, the position of non-buddhists about Pure Land is completly useless for me. I really dont care about these guys.


I'd say that the problem is not that Williams ain't a Buddhist but that he is a born-again (which is to say, I'm very much afraid, partisan and fundamentalist) Christian. Which is why he no longer qualifies as a scientist/academician, having adopted a worldview that is entirely incompatible with that of the academia. And when he's neither a scholar of Buddhism nor a Buddhist, well, why would anyone really interested in Pure Land care what he thinks or doesn't think?

Have to say that, though. Williams has become a frightful (and most frightening) freak.
He became a Roman Catholic... I have never heard of any 'born again' Catholics unless it's yet another latest tango in town...


Fair enough, but it seems to me that Williams at least occasionally tends to express his Christianity in a partisan and fundamentalist way, which is the sense the octopus was trying to get across.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby sinweiy » Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:15 am

my one critique of X'tian is why are some people in some remote places (like China) "created" and died into hell forever not able to encount the knowing of god/jesus/bible. :shrug:
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby plwk » Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:48 am

my one critique of X'tian is why are some people in some remote places (like China) "created" and died into hell forever not able to encount the knowing of god/jesus/bible. :shrug:
From what I recall from my Bible study days...The Letter of St Paul to the Romans
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

:focus:

Yes Jikan, I suspect that he has other agendas going on but are not transparent as to what they are including his real reason for crossing over other than launching some straw man arguments to satiate his Catholic audience and present himself as some kind of a skilled Catholic apologist but who cares anyway, that's his life but nevertheless, his previous work on the Buddha Dharma remains as useful references in the end...
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