Nighthawk wrote:Rennyo was also quite clear that Amida Buddha is an actual sambhogakaya manifestation and that Sukhavati is an actual buddha land where common deluded beings can take birth. His teachings are very simple and straight forward and this is how Shinran also intended it to be.
I'm finding that both say both statements. The quotes in Rennyo's letter are explicitly the eternal Buddha from which all Buddhas manifest, which is a direct reference to the Dharmakaya (from the Visualization Sutra and the Lotus Sutra). I have absolutely no doubt he says the exact opposite of this assertion elsewhere, however. Shinran's the same- KGSS V 24-36 & Lamp for the Later Ages he's talking about fulfilled body (assuming samboghakaya), KGSS V 22 he's quoting Vasubandhu calling the Pure Land itself like boundless space, KGSS IV 10 is all about those in the Pure Land obtaining the body of emptiness (quote from T'an Luan), KGSS IV 14-18 (esp 17) is all about the Dharma-body of the Buddha, and there are other references too (like the whole Jodo Wasan).
Rennyo was known to incorporate elements from Jodo Shu schools like the Seizan branch, so probably no big surprise if people who like him feel drawn to Jodo Shu. I'm a big fan of Honen myself and I've been part of the "Promise of Amida" book study over on the Jodo Shu Google group; we're currently taking a break till summer, but you're more than welcome to jump in at any point.
Nighthawk wrote:I have no problem with symbolic interpretations as long as they are backed by the PL sutras, but it is an extreme to say that story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva making vows and manifesting a buddha land as an entirely made up fictional story which some people want to claim it be. You can't back that claim up with either the sutras nor the words of Shinran and Rennyo. If people want to believe otherwise then so be it but I don't really see the use of PL if it is not a place where one can go to fulfill bodhisattva vows more easily.
Well, the 2 assertions that were made are not false: (1) not a god (or a divine being) and (2) not a historical person. Because (1) Buddhas are above any deva or brahma and (2) being a historical person means verifiable things are written about them at the time they did something; the story showing up in writing 10+ kalpas after the fact wouldn't meet that definition as the only way to prove such an existence would be subjective proof and not objective proof - one can not see Buddhas unless one has undergone training and/or is karmically linked. Therefor this would not meet the rigor of "historical proof".
But just because something is considered "fiction" doesn't mean it can't represent some timeless truth. Just look at King Arthur - a "fictional" king that had more real effect on the succession of British kings than any verifiable historical king, he still has a huge effect on British politics. Spiritual truth very rarely coincides with historical truth and can have a much more profound effect on the subject than the later.
The rest of that article gives more context, agreeing with Rennyo and Shinran that Shakyamuni was a manifestation of Amida and that Amida represents universal Buddhahood (the Dharmakaya). It puts special attention on Dharmakara and how we can identify with his universal aspirations. So it's not as heretical as has been asserted. Maida & the Otani school are much more worried about the subjective reality of taking the teachings and applying them to one's life rather than trying to prove any objective reality. Shinran has a lot of passages like this in the Tannisho; the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) has an entire podcast about Shinran's preference for subjective readings than objective readings.
Even if this approach were a drastic departure from the approach of the teachings of the Jodo Shinshu Patriarchs (and I'm not sure it is), it needs to be said that often they were talking to an audience that were in a culture that had already had Buddhism for almost 700 years by the time of Honen. The presentation is going to have to be different when presenting to a culture that's only been in touch with Buddhism for roughly 100 years (on a relatively small scale). I know for a fact that this approach can help one establish faith in the Buddha, so it gets folks in the door and doesn't have to stop there. Once one starts looking for the workings of infinite compassion in one's life and suddenly recognizes it, having faith in the rest becomes much easier. All I'm saying is don't shut the door (them, not you) on folks that found a way to approach the teachings & establish faith.