Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby PorkChop » Tue May 20, 2014 1:37 pm

I've been wondering if the less literal interpretations are merely skillful means to allow folks like me, who's hakarai (calculating) minds won't shut up with the nagging doubts long enough to allow us to find benefit in the Nembutsu teachings (EDIT: until we're ready to accept it at face value). I think I understand Honen when he says if he were to be reborn in this world again, that he hopes he would be reborn as a simple person who recites the Nembutsu wholeheartedly.
User avatar
PorkChop
 
Posts: 873
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby duckfiasco » Tue May 20, 2014 7:29 pm

PorkChop, it sounds to me like nembutsu is doing exactly the right thing by illuminating the calculating mind instead of letting it run unchecked. :cheers:

I remember reading that one of the revolutionary things about Shinran was he didn't stress specific practices anymore (like 30,000 recitations of the Name every day) but the attitude behind them, the faith. Literal or figurative to me seem like more kinds of practices.

As for being born in the Pure Land, my calculating mind (maybe like yours) remains a bit agnostic about what happens at death. But the extent of Other-Power and Amida's inexplicable grace provides a bright backdrop that lights up the temporariness and smallness of my own thoughts and opinions. In this way, the ideas we take for granted are pointed out for our benefit. Patience with the process has been very important for me. We experience this mind continually, so death is merely changing scenery. It seems to me birth in the Pure Land is something experienced in some form of "now", whether the one we know here, or the one we guess about at death. I try to remain very watchful for Other-Power everywhere for that reason.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:10 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Hello,

I have long had an interest in Pure Land; there are many aspects that appeal to me -- especially now that I am so busy that meditation time is difficult to find. But I have also felt some barriers to taking it up as a practice, e.g.

-- I am not very faith-inclined; I am more of an empiricist and rationalist.
-- I have some trouble understanding who Amitabha is or what he represents. The concept is a little vague to me. Coming from a Zen perspective, I can see that he is a manifestation of buddha nature, but this is simply an intellectual understanding. It isn't something that I really feel.
-- I find that nianfo has use as a method to stop meandering or afflicted thoughts, but wouldn't the same be true if I recited some other, random set of syllables? I understand that one should recite with sincerity and in the spirit of calling on Amitabha, but this is difficult because I am not really sure who I am calling (see second problem, above).
-- How does one develop conviction 信心 in something/someone you can neither apprehend through observation nor establish through reason? What is the best avenue for developing it?

I'm not sure whether or not it's a suitable practice for me, but I see that others with similar disposition have taken it up, and I can see the possible benefits as an antidote to excessive rationalism/thinkiness. So I would be interested to learn more.

BTW I am interested in all the schools, but especially Chinese Pure Land because it can be practiced along with Zen/Ch'an meditation. I like the hybrid approach that is found in the Chinese tradition, and generally my inclinations are towards the "humanistic" styles of Buddhism that were developed there. However. I also welcome the Jodo Shinshu perspective.


Hey Lazy Eye,

I am a bit similar to you in being a rationalist and empiricist, and yet Pure Land Buddhism seems to suit me, to me Amida and the Vow rather than a specific entity represent the embracing of the real, enlightened life in me. Where it's not about the self, but about love for all sentient beings. Reciting the nembutsu is "deep hearing". Finding that yearning in myself and giving myself over to it in the moment of recitation. Basically Amida is not different from selfless love, or bodhicitta.
Arjan Dirkse
 
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:53 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby gyougan » Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:38 am

Arjan Dirkse wrote:Hey Lazy Eye,

I am a bit similar to you in being a rationalist and empiricist, and yet Pure Land Buddhism seems to suit me, to me Amida and the Vow rather than a specific entity represent the embracing of the real, enlightened life in me. Where it's not about the self, but about love for all sentient beings. Reciting the nembutsu is "deep hearing". Finding that yearning in myself and giving myself over to it in the moment of recitation. Basically Amida is not different from selfless love, or bodhicitta.


That's very close to how I see it as well.

Shinjin is a 'clear mind'.

How can someone in the 21st century take the Pure Land teachings literally?
gyougan
 
Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:37 pm
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:08 am

gyougan wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Hey Lazy Eye,

I am a bit similar to you in being a rationalist and empiricist, and yet Pure Land Buddhism seems to suit me, to me Amida and the Vow rather than a specific entity represent the embracing of the real, enlightened life in me. Where it's not about the self, but about love for all sentient beings. Reciting the nembutsu is "deep hearing". Finding that yearning in myself and giving myself over to it in the moment of recitation. Basically Amida is not different from selfless love, or bodhicitta.


That's very close to how I see it as well.

Shinjin is a 'clear mind'.

How can someone in the 21st century take the Pure Land teachings literally?

Many of us in the 21st century take the Pure Land teachings literally.
The Pure Land sutras take rebirth there literally as well.

Peace and Love
User avatar
Son of Buddha
 
Posts: 940
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Jesse » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:40 am

How can someone in the 21st century take the Pure Land teachings literally?


Because they have faith, and once faith is no longer needed they understand how appearances work, I imagine.
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 722
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:23 pm

I don't have to take the Pure Land sutras literally - all the colourful descriptions of the jewel encrusted Pure Land, etc - but I don't have to take them as fantasy either. They're the vision of one person I think, but who knows, it may be true . I don't fault the people who do take it literally.

To me it's besides the point, if I don't find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is useless to me too. And if I do find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is right there with it.
Arjan Dirkse
 
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:53 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Aug 03, 2014 3:36 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:I don't have to take the Pure Land sutras literally - all the colourful descriptions of the jewel encrusted Pure Land, etc - but I don't have to take them as fantasy either. They're the vision of one person I think, but who knows, it may be true . I don't fault the people who do take it literally.

To me it's besides the point, if I don't find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is useless to me too. And if I do find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is right there with it.


You might be interested in some of the Chinese humanistic Pure Land teachings then.
They teach alot about creating a Pure Land on this earth and focus on making peoples lives here as pure and perfect as those who live in the Pure Land.

They are still traditionalist/literalists, but their views fit very nicely with a secular Pure Landist lifestyle.

Peace and Love
May you benifit from the Pure Land teachings and be happy.
User avatar
Son of Buddha
 
Posts: 940
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby LastLegend » Sun Aug 03, 2014 3:57 pm

If people take Buddha or Bodhisattva or Arahant, rebirth, karma, nirvana, dependent origination, emptiness, non-self, etc seriously, then it's not a big leap to believe in Pure Land. Otherwise, Buddhist teaching is just lip service and psychotherapy.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
User avatar
LastLegend
 
Posts: 2224
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby PorkChop » Sun Aug 03, 2014 5:01 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I don't have to take the Pure Land sutras literally - all the colourful descriptions of the jewel encrusted Pure Land, etc - but I don't have to take them as fantasy either. They're the vision of one person I think, but who knows, it may be true . I don't fault the people who do take it literally.

To me it's besides the point, if I don't find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is useless to me too. And if I do find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is right there with it.


You might be interested in some of the Chinese humanistic Pure Land teachings then.
They teach alot about creating a Pure Land on this earth and focus on making peoples lives here as pure and perfect as those who live in the Pure Land.

They are still traditionalist/literalists, but their views fit very nicely with a secular Pure Landist lifestyle.

Peace and Love
May you benifit from the Pure Land teachings and be happy.


I wouldn't say that he's denying the reality of the Pure Land, denying rebirth in that state, or adopting the secular Buddhist line of thought. Rather, I think he's saying that he recognizes that the Pure Land sutras are trying to describe something that's pretty much impossible to accurately describe with words and nearly just as possible to even imagine. The descriptions in the Visualization sutra are pretty mind-blowing to the point of absurdism. The traditional commentaries of the Amitabha Sutra (for example), point out the significance of the various railings and nets, relating them back to manifestations of Enlightened mind. His stress on the Vow does relate back to Bodhicitta and reminds me somewhat of Inagaki's statements about the nonduality of Amida's Enlightenment and our own. Even his characterization of Amida is still pretty consistent with the traditional descriptions of the Infinite Light that shines on all sentient beings...

One of the things that's always attracted me to the Pure Land teachings is that they can be taken on multiple levels of interpretation, even simultaneously. Taking the traditional commentaries, we can see many of the wondrous adornments of the Pure Land represent aspects of Enlightened mind, so they serve as reminders to help us manifest Enlightened behavior. At the same time, when we realize that mind precedes all knowables, then we can even accept a more literal interpretation because the physical phenomena (or our interpretation of it) would be manifestations of these attributes of Enlightened mind.
User avatar
PorkChop
 
Posts: 873
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:27 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I don't have to take the Pure Land sutras literally - all the colourful descriptions of the jewel encrusted Pure Land, etc - but I don't have to take them as fantasy either. They're the vision of one person I think, but who knows, it may be true . I don't fault the people who do take it literally.

To me it's besides the point, if I don't find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is useless to me too. And if I do find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is right there with it.


You might be interested in some of the Chinese humanistic Pure Land teachings then.
They teach alot about creating a Pure Land on this earth and focus on making peoples lives here as pure and perfect as those who live in the Pure Land.

They are still traditionalist/literalists, but their views fit very nicely with a secular Pure Landist lifestyle.

Peace and Love
May you benifit from the Pure Land teachings and be happy.


I wouldn't say that he's denying the reality of the Pure Land, denying rebirth in that state, or adopting the secular Buddhist line of thought. Rather, I think he's saying that he recognizes that the Pure Land sutras are trying to describe something that's pretty much impossible to accurately describe with words and nearly just as possible to even imagine. The descriptions in the Visualization sutra are pretty mind-blowing to the point of absurdism. The traditional commentaries of the Amitabha Sutra (for example), point out the significance of the various railings and nets, relating them back to manifestations of Enlightened mind. His stress on the Vow does relate back to Bodhicitta and reminds me somewhat of Inagaki's statements about the nonduality of Amida's Enlightenment and our own. Even his characterization of Amida is still pretty consistent with the traditional descriptions of the Infinite Light that shines on all sentient beings...

One of the things that's always attracted me to the Pure Land teachings is that they can be taken on multiple levels of interpretation, even simultaneously. Taking the traditional commentaries, we can see many of the wondrous adornments of the Pure Land represent aspects of Enlightened mind, so they serve as reminders to help us manifest Enlightened behavior. At the same time, when we realize that mind precedes all knowables, then we can even accept a more literal interpretation because the physical phenomena (or our interpretation of it) would be manifestations of these attributes of Enlightened mind.


I wasn't sure what his views were so I kinda just assumed...... Either way I was trying to show him support on his Pure Land path, no matter what his views are. :cheers:

By the way what have you been up to? Ive been missing your over researched and well thought out posts. :cheers:

Peace and Love
User avatar
Son of Buddha
 
Posts: 940
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby steveb1 » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:29 pm

Good point, Pork Chop - how are our samsaric, bombu minds to really, fully understand the transcendent realm or state described as "the Pure Land"? As with other transcendent systems, symbol, allegory, and analogy are necessary components and sometimes the skillful means by which our endarkened minds can conceptualize what Shinran calls "the inconceivable".
steveb1
 
Posts: 295
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby PorkChop » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:29 am

Son of Buddha wrote:I wasn't sure what his views were so I kinda just assumed...... Either way I was trying to show him support on his Pure Land path, no matter what his views are. :cheers:

Sorry if it came off like I was harping on you. I agree that your post was supportive in tone, a point I missed in my reply. That was real cool of you. :thumbsup:

Son of Buddha wrote:By the way what have you been up to? Ive been missing your over researched and well thought out posts. :cheers:

You're way too kind. After all the arguments the last few years I'm doing my best to only post when I have something positive and constructive to add to a discussion.
User avatar
PorkChop
 
Posts: 873
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:23 am

PorkChop wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:I wasn't sure what his views were so I kinda just assumed...... Either way I was trying to show him support on his Pure Land path, no matter what his views are. :cheers:

Sorry if it came off like I was harping on you. I agree that your post was supportive in tone, a point I missed in my reply. That was real cool of you. :thumbsup:

Son of Buddha wrote:By the way what have you been up to? Ive been missing your over researched and well thought out posts. :cheers:

You're way too kind. After all the arguments the last few years I'm doing my best to only post when I have something positive and constructive to add to a discussion.

Not a problem.
Same here :cheers:
User avatar
Son of Buddha
 
Posts: 940
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:01 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I don't have to take the Pure Land sutras literally - all the colourful descriptions of the jewel encrusted Pure Land, etc - but I don't have to take them as fantasy either. They're the vision of one person I think, but who knows, it may be true . I don't fault the people who do take it literally.

To me it's besides the point, if I don't find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is useless to me too. And if I do find the Vow in my own heart the Pure Land is right there with it.


You might be interested in some of the Chinese humanistic Pure Land teachings then.
They teach alot about creating a Pure Land on this earth and focus on making peoples lives here as pure and perfect as those who live in the Pure Land.

They are still traditionalist/literalists, but their views fit very nicely with a secular Pure Landist lifestyle.

Peace and Love
May you benifit from the Pure Land teachings and be happy.


Thanks. :)

For me the Pure Land is an expression of a state of mind, rather than a a physical place. State of mind matters more to me than physical surroundings. After all, if I end up in heaven but I'm still a miserable bastard on the inside...what's the use?? ;)

I've read Taitetsu Unno's "River of fire river of water" and "Bits of rubble turn to gold". Also I have the Tannisho and Kyogyoshinsho waiting on my shelves. I like Pure Land but I am not so sure about joining any sangha, there is not so much here where I am (Netherlands). I'd like to be in contact maybe with a Chinese or Taiwanese Pure Land group or a Jodo Shinshu group, but not so sure how.
Arjan Dirkse
 
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:53 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby duckfiasco » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:14 pm

A thought I had today that may be relevant :)

In the beginning, we can believe that we make a decision to recite the nembutsu. From our everyday perspective, everything we do will have some hint of "me running my life, trying to do what's best". However, a decisive moment of faith (that is, the impression of being provided faith by some source other than the idea "I'm going to have faith now!") can occur when you hear or say the nembutsu at unexpected times.
For instance, while washing the dishes, filing paperwork, or using the restroom, the nembutsu comes to your lips. Or while falling prey to your own anger or lust, in a very dark moment, the nembutsu appears, even as a vague remembrance that makes you go "what the hell is that doing here?" To my view, this is He Who Is Love showing directly the extent of his reach. It spans from the highest spiritual experience to the most mundane chores to our deepest shame. There, he reaches out and does not abandon.
Love speaks "namu amida butsu" just in case we miss the generosity and compassion shining right in front of us. The nembutsu is that sound we can't help but recognize, even while we refuse to acknowledge love's working in every quarter of our lives.
Lost in silly daydreams, your mouth may soldier on, saying the nembutsu. While waking from a nightmare the other night, the nembutsu came to mind while I was really disturbed, and I could fall asleep again. We need to unclench the fist of our own supreme agency just a little bit, then the nembutsu fills our opening hand to our surprise (and sometimes consternation). Faith then isn't such a big deal: it's freely given.

I think this is the tangible working of the Vows we try so hard to intellectualize. I don't think they're words on a page, or a good idea someone had impossible millennia ago. If you have heard or said the nembutsu, even once, the roots of the Vows have grown above ground, no matter our understanding. I think the Vows are Compassion and Love put into words within a specific set of skillful teachings. Think for a moment what it means to be saved by Amida if you say the nembutsu even a single time.

:cheers:
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Osho » Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:28 pm

:good:
More about Mindfulness here
http://bemindful.co.uk/

" A Zen master's life is one continuous mistake."
(Dogen).
User avatar
Osho
 
Posts: 185
Joined: Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:09 pm

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 12, 2014 4:57 pm

duckfiasco wrote:In the beginning, we can believe that we make a decision to recite the nembutsu. From our everyday perspective, everything we do will have some hint of "me running my life, trying to do what's best". However, a decisive moment of faith (that is, the impression of being provided faith by some source other than the idea "I'm going to have faith now!") can occur when you hear or say the nembutsu at unexpected times.
For instance, while washing the dishes, filing paperwork, or using the restroom, the nembutsu comes to your lips. Or while falling prey to your own anger or lust, in a very dark moment, the nembutsu appears, even as a vague remembrance that makes you go "what the hell is that doing here?" To my view, this is He Who Is Love showing directly the extent of his reach. It spans from the highest spiritual experience to the most mundane chores to our deepest shame. There, he reaches out and does not abandon.
Love speaks "namu amida butsu" just in case we miss the generosity and compassion shining right in front of us. The nembutsu is that sound we can't help but recognize, even while we refuse to acknowledge love's working in every quarter of our lives.
Lost in silly daydreams, your mouth may soldier on, saying the nembutsu. While waking from a nightmare the other night, the nembutsu came to mind while I was really disturbed, and I could fall asleep again. We need to unclench the fist of our own supreme agency just a little bit, then the nembutsu fills our opening hand to our surprise (and sometimes consternation). Faith then isn't such a big deal: it's freely given.


Described this way, nembutsu sounds almost like it is a kind of mindfulness practice, the difference being that mindfulness has more of a directed quality whereas this is more spontaneous and unwilled.

It's occurred to me that Other-Power in Pure Land is an extension of anatta, in that it really involves surrendering notions of the self. All Buddhist schools teach the abandoning of self-view, but Pure Land seems to put it into practice most radically. It is almost analagous to the way Zen puts emptiness into practice (rather than simply talking about it or striving for it).

Just a coffee-induced thought...
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 305
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:32 am
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:44 am

Yes, I like what you wrote :) I agree with your assessment of the skillful means of Other Power :thumbsup: Pure Land is a superbly practical school.

In my experience, the nembutsu can be a form of mindfulness, mindfulness of Amida Buddha and the compassion of Other Power in our daily lives. Shinran said the nembutsu is our grateful response to Amida's Vow.

For me, there's been another side to the simplicity of the nembutsu as well, since mindfulness or concentration have always been a big challenge. Pure Land is often touted as well suited for those of little capacity. That's where I feel very grateful for the sense of Amida calling me out of my forgetfulness, in those moments of mindlessness or deep painful fetters. By its nature, the practice circumvents guilt and self-loathing and speaks love instead.

I think we're like people who wandered into a forest, and we've been going in circles for so long we really have no clue which way to turn. The smartest, most moral people are just as lost as the most foolish and sinful.
The nembutsu is like an irresistible voice that you suddenly notice for the first time.
Sometimes, we follow it over a river, so we have to walk very mindfully not to fall in.
Sometimes, we may be tempted to take a shortcut near the lair of a dangerous animal, but listening carefully, the call takes us around to a path we hadn't seen before.
Other times, fog or night make it very difficult to even see our feet. Then the nembutsu is like the disc of the moon that comes out from behind a cloud.
It would be a silly thing to think "I needed some light, so I cleared the clouds away!"
Instead, we just gratefully get on our way again.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Pure Land for the not very faith-inclined?

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:44 am

Just a coffee-induced thought...
That's why I don't drink it....
plwk
 
Posts: 2753
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

PreviousNext

Return to Pure Land

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests

>