Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby himalayanspirit » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:17 pm

I have another question for my fellow Pure Land practitioners.

When I first began learning about Buddhism, I used to consider it a very rational religion without mythological bull***, ritualistic practices and believes and practices that are in direct contradiction to modern science. However, as I read further I began finding Buddhism (especially Mahayana) to be approaching the same quality as that of any other Pagan or Abrahamic religion.

My doubt is very basic.
In Buddhism we have to eliminate all kinds of discriminative thoughts and the most important thing that needs to be controlled (if not destroyed) is attachment (and desire). But then, why do the Pure Land sutras keep tempting the inquisitive Bodhisattvas about the delights they will find in Pure Land? Music, food, precious stones etc etc are all explained in detail. This begs another question, if the authors of Pure Land sutras have anyway included objects of all other sense desires, then why have they left sex in Pure Land? Like how the Quran assures Muslims that they will find virgins in heaven if they practice the religion diligently. If we find tasty food, awesome sights with various colors, various comforts, and all other delights in Pure Land, then why do we not get beautiful girls as well?

By constantly imagining about the various delights in the fictional Pure Land, wouldn't the attachment and desire of the Bodhisattva grow rather than get eliminated?

The way I understand it is that Samsara is bad because we have so many desires and attachment here. Then why is Pure Land any difference? Is there anything like "complete satisfaction" (besides Nirvana) in Buddhism to begin with? Aren't all things impermanent?
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:12 pm

There is an excellent translation with very good commentary by Hozen Seki available from the
Buddhist Churches of America bookstore:
http://stores.buddhistbookstore.com/Detail.bok?no=961

Sometimes, what is expressed in Prajnaparamita literature has to be understood in a way which is different from the way things are understood by classical western traditional methods. Sometimes what is being expressed seems like the opposite of what we might assume. So, your question makes perfect sense and in fact this comes up a lot, becaue people who are familiar with Abrahamic ideas naturally draw comparisons between "heaven" and Sukhavati (Amitabha's Pure Realm). But keep in mind, it is only because one has an image already established that one makes a comparison, but this doesn't actually mean that the two are the same any more than a dolphin is a fish or a bat is a bird.

So, then it becomes important to look at the question one is asking. What is this sutra really about? Amita means infinite. The elaborate descriptions in the Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra are literally meant to go beyond anything you can imagine...which, when you think of it, is another way of saying enlightenment, or realization, because it is all those things we imagine and get caught up on that give us the constant experience of samsara.
So, these descriptions are not really being presented as any kind of reward, as in the case of Muslim heaven. Buddha mind even goes beyond having a celestial orgy.

Keep in mind that Pure Land Buddhism has a popular appeal, especially in terms of comforting those who are dying, and in this respect it is not the same as non-attachment and so forth. So in that respect, you are right. It is used like religion.
But on a very profound level, the Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra is meant to describe a Pure Land that is right here, right now, if only we stop taking refuge in limited, temporary conditioned-arising appearances, and instead take refuge in the infinite nature of mind which is no different from that of Amitabha.

So, you could say that infinity is beyond permanent and impermantent. If infinity were permanent, it would have an spacial end (contradicting itself) and if it were impermanent it would have a temporal end (again contradicting itself) so in this way, a state of non-duality is realized, transcending all limited notions of time and space.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Enochian » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:20 pm

Namdrol explained that Pure Lands are actually Bardo realms for those who cling to the idea of a buddhist heaven.
There is an ever-present freedom from grasping the mind.

Mind being defined as the thing always on the Three Times.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:25 pm

Enochian wrote:Namdrol explained that Pure Lands are actually Bardo realms for those who cling to the idea of a buddhist heaven.


Bardo experiences, not bardo realms.

There is a lot of slippage here, actually. There are so-called buddhakṣetras, our solar system is one of them. There are pure ones, and impure ones.

But when people die, what most people are experiencing as "birth" in a pure realm is a bardo experience.

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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:47 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Enochian wrote:Namdrol explained that Pure Lands are actually Bardo realms for those who cling to the idea of a buddhist heaven.


Bardo experiences, not bardo realms.

There is a lot of slippage here, actually. There are so-called buddhakṣetras, our solar system is one of them. There are pure ones, and impure ones.

But when people die, what most people are experiencing as "birth" in a pure realm is a bardo experience.

I


Could you please elaborate further and provide some sources for this interpretation?
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:05 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Enochian wrote:Namdrol explained that Pure Lands are actually Bardo realms for those who cling to the idea of a buddhist heaven.


Bardo experiences, not bardo realms.

There is a lot of slippage here, actually. There are so-called buddhakṣetras, our solar system is one of them. There are pure ones, and impure ones.

But when people die, what most people are experiencing as "birth" in a pure realm is a bardo experience.

I


Could you please elaborate further and provide some sources for this interpretation?


Sure, Sachen remarks that Khechari, the pure land of the dakinis, can be a name for the bardo. So when people gain liberation in Khechari, it can mean they are actually mother tantra practitioners attaining awakening in the bardo.

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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:31 pm

himalayanspirit wrote:But then, why do the Pure Land sutras keep tempting the inquisitive Bodhisattvas about the delights they will find in Pure Land? Music, food, precious stones etc etc are all explained in detail.


This can be interpreted in a number of ways.

I personally see it as metaphorical. This is how things appear to an enlightened being. Take into consideration the following passage from the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra.

Then the venerable Sariputra said to the Brahma Sikhin, "As for me, O Brahma, I see this great earth, with its highs and lows, its thorns, its precipices, its peaks, and its abysses, as if it were entirely filled with ordure."

Brahma Sikhin replied, "The fact that you see such a buddha-field as this as if it were so impure, reverend Sariputra, is a sure sign that there are highs and lows in your mind and that your positive thought in regard to the buddha-gnosis is not pure either. Reverend Sariputra, those whose minds are impartial toward all living beings and whose positive thoughts toward the buddha-gnosis are pure see this buddha-field as perfectly pure."

Thereupon the Lord touched the ground of this billion-world-galactic universe with his big toe, and suddenly it was transformed into a huge mass of precious jewels, a magnificent array of many hundreds of thousands of clusters of precious gems, until it resembled the universe of the Tathagata Ratnavyuha, called Anantagunaratnavyuha. Everyone in the entire assembly was filled with wonder, each perceiving himself seated on a throne of jeweled lotuses.

Then, the Buddha said to the venerable Sariputra, "Sariputra, do you see this splendor of the virtues of the buddha-field?"

Sariputra replied, "I see it, Lord! Here before me is a display of splendor such as I never before heard of or beheld!"

The Buddha said, "Sariputra, this buddha-field is always thus pure, but the Tathagata makes it appear to be spoiled by many faults, in order to bring about the maturity of the inferior living beings. For example, Sariputra, the gods of the Trayastrimsa heaven all take their food from a single precious vessel, yet the nectar which nourishes each one differs according to the differences of the merits each has accumulated. Just so, Sariputra, living beings born in the same buddha-field see the splendor of the virtues of the buddha-fields of the Buddhas according to their own degrees of purity."


Link:
http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/F ... akirti.htm


In other words, the descriptions of the Pure Land is from the perspective of an enlightened being. More specifically, it is a Mahāyāna vision of enlightenment. Sariputra in this context, while an advanced arhat, still has not obtained true prajñā, and thus sees impurity where an enlightened mind would not perceive it. There is a lack of penetration into emptiness and thus reified sensations of purity and impurity, as well as reified objects which arouse such feelings, are in effect causing him to be disturbed.

That being said, if you don't really perceive things as a pure buddha-field, then don't pretend you do. I find shit and industrial pollution impure and unappealing and don't pretend otherwise.

In modern Chinese Buddhism, particularly coming out of Taiwan, there are ideas about "creating a Pure Land on earth" which basically amounts to utopianism. They seek to create a world free from hunger, war, conflict and poverty. I think they are noble for it and commend them, but I think they forget all about suffering. They don't really mention the horrors of samsara and suffering to the laity so much. They stress volunteering, hard work and morality rather than understanding suffering and recognizing the existence of it both subtle and superficial.

Foguangshan in Taiwan has a Disneyland style Pure Land cave. It is all rather gaudy in my opinion and a misdirection of resources. Here's a photo of all the devotees getting into the Pure Land:

Image

They also got arhats hanging out in the Pure Land:

Image



This kind of strategy has proved quite effective. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar as the saying goes. You don't talk about suffering or the lower realms, and then sell people an idea of a Pure Land utopia complete with cheerful youth groups and free food.



The way I understand it is that Samsara is bad because we have so many desires and attachment here. Then why is Pure Land any difference? Is there anything like "complete satisfaction" (besides Nirvana) in Buddhism to begin with? Aren't all things impermanent?


Some Pure Land advocates suggest the Pure Land is a training ground where retrogression is not possible and attainment of Buddhahood is guaranteed.

I don't take well to such thinking. I think the training ground of Bodhisattvas is in this shitty world of ours. It is woe of our fellow sentient beings that fosters compassion. Living in paradise you have no reason to cultivate compassion. This is why it is often said the buddhadharma falls on deaf ears in the case of gods in celestial paradises.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:52 am

Buddhism as something that matches with science and rationalism is a modern myth, a way of presenting Buddhism to those conditioned by such thoughts. But as you have noticed yourself, there is lot of "religion" going on in this religion too.

There are people who have difficulty conceiving an actual Pure Land and so they say it is symbolic. It is a similar argument when some think rebirth, gods, spirits and buddhas are only symbolic and not real at all. Of course, many teachings do have a symbolic value but that is just one level. Reducing seemingly irrational elements into comfortable theories is on one hand a creative way of adapting, on the other it is being blind to the different facets and layers.

Why no sex is mentioned in the Pure Land while other delicacies are there? Basically because monks live in celibacy and it might be counter-productive if they meditated on lustful acts. That is because meditation and most of the Buddhist teachings are primarily/originally for monastics.

The teaching of Pure Land, just like all the other teachings, are expedient means to guide people to liberation. Until liberation is attained the practitioner should hold on tightly to the method just like one would grasp firmly on the raft in the middle of a dangerous river. Only after one has left behind the perilous waters it is wise to let go of the vessel.
"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: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:51 pm

Astus wrote:Buddhism as something that matches with science and rationalism is a modern myth, a way of presenting Buddhism to those conditioned by such thoughts. But as you have noticed yourself, there is lot of "religion" going on in this religion too.

There are people who have difficulty conceiving an actual Pure Land and so they say it is symbolic. It is a similar argument when some think rebirth, gods, spirits and buddhas are only symbolic and not real at all. Of course, many teachings do have a symbolic value but that is just one level. Reducing seemingly irrational elements into comfortable theories is on one hand a creative way of adapting, on the other it is being blind to the different facets and layers.

Why no sex is mentioned in the Pure Land while other delicacies are there? Basically because monks live in celibacy and it might be counter-productive if they meditated on lustful acts. That is because meditation and most of the Buddhist teachings are primarily/originally for monastics.

The teaching of Pure Land, just like all the other teachings, are expedient means to guide people to liberation. Until liberation is attained the practitioner should hold on tightly to the method just like one would grasp firmly on the raft in the middle of a dangerous river. Only after one has left behind the perilous waters it is wise to let go of the vessel.


Monks also don't live in mansions, get to eat whatever food they want whenever they want etc. According to Buddhist teachings this may also be counter productive so I don't think this is a very good argument for no sex.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:56 pm

Ryoto wrote:Monks also don't live in mansions, get to eat whatever food they want whenever they want etc. According to Buddhist teachings this may also be counter productive so I don't think this is a very good argument for no sex.


The beauty/purity of the Pure Land is something one may contemplate without much emotional disturbance. The beauty of the body is, on the other hand, the opposite of meditating on the impurity/ugliness of the body.
"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: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:26 pm

Ryoto wrote:Monks also don't live in mansions, get to eat whatever food they want whenever they want etc. According to Buddhist teachings this may also be counter productive so I don't think this is a very good argument for no sex.


If you are looking at Pure Land from a 'reward' point of view, then your point is valid.
But PureLand is not a reward zone, like heaven of the Abrahamic religions.
You don't go there because you have committed good deeds or lead a virtuous life.
So, it's not like suddenly you get all the stuff that you were denied in this lifetime.

The thing is, there are a lot of things not mentioned. There is no mention of chariots, or ships or elephants or many other things that were considered luxuries in ancient India, so I don't know if you can just ask, "where are all the babes?" and really expect to get an answer that makes sense.

Since a Pure Land is free from all desires, you would already be satisfied.
So there would be nothing left to do but to just lie back and have a smoke, and say "wow, that was really great!"
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Will » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:13 pm

The Pure Lands are ideal places for further practice, not pleasure palaces.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:33 pm

Will wrote:The Pure Lands are ideal places for further practice, not pleasure palaces.


Well, in a sense it is the penultimate pleasure palace, the Land of Pleasure (Sukhavati).
"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: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Belincia » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:22 pm

We shouldn't be practising to be reborn in Sukhavati (just) to experience all those pleasures. That shouldn't be the main motivation at least, but of course, as all beings wants happiness and to avoid unhappiness, it automatically does matter for about any of us.
The motivation for searching rebirth is Sukhavati should be to get into situation where we can practise the dharma without obscurations to reach enlightenment to free all our mother sentient beings from samsara.

And please notice that pureland path is especially meant for ordinary people who has not much capacity for dharma practise (while still completely suitable for the more capable).
In case of a wordly person who is only seeking one's own happiness, being reborn in Sukhavati is still among the most beneficial options, even if just for one's own personal pleasure. As opposed to being born again and again in samsaric realms (suffering and toiling in samsara helps no-one).
Also, in Sukhavati one can't just avoid learning about dharma, because everything there is dharma.

Pureland is the manifestation of the Buddhahood, all the gems, flowers, scents, music etc is essentially the Buddha. It's the Buddha's perfection.

Just my little thoughts.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:59 pm

Belincia, so it is! :twothumbsup:

"The working of blind passion also causes us not to want to go to the Pure land and makes us feel uneasy worrying about death when we become even slightly ill. Impossible it seems to leave this old house of agitation where we have wandered aimlessly since the beginning of time, nor can we long for the Pure Land of peace which we have yet to know. This is due to blind passion so truly powerful and overwhelming. But no matter how reluctant we may be, when our life in this world comes to an end, beyond our control, then for the first time we go to the land of Fulfillment. Those who do not want to go immediately are the special concern of true compassion. For this very reason the Vow of true compassion is completely dependable, and our birth in the Pure Land is absolutely certain.
If our hearts were filled with joyful happiness and we desired to go swiftly to the Pure Land, we might be misled to think that perhaps we are free of blind passion."

(Tannisho, IX)
"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: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Adamantine » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:55 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Sure, Sachen remarks that Khechari, the pure land of the dakinis, can be a name for the bardo. So when people gain liberation in Khechari, it can mean they are actually mother tantra practitioners attaining awakening in the bardo.

N


That sounds like he could mean that Khechari can be alternatively used as a name for mother tantra practitioners attaining awakening in the bardo, as opposed to the Pure Land itself, also labled "Khechari". But then I don't know the original Tibetan text, maybe this is just how your sentences ended up sounding?
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby rory » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:50 pm

Oops I posted in the wrong thread. Anyway, Pure Land is older than either Tibetan or Ch'an schools. The Pure Land sutras are some of the oldest in the Mahayana canon.
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:56 pm

rory wrote:Oops I posted in the wrong thread. Anyway, Pure Land is older than either Tibetan or Ch'an schools. The Pure Land sutras are some of the oldest in the Mahayana canon.


It is a bit strange to say the Pure Land "school" since while the practices and teachings were present for long there was no specific organisation until Honen called themselves such a school. Indeed, even today it is only in Japan we see such churches.
"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: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Kyosan » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:29 am

Astus wrote:
rory wrote:Oops I posted in the wrong thread. Anyway, Pure Land is older than either Tibetan or Ch'an schools. The Pure Land sutras are some of the oldest in the Mahayana canon.


It is a bit strange to say the Pure Land "school" since while the practices and teachings were present for long there was no specific organisation until Honen called themselves such a school. Indeed, even today it is only in Japan we see such churches.

It is a school in the sense that through practicing Pure Land Buddhism, one comes to understand the Buddhadharma.
:namaste:
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Re: Is Pure Land "Buddhism" contradictory to Buddhism?

Postby Kyosan » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:51 am

Huseng wrote:....In other words, the descriptions of the Pure Land is from the perspective of an enlightened being. More specifically, it is a Mahāyāna vision of enlightenment. Sariputra in this context, while an advanced arhat, still has not obtained true prajñā, and thus sees impurity where an enlightened mind would not perceive it. There is a lack of penetration into emptiness and thus reified sensations of purity and impurity, as well as reified objects which arouse such feelings, are in effect causing him to be disturbed....

Here is another quote which supports the idea that Pure Land is a matter of perception. In chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, there is a gatha at the end of the chapter which includes the words
When all the living see, at the kalpa's end,
The conflagration when it is burning,
Tranquil is this realm of mine,
Ever filled with heavenly beings,
Parks, and many palaces
With every kind of gem adorned,
Precious trees full of blossoms and fruits,
Where all creatures take their pleasure;
All the gods strike the heavenly drums
And evermore make music,
Showering mandarava flowers
On the Buddha and his great assembly.
My Pure Land will never be destroyed,
Yet all view it as being burned up,
And grief and horror and distress
Fill them all like this.

:namaste:
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