Worldly Deities in Temples

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Worldly Deities in Temples

Postby plwk » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:59 am

For protection from the elements, worldly matters, or when moving to a new house for example we might make offerings to the mundane guardian deities of the site. You find this in both Chinese Mahayana Buddhism...
I would expect this from Chinese folk religions and perhaps religious Taoism but Chinese Mahayana Buddhism? Which group does this? Yes, some individuals who out of personal choice add an altar to the land deity/local protector but that's not in the official liturgy nor teaching. All parent sentient beings are respected, which includes the unseen ones but they are not propitiated nor given any prominence with offerings.
As far as I know, the liturgy format (may vary a little from lineage to lineage) uses the purification of boundaries rite with invocations, chants and aspirations to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas, chiefly Guan Yin Bodhisattva with chanting of dharanis/mantras (Great Compassion Dharani & the Ten Small Dharanis/Mantras), walking around sprinkling the blessed mantra water, may include the standard food offering to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas if time permits & normally ends with the standard dedication of merits for all sentient beings that includes the 8 Classes...

:focus:

Btw, on the topic, I recall reading a passage in the Pabongka Rinpoche's Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand text (can't seem to find the page) that practitioners are exhorted to NOT indulge in the habit of asking for divinations, oracles and related stuff as the study and practice based on the Buddha Dharma, chiefly the Lamrin is a far better and more superior method of development and cultivation, something to that effect...
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:06 am

plwk wrote:I would expect this from Chinese folk religions and perhaps religious Taoism but Chinese Mahayana Buddhism? Which group does this? Yes, some individuals who out of personal choice add an altar to the land deity/local protector but that's not in the official liturgy nor teaching. All parent sentient beings are respected, which includes the unseen ones but they are not propitiated nor given any prominence with offerings.


Traditional Chinese temples usually have some Daoist deities somewhere. In city temples here in Taipei you have a section for Daoist deities and then the Buddhist images.

Historically it was much the same with Japanese temples. Shinto shrines are found on the grounds of major temple complexes, and for good reason. There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby plwk » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:24 am

Traditional Chinese temples usually have some Daoist deities somewhere. In city temples here in Taipei you have a section for Daoist deities and then the Buddhist images.
I agree with this as I have seen it happen even in my own country but that's the choice of that temple and does not represent the whole of Chinese Mahayana nor to be interpreted as part of the Teaching & Discipline. I know places like Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum Mountain and others who will not allow such activities to be conducted on their grounds...

And I have seen also how these 'concessions' have led to people indulging in propitiating them, taking a prominent role over the Buddha Dharma at times...I wonder if it's their strategy to handle dwindling interest in the Buddha Dharma that they have to use all these as a prop up.

A good case I know is where the local Dharma Realm Buddhist Association here bought over a 100 year old Taoist temple and after renovation, they discontinued all practices of the former temple, kept away the old figures and divination tools but maintain certain ancestral plaques in the Rebirth Hall. I still recall how during the renovation period, when the Great Compassion Repentance was going on, some folks would still shake the fortune sticks and wooden blocks right in the midst of the Venerables. After the new monastery was completed, one does not see such stuff anymore. It takes a lot of will to educate the folks, especially the old generation, something many temples are reluctant to...

There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
Sure but most temples do not explain the proper perspective and the fact that there's a side or back shrine built, it gives the impression to most of the non Buddhist crowd who come thinking it's 'another temple' for the standard joss paper burning and propitiation ventures... Look at the case of the famed Long Shan Si in Taipei? I posted a video (now taken off as the poster has since closed his/her youtube account) once in the East Asia Buddhism Forum on the now defunct E-Sangha where someone did an interview survey in that temple and asked the common crowd there on whether they are 'Buddhist' & have they heard of the 4 NT & 8FP? All of the answers came back as 'I am just here to pray', 'We worship all here', 'Please ask the temple Administration', 'No idea' and some confused and nervy looks...
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:42 am

Huseng wrote:Historically it was much the same with Japanese temples. Shinto shrines are found on the grounds of major temple complexes, and for good reason. There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
Before or after the Haibutsu Kishaku?
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:15 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Huseng wrote:Historically it was much the same with Japanese temples. Shinto shrines are found on the grounds of major temple complexes, and for good reason. There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
Before or after the Haibutsu Kishaku?



In 1868 the Japanese government issued the order to "separate kami from buddhas" (神仏分離令), in effect partitioning Shinto away from Buddhism as a unique and independent religion for political purposes. This prompted the popular movement against Buddhism.
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:25 am

Huseng wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
Huseng wrote:Historically it was much the same with Japanese temples. Shinto shrines are found on the grounds of major temple complexes, and for good reason. There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
Before or after the Haibutsu Kishaku?



In 1868 the Japanese Meiji government issued the order to "separate kami from buddhas" (神仏分離令), in effect partitioning Shinto away from Buddhism as a unique and independent religion for political purposes. This prompted the popular movement against Buddhism.
Right. So did the practice of Shinto Shrines on Temple grounds start afterwards or was it already existent?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:34 am

Konchog1 wrote:Right. So did the practice of Shinto Shrines on Temple grounds start afterwards or was it already existent?


They had always been there.

As I recall Kukai when founding Koyasan in the 9th century built a kami shrine there alongside the main temple. It is still there.
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:47 am

plwk wrote:
Traditional Chinese temples usually have some Daoist deities somewhere. In city temples here in Taipei you have a section for Daoist deities and then the Buddhist images.
I agree with this as I have seen it happen even in my own country but that's the choice of that temple and does not represent the whole of Chinese Mahayana nor to be interpreted as part of the Teaching & Discipline. I know places like Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum Mountain and others who will not allow such activities to be conducted on their grounds...


Well, there is the prescriptive and then there is the descriptive.

The new Buddhist organizations like FGS and DDM seem to have consciously decided to do away with worldly gods in their temples. However at the foot hill of DDM at Jinshan in Taiwan there is a small shrine to the local gods which I believe was there before the present complex was constructed.

Personally I have reservations about casting out all the worldly deities. For one thing it is contrary to the way things have organically developed in Chinese spirituality. It also ignores the fact that even in ancient India Buddhists took worldly deities seriously and did not so lightly dismiss or ignore them. They are not directly related to the path of liberation, though they still serve an important function.

The Catur Devarāja Sūtra for instance explains that on the following days various retinues of Indra including the four Devarāja or Deva Kings (Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Virūḍhaka, Virūpākṣa and Vaiśravaṇa) descend into the world to examine the good and evil deeds of beings, whereupon they report them back to Indra:

8th, 23rd envoys
14th, 29th princes
15th, 30th four kings

The Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣā Śāstra discusses this as well. Nāgārjuna in his Mahāprajñāpāramitā Śāstra states that on these days malicious spirits are prone to attack people.

Indra reigns in the Trāyastriṃśa heaven, the second desire realm heaven (see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html). He frequently appears in Buddhist literature. In the greater Indo-European religious scheme he is Zeus and Thor. Guardian to humanity and world fighting off demonic forces. The four devarāja under him defend the four directions. You see these four in traditional Chinese and Japanese temples wearing various costumes.

Indra is indeed a worldly deity, but nevertheless still powerful and has a role to play in the greater cosmology as does any other deity.

Polytheist Buddhists in past ages recognized that worldly deities have a role to play in the universe and respecting them with offerings and the like is only appropriate. The local deities of a land, such as the kami of Japan, were rightfully treated with the utmost respect. If you're going to build a temple on their mountain, then best make peace with the local deva.

This is something I feel reformers and revisionists, Asian or otherwise, tend to forget. It seems Tibetan Buddhism has largely remained untouched by such reformist ideas and hence worldly deities are still actively respected.

To dismiss worldly deities, especially the benevolent ones, is also dangerous. Some of these are the celestial beings which keep demonic forces in bondage and at bay.

Unfortunately, many modern Buddhists like to think Śākyamuni was some kind of secular humanist who dismissed all the Indic gods. This isn't true at all. The Buddha recognized the existence of all these gods and at times received their good service and devotion as well. Devas would offer protection to the Sangha.

In the context of Chinese Buddhism the local gods should really be respected and appropriately venerated. It actually benefits a monastic complex to have the appropriate images present with proper offerings made.






There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbour.
Sure but most temples do not explain the proper perspective and the fact that there's a side or back shrine built, it gives the impression to most of the non Buddhist crowd who come thinking it's 'another temple' for the standard joss paper burning and propitiation ventures...


If someone is interested in Buddhadharma they'll find out for themselves. If someone is looking for blessings from a deity, bodhisattva or buddha they'll be interested strictly in blessings and not much else.


Look at the case of the famed Long Shan Si in Taipei? I posted a video (now taken off as the poster has since closed his/her youtube account) once in the East Asia Buddhism Forum on the now defunct E-Sangha where someone did an interview survey in that temple and asked the common crowd there on whether they are 'Buddhist' & have they heard of the 4 NT & 8FP? All of the answers came back as 'I am just here to pray', 'We worship all here', 'Please ask the temple Administration', 'No idea' and some confused and nervy looks...


Trying to educate the common person in religion is largely futile unless they have an interest. In most cultures temples are not really institutions of education anyway. If someone wants to know more, they'll learn, and hopefully Venerables or any qualified person will be up to the task to provide guidance. In literate societies there is also literature to read.

I rather like Longshan-si in Taipei. The area around it is sleazy with gambling and hookers, plus one or two snake restaurants. Inside you have both Daoist and Buddhist images present. The crowd is so mixed and varied. The atmosphere is just so vibrant. Whenever I'm in that area I pay a visit.
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Re: Worldly Deities in Temples

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:54 pm

plwk wrote:
For protection from the elements, worldly matters, or when moving to a new house for example we might make offerings to the mundane guardian deities of the site. You find this in both Chinese Mahayana Buddhism...
I would expect this from Chinese folk religions and perhaps religious Taoism but Chinese Mahayana Buddhism? Which group does this? Yes, some individuals who out of personal choice add an altar to the land deity/local protector but that's not in the official liturgy nor teaching. All parent sentient beings are respected, which includes the unseen ones but they are not propitiated nor given any prominence with offerings.
As far as I know, the liturgy format (may vary a little from lineage to lineage) uses the purification of boundaries rite with invocations, chants and aspirations to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas, chiefly Guan Yin Bodhisattva with chanting of dharanis/mantras (Great Compassion Dharani & the Ten Small Dharanis/Mantras), walking around sprinkling the blessed mantra water, may include the standard food offering to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas if time permits & normally ends with the standard dedication of merits for all sentient beings that includes the 8 Classes...

:focus:

Btw, on the topic, I recall reading a passage in the Pabongka Rinpoche's Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand text (can't seem to find the page) that practitioners are exhorted to NOT indulge in the habit of asking for divinations, oracles and related stuff as the study and practice based on the Buddha Dharma, chiefly the Lamrin is a far better and more superior method of development and cultivation, something to that effect...


Tibetan Buddhism also does the same.They're called Lokapalas or something.
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Re: Tradition of Oracles in Gelug

Postby Seishin » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:41 pm

Huseng wrote:Unfortunately, many modern Buddhists like to think Śākyamuni was some kind of secular humanist who dismissed all the Indic gods. This isn't true at all. The Buddha recognized the existence of all these gods and at times received their good service and devotion as well. Devas would offer protection to the Sangha.


Very true.

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