Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby hornets » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:27 pm

Hi everyone

My question to you all, (but especially to Astus and Huseng!) is this-

Pure Land and Zen seem to cover some fairly common ground. I have started Nembutsu as part of my practice as well as my 20 minutes of (nearly almost-daily) shikantaza. Are there pitfalls to practicing both or merely things I should be mindful of that a beginner may not have picked up on? I've had a good look at previous posts and I may have missed the relevant posts that would be useful to my question.

I've been doing zazen for some months now, also attending a local weekly Serene Reflection Meditation group, and joining the Tree Leaf online zendo. All great. In a few weeks I will be doing a 1 day retreat at the end of September I go to Throssel Hole Abbey for a Beginner's 3 day retreat.

The more zazen I do the more I seem to be drawn to Pure Land. (I was hugely drawn to an online image of a Buddha then came across and subsequently bought a resin copy of it that turned out to be a Japanese Amida Buddha and it's been going on from there...).

I've started reading 'Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith' by Thich Tien Tam and there seems to be a definite mutual appreciation society between Zen & Pure Land.

Look forward to any answers or threads to this.

Best wishes Paul
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Matt J » Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:20 pm

The legendary Xu Yun believed they were compatible.

http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/two_discourses1.html
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://zenanddao.blogspot.com/
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Mr. G » Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:41 pm

Pure Land and Chan had a complementary relationship in China:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/51792511/Shar ... -Pure-Land

http://www.scribd.com/doc/92062041/Pure ... -Yin-Kuang

In Japan, Ippen was a Pure Land practitioner that received inka as a Zen Master from Roshi Kakushin.

    ...we can see clear traces of the Zen influence upon Ippen’s thought. This is illustrated in a well-known conversation between him and the famous Zen priest Hoto Kokushi. When Ippen remarked, “When I invoke the sacred name, there is neither myself nor the Buddha, but merely the invocation”, Hoto Kokushi noticed Ippen’s understanding of the Zen transcendence of all limitation of thought.
http://jsri.jp/English/Pureland/LINEAGE ... ippen.html
    How foolish you are,
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    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Astus » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:19 pm

Pure Land and Chan are simply two styles of practice. They are not incompatible at all, as one can see in China, Korea and Vietnam. In Tiantai teachings one can find both forms. The only point where they seem to be separate is when people think of them as exclusive methods. The first person in Buddhism who came up with the very idea of an exclusive practice was Honen. But even in his view exclusivity didn't mean invalidating or rejecting other methods, it was about focusing initially on the single practice of reciting the name and that in itself was sufficient to attain birth in Honen's view.

Doing zazen only can be a path to the Pure Land as long as you dedicate all the merits gained to attaining birth there. Adding to it the nenbutsu is also fine. Also, you can simply do the nenbutsu and it can be both a Zen practice and a way to the Pure Land. As far as the Pure Land path is concerned, what matters is your faith and dedication to it. As for Zen practice, what matters is the living wisdom. Since both are methods on the bodhisattva path with the aim of complete enlightenment, there is no contradiction.
"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: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby hornets » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:34 pm

wow. many thanks for replies. i'll see how this pans out for me, then.

links were of great help, I've just located & bought a second hand copy of http://www.scribd.com/doc/92062041/Pure ... -Yin-Kuang on amazon so I can read it without my eyeballs going fuzzy.

thanks again.
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Mr. G » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:52 pm

You may also enjoy the book, "No Abode: The Record of Ippen".
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby hornets » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:02 pm

bit pricey at the moment is that one mr.g!

I'll crack on with 'Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith' and await 'Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land'. I'm sure that'll do me for now.
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Mr. G » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:10 pm

It's around $5 used on Amazon :smile:
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Astus » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:35 pm

The book Taming the Monkey Mind: A Guide to Pure Land Practice is very brief and gives a good list of buddha remembrance practices. It shows how all the different methods can be found in a single practice. It says, "In alert, focused Buddha recitation there is samatha, vipassana, samadhi, wisdom - each recitation is perfect. Where else can Zen be found if not here?" This refers to the same practice that is mentioned in Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith under Real Mark Buddha Recitation (5.29.1).

Another work related to both Zen and Pure Land practice is "Doubts and Questions about Pure Land Practice" that you find in Dialogs with Ancient Masters (PDF).
"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: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Mr. G » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:22 pm

Additional resources:

viewtopic.php?f=60&t=4317
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby hornets » Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:22 pm

Mr G, Astus--

Again many thanks.

For some reason I can only buy goods on Amazon U.S. directly from Amazon U.S. with my Pay Pal account but not other sellers. I don't have a credit card anymore, and don't intend to ever have one again. I'll print off a copy of the pdf 'Taming the Monkey Mind: A Guide to Pure Land Practice' at work as it only seems to be available in the UK as either a Kindle Edition or a very expensive used copy.

Obviously Pure Land isn't as established in Britain as it is in the U.S. (Or perhaps I need to search smarter on the internet!)

I have more than enough to be getting on with for reading matter. It was very kind of you both to take the time to reply with some excellent tips and links. I'm sure I'll have more questions in a few weeks.

Very best wishes

Paul
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby cheondo » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:34 pm

Hi,
I'm also drawn to and practice both Pure Land and Zen. I find nembutsu painful to do all the time, so I mix periods of zazen with recitation. The most helpful thing for me has been to start off with chanting the Buddha's name for ten to fifteen minutes with a moktak and then do zazen. Chanting makes the mind quiet and pliable.

Amitoufo!


_____________
Writings on Pure Land Buddhism
purelandway.wordpress.com
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby KeithA » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:12 pm

I suspect if you do either one wholeheartedly, things will turn our just fine. I am not sure it is a either/or situation.

:anjali:
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby PorkChop » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:32 pm

hornets wrote:I've started reading 'Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith' by Thich Tien Tam and there seems to be a definite mutual appreciation society between Zen & Pure Land.


Reading the same book, about half way through.
If nembutsu was explained in that book as it has been on this thread, I may have been a bit more interested in what it has to say; granted I still have a lot of book to go.
I'm really not sure, but something about the Pure Land approach; as posited in the first half of that book makes me really uncomfortable.
I've got a TianTai/PureLand/Thien Temple right near my house, with a sangha full of cool people (one of whom a great friend), convenient service times, and a very approachable monk - but something about the approach just makes me uneasy.
Still going to finish the book, but I'm going to spend the next few months continuing to shop around other temples/schools/groups, and see where things lead me.
Maybe I'll end up sticking with it; I dunno. After reading this thread, I've got some more thinking to do about conclusions I thought were pretty final.
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Mr. G » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:25 am

PorkChop wrote:
hornets wrote:I've started reading 'Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith' by Thich Tien Tam and there seems to be a definite mutual appreciation society between Zen & Pure Land.


Reading the same book, about half way through.
If nembutsu was explained in that book as it has been on this thread, I may have been a bit more interested in what it has to say; granted I still have a lot of book to go.
I'm really not sure, but something about the Pure Land approach; as posited in the first half of that book makes me really uncomfortable.
I've got a TianTai/PureLand/Thien Temple right near my house, with a sangha full of cool people (one of whom a great friend), convenient service times, and a very approachable monk - but something about the approach just makes me uneasy.
Still going to finish the book, but I'm going to spend the next few months continuing to shop around other temples/schools/groups, and see where things lead me.
Maybe I'll end up sticking with it; I dunno. After reading this thread, I've got some more thinking to do about conclusions I thought were pretty final.


You'll find a much more orthodox approach from Chinese Pure Land. If you read Japanese Pure Land practitioners like Ippen or Honen, their approach is quite different.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:38 am

PorkChop wrote:
hornets wrote:I've started reading 'Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith' by Thich Tien Tam and there seems to be a definite mutual appreciation society between Zen & Pure Land.


Reading the same book, about half way through.
If nembutsu was explained in that book as it has been on this thread, I may have been a bit more interested in what it has to say; granted I still have a lot of book to go.
I'm really not sure, but something about the Pure Land approach; as posited in the first half of that book makes me really uncomfortable.
I've got a TianTai/PureLand/Thien Temple right near my house, with a sangha full of cool people (one of whom a great friend), convenient service times, and a very approachable monk - but something about the approach just makes me uneasy.
Still going to finish the book, but I'm going to spend the next few months continuing to shop around other temples/schools/groups, and see where things lead me.
Maybe I'll end up sticking with it; I dunno. After reading this thread, I've got some more thinking to do about conclusions I thought were pretty final.

What makes you uncomfortable about it?
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby PorkChop » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:37 am

Nighthawk wrote:What makes you uncomfortable about it?


I don't know how to say this without sounding offensive.
I'm probably going to make some people angry.
I don't intend any disrespect and fully own up to my ignorance.

I guess my issues are centered around the idea of faith. I'm a little bit of a "doubting Thomas" until I see & feel something for myself.
I can look at the teachings of the Pali canon, the Heart of Wisdom Sutra, and the Lotus sutra; experiment with them and in general, they resonate with me.
I can see & know the wisdom there and I can trust that the rest is founded on similar wisdom.
I've seen serendipity in my life (and many others), so whether you want to call it God or the fruits of karma, it doesn't really matter to me.
I can see & know that there's something more to this world than what a materialist might say.

When it comes to the other Buddhas and the Boddhisattvas, I start to have an issue.
It's not that the Pali stuff does not delve into the supernatural, but it comes off a little more symbolic and/or believable, I guess...
I didn't/don't have that much of a background in Buddhism before encountering PureLand practice, so to jump right into Faith & Devotion to Amitabha Buddha it's.... uncomfortable.
This is ESPECIALLY true due to the fact that one of the things that really piqued my interest in Buddhism to begin with (and what really got me to take it seriously) was the Kalama Sutta that I saw quoted on a documentary - about not believing teachings based on blind faith.

Beyond that, I really can't seem to get a real answer on whether they (specifically Amitabha Buddha and Avalokitesvara) are supernatural beings or personifications of our own nature that we call to in order to call forth from ourselves.
There are some statements in the two books by Thich Thien Tam ("Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith" and "Pure-Land Zen Zen Pure-Land, Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang") that go one way and some statements that go the other.
[I'll do my best to dig up quotes, but I didn't log page numbers, so I may have to get back to you.]
Many references to the power of Amitabha seem to be pointing to the first statement (being true supernatural beings).
Some references to Self-Nature Amitabha, Mind-Only Pure Land seem more in line with the second statement (being more like psychological projections).

Throughout the book, statements about Amitabha are attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha from sutras whose writings began "at least 500 years after the death of the Buddha".
Granted, most stuff wasn't written down till after, but where's the record of the oral tradition of these topics?
These quotes are used as justifications for the practice of Pure Land; along with many other statements that Pure Land is the simplest, most profound, safest, easiest, most complete, fastest, best method of buddhism that cures the most of the mind's ills.
There are even some anecdotes that the author attempts to use as "proof" of the effectiveness of Pure Land practice - like the corpse of one lady "floating" to the top of the other corpses in a mass grave and finding copies of the nembutsu in her pockets...

managed to find a few quick ones...
"Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith" p4 "It (Pure Land) is a democratic method that empowers its adherents, freeing them from arcane metaphysics as well as dependence on teachers, gurus, roshis and other mediating authority figures."
"Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith" p74 "As an analogy, for a student to exert his own efforts to the utmost is, of course, a laudable thing. If, in addition, he has the benefit of an excellent teacher who follows his progress and assists him, his level of achievement will be higher resulting in assured success in his final examinations."
"Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith" p69 "As we earnestly recite the Buddha's name, our mind-power keeps developing. When one-pointedness of mind is achieved, the mind-power manifests itself perfectly. At that point the power of our karma is subdued and is no longer a hindrance. If we add to that Amitabha Buddha's power to 'welcome and escort,' we will achieve rebirth in the Pure Land in spite of the fact that not all of our bad karma is extinguished." (interestingly, the first part of the quote is one of the most attractive statements in the book. I include it to point out with the final sentence to show that there's just as much 'metaphysics' in this approach as well...)

I guess for a noob who likes to take his leaps of faith on a smaller, and more graduated scale; this is very hard for me to digest.

I'm going to finish both books (one was a gift from the monk at the Temple I've been going to).
Maybe there will be something in there that changes my mind or at least educates me to what's going on.
At the moment; with this current presentation of the doctrine, I'm just not sure.
As a psychological projection & meditation technique - sure, I can get with that.
As an external being that requires my faith and devotion to save me from going to hell - well, I'm a former Catholic and so you can guess how well that approach has worked out for me in the past...
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby PorkChop » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:25 am

Geeze. I tried to edit my last post, but I guess it didn't take.
I hit p181-182 of "Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith" and it answered all my questions.
Basically retract anything I said in my previous post(s).
In fact, in validating what my friend originally told me, it's made me a lot more excited about the practice.
Pure Land practice reminds me of positive visualization in sports.
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby hornets » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:54 pm

Hi Pork Chop,

I'm struggling with Thich Tien Tam's book too. I thought it was me being a bit bit thick and there being no pictures. I couldn't really follow a lot of it and it made my brain hurt in places. I also bought a cheap copy of his 'Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land' which I'll attempt to tackle soon.

I heartily recommend Jeff Wilson's 'Buddhism Of The Heart' and Taitetsu Unno's 'Bits of Rubble Turned Into Gold'. The former I read over a couple of days and is one to keep going back to. The latter is wonderful too- I'm ploughing through it and doesn't batter my head either. Both are about Shin Buddhism.

I've just signed up for the internet course Introduction To Pure Land that the Amida Trust do. Here's a link if you're interested
http://amidatrust.ning.com/group/introd ... e=activity

All the best from Paul
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Re: Doing zazen but drawn to Pure Land,

Postby PorkChop » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:46 pm

hornets

thanks much for the resources!
I'll definitely check them out.
This thread has been a real learning experience for me.
I thought I'd had things figured out and then was (pleasantly) surprised.
Feel embarrassed for jumping to conclusions, but I guess the take away is "just keep reading."
Could actually see myself possibly practicing Pure Land.
Interesting what a difference 1 thread and reading a few pages can make...
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