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...