What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby new2dharma » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:00 pm

Hello all,
Just was wondering what shin buddhism is? I heard about through looking on the internet? Dan
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby plwk » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:19 am

Shin Buddhism or Jodo Shinshu is just the Japanese version of the Mahayana Pure Land School and this School which traces its roots to India has a strong and huge following in the East Asian Mahayana branch of Buddhism like in the Chinese, Korean & Vietnamese counterparts and as well in Vajrayana. The main practice is known as 'buddhanusmriti' or Buddha Recitation/Mindfulness/Contemplation/Remembrance.

When one speaks of 'Pure Land', it generally refers to the practice that involves buddhanusmriti practice on any Buddha or Bodhisattva.
The second part of the practice is about making resolute aspirations towards their Pure Lands as a means to continue one's Dharma practice for Buddhahood in more conducive and non-retrogressive conditions compared to our world system known as Saha World or the Land of Endurance.
But the most popular of all Pure Land practice is the one that has to do with Amitabha Buddha and His Sukhavati (Land of Ultimate Bliss) which is what East Asian Mahayana Pure Land Buddhism is most famed for.

And no, there's nothing in Pure Land Buddhism, like in any branch of Buddhism, that has anything to do with the baggage of monotheism.
The Japanese interpretation of Pure Land may sound like it but it is not, anymore than comparing apples with oranges. Before anyone comes out with such an interpretation, it's generally advised for one to be well acquainted with the standard presentation of the Buddhist scriptures and commentaries, in particular the Mahayana to understand the purpose of the essence, practice and realisation of buddhanusmriti in relation to its ultimate goal on Buddhahood for all sentient beings. Translators and language are not always perfect, so wide and deep learning is useful.

From the third of the Threefold Pure Land Sutras, the Contemplation/Visualisation/Meditation of Amitayus Sutra:
http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html
'When you have perceived this, you should next perceive Buddha Himself. Do you ask how?
Every Buddha Tathagata is one whose spiritual body is the principle of nature (Dharmadhatu-kaya), so that He may enter into the mind of any beings. Consequently, when you have perceived Buddha, it is indeed that mind of yours that possesses those thirty-two signs of perfection and eighty minor marks of excellence which you see in a Buddha.
In conclusion, it is your mind that becomes Buddha, nay, it is your mind. That is indeed Buddha.
The ocean of true and universal knowledge of all the Buddhas derives its source from one's own mind and thought.
Therefore you should apply your thought with an undivided attention to a careful meditation on that Buddha Tathagata, Arhat, the Holy and Fully Enlightened One.

Resources: 1 2 3 4 5

Note to Admin/Mods: Maybe this thread is best moved and served in the Pure Land Forum?
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby new2dharma » Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:38 am

Thanks so much for your reply and the resources provided! Are there any books in English that you would suggest? Thanks and peace to you, Daniel
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Nighthawk » Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:47 am

new2dharma wrote:Thanks so much for your reply and the resources provided! Are there any books in English that you would suggest? Thanks and peace to you, Daniel

There is a book called Understanding Jodo Shinshu which is excellent for beginners like yourself. You can read it online for free here. http://www.trueshinbuddhism.com/content/view/56/87/
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Shutoku » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:02 am

I have been practicing Shin for nearly 20 years myself. Initially my interest was in Zen, and the superficial similarities between Christianity and Shin was a pretty big turn off for me. However the only Temple in my town was Shin so I decided to check it out. I was given a nice translation of Tannisho by Fred Ulrich Sensei. Unfortunately it was a pretty small release ( I suspect only distributed through Temples in Canada ). It really helped me to understand though. I think a copy of Tannisho is indespensible for understanding Shinshu, but I also think the book "Ocean" is an ideal book for someone new to Shinshu.
http://www.yamadera.info/ocean/ocean-index.htm
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby new2dharma » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:48 am

I guess the one thing that doesn't sit well with me as that in the information I have read; there is no encouragement to try and better ourselves and maintain some sense of ethics. Maybe I am wrong of which I hope I am, but I find it hard to swallow that all I have to do is have faith and I can still be a bad person and receive salvation. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you! :) Dan
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:16 am

new2dharma wrote:I guess the one thing that doesn't sit well with me as that in the information I have read; there is no encouragement to try and better ourselves and maintain some sense of ethics. Maybe I am wrong of which I hope I am, but I find it hard to swallow that all I have to do is have faith and I can still be a bad person and receive salvation. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you! :) Dan

You may be more inclined towards Jodo Shu instead. It's the school that was established by Shinran's teacher Honen. Ethics and a disciplined practice of Nembutsu were highly encouraged by Honen. You can learn more about it here http://www.jodo.org/index.html. There's also a Jodo Shu discussion board with a few priests and dedicated practitioners ready to answer questions that you might have about the teachings. http://groups.google.com/group/jodoshubuddhism
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Zenshin 善心 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:00 am

new2dharma wrote:I find it hard to swallow that all I have to do is have faith and I can still be a bad person and receive salvation.


Hi Dan, it's very easy to slip into misconceptions about Shin, especially when new to it, but even still after many years! It's not as simple as a 'whatever bro, just have faith and you'll be fine' attitude. The point is that faith marks a fundamental turning point in your life and you become aware of the aeons of karma amounted through the course of many lives. At the same time, an awareness grows of all that has been done for you by others (friends, family, teachers, enemies even) despite an attachment to self which causes harm to those around you. This re-orientation leads to an immense feeling of gratitude and change in the way your perceive 'self' in relation to 'other'. Do you still screw up? Of course, you're still human, but something has now changed, and this awareness (Amida's light) carries you forward.

A quote from the Tannisho to address the issue of ethics -

There was, in those days, a person who had fallen into wrong views. He asserted that since the Vow was made to serve the person who had committed evil, one should purposely do evil as an act for attaining birth. As rumors of misdeeds gradually spread, Shinran wrote in a letter, "Do not take a liking to poison just because there is an antidote." This was in order to put an end to that wrong understanding. It by no means implies that evil can obstruct one's attainment of birth.
He also said, "If it were only by observing precepts and upholding rules that we should entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow, how could we ever gain freedom from birth-and-death?" Even such wretched beings as ourselves, on encountering the Primal Vow, come indeed to "presume" upon it. But even so, how could we commit evil acts without any karmic cause in ourselves?
The Master further stated:

For those who make their living drawing nets or fishing in the seas and rivers, and those who sustain their lives hunting beasts or taking fowl in the fields and mountains, and those who pass their lives conducting trade or cultivating fields and paddies, it is all the same. If the karmic cause so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.

These days, however, one finds people making a show of themselves as "seekers for the afterlife," posting notices at nembutsu practice halls saying that those who have committed such and such acts may not enter, as though only good persons should say the nembutsu. Are not people who do this indeed "outwardly expressing signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence, while inwardly embracing falsity"?


Of relevance -

The Angimula Sutta - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.086.than.html

The Story of Bennen - http://www.trueshinbuddhism.com/content/view/55/86/1/6/

Hope this helps some :smile:
All beings since their first aspiration till the attainment of Buddhahood are sheltered under the guardianship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, responding to the requirements of the occasion, transform themselves and assume the actual forms of personality.

Thus for the sake of all beings Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become sometimes their parents, sometimes their wives and children, sometimes their kinsmen, sometimes their servants, sometimes their friends, sometimes their enemies, sometimes reveal themselves as devas or in some other forms.


- Ashvaghosa, The Awakening of Faith

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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby new2dharma » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:32 am

Dumbbombu,
Thanks for the informative reply, I appreciate the thought and the time you took. I think I may have not phrased my original email correctly. I think it is awesome that salvation is available to all people, no matter what or who the people are. But I also think it is important to behave or try to behave well and be compassionate, kind, patient and etc to others. Especially after we find out that we have received the great gift that Amidha buddha has granted us. Thanks and peace to you. Dan
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Zenshin 善心 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:29 pm

new2dharma wrote: But I also think it is important to behave or try to behave well and be compassionate, kind, patient and etc to others. Especially after we find out that we have received the great gift that Amidha buddha has granted us. Thanks and peace to you. Dan


No arguments here, but are we doing it for the doing, or for the hope of some reward (birth in the Pure Land)? If the latter, then following Shin thought it is 'jiriki' (self-power).
All beings since their first aspiration till the attainment of Buddhahood are sheltered under the guardianship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, responding to the requirements of the occasion, transform themselves and assume the actual forms of personality.

Thus for the sake of all beings Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become sometimes their parents, sometimes their wives and children, sometimes their kinsmen, sometimes their servants, sometimes their friends, sometimes their enemies, sometimes reveal themselves as devas or in some other forms.


- Ashvaghosa, The Awakening of Faith

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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Shutoku » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:07 am

new2dharma wrote:I guess the one thing that doesn't sit well with me as that in the information I have read; there is no encouragement to try and better ourselves and maintain some sense of ethics. Maybe I am wrong of which I hope I am, but I find it hard to swallow that all I have to do is have faith and I can still be a bad person and receive salvation. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you! :) Dan


You want encouragement to be good?
Be good!
Not so you go to the Pure Land, but because it will benefit other beings if you are good.
Sadly you will often fail to be good. Isn't it wonderful that even then you are within Amida's grasp?

If we offer a meal to a homeless, addicted person, it doesn't mean he or she should willfully continue to be homeless and addicted to get free meals, or that we wouldn't encourage them to get clean, and turn their lives around. It simply means that regardless of why they are homeless and addicted, we want to help them out and give them a good meal.

I love the Tannisho! I strongly encourage you to study it in depth.
For example:

Even a good person attains birth in the Pure Land, so it goes without saying that an evil person will.

Though it is so, people commonly say, "Even an evil person attains birth, so it goes without saying that a good person will." This statement may seem well founded at first, but it runs counter to the intent of the Primal Vow, which is Other Power. This is because people who rely on doing good through their self-power fail to entrust themselves wholeheartedly to Other Power and therefore not in accord with Amida's Primal Vow, but when they overturn the mind of self-power and entrust themselves to Other Power, they will attain birth in the true and fulfilled land.
It is impossible for us, who are possessed of blind passions, to free ourselves from birth-and-death through any practice whatever. Sorrowing at this, Amida made the Vow, the essential intent of which is the evil person's attainment of Buddhahood. Hence, evil persons who entrust themselves to Other Power are precisely the ones who possess the true cause of birth.
Accordingly he said, "Even the good person is born in the Pure Land, so without question is the person who is evil"


and

The Master once asked, "Yuien-bo, do you accept all that I say?"
"Yes I do," I answered.
"Then will you not deviate from whatever I tell you?" he repeated.
I humbly affirmed this. Thereupon he said, "Now, I want you to kill a thousand people. If you do, you will definitely attain birth."
I responded, "Though you instruct me thus, I'm afraid it is not in my power to kill even one person."
"Then why did you say that you would follow whatever I told you?"
He continued, "By this you should realize that if we could always act as we wished, then when I told you to kill a thousand people in order to attain birth, you should have immediately done so. But since you lack the karmic cause inducing you to kill even a single person, you do not kill. It is not that you do not kill because your heart is good. In the same way, a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or a thousand people."
Thus he spoke of how we believe that if our hearts are good, then it is good for birth, and if our hearts are evil, it is bad for birth, failing to realize that it is by the inconceivable working of the Vow that we are saved.
There was, in those days, a person who had fallen into wrong views. He asserted that since the Vow was made to serve the person who had committed evil, one should purposely do evil as an act for attaining birth. As rumors of misdeeds gradually spread, Shinran wrote in a letter, "Do not take a liking to poison just because there is an antidote." This was in order to put an end to that wrong understanding. It by no means implies that evil can obstruct one's attainment of birth.
He also said, "If it were only by observing precepts and upholding rules that we should entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow, how could we ever gain freedom from birth-and-death?" Even such wretched beings as ourselves, on encountering the Primal Vow, come indeed to "presume" upon it. But even so, how could we commit evil acts without any karmic cause in ourselves?
The Master further stated:

For those who make their living drawing nets or fishing in the seas and rivers, and those who sustain their lives hunting beasts or taking fowl in the fields and mountains, and those who pass their lives conducting trade or cultivating fields and paddies, it is all the same. If the karmic cause so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.

These days, however, one finds people making a show of themselves as "seekers for the afterlife," posting notices at nembutsu practice halls saying that those who have committed such and such acts may not enter, as though only good persons should say the nembutsu. Are not people who do this indeed "outwardly expressing signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence, while inwardly embracing falsity"?
Even the evil we commit while "presuming" upon the Vow occurs through the prompting of past karma. Thus, Other Power lies in entrusting ourselves wholly to the Primal Vow while leaving both good and evil to karmic recompense. The Essentials of Faith Alone states:

Do you know the power Amida possesses, when you say that because you are a being of karmic evil you cannot be saved?

Since you have a heart that presumes upon the Primal Vow, the mind of entrusting yourself to Other Power becomes all the more firmly settled.
If you entrusted yourself to the Primal Vow only after completely ridding yourself of karmic evil and blind passions, then there would be no presuming upon the Vow. But to rid yourself of blind passions is to become a Buddha, and for one who is already a Buddha, the Vow that arose from the five kalpas of profound thought would be to no purpose.
People who admonish others against presuming upon the Primal Vow themselves appear to be possessed of blind passions and defilements. Does not this condition itself imply presuming upon the Vow? What kind of evil is meant by "presuming upon the Vow" and what kind is not? Rather, is not this entire line of argument the product of immature thinking?
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby steveb1 » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:55 am

Yeah, I imagine that Amida's perfect goodness suffices to make up for our bombu not-goodness, just as Amida's perfect Working ultimately saves all sentient beings without their/our self-power. Of course, Shin does not condemn self effort, i.e., if you want your college degree, you must work toward it yourself. Shin just says that we cannot rely on self power for spiritual fulfillment. So, like you say, realizing that we are grasped is the important thing.

Shinran, when questioned about the antinomian behavior of some who thought Amida's liberation equated to libertinism, said something like, "Just because you have an antidote, does not mean you drink poison", or as you cited it:

Shinran wrote in a letter, "Do not take a liking to poison just because there is an antidote."


I think it's important to keep that in mind.

So: avoid the bad, perform the good, knowing that Amida is all-sufficiently accomplishing "HIs Work".
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby cheondo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:06 pm

Hi Dan,

The Chinese strains of Pure Land Buddhism have a much stronger self-practice component. Ethics and practice are heartily encouraged. This is kind of where I am, too. If you're interested in this, you can google Amitbha Buddhist Society.. or masters like Yin Gwang, Chu-Hung, Tien-ju. I think some of us simply lack the faith and so need to rely on ourselves. I also come from a more practice-oriented Theravada and Zen background.

:namaste:





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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Shutoku » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:30 pm

I have heard that, knowing nothing of the scriptures or of the true foundation of the Pure Land teaching, you are telling people who are appallingly self-indulgent and lacking in shame that a person should do evil just as he or she desires. This is absolutely wrong. Were you not aware that I finally broke of relations with Zenjo-bo, who lived in the northern district?

If a person, justifying himself by saying he is a foolish being, can do anything he wants, then is he also to steal or to murder? Even that person who has been inclined to steal will naturally undergo a change of heart if he comes to say the nembutsu aspiring for the land of bliss. Yet people who show no such sign are being told that it is permissible to do wrong; this should never occur under any circumstances.

Maddened beyond control by blind passions, we do things we should not and say things we should not and think things we should not. But if a person is deceitful in his relations with others, doing what he should not and saying what he should not because he thinks it will not hinder his birth, then it is not an instance of being maddened by passion. Since he purposely does these things, they are simply misdeeds that should never have been done.

If you say something to stop the wrongdoing of the people of Kashima and Namekata and correct the distorted views of the people in that area, it will be the sign that you are representing me.

It is deplorable that you have told people to abandon themselves to their hearts' desires and to do anything they want. One must seek to cast off the evil of this world and to cease doing wretched deeds; this is what it means to reject the world and to live the nembutsu. When people who may have said the nembutsu for many years abuse others in word or deed, there is no indication of rejecting this world. Thus Shan-tao teaches in the passage on sincere mind that we should be careful to keep our distance from those people who are given to evil. When has it ever been said that one should act in accordance with one's mind and heart, which are evil? You, who are totally ignorant of the sutras and commentaries and ignorant of the Tathagata's words, must never instruct others in this way.

Respectfully.

Birth into the Pure Land has nothing at all to do with the calculation of foolish beings. Since it is completely entrusted to the Primal Vow of the Buddha, it is indeed Other Power. It is ridiculous to try to calculate it in various ways.

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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby new2dharma » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:00 pm

Shotuko,
Excellent post, it answered me in a way that has not happened yet. What book is that from?
On another point, I have been talking to people online and they say that all the modern books are crap because the authors don't see Amida as being a real buddha/real person..they say it is just a symbol or a metaphor. I personally see Amida as real. Are there any books I can buy besides Eiken Kobei (sp) that are not modernistic thinkers? Thanks and peace to you. Namaste, Dan :good:
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Shutoku » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:00 am

Really? "crap"?
So much for the idea of 10,000 dharma doors.

We know that the origins of the sutras are uncertain, and indeed some versions of the Larger sutra have variations including the number and content of some vows. In fact there is a pretty widely held belief that the Buddha never spoke the Mahayana sutras.
I think all of this make a rigid literalist fundamentalist approach a bit dicey.
I have in about 20 years of practicing Shin and attending services regularly and many retreats never once encountered even one Sensei who did not think Amida is real, but the majority do not neccesarily feel the descriptions in the Sutras are literal.
However I have also never seen even one so-called "modernist" minister suggest that a literal interpretation is "crap".

For myself the form Amida takes is unimportant. What is important is that Immeasurable Light and Boundless Life embraces me always despite my being filled with blind passions. I know for certain that I am utterly incapable of attaining enlightenment on my own, and I have a profound sense of gratitude that despite my deeply flawed character I am embraced by Amida and my birth is settled.
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Re: What is shin buddhism? IS it monotheistic?

Postby Kaji » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:30 am

new2dharma wrote:I guess the one thing that doesn't sit well with me as that in the information I have read; there is no encouragement to try and better ourselves and maintain some sense of ethics. Maybe I am wrong of which I hope I am, but I find it hard to swallow that all I have to do is have faith and I can still be a bad person and receive salvation. Thanks and look forward to hearing from you! :) Dan

Ethics is definitely part of Pure Land teachings. Please see this extract of the Amitayurdhyana Sutra (the Contemplation Sutra), one of the main sutra of the Pure Land traditions:

'I now proceed to fully expound them for you in many parables, and thereby afford all ordinary persons of the future who wish to cultivate these pure actions an opportunity of being born in the Land of Highest Happiness (Sukhavati) in the western quarter. Those who wish to be born in that country of Buddha have to cultivate a threefold goodness. First, they should act filially towards their parents and support them; serve and respect their teachers and elders; be of compassionate mind, abstain from doing any injury, and cultivate the ten virtuous actions". Second, they should take and observe the vow of seeking refuge with the Three jewels, fulfill all moral precepts, and not lower their dignity or neglect any ceremonial observance. Third, they should give their whole mind to the attainment of perfect wisdom, deeply believe in the principle of cause and effect, study and recite the Mahayana doctrine, and persuade and encourage others who pursue the same course as themselves.

'These three groups as enumerated are called the pure actions leading to the Buddha country.'

(Translation used: http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html )

However, having quoted the above, one must bear in the mind that good ethics itself is not sufficient for rebirth into the Western Pure Land. A quote from the Amitabha Sutra:
Beings are not born in that buddha country of the tathagata amitayus as a reward and result of good works performed in present life.
Namas triya-dhvikānāṃ sarva tathāgatānām!
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