Doubts about Pure land

Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby kirtu » Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:01 pm

Metta wrote:My question is how really likely is it for some ordinary human to be able to go through five aeons (that's five big bangs) of nothing but sheer practice without retrogressing on the path in order to become a Buddha and create this pure land?


It's really hard. You have to accumulate infinite merit and wisdom. That's why it took him five eons.

But think about this: contrary to Ben Franklin's story of his failure to reform himself to be completely virtuous for a day (a really unattainable feat except for a high bodhisattva BTW) one can change their mental and emotional reactions through meditation and mind training and gradually over their life or lifetimes transform themselves into a very loving and kind being. Along the way they may also increase their wisdom slightly. These good qualities and the tendency toward this mind training is not lost from lifetime to lifetime but is reawakened in each future life. In Dharmakara's case he did not retrogress (although maybe be got angry a few times until his full enlightenment but maybe not). The good qualities and the tendency toward meditation become ingrained habits that are carried over from lifetime to lifetime. In a fairly short succession of lives he would have appeared to be a full Buddha to ordinary people but he still had massive amounts of merit and wisdom to accumulate.

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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby RikudouSennin » Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:19 pm

I use to doubt Pure Land, but now i don't. :mrgreen: :P :heart:
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PorkChop » Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:26 pm

Metta wrote:Hi Padmavonsamba,
By reducing pure land practice to just another meditation technique, are we not missing the actual intent of PL buddhism which is to deliver sentient beings of all capacities to the promised land?

Isn't that the eventual goal of ALL meditation techniques in Buddhism?

Metta wrote:And if the pure land path is such an easy one there is still the question why Shakyamuni did not teach it. In studies I've read, it stated that people in deep meditation can have dmt naturally released in their brains causing them to experience hallucinations like hippies who take psychedelic drugs. Can it also be the case that the monks who wrote the pure land sutras experienced this in their meditation and had mistaken it for something actually real? Isn't that why zen monks are taught that if they see the Buddha in deep meditation they are told to "kill it" because it is just a hallucinatory experience? That's something to think about.

Careful now, you're on a Pure Land forum. :)
He did teach mindfulness of the Buddha in some of the earliest parts of the Pali Suttas, he also taught Pure Abodes (suddhavasa), so the mechanisms were already there.
It was always mainly a householder practice, so it can be understood why he didn't elaborate much on the techniques to the renunciates of his day.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PorkChop » Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:29 pm

Namgyal wrote:Pure Land is often mixed with other traditions (usually Ch'an) because of a lingering doubt about complete reliance on 'other power'. No doubt there have been exceptional individuals who were able to call out to the Buddhas to aid them, regardless of their circumstances, but ordinarily such an appeal would require at least some contributory 'self power' on the part of the appellant. The power of loving kindness would certainly be sufficient, perhaps resulting from contemplation of the Four Immeasurables, along with one-pointed concentration to stabilise the mind in the intermediate state, and Five Precepts for merit.
:namaste:


Buddhanusatti/Buddhanusmrti/mindfulness of the Buddha was around before any sort of distinct Pure Land school - found in the earliest part of the Sutta Nipata.
It is and always was a mindfulness meditation technique.
Why split it up into 2 techniques, when it's already 1 technique that is already more widely-encompassing & has been around from the beginning?
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby plwk » Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:53 pm

If any of these are of any use...
I've read the story about Dharmakara before he became Amitabha Buddha. My question is how really likely is it for some ordinary human to be able to go through five aeons (that's five big bangs) of nothing but sheer practice without retrogressing on the path in order to become a Buddha and create this pure land?

Firstly, unlike other systems of belief, one is not required or mandated to believe anything over here under the pain of hell or excommunication.

Secondly, on the issue of transhistorical past & future Buddhas mentioned throughout all of Buddhism of whatever stripe. Note the term 'transhistorical' and find out its meaning and you may get what idea I am hinting at. What is a Buddha? What is Amitabha? what do all these mean? The answers are in the scriptures and treatises.
Pls do check out the resources corner in this subforum for more info.

Thirdly, kalpa/aeon. There isn't really a standard definitive measure of what is a kalpa from various scriptural and commentarial sources other than various contexts of time periods: short, middling, long and extensive. And then, there's also talk about the formation and dissolution of world systems in four stages and so forth. By the way, the second of the Threefold Pure Land Sutras, the 'Infinite Life Sutra' mentions that it took Dharmakara 10 aeons. A standard Mahayana presentation in scriptures and commentarial works would posit the typical 3 Great Aeons for a Bodhisattva's journey towards Buddhahood. Indian texts have a reputation for inflating time periods.

Fourthly, reading of texts require more study and insight than just reading it off the cuff. There are many dimensions and contexts to understand other than a literalistic one which the latter would oft result in undesirable interpretations. Many people would have read scenes from the Sukhavati and its various adornments as no more an exercise of a vain mind. True. But that's expected from one who hasn't been trained to read various scriptural expositions and commentaries to understand a fuller and deeper context of both conventional and ultimate. The Sutras are not meant to give a detailed account of Dharmakara's journey per se but to illustrate how a Bodhisattva should be indefatiguable and non-retrogressive in taking on the resolve and career of a Fully Enlightened One. So, what appears to be a glorified biography is just an expedient way of showing the indomitable spirit of a precious human opportunity. Just like how traditional biographies on King Asoka would concentrate on his valor and great deeds instead of showing his more human side but the point is, it caters for a segment who perhaps need that kind of impetus to be as courageous and magnanimous as he is whilst others who read more realistic bios of him would be able to see the balance and a more wholistic panorama.
I really don't mean to be offensive in any way, but how can anyone with a sane mind believe in something that sounds so irrational and fairy tale like?

Well, many people have also wondered where do we get those ancient wonders of the world back then when much is lacking and yet great feats were made possible? Aliens? Won't it be a fairy tale back then in the medieval days for instance, to even think of abolishing slavery, giving equal rights to women, empowering the physically and mentally challenged, that humans can travel in the air and space or for that matter internet as we have it today?
Another instance, when the Buddha back then experienced the threefold knowledges unfolding before Him? A normal 'sane' mind wouldn't have that experience now would it? But given the same kind of training and time, one would eventually experience it. So, we're not saying that one CANNOT experience and know the same but a matter of training and time as gradual factors VS other systems who posit stuff that is exclusive to the 'big boys' only and everyone else must become subservient.
A challenge with today's McReligion mentality is that one demands for total unrestricted, unobstructed and instant access to understanding, awakening and enlightenment but forgetting totally that the restrictions and obstructions lies from our own side.
Not to mention the anti woman sentiments in one of the vows? Is a perfectly enlightened Buddha really supposed to have a discriminatory mind like that? Just doesn't make sense. I do not wish to offend anyone, if I did then I apologize.
Read this and this.....
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf05.htm
Honen Shonin (1133-1212), the Patriarch of the Jodo (Pure Land) school in Japan, expressed the very essence of Pure Land teaching when he wrote:
There shall be no distinction, no regard to male or female, good or bad, exalted or lowly; none shall fail to be in his Land of Purity after having called, with complete faith, on Amida. (Quoted by Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis in Joji Okazaki, Pure Land Buddhist Painting, p. 14.)

And if the pure land path is such an easy one there is still the question why Shakyamuni did not teach it.

Easy in difficult, difficult in easy. Who teaches it, matters not as much as who practices it.
Have you read on kammaṭṭhāna/karmasthana? Buddhanusmrti or buddhanusati is the first on the totem pole, which Pure Land has its basis upon.
Secondly, being a pathway within Mahayana, it has its roots in the Bodhisattva Path leading to Buddhahood.
In this instance, like how Sakyamuni Buddha saw that our existing Saha World system could use His help and mission, hence, it was chosen to manifest his last birth and Buddha mission. So, our Saha World is none other than His own 'Pure Land'. That's why in the Amitabha Sutra, the various Buddhas of the different quarters praised Him that despite the Five Turbidities in our Saha World, he could still manifest the career and reward of Buddhahood, inconceivable. From a Lotus Sutra POV, He's actually been around for ages and the last manifestation nearly 2.6k years ago was just another one of his many expedients when you read the 'Lifespan of the Tathagata Chapter'. So, in Amitabha's case, Sukhavati, the great training ground for Buddhahood was made manifest through His accomplished vows and extends to all and sundry who are willing to be trained there. Later development one says? Look into the Agamas and Nikayas, when the aspirants of the Four Stages of Arhatship undergo their training, those above the Stream Entry level would normally choose either a human or divine birth, in the latter, preferring the highest pure abode known as Akanistha in the realm of form in our Saha World to continue their training uninterrupted. Buddha kshetras? Buddha fields? These ideas were already present in early texts...
And there are some who would vow to make connections with the future Maitreya who is in Tusita, located within the realm of desire to be in his teaching assembly in the future when he is the Fifth Buddha of our Fortunate Aeon.
Thirdly, 'Pure Land' is a later term used by the East Asian Tradition that caught on to reflect the above practice of buddha mindfulness/contemplation along with its Bodhisattva ideal for Buddhahood. It's not necessarily with reference to Amitabha and Sukhavati. It can be any other Buddha/Bodhisattva along the same lines of teaching and practice.
Fourthly...
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf32.htm#ordinary
Hearing that the Pure Land method is easy to practice but the results are speedy and lofty, some people develop this doubt: How can there be such an easy method leading to Buddhahood? The usual way of Buddhist cultivation centers around concentration and contemplation. When we start cultivating, we practice first concentration (samatha) then contemplation (vipasyana), or we can begin first with contemplation and follow up with concentration. We then progress to the stage where "in contemplation there is concentration, in concentration there is contemplation." Upon reaching the level of "non-dual concentration and contemplation, still-but-illuminating samadhi and wisdom," we have stepped into the realm of the Self-Nature. From then on, if we vigorously keep up with our cultivation life after life, it will take ten thousand eons before we reach the level of non-retrogression, according to the sutras and commentaries. How is it that after only a few singleminded utterances of the Buddha's name, we can be reborn in the Pure Land in this very lifetime, at the stage of non-retrogression? Is it not really too easy?

When responding to this doubt, we should realize that most other methods involve complete reliance on "self-power," and are therefore bound to be difficult. The Pure Land method characteristically involves two factors, the power of one's own mind and Amitabha Buddha's power of "welcoming and escorting." Therefore, obtaining results is extremely easy. For example, if someone with weak, hobbled feet wanted to climb a mountain unaided, it would be difficult indeed! However, if he were assisted by a great athlete who took him by the arm and climbed the mountain along with him, head held high, the result would not be that difficult to achieve.

The same is true of Pure Land. 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. Once reborn, our lifespan extends over innumerable eons. Non-retrogression until complete Enlightenment and Buddhahood are attained is therefore an easily understandable occurrence.

In studies I've read, it stated that people in deep meditation can have dmt naturally released in their brains causing them to experience hallucinations like hippies who take psychedelic drugs. Can it also be the case that the monks who wrote the pure land sutras experienced this in their meditation and had mistaken it for something actually real?
Let me try to look it at this angle.
Firstly, within the Noble Eightfold Path, Right View stands on top of its totem pole. Within Right View is a two pronged apparoach: conventional/mundane right view and ultimate/supramundane Right View. Any intoxicated hippy would not have met the standards of the mundane right view much less reconcile it with the supramundane. But those serious practitioners would have via the three higher trainings for instance. When the latter has established a pure mind via Right View in its two aspects, can one even begin to move on to its other limbs of Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Secondly, if one wants to talk about dream thinking states or hallucination, would not a Buddha be the only one to have stood out from those?
So, if He taught on methods like buddhanusmrti and the Bodhisattva Path which are linked to liberation, would not the results show one out of delusion rather than sinking further into it? Is it not fair to say that cause resembles results in this case? Unless, I have not been paying attention like a hippy...
Isn't that why zen monks are taught that if they see the Buddha in deep meditation they are told to "kill it" because it is just a hallucinatory experience? That's something to think about.

Firstly....
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf52.htm#realmark
Real Mark [Self-Nature] Buddha Recitation
This entails penetrating the Mind's foremost meaning -- reciting our own original Buddha Nature. It is to contemplate the Real Mark Dharma Body of the Buddhas, resulting in attainment of True Thusness Samadhi.

This method is really a Zen practice; however, since the realm revealed by the meditational mind is the Pure Land, it also qualifies as a Pure Land practice. This method is not for those of limited or moderate capacities -- if the practitioner is not of the highest capacity, he cannot "become enlightened and enter" into it. For this reason, few Pure Land teachers promote it and the proponents of the method are found chiefly within the Zen tradition.

Incidentally, I would venture to say here that while we are still treading the path of Practice, not having reached the stage of Perfect Enlightenment, all Dharma methods are expedients; Buddha Recitation is an expedient and so is Zen. According to the Three Pure Land sutras, Buddha Sakyamuni provided the expedient teaching of the Western Pure Land, and urged sentient beings to recite Amitabha Buddha's name seeking rebirth there. With this method, they can escape Birth and Death, avail themselves of that wonderful, lofty realm to pursue cultivation, and swiftly attain Buddhahood. Diligent Buddha Recitation also leads to Awakening, as in Zen; however, the principal goal of the Pure Land School is rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, while the degree of Awakening achieved is a secondary consideration.

Thus, the goal of Real Mark Buddha Recitation falls within Pure Land teachings. However, from the standpoint of an expedient leading to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it does not truly qualify as a Pure Land method within the meaning of the Three Pure Land sutras taught by Buddha Sakyamuni. This is, perhaps, the reason why Pure Land Patriarchs merely referred to it to broaden the meaning of Buddha Recitation, but did not expound it widely.

Secondly...
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf73.htm#realms
Some might ask, "To see Buddhas and lotus blossoms -- is it not to see demonic apparitions?"
Answer: If cause and effect coincide, these are not "demonic realms." This is because the Pure Land method belongs to the Dharma Door of Existence; when Pure Land practitioners first set out to cultivate, they enter the Way through forms and marks and seek to view the celestial scenes of the Western Pure Land. When they actually witness these auspicious scenes, it is only a matter of effects corresponding to causes. If cause and effect are in accord, how can these be "demonic realms"?

In the Zen School, on the other hand, the practitioner enters the Way through the Dharma Door of Emptiness. Right from the beginning of his cultivation he wipes out all marks -- even the marks of the Buddhas or the Dharma are destroyed. The Zen practitioner does not seek to view the Buddhas or the lotus blossoms, yet the marks of the Buddhas or the lotus blossoms appear to him. Therefore, cause and effect do not correspond. For something to appear without a corresponding cause is indeed the realm of the demons. Thus, the Zen practitioner always holds the sword of wisdom aloft. If the demons come, he kills the demons, if the Buddha comes, he kills the Buddha -- to enter the realm of True Emptiness is not to tolerate a single mark.

A caveat: we are only talking here about novice cultivators. High-level Zen practitioners do sometimes see various marks which are not demonic realms. When their minds become enlightened, Zen Masters who have practiced meditation for many eons can see evil as well as transcendental realms, including the pure and defiled lands of the ten directions. This is because all worlds are within the light of the True Mind. On the other hand, despite what we have said earlier, Buddha Recitation practitioners sometimes see various marks which are "demonic realms," as will be explained later.

In short, when we refer to "internal" and "external" realms, we are speaking at the level of beginning cultivators. For those who have attained the Way, Mind is realm, realm is Mind, the ten thousand dharmas and ourselves have but one common Nature. There is no inside or outside at all.

Pure Land is often mixed with other traditions (usually Ch'an) because of a lingering doubt about complete reliance on 'other power'.

On the contrary, it's the opposite, in East Asian Trads of Pure Land, except Japan. Why?
Firstly...
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf32.htm#doctrinal
As far as the question of "self-power" vs. "other power" is concerned, it is wrong to understand the Pure Land method as exclusive reliance on Buddha Amitabha's power. The Pure Land practitioner should use all his own power to rid himself of afflictions, while reciting to the point where his mind and the Mind of Amitabha Buddha are in unison. At that moment, in this very life, the Buddha will emit rays to silently gather him in and at his death, he will be welcomed and guided back to the Pure Land. The "welcoming and escorting" feature is really the principal manifestation of the "other-power."
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.

Adding other-power to self-power is similar. Therefore, how can it be considered weak or mistaken to exert all of our own efforts to cultivate and then seek additional help to achieve rapid success?

The great and lofty Pure Land method is lauded by such great Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs as Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna as well as eminent Masters of various schools and traditions. To belittle Buddha Recitation is to belittle these very Bodhisattvas, Patriarchs and high-ranking Masters. To claim that Buddha Recitation is low-level, relying only on other-power, is to lack a real understanding of the Pure Land method.

Secondly...
In places like China, one have to look back into how religious factors, politics and social conditions paved way for development of exclusive and dual practice, hence today, we have the legacy of the exclusive practice according to Master Shan Dao's Tradition during the Tang and the dual practice by names like Master Cimin Huiri from the Tang and consolidated by Master Yongming Yanshou during the Song. Korea and Vietnam followed suit. Japan however managed to maintain the clear separation between Zen and Jodo. So, it's not just a pure doctrinal issue.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby Namgyal » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:36 pm

plwk wrote: In places like China, one have to look back into how religious factors, politics and social conditions paved way for development of exclusive and dual practice, hence today, we have the legacy of the exclusive practice according to Master Shan Dao's Tradition during the Tang and the dual practice by names like Master Cimin Huiri from the Tang and consolidated by Master Yongming Yanshou during the Song. Korea and Vietnam followed suit. Japan however managed to maintain the clear separation between Zen and Jodo. So, it's not just a pure doctrinal issue.

Thanks plwk, I assumed incorrectly that it was just a doctrinal issue, probably because my own school is mostly dual Ch'an/Pure Land.
plwk wrote:exert all of our own efforts to cultivate and then seek additional help to achieve rapid success
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PorkChop » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:46 pm

plwk wrote:What is a Buddha? What is Amitabha? what do all these mean? The answers are in the scriptures and treatises.

Who's the one being mindful of the Buddha? :)

Awesome posting!!!
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby Metta » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:10 am

Thank you to all those who took the time to reply. Some great posts have been made and I need to take time to read and think it over. I will follow up with further questions if needed. Thanks again.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby RikudouSennin » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:12 am

PorkChop wrote:
plwk wrote:What is a Buddha? What is Amitabha? what do all these mean? The answers are in the scriptures and treatises.

Who's the one being mindful of the Buddha? :)

Awesome posting!!!
.

Tell us who?

Jk, i find your post very clarifying PorkChop.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:09 am

"PorkChop"

Mantra recitation/Buddha name recitation isn't a form of meditation? :?
You do realize that the goal is explicitly called "Buddha Remembrance/Recitation Samadhi" (Buddhanusmrti Samadhi)...
As far as whether or not there's a guaranteed rebirth, the sutras are pretty specific... even in the Pali Suttas, there's the example of Sarakaani who achieved Suddhavasa (Pure Abode) rebirth after dying of alcoholism


Buddha recitation does wonders against monkey mind.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby cataractmoon » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:35 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Doesn't address Pure Land specifically, but if you undress all the various mythologies and just look at some basic questions it will clarify what you do and don't believe:

1) Do you believe your mindstream continues in some form

2) Do you believe your mindstream is what it is due to causes and conditions

3) Do you believe that your mindstream can experience a continuum of either extremely positive (i.e. a pure land) or extremely negative states (i.e. Naraka, Preta etc.) that go beyond the small bandwidth of what you've experienced consciously right now

The specifics of what does and doesn't exist, how it does or doesn't exist don't matter so much, if you answer affirmatively that you believe the answer to the above questions is yes by inference, then you can see that the mythologies work in a similar way to Padma's Big Bang analogy.


I very much agree with the above statements. My mindstream existed before I was born, while I exist in this human corpse, and when I die.

I have the opportunity to perfect my nature in this attached, samsaric universe to the best of my ability. And, I have an opportunity to understand the emptiness of form to such a degree that I can taste the pure land qualities of Amitabha. I am Tibetan Buddhist but believe in the Pure Land. However, I don't think it is a free ride there. I must continually develop myself here and aspire for the best possibility.

Nevertheless, Amitabha's Pure Land or Bust (back to a samsaric realm). My goal is the pure land. My path is the pure land!
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby Nosta » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:36 pm

cataractmoon wrote: I am Tibetan Buddhist but believe in the Pure Land.


I tought that altought Tibetan Buddhism is not centered on Amitabha & Pure Land, they still believe on that teachings. Am I wrong?
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:44 pm

Nosta wrote:
cataractmoon wrote: I am Tibetan Buddhist but believe in the Pure Land.


I tought that altought Tibetan Buddhism is not centered on Amitabha & Pure Land, they still believe on that teachings. Am I wrong?


The practice of Amitabha (visualization, recitation of name in the form of mantra) is very much a part of Tibetan Buddhism. HH Dalai Lama is regarded as a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara (Kwan Yin), considered to be an emanation of Amitabha.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby RikudouSennin » Mon Mar 25, 2013 4:44 pm

It's not a free ride.
I very much think the PL teachings is the essence of the teachings of Bhagavan Shakyamuni
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby steveb1 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:39 pm

Coming in rather late to this thread, but just a brief personal note, returning to the OP's perceived doubts about Pureland.

I can't speak for other PL schools, but Shin/Jodo Shinshu teaches that once we are grasped by Amida, that embrace is eternal. When I have doubts - mostly about definitions, intellectual problems, the sharp gap 'twixt "liberal/progressive" and "fundamentalist/literalist" forms of Jodo Shinshu - I keep going back to the peace and assurance of the Nembutsu, which reminds me that Amida accepts me just as I am, with all my bombu traits, including occasional doubt, questioning, as well as all my blind passions and deluded ideas. I realize what I'm saying may perhaps be tangential to the type of "doubt" the OP was expressing, but Amida forgives a multitude of standard human errors in this mappo age of occluded Dharma. So, when I find myself doubting, I relax into the Nembutsu, and I find that "what they say" about the Nembutsu is true for me: it issues from Amida, is merely echoed by me, and most importantly and mysteriously, it fully embodies and conveys the Buddha Himself for all who invoke his Name and take refuge in it.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby dude » Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:49 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Metta wrote:Hello, I've joined this forum in order to express some doubts that I have. I've read the story about Dharmakara before he became Amitabha Buddha. My question is how really likely is it for some ordinary human to be able to go through five aeons (that's five big bangs) of nothing but sheer practice without retrogressing on the path in order to become a Buddha and create this pure land? I really don't mean to be offensive in any way, but how can anyone with a sane mind believe in something that sounds so irrational and fairy tale like? Not to mention the anti woman sentiments in one of the vows? Is a perfectly enlightened Buddha really supposed to have a discriminatory mind like that? Just doesn't make sense. I do not wish to offend anyone, if I did then I apologize.


Nah, you're more respectful than most western Buddhists that come across Pure Land and don't know how to grok it.

I think it's helpful to point out to fellow westerners that the mechanism of Pure Land practice can be understood & accepted without any reading into the phenomenology of Pure Land. At it's very root, the mindfulness of an enlightened being helps one to purify their mind, to navigate it on the right course. It shouldn't be hard to accept that actions of body, speech, and mind can greatly affect how we interact with the world. Furthermore, one's mental state/mental purity, greatly affect how we perceive the world. A pure mind is a pure land.

Somewhat reluctant to do this, because I think the view point disregards the 3rd & 4th noble truths and is thus not Buddhism, but my normal justification to my physicalist/annihilationist friends (who think that death is the end) is that if death really is the end of everything, I would rather go out peacefully. Focusing on enlightened being for at least 10 repetitions of the buddha name at the time of death would help bring peace of mind in an obviously stressful situation.

So regardless of your opinions of the phenomenology, the mechanism can have a great affect on your mind. That's enough justification for me to do it. I feel better when I do the practice. Whereas zazen or anapanasati can make me hypersensitive & grumpy, nianfo/nembutsu/Buddha name recitation gives me a warm, refreshed feeling. I still do both to keep the practice balanced, but I get a little more out of nianfo/nembutsu/Buddha name recitation as far as my day-to-day.

When it comes to the phenomenology of the Pure Land teachings, I tend to think of it as metaphor that describes a fundamental truth. As member Queequeg likes to describe the Lotus Sutra, I think most Mahayana sutras are kinda like how sci fi (like Star Wars) uses outrageous stories to communicate fundamental truths about the human condition. Like Joseph Campbell says, "if you read this stuff like a newspaper you're completely missing the point." So whether the phenomenology is exactly how the sutra describes, if it just works because of emptiness/not-self, if it's a metaphor for one's own purified luminous mind, if it's a skillful means to represent the unborn/unmanifested/thusness/nibanna/dharmakaya or whatever, I'm not so worried about it. I'm pretty agnostic about the phenomenology, I just know it works on multiple levels. If I achieve Enlightenment in my life, then I'll see a Buddha. If I die before I'm enlightened, then at least the mechanism has helped me in life and I'll realize the truth of the story then. I have faith that the technique works and trust that the rest will prove true in some sense or another when the time comes.

The mechanism dates back to the earliest forms of Buddhism. The Pure Land practice itself is recommended in almost all forms of Northern & Eastern Buddhism. Even iconoclastic Chinese Chan Buddhism came to an agreement with Pure Land a long time ago. There's a koan/kung'an of Chan/Zen that asks "who is the one reciting the Buddha's name?". In other words, if some of the most advanced meditators of the Northern & Eastern forms of Buddhism have come to recommend the practice, that eases my mind quite a bit.

As far as the part about the women - you gotta remember that rebirth can also correspond to moment-to-moment rebirth of a mind-stream and that one can be reborn in the Pure Land in this lifetime. That means that the vow is not so much as referring to a female body, as much as a female identity. If one's hung up on the idea that their identity as a female is somehow inferior to that of a man, the vow refers to helping those people have a mental rebirth into an identity equal to that of a man (being) who doesn't have such doubts. You gotta remember it's not just chauvinists that have these misconceptions, but women raised in such chauvinistic societies who are filled with insecurities.



"Somewhat reluctant to do this, because I think the view point disregards the 3rd & 4th noble truths and is thus not Buddhism, but my normal justification to my physicalist/annihilationist friends (who think that death is the end) is that if death really is the end of everything, I would rather go out peacefully. "

On the contrary, the Buddha said exactly that. Or, to be specific, he said that practicing Right Conduct and quieting the mind are beneficial in the here and now even if there is no life after death.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PorkChop » Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:21 pm

dude wrote:"Somewhat reluctant to do this, because I think the view point disregards the 3rd & 4th noble truths and is thus not Buddhism, but my normal justification to my physicalist/annihilationist friends (who think that death is the end) is that if death really is the end of everything, I would rather go out peacefully. "

On the contrary, the Buddha said exactly that. Or, to be specific, he said that practicing Right Conduct and quieting the mind are beneficial in the here and now even if there is no life after death.


Yeah but he also also said that denying a next world (after death) was Wrong View and that if the annihilation-ists were correct, then there was no point to a spiritual (renunciate) life.
So even though I have enjoyed some minor immediate benefits from practice; in accordance with the 8 Fold Path, I try not to encourage such views.
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the modern annihilation-ist re-writing of Buddhadharma and I really don't think this thread is the right place to discuss it.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby black_tea » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:31 pm

I believe that Amida and his pureland exists. However, that does not mean that I take all the language in the sutras as being 100% true in the literal sense. Sometimes poetic language and fantastic descriptions are used to try and get across concepts that might be difficult to put into words. When it comes to religious works (and not just Buddhist ones) there is often a false dichotemy that is set up where the piece of writing in question must be taken as either complete literal truth or must be considered completely false. Unfortunately, that leaves little to no room for interpretation or poetic imagery. The important part for me, is that I believe there is an Amida, there is a pure land, and I know that there is benefit from reciting nembutsu. Whether or not the pure land is filled with jewel trees and lotus blossoms the size of cart wheels isn't really the point. Also, knowing the exact length of time it took for Dharmakara took to fullfill his vows also is less important than realizing that it took a long time and a lot of effort, which is most likely the point the sutra was trying to make.

As for women in the pure land. You have to remember that the sutras were written down and passed on by human beings who are certainly fallible, so yes, you can occasionally see some problematic word choices (and not just in the pureland sutras). What is definite is that women can successfully engage in pure land practice, and that in the pure land there is no discrimination. Since Amida is an enlightened being, I'm sure someone being female isn't an issue to him.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby dude » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:20 am

PorkChop wrote:
dude wrote:"Somewhat reluctant to do this, because I think the view point disregards the 3rd & 4th noble truths and is thus not Buddhism, but my normal justification to my physicalist/annihilationist friends (who think that death is the end) is that if death really is the end of everything, I would rather go out peacefully. "

On the contrary, the Buddha said exactly that. Or, to be specific, he said that practicing Right Conduct and quieting the mind are beneficial in the here and now even if there is no life after death.


Yeah but he also also said that denying a next world (after death) was Wrong View and that if the annihilation-ists were correct, then there was no point to a spiritual (renunciate) life.
So even though I have enjoyed some minor immediate benefits from practice; in accordance with the 8 Fold Path, I try not to encourage such views.
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the modern annihilation-ist re-writing of Buddhadharma and I really don't think this thread is the right place to discuss it.



To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the modern annihilation-ist re-writing of Buddhadharma and I really don't think this thread is the right place to discuss it

Don't get me started about the revisionist annihilationists; you're right it isn't. I just meant to point out that while it's not how the Buddha said things really are, he did make the point as a provisional means of encouraging those who didn't have faith to practice anyway.
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Re: Doubts about Pure land

Postby PorkChop » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:00 am

dude wrote:... I just meant to point out that while it's not how the Buddha said things really are, he did make the point as a provisional means of encouraging those who didn't have faith to practice anyway.


Reminds me I gotta practice more. :)
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