Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:07 pm

No contradiction, true. Neither do I think a teaching being metaphorical is such a problem. Lot of sutras are like that, either completely or partially, including the Lotus and Avatamsaka sutras.

Regarding the use of such tools they sound great to me. Nice explanation, really.

I understand the general problem of Western perspective influenced by our idea of history (which is not every cultures' view). This creates a new way of looking at tradition and defines how we can absorb other views. About this I refer to Huseng's topic on buddhavacana.

I don't think it'd be impossible for European men to have a deeply religious view of life. Even as a Buddhist. But maybe this is easy for me to say because I've been attracted to religions since my childhood. Even after turning to Buddhism it took me a couple of years before I could get over the faith in God - not just on a mental but also on an emotional level. Materialism has never been my cup of tea. So the many worlds and beings throughout the multiverses is now OK with me. And one can even go to those places in Buddhism (also one of the functions of buddha-remembrance). :meditate:

The crucial shift I think is from "matter only" to "consciousness only" (cittamatra - in its Buddhist sense, not Western misinterpretations). This realm of ours is made of concepts and feelings. Other realms are also like that. This is "thinking of buddha is seeing the buddha" - an idea applied in Vajrayana too, same as in the Pratyutpannasamadhi Sutra used by early Amita buddha-remembrance practitioners in China.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby shinchan » Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:04 pm

I'm not a Buddhist scholar or even an expert on Shinran (can't even read Japanese) so I can't pretend to give an authoritative answer. But I have thought a lot about this debate.

Firstly, I don't think there is any contradiction between Amida as dharmakaya versus a Amida as an actual Buddha. Every Buddha has this dharmakaya aspect, in addition to the 'personhood' (for lack of a better English term) which characterizes their sambhogakaya aspect. So all Buddhas are a part of 'ultimate reality' including Amida.

As for the Pure Land, I personally find it impossible to take the sutra's description literally. This is not because I find it hard to believe that there actually could be a such a utopia light years away from our own world, ruled over by a benevolent Buddha. What troubles me is that, living in such a utopia, what motive would anyone have for attaining enlightenment? If the Pure Land Sutras are to be taken literally, Amida's land is a feast for all five senses: palaces of gold and precious stones, heavenly music, perfumed gardens, delicious food, and hot water jacuzzis! Great place to spend the afterlife in, but hardly conductive towards attaining nirvana!

Another thing that just doesn't tally is the claim that life in Amida's Pure Land is eternal. This flatly contradicts what all Buddhists assert to be true about the phenomenal world: it is impermanent. The only thing that is 'eternal', in Buddhism, is Nirvana. Hence, I think that equating the Pure Land with Nirvana is an accurate deduction.

Deductions aside, my personal take on Shin is this: Yes, Amida Buddha is real; not just a metaphor for ultimate reality. Like all Buddhas he is omnipresent, interpenetrates every nook and cranny of what we think of as reality, and thus he's available to all of us. Whether anyone attains Osho in this life or after death is a matter of the individual in question. Most Shin Buddhists don't claim to have attained anything special beyond Shinjin. But Honen experienced samadhi shortly before his death; so it's certainly possible. I don't think I've come close to Nirvana, but I have had some pretty powerful experiences while practicing 'deep listening'.

The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever you experience during nembutsu recitation or deep listening is not the fruit of your own effort, but due to the influence of Amida Buddha. As far as I'm concerned, THAT is what distinguishes the other power path from the self power one; not enlightenment in this life versus enlightenment in the next life. In self power paths such as Zen you aim to attain samadhi or even Nirvana through strenuous, infatiguable effort on your own part. In Jodo, you might (emphasis might) experience samadhi or even (gasp) total enlightenment in this life -- but if you do, it's not something you earn through striving; instead, you receive it through the grace of Amida.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Jikan » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:41 pm

What's the difference between Amida's enlightened nature and the practitioner's enlightened nature?

Reflecting on this question is a useful way to work out different approaches to Pure Land practice, IMO.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Astus » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:02 pm

"What troubles me is that, living in such a utopia, what motive would anyone have for attaining enlightenment?"

You find it in the sutras, the Pure Land is all about the Dharma, teaching is happening all the time everywhere. Even the wind, blowing through the leaves of the Bodhi-tree, when heard by beings everywhere, gives them insight into the dharmas and they attain the stage of non-regression. Also, even before being born there, the initial motive, shinjin, is for the attainment of buddhahood and not about being born into a heavenly realm.

"Another thing that just doesn't tally is the claim that life in Amida's Pure Land is eternal."

You agree that nirvana is eternal. Buddhas are always "in nirvana" and there's no time limit in buddhahood. A buddha-land is a creation, an extension of a buddha. How couldn't it be eternal? Still, it is not eternal in the sense of constant but that its continuity has no end.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby plwk » Sat Oct 30, 2010 5:17 pm

What's the difference between Amida's enlightened nature and the practitioner's enlightened nature?

Perhaps none on the fruition ground but on the causal... :sage:
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby shinchan » Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:47 am

Jikan:
What's the difference between Amida's enlightened nature and the practitioner's enlightened nature?


I don't believe there is a difference; that is why Tariki works.

You find it in the sutras, the Pure Land is all about the Dharma, teaching is happening all the time everywhere. Even the wind, blowing through the leaves of the Bodhi-tree, when heard by beings everywhere, gives them insight into the dharmas and they attain the stage of non-regression. Also, even before being born there, the initial motive, shinjin, is for the attainment of buddhahood and not about being born into a heavenly realm.


You might be right. Maybe it's just a pet-peeve of mine. The literal description of the Pure Land just seems too gaudy for my taste (maybe I should try for rebirth in a different Pure Land :P ) I have very epicurean sensibilities --as in the actual philosophy of Epicurus, not the popular definition of the word. I appreciate wholesome food and simple, unadorned beauty, but hedonism and luxury repel me. If I were going to strive for nirvana, I would choose to do it in an environment that resembled a monastery, not a vacation resort. But perhaps those descriptions that put me off were intended to lure individuals with more luxurious tastes into seeking rebirth in the Pure Land.

You agree that nirvana is eternal. Buddhas are always "in nirvana" and there's no time limit in buddhahood. A buddha-land is a creation, an extension of a buddha. How couldn't it be eternal? Still, it is not eternal in the sense of constant but that its continuity has no end.


Since I don't know how a buddha-land could be created, it's a hard question to answer. Nirvana, as I understand it, is achieved by extinguishing evil passion, seeing through delusions, and severering the bonds of karma once and for all. It's a changeless state of existence. Buddhas themselves may exist in bodies, which aren't eternal, or as a state of pure, diembodied consciousness; but the achievement of buddhahood is, in any case, eternal.

But a buddha-land, I presume, must be a world (a planet, in modern language) ruled over by a Buddha. Planets that support life need to orbit a star, and all stars eventually burn out or go nova, which would kill every living thing living on the planet. Therefore, no buddha-land could be eternal. I'm a pretty open minded person, but I just can't accept something that seems to contradict well verified facts concerning cosmology. I'm not a strict materialist (I believe in spirits, the soul, and I have experienced psychic phenomena first hand), but I do believe that physical things exist and that they are ruled by physical laws which can't be violated.

However, if the Pure Land is a non-physical realm where departed souls exist in some sort of relationship with Amida Buddha, then I see no reason why it should not be eternal. Perhaps the Pure Land exists in what is known as Arupaloka (formless realm). This way, it would be ontologically distinct from nirvana, though it would still not resemble the literal description in the sutras. Another possibility that occurs to me is that it could be something like a dream realm, resembling a physical realm, but actually a creation of the mind.

I guess it's worthless to speculate on something we just have no chance whatsoever of examining, but it is nevertheless interesting to think about. If there is a Pure Land, we will just have to wait until we get there before we understand what it is.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Nosta » Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:01 pm

On that aspect i dont see a Pure Land as a planet but rather as a dimension.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Indrajala » Mon Nov 01, 2010 11:15 pm

shinchan wrote:But perhaps those descriptions that put me off were intended to lure individuals with more luxurious tastes into seeking rebirth in the Pure Land.


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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Dodatsu » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:46 pm

In Shinshu the Pure Land is described as "Limitless Light", Light being a major form of Amida who is "Limitless Life and Light". Pure Land Masters before Shinran used "life" more (probably had a cultural thing to do with us Chinese, especially) whereas Shinran emphasized more on the "light" aspect. The descriptions of the Pure Land can be said to be metaphorical more than "physical". In Shin the Pure Land is synonymous with Enlightenment itself.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Mr. G » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:19 am

Sorry to resurrect this thread, but can someone provide quotes from Shinran's Kyōgyōshinshō that state Amida is a symbol or metaphor?

Here's an interesting video with Eiken Kobai speaking:



Eiken Kobai's bio:

Eiken Kobai was born in 1941, the first son of Seiyo Kobai, the 16th-generation resident minister of Unsai Temple in the city of Ochiai, Oita Prefecture, Japan.

He graduated from Ryukoku University’s Doctoral Program in Shinshu Studies in 1969 and from the Shugaku Institute, a postgraduate school maintained by the Hompa Hongwanji, in 1972.

He received a grant to study at Kyoto University from 1971 to 1973.

After a period as research associate at the Dendo Institute (now Jodo Shinshu Studies and Research Center), he is presently Professor of Shinshu Studies at Soai University in the city of Osaka.

Professor Kobai is an ordained minister in the Hompa Hongwanji and a shikyo within that organization’s scholarly ranking system, the highest rank that can be earned.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:48 pm

You won't find the sentence 'Amida Buddha is a metaphor and the story of the Pure Land is a myth' in any of Shinrans writings. It wasn't part of Shinrans 'language' so to say. You won't find the sentence 'Valhalla is a myth' in the Edda either. It wasn't part of that time's ways to talk about things (or to be more precise, it wasn't in the times when these tales were actually forming the religious background and interpretation of the world, the times when they were written down might have been already different on that point). Shinran used his language and we use our own. If you read Shinrans writings though you should be able to see what he thought and how he went beyond words and literal understandings and traditional images. Going beyond the literal word is what we know as a mythical or metaphorical understanding.

That video where Adrian clearly asks what he already knew would be the answer (because this teacher is the main source of his and his friends (Paul Roberts) so called 'True Shin Buddhism' mini-group is really not worth a longer comment. I have watched it before and someone who thinks he's able to judge other peoples shinjin and who seems to think he is in a position to say this shinjin is true, that one not, is violating Shinrans teachings - he never did that and he always made it clear that it's a personal matter. To do what Kobai does here is the worst manifestaion of hakarai possible, it's a calculation of a foolish being that others might be wrong...and therefore inferior to oneself. It's neither the power of the Vow nor the reflection of Shinrans teachings, it's simply a big EGO in action here :sage:


Gassho

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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Mr. G » Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:19 pm

Andreas Ludwig wrote:If you read Shinrans writings though you should be able to see what he thought and how he went beyond words and literal understandings and traditional images. Going beyond the literal word is what we know as a mythical or metaphorical understanding.


Hi Andreas,

Can you give examples from Shinran where he infers that Amida is symbolic?

To do what Kobai does here is the worst manifestaion of hakarai possible, it's a calculation of a foolish being that others might be wrong...and therefore inferior to oneself. It's neither the power of the Vow nor the reflection of Shinrans teachings, it's simply a big EGO in action here :sage:


Perhaps is no more foolish than the people who judge him as wrong. However in the video he does say "I think", as opposed to a decisive proclamation that one can't have shinjin without a literal belief in Amida. Unfortunately, this was poorly subtitled, and is indicative of an agenda unforutunately.

It's neither the power of the Vow nor the reflection of Shinrans teachings


This is something I am curious about. How does the power of the Vow work if Amida is symbolic?
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:40 pm

Well, this whole thread is about your question so after reading it through you should now know the arguments for the different perspectives. I don't have really much to add to what I said in my previous postings here.

Gassho

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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Astus » Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:09 pm

"You won't find the sentence 'Amida Buddha is a metaphor and the story of the Pure Land is a myth' in any of Shinrans writings. It wasn't part of Shinrans 'language' so to say."

Symbolical interpretation of Pure Land has been long before known in EA Buddhism and Shinran was quite an educated monk. Also, those who teach mind-only pure land refer to the Vimalakirt Sutra's "when the mind is pure the land is pure", consequently advocate a clearly self-power approach very much in contradiction with total reliance on other-power.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Namu Butsu » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:55 pm

"What troubles me is that, living in such a utopia, what motive would anyone have for attaining enlightenment?"


I have also heard that the Pure Land which has such things to delight the senses as you mentioned will cause us to be tire away from wanting the five senses to be pleased because everything is at your command in terms of like how people speak of astral realms and how thought brings forth that thing as is mentioned in the Holy Sutra. So if you overload the senses constantly you tire of them and then want something that is more. So what ends up happening is its a perfect place for practice. This was according to a Jodo Shu interpretation. I do not know how our friends in jodo shu all view the situation but I have heard that since all the sense pleasures are granted so quickly the person ceases to seek them and seeks Dharma the unconditioned state that is Enlightenment. I am still trying to understand Shinran's thoughts. From what I understand is upon death your instantly transformed into a Buddha in the Pure Land. I do not know though because I am no scholar on this issue. Issues better resolved through speaking to the likes of Adrian and Andreas to see their perspectives from a more scholarly standpoint then I can give. :namaste:
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