What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Re: What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Postby shinchan » Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:48 pm

I just think a lot of devotees mistakenly assume it is 100% guarantee or at any rate relatively easy to arrive at one. They then cook up these ideas that they can do without meditation and precepts because such activities have no bearing on their future rebirth in the Pure Land. You don't have to bother with difficult practices because whether you do them or not, you've got a purported guarantee of being reborn in the Pure Land.

I know not everyone says this, but generally this is the attitude I often encounter with Pure Land advocates.


I don't think attaining Shinjin means that you can now sit on your ass, watch 5 hours of TV a day instead of meditating or studying dharma, and violate the precepts all you want. Japanese Pure Land was originally aimed at people who could not just up and leave their families for the monastery; who could not escape violating certain precepts as a consequence of their poverty. Fisherman, for example, had to kill every day in order to survive. Japan being an island, vegetarianism simply wasn't practical for everyone. These were poor, despirited people who felt they had no real hope for the future --in this life or the next; so why should they even bother to try at all? The value of what Honen and Shinran did was in giving these people hope and something to live for.

But just because they now had the certainty of Ojo and eventually enlightenment did not mean that these Buddhists could just become complacent and do whatever they wanted. I think Shinran, especially, made this very clear in how he dealt with his son Zenran.

Shinran and Honen gave people hope, but they also changed lives. There is a very famous story of a prostitute who witnessed Honen teaching one day and as a result gave up prostituting herself. I think the reasoning behind this was the following:

"Hey, I'm not damned to hell after all. Before it didn't matter what I did, I was still damned. Now it doesn't matter what I do, I'm grasped never to be forgotten."

The new attitude is a lot more positive and inspiring than the former one and I think this is what caused people to change their lives for the better even if, technically, doing so did not affect their chances of attaining Ojo.

Modern Jodo and Jodoshinshu Buddhists are a lot better off than their medieval counterparts. To violate precepts unnecessarily and live an empty, materialistic lifestyle is to be an ingrate towards Amida's gift. Much like how the nembutsu transformed from a means to attaining Ojo, to a grateful response to having attained it; so do our efforts to uphold the precepts, study dharma, and even meditate transform from a means to a response. I don't do these things because I expect to become enlightened. I do them because to do less would be to denigrate the primal vow and hurt sentient beings, including myself; worst of all, I might slander the dharma and drive others away from hearing and answering Amida's call.

Of course, as you have observed, not all Shin Buddhists share my attitude but I thought I would put it out there so it could be established that Honen and Shinran's doctrine in no way encourages laziness or precept breaking.
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Re: What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Postby Tenso » Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:34 am

Astus wrote:
Huseng wrote:Is there any way to empirically verify such a claim besides dying and seeing if you end up in the Pure Land?


Once you reach a higher bodhisattva level you'll have no problem seeing buddha-lands far far away. Or perhaps even on the 1st bhumi you can converse with buddhas. Also, the Pratyutpannasamadhi Sutra gives you a technique to meet Amita Buddha face to face. And maybe you can try phowa too. There's also an attainment called nenbutsu-sanmei which for instance Honen could achieve. So many ways, you just have to chose the one you like.


Hi Astus,

Can you please explain about the nembutsu-sanmei? I have never heard of that one before.
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Re: What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 04, 2010 3:18 am

念佛三昧 Ch: nianfo sanmei; Jp: nembutsu-sanmei; Skt: buddhanusmrti-samadhi

It refers to the intense meditative state from recollection of the Buddha, particularly the vision of the Buddha in question or the Buddhas of the ten directions, who come to teach the Dharma to the practitioner. It is a very standard Mahayana idea, actually, and not limited to the so-called Pureland school at all. In particular, most Mahayana teachings say that the bodhisattvas experience something like this just as they are about to reach full awakening.
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Re: What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Postby Tenso » Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:36 am

Thank you Venerable for clarifying :smile:
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Re: What is the role of Shakyamuni Buddha in Pure Land?

Postby Shutoku » Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:10 am

Returning for a moment to the OP.
In my Jodo Shinshu Temple, references to Shakyamuni Buddha are as follows:

Often before a sutra is chanted, there is an invocation inviting first Amida, then Shakyamuni, and then All the Buddhas in the ten directions to enter the hall as we (symbolically) scatter flowers of welcome.

Services are held to commemorate Siddhartha's birth on or around April 8th, Shakyamuni's enlightenment on or around December 8th, and his Parinirvana on or around February 15th.

As for statues, generally speaking there are no Shakyamuni statues, however for the service commemorating his birth, there is a small garden set up with a statue of Siddhartha as an infant. Sweet tea is poured over the statue by the congregation.

In my specific temple, for the Bodhi-day service we have a statue of Shakyamuni meditating in the Earth mudra pose, placed beneath a fig tree, but I think this is fairly unique to our Temple.
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