Impossible to follow?

Impossible to follow?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:39 pm

I'm rereading my copy of The Three Pure Land Sutras, part of the BDK English Tripitaka.

I came across this in the the Translator's Foreword for the first time I read it:
"Today, as it is impossible to follow the precise and complex method of visualization, simplified or syncretic forms of meditation are practiced by various groups and individuals."

I skipped the foreword this time around but while reading the visualizations, I decided I ought to ask... why precisely is it "impossible?" This isn't explained anywhere in the foreword and it just kinda hit me that I should ask.

Whether it is true or not, is it possible for the "simplified or syncretic forms of meditation" mentioned to be adequate?

Anyone have any ideas on this?

Thanks in advance, friends. Be well! :namaste:
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Re: Impossible to follow?

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:59 pm

The idea is that since we live in the Dharma ending age the capacity for difficult practices is virtually non-existent. Therefore the recommended method is the recitation of the name, as that does not require a concentrated mind.
"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: Impossible to follow?

Postby plwk » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:27 pm

Don't worry. I think the BDK has overstated it by using the term 'impossible' as if it applies to all & a standard generalisation with a tilt towards favouring the usual common method of oral recitation. Here's another opinion...
http://www.ymba.org/books/buddhism-wisd ... ice/buddha
29) Four Methods of Buddha Recitation
Buddha Recitation does not consist of oral recitation alone, but also includes contemplation and meditation. Therefore, within the Pure Land School, there are, in addition to Oral Recitation, three other methods, namely: Real Mark, Contemplation by Thought and Contemplation of an Image

2. Contemplation by Thought Recitation
This entails meditation on the features of Buddha Amitabha and His Land of Ultimate Bliss, in accordance with the Meditation Sutra.
(The Sutra teaches a total of sixteen contemplations.) If this practice is perfected, the cultivator will always visualize the Pure Land before him. Whether his eyes are open or closed, his mind and thoughts are always coursing through the Pure Land. At the time of death, he is assured of rebirth there.

The virtues obtained through this method are immense and beyond imagination, but since the object of meditation is too profound and subtle, few practitioners can achieve it. This is because, in general, the method presents five difficulties:
i) with dull capacities, one cannot easily succeed;
ii) with a crude mind, one cannot easily succeed;
iii) without knowing how to use expedients skillfully and flexibly during actual practice, one cannot easily succeed;
iv) without the ability to remember images clearly, one cannot easily succeed;
v) with low energy, one cannot easily succeed.

Very few can avoid all five pitfalls. Thus, upon reflection, this method also belongs to the category of difficult Dharma doors.
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Re: Impossible to follow?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:40 pm

Thank you both very much for your thoughtful replies. :)

I figure anything worth doing is likely going to be challenging. It is good to put the words of the translator into some kind of context -- such a proclamation as "impossible" can lead to perplexity and doubt I think.
Hickersonia
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throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."

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Re: Impossible to follow?

Postby Astus » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:36 am

The translator, Hisao Inagaki, is a Shinshu follower, and as such he presented the orthodox view of the teachings of Shinran.

Shinran writes (KGSS 6.34, tr. Inagaki):

"Master [Shan-tao's] intent seems to be as follows: He says [in the Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra], "The number of the gateways of the excellent practices provided for different capacities of people is eighty-four thousand and more. Gradual and sudden teachings are suited to their capacities. Those who follow favorable conditions all attain emancipation."

We note, however, that ordinary and ignorant people, who are ever sinking in the state of birth-and-death, find it hard to cultivate a meditative mind, because it requires cessation of thought and concentration of it. A non-meditative mind is also hard to cultivate, because it requires abolishing evil and practicing good. For this reason, visualizing forms and fixing the mind on them are hard to accomplish; hence, Shan-tao says [in the Commentary on the Meditative Practice] "Even if one dedicates a lifetime of a thousand years, the Dharma-eye will not be opened." How much more difficult it is for them to attain formlessness and no-thought! Therefore, he says, "The Tathagata knew beforehand that ordinary people of the latter age defiled by karmic evil would not be able to accomplish even the practice of visualizing forms and concentrating on them - to say nothing of seeking realization without visualizing forms. It would be like building a house in the air without magical means."


Also:

"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."
(A Record in Lament of Divergences, §3)

"It cannot be said that the practicer of self-power is equal to Tathagata. With one's own mind of self-power, it is impossible to reach the land of the Buddha of inconceivable light. It is taught that only by shinjin that is Other Power does one reach the land of the Buddha of inconceivable light."
(The Virtue of the Name of Amida Tathagata)
"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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