Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:45 am

Indrajala wrote:They hardly exist any more as schools, though the texts are all still there. Nara schools were scholastic for the most part, which is why they were seldom if ever popular with the masses who couldn't read classical Chinese. :sage:

Nichiren and Shinran developed faith oriented traditions, so scholar and illiterate farmer alike could equally participate.


Hmm, I'd kind of dispute that with you as oral nembutsu developed on Mt. Koya it was a kind of nembutsu hub... Nichiren Buddhism became popular with townspeople and artisans.

Sadly Hosso and Kegon never had many popularizers I can just think of Jokei and Myoe, Eison who founded Shingon Risshu to revive the Vinaya in Shingon, whose head temple is Saidai-ji in Nara should interest you Ven. Indrajala.
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Provenance of Pure Land Practice

Postby PorkChop » Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:39 am

rory wrote:Hmm, I'd kind of dispute that with you as oral nembutsu developed on Mt. Koya it was a kind of nembutsu hub... Nichiren Buddhism became popular with townspeople and artisans.


I'm confused, are you saying there was no nembutsu before Mt. Koya?
Are you saying that the spread of nembutsu practices was limited to Mt. Koya in the Kamakura period?

Honen was famous for teaching all people (including prostitutes) in the northern part of Kyoto, he had a pretty big reputation in that town.
Just like how Nichiren was exiled to the provinces, so were Honen and his major disciples.
So Japanese Pure Land in the Kamakura period spread far beyond the Kansai (western Japan) area (Koya is south of Osaka, Osaka is south of Kyoto).
Honen ended up spending the last 5 years of his life on the island of Shikoku (south of the main island of Honshu),
he returned to Kyoto just in time to die.
Shinran was exiled to Niigata (north-central Japan) and after his exile was lifted, instead of returning to Kyoto, he chose to hang out in Kanto (north of Tokyo in the east) for a good 20+ years, where he wrote the Kyogyoshinsho.
Bencho (Shoko) went to the island of Kyushu in the southwest and established the prominent Chinzei branch there.
Shoku, a Honen disciple who was never exiled, eventually wrote a commentary on the Taimamandala for the head priest of the Taimadera temple of the Hosso sect, studied Shingon & Tendai at length, and eventually won favor with established Tendai sects.
All these major disciples had all been ordained Tendai monks by the way, straight from Enryakuji on Hiei.
In other words, a pretty large portion of Japan was covered, from all walks of life, including gaining some influence with the status quo, and they all came up on Hiei.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:52 am

Pork Chop;
when you study the history of oral nembutsu before Honen, it actually developed on Mt. Koya, it was the locus and visiting monks from Tendai brought the practice back to Mt. Hiei. Hmm sorry I dont have any Pure Land books here right now to give you a reference.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:54 am

Okay here is something; a link to Hisao Inagaki's excellent website on Kakuban and oral nembutsu, he predates Honen.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Seishin » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:09 pm

rory wrote:Pork Chop;
when you study the history of oral nembutsu before Honen, it actually developed on Mt. Koya, it was the locus and visiting monks from Tendai brought the practice back to Mt. Hiei. Hmm sorry I dont have any Pure Land books here right now to give you a reference.


Hmm, I thought the practice came from China :shrug: If you wouldn't mind digging out those books that would be great, :twothumbsup:

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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:28 pm

rory wrote:Pork Chop;
when you study the history of oral nembutsu before Honen, it actually developed on Mt. Koya, it was the locus and visiting monks from Tendai brought the practice back to Mt. Hiei. Hmm sorry I dont have any Pure Land books here right now to give you a reference.


Sorry, but that can't be correct.
Oral nembutsu/nianfo was a major practice in China for a good 300+ years before Buddhism even went to Japan, and 600+ years before the Kamakura period. Nembutsu/Nianfo has always been a part of Chinese T'ien T'ai teachings, and came to be adopted by Ch'an practitioners as well. After the persecution of Buddhism following the T'ang Dynasty, all that was left (ie. widespread) were mainly Ch'an and Pure Land schools. Tendai always had a Pure Land element, the Pure Land hall (Jodoin) is [EDIT: in the wing that contains the oldest extant building in the current Enryakuji complex.]

We're talking about the spread of the existing nembutsu/nianfo practice throughout Japan in the Kamakura period.
Honen and his disciples were the first to ignite a passion for Buddhist practice among the common people in Japan, and the first outside of a few small communities to really teach the nembutsu/nianfo to lay people in Japan.

EDIT: Interesting you mention Kakuban as he wrote a treatise talking about the esoteric elements of the common (ie pre-existing & well-known) phrase for oral nembutsu and introduced an esoteric nembutsu ritual at Shingon.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:00 am

Hmm, I think we're talking at cross purposes. I was talking about the development of oral nenbutsu in Japan only, and counter-intuitively Mt. Koya was the hub and then monks brought it to Mt. Hiei where meditative nembutsu was the norm. And Honen and Shinran brought it to the masses, but with an important change they did not emphasize achieving samadhi; a huge difference and certainly non-normative. Kakuban is very interesting, I really like that piece, sorry about the lack of a link, here: http://www12.canvas.ne.jp/horai/eso-amida.htm
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:02 am

rory wrote:Hmm, I think we're talking at cross purposes. I was talking about the development of oral nenbutsu in Japan only, and counter-intuitively Mt. Koya was the hub and then monks brought it to Mt. Hiei where meditative nembutsu was the norm. And Honen and Shinran brought it to the masses, but with an important change they did not emphasize achieving samadhi; a huge difference and certainly non-normative. Kakuban is very interesting, I really like that piece, sorry about the lack of a link, here: http://www12.canvas.ne.jp/horai/eso-amida.htm
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Yeah, unfortunately, that's just not 100% correct.

Daoxin (道信 580-651) taught what he called the "Samadhi of Oneness," utilizing the recitation of the Buddha's name to pacify the mind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dayi_Daoxin

As a result, recitation of the Buddha's name was one of the most popular practices in China from the late 6th, early 7th century CE.

"Ennin brought the first Pure Land practices used on Mount Hiei when he returned from China, a practice called the Uninterrupted Recitation of the Buddha's Name (fudan nembutsu) from Wutai Shan, China, that was based on rituals instituted by Fazhao (d. 820? CE).These practices consisted of the recitation of the Omituojing (Sūtra on Amitābha) rather than the much simpler recitation of the Buddha's name mentioned in the constantly walking meditation. The practice generally lasted only seven days, shorter than the ninety days required by Zhiyi, and became popular in Japan. It was more concerned with extinguishing the karmic effects of wrongdoing and being reborn in the Pure Land than with the discernment of emptiness. Thus from the beginning Tendai Pure Land ranged over a variety of possible practices and goals, from meditations that focused on a realization of emptiness or the Pure Land in this life and world to oral recitations that resulted in rebirth into a paradisiacal Pure Land when one died. "
http://www.academicroom.com/topics/percy-collett

PS - the "simpler recitation of the Buddha's name mentioned in the constantly walking meditation" was one of Zhiyi's Four Samadhis, aka the Pratyutpana Samadhi.

From your own link:
"Kakuban is generally credited with having started the tradition of the esoteric Nembutsu, but there were some predecessors. From the middle of the Heian period, especially after Genshin (942-1017) published his famous Ojoyoshu, Amida worship became very popular on Mt. Hiei and elsewhere."

Genshin is one of the students of Ryogen, one of the most famous scholars of Tendai on Mt Hiei from Enryakuji, and himself one of the most influential Tendai scholars from Hiei.
http://books.google.com/books?id=c2Nm05 ... ei&f=false

"Genshin, the most able Tendai exegete of the tenth century, systematized Tendai Pure Land thought. Although he was skilled in doctrinal topics, including Hossō and logic, he is primarily remembered for his authorship of the Ōjō yōshū (Essentials of rebirth in the Pure Land), a text that included many of the ambiguities in practice and goal mentioned above because the practices could be used by a variety of people. The text included vivid descriptions of the hells and Pure Land that influenced many. Temples such as the Byōdōin reflected efforts to create architectural images of the Pure Land. Genshin's text also included discussions of deathbed rites and doctrinal issues connected with Pure Land. It had an immediate effect leading to the formation of several organizations devoted to Pure Land practice, including the Assembly for the Advancement of Learning (Kangaku-e) and the Assembly for the Concentration on the Twenty-five Bodhisattvas (Nijūgo zanmai-e), groups that included both lay and monastic practitioners. Pure Land practices were later spread by a variety of men with Tendai affiliations, including Kōya (903–972 CE) and Ryōnin (1072–1132), founder of the Yūzū nembutsushū. Hōnen, founder of the Jōdoshū, spent most of his life as a Tendai monk, and Shinran (1173–1263), founder of the Jōdo Shinshū, was trained on Mount Hiei."
http://www.academicroom.com/topics/percy-collett

China first, with Ch'an and Tian Tai, then Tendai, Koya came later, and then the rest of Japan.

EDIT: As far as Honen, he liked to reference Shan Tao who recommended reciting the name day or night with uninterrupted mind. The goal of that is obviously samadhi, tho possibly not a realization of emptiness - which would come or not if conditions were present.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:57 am

Porchop we're derailing the thread, which isn't polite, actually Genshin was quite tortured that he'd never be born in the Pure Land as he hadn't achieved the full Samadhi....I'll go to the library and look in the books there about Mt. Koya, I know this is in my mind for a reason & I know the other stuff, practiced it (did circumambulating nembutsu) read it years ago.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:09 am

Well I've been tryin to track it back to Chinese Buddhism to show that certain traditions weren't lost. :)
As I've mentioned on another thread, Sakka/Indra was a prominent figure in the Amitabha Sutra.
Curious about Genshin, but still doesn't change the fact that oral nembutsu in Japan predates him and that it continues long after.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby rory » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:40 pm

Here we go until I get to the library, Nembutsu on Mt Hiei, with chanting Amida's name was done with meditation.

http://www.jsri.jp/English/Pureland/DOC ... mbutsu.htm
Saicho (767-822) was the great founder of the Japanese Tendai (Ch. T'ien-T'ai) school. His disciple Ennin (794-864) was an important figure in the development of Japanese Pure Land, because he brought back from China Fa-chao's (756-822) practice of five-tone nembutsu recitation which marked the introduction of the recited nembutsu to Japan. This practice was incorporated into the "constantly walking samadhi" (jogyo zanmai), a ninety-day walking meditation in which the practitioner circumambulates an image of Amida while chanting the nembutsu in order to visualize Amida Buddha. On Mt. Hiei in Japan, Fa-chao's five-tone nembutsu became known as the jogyodo nembutsu because it was conducted in a hall specially constructed for the "constantly walking samadhi".
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby PorkChop » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:37 pm

rory wrote:Here we go until I get to the library, Nembutsu on Mt Hiei, with chanting Amida's name was done with meditation.

http://www.jsri.jp/English/Pureland/DOC ... mbutsu.htm
Saicho (767-822) was the great founder of the Japanese Tendai (Ch. T'ien-T'ai) school. His disciple Ennin (794-864) was an important figure in the development of Japanese Pure Land, because he brought back from China Fa-chao's (756-822) practice of five-tone nembutsu recitation which marked the introduction of the recited nembutsu to Japan. This practice was incorporated into the "constantly walking samadhi" (jogyo zanmai), a ninety-day walking meditation in which the practitioner circumambulates an image of Amida while chanting the nembutsu in order to visualize Amida Buddha. On Mt. Hiei in Japan, Fa-chao's five-tone nembutsu became known as the jogyodo nembutsu because it was conducted in a hall specially constructed for the "constantly walking samadhi".


I know this is way late, but I'm not letting this one fly. I don't think there's such a big distinction between the nembutsu/nianfo practices of Tendai, Jodo Shu, Jodo Shin Shu, and the Mainland Asian schools as Nichiren folks try to maintain. The complex visualizations are part of the Visualization sutra and not mandated by the others. The Pratyutpanna Samadhi sutra describes a constant-walking recitation/mindfulness, with the eventual goal being visualization. The mindfulness recommended by the Pratyutpanna, Amitabha, Amitayus, shurangama, and avatamsaka sutras just means thinking of the Buddha, this is still accomplished by verbal recitation. In fact verbal recitation is an act of body, speech, and mind- so triply effective. I've never seen anyone in Japanese Pure Land proscribe against thinking of the Buddha while reciting, in fact quite the opposite.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby longjie » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:17 am

Although the conversation has long since died down... but I wanted to mention that reciting the name of Amitabha was certainly not invented in China or Japan, since the sutras themselves teach this method. The Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra and the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra both advocate reciting the name of Amitabha:

Bodhisattvas hear about the Buddha Amitābha and call him to mind again and again in this land. Because of this calling to mind, they see the Buddha Amitābha. Having seen him they ask him what dharmas it takes to be born in the realm of the Buddha Amitābha. Then the Buddha Amitābha says to these bodhisattvas: "If you wish to come and be born in my realm, you must always call me to mind again and again, you must always keep this thought in mind without letting up, and thus you will succeed in coming to be born in my realm."
Śāriputra, if there is a virtuous man or virtuous woman who hears and speaks ‘Amitābha Buddha,’ holding and maintaining his name for one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven days single-mindedly without confusion, then at the end of his or her life, Amitābha Buddha will appear with the multitude of holy beings. At the end of this person’s life, with a mind unconfused, he or she will quickly attain rebirth in Amitābha Buddha’s land of Sukhāvatī.

Nembutsu is just a translation of Nianfo, which is itself just a translation of the Sanskrit Buddhanusmrti, which is one of the Ten Forms of Mindfulness from early Buddhism. As far as I know, people in China have been reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha since at least the 5th century, and people in Gandhara were probably doing the same for a few hundred years before! As far as I understand, though, the Japanese do not regard Nembutsu as a meditation method, though, whereas the Indians did, and the Chinese still do.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't care if the temples were made of twigs and straw if people were actually learning the Dharma from them, and using that Dharma to practice cultivation in earnest. Real cultivation and accomplishment breathes life into Buddhism, not painted wood and ornate carvings.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:55 pm

longjie wrote:For what it's worth, I wouldn't care if the temples were made of twigs and straw if people were actually learning the Dharma from them, and using that Dharma to practice cultivation in earnest. Real cultivation and accomplishment breathes life into Buddhism, not painted wood and ornate carvings.


It is this kind of attitude which neglects tradition and aesthetics that ensures little attention is paid to necessary aspects of Buddhist traditions.

Artwork and architecture have the ability to invoke certain emotions and feelings, which ensure people have positive associations with the Dharma and Buddhism in general.

Teaching Dharma is a converted shipping container might sound stoic and righteous, but the teachings will hardly have a positive association when given in such an environment.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:58 pm

longjie wrote:Although the conversation has long since died down... but I wanted to mention that reciting the name of Amitabha was certainly not invented in China or Japan, since the sutras themselves teach this method. The Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra and the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra both advocate reciting the name of Amitabha:


Sure, but some teachings take it to an extreme and assume if you just change your diet and recite a mistranslated Sanskrit phrase you'll somehow get an entry ticket into heaven, and maybe get your less than virtuous relatives in as well provided you get the good graces of a certain buddha or two.

Unfortunately, saṃsāra is not so simply exited.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:53 pm

Indrajala wrote:Sure, but some teachings take it to an extreme and assume if you just change your diet and recite a mistranslated Sanskrit phrase you'll somehow get an entry ticket into heaven, and maybe get your less than virtuous relatives in as well provided you get the good graces of a certain buddha or two.

Unfortunately, saṃsāra is not so simply exited.


These are some pretty provocative statements. Can one really recite a Buddha's name and not think of him/her? Do you think any of these schools advise doing as much? If thinking of a Buddha is not a valid practice, then householder practice going back to the earliest days is wrong, the scriptural traditions passed down are wrong, and many accomplished masters from many countries are wrong. How much have you actually researched this area, given that is so obviously distasteful to you? Who are you to say who gets to exit saṃsāra and who doesn't? Are you perfectly enlightened?
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:02 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Indrajala wrote:Sure, but some teachings take it to an extreme and assume if you just change your diet and recite a mistranslated Sanskrit phrase you'll somehow get an entry ticket into heaven, and maybe get your less than virtuous relatives in as well provided you get the good graces of a certain buddha or two.

Unfortunately, saṃsāra is not so simply exited.


These are some pretty provocative statements. Can one really recite a Buddha's name and not think of him/her? Do you think any of these schools advise doing as much? If thinking of a Buddha is not a valid practice, then householder practice going back to the earliest days is wrong, the scriptural traditions passed down are wrong, and many accomplished masters from many countries are wrong. How much have you actually researched this area, given that is so obviously distasteful to you? Who are you to say who gets to exit saṃsāra and who doesn't? Are you perfectly enlightened?


I think the problem lies not so much with the trappings, but with the core tenet of "Humanistic Buddhism", if there can be said to be such a thing.
Surely humanism treats the human subject as central, so the utopian project of pure land, engaged humanism, or even new-age attempts to graft humanism onto Buddhism can only ultimately be to the detriment of Buddhism's emancipatory potential?
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:11 pm

PorkChop wrote:Do you think any of these schools advise doing as much?


At the popular level of Pure Land Buddhism, this is how it generally seems to be understood.

Yes, there are additional intellectual and even mystic elaborations regarding the prerequisites for entering the Pure Land, but that's not really how it is understood on the ground. The common hope is that you get the good grace of Amitabha and get into the Pure Land. You can also get some merit on the merit market (maybe some music performances with sutra recitation by a professional) and dedicate it to your dead relatives in the hope they get into the Pure Land, too.

Recently in Singapore I spoke at length with Chinese Singaporeans who got so fed up with such an approach to Buddhism that they are now vehemently opposed to it. They are now strictly adhering to Theravada now. They would tell me at great length how these sort of Pure Land ideas are what you get with most Chinese Buddhism in their part of the world minus the Humanistic Buddhism.


These are some pretty provocative statements.


Not really. I'm telling you my experience with self-identifying Buddhists.




If thinking of a Buddha is not a valid practice, then householder practice going back to the earliest days is wrong, the scriptural traditions passed down are wrong, and many accomplished masters from many countries are wrong.


I think nianfo/nenbutsu is a fine practice. The principle in effect is that you emulate what you contemplate.

That being said, I think seeking rebirth in the Pure Land while excluding all the essential components of Buddhadharma is unwise.



Who are you to say who gets to exit saṃsāra and who doesn't? Are you perfectly enlightened?


It is my simple belief that liberation from saṃsāra is a lot more complex and demanding that getting the good grace of a buddha and knowing the right incantation or two.

Call me intolerant, but this is just a religious belief on my part. I can't prove it.

If someone wants to do Pure Land, then that is their right. I just don't see much value in the popular versions of it. Even the more advanced forms advocated by figures like Shinran make little sense to me.

Recently in Singapore I gave a lecture detailing the history of Buddhism's transmission from India to China. I said explicitly that the flesh and blood Śākyamuni never taught Pure Land Buddhism or any Pure Land sutra.

One gentleman figuratively blew a gasket. I didn't quite catch everything he was saying as he was speaking Chinese too quickly for me to fully comprehend, but nevertheless he was upset with what I had to say and he had to be calmed down. I explained that his beliefs are indefensible as far as modern scholarship goes.

I could get away with this because it was a Theravada temple. :stirthepot:

In any case, Pure Land Buddhism is heavily based on faith and speculation. Aside from mystical experiences, you can't really verify the desired result until you're dead. That's a bit risky sounding for me. I prefer systematic approaches with results you can immediately measure in this life. As a polytheist I'm fine with cosmic buddhas and bodhisattvas aiding beings, but they are subject to limitations just as we are. Putting all your faith in a single buddha given what archaic scriptures say just sounds unwise to me.

Maybe it allows for peace of mind, but again in Singapore my Chinese friend noted how many Pure Land Buddhists he knows will start dying and become disillusioned when Amitabha fails to show up to greet them despite all the faith and merit they've generated throughout life.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Matylda » Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:18 pm

I would not oppose any of traditional Buddhist schools including pure land or teachings of Shinran. Though scientifically it cannot be prooved that Shakyamuni taught pure land, as well as all mahayana sutras, but in fact it does not matter.

Believe is in some way irrational and it is difficult to be ratinally proved, but it is character of any believe. As for buddhist teachings and notions most are pretty irrational, some could be contradictory, and many are based on sheer believe. Even believe in karma, nirvana, enlightenment etc. seems to be irrational, so why to criticize pure land or Shinran? By the way I admire Shinran deeply, as well as many Japanese zen masters had/have deep respect for his teachings.

Even theravada tradition demands some sort of believe if one is going to follow this path, though it seems much more pragmatic then mahayana schools, not to mention shingon, vajrayana etc.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:28 pm

Matylda wrote:I would not oppose any of traditional Buddhist schools including pure land or teachings of Shinran. Though scientifically it cannot be prooved that Shakyamuni taught pure land, as well as all mahayana sutras, but in fact it does not matter.


Actually it does matter. Modern scholarship has revealed some bitter historical (i.e., secular) truths about the development of Buddhism that need to be recognized and addressed.



Even theravada tradition demands some sort of believe if one is going to follow this path, though it seems much more pragmatic then mahayana schools, not to mention shingon, vajrayana etc.


I'm not denying belief. We all have beliefs. I'm saying Pure Land is heavily faith based: you believe you will get into the pure land at death if you behave as prescribed in scripture. There's no way to measure or clarify the efficacy of such a belief, whereas you can test a belief in the effectiveness of tantra for instance by practicing it and seeing for yourself the internal transformation over time (at least ideally). Yes, there is the belief in results being experienced in future lives, but that doesn't negate the possibility of readily discerning advancement towards liberation in the present lifetime.
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