Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby TaTa » Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:25 pm

mystique wrote:In Buddhism there is Three marks of existence and one of them is Anicca or impermanence which stated nothing lasts forever. Even the universe including the Sentient beings and Buddha live in it will die then born again (which is proved by science with big bang and big crunch theory).



Everything CONDITIONED its impermanent.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby PorkChop » Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:48 pm

jeeprs wrote:So I am not trying to proselytize Christianity. But my academic background (such as it is, I am not an academic) is in comparative religion and 'history of ideas', so I find it natural to seek for common themes in various cultural forms. And I find a lot of the language associated with those contemporary Pure Land teachings could be found in contemporary (and maybe not very mainstream) Christian sources too.


Never thought you were proselytizing Christianity. In fact, you raise a lot of good points that maybe I hadn't considered. My wife's preferred brand of Christianity is kind of like how you describe and not at all like what I grew up with. Even the Bible she reads has been translated into modern language with embedded commentary that gives a very modern interpretation, with a lot of emphasis on passages like "God is love" and ideas like "Let go, let God". I always had trouble accepting such interpretations because my own reading of the Bible just didn't reconcile with it - seemed like a total departure, even if it is a much more palatable presentation.

I guess for myself, even if the story of Dharmakara in the sutra is totally made up, I find it much healthier to idealize that than Joshua blowing the trumpet at the walls of Jericho (and killing every last man, woman, and child) or the idea of a future world-ending battle royale ala Revelations (the losers damned for eternity). If the more palatable presentations didn't seem so divorced from the scripture that's supposed to support the doctrine, I could maybe make allowances for the examples I've cited; but the difference just seems too great for me. For sure the more palatable presentations are closer to what Pure Land teaches, but I personally think that the differences are still significant.
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Re: Pure Land needs more study

Postby Will » Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:14 am

It is odd how far down the road of criticism one can go, before checking other translations.

This is part of the OP - "the life of the beings in that country of mine should be eternal..."

"Eternal" is the hangup. Others versions from the Chinese have 'limited' - which could easily mean 'too short'.

The Sanskrit applies 'limited' only to Dharmakara, the future Buddha himself. He is vowing to have unlimited lifespan for himself. Considering his Buddha name became Amitayus, (Boundless Life), his vow came true.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:50 am

I am finding the articles in the Maida Centre site (which was linked above) very congenial to my outlook. My overall favourite contemporary Buddhist teacher is Nishijima Roshi whose book 'To Meet the Real Dragon' had a huge impact on my practice. The talks on that Maida centre are really very like his, and have a lot of references to Dogen. I don't have any trouble interpreting them at all, and the fact that D.T. Suzuki was also an interpreter of Shin helps,

I read from the essay on Maida Centre called 'what is Amida':

Amida is “a personal symbol.” In other words, Amida is “a fictional character” like Hamlet or Faust. Let me explain this definition by first discussing what Amida is not. Since “Amida” is a fictional character, he is (1) not a god (or a divine being) and (2) not a historical person.


So there is a kind of critical awareness there which you generally won't ever find in Christian circles. 'Amida' is not a 'deification' but is rather more like 'embodiment of Dharma'.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby PorkChop » Sun Apr 27, 2014 4:30 am

jeeprs wrote:
Amida is “a personal symbol.” In other words, Amida is “a fictional character” like Hamlet or Faust. Let me explain this definition by first discussing what Amida is not. Since “Amida” is a fictional character, he is (1) not a god (or a divine being) and (2) not a historical person.


So there is a kind of critical awareness there which you generally won't ever find in Christian circles. 'Amida' is not a 'deification' but is rather more like 'embodiment of Dharma'.


The honesty of that critical awareness apparent in that statement is a huge reason I am a fan of the Pure Land path.
'Embodiment of Dharma' is another meaning of the term "Dharmakaya" afaik.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby duckfiasco » Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:36 am

Wonderful articles, really helping my small view of Amida. I'm glad to see jeeprs along for the ride :alien:

I think there are many dimensions to Amida, such as an ideal being we could aspire to as suggested in those articles. I hadn't thought of him like that, it seems prudent to avoid the laziness of "Amida will take care of everything, time to kick back and be a jerk!" Gratitude is not lazy work.

However, where my understanding is flummoxed is you can say the nembutsu without the view "I am relying on the embodiment of the Dharma" or really anything at all, and receive blessings. Even with a skeptical mind like I had the first time, it was possible. With an entrusting mind, it's magnified.
That was an issue I ran into with Chenrezig practice... I had the "embodiment" approach and the deity never really became clear. It always felt tiring.
Yet with Amida, the connection feels helped along somehow, like easily seeing a tree out the window instead of mentally generating a tree's branches then strenuously piecing together an imaginary picture.
In this way, I'm not sure Amida and Hamlet are functionally identical.

I also say this because after calling on God or Jesus, even burning with a desire to interpret any small emotional fart as God reaching out, nothing at all happened. They were similar to Hamlet: unknown likely fictional beings.
However, saying the nembutsu, even thinking Amida was probably fictional too, has changed my entire practice. I couldn't pretend or ignore it.
Other-Power is a very apt term for the impression a PL practitioner can get.
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"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Apr 28, 2014 4:36 am

My approach is eclectic. I have read a lot of different things - I am one of those who found Buddhism through 'reading spiritual books'. But I have also been instructed in a very simple meditation practice, primarily along the lines found in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and To Meet the Real Dragon. The initial kinds of 'openings' that these inspired were generally oriented around what I call 'the way of negation', symbolised by the Sansrkit symbol for 'a'. That certainly often results in, as you say, a feeling of 'blessing' or 'blessedness' although as all spiritual teachers say, these are simply sign-posts on the way and not to be overly clung to. I feel the most affinity for Zen Buddhism but am a solo practitioner and not part of a formal Zen sangha (although I do have a sangha I have been meeting with for 5 years). And I also read spiritual books from other traditions. I don't really try and combine them but I do see a certain commonality (especially within the mystical perspectives.)

Anyway, from within that perspective, I find those articles on Shin Buddhism very congenial, as I said.

My advice would be to those who want to understand how those kinds of perspectives have evolved within Buddhism, as they are quite different to early Buddhist Texts, would be to read some of the books that explain the history and development of the Buddhist tradition. Edward Conze's Buddhism: its Essence and Development is an oldie but a goodie. I'm sure there are others of a similar kind.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:34 am

jeeprs wrote:
Amida is “a personal symbol.” In other words, Amida is “a fictional character” like Hamlet or Faust. Let me explain this definition by first discussing what Amida is not. Since “Amida” is a fictional character, he is (1) not a god (or a divine being) and (2) not a historical person.



Personally speaking, this is a false newly developed interpretation to fit the the needs of materialist minded westerners.

You may want to check out this thread. viewtopic.php?f=60&t=1084&hilit=jodo+shinshu+divergences
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:38 am

I am not materialist, and don't subscribe to materialist interpretations. That quotation was also part of a longer piece, I simply quoted it in the context of differentiating Pure Land Buddhism from other religions which place exclusive emphasis on faith.

//edit// well, I see what you mean. The blog linked from the other thread says:

Question: You often use the term "modern heresies" and equate these with slandering the Amida Dharma. Please explain in a few words what do you mean by it.

My answer: To deny the authenticity of the Pure Land sutras and the existence of Amida Buddha by calling Him a metaphor, symbol, fictional character or anything else than a real and living Buddha, to say that His Pure Land is in one’s mind, denying that birth in the Pure Land takes place after death, or mixing Amida Dharma with various non-Buddhist philosophies and worldly ideologies – this is what I call slandering the Dharma, becoming an enemy of the Dharma and cutting the root of the Dharma in one’s heart.


So I guess that Josho Adrian Cîrlea must think that Dr. Nobuo Haneda is a heretic and is 'slandering the dharma'.

In which case, I will have to leave it to the devotees of that school to debate. //end edit//
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:15 pm

jeeprs wrote:I am interested in how 'eternal' and 'permanent' might be distinguished.

Basically, the Pure Land teachngs seem to me to arise from the deification of the Buddha. That is not meant as a criticism, but I find it hard to distinguish quite a lot of what is said in Pure Land philosophy from Christian theology.


Eternal in Amitabha's case means unending, continuing uninterrupted. Permanent means static, not changing. Samsara has no beginning or end, but it is not static.

Yes, the Pure Land teachings are part of the general trend to venerate buddhas, bodhisattvas and other superior beings. However, Christian theology is quite a different matter in a different context and world view. The resemblance is very superficial. In order to understand what Pure Land Buddhism is about and how it fits into Mahayana, one needs to study Mahayana. Otherwise it's all just speculation without any relevant knowledge.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
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Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby PorkChop » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:39 pm

Nighthawk wrote:
jeeprs wrote:
Amida is “a personal symbol.” In other words, Amida is “a fictional character” like Hamlet or Faust. Let me explain this definition by first discussing what Amida is not. Since “Amida” is a fictional character, he is (1) not a god (or a divine being) and (2) not a historical person.



Personally speaking, this is a false newly developed interpretation to fit the the needs of materialist minded westerners.

You may want to check out this thread. viewtopic.php?f=60&t=1084&hilit=jodo+shinshu+divergences" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Actually, Buddhas are inconceivable so any understanding of them would have to be symbolic.
There's even a sutra specifically about this.
Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of the Inconceivable State of Tathāgatas wrote:“If one knows that one is seeing imagery, one should ponder that Buddhas and sentient beings are all like imagery, without real substance. They are seen according to one’s perceptions. With the understanding that Tathāgatas are like illusions, conjurations, dreams, and mirages, one then sees a Buddha naturally appearing before one as a dream, not something that can be captured."


To be perfectly clear, I have no problem with people seeing Amida as a celestial Buddha, whichever way helps establishing confidence in the teachings. Buddhism in general and Mahayana Buddhism in particular has always been open to interpretation. I'm not a fan of those that want to criticize the interpretations of others; especially not when those interpretations have significant scriptural & doctrinal support. Running Andreas off of this site back then was lamentable. There is no way that the attacks by Josho Adrian Cîrlea and Eiken Kobai should ever be thought of as the standard Jodo Shinshu position; not when the Monshu of Nishi Honganji, the Nishi Honganji-endorsed BCA, and the Otani School all endorse varied interpretations. If you want to attack people for their interpretations, there's always the True Shin Yahoo group and Josho Adrian Cîrlea's Google group; I don't think that's the type of environment that should be fostered here however.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby smcj » Mon Apr 28, 2014 2:50 pm

To be perfectly clear, I have no problem with people seeing Amida as a celestial Buddha, whichever way helps establishing confidence in the teachings. Buddhism in general and Mahayana Buddhism in particular has always been open to interpretation. I'm not a fan of those that want to criticize the interpretations of others; especially not when those interpretations have significant scriptural & doctrinal support.

:good:
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:27 pm

PorkChop wrote:
To be perfectly clear, I have no problem with people seeing Amida as a celestial Buddha, whichever way helps establishing confidence in the teachings. Buddhism in general and Mahayana Buddhism in particular has always been open to interpretation. I'm not a fan of those that want to criticize the interpretations of others; especially not when those interpretations have significant scriptural & doctrinal support. Running Andreas off of this site back then was lamentable. There is no way that the attacks by Josho Adrian Cîrlea and Eiken Kobai should ever be thought of as the standard Jodo Shinshu position; not when the Monshu of Nishi Honganji, the Nishi Honganji-endorsed BCA, and the Otani School all endorse varied interpretations. If you want to attack people for their interpretations, there's always the True Shin Yahoo group and Josho Adrian Cîrlea's Google group; I don't think that's the type of environment that should be fostered here however.


The so called "attacks" by Josho Adrian and Eiken Kobai are perfectly legit in my opinion. They posit the original teachings of Shinran and Rennyo and if that offends some people then so be it. People are free to believe in whatever they like.

I'm more of a Honen fan anyway.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Apr 28, 2014 8:02 pm

Pure Land is remarkable in its broad appeal.
For people like me who are attracted to it precisely because other schools have felt inaccessible, suggesting a specific relationship with Amida could be counterproductive for the relief of suffering, in my opinion.
If doubt/confusion is the most pressing matter to deal with, Pure Land is the ideal medicine. Given the insidious way doubt can infiltrate and poison every good, confusing the mind's priorities, we should be very circumspect in how we approach others' interpretations. I don't think a forceful approach, like talking about heresy, would be most helpful to me.

I don't know what jeeprs' particular bushel of hindrances is, but I feel vicarious relief to see another come into relationship with what has been such a source of good in my life so far.
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"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby PorkChop » Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:13 pm

Nighthawk wrote:The so called "attacks" by Josho Adrian and Eiken Kobai are perfectly legit in my opinion. They posit the original teachings of Shinran and Rennyo and if that offends some people then so be it. People are free to believe in whatever they like.

I'm more of a Honen fan anyway.
Curious that you say "so called 'attacks'". I just left that Yahoo group after a huge rant about Rev Bob Oshita, Alfred Bloom, and a host of others - it was directed at a new student from either the BCA or the Otani school (and not a follower of Kobai), who'd just happened to have mentioned the videos from Bob Oshita. This is just one example of fairly blatant attacks on anyone they don't agree with. Furthermore, such attacks are hardly "legit" according to Right Speech, or the doctrines of either of the Honganji Schools. Rennyo was rather clear on this...
Rennyo Letter 14 wrote:If, out of attachment to the Dharma he follows, a person speaks ill of the Dharma of others, he will not escape the sufferings of hell, even if he is one who observes the precepts (Daichidoron, T.25:63c).
As far as other interpretations about the inconceivable Amida Tathagata, just read Shinran's Jodo Wasan. There are plenty of verses in the Jodo Wasan that portray interpretations that are not consistent with such a concretized, dualistic version of Amida as strictly Samboghakaya manifestation as appears in the rants... Throughout his letters, Rennyo says that Amida is the Eternal Buddha, that all other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and kamis are manifestations (and if we aspire to Buddhahood then what are we?) - this is actually saying that Amida is Dharma-kaya, the inconceivable formless body of suchness which manifests in countless ways and pervades the whole universe. Neither Shinran nor Rennyo would directly contradict the Visualization Sutra on this point:
The Visualization Sutra wrote:The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, “After achieving this vision, one should next visualize that Buddha. Why? A Buddha-Tathāgata’s body is the dharma realm, which pervades the thinking mind of all sentient beings. Therefore, when one visualizes a Buddha, one’s mind has a Buddha’s thirty-two physical marks and eighty excellent characteristics. The mind forms a Buddha, and the mind is the Buddha. The ocean of Saṁbuddhas is formed by one’s thinking mind. Therefore, one should single-mindedly focus on and visualize that Buddha, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha.
...
The Visualization Sutra wrote: “Amitāyus Buddha has 84,000 excellent marks; each mark includes 84,000 excellent characteristics; each characteristic emits 84,000 beams of light. Each beam universally illuminates all worlds in the ten directions, attracting and accepting sentient beings that think of Buddhas, never abandoning them. His radiance, excellent characteristics, and magically manifested Buddhas are beyond description. However, one should picture them and make the mind’s eye see. Seeing Amitāyus Buddha is seeing all Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. Seeing all Buddhas is called the Thinking-of-Buddhas Samādhi. Doing this visualization is called visualizing the bodies of all Buddhas. By visualizing the bodies of all Buddhas, one sees the Buddha mind. The Buddha mind is [the mind of] great lovingkindness and compassion. With unconditional lovingkindness, Buddhas accept all sentient beings. Those who do this visualization, after death, will be reborn, in a future life, before Buddhas and will achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas.
As per the above, as long as one is getting in touch with the mind of great loving-kindness & compassion; as is perfectly evident in the more symbolic interpretations, then they will be established on the Bodhisattva path and be born in the presence of Buddhas.

Let's just say if we extended the scope of the conversation to Patriarch Nagarjuna, Patriarch Vasubandhu, Patriarch Tan Luan, and other sutras (some of which were quoted in the KGSS), then other interpretations of Amida become the norm rather than an exception.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby janpeterotto » Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:30 pm

Living in India and practising yoga in the 1970's I one day met this holy man who sang "om namo Amitabha ya" all the time. From him I learned the beauties of the Pure Land and I have kept the faith since then. But I agree that Christian language is very close and when this Amitabha teacher wanted me to understand the grace and embracing love of Amitabha, he also referred to Christ and the Christian language. He quoted Gal. 2:20 to illustrate how Amitabha is the power of our longing for birth and how the Vow is living us in daily life.


jeeprs wrote:My understanding of Christianity is completely different to that.... And I find a lot of the language associated with those contemporary Pure Land teachings could be found in contemporary (and maybe not very mainstream) Christian sources too.


Yes, that is correct. Contemporary Pure Land teachers use the Christian language. And if someone associates Christian faith with guilt or law or bad conscience or an angry God, that is more of a personal experience of bad religion, than making any solid statement on differences. Indeed, as my indian teacher often said, Christ is the Amitabha of the West, probably better sutied to the Western mindset than the indian, chinese and japanese versions of Amitabha. In my swedish blog namo-amitabha.weebly.com there are certainly many Christian references, since that seems natural and wellmeaning.

Om namo amitabha ya !!
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby ConradTree » Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:01 am

Malcolm wrote:Copper colored mountain and Sukhavati are basically bardo experiences.


Exactly.

:cheers:
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Nighthawk » Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:26 am

PorkChop wrote:Curious that you say "so called 'attacks'". I just left that Yahoo group after a huge rant about Rev Bob Oshita, Alfred Bloom, and a host of others - it was directed at a new student from either the BCA or the Otani school (and not a follower of Kobai), who'd just happened to have mentioned the videos from Bob Oshita. This is just one example of fairly blatant attacks on anyone they don't agree with.


I have no clue what you're talking about as I'm not a member of their online sangha at the moment.

Furthermore, such attacks are hardly "legit" according to Right Speech, or the doctrines of either of the Honganji Schools. Rennyo was rather clear on this...
Rennyo Letter 14 wrote:If, out of attachment to the Dharma he follows, a person speaks ill of the Dharma of others, he will not escape the sufferings of hell, even if he is one who observes the precepts (Daichidoron, T.25:63c).


Rennyo was also quite clear that Amida Buddha is an actual sambhogakaya manifestation and that Sukhavati is an actual buddha land where common deluded beings can take birth. His teachings are very simple and straight forward and this is how Shinran also intended it to be.

As per the above, as long as one is getting in touch with the mind of great loving-kindness & compassion; as is perfectly evident in the more symbolic interpretations, then they will be established on the Bodhisattva path and be born in the presence of Buddhas.

Let's just say if we extended the scope of the conversation to Patriarch Nagarjuna, Patriarch Vasubandhu, Patriarch Tan Luan, and other sutras (some of which were quoted in the KGSS), then other interpretations of Amida become the norm rather than an exception.


I have no problem with symbolic interpretations as long as they are backed by the PL sutras, but it is an extreme to say that story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva making vows and manifesting a buddha land as an entirely made up fictional story which some people want to claim it be. You can't back that claim up with either the sutras nor the words of Shinran and Rennyo. If people want to believe otherwise then so be it but I don't really see the use of PL if it is not a place where one can go to fulfill bodhisattva vows more easily.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Nighthawk » Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:37 am

ConradTree wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Copper colored mountain and Sukhavati are basically bardo experiences.


Exactly.

:cheers:


I agree. This life too is a bardo experience.
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Re: Pure Land Contradicts Buddha Teachings....

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Apr 29, 2014 1:29 am

Nighthawk wrote:I have no problem with symbolic interpretations as long as they are backed by the PL sutras, but it is an extreme to say that story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva making vows and manifesting a buddha land as an entirely made up fictional story which some people want to claim it be.


My interpretation would not be that it is fictional, as the quote I provided above suggests. 'Fictional' is the wrong word. But it is also not 'existing' in the sense that sense-objects are 'existing'. Such things belong to a higher level of reality. Celestial beings and celestial realms are impossible for the sensory mind to conceive of, they can only be apprehended through 'the eye of faith'. Of course materialists think that is just believing in things for which there is no evidence, but they don't really understand the meaning of 'evident' in my view.

Anyway thanks to all who provided responses to my questions.

:namaste:
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