Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

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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.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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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 DGA » 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.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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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:

phpBB [video]


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:


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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.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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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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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby sillyrabbit » Sun Mar 06, 2016 9:39 pm

Andreas Ludwig wrote:He [Rennyo] went back to the ideas of Honen and didn't understand how far beyond the traditional views Shinran went with his views. Shinrans focus was the experience of Shinjin in the here and now, that is the key of spiritual life and awakening for him - enlightenment is part of the process started by the realisation of Shinjin, but in fact it doesn't play any big role. Not because it's unimportant, but because it's the natural flow of things in Shinrans view once you are grasped by Amida. Shinran was strictly opposed against every attempt to connect spiritual life with anxiety and fear and therefore denied the belief of his time that the deathbed rites are important and that one has to be always on the edge because death can happen every minute. The latter aspect is the reason that in the Jodo Shu the nembutsu is constantly chanted because one doesn't want to die when the mind is busy with something else - since that might lead to a different place than the Pure Land in the afterlife.


What is written above about Jodo Shu is not what Master Honen taught. I am not affiliated with any Jodo Shu congregation, but if this is what those practitioners are learning, it is not in the spirit of Master Honen.

Here are excerpts from a letter (A Letter to Nun Shonyo-bo) from Honen Shonin to one of his good friends--a nun who had fallen gravely ill and could have possibly been close to death.

Master Honen wrote:Believe deeply in the essential vow of Amida Buddha; do not doubt even for a moment that you will attain birth in the Pure Land; and believe that with ten repetitions of Namu Amida Butsu you will definitely achieve birth in the Pure Land through the essential vow, however much negative karma you may have. Please focus on reciting nembutsu.

Birth in the Pure Land will never depend upon our goodness or lack thereof. It is possible solely through the power of the essential vow. No matter how brilliant and admirable we may be, it is extremely difficult during this age of the decline of the Dharma to be born immediately into the Pure Land through one's own efforts. Because the power of the essential vow is the crucial factor, there is no reason that even one who is nonvirtuous, simple, and incompetent cannot attain birth in the Pure Land. The essential condition is whether we believe in the essential vow of Amida Buddha."


There is no anxiety or fear in this.

Further, we do not even need to worry about even having a deathbed, or a virtuous teacher at the end of our lives for that matter:

Master Honen wrote:Since your faith was awakened, I have known how much you have believed in the essential vow of Amida Buddha. Then why do you doubt in the Pure Land now? The Meditation Sutra contains teachings for those sentient beings who are as yet unaware of the way toward birth in the Pure Land [i.e. the lower of the nine grades]. However, you have heard much about the teachings of nembutsu, and moreover, you have accumulated the merit of nembutsu. Your birth in the Pure Land is guaranteed, even if you do not have an encounter with a virtuous teacher at the end of your life.

It is regrettable to have someone around you of a different faith [placing doubts in her mind about birth in the Pure Land]. Encourage all people, any person at your side--even female Buddhist practitioners without proper training who have merely shaved their heads--to recite nembutsu at all times. Hear their voices and remain stalwart of heart. Abandon thoughts of the virtuous teacher who is an ordinary person and rely instead on the virtuous teacher who is Amida Buddha. I ask this of you.



We do not give ourselves the rightly settled mind, Amida Buddha gives this to us--He arrives in response to our faith in the Primal Vow, and his act gives us the rightly settled mind:

Master Honen wrote:The arrival of Amida Buddha at the time of death is to establish the rightly settled state of mind for birth in the Pure Land. Unfortunately, some people think that if they establish the rightly settled mind first, and then recite nembutsu, Amida Buddha will come for them. Actually, this indicates a lack of belief in either the essential vow or in the teachings of the sutras. The Sutra in Praise of the Pure Land states, "Amida Buddha brings compassion to the nembutsu devotee and offers him tranquility of the heart." Due to his merit accumulated from reciting nembutsu throughout his daily life, the nembutsu devotee abides in the rightly settled state of mind for birth in the Pure Land at the time of Amida Buddha's arrival.


Let's not read that last quote too dogmatically; here Honen Shonin is not contradicting himself by implying that the nembutsu devotee generates the merit for the rightly settled state. Reading further, he makes it clear even though our recitation is the condition, Amida Buddha is definitely the cause of birth, without whom any accumulation of merit would be possible:

Master Honen wrote:It is a grave mistake to rely little on Amida Buddha, to believe the undesirable ordinary teacher, to think that previous nembutsu recitation was in vain, and yet to pray for the rightly settled state of mind at the time of death. Bear this well in your mind.

Whenever reciting nembutsu, hold your palms togather with your eyes always closed and with tranquility in your heart. Recite nembutsu with the belief that Amida Buddha, in the accordance with the essential vow, will defeinitely appear before you at the time of your death, and that he will impart his compassion to you and make you abide in the rightly settled state of mind. This is the ultimate stance for birth in the Pure Land. Your heart nust not falter.


The nembutsu practice taught by Honen Shonin has nothing to do with anxiety or fear; Amida Buddha's Vow removes all anxiousness about this.


Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but since this has to do with an essential Jodo Shu teaching, I didn't want future readers to get the wrong impression about Master Honen's teachings.


There are other erroneous statements about Masters Honen and Shinran here in thread, but this one really caught my attention.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Monlam Tharchin » Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:28 am

:good:

Honen is something of a spiritual father for me, so I greatly appreciate your taking the time to write that post.

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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:47 am

Great post sillyrabbit!
Andreas doesn't post here anymore and I don't believe he even practices Pure Land anymore, but you brought up a lot that needed to be said. Thanks!
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby sillyrabbit » Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:39 pm

It's fine if Andreas no longer posts; I expected this to be the case, really. Besides, I give 2011 the benefit of the doubt, since the western investigation into Jodo Shu/Shinshu is relatively new. Also, Master Honen's writings aren't as freely available online as Master Shinran's, so when someone says "Master Shinran is so different from Master Honen because he said [something that Master Honen also said]", it's easy to take that person's word for it.

Thinking more about the original topic:

I'm kind of cynical about institutional teachers who contrast their school's teachings with other Masters from the past, because I honestly don't know their motivations when their assessments are obviously inaccurate (such as the statements of some contemporary Jodo Shinshu teachers). It's a necessary evil that dharma centers must be concerned with funds, so I can't help to think the comparisons are simply to say "Don't put your donations in that coffer, put them in this one." It's a shame that where I live, I can't just walk into a temple, continue my devotions, donate, and leave without having to receive some party line about how "we" are so much better than "them" because they believe [blank]" :thinking:

IMO, I think these are the origins are the divergences, since in this case, "we" Jodo Shinshu wanted to contrast ourselves with "them", the Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
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Re: Divergences from the Jodo Shinshu Teachings

Postby Monlam Tharchin » Tue Mar 08, 2016 1:31 am

At a Shinshu temple I went to, the priest joked that if you recite nembutsu constantly, something is wrong with you. The implication being that it's unnecessary and belies a lack of confidence in Amitabha.
I've seen this attitude more than once.

For me personally, reducing diligence in recitation means that instead of holding fast to Amitabha's sleeve, I start picking up all my old favorite defilements instead.
Nembutsu isn't a golden ticket to Vegas sitting on your shelf for that day you're ready to go. That definitely can get lost in some of the rhetoric.


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