Dechen Norbu wrote:
See, I had no clue about it (bold).
These are excerpts from the Dream Wanderings
of Hanshan Deqing, one of the three "dragon elephants" of the ming dynasty, widely held to be an incarnation of Manjushri. He was a great Chan teacher, but really more of a great Mahayana teacher as he wrote on taught on all schools of Buddhism, including pure land. I should add, he was not really the type for giving any of this the 'Zen spin' or anything like that (if anything, I reckon he was inclined towards a yogacara spin on pure land), but just more of a generic Mahayana spin:
One who is awakened about the Buddha Nature is called Buddha. When one recites the Buddha's name, Buddha Amitabha is one's own nature, the Pure Land is the blissful land of one's own mind. Anyone who can singlemindedly recite the Buddha's name in thought after thought and concentrate deeper and deeper will always find Amitabha Buddha appearing in his own mind. It is not necessary to seek the Pure Land far away, ten billion Buddha lands beyond. Therefore, if the mind is pure, the land is pure. If the mind is defiled, the land is defiled. If an evil thought comes to mind, then many obstacles appear. If a good thought arises, peace is everywhere. Thus, heaven and hell are all in one's own mind.
Many people following the current fashion of Zen think of it as the supreme Dharma. They look down on Pure Land and do not practice it. Because they delight in fame, they learn some words and sentences from ancient sages so that they can talk smoothly and eulogize one another. The urge to enter the Dharma doors (i.e., to cultivate) is in decline. These people not only lack real practice, they even deprecate the Mahayana sutras, claiming that the sutras are mere words and need not be read. Though such persons may have some mundane knowledge, they cannot save themselves. It is really terrible. Most of them do not understand the Mahayana sutras, do not understand that there are many expedient methods for teaching sentient beings, do not know the meaning of the expression: "Everything returns to oneness, but there are many expedient methods that lead us to an understanding of the Truth." They only know that the Zen Patriarchs stressed Awakening. Yet the original intent of the awakened mind is to end Birth and Death. Is this not also the very purpose of Buddha Recitation?
Many Zen practitioners fail to escape the cycle of Birth and Death, while Pure Land followers find it easy to escape that cycle. What is the reason for this? It is because to practice Zen, you must stop the thought process, while to recite the Buddha's name, you must concentrate on pure thoughts. Since sentient beings have been mired in false thinking for untold eons, it is very difficult to detach themselves from it [and thus end the thought process]. Buddha Recitation, on the other hand, changes impure thoughts to pure thoughts, fighting poison with poison to purify one's own thoughts. 13) Therefore, in Zen practice it is difficult to attain Awakening, while Buddha Recitation makes it easy to reach that goal. If you really want to end Birth and Death in one lifetime, concentrate on Buddha Recitation. There is no need to worry any further.
Dechen Norbu wrote:
I liked what you said regarding Buddhahood in this life... hehe let's be realistic. It's not for the great majority. I'm well aware of that. Knowing where we are, our circumstances and so on is fundamental. My "philosophy" is doing the best we can, each day, without haste. A bit like agriculture. Diligence without haste. Then we'll see.
For a long time, I was not particularly enamoured of the attitude displayed in many Mahayana sutras of spending countless lifetimes simply making offering to Buddhas or what not, basically just accumulating merit without really aspiring for the higher path. I saw it as a kinda patronising Buddhism. Why should the Buddhas not encourage such people to practise for awakening asap?
I was somewhat surprised recently to find how much my view has changed of late. I was studying the Gandhavyuha Sutra wherein the youth Sudhana seeks out 52 different teachers to obtain Buddhahood in this lifetime. As many of those teachers did, one bodhisattva, the night goddess Vasanti, recounted her path towards her current profound stature. Starting one night, "as many eons ago as atoms in the polar mountain" ago, when she was having sex and then fell asleep, a Buddha attained samyaksambodhi that night. A night goddess back then woke her up her by tingling her jewellery and told her about the event, what a Buddha was and how they became Buddhas. At that time, she resolved to become a Buddha right there and then.
As a result of that aspiration, she then spent the following aeons "as many as atoms in the polar mountain" never born in a bad state, always achieving human greatness among humans and celestial greatness among celestials, never with defective faculties and with little suffering, never apart from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas... and not
giving a damn about Prajnaparamita for all this time! Well, that is how I would have read it formerly. But actually that latter thought never occurred to me this time around. Perhaps it was the narrative that made it easier to put myself in her place, or maybe I've just come to see things differently, but the thought that occurred to me reading this was not one of whether should could have done more or better, but rather "'how wonderful, that she should enjoy such a long string of lifetimes enjoying a good life content with how she lived." And recounting this, the night goddess does in fact note that she passed these aeons "happily, peacefully, safely, and rightly
" planting roots of goodness, even though after all this time she did never develop the faculties of awakening.
Eventually, a mere ten thousand aeons ago, she did attain awakening and set forth on the bhumis. Though she instructs Sudhana, she has to send him on his way for further instruction, since she only "knows this enlightening liberation that is a method of guiding the world by the light of the truth which dispels the darkness of all sentient beings." Just your average blows-everything-in-the-saha-world-out-of-the-water siddhi/realisation really and how could that possibly compare to the profound wisdom of Samantabhadra?
But the point in all this is that I don't think I really believe any more that there is such a Buddhism as the highest/best/supreme path for living beings towards happiness let alone paths within Buddhism constituting that. It's a supposition that doesn't really stand up to scrutiny for me any more in terms of how people live their lives. It seems to me more a case of, by virtue of it being the case, honouring and fully acknowledging that all beings walk their own way in life and find their own way to happiness. And that as Bodhisattvas, to the extent we can be so, we're not really here to help other beings towards any such imagined 'best/highest/supreme' path to happiness, but rather to assist, sustain and nurture beings in whatever
way they can and wish to find their own happiness. Be it Prajnapramita, chanting Amitabha's name, or simply being good person, living a modestly happy life.
Nevertheless, this is a causal universe and minds strike me as being generally glued together of the same building blocks. And I do believe, even as we all walk our own honoured yet bumbling and twisting paths to our own happiness, that for each and every one of us on our own very individual paths, this... aspiration for happiness that comes in all kinds and forms, will eventually refine itself into the wish for liberation and the path towards this inevitably will manifest along along the lines of what we in this world recognise as "Buddhism". So I guess you could nevertheless say, from this highly tentative perspective, that Buddhism does represent a 'supreme' path.
But my point is I don't think there are any scorecards of happiness or path to measure beings progress against. If there are beings who aspire to Buddhahood and/or liberation and making good work towards that, well that's wonderful. For where they are in life. If there are people who used this life make just a seed of goodness worth of progress, that is really wonderful too. For where they are in life.
Enough rambling. Peace out.