Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby himalayanspirit » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:45 am

1. According to what I have read, Pure Land practitioners acknowledge the authenticity of the Chan school which requires great merit and talent to be practiced. Pure Land is emphasized to be an easy practice especially in this Dharma-ending age when people are more busy in life and do not possess enough merits.
2. Pure Land attributes a reality to the Sukhavati of Buddha Amitabha and its scriptures describes the land in great detail.
3. But Chan practitioners openly criticize the Pure Land thought of a Pure Land existing outside the mind.

Now since the Pure Land practitioners acknowledge the Chan vehicle's superiority, its adherents too must be considered knowledgeable by them. So why do they still insist on the reality of Pure Land when the Chan monks deny any existence of Pure Land outside the mind?

After reading about Pure Land for some time, in which my interest was aroused due to a stated simplicity of this school, I am now getting more oriented towards the Chan point of view. And I believe, chanting "Happy Birthday" a thousand times would give the same result as chanting "Namo Amitabhaya" the same number of times. No? Please explain. I know I have little faith but it is very difficult to arouse faith just on the basis of what is stated in a scripture.

Also, which method of remembering the Buddha name would give better results - chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha or invoking it silently (as recommended by the Chan monks)?
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 23, 2011 12:22 pm

himalayanspirit wrote:1. According to what I have read, Pure Land practitioners acknowledge the authenticity of the Chan school which requires great merit and talent to be practiced. Pure Land is emphasized to be an easy practice especially in this Dharma-ending age when people are more busy in life and do not possess enough merits.


The idea of a "dharma ending age" (mappo/mofa 末法) in the East Asian context is a product of commentary literature which first started with Huisi 慧思 (515–577), who is responsible for first systematizing the three periods of dharma. Taking this into consideration the assertion by Pure Land advocates that their practices are ideal for our present age is merely an opinion based on commentary literature, not sūtra. You can agree or disagree with such doctrines. I agree we're in a degenerate age, but there is no real reason why people cannot renounce worldly pursuits.



2. Pure Land attributes a reality to the Sukhavati of Buddha Amitabha and its scriptures describes the land in great detail.


Indeed. However, there are several ways of intepreting this. Some suggest it is a vision that occurs in the bardo or the state in-between lives, others think it is a vision of the world as it is seen by enlightened beings. I favour the latter interpretation as it corresponds with the vision the Buddha provided to his disciples as described in the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra.


3. But Chan practitioners openly criticize the Pure Land thought of a Pure Land existing outside the mind.


Not everyone does.

Now since the Pure Land practitioners acknowledge the Chan vehicle's superiority, its adherents too must be considered knowledgeable by them. So why do they still insist on the reality of Pure Land when the Chan monks deny any existence of Pure Land outside the mind?


Not all Pure Land practitioners think Chan is superior. I don't think many do actually. In Japan anyway the historical line of doctrine was the Zen methods could not produce enlightenment and liberation given the degenerate age we are in.


After reading about Pure Land for some time, in which my interest was aroused due to a stated simplicity of this school, I am now getting more oriented towards the Chan point of view. And I believe, chanting "Happy Birthday" a thousand times would give the same result as chanting "Namo Amitabhaya" the same number of times. No? Please explain. I know I have little faith but it is very difficult to arouse faith just on the basis of what is stated in a scripture.


The recitation of Amitabha's name is something akin to a mantra in that one recollects the name of a Buddha which fosters a pure state of mind while producing merit.

Also, which method of remembering the Buddha name would give better results - chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha or invoking it silently (as recommended by the Chan monks)?


I don't think it matters. One might suggest by vocally reciting it one is using all three doors of karma: mental, physical and verbal rather than just the first one, meaning that chanting is the superior method.
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Kyosan » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:00 pm

I don't think that the division between Pure Land and Chan Buddhism is as great as you think. During a meeting in Shanghai in 1952, Chan master Hsu Yun spoke about the various Buddhist schools and said:

Reality as taught by the Buddhadharma cannot be spoken of for it is indescribable in word and speech. Therefore, the Surangama Sutra says. 'The language used has no real meaning [in itself]'. However, to cope with the great variety of living being's propensities, countless expedients have been devised to guide them. In China, the Buddhadharma is divided into the Chan School, the Teaching School (sutras), the Vinaya School and the Pure Land and Yogacara Schools. To learned and experienced practitioners, this division is superfluous because they are already clear about the Dharma-nature which does not admit differentiation. But beginners hold conflicting opinions and like to drive the Dharma into sects and schools which they discriminate between and thereby greatly reduce the value of the Dharma for enlightening people.

We should know that the hua-tou technique[3] and the repetition of the Buddha's name are only expedient methods which are not the ultimate and are useless to those who have already achieved their goals by efficient training. Why so? Because they have realized the absolute state in which movement and stillness are one, like the moon reflected in a thousand rivers in which it is bright and clear without obstructions. Obstructions come from floating clouds in the sky and the mud in water (deluded thoughts). If there are obstructions, the moon cannot appear in spite of its brightness and its reflection will not be seen in spite of the clear water.

If we practitioners of the Dharma understand this truth and are clear about the self-mind which is like the bright moon in autumn and does not wander outside in search of externals but turns back its light to illumine itself, without giving rise to a single thought and without any notion of realization, then how can there be room for different names and terms? It is only because for countless aeons we have been clinging to wrong thoughts, and because of the strong force of habits, that the Lord Buddha held three hundred assemblies during his forty-nine years of teaching. But the aim of all expedient methods is to cure living beings of different ailments caused by desire, anger and stupidity and perverted habits. If we can keep away from all this, how can there be differences among living beings? Hence an ancient said:

'Though there are many expedients for the purpose
They are identical when returned to the source'.[4]



http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/two ... rses1.html

Like the master said, we should think of both Pure Land and Chan Buddhism as being expedients and not the ultimate buddhadharma. The ultimate buddhadharma can not be expressed in words. Because they are not the ultimate dharma, does that make them of less importance? Absolutely not; because expedients are needed to help beings realize the ultimate dharma, they are important.

So which is better Pure Land or Chan? The answer is whichever is most helpful to you. Some people might find Chan more helpful to them and others might find Pure Land Buddhism more helpful to them.

Do all Zen folks think that "Pure Land" is a state of mind and all Pure Land folks think that "Pure Land" is an actual place. I don't think so.

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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Astus » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:18 am

I think it highly misleading to conceive Chan and Pure Land as separate sects (except in Japan). Chan and Pure Land are merely different practices. It is meaningless to distinguish practitioners' views based on whether they prefer walking, sitting or bowing as primary meditation practice. Why is it said that Chan is superior than Pure Land? It's because using the name of Amitabha as the focus of attention to calm the mind is generally easier than not having any particular point of focus as in Chan. It is easier to conceive an ideal realm where one can attain liberation than to understand how one can already be a buddha. The real proof of this is apparent in the West too when you see all the phony crazy speaking Zen followers and those who could choose the Pure Land path with all sincerity.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby LastLegend » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:44 am

Chapter IV. Samadhi and Prajna
The Sutra of the 6 th Patriarch, Hui Neng
(Translated by A.F.Price and Wong Mou-Lam)

Learned Audience, it has been the tradition of our school to take 'Idealessness' as our object, 'Non-objectivity' as our basis, and 'Non-attachment' as our fundamental principle. 'Idea-lessness' means not to be carried away by any particular idea in the exercise of the mental faculty. 'Non-objectivity' means not to be absorbed by objects when in contact with objects. 'Nonattachment' is the characteristic of our Essence of Mind.



Reciting Amitabha would fall under the three categories mentioned above. Why? By reciting Amitabha, you are not engaging in your activities of the mental faculty; you are not engaging in your thoughts and emotions. When you see forms (the 6 fields) through the six bases, you are not engaged by it because you are focusing on reciting Amitabha. And lastly, non-attachment you will not be attaching to forms and mental activities because you are reciting Amitabha. What about attaching to Amitabha? Ahh...if you are deluded to be attached to the boat, then you will have a problem. As long as you can recognize that liberation is not an attachment even to the boat or destination. So I guess people should recognize why they seek the Path to liberation, or should constantly remind themselves...Another way to understand this is by asking ourselves if we are practicing for liberation or for something else? And this is can be applied to all other methods or forms of Buddhism that we are practicing. Hui Neng said implied that we should not be deluded or detached to things such as merits, but merits come from true cultvation from within towards liberation. However, there should be not an attachment to liberation also. As long as there is a thought in purpose to create, we are deluded. That's why the three categories mentioned above are to talk about essentially non-attachment as everything as it is...an example to understand this is when sometimes you experience complete peace and lightness (not heavy) when no disburbance arises, and at this moment you see clearly.

And keep in mind that Amitabha also works via through medium such that Amitabha sends his infinite lights to us every time we recite or say his name.

Our mind should stand aloof from circumstances, and on no account should we allow them to influence the function of our mind. But it is a great mistake to suppress our mind from all thinking; for even if we succeed in getting rid of all thoughts, and die immediately thereafter, still we shall be reincarnated elsewhere. Mark this, treaders of the Path. It is bad enough for a man to commit blunders from not knowing the meaning of the Law, but how much worse would it be to encourage others to follow suit? Being deluded, he sees not and in addition he blasphemes the Buddhist Canon.




This is just a reminder for people from falsely trying to grasp emptiness or non-attachment. Grasping is already at false. Fundamentally there is not a thing or dharma to be obtained in Mind. And what is alight in our mind everyday is the 3 karma body, speech, and mind (3 poisons-greed,anger,and ignorance). If we don't alight these things in our mind everyday, we will have some purity/peace.

Thanks for listening to my rant.
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NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby himalayanspirit » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:16 am

Thank you all Venerable ones for alighting faith in my heart. :thanks:

Namo Amitabhaya
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby rory » Mon Jul 25, 2011 8:47 pm

HimalayanSpirit;

1. Pure Land practice is one of the oldest in Buddhism older than Ch'an and Vajrayana. Adherents of other practices such as Ch'an would criticize Pure Land to promote their practices. So you will find critiques. Pure Landers will say 99 out of 100 who practice Pure Land succeed, 1 out of 100 who practice Ch'an succeed. I'm very pragmatic. There are many contemporary stories of people who predicted their birth into the Pure Land. Chinese & Japanese & Vietnamese & American stories. So to me that's proof, I follow Pure Land, because it's simple, I can do it and it works.

2. The Pure Land is real. Read below the Dharma talks of a Japanese Pure Land sect and the Chinese Amitabha Society, both Pure Land mainstream orgs.

A rough transcription of a conversation with both Revs. Tanaka and Atone) Can’t you tell by looking at me? I’m so happy! In all seriousness, to be born in the Pure Land means happiness – eternal happiness. But in this world, we’re born suffering. Out of 100 days, we might experience one day of happiness, and the other 99 are made up of “repenting” with Nembutsu. The narrow white path to the Pure Land is a description of this world – our world – where one percent of our lives is made up of happiness, and the other 99 of rage, greed, and suffering. But without suffering, there is no Buddhism. The Amida Sutra says the teaching of Amitabha is the most difficult to believe. Because it is so simple, it requires a leap of Faith.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/jodo-shu ... 4797085465


"or countless people, Pure Land practice is the most suitable for several reasons. First, it is relatively easy to practice in almost any environment: alone; with other practitioners; even in the midst of everyday life. Second, there are no difficult entry-level criteria. Even if one’s abilities and knowledge are modest, with sincere vows to be reborn in the Pure Land, genuine sincerity in chanting, and, of course, unwavering belief, the ultimate goal can still be achieved. We need to believe in the Buddhas and their teachings, and in causality. We need to believe in ourselves and that we have the same true nature as the Buddha. We need to believe that in mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha we will be born into the Western Pure Land and become Buddhas"

do read more: this is a website belonging to the Amitabha Society, led by Chinese Master Chin Kung. It's a very good explanation of modern Pure Land. It's what I believe and practice & I'm a member of a traditional Japanese Pure Land sect: Jodo Shu. Feel free to compare.
http://www.amtbweb.org/tchet430.htm
http://www.jsri.jp/English/Main.html

I have been exactly where you are now: wondering if Pure Land is true. It is. There is tons of modern evidence to support the effectiveness of this practice, but many people refuse to believe because it is so simple.
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Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:06 pm

rory wrote:So you will find critiques. Pure Landers will say 99 out of 100 who practice Pure Land succeed, 1 out of 100 who practice Ch'an succeed.


That saying is attributed to Yongming Yanshou - well, he actually wrote it - who was a great master and wrote extensively on Chan and how Chan is in harmony with the other teachings. I'm mentioning this only to point again to the fact that while there are practices used widely by all sorts of Mahayana practitioners there is no such thing as a Pure Land school outside of the Japanese tradition. That means that the opposition between Pure Land and Chan followers is virtually a myth. Chinese Buddhists greet each other with "Amituofo" (Amita Buddha) - I think it says a lot.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby rory » Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:58 am

Astus thanks so much for the attribution for the quote, I couldn't find it & it is so famous. I'm a bit confused when you say there was no Chinese Pure Land School; when there are 13 famous Chinese Pure Land Patriarchs:
http://www.thomehfang.com/kumarajiva/13 ... ov2003.htm

Perhaps you are thinking of Honen who wasn't part of this lineage. Also the 13th Chinese Pure Land Patriarch Master Yin Guang, lived 1861-1941 in modern times & was a contemporary master and very famous. His wonderful book" Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land" is available free to download:
http://www.buddhanet.net/ebooks_ms.htm you can use Calibre to change it to read on an e-reader.

In this book he states clearly: "You should know that although the two Dharma methods, Pure Land and Zen, have the same root and the same source, their methods of cultivation are different." he states the main tenet of Zen is to see one's Original Nature, while that of Pure Land are Faith, Vows and Practice saying Amitabha's name to be born in the Pure Land. p.84

there is more that I will post later about how Pure Land diligently practiced can lead to Awakening in this very life. But really I urge everyone to read this excellent book for themselves.
gassho
Rory
Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Astus » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:38 am

As Yinguang said, these are methods. When I say there was and is no Pure Land school outside of Japan I mean that in the sense of an institution, a separate church, organisation. Monks follow the same precepts, get ordination in the same way. The differences are between local rules of a monastery. But there is hardly any monastic community dedicated solely to one form of practice or doctrine. Focus on a single method exists on an individual level so there are teachers emphasising their favourite way. But that is really an individual thing and not institutional. In a monastery some monks study sutras, some do recitations, some do meditation, some do administrative tasks, etc. They are all monks living in the same monastery under the same rules and doing the same ritual procedures.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:10 am

Yes, I agree with Astus. Great paper by Richard Sharf:

ON PURE LAND BUDDHISM AND CH’AN/PURE LAND SYNCRETISM IN MEDIEVAL CHINA

In this article I argue that there is little evidence of anything resembling an
independent or self-conscious Pure Land tradition in medieval China. Pure Land
cosmology, soteriology, and ritual were always part-and-parcel of Chinese Buddhism
in general and Ch’an monasticism in particular. Accordingly, there was no
need for a “synthesis” of Pure Land and Ch’an. The modern conception of a
Chinese Pure Land school with its own patriarchate and teachings, and the associated
notion of Ch’an/Pure Land syncretism, are inordinately influenced by historical
developments in Japan and the enduring legacy of sectarian polemics in
contemporary Japanese scholarship.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Doubt about Pure Land and Chan

Postby sinweiy » Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:48 am

i heard there were 12 versions of Infinity Life sutras and 2 versions of Amida sutra, that came from India, but 6 were lost. some have different numbers of vows, be it 36, 48 or 24. if we want to understand why Buddha expound so many different versions, then one need to study them. there was a compilation by a late Lay man 夏连居. i think Buddha expounded many times of it (mostly to the lay people i believe) as it's difficult to believe. might not know, the "concept of god's heaven" originate from this, but it became twisted

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