No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Nosta » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:49 pm

Hello!

Part of me believes that there is in fact, somewhere, the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, or Sukhavati.
But there is other part of me, the scientific one, that doesnt believe on it.

If Pure Land teaching is real, its the most important one from all the buddhist teachings, because its the only one that may drive someone, in on life time (the one right after dying), to reach Nibbana. And such teaching says that one needs: Pratice, Vows and FAITH [that Amithaba will save us].


Since Faith is so much important, i would like to increase it by:
- knowing for sure that the Sutras speaking on Amithaba are real, that they were really the words of Shakyamuni Buddha; if such sutras were a creation from other sects, that would be a very big shame, and would dimnish the credibility of Pure Land idea; for example, Theravada buddhists seems to be prety sure that Pure Land (as Mahayana or some concepts like "Original Mind"/"Buddha Nature", etc and i cant argue against them; they have some valid points) is not a Buddha teaching;

- having acess to more and more cases of sucessful rebirths in Pure Land; unfortunatly i only know very few (3-4 from some ebooks or the like) and thats strange, because with so many people that pratice Nembutsu, i dont see any reports/readings, movies, pictures, whatever, showing the signals of sucessfull rebirth in Sukhavati...and i already made search on internet (and even contacted 1-2 masters to send me reports/links, etc and no results, altought the answers to my questions were very kind).

So, what i ask is for you to answer (not only to me, but everybody that may read this) to such questions (1- Are Pure Land Sutras the original message of Shakyamuni Buddha? 2- Can you give more cases of sucessfull rebirth in Pure Land?).

I hope to see some nice discussion here :-), but i must confess that on other forums my task did not give any results :-(

Finnaly, apologise my english. :-)

Namo Amituofo!
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Stephen » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:27 am

No one can prove rebirth to you, nor can you use texts/teachings as proof any more than you can say God exists because the Bible says he does. If you understand the teachings and believe, that is your personal attachment. It is the same if you disbelieve, for disbelief is a form of belief-against, and is also an attachment.

In having such doubt, the only way of right view is to understand rebirth on the conceptual level, both in the literal sense of consciousness migration post-mortem and the metaphorical sense of the arising/falling of each successive moment, and to apply the middle way: neither belief nor disbelief.

That is not to say we do not accept, or that we do not pass on the knowledge to others, but "belief" is that personal attachment of the "self", which is a false self. We only have belief where we are lacking self-knowledge, or realization. Unless we are able to see our past lives, as the Buddha did, we can not have direct experience and so no self-knowledge.

"I don't know" is the wisest thing we can admit to ourselves. Then the mind can attain tranquility.
The "self", which is a construct of the mind, is non-self. It is not us, and we are not it. This self blinds us to reality; it is our Mara, our Satan, our Hades. Cast it out and behold the path to freedom.
(Visit http://www.BodhiBox.com for a free Buddhist e-mail account, while you're still attached to the 'net...)
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Huifeng » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:49 am

There are huge numbers of "Pureland Rebirth" stories in Chinese. It even amounts to it's own type of literary genre, there is so much of it. However, due to Western predilections of things Buddhistic, very little of it is even known of in English, let alone translated.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Tatsuo » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:05 am

Hi,

there are many works in Chinese and Japanese about successful birth in the Pureland, but most of them are unfortunately not translated. But what you can do, is first read books about the Pureland movement like "Honen The Buddhist Saint", which also have reports about people achieving birth in the Pureland.
If you want to know more about Pureland you could start reciting the nenbutsu (Namu Amida Bu(tsu)), which will have an effect on your doubt.
About the validity of Mahayana Sutras: Theravadins and scholars believe they do not originate from Buddha Shakyamuni, but were later works. However, you should look at the way they determine that. They look at the Sutras, which are written in the most clumsy style and declare, that these are in fact the oldest Sutras. More sophisticated and philosophical Sutras are then declared as later additions. The Mahayana response to that is, that the Theravada Sutras were spoken to establish a first connection with Buddhism because people didn't know anything about it. Mahayana Sutras were taught later (but still by the Buddha), because the disciples could move on from the basic stuff. Mahayana, as an independent movement, made a later appearance, but the Mahayana Sutras originated from the Buddha. The thing is, that the oldest writings (Theravada and Mahayana alike) still extant today, all are from later centuries, because the first Sutras were orally transmitted (Mahayana and Southern School Sutras [e.g. Theravada]) and when they were written down, most of the early writings then did not survive. So it is not that easy to determine how old a Sutra is and there are some scholarly disputes about the age of some Sutras, too. Concerning the Theravada argument, that the Mahayana Sutras are later additions - there is not a single Mahayana thought, that has not roots in the earliest (constructed) Buddhism.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:52 am

One better not look for scientific truths for religious teachings. Not because they're contradictory or against each other but they work with different axioms and talk about different spheres of the world.

To understand, and consequently gain faith in the Pure Land teaching one better starts with basic teachings (summed up in: four noble truths, dependent origination) then move to Mahayana. Actually, I think if one gets clear on realms, buddhas, merit transference and rebirth from the basics it doesn't take much to comprehend the bodhisattva path and the buddha-lands of Mahayana. From this it is not difficult to see how and why can one be born in the Pure Land of Amita Buddha.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:52 pm

Tatsuo wrote:Hi,

there are many works in Chinese and Japanese about successful birth in the Pureland, but most of them are unfortunately not translated. But what you can do, is first read books about the Pureland movement like "Honen The Buddhist Saint", which also have reports about people achieving birth in the Pureland.
If you want to know more about Pureland you could start reciting the nenbutsu (Namu Amida Bu(tsu)), which will have an effect on your doubt.
About the validity of Mahayana Sutras: Theravadins and scholars believe they do not originate from Buddha Shakyamuni, but were later works. However, you should look at the way they determine that. They look at the Sutras, which are written in the most clumsy style and declare, that these are in fact the oldest Sutras. More sophisticated and philosophical Sutras are then declared as later additions. The Mahayana response to that is, that the Theravada Sutras were spoken to establish a first connection with Buddhism because people didn't know anything about it. Mahayana Sutras were taught later (but still by the Buddha), because the disciples could move on from the basic stuff. Mahayana, as an independent movement, made a later appearance, but the Mahayana Sutras originated from the Buddha. The thing is, that the oldest writings (Theravada and Mahayana alike) still extant today, all are from later centuries, because the first Sutras were orally transmitted (Mahayana and Southern School Sutras [e.g. Theravada]) and when they were written down, most of the early writings then did not survive. So it is not that easy to determine how old a Sutra is and there are some scholarly disputes about the age of some Sutras, too. Concerning the Theravada argument, that the Mahayana Sutras are later additions - there is not a single Mahayana thought, that has not roots in the earliest (constructed) Buddhism.



According to Hirakawa Akira & Paul Groner's History of Indian Buddhism the mahayana and mahasanghika sutras were first ones to be written down ( from the oral traditions), writing down of the theravada canon began afterwards, first in the Abhayagiri monastery in SriLanka, Abhayagiri monastery lost in a power struggle and it was destroyed, the written theravada sutras were taken to an other branch of theravada school ShriLanka, one that is called the Mahavihara.
One could also say that Mahayana is older than theravada.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:12 pm

Nosta wrote:Hello!

Part of me believes that there is in fact, somewhere, the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, or Sukhavati.
But there is other part of me, the scientific one, that doesnt believe on it.

If Pure Land teaching is real, its the most important one from all the buddhist teachings, because its the only one that may drive someone, in on life time (the one right after dying), to reach Nibbana. And such teaching says that one needs: Pratice, Vows and FAITH [that Amithaba will save us].


Since Faith is so much important, i would like to increase it by:
- knowing for sure that the Sutras speaking on Amithaba are real, that they were really the words of Shakyamuni Buddha; if such sutras were a creation from other sects, that would be a very big shame, and would dimnish the credibility of Pure Land idea; for example, Theravada buddhists seems to be prety sure that Pure Land (as Mahayana or some concepts like "Original Mind"/"Buddha Nature", etc and i cant argue against them; they have some valid points) is not a Buddha teaching;

- having acess to more and more cases of sucessful rebirths in Pure Land; unfortunatly i only know very few (3-4 from some ebooks or the like) and thats strange, because with so many people that pratice Nembutsu, i dont see any reports/readings, movies, pictures, whatever, showing the signals of sucessfull rebirth in Sukhavati...and i already made search on internet (and even contacted 1-2 masters to send me reports/links, etc and no results, altought the answers to my questions were very kind).

So, what i ask is for you to answer (not only to me, but everybody that may read this) to such questions (1- Are Pure Land Sutras the original message of Shakyamuni Buddha? 2- Can you give more cases of sucessfull rebirth in Pure Land?).

I hope to see some nice discussion here :-), but i must confess that on other forums my task did not give any results :-(

Finnaly, apologise my english. :-)

Namo Amituofo!


First of all, in the classical theravada there are heavenly realms where the Streamwinners, Once-returners, and Non-returners are reborn, these heavenly realms are collectively called the Suddhavasa, it comprises several levels of different heavens. You could think that gaining rebirth in Sukhavati (to some extent) equals the attainment Streamentry (or once returning, or nomorereturning). Thus it is not at all different from other buddhist approaches. There are several possibilities in the interpretation of the meaning of "gaining rebirth in the Pureland". If you read through the Three pureland sutras carefully you will see how the pureland attainment equals with the attainments of other buddhist Yanas. Incidentally Suddhavasa means "Pure Abodes"!!!
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Nosta » Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:19 pm

Hi again! I dont seek exactly proofs that rebirth (rebirth in a general way) is true.

What i seek is some proofs of sucessful rebirth in Pure Land: people seeing flowers or strange rainbows in the sky, images of buddhas, etc.

Its a shame that in chinese one may find so many reports and in english nothing at all :-(


Anyway, i am thankful of the things you said. Thank you Aemillus for that information on the possibility that Mahayana may be older than Theravada.

What about you guys? Have you ever get any auspicious signs on your future rebirth on Pure Land? Or hae you ever done the powa (or phowa, i dont know) practice?
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:49 pm

There are two ancient collections, which also contain some Pureland related matter. First there is the
Dainihonkoku Hokekyokenki or "Miraculous tales of the Lotus sutra from ancient Japan" and then the Nihon Ryoiki or "Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition", but both are very expensive and very old (around 700 and 1000). Nevertheless interesting for anyone interested in the Pureland and devotional practices in Japan.
Last edited by Tatsuo on Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Nosta » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:52 pm

Thanks for that tip.

what about ebooks? do you know any?

Another interesting question: if there is so many "non-returners" in Pure Land, why there is not a single one of them coming back to life on Earth in order to help us and show us the way?

"Hi! My name is Jack! I came from Pure Land" lol

Thats the kind of situation we will never see. And if is true that there are so many non returners, and we see no one here on Earth, isnt that a proof that Pure Land concept may be fake??
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:05 am

Nosta wrote:Hi again! I dont seek exactly proofs that rebirth (rebirth in a general way) is true.

What i seek is some proofs of sucessful rebirth in Pure Land: people seeing flowers or strange rainbows in the sky, images of buddhas, etc.

Its a shame that in chinese one may find so many reports and in english nothing at all :-(


You can follow some of the links here:
http://images.google.com/images?um=1&hl ... cial=false

This is from Old Master Guang Qin, an accomplished Pureland practitioner of the modern age. He was from Fujian prov in China, but later lived in Taiwan.

Anyway, i am thankful of the things you said. Thank you Aemillus for that information on the possibility that Mahayana may be older than Theravada.

What about you guys? Have you ever get any auspicious signs on your future rebirth on Pure Land? Or hae you ever done the powa (or phowa, i dont know) practice?


Received some phowa teachings from KC Ayang rinpoche, back in 2003.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:01 am

Nosta wrote:Hi again! I dont seek exactly proofs that rebirth (rebirth in a general way) is true.

What i seek is some proofs of sucessful rebirth in Pure Land: people seeing flowers or strange rainbows in the sky, images of buddhas, etc.

Its a shame that in chinese one may find so many reports and in english nothing at all :-(


Anyway, i am thankful of the things you said. Thank you Aemillus for that information on the possibility that Mahayana may be older than Theravada.

What about you guys? Have you ever get any auspicious signs on your future rebirth on Pure Land? Or hae you ever done the powa (or phowa, i dont know) practice?



Had you read the Longer Sukhavati Sutra you would have seen that bodhisattava Dharmakara's 48 vows include the possibility (in some rare cases) of coming back to the impure worlds for bodhisattva purposes.
This is also expressed in TsongKhapa's prayer for Rebirth in Sukhavati.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:47 am

Nosta wrote:Thanks for that tip.

what about ebooks? do you know any?

Another interesting question: if there is so many "non-returners" in Pure Land, why there is not a single one of them coming back to life on Earth in order to help us and show us the way?

"Hi! My name is Jack! I came from Pure Land" lol

Thats the kind of situation we will never see. And if is true that there are so many non returners, and we see no one here on Earth, isnt that a proof that Pure Land concept may be fake??


Do you expect that they'll say that? Even if they did, people may not believe them, and so they would became the laughing stock.

Better to just get on with the work, no need to talk about such things.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Tatsuo » Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:54 am

Nosta wrote:what about ebooks? do you know any?

No, unfortunately i do not know any E-Books about this topic. I'll tell you if i should find one.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:05 pm

Nosta wrote:Or have you ever done the powa (or phowa, i dont know) practice?


Yes, I have practiced one tradition of phowa (there are many traditions); however, what you have to understand is that I received two types of instructions. The first type is meant to be practiced periodically while one is alive as a preparation for death and this is a bit like other vajrayana meditations in that it involves visualizing deities and energy channels in order to prepare to eject one's consciousness. The second type is meant to be practiced at the time of death and is similar to the first, but this involves forcefully and completely ejecting one's consciousness.

I've only practiced the first type in which I have only experienced the normal meditative states of mind with maybe some additional unusual sensations. I do not experience a pure land when doing this.

It is forbidden to commit suicide by ejecting one's consciousness while still alive. If I had done that, I wouldn't be around to type this. Phowa (at least the one I know about) is a very "one-way" technique, and I don't think it will give you the answers you're looking for.

I suppose it's possible that some enlightened masters may have memories of being in pure lands in their past lives, though. I hope you eventually find the info you're looking for.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Nighthawk » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:32 am

Even if there are Pureland Near Death experiences it can't be known for sure if a Pure Land truly does exist. Christians have NDEs of seeing Jesus and St Peter, Tibetan Buddhists see Guan Yin and millions of bodhisattvas. You will never hear about a Christian seeing Guan Yin or a Tibetan Buddhist seeing Jesus and the heaven described in the Bible. These Near Death experiences are probably nothing more than temporary hallucinations that the individuals consciousness creates before taking another birth in one of the 6 realms.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:56 pm

maestro wrote:Even if there are Pureland Near Death experiences it can't be known for sure if a Pure Land truly does exist. Christians have NDEs of seeing Jesus and St Peter, Tibetan Buddhists see Guan Yin and millions of bodhisattvas. You will never hear about a Christian seeing Guan Yin or a Tibetan Buddhist seeing Jesus and the heaven described in the Bible. These Near Death experiences are probably nothing more than temporary hallucinations that the individuals consciousness creates before taking another birth in one of the 6 realms.


This is a valid point, whether one's experience of hell or pureland or heaven or preta realm is a valid evidence? Doubting ( internally and externally) goes usually so far that people finally lose their own experiences, they don't remember them anymore, they have disappeared or become weak and hazy. Humans are social beings and their collective consciousness is powerful, it will gradually erase individual's experiences even when they have been dramatic. People want to be accepted, they fear being ridiculed, and so they finally start telling all the lies that the society demands of them. It is said in various traditions that before death you will very often see glimpses of the realm or world you are going to be born into. But being a young and energetic person you don't have to consider such things. Society takes all credibility away from the dying ones. Instead authority is given to persons full of passion, full of life and ambition, who therefore do not understand even that death exists!! who can only ridicule those with any kind of experience or knowledge. This is how the human society functions. Being in full human consciousness you perceive the human world. If you have a Deva consciousness you will perceive a deva world. The worlds are separate although they seem to exist in the same material universe.
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:17 pm

Nosta wrote:Hi again! I dont seek exactly proofs that rebirth (rebirth in a general way) is true.

What i seek is some proofs of sucessful rebirth in Pure Land: people seeing flowers or strange rainbows in the sky, images of buddhas, etc.

Its a shame that in chinese one may find so many reports and in english nothing at all :-(


Anyway, i am thankful of the things you said. Thank you Aemillus for that information on the possibility that Mahayana may be older than Theravada.

What about you guys? Have you ever get any auspicious signs on your future rebirth on Pure Land? Or hae you ever done the powa (or phowa, i dont know) practice?


All I have to say is that You have not read enough of the existing pure land literature. There certainly are personal descriptions of pureland experiences. If you read the works of Lu Kuan Yu for example. D.T. Suzuki has one boook devoted to Shin faith, then there are the Works of C.M.Chen (preferably in the form before Yutang Lin's "editing"), that contain Yogi C.M.Chen's personal experiences of Amitabha's pureland. I think that Tripitaka master Shuan Hua has talked about Amitabha in quite personal fashion. not to forget Miss P.C.Lee (a bodhisattva) and so on... and so on....
You have to understand the spiritual etiquette of buddhism. What you ask is a very intimate and precious thing, not to be revealed too rashly or in a vulgar manner. Still it must be present, it will be present, in some way or an other.

very kindly
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Nosta » Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:42 pm

Hello again :-)

The importance of such readings is to increase the believe - and so the Faith - in the real existence (at a phenoumenal level) of Pure Land of Amithaba. One cannot see that as a little thing.

About near death experiences, things are not exactly like you said. First, there are not almost any reports on visions of Jesus (maybe saints, deceased, etc). Then, as far as i know, i never heard about visions of any sort (lights on sky, sweet odours, etc) reporting a sucessful rebirth on Heaven.
Now, about scientific research on NDE, reports seem to show that there is no explanation on it. Portuguese researchers (in my country, and one of them is someone with very good reputation), and other researchers, shown that there is conscience while the body and mind are dead, during the NDE. The heart fails, the brain does not receive oxygen, neither energy, etc, and during that moment, when clinical death is happening, the person is having the NDE.

Also, and without entering on details, they saw that the "hallucination theory", or any other chemical substance on blood that may exist, are not enough to explain the very lucid experience that people have (and they can remember it, after getting back to life). They concluded in fact that something exists , that such experiences may suggest that there is life after death [and here, iam saying it in a very straight and simples way, without seeing if is "rebirth" or "reencarnation" or 5 skandhas, etc...].

These are very important things to take into account in our buddhistic and pure land practice. I am sorry, but i really dont want to loose my time saying "Namo Amithaba Buddha" if there is no life after death or a Pure Land indeed :-). Really! Just think: there are many crazy people outthere (and some of them can persuade and mislead many persons on really intelligent ways), saying many amazing things, like they can see and speak with ghosts (i know someone on TV that says that kind of stuff...), they got a message from god, etc. Some of these people may have give birth to some religions (or sects), due to their lies...

Chatolics says that we should believe on Jesus. Muslins on Alah. Buddhists on Buddha (yes, we need to believe, without proofs, on kamma, rebirth, etc). Jews on God. Etc. Who is right? Is Buddha correct when he says that there is a Pure Land? But why should we say that He is right? Jesus also says that there is an heaven...I followed Jesus when younger, just to find that he would never answer my calls. Now, i am more afraid to find more lies and to loose more time with things that may be not real.

Thats why such question is of great importance, and why i seek cases of sucessful rebirths on Pure Land.

About the books/authors you spoke, Aemilus, seems to be good. My problem is that i live in Portugal, and here you just find typical books that sell good (H.Potter, D.Brown, etc). Pure Land books are much harder to find than a pig flying! I have no possibility to find them (the books, not the pigs lol). Also, even if i buy them on net, they are expensive (in Portugal, most of the people are not very good on their pockets...) and the taxes i would pay are high too (i remember that once i bougth some music Cds with a friend, and the taxes were higher than the CDs...).
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Re: No Proofs of Sucessful Rebirths?&Are Pure Land sutras real?

Postby Luke » Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:31 pm

Your feelings are very understandable, Nosta.

Purelands are very good, but you should also remember that they are not the final goal of Buddhism, which is enlightenment and helping others become enlightened. Enlightenment occurs when one has removed all one's emotional obscurations and experiences the true nature of one's mind directly.

If you have no faith in Purelands, then why bother with them? The final purity can only be found within one's own mind. If you find a good Buddhist teacher, you could start working towards this.
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