Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:31 am

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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:24 am

Thanks for posting this for the group :)

I recently joined Paul's and Rick's "online sangha" and am impressed with its straight talk about Amida's reality as well as its compassion, respect, and openness to all questions. It's nice to see one of Paul's videos here on Dharma Wheel.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:58 am

Paul is one of the very rare teachers of authentic Shin dharma. I'm also a part of his online sangha and have learned a lot from him. He takes a lot of time answering questions and has that straight forward no bull approach teaching style. :smile:
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:37 am

Changing Shinshu into a form of a Buddhist fundamentalist pseudo-xtian book religion is neither a sign of 'understanding Shinjin' nor of 'understanding Shin'. :sage:
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Nighthawk » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:09 pm

Andreas Ludwig wrote:Changing Shinshu into a form of a Buddhist fundamentalist pseudo-xtian book religion is neither a sign of 'understanding Shinjin' nor of 'understanding Shin'. :sage:


But changing Shinshu into some new age materialistic zen religion does lead to the understanding of Shinjin? :lol:
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:04 am

Of course, the Roberts url takes seriously, and as an authoritative guideline, the words of Shinran and Rennyo. This does not make it a fundamentalist pseudo-Christian book religion. It simply identifies the basics and adheres to them. It doesn't collapse into fundamentalist modernism of the type that abstracts Amida into an insentient symbol or "cosmic dharma process". For the Roberts online sangha, Amida is what Rennyo and Shinran say he is: a real Buddha working for real salvation and enlightenment.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:26 am

Couldn't have said it any better. On the other hand it's pretty funny as well since Shinran made it crystal clear that those who deny the existence of Amida Buddha is the most evil karmic act one can commit and yet you find these modernists all the time completely ignoring this statement and interpreting his teachings to fit their own personal concepts. :crazy:
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:08 am

Thanks for your comments, Ryoto :)

Yeah, I am baffled by Shin practicers who deny Amida's reality. Of course, Amida is a symbol, but it doesn't end there. Similarly, Jesus is a symbol (of God's love, compassion, wisdom, salvific power, etc.), but it doesn't end there. For most Christians, Jesus is - must be - real in a "spiritually substantive" way that no metaphor or analogy can satisfy.

I suspect that, with the waning in the West of God as a Creator-Sky Father external to the world, some Shin folks want also to "de-deify" Amida.

Problem is, though, Amida is not in the first place a deity; not a creator; not an intervener in the physical universe(s). Amida is not God, or a god. The God of supernatural theism is being reduced to analogical/symbolic components, but this process cannot apply to Amida, since Amida is not God: rather, Amida is Buddha.

As a Buddha, Amida does not carry the "flaws" said to be inherent in the Western creator-god (inept world-manager, unfair punisher, incompetent world-maintainer, vengeful, petty, clumsy cosmic judge, etc., etc.).
Since Amida is not God, he cannot be praised or blamed for the world's condition.
Since Amida is not God, he cannot be held up as a stern judge and "End Times" destroyer of worlds.
Since Amida is not God, he cannot be made responsible for the colossal, samsaric waste and pain of the evolutionary process. Amida - nor any other Buddha - can be the creator of samsara.

Thus, the current Western critiques of God cannot be applied to Amida Buddha. It therefore follows that Shin folks, who should, with all other Buddhists, realize that a Buddha is not God, ought also to realize that their own particular Buddha, Amida Buddha, cannot be deconstructed along the lines of what is currently happening with the Western God. That's just common sense.

But an even deeper example of common sense - which is oddly and tragically missing from Shin deconstructionism - is the simple fact that Amida is a real Buddha, and that real salvation issues from the real "Working" of the real Amida. A symbol at best is only a finger pointing toward Amida. Deconstruct Amida down to a symbol-finger, and the so-called practicer is left with nothing but a narcissistic self-creation. What a lovely finger they have invented, gleaming with the sheen of modernism. What a lovely gesturing hand, referentially pointing to ... nothing. How sad that the real Amida has been exchanged for some kind of insentient "cosmic dharma process", and how sad that so many people seem to be buying into that error.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:54 pm

No one is denying Amidas reality. It's neither a materialistic view nor a modern one trying to not getting attached to the necessary tools our mind has to use all the time, be that in describing our day to day world or anything that might transcend it. It's the basic idea of how Mahayana Buddhism tries to understand the dynamic process that appears to us as 'our reality'. Understanding the sutras as an archive of historic events is to misunderstand Mahayana as a whole simple as that. But some people need 'history' or it ain't 'true' for them and that's when the problems start. You might need this 'historic truth' to get closer to the truth behind the image, but insisting that this is the only 'true way' (or shall we say it in Pauls absurd way of calling it a 'True True' way?) makes it clear that you are afraid of losing this 'historic ground' of your 'faith' and that's not what someone is afraid of who's been experiencing Shinjin. :sage:

The story of Dharmakara should not be seen merely as an allegory with a didactic purpose; but it is not necessary to insist that it details a series of historic events, either. Rather, it is an affirmation of the vast processes involved in the task of human transformation and enlightenment. Furthermore, the law of karma dictates that such processes cannot take place independently of the realm of samsara. In the Mahayana understanding of things, Nirvana and samsara are inseparable.


http://www.nembutsu.info/primshin.htm#amida
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:11 pm

"No one is denying Amidas reality."

Apparently, though, some are :) I've read Shin material that replaces Amida with symbol systems and other surrogates. This is how Amida ends up being described as a cosmic dharma process rather than as a real Buddha. Paul Roberts said that Alfred Bloom told him point-blank, "Amida isn't real". Maybe Paul mis-remembers the incident (I doubt it), but in any case, it stands as an example of a certain kind of thinking about Buddhas and the transcendental realm(s) that is current in certain circles.

"some people need 'history' or it ain't 'true' for them and that's when the problems start. You might need this 'historic truth' to get closer to the truth behind the image"

I don't think Paul's "True Shin Sangha" really does this. Yes, they hold that Shakyamuni delivered an "Amidan sermon" on Vulture Peak, but they also hold that this information was originally transmitted via "samadhis" over time, long before it was written down. This conforms to a historical theory in other religions, namely that most teachers have both an exoteric and an esoteric teaching. Many Christians apply this to Jesus, who purportedly transmitted a secret, nocturnal baptismal teaching to Nicodemus that is only preserved in John's Gospel. Without doubt it also applies to "Saint" Paul, whose own "seven authentic letters" testify that Paul had an exoteric teaching for disciples at one level, and an esoteric teaching for those more capable and/or adept for receiving them. I see no reason why this principle could not be applied to Shakyamuni, despite what some texts may say about his teaching being single, simple, and addressed to everyone. The same situation applies in the New Testament, where there is a mix of texts that hold that Jesus taught "everything openly", but also show the exact opposite.

Nor do I believe that the True Shin Sangha "needs" for the Vulture Peak Sermon to be historical. They believe it to be historical, but they don't need it to be so, for one simple reason - Amida's reality is the only sufficient reality, and scripture is secondary. The reality of Amida trumps both scripture and speculation. The experience of salvation and Shinjin - and hence of Amida's reality - precedes any speculation about the scriptures' historicity. Shinjin is not derived from the reading of scripture. Rather, Shinjin arises from the direct, internal "Working" of Amida Buddha. Only after having been "grasped, never to be let go", does the Shin practicer really begin to understand the scriptures, and to read them in light of the experience of being saved by Amida. That is, Amida, not written texts, is the central, deciding reality. At least that's how I understand the True Shin Sangha's view of it: Amida first, then reading and interpreting scripture "in Amida's light" - not vice-versa.

I am no scholar. But to this point in my studies, I remain unaware of any Shin adherent who was converted solely by reading scripture, whether or not it was read in a literalistic manner. On the contrary - as far as I know - conversion comes only from Amida's "Other Power". Amida's voice calls, we are its echo. We respond with our grateful Nembutsu. But it is Amida who issues the call, and answers it from within us. Scripture, then, can only be the frosting on the salvation cake. Salvation itself is solely due to Amida's soteriological activity. One cannot attain salvation by the self-power of reading scripture ... and the transmission of the Vulture Peak Sermon is itself the result of Amida's prior Work in the transmitters. So it is Amida's reality and his Work that guarantees the Sermon's truth; the written record of the Sermon has in itself no power to save. Hence I would venture to say that a belief in the Sermon's historicity is only a natural outcome of the experience of Amida's reality. Without direct access to Shakyamuni's mind or to time travel technology, we'll never know. But we can believe, based on our direct experience of Amida's providence.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby gyougan » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:50 pm

I like this guy. He is not shy about having achieved shinjin unlike most other Shin figures. I wish more people were as straightforward as him because it shows that shinjin can be achieved. This gives hope for those of us whose hearts are still clouded by doubt!
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:07 am

Yeah, Paul may come off as a "fundamentalist" in certain things he says. But if you hang around his site for a while, you'll see that, unlike fundamentalists, Paul has a scholarly familiarity with both Dharmic and general religious issues. He acknowledges all manner of transcendent "Dharma Helpers" besides Amida Buddha, and he says that even non-Buddhist sages can be manifestations of the Dharma. Again, unlike most fundies, Paul is non-judgmental. He welcomes all queries and throws himself fully into his answers. Paul's only "stern and strict" rule is that Shin practicers ... conform to Shin ... as laid out by the Mstrs. Shinran and Rennyo ... who maintained that Amida is a real Buddha, not a mere symbol of an unfolding cosmic dharma. This is hardly an unreasonable or stringent request.

And you're correct - Paul states that he has Shinjin, but he's not arrogant about it, since he acknowledges it as the sheer gift of Amida, not something that Paul attained by his own self-power. Paul says that we are all ignorant Bonbus, afflicted with blind passions and selfishness, who depend on Amida's real Working for our salvation and ultimately our enlightenment ... and Paul includes himself with the rest of us.

So ... if Shin people want to find a truly "settled" teacher whose advice comes straight out of his "settlement", they might enjoy, and learn from, giving Paul Roberts a listen :)
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:05 am

Paul Roberts said that Alfred Bloom told him point-blank, "Amida isn't real". Maybe Paul mis-remembers the incident (I doubt it), but in any case, it stands as an example of a certain kind of thinking about Buddhas and the transcendental realm(s) that is current in certain circles.]


I'm quite sure that Al didn't say that. He perhaps said Amida is not real in the sense of a personal being sitting somewhere in the West of the universe. Rather Amida being ultimate reality perceived by us as compassion, Amida as a reality in which formlessness takes form, Amida as the face of nirvana. That would be in line with what you can learn in any Jodo Shinshu university.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Astus » Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:44 am

Here's a short correspondence with Al Bloom on this issue: viewtopic.php?f=60&t=1084&start=60#p8252
"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: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby LastLegend » Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:38 pm

For those who don't buy the idea of Pure Land:

How can you reject Pure Land when you have not experienced enlightenment?
How can you know what Pure Land is when you have not experienced Pure Land?
Then it must be based on your imagination that you reject Pure Land. Notice imaginations and not reasoning because you don't have any.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:31 am

Astus wrote:Here's a short correspondence with Al Bloom on this issue: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... t=60#p8252


I think this citation you provide from Al Bloom speaks to the current issue:

"In my personal view, this is the most real of anything real. But it is not literal, objective reality as something apart from my consciousness and life. It is my life. Amida in this view, as I would understand it, is real as an ideal is real. It is a force that influences life. Ideals have a reality though they are not objective, discrete things."

So, according to Al Bloom, Amida is a "force", that "influences life" in a similar manner to "an ideal"; Amida is not an objective reality "as something apart from my concsiousness and life".

Why doesn't Al just say, with Shinran, that Amida is a real Buddha, with real Buddha attributes? The "no objective reality outside of my consciousness" is ambiguously worded. At face value, no problem: Amida and my subjectivity are inseperable. But this does not mean that Amida is not an objective Buddha - if that view were correct, then we must imagine that Amida would vanish if humanity (say) expurgated itself from the planet (say) by germ warfare.
I can't imagine that the entire Amidist tradition, and Shin in particular, would confine Amida's reality and function to a narrow psycho-spiritual activity vis a vis the recipient of Shinjin. I would think, on the contrary, that Amida is an eternal Buddha, existent in the transcendent realm, no matter what happens to galaxies and universes located in samsaric space-time ... a vast Buddha who is eternally available to all universes as they arise in their infinite numbers of births and die in their infinite numbers of deaths.

Please don't get me wrong. I really admire Al Bloom, and he has been generous and compassionate in email correspondence in which he helped me with spiritual questions. This is why I was shocked that he told Paul Roberts that Amida isn't real. I can't uncritically accept Andreas's idea that Al Bloom never said it, and from Paul Roberts' history, I can't imagine that Paul would make it up. Of course, the issue concerns what is meant by "real". Perhaps some wires got crossed in their conversation, and Al and Paul were thinking of "real" on two differing levels.

And I don't think Paul regards Amida's objective nature as a "flesh and blood" kind of Buddha, since for Paul, Amida is one of many transcendental beings. And why wouldn't he be, given that even Shakyamuni, post-enlightenment, denied that he was a human being (i.e., no longer a being with the human "defilements"). How much more, then, must Amida be a much greater-than-human transcendent being.

Nor do I have a problem with Al's notion of Amida's acting like an ideal acts ... ideals can even sometimes influence us on unconscious, almost mystical levels. It's just that I would not de-objectify Amida to the status of mere ideal; nor would I reduce Amida to a symbol of a fortuitous cosmic process that somehow enhances human compasssion and self-understanding but is not a real Buddha.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:57 am

I would like to express my apologies for a misattribution that I made in this thread:

"Paul Roberts said that Alfred Bloom told him point-blank, "Amida isn't real". Maybe Paul mis-remembers the incident (I doubt it), but in any case, it stands as an example of a certain kind of thinking about Buddhas and the transcendental realm(s) that is current in certain circles."

Maddeningly, I don't recall where I originally got this citation, or how I imagined it, but it is wholly incorrect. Paul informs me that he never had that conversation with Al Bloom.
Rather, it was Rick St. Clair who had the conversation, not Paul. I am sorry for propogating this misinformation.

Rick's url is:

http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/amida.html
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:03 pm

I am sure that Al Bloom didn't say that to Rick either. Problem is that both - Paul and Rick - are so trapped in their literal understanding of the sutras and therefore in their attempt to force the world into an image they need to make their ego feel comfortable that they simply will misunderstand anything else as a danger to their world view. And that's the reason folks like them don't understand a different perspective like Al's or Mahayana Buddhism as a whole for that matter.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:07 pm

Andreas, let's forget about Paul or Rick for a second.

When I read direct quotes from Shinran and Rennyo then I read the things you modernists proclaim as the true teaching of Shinran, I see HUGE dissimilarities. I can come with a million quotes right now from Shinran himself to disprove everything you modernists claim. I'm not trying to be harsh here, but I really just don't understand why you guys say the things you say.
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Re: Understanding SHINJIN by Paul Roberts

Postby steveb1 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:11 am

Ryoto wrote of modernists, "I really just don't understand why you guys say the things you say". Let me say the same. Why would Andreas say that Rick simply invented Al Bloom's comments? Is Andreas actually accusing Rick and Paul of being so enmeshed in their views that they can't tell the truth ? As Ryoto says, not wanting to be harsh, but Andreas' comment can be reversed: "Shin modernists are so enmeshed in their views that, without evidence to the contrary, they accuse their opponents of lying." When I corrected the Bloom misattribution - namely that Bloom was talking to Rick, not Paul - without hesitation, Andreas stepped in and simply transferred the surrilous accusation from Paul to Rick. This implies that Andreas believes something like:
"one non-modernist is as deceitful as another - they're all interchangeable. So what if Al Bloom was talking to Rick, not Paul? You can't expect either one to be telling the truth".

It seems to me that Andreas' deep suspicion is at once unkind and stridently suspicious, especially when stated, as it was, with complete lack of evidence.

I can only testify that, to date, Paul and his online sangha are painstakingly honest, and so are Rick's contributions there, and on his own site.
I have no rational cause to think they make up or fictionalize anything, whether it concerns what Master Shinran actually taught, or what Al Bloom actually said.
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