Pureland Westerners?

Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:46 pm

I am curious if there are any Pureland westerners on here?
Having practiced on my on for more than a year now, I've been hesitant to visit some of the temples which tend to be more "ethnic" (I am caucasian, and do not speak Chinese or Vietnamese). It seems to me most of the temples which cater to "white people" tend to be the Tibetan and Zen ones, and I am not much interested in those seeing as many seem quite commercialized and "trendy".

I am curious to hear of any westerners experience with Pure Land.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:54 pm

Lotus415 wrote:I am curious if there are any Pureland westerners on here?
Having practiced on my on for more than a year now, I've been hesitant to visit some of the temples which tend to be more "ethnic" (I am caucasian, and do not speak Chinese or Vietnamese). It seems to me most of the temples which cater to "white people" tend to be the Tibetan and Zen ones, and I am not much interested in those seeing as many seem quite commercialized and "trendy".

I am curious to hear of any westerners experience with Pure Land.


Why go to the temple?
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:59 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Lotus415 wrote:I am curious if there are any Pureland westerners on here?
Having practiced on my on for more than a year now, I've been hesitant to visit some of the temples which tend to be more "ethnic" (I am caucasian, and do not speak Chinese or Vietnamese). It seems to me most of the temples which cater to "white people" tend to be the Tibetan and Zen ones, and I am not much interested in those seeing as many seem quite commercialized and "trendy".

I am curious to hear of any westerners experience with Pure Land.


Why go to the temple?




I suppose it is nto necessary, but I thought it would be nice to participate in some things and learn from others besides the internet and books.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Anders » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:04 am

Lotus415 wrote:I am curious if there are any Pureland westerners on here?
Having practiced on my on for more than a year now, I've been hesitant to visit some of the temples which tend to be more "ethnic" (I am caucasian, and do not speak Chinese or Vietnamese). It seems to me most of the temples which cater to "white people" tend to be the Tibetan and Zen ones, and I am not much interested in those seeing as many seem quite commercialized and "trendy".

I am curious to hear of any westerners experience with Pure Land.


What are the 'ethnic temples' in your area?

Knowing both Vietnamese and Chinese monastics who have lived in such temples (and laypeople who attend them) essentially catering to ethnic groups, there can still be a lot of Dharma found once you get past the cultural layers. Though I suppose it can depend on the place, which is why I asked.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:09 am

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against "ethnic" temples and understand they serve a purpose.
I am in San Francisco. I've been once to a temple which is part of Master Hsuan's lineage. I participated in one of their daily repentance ceremonies, all of which was in Chinese. I followed along in Pinyin.
There is another smaller Vietnamese temple here I have yet to visit.
Other than that, no other pure land type temples here that I know of.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:20 am

Lotus415 wrote:Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against "ethnic" temples and understand they serve a purpose.
I am in San Francisco. I've been once to a temple which is part of Master Hsuan's lineage. I participated in one of their daily repentance ceremonies, all of which was in Chinese. I followed along in Pinyin.
There is another smaller Vietnamese temple here I have yet to visit.
Other than that, no other pure land type temples here that I know of.



As far as I know, there are not many temples that are particularly Pure Land. Most if not all Chinese and Vietnamese monks now practice Pure Land, some incorporate into their meditation.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:24 am

What would the role of "meditation" be in say, a Vietnamese temple?
I understand they are not strictly "Pure Land". I guess I just meant there is a belief and chanting of Amitabha.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:32 am

Lotus415 wrote:What would the role of "meditation" be in say, a Vietnamese temple?
I understand they are not strictly "Pure Land". I guess I just meant there is a belief and chanting of Amitabha.


I am not really sure. But there are monks who have converted to Pure Land as their fundamental practice such as Faith and Vow. However, they still practice meditation since they have been doing that. But meditation is supplementary. The term meditation I use here can be misleading because reciting Amitabha is also a form of meditation, a tool of focus. So when I say meditation, I am referring to forms other than reciting.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:11 am

Try finding a Jodo Shinshu temple. You might have some luck there.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:01 am

Ryoto wrote:Try finding a Jodo Shinshu temple. You might have some luck there.


Yes, I've thought of that, but from what I've read of their teachings their thoughts on Amitabha being a myth do not really correspond to what I have studied.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:21 am

I'm not familiar with that approach in Jodo Shinshu. There's a nice BCA center in Berkeley...

On the "trendiness" of Zen and Tibetan temples: are you speaking from experience here, or are you working from assumptions? Not all Zen or Tibetan (or Pure Land) temples feel the same...
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:49 am

Jikan wrote:I'm not familiar with that approach in Jodo Shinshu. There's a nice BCA center in Berkeley...

On the "trendiness" of Zen and Tibetan temples: are you speaking from experience here, or are you working from assumptions? Not all Zen or Tibetan (or Pure Land) temples feel the same...



From what I've researched of the temples in this area. I also have observed other forums like "newbuddhist" and find I do not fall into the category of those ultra atheistic, hippie american "Buddhists" who want nothing to do with Asian beliefs... I don't understand how some reconcile attending Tibetan temples. Also, I do not believe in all of these fees which seem common among the american zen/tibetan centers, but that is another issue.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Huifeng » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:49 am

Lotus415 wrote:I am curious if there are any Pureland westerners on here?
Having practiced on my on for more than a year now, I've been hesitant to visit some of the temples which tend to be more "ethnic" (I am caucasian, and do not speak Chinese or Vietnamese). It seems to me most of the temples which cater to "white people" tend to be the Tibetan and Zen ones, and I am not much interested in those seeing as many seem quite commercialized and "trendy".

I am curious to hear of any westerners experience with Pure Land.


Hello. :smile:

How can I help?

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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Mar 10, 2012 10:14 am

Lotus415 wrote:
Ryoto wrote:Try finding a Jodo Shinshu temple. You might have some luck there.


Yes, I've thought of that, but from what I've read of their teachings their thoughts on Amitabha being a myth do not really correspond to what I have studied.


This is actually a recent trend created by a few modernists who have watered down the original teachings to fit their materialistic minded way of thinking. According to orthodox Shinshu, Amitabha is a 100% real figure. Might want to check with your local temple to see where they stand before completely denouncing them. I heard the situation isn't so bad in America yet compared to Canada.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:45 pm

Lotus415 wrote:
Jikan wrote:I'm not familiar with that approach in Jodo Shinshu. There's a nice BCA center in Berkeley...

On the "trendiness" of Zen and Tibetan temples: are you speaking from experience here, or are you working from assumptions? Not all Zen or Tibetan (or Pure Land) temples feel the same...



From what I've researched of the temples in this area. I also have observed other forums like "newbuddhist" and find I do not fall into the category of those ultra atheistic, hippie american "Buddhists" who want nothing to do with Asian beliefs... I don't understand how some reconcile attending Tibetan temples. Also, I do not believe in all of these fees which seem common among the american zen/tibetan centers, but that is another issue.


The material you describe from internet sources do not necessarily or always correspond to the reality on the ground. You're thinking in terms of stereotype, frankly. There may be some material basis to what you're saying in some centers (centers I myself would avoid); however, how can you be so certain that this stereotype corresponds to reality?'

Imagine if someone said, I'll never go to San Francisco after reading about the Altamont fiasco on an internet forum... you know about THOSE people... That would certainly not be acceptable, would it?
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby rory » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:28 am

Sorry Jikan;
I have to agree with the poster, I've lived in New York City, Ireland and now the triangle in North Carolina and that description of Zen and Tibetan sects and modern Western Buddhists certainly holds true from my experience. The only ethnically and socio-economic diverse group I've ever found was in a local Soka Gakkai meeting: blue/white collar, men/women/kids, straight/gay, hispanic/asian/black/white. Though I found them culty & don't practice with them, they are a great example.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby cheondo » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:51 pm

I'm in the same boat, so to speak. :-)

I live in Austin, TX. I contacted the Dallas Amitabha society looking for guidance. I only found one monastic who wanted to discuss with me but she was essentially not interested in Pure Land. She was moving on to esoteric practices. The Chinese temples I've been too are 97% Chinese, and Pure Land is part of their practice. I spent years learning to chant in Korean -- the last thing I want to do is learn all those chants in Chinese now.

All in all, I've found it very frustrating trying to connect with other Pure Landers. There's very few of them and the ones I've met speak almost no English. Maybe I'd have better luck in a big city.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Mr. G » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:06 pm

cheondo wrote:I'm in the same boat, so to speak. :-)

I live in Austin, TX. I contacted the Dallas Amitabha society looking for guidance. I only found one monastic who wanted to discuss with me but she was essentially not interested in Pure Land. She was moving on to esoteric practices.


Ven Chin Kung's center? That's strange.

I spent years learning to chant in Korean -- the last thing I want to do is learn all those chants in Chinese now.


The liturgies for Ven. Chin Kung's centers can be done in English. One can do daily liturgies in Jodo Shu or Jodo Shinshu in Japanese, but it's the nienfo/nembutsu that is the core "practice".
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Lotus415 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:26 pm

cheondo wrote:I'm in the same boat, so to speak. :-)

I live in Austin, TX. I contacted the Dallas Amitabha society looking for guidance. I only found one monastic who wanted to discuss with me but she was essentially not interested in Pure Land. She was moving on to esoteric practices. The Chinese temples I've been too are 97% Chinese, and Pure Land is part of their practice. I spent years learning to chant in Korean -- the last thing I want to do is learn all those chants in Chinese now.

All in all, I've found it very frustrating trying to connect with other Pure Landers. There's very few of them and the ones I've met speak almost no English. Maybe I'd have better luck in a big city.


Sorry to hear that, Cheondo. Why do you feel no one wanted to discuss with you? I live in a big city and haven't found much luck.... oh well! Keep practicing.
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Re: Pureland Westerners?

Postby Shutoku » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:58 am

Lotus415 wrote:
Ryoto wrote:Try finding a Jodo Shinshu temple. You might have some luck there.


Yes, I've thought of that, but from what I've read of their teachings their thoughts on Amitabha being a myth do not really correspond to what I have studied.

I am caucasian and attend a Jodo Shinshu Temple, and have for over 15 years.

Regarding ethnicity, the Temple membership is 90% Japanese Canadian. Services are mostly in English, though Sutras are not Chanted in English, and some Gatha's (Hymns) are Japanese with romaji, however Dharma talks are either in both Japanese and English, or only English. Really only a handfull of members do not speak English at this point.
I think it is generally true that the vast majority of Shinshu Temples in North America are like this.

Regarding the nature of Amida. I have never met a Jodo Shinshu follower who did not feel Amida was real, although not all feel the description in the Sutras is necessarily to be taken 100% literally. Some do some don't, but all Shinshu followers I have met feel Amida is real and is a manifestation of Dharma-Kaya, and all feel we are helpless to attain Enlightenment by our own power and thus rely upon Amida and recite Nembutsu in gratitude.

I think the beauty of a Sangha is not just in the form the liturgy takes, or how you interpret something. The beauty of a Temple is the people who practice together. In the west I think there is a common idea that while Buddha and Dharma are important, Sangha is less so. I cannot even tell you how much my Buddhist life has been enriched by being around Temple members....even if we are not talking about Buddhism. Even if we are working together at a chow mein sale to raise funds for the Temple, or a cleaning crew keeping the Temple tidy, or just having tea after a service.

So my advice is to not get too wrapped up in pre-conceived notions of ethnicity or interpretation. Just go to a Temple and see how it feels. If one doesn't seem to fit try another. I suspect you will find that Pure Land practice will be more prevalent in more ethnically based Temples, but that's ok. Don't discount it because of that. Language and culture barriers might not be as big as you imagine, and actually even if they are pretty big, if you stick with it you will gain experience and understanding you might not have otherwise.
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