Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:42 am

Relative to differences between Shin and Theravada, it looks - in one sense, no flippancy meant - as if the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. That is, from the Shin viewpoint, the historical Shakyamuni preached the great "Amida Sermon" on Vulture Peak, in which Shakyamuni explicated Amida's greatness and functions. In some Shin sources, it is claimed that the historical Buddha was virtually an incarnation of Amida. That's the "left hand".

The "right hand": In Theravada, however, Shakyamuni shows no awareness of a personal Other Power, whether or not named "Amida". If memory serves, Shakyamuni did attain enlightenment only after all his efforts ceased. So at the most, perhaps we can, at a stretch, say that Shakyamuni experienced the sheer force of enlightenment, Bodhi, Dharma, as manifestations of a cosmic Other Power.

Shin respects all schools of Buddhism. Included in that respect would be included the Theravadan scriptures and narratives. But the glaring dichotomy between the "Theravadan Buddha" and the "Jodo Shinsu Amida Buddha" seems that it might pose difficulties for Shin adherents.

In what way do Shin people respect and accept the Theravadan account of a historical Shakyamuni who did not teach Amida and Other Power, but rather Dharma and self-effort, while simultaneously claiming that the Shin historical Buddha made his entire mission a revelation of Amida and Other Power?

This seems almost like "a tale of two Buddhas". Yet Shin insists that the Shakyamuni of the Vulture Peak/Amida Sermon is identical to the Theravadan Shakyamuni.

I've been wrestling with this question for some time. A respected Dharma teacher theorized that the inner realization of Amida may have come to Shakyamuni during one of his many superlative meditative states. I suppose this could have happened, but on reflection, why did Shakyamuni not teach it - and why did he not teach it in such a way that it would be mentioned in the Theravadan scriptures? Did Shakyamuni, contrary to Theravadan statements, have an esoteric teaching that was revealed on Vulture Peak, to only a select "inner few"?

I would like to hear from Shin people on this issue. Perhaps you've thought about this, too. And maybe you could point me to an explanation of these (seemingly) two Buddhas from Shinran's or Rennyo's writings.

Thanks in advance for any information :)

Gassho,

Steve
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby bodhipunk » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:44 am

I may not be specifically Shin, but maybe I can add something interesting to this. There is this interesting fact that although the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Mahayana are not found within canonical Theravada - they still do appear in Theravadin countries. Such as Avalokiteshara who is known as Lokesvara, Lokanat and Natha-deva. Some even have counterparts, such as Phra Mala's story being extremely similar to that of Ksitigarbha. There are even depictions of Lokesvara and Amitabha at Angkor Wat.

Also, regarding "other power" in Theravada, there is the Saddha Sutta which states, "A person of conviction, on the break-up of the body, after death, will arise in a good destination, the heavenly world." This actually sounds amicable to Pure Land practice to me, or am I just reading too much into this?

One of the main reasons for there being different scriptures between the traditions is that they were written down long after the paranirvana of Buddha, and different schools developed in respect to what was considered canonical. Also keep in mind that Buddha traveled and taught for many years, often using skillful means and speaking in the popular vernacular of a particular region. One example of this is the famous Fire Sermon which Buddha delivered to a group of fire-worshiping ascetics.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:22 am

Greetings,

bodhipunk wrote:Also, regarding "other power" in Theravada, there is the Saddha Sutta which states, "A person of conviction, on the break-up of the body, after death, will arise in a good destination, the heavenly world." This actually sounds amicable to Pure Land practice to me, or am I just reading too much into this?

Whether you are or not, I like it.

Maitri,
Retro. :)
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:40 am

I have faith that Shakyamuni Buddha did indeed teach about Amida Buddha, but even if he didn't there are many highly realized masters such as the seven patriarchs of Shin Buddhism who all practiced and preached about Amida Buddha and his Pure Land with great enthusiasm and in the process have had a great number of spiritual experiences which confirmed it. Shandao who was one of them was regarded by Master Honen as an incarnation of Amida Buddha himself after a series of many visions. One of the reasons why Shakyamuni Buddha for the majority of his time only taught the self power practices is due to the age he was living in which pretty much anyone could attain high level samadhi within a reasonable amount of time. The other power of Amida Buddha he taught on Vulture Peak may have been more reserved for this decadent day and age(Mappo) where it is taught that none of the self power practices have the potential to bear the fruit of enlightenment. The Theravadans may have been more concerned with attaining results in the "here and now" leading them to discard any practice that just required pure faith. That would be my theory on it.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:10 am

Many thanks to all who have replied so far. You've given me some things to think about and appreciate :)
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby sinweiy » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:47 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

bodhipunk wrote:Also, regarding "other power" in Theravada, there is the Saddha Sutta which states, "A person of conviction, on the break-up of the body, after death, will arise in a good destination, the heavenly world." This actually sounds amicable to Pure Land practice to me, or am I just reading too much into this?

Whether you are or not, I like it.

Maitri,
Retro. :)


indeed. what "massive tree", "birds find rest", "delightful sphere", "dispels all stress", "freed from effluents, "totally unbound". not something of the regular heavenly realm, i think.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

They also taught Buddho recitation.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... uddho.html

below is from Pali canon:-

http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... vaasaa.htm

Suddhāvāsā
The "Pure Abodes"; a name given to a group of Brahma-worlds - the five highest Rūpa worlds - consisting of

Avihā,
Atappā,
Sudassā,
Sudassī and
Akanitthā (E.g., D.iii.237).
There anāgāmī are born, and there they attain arahantship; such anāgāmī are divided into twenty four classes (See, e.g., KhA.182f.; of. PSA. 319; Vsm.710).

Bodhisattas are never born there (SNA.i.50; BuA.224).

The Suddhāvāsā are described as buddhānam khandhāvāratthānasadisā. Sometimes, for asankheyyas of kappas, when no Buddhas are born, these worlds remain empty (AA.ii.808; cf. MA.i.30).

The Buddha is mentioned as having visited the Suddhāvāsā (E.g., D.ii.50). When a Buddha is about to be born, the inhabitants of the Suddhāvāsā insert a knowledge of the signs of a Great Being in the Vedas and teach this among men in the guise of brahmins, calling such knowledge buddhamanta. Men learn it and are thus able to recognize a Great Being (MA.ii.761; SNA.ii.448). The inhabitants of the Suddhāvāsā know how many Buddhas will be born in any particular kappa by observing the number of lotuses which spring up on the site of the Bodhi-pallanka when the earth gradually emerges after the destruction of the world (DA.ii.411). It is the Suddhāvāsā Brahmās who provide the four omens which lead to a Bodhisatta's renunciation in his last lay life. See, e.g., DA.ii.455f.


for Purelanders, who are born in PL and attained Buddhahood there in this life, is to me a non-returner too. :)
though there are some differences in Mahayana Pure"land" in the quality of bodhicitta etc, hence Pure Abode vs Pure land.
_/\_
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:56 am

sinweiy, thank you for your reply, - sorry for my late response :)
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Nosta » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:07 pm

Steveb, thank you for bringing such question here.

In my very humble opinion and from what i read here in this forum and other sources, Theravada teachings may not be older than Amitabha sutras; thats not a certain thing. Secondly, Amitabha teaching is complementary to Theravada teachings. One needs both teachings.

We have many testemonies of masters that sucessfully achieved Pure Land, and thats a proof that such teaching is real. Even a simple person like me can see the evolution because of Pure Land practice: i have more peace! And i even have lots of premonition dreams because of my practice.

This is not exactly related to your questions but it may be of some help i hope.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:51 pm

Nosta, thank you for your kind reply :)
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Shutoku » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:36 pm

I will probably regret this, but if nothing but a point of interest to consider (and disagree with if you so choose):

If we interpret the Pure Land Sutras in a purely literal way, it may be difficult to reconcile them with Theravada teachings.
If however we take the literal names in the Pure Land sutras, while seeing the Sutras themselves as more poetic interpretations of reality, I think we find much more consistency.

So if we see Amida Buddha (Amitabha Amitayus) as "Immeasurable Light and Life", and Buddha as "Perfectly Awakened", we see Amida as a manifestation of Dharma-kaya or if you will True reality.

We say the Nembutsu: "I take refuge in perfectly awakened immeasurable light and life", and by thus taking refuge, abandoning the ego and relying upon infinite light and life, which is our true nature, we will be born into a realm of perfect happiness (Sukhavati)

If the Pure Land Sutras are a poetic representation of true reality, and that giving up the ego's blind passions and instead taking refuge in true reality, this is as I understand it the exact purpose of Theravada practice, albeit with some different terminology.

The Nembutsu then contains the essence of Buddhist teaching, and is not in disagreement with any other schools teaching, except that in Shinshu we do not try to over come ego with rigorous spiritual exercise, but rather through simple "faith" if you will and gratitude in Amida.

If Dharma-kaya manifest literally as an actual Buddha living in an actual Buddha land as described in the Sutras, I'm perfectly happy with this now, but for me on my journey, such an interpretation would not have held any interest for me at all early on, and would in fact have caused me to utterly reject Pure Land Buddhism just as I rejected Christianity.

However with more experience I feel that having ultimate reality manifest in the form of Amida (real or poetic) is an incredibly effective means of getting us bonbu to simply disregard ego by focusing on the other power of Amida.
So for me it matters not if Amida is exactly as represented in PL Sutras, or if that is as I personally suspect, a poetic representation, in either case Amida is true and real, and is the only means for us to attain awakening, even if in a different form (or formless form) for practitioners of other sects.

But I'm no scholar or Sensei. I only offer this to show how I personally was able to reconcile PL teachings with other general Buddhist ideas.
If it helps you I am happy, but if you disagree with my views, I'm ok with that too and hope you can find an answer to your question elsewhere.
I know from past experience that debate with any form of fundamentalist is a fruitless endeavour so I won't be debating this, I post only to help if I can.
Namo Amida Butsu
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:17 am

Thanks shotoku for your reply. Yeah, I think Amida, however "he" is interpreted, does act as an ego-diminishing factor. Once we give ourselves over to Other Power, we have automatically entered an arena of discipline. Discipline in the sense of no longer attributing our "goodness"/"good deeds" to ourselves. Often I find myself patting myself on the back for a good thought, a charitable attitude - or at least restraining myself from overt "badness". But then Amida "pops up" in my consciousness, reminding me that all my goodness is of no avail to my salvation and/or my enlightenment. This is a kind of thought-discipline imposed by Amida and the nature of Shinjin. It's not something I do. It's done for me. And it reminds me that I am not the center of the universe, or even of my small personal universe. If that makes any sense.

Thanks for you reply. I don't think of myself as a Shin fundamentalist - nor do I think you so described me. I just think of Amida as a real Buddha. But reality for me is not simply material objects and processes. Thus, something can be real without being physical. So when I say that Amida is a real Buddha, I'm not saying "he" lives in some kind of "Western quadrant" of the cosmos. I'm just saying that, even though "he" is a transcendent, non-material "entity", Amida is nonetheless real (for me)

It's nice talking to you :)

Gassho,

Steve
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:23 pm

steveb1 wrote:Shin respects all schools of Buddhism.


Historically in many Shin temples reciting the Heart Sutra was forbidden.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:07 pm

Huseng wrote:
steveb1 wrote:Shin respects all schools of Buddhism.


Historically in many Shin temples reciting the Heart Sutra was forbidden.


Yes. I should have remembered that and rephrased my words along the lines of "Shin respects most Buddhist schools; or -many Shin sources claim to respect most Buddhist schools; or - many Shin Dharma teachers claim that Shin respects most Buddhist schools", etc.
Thanks for the correction.

Gassho,

Steve
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Dodatsu » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:24 pm

Huseng wrote:
steveb1 wrote:Shin respects all schools of Buddhism.


Historically in many Shin temples reciting the Heart Sutra was forbidden.


The Heart Sutra is not part of our Shin Buddhist canon/liturgy, so why must or should we chant it in our temples? Not chanting it does not mean we do not respect it, in fact lectures on many non-Shin Buddhist scriptures have taken place at the annual Summer Retreat held at Nishi Hongwanji for centuries.
Contemplating the power of Tathagata's Primal Vow,
One sees that no foolish being who encounters it passes by in vain.
When a person single-heartedly practices the saying of the Name alone,
It brings quickly to fullness and perfection [in that person] the great treasure ocean of true and real virtues.
- Shinran Shonin
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby gyougan » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:32 pm

Huseng wrote:
steveb1 wrote:Shin respects all schools of Buddhism.


Historically in many Shin temples reciting the Heart Sutra was forbidden.


Correct but why do you think that this means that Shin has no respect towards the Heart Sutra or schools that hold the Heart Sutra as a top priority sutra?

Reciting the Heart Sutra can in some cases be harmful to Shin practice. Thus the ban. Not because of disrespect.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:09 pm

Maurice O'Connell Walsh sees a possible Shin connection in the Sarakaani Sutta...see his footnotes.

I must say that this struck me too, though maybe someone will deem the parallels to be superficial. Shinran believed himself incapable of any religious practice and decided to put his trust in other-power. Likewise, Sarakaaani failed at his practice and took to drink, but his sincere devotion to the Triple Gem kept him out of the states of woe (and even led to stream entry at the moment of death).

Remarking on practitioners of various capabilities, the Buddha states:

Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Mr. G » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:05 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Maurice O'Connell Walsh sees a possible Shin connection in the Sarakaani Sutta...see his footnotes.



Thanks for this Lazy_eye, I wasn't aware of this one. I wrote of this similar sutta elsewhere:

In the book "Mahayana Buddhism: Doctrinal Foundations" by Paul Williams, he writes:

    "The Sutta Nipata of the Pali Canon is generally held by scholars to be one of the oldest extant Buddhist texts. At the very end of the Sutta Nipata, in a section also held to be among the oldest strata of that text, is a wonderfully moving and, I think, potentially significant discussion. A Brahmin named Pingiya 'the wise' praises Buddha in heartfelt terms:

    They call him Buddha, Enlightened, Awake, dissolving darkness, with total vision, and knowing the world to its ends...This man...is the man I follow...This prince, this beam of light, Gotama, was the only one who dissolved the darkness. This man Gotama is a universe of wisdom and a world of understanding.

    Why is it, Pingiya is asked that you do not spend all your time with the Buddha, that wonderful teacher? Pingiya replies that he himself is old, he cannot follow the Buddha physically, for 'my body is decaying'. But:

    there is no moment for me, however small, that is spent away from Gotama, from this universe of wisdom, this world of understanding...with constant and careful vigilance it is possible for me to see him with my mind as clearly with my eyes, in night as well as day. And since I spend my nights revering him, there is not, to my mind, a single moment spent away from him.

    In this ancient and extraordinary discussion Pingiya indicates that it was possible through his awareness, through his meditation, for him to be constantly in the presence of the Buddha and constantly revere him. Towards the end, the Buddha himself testifies that Pingiya too will go to 'the further shore' of enlightenment."


Pārāyanānugītigāthā

On Buddhanusmrti
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby sinweiy » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:47 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Maurice O'Connell Walsh sees a possible Shin connection in the Sarakaani Sutta...see his footnotes.

I must say that this struck me too, though maybe someone will deem the parallels to be superficial. Shinran believed himself incapable of any religious practice and decided to put his trust in other-power. Likewise, Sarakaaani failed at his practice and took to drink, but his sincere devotion to the Triple Gem kept him out of the states of woe (and even led to stream entry at the moment of death).

Remarking on practitioners of various capabilities, the Buddha states:

Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.


Nice indeed. first time to read it too. Thanks! Amituofo!
_/\_
Amituofo!

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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby steveb1 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:35 am

Just a quick note of thanks to everyone who is replying to my OP :)
I'm learning, and thinking, about new things now.

Gassho,

Steve
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Re: Jodo Shinshu vs. Theravada

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:48 am

steveb1 wrote:Thanks shotoku for your reply. Yeah, I think Amida, however "he" is interpreted, does act as an ego-diminishing factor. Once we give ourselves over to Other Power, we have automatically entered an arena of discipline. Discipline in the sense of no longer attributing our "goodness"/"good deeds" to ourselves. Often I find myself patting myself on the back for a good thought, a charitable attitude - or at least restraining myself from overt "badness". But then Amida "pops up" in my consciousness, reminding me that all my goodness is of no avail to my salvation and/or my enlightenment. This is a kind of thought-discipline imposed by Amida and the nature of Shinjin. It's not something I do. It's done for me. And it reminds me that I am not the center of the universe, or even of my small personal universe. If that makes any sense.

Thanks for you reply. I don't think of myself as a Shin fundamentalist - nor do I think you so described me. I just think of Amida as a real Buddha. But reality for me is not simply material objects and processes. Thus, something can be real without being physical. So when I say that Amida is a real Buddha, I'm not saying "he" lives in some kind of "Western quadrant" of the cosmos. I'm just saying that, even though "he" is a transcendent, non-material "entity", Amida is nonetheless real (for me)

It's nice talking to you :)

Gassho,

Steve


People are free to believe in whatever they want to but a clear line should always be drawn between what Masters Shinran and Rennyo taught and what modernists teach otherwise its just false advertising.

One thing I really like about Tibetan Buddhist schools is that they keep their teachings well guarded against wrong views. In Shin Buddhism, sadly, the exact opposite is true. Go to any Jodo Shinshu center these days and its almost like Unitarian Universalism. :toilet:
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