Pure Land Study Group Thread

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Re: Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 4

Postby Admin_PC » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:24 pm

More than happy to do it. Work's been really tough lately and physically I'm just plain exhausted, so I slipped a little bit on the "release schedule" for these study group posts. I'll have one more post by the end of the week, but I'm falling behind on transcribing passages from the book (no full e-copy).

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Re: Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 4

Postby steveb1 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:03 pm

I'm sure everyone appreciates all the work you're putting in.

:)

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Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 5

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Nov 21, 2015 7:23 pm


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Re: Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 5

Postby steveb1 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:39 am

Thanks again for this new, informative installment - and as always, for the pictures, which always help toward getting a better handle on the material and the history.

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Re: Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 5

Postby Rakz » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:40 am

Great info, thanks for sharing.

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Re: Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 5

Postby Admin_PC » Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:16 pm

Appreciate the feedback guys. :)

Doing my best to get the content out. To be honest, it's harder without the use of the Jodo Shu Research Institute's English pages. There was so much good info there that it's a huge loss for Pure Land research, regardless of whether one identifies as Jodo Shu or not. Hopefully it comes back soon, people have been notified and they are aware of the situation. I may eventually try to start providing loose translations of the content from the Japanese version of the site. There's a LOT more available there. It just gets a little difficult because a lot of the content is in pdf format which makes it harder to use electronic translation tools.

In the meantime, sorry if some of the board discussion's been a little lacking lately. I figure with all the arguments that tend to fall out from too much discussion, that efforts are better put into content. I think this stance is pretty much in line with the 7 article pledge from the reading passage. I don't want to be pushing an interpretation that's different from the past masters who were actually qualified to give teachings. That being said, if there's anything else anybody wants to see covered, please let me know, I'll be more than happy to oblige.

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Raft from the Other Shore Study Group - Part 6

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Nov 28, 2015 4:23 pm


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Honen Study group

Postby rory » Mon Aug 15, 2016 5:07 am

Over at the Jodo Shu google group there's a discussion of starting a study group for The Promise of Amida Buddha: Honen's Path of Bliss

here's the book blurb: "he Promise of Amida Buddha is the first complete English translation of a seminal collection of writings by the Japanese Pure Land school's founder, Honen-shonin (1133-1212). The so-called Japanese Anthology (Wago Toroku) collects his surviving short writings composed in Japanese, including letters of exhortation and public pronouncements. The vital writings provide a window into Honen's life and the turbulent era in which he lived and taught.

Everyone with an interest is invited to join, you don't have to belong to Jodo Shu or any sect at all for that matter.
with gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Honen Study group

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Aug 15, 2016 1:36 pm

Are they going to start from scratch or resume the prior one (which tailed off around Ch 7)? I'll try to do a better job of staying engaged with it. Been so crazy this year.

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Re: Honen Study group

Postby Heterodox Garden » Sat Sep 03, 2016 9:41 pm

I have that book, and at the risk of coming across as overly negative and churlish, I'm not sure how well it would go with a study group. While study of a master like Honen Shonin is never wasted, I can't help but feel it is in this case it is could easily turn into a slightly repetitive exercise.

First of all, the book is very long, and very repetitive. Most of the material is correspondence to what we might call "normal folks" of the day: The very same people to whom Honen-Sama directed his teachings, and among whom he found his greatest support. Thus, there are many letters to fishermen and farmers and peddlers and washer-women and down-at-the-heels local temple officiants, etc. Honen Shonin himself admits at one point in the book that he purposely wrote in a simple, repetitive style because of the nature of his audience.

And I'm guessing anyone with a reasonable grasp of Jodo-shu thought already knows the general gist of most of these letters and micro-essays: Just say the Nembutsu and leave everything up to Amida Nyorai. Rich or poor, clever or stupid, that's the cardinal point. Of course, as Master Honen's beloved inspiration and earlier Pure Land patriarch Shan Tao taught, one should, if possible, concentrate on saying the Nembutsu with the triple heart of deep belief, deep sincerity, and deep desire to be reborn in Amida Butsu's Pure Land. But grinding your gears excessively over this really isn't necessary according to Honen-Sama: if you throw yourself into recitation with simple wholehearted faith in Amida Nyorai's primal vow, it basically means you already have the triple heart. And even if you are in a bad mental space, can't concentrate, or just can't work up the proper intensity of inner faith, just keep chanting: lackluster chanting is better than none at all, and its ultimately a matter of other power anyway, so keep plugging away and some day you too will be strolling around those golden lakes and bejeweled trees. In the meantime, try to lead a moral life, but even if you can't manage to do that, as he once famously told a prostitute, just keep chanting.

It's a beautiful vision, pure as a glass of ice-water on a summer day, and I object to none of the above. But do you really have to read a 500-page book made up of short letters and essays saying the same thing over and over, and then discuss it all that much?

I mean, Honen-sama himself called it "the easy practice" for a reason. If you really are following the Jodo-shu path, why not spend that time reciting the Nembutsu like Honen-sama urges over and over in the book? Instead of a discussion group, maybe set up your webcams and chant together.

Nevertheless, to try not to end this on a too-sour note, the OP's idea does have some merit. First of all, it's important to be in touch with other members of the sangha, particularly those following the same path. And while there really is a lot of repetition, buried here and there are some gemlike and challenging doctrinal discussions for the theology wonks among us.

Another good thing: since he deliberately wrote in a simple, low-vocabularly style for "normal folks" who often had limited literacy themselves, you can pick up a lot of medieval Japanese fairly easily (even though, hey, let's face it -- it's never going to be truly "easy" for most of us) by reading it in English side-by-side with the Japanese originals. That would also give you something to talk about: how well does the English reflect the original? It's not a painless task, but It sure beats grinding through the courtly Kanbun/Kobun style of somebody like Saicho or Kukai. If you can find a modern Japanese version too, so much the better, though sadly these are rare beasts on the Internet.

If you really want to drill down into deep into doctrinal bone and marrow, I recommend the Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shuu. This, as you may know, was written by Honen-sama to defend his practice against a lot of angry Nara-school monks and abbots. Here he writes with much more erudition and brings in quotes from just about the entire Mahayana cannon to support his position. Now there is some material you could have virtually endless theological discussions over. Just my opinion.
Recommended reading material of recent interest:
写経 仏典を訓読してみませんか
http://gallerynyoze.web.fc2.com/syakyo.html

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Re: Honen Study group

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Sep 05, 2016 6:36 pm

You bring up a lot of great points and I think you've got some fair criticisms about Promise of Amida. But the book does have some things like the overview of the commentaries on the Pure Land sutras, that I think are good to discuss. Also, I think the repetition is something that can be glossed over fairly easy for a book study group - just focusing on the occasional nugget of wisdom that may be unique to a particular letter or group of letters, rather than exhaustively pouring through each letter. Only Part 2 of the book is primarily made up of letters, the majority of Parts 1 and 3 of the book are not even letters, they have important teachings on matters of doctrine & practice. I think even the Q&A can be fairly helpful.

I may be in the minority, but I find Promise of Amida infinitely more applicable to daily practice than the Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shu. While I appreciate it as a thesis, and enjoy reading the quotes from Zendo Daishi (ShanTao), I personally rate the Senchaku Shu third after the Ichimai Kisshomon and Promise of Amida as far as usefulness to my own practice. I think the Jodo Shu Google group has already done a study group on the Senchaku Shu, so it should be in the archives if you want to check it out.

Last time we tried this study group on Promise of Amida, we petered out around section 7 or 8 in part 1 if I remember correctly. So definitely a book of this size does have it's drawbacks. It's been almost 2 months since the idea of the study group was proposed, with little action, so I'm afraid this attempt may again fall victim to people's busy schedules.

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Re: Pure Land Study Group Thread

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:00 pm

I merged all the study group threads into one thread and made it stickied.
Sorry if this steps on anybody's toes, but I thought it'd be convenient to have them all in one place and easily locatable.

I was curious if there was still any interest in any study groups?
Would anybody like me to continue the Raft from the Other Shore study?
Would you guys prefer to study Promise of Amida?
What are your thoughts?

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31 Day Pure Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:34 am

Kicking off this Pure Land study group thread, which will eventually merge with the larger thread. In this thread, we'll be walking through the 31 days of sayings in the book "Teachings of Honen". This type of daily walk through is common in some Jodo Shu temples. Feel free to comment or ask any questions you think of.

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Day 1 An Extraordinary Encounter

Postby Admin_PC » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:46 am

Day 1 - An Extraordinary Encounter

I (Honen) have long wandered about the Delusive Triple Realms of the transmigration of birth-and-death. In which realm was I, preventing myself from encounter with the emergence of Buddha Shakyamuni?

In which of the Four Modes of Birth in the delusive realms of transmigration was I, preventing me from listening to the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni? I was not present when Buddha Shakyamuni preached the Flower Garland Sutra; not present at the assembly where He delivered His discourse on the Wisdom Sutra; not present to hear His sermon at Vulture Peak; and I was not at the Crane Forest on the occasion of His entrance into Nirvana.

Could I have been one of the three hundred million people in Sravasti (the capital of Kosala), unaware even of the name of Buddha Shakyamuni? Could I have been at the bottom of one of the eight scorching hells? I am overcome with regret; this is indeed grievous.

Now, then, I have transmigrated for innumerable kalpas, have received life in the realm of a human being, a state extremely difficult to realize, and have finally encountered the precious teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. It is lamentable that I was not given the opportunity to meet Buddha Shakyamuni during His lifetime; however, I am profoundly grateful to have been born in a world in which His teachings proliferate. It is as if the turtle without sight that comes up to the surface of the water locates a hole in a piece of driftwood afloat on the ocean blue.

The spread of Buddhism in Japan began with the introduction of Buddhism on the first day of the tenth month in the winter of the thirteenth Year of the Monkey and Water (A.D. 552) during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (r. 531 or 539-571). Prior to this date, neither the teachings of buddha Shakyamuni existed in Japan nor the way to enlightenment preached.

By whatever residual causes, by whatever virtuous karma we have accumulated in a previous existence, we have been born in a world where the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni have spread, and we are able to hear of the way to emancipation from the delusive realms of transmigration. We have now had the good fortune of experiencing the precious encounter with the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. To continue life without embracing His teachings would be lamentable indeed.

-Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 32.

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Re: 31 Day Pure Land Study Group

Postby shaunc » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:54 am

Namu Amida Butsu.
I'm looking forward to learning more in the next month.

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Day 2

Postby Admin_PC » Thu Dec 01, 2016 4:27 am

Day 2 - The Founding of Jodo Shu

The Buddhist doctrine has many facets; however, its basis ultimately lies in the Three-fold Discipline; that is, the precepts, meditation, and wisdom. The Three-fold Discipline are embodied in Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and in the tenets of exoteric and esoteric Buddhist doctrines.

Upon introspection, I (Honen) realize that I have not observed a single Buddhist precept or succeeded in the practice of meditation. A master once said, "One will not enter the state of samadhi (tranquility full of insight) unless one becomes pure of body and mind through the observance of the precepts." In addition, the mind of the common man is easily distracted by conditions around it. It is like the monkey which flits from branch to branch, confused, vacillating, and unable to concentrate.

In what way does undefiled wisdom emerge? Without the sword of undefiled wisdom, how will we extricate ourselves from the fetters of evil karma and unwholesome passions? Unable to sever ourselves from these fetters, how will we deliver ourselves from the bondage of the transmigration of birth-and-death in the delusive worlds in order to realize emancipation? This is indeed lamentable and disheartening.

We here do not have the potential to observe the Three-fold Discipline. Although I have asked various wise and learned men if there exists a teaching and practice more attuned to myself other than the Three-fold Discipline, no one was able to provide me guidance.

In despair I entered the repository of the Buddhist Scriptures, in grief gazed upon holy texts there, and took one into my hands. It was the Commentary on the Meditation Sutra, authored by Master Shan-tao. In this writing I found the following passage: "-to recite single-heartedly and exclusively the name of Buddha Amitabha while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, without regard for length of time, and to engage in the recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha without cessation throughout one's life. This is called the Rightly Established Practice because it is in accordance with the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha.

Ignorant people like ourselves should earnestly revere this passage, rely exclusively upon the teaching, and exercise the continual recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha without interruption for life in order to meet the causal karma for the certain attainment of birth in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha.

-This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 6

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Day 3

Postby Admin_PC » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:03 am

Day 3 - The Holy Gate and the Pure Land Gate

Someone once said to Honen-shonin, "Your every utterance of the name of Buddha Amitabha is in accord with the intent of Buddha Amitabha." Honen-shonin asked, "What do you mean?" He was then told, "Since you are a learned priest, you fully understand the merits of the name of Buddha Amitabha and have distinctly mastered the profound meaning of the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha."

Honen-shonin replied, "You do not yet believe in the Essential Vow, The recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha taught in the Essential Vow was designed for all people, including the woodcutter, grass trimmer, farmer, water carrier - regardless of class or knowledge. If one firmly believes that even an illiterate attains birth in the Pure Land through reciting the name of Buddha Amitabha, sincerely desires birth in the Pure Land, and repeats the name of Buddha Amitabha unceasingly, he is considered to be the ultimate devotee for birth in the Pure Land. If we can detach ourselves from the delusive worlds of the transmigration of birth-and-death by pursuing wisdom, why would I, Genku (Honen), have abandoned the Holy Gate to follow the teaching of the Pure Land Gate?

Honen-shonin further stated, "It should be known that the practice of the Holy Gate endeavors to extricate one from the delusive worlds through the pursuit of wisdom and that the Pure Land Gate teaches one to return to a state of guchi (ignorance - foolishness) in order to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

-This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 31.

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re: Day 3

Postby Admin_PC » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:26 am

So I managed to track down the transcript of the Illustrated Biography of Honen in Japanese. I located what I'm fairly sure is the right passage in relation to the "Holy Gate" and the "Pure Land Gate" (Ch 31). The reason I did this was to see if the following line was translated correctly:

"If we can detach ourselves from the delusive worlds of the transmigration of birth-and-death by pursuing wisdom, why would I, Genku (Honen), have abandoned the Holy Gate to follow the teaching of the Pure Land Gate?"

The reason I did it was because pronounce are not all that common in Japanese, so I wanted to see if "we" was actually in there or just implied. Unfortunately the grammar's pretty dang old fashioned so I can't really make out the right passage clearly, but I don't think it actually says "we". There's a good chance he could be referring to himself here.

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Day 4

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:06 am

Day 4 - The Significance of the Presence of Buddha Shakyamuni

The Essential Vow for birth in the Pure Land through the recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha was established based upon the all-encompassing compassion of Buddha Amitabha. His compassion knows no discrimination.

The embodiment of the heart of Buddha Amitabha is compassion. Therefore, the Meditation Sutra states, "The mind of Buddha Amitabha is the mind of great compassion." Master Shan-tao, in commenting on this, said, "Buddha Amitabha embraces all sentient beings equally with His all-encompassing compassion." Here, the term "all beings" denotes "without exception."

Accordingly, the Essential Vow for birth in the Pure Land through reciting the name of Buddha Amitabha is the most fundamental among the 48 vows made by Buddha Amitabha. All other practices are inconsistent with the most critical teaching of the Essential Vow.

The purpose of the presence of Buddha Shakyamuni in this world was for the preaching of the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha. However, Buddha Shakyamuni also taught various modes of practices attuned to the potential of sentient beings. This form of eclectic teaching is called "instruction in accordance with one's potential." These practices, however, did not convey the true heart of Buddha Shakyamuni.

The recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha, then, is the practice taught in the Essential Vow for the emancipation of all beings. It is also for Buddha Shakyamuni, the true intent of His presence in this world of suffering. The practice of reciting the name of Buddha Amitabha is indeed different from any other practice.

- This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 28

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re: Day 4

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:08 am



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