Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

kendali
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Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby kendali » Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:31 am

In Vietnamese Buddhism, is Pure Land seen as "for the masses" while sitting meditation is more for the "elite"?

At my local Vietnamese temple, which is replete with a 40-ft Quan Yin and beautiful Amitabha altar (obviously a Pure Land temple), they are holding meditation classes/Dharma talks on Saturday evenings. These are sitting meditation classes. I know how to sit (meditate); I want to learn how to chant Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật correctly. However, I get the distinct impression that this practice is looked down upon by the Master and that he'd rather teach sitting meditation.

Anyone with a similar experience?

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Losal Samten
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Losal Samten » Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:48 am

kendali wrote:At my local Vietnamese temple, which is replete with a 40-ft Quan Yin and beautiful Amitabha altar (obviously a Pure Land temple), they are holding meditation classes/Dharma talks on Saturday evenings. These are sitting meditation classes. I know how to sit (meditate); I want to learn how to chant Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật correctly. However, I get the distinct impression that this practice is looked down upon by the Master and that he'd rather teach sitting meditation.

You won't know unless you ask. Even if he does prefer sitting meditation, maybe he'll oblige to give a one-off teaching on niem Phat.
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kendali
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby kendali » Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:58 am

Losal Samten wrote:... maybe he'll oblige to give a one-off teaching on niem Phat.

I never thought of that. I was only thinking of group instruction. Thanks! I'll ask him.

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:30 am

Vietnamese Thien & Tiantai temples also have large statues of Quan Âm (Guan Yin) as well, so no guarantee it's a Pure Land temple.
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Fortyeightvows » Sat Dec 31, 2016 8:26 am

Ask when the monastics do their evening service...

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cj39
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby cj39 » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:07 pm

There was a wonderful nun at the Vietnamese temple in Pensacola who went in the opposite direction. Even her sitting meditation was Pure Land practice. She instructed us to recite "A Di Đà Phật" silently as we followed the breath, two syllables on the in breath, two on the out breath. She has since been born in the Pure Land but I was fortunate enough to celebrate Vietnamese New Year at the temple one year while she was there.

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby kendali » Sat Dec 31, 2016 10:37 pm

Admin_PC wrote:Vietnamese Thien & Tiantai temples also have large statues of Quan Âm (Guan Yin) as well, so no guarantee it's a Pure Land temple.

Good point. Here is their website: THIỀN VIỆN CHÂN NGUYÊN.

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Admin_PC » Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:52 pm

kendali wrote:
Admin_PC wrote:Vietnamese Thien & Tiantai temples also have large statues of Quan Âm (Guan Yin) as well, so no guarantee it's a Pure Land temple.

Good point. Here is their website: THIỀN VIỆN CHÂN NGUYÊN.

THIỀN is right there in the name and the sutras on the website are mostly Chan-stressed sutras like the Lankavatara.
On the other hand, they did have an Amitabha Celebration day in November.
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Sentient Light » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:19 pm

I just lost a long post. crap.

Anyway, is the teacher's title Thien Su or Phap Su? Thien Su are exclusively meditation teachers.

Ugh.. I don't want to type all that out again. :( okay, well.... I wanted to mention that I've almost never been instructed on Niệm Phật in a meditation class; it's always been breath meditation for beginners. Eventually, you may get invited to an "advanced" class and the teacher may begin to talk about thiền Ðịnh (dhyana-samadhi) and, specifically, Ðịnh Niệm Phật (Buddha-mindfulness samadhi). And there is instruction here because a lot of expereinces can occur at this level that can lead practitioners astray without guidance. So that could be one factor.

Another thing is that we're deluged with Niệm Phật everywhere in our culture. You see it in restaurants, you hear it in TV and movies, you likely greet some people with it too. So there's no wrong way to recite and everyone recites a little differently; it could very easily be a matter of not wanting to step on anyone's personal practice. Some families practice exclusively on Quán Âm's name; some families practice on Medicine Buddha's.

There's also the matter that Vietnamese Buddhism isn't quite exclusively Pure Land the way that Japanese Pure Land is. We are a lot closer to contemporary Chinese Buddhism -- most temples teach both Pure Land and meditation and most practical teaching is generally regarding auxilliary practices, on cultivating merit, on living your life, etc. The Pure Land practice itself, up until the more advanced stages, is very simple and a matter of discipline. I don't think it's something many Vietnamese think needs to be taught in any formal capacity.

there's also the possibility that your teacher thinks white people don't care about Pure Land practice. I'm 100% serious about this. There are definitely Vietnamese communities that feel white people (please note, I mean "Americans." I don't have a good term for "non-Vietnamese Americans" and, in Vietnamese, we just say "white people" -- so I don't mean white people the race, I mean white people the culture) only care about zen, so zen is what is taught to that audience.

Or it could just be a zen-heavy center, which seems to be the case given the link (it's a meditation center / monastery, not really a temple for laity).
---

Oh... lol. http://www.thienvienchannguyen.net/thie ... spx?id=116 < -- this page talks about their Niệm Phật service, three times a week, where you do prostrations and recitations to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and cultivate karmic merit for progressing on the Mahayana path. As you'll notice, it's entirely in Vietnamese, so I think it's more of a "Pure Land practice is for the Vietnamese only" type of deal, considering the flyer for the meditation classes is in English, shows white people, and this is in Vietnamese and only shows Vietnamese people. lol.

I didn't take a very close read, cause I'm not really that great with reading, but I think each of the three days is a slightly different service. One of them looks to be a liturgical chanting service rather than strict Niệm Phật and probably includes the Rebirth Mantra and maybe some other mantras / dharani.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

kendali
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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby kendali » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:01 am

:good:

Sentient Light wrote:I just lost a long post. crap.


:oops: ;)

Sentient Light wrote:Anyway, is the teacher's title Thien Su or Phap Su? Thien Su are exclusively meditation teachers.


I don't know. In English he just goes by "Master".

Sentient Light wrote: [... snip ...]

There's also the matter that Vietnamese Buddhism isn't quite exclusively Pure Land the way that Japanese Pure Land is. We are a lot closer to contemporary Chinese Buddhism -- most temples teach both Pure Land and meditation and most practical teaching is generally regarding auxilliary practices, on cultivating merit, on living your life, etc. The Pure Land practice itself, up until the more advanced stages, is very simple and a matter of discipline. I don't think it's something many Vietnamese think needs to be taught in any formal capacity.


Now I think I'm getting it.

Sentient Light wrote:there's also the possibility that your teacher thinks white people don't care about Pure Land practice. I'm 100% serious about this. There are definitely Vietnamese communities that feel white people (please note, I mean "Americans." I don't have a good term for "non-Vietnamese Americans" and, in Vietnamese, we just say "white people" -- so I don't mean white people the race, I mean white people the culture) only care about zen, so zen is what is taught to that audience.


This makes absolute sense.

Sentient Light wrote:
[... snip ...]

Oh... lol. http://www.thienvienchannguyen.net/thie ... spx?id=116 < -- this page talks about their Niệm Phật service, three times a week, where you do prostrations and recitations to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and cultivate karmic merit for progressing on the Mahayana path. As you'll notice, it's entirely in Vietnamese, so I think it's more of a "Pure Land practice is for the Vietnamese only" type of deal, considering the flyer for the meditation classes is in English, shows white people, and this is in Vietnamese and only shows Vietnamese people. lol.


So that's what it says. :rolling:

Sentient Light wrote:I didn't take a very close read, cause I'm not really that great with reading, but I think each of the three days is a slightly different service. One of them looks to be a liturgical chanting service rather than strict Niệm Phật and probably includes the Rebirth Mantra and maybe some other mantras / dharani.


I'm still going to check it out with the Master and see what he says. I may get a blank stare but who knows? Culture/language will probably end up being an issue, though.

Thanks so much for your post!

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Dharma Flower » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:28 am

I have to be honest. The biggest reason why I prefer the Nembutsu over silent, seated meditation is that, in my own experience, silent, seated meditation is very, very boring. When I say that Nembutsu, I at least feel like I'm doing something, and it also gives me a chance to connect with a compassionate reality beyond my own self.

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Dharma Flower » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:37 am

I like chanting sutras more than silent meditation too.

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Sentient Light » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:57 pm

kendali wrote:
I'm still going to check it out with the Master and see what he says. I may get a blank stare but who knows? Culture/language will probably end up being an issue, though.

Thanks so much for your post!


No problem! Glad I can be helpful.

The chanting services at Vietnamese temples are really great, but they can be offputting at first. There's no explanation and there's no instruction. I was a child my first time and it was actually frightening, because I hadn't known what to expect, and then everyone just started chanting this thing in these weird tones to this strange other-worldly melody. My mother didn't chant, she just knelt with her hands in anjali at her forehead, directing her mind. I asked her how people learn the mantras and she told me that the very religious just go to the temple a lot, hear the mantra a lot, read the mantra a lot, and so they remember it. But our family isn't that religious, so she didn't know the words (she was raised by a Catholic family after coming to the US as a teenager).

I've been trying to learn the mantras now as an adult. I started trying to learn the Great Compassion Mantra first, which is fairly common at the Vietnamese temples around here, but it's too long and difficult for me right now, so I've been working on the Rebirth Mantra instead (which is much shorter and much more commonly recited anyway). I don't know if they'd chant it there, but it could be something to work on on your own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IcxW_eO1nY <- This video goes through it up until the 1:46 mark (I have no clue what is chanted after that). I use this version too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnVIuaMUUVY And just play either over and over again, try to recite along with the words.

There's not a whole lot of handholding with Vietnamese sanghas unfortunately, in my experience. It helps if you speak the language a lot. There are some monks and nuns who don't take me very seriously because I can't speak Vietnamese (I only understand it and can read a tiny amount). It's probably my own mind, but I imagine they think of me as just another American, who can't possibly take Buddhism seriously if he doesn't take his own culture seriously enough to remember how to speak the language. More than likely though, it's just that there's no way to communicate between us effectively. I will always come off as mentally handicapped when trying to speak Vietnamese; they will always be unable to express thoughts eloquently in English. It's part of the reason why I turned to youtube teachings, particularly Thich Phap Hoa's, because he teaches in Vietnamese but has been in Canada for decades, so is pretty fluent in English. And he studies the dharma in both Vietnamese and in English (and in Sanskrit), so he is familiar with the English terms for concepts. I can reach out to him in English and he understands. So while I have a lot of Vietnamese temples around me, I go to them more for merit-making activities and to join in on the liturgical chanting sessions, occasionally a meditation session.

I think you'll run into similar obstacles as non-Vietnamese. And it's a sad thing, but I think it's mostly a language thing first and foremost. The Vietnamese diaspora in North America is the newest of the Asian diaspora (the Chinese have been here since the early 1800s, Japanese since the late 1800s, Koreans since the 50s) and as such, the community here just hasn't had enough time to have dharma teachers skilled enough in both English and Vietnamese to get the proper teachings of Vietnamese tradition and express them in a sensible way to Anglophones. We're getting there slowly -- I think Thich Phap Hoa is sort of a transitory teacher, a teacher who is capable of reaching out to American-born Vietnamese who feel alienated from their cultures. And I think from teachers like him, from his generation, will come students capable of teaching to a more strictly Anglophone audience. But it will take more time.

Sorry, I went on for a while, but it's a deeply personal issue for me and it's taken a lot of hard work (and pretty much re-learning my native tongue) to understand Vietnamese Buddhism, going up against a language barrier and a prejudice that a Vietnamese person as Americanized as I am could possibly pursue Buddha-dharma at a serious level.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

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Re: Vietnamese: Sitting meditation over Pure Land practice?

Postby Dharma Flower » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:45 am

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