The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post Reply
User avatar
mairuwen
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:47 pm

The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by mairuwen » Fri Feb 21, 2020 10:03 am

Apologies if this has been covered in previous posts (I did try to check the search function) and sorry if I'm off track or rambling aimlessly. Signed up to this forum some months ago and somehow got side-tracked- but back reading more Buddhist texts recently while holed up hiding from the coronavirus in Beijing. (Also watching old episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation.)

Reading the Platform Sutra and in the chapter on Questions, Prefect Wei raises the issue of Pureland practice to Venerable Huineng:

Your disciple always sees monks and
laypeople [practicing] mindfulness of Buddha Amitābha and wishing for
rebirth in the Western [Paradise]. Please explain this, are they reborn there
or not? Please eliminate my doubts.


Ven. Huineng's reply seems to show that he regards the practice as, at worst, useless and at best a skillful means of making concessions to the ignorant.

The deluded person recites the Buddha’s [name] and seeks
for rebirth in that other [location], while the enlightened person purifies his
mind


and

Stupid ordinary people
do not comprehend their self-natures, and they do not recognize that the Pure
Land is within their own bodies


Obviously, Chan and Pure Land are different Dharma Gates, but in modern Chinese Buddhism as far as I can see 念佛, reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, seems to be pretty much universal. Even people affiliated with Chan seems to emphasise rebirth in the Pure Land and I've never heard any suggestion of it as an inferior path. (Especially compared with, Theravada for example, which many people seem to make no bones at all about looking down on as Hinayana.)

Ven. Huineng, goes on to expand on the 'pure land is within' theme, stating that we should look for the Buddha internally in terms of Buddha Nature rather than externally in terms of godlike figure.

“Compassion is Avalokiteśvara,
joy and equanimity are Mahāsthamaprāpta,
the ability to purify is Śākyamuni,
and universal directness is Amitābha.


As a 21st century westerner, there seems to be a reading here that turns 'supernaturalism' into an exploration of the human mind using metaphor and legend to express otherwise inaccessible truths. However, I realise this may be too much of a projection of modern 'secular Dharma' ideas.

Also, I realise that the Platform Sutra isn't a treatise attempting to present 'truth' in the medium of language, rather it's a difficult, dialectical, tricky text trying to take us on a mental journey out of dualistic thinking etc.

Anyway...... sorry for the ramble. I'd be interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on 1. The relation between Pure Land and Chan. 2. The extent to which supernatural elements can be seen as a kind of skillful means.

User avatar
SonamTashi
Posts: 344
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:30 pm

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by SonamTashi » Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:26 am

So I think it is common for people to fall into either of two extremes when talking about the Pure Lands. One is basically "the Pure Land is just the pure mind, therefore there is no Pure Land to be born into, and all these Pure Landers are wasting their time." The other is where the Pure Land is just seen as some external heaven to be born into. Huineng is addressing this latter misconception, but people reading these kinds of statements often end up falling into the former misconception.

"The land is pure when the mind is pure" type teachings come from sutras like the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. Teachings emphasizing the Pure Lands as somewhere you can be reborn come from the Pure Land Sutras, especially the Smaller and Larger Sukhavativyuha sutras and the Visualization Sutra. Both of these are legitimate teachings, and in fact they don't even conflict. When you only accept one while rejecting the other, you fall into one of the misconceptions I mentioned above.

For example, the inverse could be said: "when the mind is impure, the land is impure." But that doesn't mean hell isn't a place you can be born into. The mind is impure for beings in the saha world, but that doesn't mean we weren't reborn in this world. This is why Chan and Pure Land are practiced side by side. Because they're basically pointing to the same thing; they're just two sides of the same coin.

I think the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra does a great job of tying these two teachings together and of showing how they're actually pointing to the same thing. So if this problem is still bothering you, I'd recommend giving it a read.

Edit: Master Ou-i says in Mind-Seal of the Buddhas:

Question: If Buddha is a creation of the Mind, if Buddha is the Mind, why do you not speak of our own inherent Buddha as supreme? Why do you insist that another Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, is better?

Answer: This Pure Land teaching is all a matter of comprehending that Amitabha Buddha is precisely our own Buddha Nature, our Mind. If we mistakenly refer to the Buddha as "other", we would fall into one form of delusive view. If we were to overemphasize our own inherent Buddha, this would be another form of delusive view. Both are wrong.
And Master Chu-Hung says:

Some people say that the Pure Land is nothing but mind, that there is no Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss beyond the trillions of worlds of the cosmos. This talk of mind-only has it source in the words of the sutras, and is true, not false. But those who quote it in this sense are misunderstanding its meaning.

Mind equals objects: there are no objects beyond mind. Objects equal mind: there is no mind beyond objects. Since objects are wholly mind, why must we cling to mind and dismiss objects? Those who dismiss objects when they talk of mind have not comprehended mind.
Some people also say that the Pure Land which is seen at the moment of death is entirely in the dying person’s own mind, so there is no Pure Land.

People with this opinion fail to consider this. It would be right to say this is the dying person's own mind if he alone saw that which is seen at the moment of death by those who recite the Buddha Name and are born in the Pure Land along with the congregation of saints coming to greet him, the heavenly music, unearthly perfumes... [etc.] But everyone there at the time of death sees it…

Let me ask [the person who thinks Pure Land is mind-only], “When hell appears to you at the moment of death, is this not mind? “ “It is mind.” “Does the person fall into hell?” “Yes, he falls into hell.” “Then it is obvious that since the person falls into hell, hell exists. Is it then only the Pure Land that does not exist? When the mind manifests hell, the person falls into a hell that really exists. When the mind manifests the Pure Land, isn’t the person born in a Pure Land that really exists?” As the saying goes:

Better you should speak of existence on the scale of the polar mountain, than to speak of nonexistence to the extent of a mustard seed.

Don’t do it!

Last edited by SonamTashi on Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:18 pm, edited 6 times in total.
:bow: :buddha1: :bow: :anjali: :meditate:

User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
Posts: 7680
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by Astus » Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:31 am

mairuwen wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 10:03 am
1. The relation between Pure Land and Chan.
Very harmonious, to the extent that it seems pointless to call them separate schools. It depends very much on the individual, how much one works on results in this life, but in the end everyone aims to be born in Sukhavati. One exception here might be those following the teachings of Yinshun and Shengyan, as they emphasise the traditional bodhisattva path and say that the Pure Land puts a delay on one's path. But there seems to be no teacher for the last couple of centuries who actually believed buddhahood in this life was a possibility, hence the only sensible choice is Amitabha.
2. The extent to which supernatural elements can be seen as a kind of skillful means.
Or it is a skilful means to talk of buddhas and bodhisattvas as representations of ideas. What to watch out for is conceit about one's view and thinking that those who think differently are not so smart.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

User avatar
mairuwen
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:47 pm

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by mairuwen » Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:46 pm

"The land is pure when the mind is pure" type teachings come from sutras like the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. Teachings emphasizing the Pure Lands as somewhere you can be reborn come from the Pure Land Sutras, especially the Smaller and Larger Sukhavativyuha sutras and the Visualization Sutra. Both of these are legitimate teachings, and in fact they don't even conflict. When you only accept one while rejecting the other, you fall into one of the misconceptions I mentioned above.

For example, the inverse could be said: "when the mind is impure, the land is impure." But that doesn't mean hell isn't a place you can be born into. The mind is impure for beings in the saha world, but that doesn't mean we weren't reborn in this world. This is why Chan and Pure Land are practiced side by side. Because they're basically pointing to the same thing; they're just two sides of the same coin.

I think the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra does a great job of tying these two teachings together and of showing how they're actually pointing to the same thing. So if this problem is still bothering you, I'd recommend giving it a read.
Thank you very much for the guidance and especially for tracing things back to the sutras! I already have the Vilamakirti Sutra lined up to read, and will add the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra for a view of how these two paths can work in tandem.
Or it is a skilful means to talk of buddhas and bodhisattvas as representations of ideas. What to watch out for is conceit about one's view and thinking that those who think differently are not so smart.
Yes, that's a good point! I've read a lot of inspiring secular Dharma material- but usually think of it as an adaption of the Dharma to my own particular context (which could well be skillful means.) Not so much a sense of "Aha! Finally we can know what Sakyamuni really meant! And it just happens to coincide with our own outlook."

阿弥陀佛 :anjali:

User avatar
LastLegend
Posts: 4138
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by LastLegend » Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:16 pm

mairuwen wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 10:03 am
Anyway...... sorry for the ramble. I'd be interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on 1. The relation between Pure Land and Chan. 2. The extent to which supernatural elements can be seen as a kind of skillful means.
Whether it’s Pure Land or Chan both should make personal vows and both should aspire Bodhisattva path. Pure Land was a result of Amitabha’s personal vows.

Supernatural just means true correspondence when one is no longer limited by five skandhas.
Make personal vows.

AJP
Posts: 250
Joined: Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:48 am

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by AJP » Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:20 pm

mairuwen wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 10:03 am

“Compassion is Avalokiteśvara,
joy and equanimity are Mahāsthamaprāpta,
the ability to purify is Śākyamuni,
and universal directness is Amitābha.

That's nice I've never read that before.

User avatar
mairuwen
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:47 pm

Re: The Platform Sutra on Pure Land practices.

Post by mairuwen » Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:42 am

Thanks for all the thoughts. It's good to get some feedback!

Post Reply

Return to “Chan”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests