C.S. Lewis and Shin

steveb1
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C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:07 pm

C.S. Lewis, Christian essayist, novelist, and apologist frequently raises questions that tend to make his readers consider the possibility of a moral universe.

Other than a Buddhistic assent to an indifferent process of moral cause-and-effect termed “Karma”, generally, I personally don’t view the universe as a moral place. Morality is a human category, while the universe is a non-human structure-and-process onto which humans tend to project their own ideas, attitudes, moods, and deepest wishes. C.S. Lewis might have believed that “all things will come round right in the end”, but the happy ending would, in his mind, be due to the final intervention in a troubled world of a caring (Christian) God. But it’s not an end detectable or derivable from observation of how the universe actually proceeds as a process without care or even awareness of the suffering sentient beings who are caught up in its mindless, grinding gears. This set of conditions makes the human heart cry out for the kind of justice and a mercy that Lewis expounds.

Elsewhere Lewis claims that ultimate justice is almost a natural consequence – e.g., nature makes the body feel hunger and Lo and Behold, it also provides food for the satiation of that hunger. Lewis then extrapolates from the body to the spirit, saying that the soul feels its own kind of hunger, and Lo and Behold, God provides satiation for that hunger by the means of a justly-renewed earth and a blessed afterlife. Lewis’s premise, then, is that neither nature nor God would create in creatures desires for which there is no satisfaction. A questionable assumption at best, considering how “God’s creation” actually seems to behave.

Lewis seems to be saying that sacrificing an innocent being in the name of justice has to be unjust, and so the universe itself must rebel at such a death, and reverse it. Lewis is pretty obviously thinking here of the sacrificial Jesus and Lewis’s own similar character, Aslan.

That, at least, seems to be Lewis’s profoundest wish, but it does not in any plain way conform to natural or even divine reality. If the universe – i.e., existence or nature – revolts against the torment and annihilation of innocents, its revolt is impotent, since innocents have been, and continue to be, slaughtered – not only without protest from nature, but specifically as part of the natural processes themselves. This is because, as far as human beings can ascertain, nature is not sentient, and does not possess the consciousness to either take up the cudgels on the behalf of, or to hatefully pursue, sentient beings.

The entire existential burden of modern man is said to largely consistsin a realization that, unlike us, the universe cannot know, and cannot love. So the true and real revolt is not, and cannot be, nature’s. It’s Lewis’s, whose heart recoils from nature’s utter indifference to sentient beings. And inasmuch as Lewis attributes nature’s existence to a beneficent, omniscient Creator, he must create a theodicy by which to “forgive” or at least exonerate the Creator for constructing an evil creation. Hence the Devil is very real figure for Lewis. In Mere Christianity, he even asserts that “earth is occupied territory – that’s what it is!” – meaning: occupied by the Devil.

For Lewis the only workable challenge to the Devil is the death of one more innocent - but infinitely perfect and good - being, namely, Jesus Christ. It’s difficult for me to see the “justice” in that, even if, as according to Lewis’s theology, the sacrifice was a willing one.

Now a consideration from the Jodo Shinshu perspective.

Jodo Shinshu has no central, high creator deity, and it holds that the world’s goods, evils, and indifference are artifacts, not of a divine will or the sin of human rebellion, but rather of a perpetually manifesting set of cause-and-effect conditions, summed up in the maxim: “There is no independent origination”. Like “Indra’s Net”, all objects and processes are interrelated and part of a whole in which the change of any part immediately changes the entire picture. And because all things and processes, according to Buddhism, are in states of constant flux – “Impermanence” – the entire picture is indeed constantly changing. This is the realm of “Samsara” – the locus of attachment, greed, blind passions, impermanence, ignorance and merely temporary pleasure and satisfaction.

Samsara does not conform to C.S. Lewis’s view of nature as the creation of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity who sometimes intervenes for “the Good”, but in any case continuously lurks behind phenomena until such time as he will at last assert "His" initial control of creation and make himself “All in All” with it. In Buddhism, in Shin, there is no such promissory deity; and Samsara continues in its own manner without divine intervention. But in Shin, thankfully, the story does not end there.

In Shin, Amitabha Buddha (Amida-Amitayus-Buddha) has a certain functional equivalence to Lewis’s salvific, compassionate, transcendent deity. Although he is not a god, Amitaba does correspond to certain aspects of the Western God-conception, inasmuch as Amida acts as a savior-redeemer who spiritually transforms the adherent, and whose grace providentially vivifies or sparks our hitherto-“dormant” Buddha Nature when we are born into the Pure Land.

Because the Buddha is not a creator deity, and because he does not miraculously intervene in Samsaric processes, He already differs greatly from Lewis’s God. He does “act”, he “takes responsibility” for sentient beings – but solely by “linking” to us internally through his gift of “perfect faith” or Shinjin.

Amitabha issues his “Call” and then compassionately echoes it within us.
We are not functional parts of this process. We are its recipients.

Our only “practice” is to verbally or mentally recite the Nembutsu: “Namo Amida Butsu” / “I thank and take refuge in Amitabha Buddha”.
Because the Buddha alone saves us, our Nembutsu is an expression of sincere gratitude, not a self-power practice that we engage in for the purpose of attaining Enlightenment. Our eventual realization of Enlightenment and our realization of our Buddha Nature are all the Buddha’s work. We merely thank him with great gratitude.

Unlike C.S. Lewis’s universe, which will end and then be transformed by its Creator, the Shin universe will continue as Samsara, but containing an infinitude of points of light which are the sentient beings who are at every moment receiving Shinjin from the Buddha. Samsara is being neither saved nor demolished, but sentient beings living within it are being enfolded in the Buddha’s embrace, never to be let go. Thus Amitabha’s working within Samsara creates a “sacramental pull” toward himself, which will continue until he has made Buddhas of all sentient beings.

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:20 am

Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting post.

The parallels and differences you note are real, IMO, but there is another contrast you don't explore and I think it helps to clarify what you've noticed.
It's the difference between "self power" and "other power" as the source of (for want of a better word) salvation. Christianity and Shin both depend explicitly on "other power" - God alone can save us, Amitabha Buddha alone can save us, and all we have to do is call on them. (That tends to make both religions devotional in practice, although that's a side effect.)
Theravada Buddhism, on the other hand, focuses more on "self power" - we are given the tools and expected to work our own way out of samsara. (This tends to make it more philosophical and analytical although, in practice, it too is largely devotional in traditionally Buddhist countries.)

The idea of an interventionist God, and the problem of evil which it raises, is a perennial topic in Christian theology, with good reason. Shin largely sidesteps the problem by not claiming creator-god status for Amitabha Buddha.

:namaste:
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:51 am

Yes, good points. Shin and Pauline Christianity do claim to rely solely on Other Power (although Paul wavers on this in some texts, saying things like we will be rewarded for good deeds). It does seem to me that the Pauline system is a bit more complex than Shin, inasmuch as Paul's requires belief in a creator god (a point you mentioned), that this god covenanted first with Israel and then, via Christianity, with the whole world, that this god has a divine son who suffered, died, and rose to atone for human "sin"...and finally that one must invite this Jesus into one's heart after undergoing repenance.

In Shin it's simpler - our karma ripens, we heed Amida's Call even as he echoes it in us, we receive non-retrogression and Shinjin.

In any case, thank you for replying and contributing points on this aspect of compare-and-contrast between Shin and Christianity.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Dan74 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:40 am

Thank you for an informative and intelligent post, steveb1.

I wonder to why extent this difference Kim picks up on, between self- and other-power, is real?

What are your thoughts on that?

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:27 am

Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I think od the difference between self power and Amida's Other Power as beingan absolutely real dichotomy.

My own experience of Shinjin - perfect Buddha-mediated faith - is that I am unable to procure Bodhi for myself - not through effort, meditation, concentration, contemplation and all the other self power methods.

Apparently, as Shin says, my karma had ripened to the extent that I could hear the Amida Dharma and experience the Buddha's Call as it echoed in myself. I found I had acquired perfect faith, Shinjin, by a transcendental means not available to my ego. To say I have perfect faith is not boasting for the simple reason that it is not at all my attainment. It's the Buddha's providential gift.

This is why Shin calls the gift of Shinjin "a raft from the Other Shore". It's a direct experience of a sacred Transcendent "Other", perpetually active in myself, that I did not cause or create.

Of course, Shin claims a difference between spiritual Other Power and secular self effort. If you want a career, you practice your secular self effort, without any assistance from the Buddha. The only kind of effort that Shin eschews is spiritual self power, and that is because the Buddha has made spiritual effort obsolete.

I hope I understood your question and answered it adequately. If not, I would be happy to elaborate.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Simon E. » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:24 am

I think we are back to Mercator's Projection I.e. what appears furthest apart is from another perspective actually close or even not -different.
The different perspective here is in the identity of the self that holds the ‘power’.
Both self and other arise in Emptiness and dissolve in Emptiness. So unless Jodo Shinshu advocates the idea of an atta, and as far as I am aware it doesn’t, The result of Jodo Shinshu or other forms of the Mahayana are the same. It’s the means that differ.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:10 pm

Right. While we are earthly bombus, we see a dualism between bombu and Buddha. When we enter the Pure Land we realize that we are Buddha. At that point, Amitabha Buddha is no longer "the pioneer and perfector of our faith" (to borrow from St. Paul), but our brother and our "self".

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by tkp67 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:35 pm

I practice faith based buddhism and can only say that my environment, mind didn't have direct access to buddha in a significant way I could discern a path. There was no real clear representation. Having an object of devotion (in any flavor of tradition) that is refuge in buddha even if it is external will manifest internally over time if one is faithful to the purpose.

To make clear however the object of refuge need be of authentic tradition and not one we make ourselves.

I find it remarkable that the teachings of Buddha appeal to those who where exposed to Christianity alike either through the same methodology i.e. faith or through a mechanism that appeals to someone who rejects Christianity because it is faith based. Equanimity personified.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by The Mantra Mongoose » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:47 pm

Hey everyone, C.S. Lewis is a pretty interesting character and IMO a rather important figure in the development of Lay theology in the church of England from which he hailed along with American evangelicalism. Everyone today in the western Christian world wants to claim him for there own, the reformed, the Arminian evangelicals, and Catholics like seeing him as a proto Catholic, emphasizing his relationship to Tolkien and the impact that had on his theology. What i always like to emphasize when people look to lewis for his views is that he was not a trained theologian, in fact if i remember correctly he was destroyed by a theologian in debate whos name i forget, took him to task for the lack of rigor he applied to his theological view. he was trained in English literature/ history of which he was one of the greatest minds of his time having read pretty much everything that his field had to offer. A lot of his theology also has influence from George McDonald, who himself was a pastor and author who rebelling against the reformed theology of his youth looked to Gregory of Nyssa and Origen two early church fathers for his view on Christian eschatological universalism.

Jodo shinshu in my opinion does have a little in common with this vision of Christianity, but differs pretty substantially in a couple systematic ways.
in its understanding of the attributes of both Amida vs the Judeo-christian God. firstly, the quality's of the Buddha and said God are diametrically opposed to one another in its understandings of justice, compassion, empathy and how they interact between the subject and object. secondly, the origin of evil and suffering along with its purpose in the hidden and revealed wills of God versus the law of Karma. just these two subjects when teased out beyond the surface level start to distance the two worldviews a lot. while i'm sympathetic to Lewis and his vision of Christianity i think once biblical exegesis of the text of scripture along with the philosophical and theological ramifications of his work are flushed out there leaves much to be desired. One of the major things that moved me away from Christianity was the relationship of the two wills of God and the allowance of evil in the world. i guess what im getting at from my very under educated opinion is that any comparison between Chrisanity and Jodo shinshu once pushed past the surface level becomes superficial at best and overlooks the heart of the matter. again this is all my simple opinion, i hope it helps the discussion.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:53 pm

tkp67 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:35 pm
I practice faith based buddhism and can only say that my environment, mind didn't have direct access to buddha in a significant way I could discern a path. There was no real clear representation. Having an object of devotion (in any flavor of tradition) that is refuge in buddha even if it is external will manifest internally over time if one is faithful to the purpose.

To make clear however the object of refuge need be of authentic tradition and not one we make ourselves.

I find it remarkable that the teachings of Buddha appeal to those who where exposed to Christianity alike either through the same methodology i.e. faith or through a mechanism that appeals to someone who rejects Christianity because it is faith based. Equanimity personified.
Nicely said - I came to Buddhism via a new understanding of New Testament conceptions of "ego loss" as in "take up your cross daily" and "whoever would find his soul must first lost it", etc.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:00 pm

The Mantra Mongoose wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:47 pm
Hey everyone, C.S. Lewis is a pretty interesting character and IMO a rather important figure in the development of Lay theology in the church of England from which he hailed along with American evangelicalism. Everyone today in the western Christian world wants to claim him for there own, the reformed, the Arminian evangelicals, and Catholics like seeing him as a proto Catholic, emphasizing his relationship to Tolkien and the impact that had on his theology. What i always like to emphasize when people look to lewis for his views is that he was not a trained theologian, in fact if i remember correctly he was destroyed by a theologian in debate whos name i forget, took him to task for the lack of rigor he applied to his theological view. he was trained in English literature/ history of which he was one of the greatest minds of his time having read pretty much everything that his field had to offer. A lot of his theology also has influence from George McDonald, who himself was a pastor and author who rebelling against the reformed theology of his youth looked to Gregory of Nyssa and Origen two early church fathers for his view on Christian eschatological universalism.

Jodo shinshu in my opinion does have a little in common with this vision of Christianity, but differs pretty substantially in a couple systematic ways.
in its understanding of the attributes of both Amida vs the Judeo-christian God. firstly, the quality's of the Buddha and said God are diametrically opposed to one another in its understandings of justice, compassion, empathy and how they interact between the subject and object. secondly, the origin of evil and suffering along with its purpose in the hidden and revealed wills of God versus the law of Karma. just these two subjects when teased out beyond the surface level start to distance the two worldviews a lot. while i'm sympathetic to Lewis and his vision of Christianity i think once biblical exegesis of the text of scripture along with the philosophical and theological ramifications of his work are flushed out there leaves much to be desired. One of the major things that moved me away from Christianity was the relationship of the two wills of God and the allowance of evil in the world. i guess what im getting at from my very under educated opinion is that any comparison between Chrisanity and Jodo shinshu once pushed past the surface level becomes superficial at best and overlooks the heart of the matter. again this is all my simple opinion, i hope it helps the discussion.
Good observations. Yes, we don't want to push the similarities of Shin and Christianity too far, or we falsify both of them.

A common embrace of "perfect faith" in opposition to "salvation by works" seems to be the greatest similarity between both systems. Both Christians and "Shinners" rely on a supreme Other Power for salvation. The difference is that the successful (redeemed) Christian goes to heaven as a perpetually God-praising saint, while the Shin person enters the Pure Land, where his/her "dormant" Buddha Nature is vivified and he/she becomes a Buddha. The Christian view of the highest human state is that of being "Saved" and going to heaven. The Shin view of the highest human state is that of realizing one's aspiration to Buddhahood and becoming a Buddha oneself.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by tkp67 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:01 pm

steveb1 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:53 pm
tkp67 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:35 pm
I practice faith based buddhism and can only say that my environment, mind didn't have direct access to buddha in a significant way I could discern a path. There was no real clear representation. Having an object of devotion (in any flavor of tradition) that is refuge in buddha even if it is external will manifest internally over time if one is faithful to the purpose.

To make clear however the object of refuge need be of authentic tradition and not one we make ourselves.

I find it remarkable that the teachings of Buddha appeal to those who where exposed to Christianity alike either through the same methodology i.e. faith or through a mechanism that appeals to someone who rejects Christianity because it is faith based. Equanimity personified.
Nicely said - I came to Buddhism via a new understanding of New Testament conceptions of "ego loss" as in "take up your cross daily" and "whoever would find his soul must first lost it", etc.
Thank you so much, I was hoping to add value. Wonderful thread Beautiful tradition :)

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by tkp67 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:02 pm

The Mantra Mongoose wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:47 pm
Hey everyone, C.S. Lewis is a pretty interesting character and IMO a rather important figure in the development of Lay theology in the church of England from which he hailed along with American evangelicalism. Everyone today in the western Christian world wants to claim him for there own, the reformed, the Arminian evangelicals, and Catholics like seeing him as a proto Catholic, emphasizing his relationship to Tolkien and the impact that had on his theology. What i always like to emphasize when people look to lewis for his views is that he was not a trained theologian, in fact if i remember correctly he was destroyed by a theologian in debate whos name i forget, took him to task for the lack of rigor he applied to his theological view. he was trained in English literature/ history of which he was one of the greatest minds of his time having read pretty much everything that his field had to offer. A lot of his theology also has influence from George McDonald, who himself was a pastor and author who rebelling against the reformed theology of his youth looked to Gregory of Nyssa and Origen two early church fathers for his view on Christian eschatological universalism.

Jodo shinshu in my opinion does have a little in common with this vision of Christianity, but differs pretty substantially in a couple systematic ways.
in its understanding of the attributes of both Amida vs the Judeo-christian God. firstly, the quality's of the Buddha and said God are diametrically opposed to one another in its understandings of justice, compassion, empathy and how they interact between the subject and object. secondly, the origin of evil and suffering along with its purpose in the hidden and revealed wills of God versus the law of Karma. just these two subjects when teased out beyond the surface level start to distance the two worldviews a lot. while i'm sympathetic to Lewis and his vision of Christianity i think once biblical exegesis of the text of scripture along with the philosophical and theological ramifications of his work are flushed out there leaves much to be desired. One of the major things that moved me away from Christianity was the relationship of the two wills of God and the allowance of evil in the world. i guess what im getting at from my very under educated opinion is that any comparison between Chrisanity and Jodo shinshu once pushed past the surface level becomes superficial at best and overlooks the heart of the matter. again this is all my simple opinion, i hope it helps the discussion.
It seems like consciousness is expressed to the limit of the realms of the age and teachings arise trying to challenge that envelope without really understanding where the envelope really came from and that trying to even understand this later concept is reliant on collective consciousness being at a certain developmental level.

The buddha understood this accordingly to our needs now as well as in the past as he was enlightened to past, present and future. equally. It was as if the door to be entered required the desires necessary to open it.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:06 pm

tkp67 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:01 pm
steveb1 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:53 pm
tkp67 wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:35 pm
I practice faith based buddhism and can only say that my environment, mind didn't have direct access to buddha in a significant way I could discern a path. There was no real clear representation. Having an object of devotion (in any flavor of tradition) that is refuge in buddha even if it is external will manifest internally over time if one is faithful to the purpose.

To make clear however the object of refuge need be of authentic tradition and not one we make ourselves.

I find it remarkable that the teachings of Buddha appeal to those who where exposed to Christianity alike either through the same methodology i.e. faith or through a mechanism that appeals to someone who rejects Christianity because it is faith based. Equanimity personified.
Nicely said - I came to Buddhism via a new understanding of New Testament conceptions of "ego loss" as in "take up your cross daily" and "whoever would find his soul must first lost it", etc.
Thank you so much, I was hoping to add value. Wonderful thread Beautiful tradition :)
You're welcome. Thanks for your comments!

The Mantra Mongoose
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by The Mantra Mongoose » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:08 pm

Good observations. Yes, we don't want to push the similarities of Shin and Christianity too far, or we falsify both of them.

A common embrace of "perfect faith" in opposition to "salvation by works" seems to be the greatest similarity between both systems. Both Christians and "Shinners" rely on a supreme Other Power for salvation. The difference is that the successful (redeemed) Christian goes to heaven as a perpetually God-praising saint, while the Shin person enters the Pure Land, where his/her "dormant" Buddha Nature is vivified and he/she becomes a Buddha. The Christian view of the highest human state is that of being "Saved" and going to heaven. The Shin view of the highest human state is that of realizing one's aspiration to Buddhahood and becoming a Buddha oneself.
I agree wholeheartedly, i guess for me it was existential angst first and foremost that drove me into Amidas arms by his grace. The jumping into the unknown was for me the only thing i had left as all other options were closed to me so i didn't think in those category's. i do understand why people make these comparisons though. After talking to my Christian friends about Amida they at first though Buddhist just stole the christian wolrdview and placed it in Christian garb. its only after i show the historicity and depth of the jodo shinshu position that they change there mind lol.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:18 pm

The Mantra Mongoose wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:08 pm
Good observations. Yes, we don't want to push the similarities of Shin and Christianity too far, or we falsify both of them.

A common embrace of "perfect faith" in opposition to "salvation by works" seems to be the greatest similarity between both systems. Both Christians and "Shinners" rely on a supreme Other Power for salvation. The difference is that the successful (redeemed) Christian goes to heaven as a perpetually God-praising saint, while the Shin person enters the Pure Land, where his/her "dormant" Buddha Nature is vivified and he/she becomes a Buddha. The Christian view of the highest human state is that of being "Saved" and going to heaven. The Shin view of the highest human state is that of realizing one's aspiration to Buddhahood and becoming a Buddha oneself.
I agree wholeheartedly, i guess for me it was existential angst first and foremost that drove me into Amidas arms by his grace. The jumping into the unknown was for me the only thing i had left as all other options were closed to me so i didn't think in those category's. i do understand why people make these comparisons though. After talking to my Christian friends about Amida they at first though Buddhist just stole the christian wolrdview and placed it in Christian garb. its only after i show the historicity and depth of the jodo shinshu position that they change there mind lol.
Good for you on actually informing them to the point they changed their mind. It's so important to know Shin history and therefore realize that Shin is not a second-hand reinterpretation of Christianity - it has a long lineage through its Patriarchs and its immediate inspirers - Honen, Shinran, and Rennyo - are clearly in the venerable Buddhist Mahayana tradition and general Amidism. No Christian influence whatsoever.

Your journey to Shin is similar to mine in that I was getting nowhere spiritually - although I did and do still remain an enthusiastic lay student of comparative religion - I was accumulating fascinating intellectual data like a stamp or coin collector, but I could not find a system or a "sacred Transcendent" that captured me on an existential level. When I took a serious look at Shin, I found that it fit like a glove, and I heard the Buddha's Call and experienced his compassionate working in me. Nothing else provided the answer I was seeking.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Dan74 » Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:42 am

Thank you all for sharing. :bow: :bow: :bow:

Firstly I respect your practice and as a pragmatist, my abiding belief is whatever view supports you in the diminishing of delusion and the cultivation of wholesome qualities less suffering for yourself and others here and now, is the Right View. If the fruit of practice is solely the promise of the rebirth in Pure Land, then I doubt that the practice is right.

As to the distinction between Self- and Other Power, the following anecdote about the encounter of one of the earliest translators of Chan/Zen texts, John Blofeld and Master Xu Yun, the great Chan master of the last Century, comes to mind.
… The present Abbot was no other than the Venerable Hsü Yün (虚云 / Xū Yún), who was believed to be well over a hundred years old, though still able to walk as much as thirty miles a day. He was renowned all over China as the greatest living Master of Zen; so I was delighted to hear the unexpected news that he had just returned after an absence of several months spent in a distant province. Not long after my arrival, I excitedly followed the Reverend Receiver of Guests to pay my respects to this almost mythical personage. I beheld a middle-sized man with a short, wispy beard and remarkable penetrating eyes. He was not precisely youthful-looking as I had been led to expect, but had one of those ageless faces not uncommon in China. Nobody could have guessed that he was already a centenarian. Finding myself in his presence, I became virtually tongue-tied and had to rack my brains for something to say, although there was so much I could profitably have asked him. At last, I managed to ask:
“Is this famous monastery purely Zen, Your Reverence?”
“Oh yes,” he answered in a surprisingly vigorous voice. “It is a great centre of Zen.”
“So you do not worship Amida Buddha or keep his statue here?”
The question seemed to puzzle him, for he took some time to reply.
“But certainly we keep his statue here. Every morning and evening we perform rites before it and repeat the sacred name while circumambulating the altar.”
“Then the monastery is not purely Zen,” I persisted, puzzled in my turn.
“Why not? It is like every other Zen monastery in China. Why should it be different? Hundreds of years ago there were many sects, but the teachings have long been synthesized – which is as it should be. If by Zen, you mean the practice of Zen meditation, why, that is the very essence of Buddhism. It leads to a direct perception of Reality in this life, enabling us to transcend duality and go straight to the One Mind. This One Mind, otherwise known as our Original Nature, belongs to everybody and everything. But the method is very hard – hard even for those who practise it night and day for years on end. How many people are prepared or even able to do that? The monastery also has to serve the needs of simple, illiterate people. How many of them would understand if we taught only the highest method? I speak of the farmers on our own land here and of the simple pilgrims who come for the great annual festivals. To them we offer that other way – repetition of the sacred name – which is yet the same way adapted for simple minds. They believe that by such repetition they will gain the Western Paradise and there receive divine teaching from Amida Buddha himself – teaching which will lead them directly to Nirvana.”
At once reluctantly and somewhat daringly I answered: “I see. But isn’t that a kind of – well, a sort of – of – er – deception? Good, no doubt, but…”
I broke off, not so much in confusion as because the Venerable Hsü Yün was roaring with laughter.
“Deception? Deception? Ha, ha, ha, ha-ha! Not at all. Not a bit. No, of course not.”
“Then Your Reverence, if you too believe in the Western Heaven and so on, why do you trouble to teach the much harder road to Zen?”
“I do not understand the distinction you are making. They are identical.”
“But…”
“Listen, Mr P’u. Zen manifests self-strength; Amidism manifests other-strength. You rely on your own efforts, or you rely on the saving power of Amida. Is that right?”
“Yes. But they are – I mean, they seem – entirely different from each other.”
I became aware that some of the other monks were beginning to look at me coldly, as though I were showing unpardonable rudeness in pertinaciously arguing with this renowned scholar and saint; but the Master, who was quite unperturbed, seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Why insist so much on this difference?” he asked. “You know that in reality there is nought but the One Mind. You may choose to regard it as in you or out of you, but “in” and “out” have no ultimate significance whatever – just as you, Mr P’u, and I and Amida Buddha have no real separateness. In ordinary life, self is self and other is other; in reality they are the same. Take Bodhidharma who sat for nine years in front of a blank wall. What did he contemplate? What did he see? Nothing but his Original Self, the true Self beyond duality. Thus he saw Reality face to face. He was thereby freed from the Wheel and entered Nirvana, never to be reborn – unless voluntarily as a Bodhisattva.”
“Yet, Reverence, I do not think that Bodhidharma spoke of Amida. Or am I wrong?”
“True, true. He did not. But when Farmer Wang comes to me for teaching, am I to speak to him of his Original Self or of Reality and so on? What do such terms mean to him? Morning and evening, he repeats the sacred name, concentrating on it until he grows oblivious of all else. In time, after a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime or several lifetimes, he achieves such a state of perfect concentration that duality is transcended and he, too, comes face to face with Reality. He calls the power by which he hopes to achieve this Amida; you call it Zen; I may call it Original Mind. What is the difference? The power he thought was outside himself was inside all the time.”
Deeply struck by this argument and anxious, perhaps, to display my acquaintance with the Zen way of putting things, I exclaimed:
“I see, I see. Bodhidharma entered the shrine-room from the sitting-room. Farmer Wang entered it through the kitchen, but they both arrived at the same place. I see.”
“No,” answered the Zen Master, “you do not see. They didn’t arrive at any place. They just discovered that there is no place for them to reach.”
That said, I wonder if there are potential pitfalls in over-relying on Other Power, just as there are pitfalls in over-relying on Self-Power. There are practices we can do to work on the body-mind, bring it into balance, avoid the unwholesome and develop clarity and insight. One may say that one's karma is not ripened for this sort of practice, but surely one needs to try first and to try in earnest. It may not be sufficient for awakening, but it may lessen the obscurations and the suffering of yourself and others around you in this life.


My preference seems to go in the direction of mixed practice - Self and Other power. Devotion is a wonderful wonderful quality, but I also find self-practice methods very important, though there don't seem to be many people around who do both. The Dharma gates are numberless...

_/|\_
Last edited by Dan74 on Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Fortyeightvows » Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:44 am

My preference seems to go in the direction of mixed practice - self and other power. Devotion is a wonderful wonderful quality, but I also find self-practice methods very important, but there aren't many people around who do both it seems..
Really? I thought that was standard mahayana

Simon E.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Simon E. » Fri Sep 20, 2019 12:39 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:44 am
My preference seems to go in the direction of mixed practice - self and other power. Devotion is a wonderful wonderful quality, but I also find self-practice methods very important, but there aren't many people around who do both it seems..
Really? I thought that was standard mahayana
So did I. It’s certainly the case in Vajrayana.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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LastLegend
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by LastLegend » Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:02 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:42 am
That said, I wonder if there are potential pitfalls in over-relying on Other Power, just as there are pitfalls in over-relying on Self-Power. There are practices we can do to work on the body-mind, bring it into balance, avoid the unwholesome and develop clarity and insight. One may say that one's karma is not ripened for this sort of practice, but surely one needs to try first and to try in earnest. It may not be sufficient for awakening, but it may lessen the obscurations and the suffering of yourself and others around you in this life.


My preference seems to go in the direction of mixed practice - Self and Other power. Devotion is a wonderful wonderful quality, but I also find self-practice methods very important, though there don't seem to be many people around who do both. The Dharma gates are numberless...

_/|\_

There are very few who have made it by themselves. There are also cases of people who encounter Ancient Buddhas that help them expedite, but this doesn’t happen often as we lack karmic connection. Faith is like knocking on the door until it opens. I was told making Great personal vows (Ksitigarbha Sutra!) is another quick route because it creates great connection with Ancient Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.
Within that state of clarity, there is a knowing that remains unchanged stationary can be seen when looking at an object.

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