C.S. Lewis and Shin

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Dan74
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Dan74 »

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
Not many Western Zen/Chan teachers teach Pure Land, or at least none that I've encountered. Perhaps Fo Guang Yuan and the City of 1000 Buddhas are the only exceptions I know of.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by LastLegend »

Dan74 wrote: Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:28 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
Not many Western Zen/Chan teachers teach Pure Land, or at least none that I've encountered. Perhaps Fo Guang Yuan and the City of 1000 Buddhas are the only exceptions I know of.
I was told Chan/Pure Land together is like a tiger with wings!
Make personal vows.

End of the day: I don’t know.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by ford_truckin »

Dan74 wrote: Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:28 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
Not many Western Zen/Chan teachers teach Pure Land, or at least none that I've encountered. Perhaps Fo Guang Yuan and the City of 1000 Buddhas are the only exceptions I know of.
Why do you think this is?
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

Dan74 wrote: 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...

_/|\_
I think it boils down to the fact that Shin is not Zen, and cannot be Zen, for the simple reason that Shin practice is no practice. Utter reliance on the Buddha is unpolluted, unmixed with self power practices and considerations. We are devoted to the Buddha, but do not worship him, and we realize that our Nembutsu recitation has no power to enlighten, save, redeem, to make us centered, calm, mindful or any other such mental attainment. Nembutsu recitation is simply an expression of gratitude.

Your citation comments, "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."

This is Shin's depiction of the bombu-Buddha relationship. As earthly bombus we regard the Buddha as savior and redeemer and "pioneer and perfector of our faith". But when we take birth in his Pure Land and our own formerly dormant Buddha Nature blossoms, we see ourselves as Buddhas, in which Amitabha Buddha is no longer our savior, but our brother in Buddhahood.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by The Mantra Mongoose »

Dan74 wrote: ↑Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:42 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...

_/|\_
I think it boils down to the fact that Shin is not Zen, and cannot be Zen, for the simple reason that Shin practice is no practice. Utter reliance on the Buddha is unpolluted, unmixed with self power practices and considerations. We are devoted to the Buddha, but do not worship him, and we realize that our Nembutsu recitation has no power to enlighten, save, redeem, to make us centered, calm, mindful or any other such mental attainment. Nembutsu recitation is simply an expression of gratitude.

Your citation comments, "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."

This is Shin's depiction of the bombu-Buddha relationship. As earthly bombus we regard the Buddha as savior and redeemer and "pioneer and perfector of our faith". But when we take birth in his Pure Land and our own formerly dormant Buddha Nature blossoms, we see ourselves as Buddhas, in which Amitabha Buddha is no longer our savior, but our brother in Buddhahood.
I couldn't agree more with you here steveb1. I find that these discussion usually come up when people learn what jodo shinshu really teaches and people find it almost not buddhist because of its emphasis on total other power. what is perceived as a believer/Buddha dichotomy only disappears in enlightenment, but while were on the path that distinction is fundamental to shin doctrine . I also believe its why there are so many " Heresys" as my teacher Josho Arien Cirlea would say that are currently happening in the shin theological world. Don't get me wrong i'm not condemning Dan74 here this is just a general observation that I've noticed multiple times in the past when other buddhist traditions engage with the shin tradition. The shin sangha really needs to return IMO to the Writings of Shinran and Rennyo so we can clearly state what we believe and what is beyond are tradition. Finally, what steveb1 has said is about as orthodox shin as a person could get, i rejoice in how he represents are tradition. thank you steveb1, and thank you all for the great discussion thus far.
Hung! On the northwest border of the country Oḍḍiyāna,
On the pollen heart of a lotus flower,
The marvelous, supreme accomplishment has been attained.
You are renowned as the Lotus-Born,
Surrounded by a retinue of many Ḍākinīs.
Following you to be like you,
I beseech you to come and bless me.
Guru Padma Siddhi Hung -The Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche
steveb1
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

[quote="snipped

Your citation comments, "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."

This is Shin's depiction of the bombu-Buddha relationship. As earthly bombus we regard the Buddha as savior and redeemer and "pioneer and perfector of our faith". But when we take birth in his Pure Land and our own formerly dormant Buddha Nature blossoms, we see ourselves as Buddhas, in which Amitabha Buddha is no longer our savior, but our brother in Buddhahood.[/quote]

I couldn't agree more with you here steveb1. I find that these discussion usually come up when people learn what jodo shinshu really teaches and people find it almost not buddhist because of its emphasis on total other power. what is perceived as a believer/Buddha dichotomy only disappears in enlightenment, but while were on the path that distinction is fundamental to shin doctrine . I also believe its why there are so many " Heresys" as my teacher Josho Arien Cirlea would say that are currently happening in the shin theological world. Don't get me wrong i'm not condemning Dan74 here this is just a general observation that I've noticed multiple times in the past when other buddhist traditions engage with the shin tradition. The shin sangha really needs to return IMO to the Writings of Shinran and Rennyo so we can clearly state what we believe and what is beyond are tradition. Finally, what steveb1 has said is about as orthodox shin as a person could get, i rejoice in how he represents are tradition. thank you steveb1, and thank you all for the great discussion thus far.

[/quote]

Agreed that Dan74 is sincere, bright, educated and deeply concerned about what constitutes Buddhism and the path to Bodhi. Also agreed that Shin is not Zen. It's not even Jodo Shu, as Shinran broke from the slight traces of self power that remained in Honen's teaching. Other Power reliance-only is pure Shin. Any deviation is not necessarily "un-Buddhist". It's simply not Shin.

Shin adherents who use self power practice, whether they know it or not, have simply dropped out of Shin.
Shin eschews all self power thought or action as "calculating", i.e., an attempt to attain Bodhi on our own rather than through Amida-reliance only. Shin also sees calculation as a potential means of ego-building and attributing merit and virtue to oneself, which is another reason that Shin avoids calculation. Finally, Shin realizes how easy it is for those on the "difficult" Path of the Holy Sages to expend tremendous effort to reach the peak, but keep stumbling, sliding back down the slope, and needing to begin the long, arduous climb all over again. In Shin there is no slope, no stumbling and most important, no climbing. The effort has already been expended by the Buddha. We only need to accept his Work in gratitude.

I also agree with you that Josho Adrian, the late Paul Roberts, George Gatenby, John Paraskevopoulos and other true teachers are correct to say that Amida Buddha is a real Buddha - a sacred, transcendent being - not a mere symbol of the Enlightenment process. Of course, the Buddha is a symbol...and also a reality. Jesus is a symbol of ultimate value, redemption and grace for Christians, but of course he is also the living person who provides these divine gifts. Ditto with Shin. Our Amida Buddha is a symbol of our highest values, and at the same time is the living provider of those values. There's nothing quite as empty as an empty symbol. A sign without meaning that does not point to a reality beyond itself is a pretty usless thing. Whereas in Shin we find that this ultimate reality turns out in the end to be our own vivified Buddha Nature.
Last edited by steveb1 on Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by LastLegend »

Interesting.

Other powers! Nobody truly relies on themselves without the aid of Ancient or Past Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. Lotus Sutra!

Making great personal vows is also relying on other powers! Very crucial today!
Make personal vows.

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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

LastLegend wrote: Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:39 pm Interesting.

Other powers! Nobody truly relies on themselves without the aid of Ancient or Past Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. Lotus Sutra!

Making great personal vows is also relying on other powers! Very crucial today!
It has a parallel in nature where parts of an ecosystem rely on each other...
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by The Mantra Mongoose »

Agreed that Dan74 is sincere, bright, educated and deeply concerned about what constitutes Buddhism and the path to Bodhi. Also agreed that Shin is not Zen. It's not even Jodo Shu, as Shinran broke from the slight traces of self power that remained in Honen's teaching. Other Power reliance-only is pure Shin. Any deviation is not necessarily "un-Buddhist". It's simply not Shin.

Shin adherents who use self power practice, whether they know it or not, have simply dropped out of Shin.
Shin eschews all self power thought or action as "calculating", i.e., an attempt to attain Bodhi on our own rather than through Amida-reliance only. Shin also sees calculation as a potential means of ego-building and attributing merit and virtue to oneself, which is another reason that Shin avoids calculation. Finally, Shin realizes how easy it is for those on the "difficult" Path of the Holy Sages to expend tremendous effort to reach the peak, but keep stumbling, sliding back down the slope, and needing to begin the long, arduous climb all over again. In Shin there is no slope, no stumbling and most important, no climbing. The effort has already been expended by the Buddha. We only need to accept his Work in gratitude.

I also agree with you that Josho Adrian, the late Paul Roberts, George Gatenby, John Paraskevopoulos and other true teachers are correct to say that Amida Buddha is a real Buddha - a sacred, transcendent being - not a mere symbol of the Enlightenment process. Of course, the Buddha is a symbol...and also a reality. Jesus is a symbol of ultimate value, redemption and grace for Christians, but of course he is also the living person who provides these divine gifts. Ditto with Shin. Our Amida Buddha is a symbol of our highest values, and at the same time is the living provider of those values. There's nothing quite as empty as an empty symbol. A sign without meaning that does not point to a reality beyond itself is a pretty usless thing. Whereas in Shin we find that this ultimate reality turns out in the end to be our own vivified Buddha Nature.
I hope i didn't come off as combative in my last post towards dan74, i was just trying to share a generalized though i had about the tension that can exist between the Buddhist schools on other power. I also wanted to clarify i fully agree with you steveb1 with the use of symbolism being a facet of Amida Dharma and that is truly important. I use the symbolism of Amida as the greatest of mothers who's compassion can not be equaled all the time just for example. the tension between are experience reality, and the ultimate reality i believe necessitates symbolism in our expressions of it, exactly as you just said. finally, that tension between using symbolism and maintaining clarity in teaching is no simple task, its one that im grateful i don't have to tackle in my everyday life as i just dont have the fortitude for it :tongue:.
Hung! On the northwest border of the country Oḍḍiyāna,
On the pollen heart of a lotus flower,
The marvelous, supreme accomplishment has been attained.
You are renowned as the Lotus-Born,
Surrounded by a retinue of many Ḍākinīs.
Following you to be like you,
I beseech you to come and bless me.
Guru Padma Siddhi Hung -The Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

Yes, we're trying to talk about the ineffable using human words. Symbolism is bound to arise as we grapple with the ultimate. Shin says that we cannot see or represent the Dharmakaya, but rely on the other two Buddha Bodies to get some idea of what Buddhas are. As I understand it, Amida gives us a "body" by which we can get some glimmer of his inner being. Shinran used words like "inconceivable" when he indicated the Amida Dharma, and Gotama used similar terms in describing the indescribable nature of Bodhi. So symbols can be our friend, just so long as we realize that they are indicators of a reality, but not the reality itself.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Simon E. »

I think that the tension between self power and other power is a false duality that would only operate if ‘we’ had any kind of permanent reality.

I think that also applies to Amida Buddha. I prefer the explanation given by a Vajrayana teacher about another Yidam..’The difference between Tara and you is that she KNOWS she doesn’t exist in conventional terms’.

But it is not kosher to use the doctrine of one school to critique a different school so I will leave it there.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by tkp67 »

Simon E. wrote: Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:34 am I think that the tension between self power and other power is a false duality that would only operate if ‘we’ had any kind of permanent reality.

I think that also applies to Amida Buddha. I prefer the explanation given by a Vajrayana teacher about another Yidam..’The difference between Tara and you is that she KNOWS she doesn’t exist in conventional terms’.

But it is not kosher to use the doctrine of one school to critique a different school so I will leave it there.
I think the wording works here because I don't think anyone is expecting the same perceived reality to continue for us in this form past this existence.

I don't think all people have the same tension with external agencies. Not only is it relative to how they are perceived not everyone has cause to question external agency.

I love the Vajrayana quote. It isn't critical because conventional existence isn't the basis of practice for pure land. Amida knows he doesn't exist in conventional terms either.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Dan74 »

I didn't perceive any combativeness, Folks. I find the devotion of Shin practitioners, such as yourselves, truly inspirational. :bow: :bow: :bow:
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by SonamTashi »

For full disclosure, I am not a Shin Buddhist and it is not my intent to attack the tradition, but it has seemed to me for quite some time that Shinran's message is frequently misunderstood, especially in its modern presentation. One example of this is the idea, as previously mentioned, that Shinran "broke off" from Honen and the traces of self-power in Honen's teachings. This is wrong for the simple fact that Shinran never attempted to start his own tradition. In fact, he wrote the Kyogyoshinsho in defense of Honen's interpretation of the Pure Land tradition, the nembutsu, and especially to defend Honen from accusations of erasing Bodhicitta from his form of Buddhism. Therefore, I believe interpretations of Shinran that are based on the idea that Honen's teachings were wrong or relied on self-power don't understand Honen's teachings, or at least they don't understand Shinran's perspective of Honen's teachings. It is certainly true that Shinran diverged from Honen, but it isn't like this was a purposeful divergence, and Shinran wasn't the only student of Honen to diverge after Honen went to the Pure Land. Pretty much all of his top students did. This includes the founders of the various Jodo-Shu schools as well as Ippen. But none of these people intended to start their own schools and diverge from Honen's teachings. Therefore, I think any reading of Shinran has to be reconciled with Honen's writings--after all, Shinran was just trying to present his own understanding of Honen's teachings. I think some serious misconceptions arise when you don't reconcile Shinran's writings with Honen's.

For example, one of the major differences in Honen's presentation of the teachings and Shinran's presentation is the question of the saying of the name, how often to say it, how/why to say it etc. Honen taught that you should say the nembutsu up to 60,000 times a day. Shinran says the number doesn't matter. One of Honen's biggest assumptions seems to be that if you say the name enough, the 3 minds will naturally arise, all self-effort will drop off and one will be assured of rebirth. Shinran presents things slightly differently:

Further, right practice is divided into two. First, single-heartedly practicing the saying of the Name of Amida alone – whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining – without regard to the length of time, and without abandoning it from moment to moment: this is called “the act of true settlement,”
The act of true settlement meaning Shinjin. So in Shinran's opinion, if you attain Shinjin you will spontaneously say the nembutsu constantly in a sense of gratitude. So the difference seems to be that Honen taught that constantly saying the name will lead to rebirth in Sukhavati, while Shinran says that attaining rebirth will inspire saying the name constantly. And the misinterpretation that seems to arise here is the idea that saying the nembutsu (especially saying it a lot) before Shinjin is self-power practice, and that the nembutsu should only be said out of gratitude/Shinjin. But the mention of constantly saying of the name after receiving Shinjin does not conflict with constantly saying the name before Shinjin. The difference is how the name is said. The nembutsu before Shinjin, while you're still clinging to some amount of self-effort, is simply a weak imitation of nembutsu after Shinjin--but it is still a vital part of the process. Like in Honen's presentation, I believe Shinran wanted his students to say the name constantly, and that he believed by practicing this way eventually self-effort would drop off completely, and then nembutsu would become absolutely effortless, and this would assure rebirth in the Pure Land. This drop-off of effort comes when the "practitioner" totally realizes their bombu nature, and thus their inability to save themselves, and this drop-off is the result of the name itself. So the difference here between Shinran and Honen seems to be minimal, and even seems to be a matter of semantics. One (Honen) presented things in terms of the path, and Shinran presented things from the perspective of the result, but the methods are basically the same. The one real difference is that Shinran discouraged counting the nembutsu, as that can prevent the drop-off of self-effort. But either way, in both interpretations, rebirth is assured when self-effort disappears. I also think this interpretation is very similar to Ippen's view of Honen's teachings:

FURTHER HE SAID: Most people assume that by drawing a distinction between self-power and Other Power and so maintaining the reality of the self, they can lean upon Other Power and in this way attain birth. This is a misapprehension. The distinction of self-power and Other Power is but the first stage. True Other Power means discarding completely the standpoints of self and other and simply attaining Buddhahood in one thought-moment. The Manifestation of the Kumano shrine announced to me in revelation, "Whether one has faith or lacks faith is not at issue; whether or not one has done evil is of no concern: Namu-amida-butsu itself is born." From that time, this Buddhist monk has understood and has cast off the self-attachment that is self-power.
Because when self disappears, there can be no other, so when self-power disappears, so does other-power, and one ends up in the sate of "no-working is true-working."

The other major misinterpretation I see all the time is the idea that you attain Buddhahood immediately upon being reborn in the Pure Land. This idea seems to be based upon passages such as this:

The Buddha has vowed that persons who realize this true and real saying of the Name and true and real entrusting shall immediately be brought to dwell in the stage of the truly settled. Dwelling among the truly settled is also taught to be attainment of the stage equal to perfect enlightenment. Attainment of the stage equal to perfect enlightenment is taught to be attainment of the same stage as Maitreya Bodhisattva, who is in the rank of succession to Buddhahood. Thus, the Larger Sutra states [that such a person] is “next [to enlightenment], like Maitreya.”
This, in turn, is based upon some of Amida's vows in the Longer Sutra:

11. If, when I attain buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the definitely assured stage and unfailingly reach nirvana, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

22. If, when I attain buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the buddha lands of the other directions who visit my land should not ultimately and unfailingly reach the stage of becoming a buddha after one more life, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

36. If, when I attain buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the immeasurable and inconceivable buddha lands of the ten directions who have heard my Name should not, after the end of their lives, always perform sacred practices until they reach buddhahood, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

47. If, when I attain buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other directions who hear my Name should not instantly reach the stage of nonretrogression, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.
Shinran says that the definitely assured stage in the 11th vow is the same state as stage of becoming a buddha after one more life. The misinterpretation is that upon receiving Shinjin you attain a state equivalent to Maitreya, in that you will become a Buddha in your next life, which is then interpreted that receivers of Shinjin will attain Buddhahood immediately upon being reborn in the Pure Land.

But if you look at the vows themselves, they only say "If, when I attain buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the definitely assured stage and unfailingly reach nirvana, may I not attain perfect enlightenment." So the status of dwelling on the definitely assured stage refers to beings already in the Pure Land, not to beings who have received Shinjin and have yet to be reborn. Therefore, the sutra is saying that receivers of Shinjin will attain Buddhahood after their life in the Pure Land. Receivers of Shinjin can only nominally be said to be on the same stage as Maitreya in that they have become assured that in their very next life they will be on the same stage as Maitreya.

I don't think Shinran ever intended to say that beings would attain Buddhahood immediately upon being reborn in the Pure Land. Furthermore, it is also not clear that he meant that one immediately attains the 10th bodhisattva level upon being reborn either. In he quotes T'an Luan:

Question: In reflecting on the Sutra of the Ten Stages, I find that the bodhisattvas’ advance through stages is attained only after gradually acquiring immeasurable merit over numerous kalpas. How is it that if they see Amida Buddha, ultimately they will be equal in body and equal in dharma to bodhisattvas of the higher stages?

Answer: Ultimately does not mean “immediately equal.” Ultimately, without fail, they will be equal; for this reason, they are said to be equal.

Question: If they are not immediately equal, how can they be called bodhisattvas? When bodhisattvas attain the first stage, then by gradually advancing they will naturally become equal to the Buddhas; how can it be provisionally said that they are equal to bodhisattvas of the higher stages?

Answer: Within the seventh stage, bodhisattvas attain great tranquility; above, they see no Buddhahood that must be attained, below, they see no sentient beings who must be saved. They desire to abandon the Buddha-way and [immediately] realize reality-limit. At that time, if they do not receive encouragement through the transcendent powers of the Buddhas of the ten quarters, they immediately enter nirvana and come to be no different from [those of] the two vehicles. If bodhisattvas are born in the land of happiness and see Amida Buddha, they do not encounter this fault. Hence, they are ultimately equal.”
So one is not simply reborn in the Pure Land and voila, 10th stage bodhisattva. What the vow promises is that beings reborn in Sukhavati will ultimately and inevitably not in the sense of immediately, but eventually attain the same stage as Maitreya. Upon attaining that stage, you then leave the Pure Land to become a Buddha.

These are the two biggest misinterpretations I see of Shinran's work. In the end, I don't think his interpretation was all that different than Honen's, I think they're just using different terminology and focusing from different perspectives (path vs. result).
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steveb1
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

Dan74 wrote: Sat Sep 21, 2019 9:41 am I didn't perceive any combativeness, Folks. I find the devotion of Shin practitioners, such as yourselves, truly inspirational. :bow: :bow: :bow:
Same here. This is a nice place to talk.

:)
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by The Mantra Mongoose »

I want to thank everyone for the discussion, and thoughts. I'm going to bow out of the forum from now on thought. My teacher Josho Adrien Cirlea has asked me to do so, and out of deep respect I submit to his guidance as the Jodo shinshu priest I defer to on Dharma questions and teaching. Sonantashi, I would like to invite you to go to my teachers website Amidaji temple and peruse his teachings there as there are many entries refuting the postition you hold regarding the similarities of Honen/Shinran and the the immediate enlightenment of the shinshu believer. I would post the material myself but my teacher has asked me not to, so as not to start any debates.Thank you all for your time and energy in this forum, I am truly grateful to you all. Gassho, namu amida bustu.
Hung! On the northwest border of the country Oḍḍiyāna,
On the pollen heart of a lotus flower,
The marvelous, supreme accomplishment has been attained.
You are renowned as the Lotus-Born,
Surrounded by a retinue of many Ḍākinīs.
Following you to be like you,
I beseech you to come and bless me.
Guru Padma Siddhi Hung -The Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by steveb1 »

The Mantra Mongoose wrote: Sat Sep 21, 2019 7:35 pm I want to thank everyone for the discussion, and thoughts. I'm going to bow out of the forum from now on thought. My teacher Josho Adrien Cirlea has asked me to do so, and out of deep respect I submit to his guidance as the Jodo shinshu priest I defer to on Dharma questions and teaching. Sonantashi, I would like to invite you to go to my teachers website Amidaji temple and peruse his teachings there as there are many entries refuting the postition you hold regarding the similarities of Honen/Shinran and the the immediate enlightenment of the shinshu believer. I would post the material myself but my teacher has asked me not to, so as not to start any debates.Thank you all for your time and energy in this forum, I am truly grateful to you all. Gassho, namu amida bustu.
Aw, shucks! You'll be missed, and we only just began our conversation. But you're probably on a steady path listening to your teacher.

Best of luck and success to you in all future endeavors and situations.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Wayfarer »

Hi everyone - I have not been participating here for some time, but this thread has drawn my attention.

Since May this year I have been attending a Sunday service at Hongwanji Buddhist Mission which is Jodo Shinsu. I have read a little of the texts, including a primer on Shin from John Paraskevopoulos. The sangha here is very small, often there is only one other person apart from myself, and also the Venerable's family members who attend part of the service. The teacher is Ven. Watanabe who always gives a profound Dharma talk and also leads the service and chanting. I have developed deep affection and respect for Ven. Watanabe.

Myself, I am still wrestling with doubts. I can't follow most of the sutra chanting as it's in Japanese and even with the Roman script transliteration I often can't keep up. Part of the service is in Japanese, although Venerable also makes sure that part of the service is in English for the benefit of English speakers. But one of the doubts I am feeling is whether I can really 'click' with jodo shinshu. I get the idea of other power, but I don't feel as though it has really taken root yet - I hear what Steveb is saying, and can even imagine it, but I don't feel it at this point. But I am putting those doubts to one side - I'm not dismissing them, but simply continuing to turn up anyway.

I have also been committed to daily meditation practice, although in my case, being a working householder with no Zen sangha, it is very much a 'self-power' affair, i.e. persuading myself to get up early enough to sit zazen before work. It's very patchy, my discipline is highly erratic. But reading those comments about abandoning self-power is causing me to have doubts about this practice too!

The other element of the OP that interested me was the comments about C S Lewis. Most of my family are more or less active Christians, in fact as I write this, my wife, son, his wife, and baby son are all at Church. Myself, I am not drawn to Christian services or ceremonies, but I'm not atheist. I would like to live in a world where the different faith traditions are different facets of higher truth, not mutually exclusive competitors. There are various cross-cultural Buddhist-Christian dialogue movements (like Zen Catholicism) which I feel are very congenial to my outlook. Some of these cultural archetypes are very deeply established in the psyche, it is not always up to oneself to change or alter them.

Personally, I find the framework of Mahāyāna understanding to be superior to the Christian, but I also feel very uncomfortable criticizing Christianity, as it's under siege in the Western world and quite often the alternative turns out to be nihilism, materialism and dissolving into meaninglessness. Besides the aspect of Christian teaching on 'boundless love' seems very like 'Amida's boundless compassion' to me, although it's not something I would try and persuade either party to agree with.

Anyway, it is Sunday morning where I am, and am about to set off for the regular service and incense offering. I hope that I can really align and break through with this teaching that I am learning of.

:namaste:
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by Wayfarer »

I will add, one of the things I understand about 'self-power' is that really one cannot practice with any idea of gaining something - whether that be liberation, insight or anything else. This is very much the teaching of Suzuki-roshi, Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, which is the first real Buddhist book I ever had. My attitude during practice is very much just sitting, not expecting anything to happen and understanding there is nothing to gain by it. So that kind of ameliorates the idea of 'self-power' in a way, although I'm also mindful of the fact that I still have to increase my overall effort considerably.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi
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Re: C.S. Lewis and Shin

Post by tkp67 »

Faith can be a powerful skillful means if the basis of faith and object of devotion is Buddha. Doubt is the opposite of faith so that will make it harder.
Trust in Buddha to help eliminate doubt.
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