Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

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Dharma Flower
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Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:31 pm

Besides Dogen, Hakuin is the most important figure in the history of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Hakuin recommended, at least for lay people, reciting the Nembutsu as a meditation device:
Whether you sit in meditation,
recite the sutras, intone the dharani, or call the Buddha’s name, if you
devote all your efforts to what you are doing and attain to the ultimate,
you will kick down the dark cave of ignorance, destroy the evil bandits of
the five desires, smash the illumination of the Great Perfect Mirror, penetrate
to the true status of the perfect knowledge of the Four Wisdoms,
and attain to the understanding of the Great Matter. The content of the
practices may vary but what difference is there in the goal that is reached?...

It should be known that those who think that the Mu koan and the recitation of the Buddha’s name are two
different things belong to the class of evil heretics. How sad it is that the
Pure Land practitioners today are unaware of the basic aspiration of the
many Buddhas. They believe only that the Buddha is in the Western Land
and are unaware that the Western Land is the basis of their own minds.
tspro.ru/loadpdf/download/asin=0861713699&type=full
According to the above quote, there is no conflict between the Nembutsu and zazen, in terms of one being superior to the other. It's refreshing to read this from such a respected and revered Buddhist master.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:52 am

Shinran Shonin, who founded the largest sect of Buddhism in Japan, didn’t see the Nembutsu as a free pass to do evil either, as if Amida is a magical savior deity:
It is deplorable that you have told people to abandon themselves to their hearts’ desires and to do anything they want. One must seek to cast off the evil of this world and to cease doing wretched deeds; this is what it means to reject the world and to live the Nembutsu.
http://shinranworks.com/letters/lamp-fo ... ages/16-2/

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:13 pm

I think that Rinzai might be traditionally more appreciate of the Nembutsu than Soto Zen, due to Soto Zen's emphasis on shikantaza, to the exclusion of all other practices.

The third largest school of Japanese Zen is Obaku, which is considered a sub-school of Rinzai. One of the Obaku school's main practices is reciting the Nembutsu as a koan, while asking oneself, "Who is the one doing the reciting?"

Interestingly, D. T. Suzuki had a Rinzai father and a Shinshu mother, and the influence of both comes out in his book, Buddha of Infinite Light. It's a short read but very impactful.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:29 pm

Hakuin's comments on Nembutsu were not all 100% positive...
Reference 1
Reference 2
He was not an advocate of mixed practice and his direct followers pushed for reforms that led to the Obaku school de-emphasizing Nembutsu practice and coming more in-line with Japanese Rinzai schools.
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
法然上人

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Matylda » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:31 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:I think that Rinzai might be traditionally more appreciate of the Nembutsu than Soto Zen, due to Soto Zen's emphasis on shikantaza, to the exclusion of all other practices.
Not necessarily.. soto is full of no shikan taza practices, mostly coming from esoteric form of Buddhism

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:39 pm

Admin_PC wrote: He was not an advocate of mixed practice...
Mindfulness or recollection of the Buddha, the original meaning of the word "Nembutsu," has been practiced from the beginning of Buddhism.

If one is interested in a Zen interpretation of Pure Land practice, I recommend reading Buddha of Infinite Light by D. T. Suzuki or Finding Our True Home by Thich Nhat Hanh. Interestingly, D. T. Suzuki had a Rinzai father and a Shinshu mother, and the influence of both comes out in his book, Buddha of Infinite Light. It's a short read but very impactful.

As Zen/Ch'an masters have taught for centuries, the meaning of Pure Land practice, in its deeper sense, is awakening to Amida as our true nature, and to the Pure Land as the here and now. This is similar to how the Pali scriptures recommend Buddha-recollection to cultivate the Buddha's enlightened qualities within ourselves.

I am not going to judge others who, in their own Pure Land practice, have a different interpretation, just as I wouldn't judge Zen Buddhists who choose to abstain from Pure Land practice entirely. I'm sorry if I've given an impression of one practice or interpretation being superior to another.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:12 pm

Admin_PC wrote: He was not an advocate of mixed practice...
Please allow me to give more context for the passages from Zen master Hakuin that I posted above:
The man who calls the Buddha’s name (NAMU-AMIDA-BUTSU),
on the other hand, should he call it with complete concentration and
undiluted purity, should he neither concern himself with the filthy mundane
world nor seek the Pure Land, but proceed determinedly without
retrogression, he will, before ten days have passed, gain the benefits of
samadhi, produce the wisdom of the Buddha, and achieve the Great Matter
of salvation in the very place he stands…

It should be known that those who think that the Mu koan and the recitation of the Buddha’s name (NAMU-AMIDA-BUTSU) are two different things belong to the class of evil heretics. How sad it is that the Pure Land practitioners today are unaware of the basic aspiration of the many Buddhas. They believe only that the Buddha is in the Western Land and are unaware that the Western Land is the basis of their own minds…
Reciting the name of the Buddha constantly (NAMU-AMIDA-BUTSU), he
has reached the state where the mind is undisturbed. The Great Matter
appears suddenly before him and his salvation is determined. Such a man
can be called one who has truly seen into his own nature. His own body
is the limitless body of Amida, the treasure trees of seven precious gems,
the pond of the eight virtues…

In the past the Buddha established expedients; one was
called “rebirth in the Pure Land,” another “seeing into one’s own
nature.” How can these be two different things! Zen people who have not
penetrated to this understanding look at a Pure Land practitioner and
think that he is a stupid and evil common person who knows nothing
about the Great Matter of seeing into one’s own nature…

Never doubt that without seeing into your own nature you cannot become a Buddha; without seeing into your own nature there is no Pure Land…
tspro.ru/loadpdf/download/asin=0861713699&type=full
My point was that, at least for lay people, Zen master Hakuin recommended the Nembutsu as a meditation device. I am not commenting on what he required for his monastic disciples.

As a lay person, I am only concerned about what he may have recommended for lay people. I am sorry if it appeared that I was quoting a Zen master out of context.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Meido » Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:02 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:My point was that, at least for lay people, Zen master Hakuin recommended the Nembutsu as a meditation device. I am not commenting on what he required for his monastic disciples.

As a lay person, I am only concerned about what he may have recommended for lay people. I am sorry if it appeared that I was quoting a Zen master out of context.
The quotes are all nice. It would be an error, however, to think that Hakuin recommended Nembutsu for lay people universally, reserving koan and other typically Zen practices for monastic disciples (not sure you are saying that, but just to be clear). He in fact taught Zen to everyone, and had many lay students doing zazen and koan practice.

He also taught people that chanting Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo was useful. He also wrote that it would be better to go spend time in a gambling hall, where one is likely to cultivate concentration and energy, than to do lifeless zazen. And he wrote about cultivating the breath during the busyness of daily activity, such that the hara remains taught like a new ball that's not yet been broken in. All of this is because Zen is not limited to zazen or Nembutsu or anything else, and should be able to integrate any activity in genuine practice. This is just the Zen approach, since it takes recognizing one's nature - however accomplished - as its gate. It's nothing special, it just means that practice is not ultimately fixed in any way.

So this manner in which Hakuin describes Nembutsu practice is nothing odd, and nothing to do with Nembutsu itself really. It's for the benefit of people already doing that practice, in order to lead them to the entrance of kensho. It fits them and their situations. Someone not doing Nembutsu practice would not likely have been taught to do it by him, since he stressed the classically Zen methods.

Should someone arrive at kensho using Nembutsu, the instruction might very well begin to involve other methods as well to then continue one's path, since kensho is itself not a culmination or fruition.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:07 pm

Meido wrote: It's for the benefit of people already doing that practice, in order to lead them to the entrance of kensho.
Thank you for your clarification. This reminds me of a talk given by a Vietnamese Zen teacher on Youtube, in which he said that whatever interpretation gets you to practice the Buddha's teachings in your own life is the right interpretation.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Dharma Flower » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:24 pm

Meido wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:02 pm
Should someone arrive at kensho using Nembutsu, the instruction might very well begin to involve other methods as well to then continue one's path, since kensho is itself not a culmination or fruition.
Thank you for sharing this, Sensei. It's something that has really stuck with me. While we may not be able to attain full Buddhahood, in this lifetime, through the recitation of the Nembutsu alone, it is comforting and encouraging that we can at least experience kensho in this lifetime from this practice.

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Re: Zen master Hakuin on the Nembutsu

Post by Sentient Light » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:10 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:
Thank you for sharing this, Sensei. It's something that has really stuck with me. While we may not be able to attain full Buddhahood, in this lifetime, through the recitation of the Nembutsu alone, it is comforting and encouraging that we can at least experience kensho in this lifetime from this practice.
Yes. This would be affirmation of rebirth in the Pure Land, and manifestation of the Pure Mind in the here and now. Many Pure Land masters go the zen route from here (although many zen masters go back to abide purely on recitation as well).

Arguably, I think it’s what Shinran was referring to with “shinjin”, but I’m not sure because I’ve never really been able to grok Shinran.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

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

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