Single practice schools

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Meido
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Single practice schools

Post by Meido » Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:53 pm

rory wrote:
Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:03 pm
Rev. Seishin, in the West so many of us have only encountered the later Japanese single practice schools of Soto/Rinzai Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren etc that this seems to be the norm and the 'way things are'.
This mention of "single practice schools" in Japanese Buddhism was made in another thread.

I am familiar with the term, of course. But what is its origin? How is it actually defined? And, how do the mentioned schools fit that definition?

As might be surmised, I am skeptical of the label "single practice" since in its use it has most often struck me as an expression of gross inaccuracy (e.g. "Zen = zazen"), or else as subtle pejorative (e.g. "those schools have limited means, ours has many", or, "those schools are needlessly complicated, ours is not", etc).

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - 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
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:13 pm

At first blush, the teachings of exclusive nembutsu in Jodoshu would seem to fit this description.

However, as you rightly observe, it's not that simple.

Honen divided practices into "right" and "miscellaneous" practices. The "right" practices are "right" in that they directly pertain to birth in Amitahba's Pure Land. They are the practices found in the Three Pure Land Sutras: single-mindedly reading and reciting the Three Sutras, contemplating the "principal and dependent rewards in that land" (i.e. the adornments of the Pure Land), doing prostrations before Amitabha, reciting his name, and giving praise/offerings to Amitabha.
Of these, reciting his name (as buddha-remembrance) is further singled out as the "rightly established act" since it most intimately connects one to Amitabha through mind, speech, and body. It's also mentioned in Amitabha's 18th Vow. The other "right" practices are termed "auxiliary".

Honen's (and Shandao's) teaching of exclusive nembutsu is the emphasis on this rightly established act as best suited and most efficacious for bringing devotees to the Pure Land. However, the other right practices are obviously not amputated from Jodoshu and are taught in the sutras foundational to the school. A Jodoshu service performed at home includes incense offering, bows, recitation of sutra and often Honen's Single-sheet Document, and prayers and dedication of merit, in addition to the core of nembutsu.

The remaining practices, such as those of the Holy Gate, are termed "miscellaneous" since one must deliberately dedicate the merits to birth in the Pure Land. Otherwise, they have no direct connection to Amitabha.

In Honen's Senchakushu, he sums up the difference:
If we perform the rightly established and the auxiliary practices, our heart always remains intimately with and near to Amitabha, and we never cease to bear him in mind. Hence these are called uninterrupted. When we perform the other miscellaneous practices, however, our concentration [on Amitabha] is always liable to be broken. Even though we can be born [in the Pure Land] by dedicating the merit of such practices to that end, they are called estranged miscellaneous practices.
PorkChop could give more info on this.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by jake » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:24 pm

Meido wrote:
Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:53 pm
rory wrote:
Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:03 pm
Rev. Seishin, in the West so many of us have only encountered the later Japanese single practice schools of Soto/Rinzai Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren etc that this seems to be the norm and the 'way things are'.
This mention of "single practice schools" in Japanese Buddhism was made in another thread.

I am familiar with the term, of course. But what is its origin? How is it actually defined? And, how do the mentioned schools fit that definition?

As might be surmised, I am skeptical of the label "single practice" since in its use it has most often struck me as an expression of gross inaccuracy (e.g. "Zen = zazen"), or else as subtle pejorative (e.g. "those schools have limited means, ours has many", or, "those schools are needlessly complicated, ours is not", etc).

~ Meido
Rev. Meido,

Very interesting question, not one I can answer. I have only heard this phrase used by Tendai practitioners and typically only to delineate between Tendai Pureland and Jodo, for example.

All others I've spoken with tend to refer to the Japanese traditions based on their era, e.g. Nara schools, Kamakura, etc. Perhaps like one would refer to French as Continental French vs the French used in the 30 some odd other French-speaking countries

If this term is used in Japan, I don't know. I can't imagine any implied judgement regarding the various traditions, though. Have you encountered this term elsewhere?

Jake
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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Meido » Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:33 pm

Thanks to both of you.

I've seen senju ("exclusive") used especially in reference to Pureland practice in Japan, i.e. exclusive reliance on nembutsu, and have understood it to be a point stressed by Honen. The English term "single practice" I have assumed translates this, but I'm not certain.

At some point, though, "single practice" began to be used for all of the Buddhist movements that arose or were transmitted to Japan during the Kamakura period, including Zen.

On the Zen side, one might argue for its applicability in the case of Dogen, since the usual understanding is that he held up shikantaza in that manner (leaving aside for a moment dissenting views regarding this, what is meant by "shikantaza," and how Soto Zen has transformed over the centuries).

But exclusive or single-practice does not at all apply to Rinzai Zen. (I would actually argue that Zen is in fact not defined by a practice or collection of practices at all - though naturally many such exist - but rather by a specific approach to Buddhist practice).

Even in schools that do hold out one single practice as the gate, however, I don't yet grasp how the term "single practice" is useful outside of Kamakura-era polemic. Is there any Buddhist tradition which does not ultimately aim to encompass all activities within one's practice? Whether one practices many things or just one, once a practice is penetrated are any such limitations held to?

So, the term has rubbed me the wrong way in the past (and especially when applied inaccurately). But I also really haven't been able to see much use for it from a practitioner's standpoint, except perhaps as a device imparting faith to beginners.

As I'm largely ignorant of many other traditions, though, I expect I'm missing something, which is why I asked.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - 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
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:58 am

I view Nichiren as generally a kamakura single-practice school, though significant variation in detail is seen between the extant lineages. Nichiren emphatically and polemically defined his practice, though he did not leave a lot of specification as to methods- perhaps the reason for variation between the lineages which started diverging in that way after he died. My take on the single-practice proposition is he asserts his is the single right method, all others are lesser if not outright delusional, and so he excludes them. He makes various doctrinal citations for the dismissal, using commentaries by notables in the TienTai,Tendai lineage back to Nagarjuna and ultimately the sutras, specifically the Lotus. Arguments have been made that he adopted this attitude to some extent in order to distinguish his practice from contemporary Tendai/Shingon. OTOH the simplicity of a lay oriented single practice (be it zazen, nembutsu, daimoku) makes it more readily and easily adopted by householders, those who are illiterate, homeless, poor etc. Contemporary Tendai was complex and not very accessible unless one was wealthy or nobility. Nichiren was a commoner, though some of his followers were or related to nobility which facilitated patronage later on.

You make a subtle point wrt "encompassing all activities in one's practice", which is also the case in Nichiren-space (I cannot speak to the others)- the practitioner is encouraged to do the practice no matter what and ultimately see its relevance in all aspects of one's life.

Personally I think "single-practice" is apt wrt Nichiren even noting the different lineages, particularly in comparison to Tendai. OTOH I have not pursued the question yet but I have the impression there is a lot of subtle variation between Pure Land schools (lineages?) but I may be mistaking large differences for small or the reverse.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Admin_PC » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:58 pm

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:13 pm
PorkChop could give more info on this.
About the only thing I would add is that ShanTao's focus on the idea of senju or "exclusivity" and focus on single practice goes all the way back to the Shorter Sukhavati Sutra (again with the emphasis being "single practice for a particular goal - being born in Sukhavati"). The Shorter Sutra talks about "holding [Amida's] name single-mindedly". Vasubandhu expounds on this in the Upadeśa on the Sūtra of Amitāyus Buddha:
The Five Training Doors

How does one visualize? How does one elicit belief? If good men and good women come to achievement through the five doors of vigilance, they will be reborn in the Land of Peace and Bliss, and see Amitāyus Buddha. What are the five doors of vigilance? The first door is making obeisance; the second door is praising; the third door is wishing; the fourth door is visualizing; the fifth door is transferring merit.

Why does one make obeisance? To express the intention to be reborn in that land, one should do the body karma of making obeisance to Amitāyus Tathāgata, the Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. How does one praise Him? To train in accord with true reality, one should do the voice karma of praising, by saying that Tathāgata’s name, because His name and its meaning are like His radiance and wisdom appearance. What does one wish for? To train in śamatha in accord with true reality, one should do the mind karma of wishing, by single-mindedly thinking of one’s rebirth in the Land of Peace and Bliss. How does one visualize? To train in vipaśyanā in accord with true reality, one should visualize with wisdom and right thinking. There are three visualizations. First, one visualizes the virtues of that Buddha Land as its adornments. Second, one visualizes the virtues of Amitāyus Buddha as His adornments. Third, one visualizes the virtues of the Bodhisattvas there as their adornments. How does one transfer one’s merits? To invoke the mind of great compassion, one should never abandon any suffering sentient being. One should transfer one’s merits to others with this foremost wish for all to be reborn in that land.
The Five Achievement Doors

There are another five doors, though which one can successively achieve five virtues. What are these five [achievement] doors? First, the near door; second, the door to the great assembly; third, the door to the residence; fourth, the door to the house; and fifth, the door to the playground in the garden. Through the first four of these five doors, one achieves the virtue of entrance; through the fifth door, one achieves the virtue of exit.

One enters the first door by making obeisance to Amitāyus Buddha in order to be reborn in His land. One’s rebirth in the Land of Peace of Bliss is called entering the near door. One enters the second door by praising Amitāyus Buddha, saying that Tathāgata’s name in accordance with the meaning of His name. Through training in thinking of that Tathāgata’s radiance, one can join the multitudes in the great assembly. This is called entering the door to the great assembly. One enters the third door by single-mindedly wishing to be reborn there. Through training in śamatha and silent samādhi, one can enter the World of the Lotus Flower Store.[4] This is called entering the door to the residence. One enters the fourth door by intently visualizing the wonderful adornments [of that land, that Buddha, and the Bodhisattvas there]. Through training in vipaśyanā, one arrives there and enjoys the bliss of various Dharma flavors. This is called entering the door to the house.

One exits the fifth door with great lovingkindness and compassion by visualizing all suffering sentient beings, by responsively manifesting one’s bodies, by returning to the forest of afflictions in the garden of saṁsāra, and by playfully demonstrating transcendental powers. One’s arrival on the teaching ground, because one has transferred one’s merits with the power of one’s original vows, is called exiting the door to the playground in the garden.

A Bodhisattva’s entrance through the first four doors is an achievement for self-benefit. A Bodhisattva’s exit through the fifth door to benefit others is an achievement of transferring his merits. Bodhisattvas who train through these five [achievement] doors to benefit themselves and others will quickly attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.
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Matylda
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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Matylda » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:53 pm

Meido wrote:
Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:33 pm
Thanks to both of you.

I've seen senju ("exclusive") used especially in reference to Pureland practice in Japan, i.e. exclusive reliance on nembutsu, and have understood it to be a point stressed by Honen. The English term "single practice" I have assumed translates this, but I'm not certain.

At some point, though, "single practice" began to be used for all of the Buddhist movements that arose or were transmitted to Japan during the Kamakura period, including Zen.

On the Zen side, one might argue for its applicability in the case of Dogen, since the usual understanding is that he held up shikantaza in that manner (leaving aside for a moment dissenting views regarding this, what is meant by "shikantaza," and how Soto Zen has transformed over the centuries).

But exclusive or single-practice does not at all apply to Rinzai Zen. (I would actually argue that Zen is in fact not defined by a practice or collection of practices at all - though naturally many such exist - but rather by a specific approach to Buddhist practice).

Even in schools that do hold out one single practice as the gate, however, I don't yet grasp how the term "single practice" is useful outside of Kamakura-era polemic. Is there any Buddhist tradition which does not ultimately aim to encompass all activities within one's practice? Whether one practices many things or just one, once a practice is penetrated are any such limitations held to?

So, the term has rubbed me the wrong way in the past (and especially when applied inaccurately). But I also really haven't been able to see much use for it from a practitioner's standpoint, except perhaps as a device imparting faith to beginners.

As I'm largely ignorant of many other traditions, though, I expect I'm missing something, which is why I asked.

~ Meido

definitely jodo or jodo shinshu use this term widely.. specially Honen did and it appears again and again in his Senchaku nenbutsu shu as 一行 or ichigyo... other words that this one practice was only taught etc. is repeated as often as 一行 itself... frankly I did not encounter in other traditions such big stress on one practice or single practice only as in Honen and his followers including Shinran.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Seishin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:04 pm

I believe the phrase "single practice" may have indeed originated in Tendai (or rather Tientai I should say) however I can't see why it would be derogatory, as Tendai itself has ichigyo zanmai practice. And, although each of the Kamakura schools have a wide variety of practices, they all claim that there is one perfect practice that is all one needs and is for everyone. In fact I believe this was the rhetoric of Dogen, that all one needed was shikantaza.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Matylda » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:22 pm

Seishin wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:04 pm
I believe the phrase "single practice" may have indeed originated in Tendai (or rather Tientai I should say) however I can't see why it would be derogatory, as Tendai itself has ichigyo zanmai practice. And, although each of the Kamakura schools have a wide variety of practices, they all claim that there is one perfect practice that is all one needs and is for everyone. In fact I believe this was the rhetoric of Dogen, that all one needed was shikantaza.

ichigyo of pure land or jodo shu, has its origin in Zendo [7th century] and other earlier Chinese masters' writings much before formation of tendai in Japan... though ichigyo zanmai is Tendai term as well, one has to remember that it was not always due to some other school influence. also the context of the usage of the term is different in both jodo/shinshu and tendai, but it does not mean that there are no similarities. for sure there are... finally we talk about the same source of dharma not about different religions. Just the presentation itslef and the meaning could be different.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Meido » Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:21 pm

Seishin wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:04 pm
And, although each of the Kamakura schools have a wide variety of practices, they all claim that there is one perfect practice that is all one needs and is for everyone. In fact I believe this was the rhetoric of Dogen, that all one needed was shikantaza.
Rinzai Zen does not claim that...and yet is often included in the category of Kamakura schools. So in this case I would think it most useful to define the Kamakura schools in the broadest possible sense, i.e "schools that arose in or were transmitted to Japan in the Kamakura period," rather than as schools sharing a particular approach to practice. It's important to note that the conditions that gave rise to, say, Nichiren's teachings and approach are very different from what led to happenings like the arrival of Chinese Linji Chan lineages in Japan.

I'm no Dogen expert. But I am aware of some argument regarding his original intentions and practice, and the perhaps changing/evolving meanings of the term "shikantaza" over the centuries. I would probably agree that some Soto Zen groups - especially in the West - could be called "single practice schools." It's not clear to me that Soto Zen in Japan, or in past centuries, can wear that label. Also, as I've often said, my feeling is that it is an error to view the array of Zen teaching lineages and the often diverse practices they transmit - even within a family of lineages such as Soto Zen - as a homogeneous school.

In fact, i would argue that a Zen lineage that holds up one single practice as solely sufficient and applicable for everyone - rather than setting forth an approach to practice (any practice) taking kensho as its gate and thereafter its basis - has lost the thread of what Zen is. But that's perhaps off topic here.

In any case, thanks Seishin and all...I very much appreciate you filling in gaps for me.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - 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
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by passel » Thu Nov 02, 2017 2:16 am

I feel a little silly pointing it out, since ‘single practice’ is a term with its own historical pedigree, but... to talk about practice as if it’s singular or plural is absurd, right?
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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:40 pm

Alternatively, I have also heard them called "focused practice" schools.
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Sentient Light » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:38 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:40 pm
Alternatively, I have also heard them called "focused practice" schools.
I much prefer this terminology. It comes off as more accurate to me.
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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Yuren » Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:49 am

Sentient Light wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:38 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:40 pm
Alternatively, I have also heard them called "focused practice" schools.
I much prefer this terminology. It comes off as more accurate to me.
"Focused school" would be accurate for Honen, Dogen, Nichiren, maybe Ippen.
For Shinran however, "Single practice" fits perfectly. More than "focused practice".

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Re: Single practice schools

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:30 am

I hate to jump in on some intra-school controversies. That being said, according to some Shin practitioners, the term “practice” altogether is some sort of boogeyman (going even a step further than the idea of “single practice”). However; reading the Kyogyoshinsho from Shinran, you get the picture of someone much more in line with Honen (vis a vis daily recitation, offerings, merit, and even bodhicitta is explained- which is arguably the entire purpose of the Kyogyoshinsho).

I can’t speak for other schools, but with Pure Land in general, “single practice” traces back to wrestling with the idea of 一心, the idea of single-mindedly holding to the name as proscribed in the Shorter Sukhavati Sutra. Even Vasubandhu addresses this topic in his Upadesha on the Amitayus Sutra. Shantao and Honen spoke of 5 types and 4 modes of practice. Shinran’s teachings seem to summarize those.

Not disagreeing with Yuren, just pointing out that the situation is somewhat nuanced when you look at it in depth.
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