Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Forum for discussion of East Asian Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:14 pm

I've narrowed down my school selection to Chan, Soto Zen, Chinese Pure Land (Jìngtǔzōng), and Japanese Pure Land (Jōdo Shinshū), and I'd like to combine the practices of Pure Land with Chan or Zen; Chan and Ōbaku Zen appear to integrate Pure Land practice by default.

I was thinking about reading the Platform Sutra (Chan text) and the Shōbōgenzō (Soto Zen text) to help me decide between Chan and Zen, and then read the Kyogyoshinsho (Japanese Pure Land text) to help me decide between Chinese and Japanese Pure Land.

Is there an easier way? Are there any books, papers, articles, or charts that compare these schools?
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

User avatar
Seishin
Former staff member
Posts: 1861
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:53 am
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Seishin » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:27 pm

Have you heard about Tendai? It may be what you are looking for http://www.tendai.org/dharma/tendai-buddhism/

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:40 pm

Seishin wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:27 pm
Have you heard about Tendai?
Yes.
It may be what you are looking for
I wish it was. Thank you, though.

:namaste:
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

User avatar
Matt J
Posts: 818
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Matt J » Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:11 pm

I would choose based on the teachers available. Choosing a tradition without a teacher who can humanize and explain it is not very useful.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
Posts: 7420
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Astus » Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:22 pm

Chan and Pure Land should not really be thought of as separate schools, they're rather Mahayana methods that can be used either together or apart.

For a clearer picture, see these for instance:

Pure Land Buddhism: Dialogues with Ancient Masters
Pure Land, Pure Mind
Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land
Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice
Mind-Seal of the Buddhas
Taming the Monkey Mind--A Guide to Pure Land Practice
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

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

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

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


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

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:21 pm

Matt J wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:11 pm
I would choose based on the teachers available.
Thanks.
Astus wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:22 pm
Chan and Pure Land should not really be thought of as separate schools, they're rather Mahayana methods that can be used either together or apart.
This is good to know.
I started reading Dialogues with Ancient Masters yesterday. It's been very helpful.
I just skimmed this one while fixing the bookmarks. Great topics. I look forward to reading it. Here's my fixed version for those interested; this was a quick fix, so there may be mistakes. Have you read River of Fire, River of Water by Taitetsu Unno? It's one of my favorite books on Pure Land so far.

Thank you for the resources. Now it's just a matter of choosing between Zen and Chan.
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

User avatar
明安 Myoan
Former staff member
Posts: 2333
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by 明安 Myoan » Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:40 pm

And practices support and contain each other.

For instance, when you interrupt a thought to return to nembutsu, that's "stopping" as a support for nembutsu.
If, during anger, you think "this is an affliction" and return to the method, that's insight.
Or if you rouse the strong determination to be born in Amida's Pure Land so you can save all beings, that's bodhicitta.
If, in a current of nembutsu, your activities become effortless yet sufficient and helpful, you "abandon hope and fear".
Lian Chi taught how the Six Paramitas are contained in nianfo.

Master Shandao said in "Commentary on the Meditation Sutra":
... one Buddha is all the Buddhas. Their knowledge, their understanding and practice, their Enlightenment, the fruits they have gained through practice, and their great compassion are all identical. There is not the slightest difference among them. For this reason, what one Buddha determines is the same as that which all the Buddhas determine.
So you won't make a bad choice or anything :smile:

As for which school, it was a very organic process for me.
First, I found "Promise of Amida Buddha", which became a very special book. In that way, it was book -> teacher -> school.
Second, I experimented with practices to see which I was able to apply (or even think of) during pain, illness, grief, anger, nightmares, insomnia, and so on. In that way, it was method -> teacher -> school.

Master Shandao also said (in the Commentary):
All practitioners should be aware that if one wishes to study doctrines, one could study any of them freely, from those teachings concerning the realm of ordinary men to those concerning the realm of the Holy Persons and so on, all the way up to the fruit of Buddhahood itself. If, however, one intends to study practice, one should surely rely on the Dharma with which one has affinity. It is thus that one can gain the greatest benefit with the least amount of effort.
So if I could suggest one thing, it's to allow that sense of your affinity to continue to develop over time.
There are/will be books and sutras that give you a special feeling, or that captivate your interest.
Keep those around, easily accessible, as they have to do with affinity as well.

:twothumbsup:

(Here's a web version of the Chu-hung work)
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

Sentient Light
Posts: 326
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:40 pm
Location: Pacifica, California

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Sentient Light » Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:31 pm

Astus wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:22 pm
Chan and Pure Land should not really be thought of as separate schools, they're rather Mahayana methods that can be used either together or apart.

For a clearer picture, see these for instance:

Pure Land Buddhism: Dialogues with Ancient Masters
Pure Land, Pure Mind
Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land
Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice
Mind-Seal of the Buddhas
Taming the Monkey Mind--A Guide to Pure Land Practice
:good:
: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:

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:16 am

My favorite Pure Land books so far:
* River of Fire, River of Water by Taitetsu Unno
* Taming the Monkey Mind by Cheng Wei-an
* Pure Land Buddhism: Dialogues with Ancient Masters

I started Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure Land. There's a nice quote, presumably from J.C. Cleary, that succinctly illustrates how Pure Land practice cultivates sammata (samatha?) and vipasyana. From a Theravadan standpoint, this makes a lot of sense to me:
Purity means reciting the buddha-name without any other thoughts. Illumination means reflecting back as you recite the buddha-name. Purity is sammata, “stopping.” Illumination is vipasyana, “observing.” Unify your mindfulness of buddha through buddha-name recitation, and stopping and observing are both present.
Instead of undertaking two practices, it appears that I could just focus on one. Before I make up my mind and settle with Jōdo Shinshū, I feel like I should read the full Jodosanbukyo. Or at least a sufficient summary of it.
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

Admin_PC
Former staff member
Posts: 4861
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:20 am

It's probably linked above, but you can check out the 3 Pure Land sutras at the following 2 sites:
Rulu's Translations
Free BDK downloads

Shinran / Jodo Shinshu isn't the only form of Japanese Pure Land.
Only bring it up as Jodo Shu may be a bit more consistent with continental Pure Land (such as Chan).

For the meditative aspects of recitation, might be interesting to take a look at the following:
Honen's Samadhi Experiences
Introduction of Honen's Sanmai Hottokuki
ShanTao's Method of Contemplation on Amida
Vasubandhu's Upadeśa on the Sūtra of Amitāyus Buddha
Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of the Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhāvasthita Samādhi

ItsRaining
Posts: 251
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 7:45 am

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by ItsRaining » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:35 am

If you aren't studying under a teacher I'm not sure why you would have to choose between Zen or Chan there would be nothing wrong in studying writings/teachings from both transmissions of Chan. Since the Japanese and Chinese schools would use much of the same resources (the Tang-Song era dialogues and writings). Picking a method of practice like Huatou or Silent Illumination would be a more important choice imo.

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:10 pm

Reading the Pure Land Sutras is dispelling some of the concerns I had about the depth of the practice. It's not solely devotional as some summaries had led me to believe. Virtue and compassion are essential factors to making progress as well.
Admin_PC wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:20 am
It's probably linked above, but you can check out the 3 Pure Land sutras at the following 2 sites:
Rulu's Translations
Free BDK downloads
Thanks. I've already downloaded the PDF from BDK, and the hardcover is in my Amazon wishlist. :D
Shinran / Jodo Shinshu isn't the only form of Japanese Pure Land. Only bring it up as Jodo Shu may be a bit more consistent with continental Pure Land (such as Chan).
I didn't know this. I've been leaning toward Jodo Shinshu mainly because most of the resources I've found are based on this branch, but I'll try to find more resources on Jodo Shu to see how it compares. There are so many branches, and subbranches, and books, and webpages that look as old as the sutras themselves... Maybe I could volunteer some UX upgrades.
ItsRaining wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:35 am
If you aren't studying under a teacher I'm not sure why you would have to choose between Zen or Chan there would be nothing wrong in studying writings/teachings from both transmissions of Chan.
You're right. I was looking to have Zen/Chan supplement Pure Land, or vice-versa, because I had doubts about one practice working on its own without the other. Coming from the Theravada tradition, Zazen appealed to me for its similarities with Vipassana, and Pure Land appealed to me for its similarities with Buddhānussati. But, from what I've read, Pure Land has enough breadth to stand on its own.
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:44 am

How is anyone able to choose a school... Digging through scattered resources for the past week trying to understand what differentiates Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu, and Chan was tedious and discouraging. I wanted to give up and just pick anything, but I knew that I couldn't settle on a choice without some certainty—as I'd lacked with my previous choice. After reading countless articles, book excerpts, and forum threads, I've settled on Jodo Shinshu (or Shin Buddhism). I feel that this branch offers an intuitive practice through gratitude that's neither too optimistic nor regimental. That being said, I don't intend on disregarding the teachings of other Mahayana sects. There's usually something to learn from everything.

Thank you all for your help.

:namaste:
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

Sennin
Posts: 864
Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:19 am

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Sennin » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:44 am

Go no paradigm. No need for limitations.
"One should always recite mantra, purifying the body."
--Cakrasaṃvara Tantra

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:26 pm

Sennin wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:44 am
Go no paradigm. No need for limitations.
I won't limit myself totally. Some limitations are quite useful.

:meditate:
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

Admin_PC
Former staff member
Posts: 4861
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:21 pm

When choosing a path to follow, the standard model usually goes a little different:
- See what's local
- See what's accessible (what teachers/environments/communities you click with)
- See which practice fits
- See which take on doctrine fits

I know your prior experience makes some of this a bit easier to skip/navigate through, but the normal steps are still important to keep in mind.

Traditionally, it was super uncommon to practice Chan/Zen without an in-person teacher or to practice Pure Land alone, in private, without a community.

Some of the stuff I had to ask myself over the years:
- How much time do I have to devote to practice?
- Do I want to practice a daily liturgy?
- What language do I want to practice that daily liturgy in?
- Do I want one practice or two (recitation vs recitation + meditation)?
- How much contact do I want with a teacher?
- Is internet contact okay or do I need to see someone face to face?
- What type of community support am I looking at?

If you are set on Shin, I'd recommend the following steps:
1. Start learning the chants for the daily liturgy/practice. You can get a service book to help.
OC Buddhist Church Service guide (book for purchase)
Alfred Bloom's Chanted Texts for Shin Buddhist Worship (free pdf)
A more in depth look at home practice (free pdf) Guide to Jodo Shinshu Teachings and Practices
I'd recommend at a bare minimum the chants from the following video (the first one's kind of optional):

2. Find a source of Dharma Talks
My personal favorite is the Dharma Lantern podcast
There's also the Midwest Buddhist Temple podcast
San Jose Buddhist Temple Youtube Channel
Toronto Buddhist Church Youtube Channel
Ekoji Buddhist Temple Dharma Talks
3. Start reading through Shinran's writings, especially the Kyogyoshinsho

User avatar
Miroku
Global Moderator
Posts: 1501
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:18 am

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Miroku » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:42 pm

Dunno, maybe start reciting sutras like heart sutra or the amitabha pure land sutras to gather merit a bit and give yourself space. Pure land buddhism is okay to go right now actually and you do not have to limit yourself by it for now. Do not waste time.
A boat delivers you to the other riverbank.
A needle stitches up your clothes.
A horse takes you where you want to go.
Bodhicitta will bring you to Buddhahood.
~ Khunu Lama Rinpoche

Even non-buddhists have many virtuous accomplishments
~ Jigten Sumgon

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:05 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:21 pm
Traditionally, it was super uncommon to practice ... Pure Land alone, in private, without a community.
But it's not uncommon now. Since Pure Land, according to the book Pure-Land Zen, "does not stress the master-disciple relationship and de-emphasizes the role of sub-schools, roshis/gurus and rituals", I don't need to go chasing down teachers before I can do anything. For now I will continue studying the Kyōgyōshinshō, finish River of Fire, River of Water, and request additional practices from a teacher when I'm ready.

Thank you for the resources.
Miroku wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:42 pm
Dunno, maybe start reciting sutras like heart sutra or the amitabha pure land sutras to gather merit a bit and give yourself space. Pure land buddhism is okay to go right now actually and you do not have to limit yourself by it for now. Do not waste time.
I won't. Thank you.

:meditate:
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

Admin_PC
Former staff member
Posts: 4861
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:25 pm

tonysharp wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:05 pm
But it's not uncommon now. Since Pure Land, according to the book Pure-Land Zen, "does not stress the master-disciple relationship and de-emphasizes the role of sub-schools, roshis/gurus and rituals", I don't need to go chasing down teachers before I can do anything.
I think maybe you misunderstand what I was trying to say. Practicing alone without a community happens but I wouldn't say it's common. The vast majority of Pure Land practitioners practice with a community. This doesn't mean you have to go hunt down anything. What I was trying to say was see what's local to you first and if there's a local community to support your practice, that'll be a lot more beneficial than wracking your brain trying to chose a school over finer points of doctrine. If nothing's local, sure practice on your own - but even online, it's good to have support such as a forum, regular chats, or live Dharma service broadcasts.

User avatar
tonysharp
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am
Location: America
Contact:

Re: Choosing between Chan, Zen, Jìngtǔzōng, and Jōdo Shinshū

Post by tonysharp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:56 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:25 pm
What I was trying to say was see what's local to you first and if there's a local community to support your practice, that'll be a lot more beneficial than wracking your brain trying to chose a school over finer points of doctrine.
I see your point, but it's done now. The biggest hurdle, really, was finding English-language resources on some branches. As far as I know, there isn't anything that objectively compares Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu, and Chan, so I had to learn enough about each branch to make a choice.
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

Post Reply

Return to “East Asian Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests