Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

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Dharmasherab
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Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Dharmasherab » Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:30 am

I am making this thread more on behalf of an online group and its potential members who would be Pureland Buddhists rather than myself.

The questions is how to best prepare as a lay Buddhist in one’s practice prior to ordaining in the Pureland school of Buddhism?

It is about collecting all types of ideas on how to best prepare as a lay Buddhist before making the decision of ordaining as a monastic as well as a lay ordained member in Pureland with a view to making that a lifetime commitment (and not a trial). It is also about how to optimise one’s practice as a Buddhist before making the decision to ordain in Pureland.

I hope to share these ideas with the online group because we are a group looking for all types of advice and suggestions for ordination and the way to prepare for Pureland ordination will be of great benefit. But even otherwise people who are are thinking of ordaining in Pureland in this forum might find the comments helpful.

I am aware there could be Pureland monastics/priests/lay-ordained members who are highly aware of the difference between the lay life and monastic life and I will be very thankful for their advice. I can also appreciate there could be lay Pureland Buddhists who are already optimizing themselves before ordination and I will be thankful for their tips and suggestions too.

Names of books, documents, websites, links to web articles and videos will be highly appreciated (as long as their within the boundaries of ToS).

Thank you.

shaunc
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by shaunc » Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:22 am

I can't vouch for pureland schools but ib the Theravada, Thai forrest monks tradition, you can ordain for a set period of time. Usually it's for 3 months but you can choose to ordain for shorter ( sometimes as little as a weekend) and I've heard of 1 year.
Perhaps some pureland traditions offer a similar type of thing.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Fortyeightvows » Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:52 am

shaunc wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:22 am
Perhaps some pureland traditions offer a similar type of thing.
FGS does something very similar

shaunc
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by shaunc » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:17 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:52 am
shaunc wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:22 am
Perhaps some pureland traditions offer a similar type of thing.
FGS does something very similar
Out of interest what is FGS.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Fortyeightvows » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:25 am

shaunc wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:17 am
Out of interest what is FGS.
Buddha's Light Mountain. It's a pretty big organization...

shaunc
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by shaunc » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:48 am

Thanks. I'll Google it.

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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:26 pm

FGS = Fo Guang Shan
If I'm not mistaken, they have really cool Pure Land retreats where lay people can live like monks for short periods of time and do continuous Nianfo/Nembutsu practice. I'd love to do something similar some day.

For Japanese Pure Land:

- Shin was never big on monasticism, but pretty much discontinued the idea of a celibate priesthood sometime in the 1500s, keeping with the tradition of the founder Shinran. Nishi & Higashi Honganji organizations now offer Tokudo programs that require some period of training and formalized retreat in order to become a Shin minister. It's not a position that requires celibacy or most of the other rules of conduct observed by Bhikkhus, it's more like formally recognized lay Dharma teacher program.

- Jodo Shu kept celibate priesthood institutionally until the Meiji period, following an ordination platform in keeping with Tendai. The governmental reforms of the Meiji drastically affected Buddhism and now celibacy (and maintaining many of the other vows) is rather rare. From reading comments by at least one Jodo Shu clergy member, there are still some celibate monks, but they are somewhat low-key (do not advertize).

In Japan, due to the Meiji reforms, most temples are kept within certain familial lines. Pure Land temples have always been very closely involved with the communities they serve.
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Zhen Li
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:18 am

Admin_PC wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:26 pm
FGS = Fo Guang Shan
If I'm not mistaken, they have really cool Pure Land retreats where lay people can live like monks for short periods of time and do continuous Nianfo/Nembutsu practice. I'd love to do something similar some day.
I have done temporary ordination twice at FGS. There are one-week programmes and sometimes there are one-month programmes—when and why they do one or the other is not clear to me, but I think you just have to enquire and they'll tell you (keeping in mind, this will be easier if you can go to FGS in person in Taiwan than over email or the phone). Also, keep in mind that this is all done in Chinese, and while you may have an interpreter at some times, you won't at all times.

The monastic retreats, however, are not for continuous nianfo. They are mainly seminars and monastic life training. There are definitely ceremonies and meditation sessions that are required, but you may never come across the Pureland Sutras if it is not the time of month in which they are part of the liturgy. It is definitely guaranteed you'll be doing a lot of the Great Compassion mantra and repentance and the Heart Sutra and a lot of lectures and seminars in Chinese. I am not sure we ever did the Pureland Sutras.

There are, completely separately, nianfo retreats and frequent sessions. If you join these, you won't be taking the ten precepts, which means that while you'll miss out on the merit of taking the precepts, you will, of course, be in the monastery, and it will be impossible for you to break the ten precepts anyway (unless you go out of your way). I am afraid I don't have any information at hand about the schedule for these, but the best thing to do is to contact someone there and ask, I can forward some contact info if you wish.

If you are seriously preparing for ordination as a monk to practice Pureland (and indeed in Pureland this is not the only route, as Admin_PC mentions regarding the Japanese non-celibate traditions) then the best place to enquire about preparation would be at the monastery you intend to ordain at. As far as FGS is concerned, I'd be prepared for pretty much adjusting your entire mindset to a Chinese/Taiwanese one, learning the language very fluently, and being prepared to be a subordinate (you have to respect the hierarchy regardless of whether you think what is being done makes sense or not).

Also, you very well may not be practicing Pureland—as far as the education goes, you can study at the meditation hall or at the college, there isn't really a nianfo route, but I am not sure if there are exceptions made. Most of your work may be unrelated to nianfo. It is more like general Chan and Mahayana plus event planning. There are a few monastics who staff the Amitabha recitation hall and retreats, but it is not a main focal point of the practice. There are definitely times of the month when the Pureland Sutras come up and are recited, but it is balanced with the rest of the liturgy. I am not sure about other Chinese traditions—as far as I know this is quite normal though. In Japan it is more where you get the dedicated sects where they focus on one thing or another.

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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:31 pm

I didn't realize they didn't take temporary vows at the Nianfo retreats.
Here's a nice video summary of such a retreat at FGS in Australia:


Re: Other Chinese schools that are Pure Land-focused

Aside from the 'Pristine' Pure Land school centered at Hongyuan Monastery in Anhui province (which is a Chinese, single-practice school let alone Pure Land-centric), I have direct experience with a practice center in Ven Chin Kung's Amitabha Society tradition. The latter are decidedly Pure Land-centric. Almost everything they do is centered around Pure Land, even their meditation. They're not the only ones, as it's fairly safe to say that XiangJi Temple has been dedicated to Pure Land for over 1,000 years. FGS is a school of humanistic Buddhism, so their main focus would be Chan meditation.
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Zhen Li
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Re: Preparing for Ordination in Pureland

Post by Zhen Li » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:45 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:31 pm
I didn't realize they didn't take temporary vows at the Nianfo retreats.
Well, there are some occasions where the Pureland Sutra chanting and Nianfo will coincide with a day when you can take the eight precepts. There are some retreats where this may happen. However, a monastic retreat would mean ten precepts, and that is not specifically for nianfo. In fact, it is also possible that in some retreats for the over 35 group, they don't even take the 10 precepts (but I am not certain, but last time I was there I saw their retreatants not wearing the usual robes or shaving their heads).
Admin_PC wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:31 pm
FGS is a school of humanistic Buddhism, so their main focus would be Chan meditation.
There is not a 'main focus.' Somewhat like the four-line dedication of merit in their liturgy says: Chan Jing Jie: meditation, chanting, and precepts. They're all important.

The 'humanistic Buddhism' component is essentially about the employment of skilful means to attract people to the Dharma by emphasizing its relevance to daily life and improving society, using modern technology/methods to do that, and also, perhaps, providing a simple explanation of the Dharma so that the common person can understand.

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