New To Buddhism

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Nikkolas
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New To Buddhism

Post by Nikkolas » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:48 am

Hello everyone. I recently turned 29 and for all of my adult life I've studied religion, politics and philosophy. Well, I say "studied" but I'm not some master, I just read what interests me in various articles, books, Wikipedia, whatever. However I've never felt all that satisfied with any of it and I've come to wonder if my painful shyness is to blame. Buddhism is one of the most fascinating ideas I've read about but that's all I've done, read. Well, I listened to some lectures but whatever I did, I did in the privacy of my own apartment. I want to try and change that. I figure that, maybe if I brave the company of strangers in a totally unfamiliar setting, I might find...I dunno. Find something.

I live in Fort Worth Texas and sadly there doesn't appear to be any Buddhist stuff too close by but thee are a few Buddhist groups in Dallas.Of the many types of Buddhism I have read of, none interest me more than Zen and Pure Land. I've mostly read about the Japanese schools but the only dedicated Pure Land group I could find is Chinese.

https://www.yelp.com/biz/dallas-buddhis ... richardson

That site has pretty helpful reviews telling me what to expect but it's making me quite nervous. Same for the Zen center I looked up which gave m a long list of "Zen etiquette" for how to bow and when and other things. This is all just making my trepidation flare up though because, while I want so desperately to learn, I don't want to make a fool of myself. To properly be part of the Pure Land I need to learn the right chants which means learning another some stuff in a totally different language and maybe other things, too.

I'm just wondering if anyone here has some advice for a first timer? What was it like for you? Was it hard to learn the chants? Also I mentioned I discovered Pure Land via Japanese schools like Jodo Shu which means I dunno if I should learn the Japanese or Chinese chants.

My apologies for rambling so much. It's just that I want so badly to do this but I've never done anything like it in my life.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:12 pm

The Dallas Buddhist Association is part of the Amitabha Buddhist Society in the lineage of Ven Chin Kung. Some related links:
http://www.amtb.org/
http://www.amtbweb.org/
http://www.purelandcollege.org.au/
http://www.amitabha-gallery.org/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_BAQE ... bkw/videos

I practiced with one of their student-led groups in Atlanta a few times when I lived there. It was pretty intense practice, here's a schedule for how they run things over there for an idea: http://www.amtb-atl.org/st_en/activity-en.html

All the chanting was in Chinese. The Vietnamese members would chant the same things in Vietnamese - which would sound a little different, but the syllables would match up.

People were really friendly with showing me how to do things.

At lunch time they would broadcast lectures by Ven Chin Kung while we ate. It was all in Chinese with Chinese subtitles, so a bit hard to follow. Those lunch time broadcasts were the only type of lecture or Dharma Talk, the rest of the time it was practice. Lots of seated meditation, rhythmic chanting, walking chanting, and sutra recitation.

I'm not quite sure what your reservations might be. They should be friendly and helpful with getting you started. They probably won't be teaching any ShanTao, Honen, or Shinran. It'll be all sutras, with maybe some lectures by Ven Chin Kung or a monk from his organization. You may want to read up a little bit on what Ven Chin Kung teaches before going, there are a lot of free references (books, videos, etc) on the links above.

Hope that helps.
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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Nikkolas » Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:27 am

Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:12 pm
The Dallas Buddhist Association is part of the Amitabha Buddhist Society in the lineage of Ven Chin Kung. Some related links:
http://www.amtb.org/
http://www.amtbweb.org/
http://www.purelandcollege.org.au/
http://www.amitabha-gallery.org/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_BAQE ... bkw/videos

I practiced with one of their student-led groups in Atlanta a few times when I lived there. It was pretty intense practice, here's a schedule for how they run things over there for an idea: http://www.amtb-atl.org/st_en/activity-en.html

All the chanting was in Chinese. The Vietnamese members would chant the same things in Vietnamese - which would sound a little different, but the syllables would match up.

People were really friendly with showing me how to do things.

At lunch time they would broadcast lectures by Ven Chin Kung while we ate. It was all in Chinese with Chinese subtitles, so a bit hard to follow. Those lunch time broadcasts were the only type of lecture or Dharma Talk, the rest of the time it was practice. Lots of seated meditation, rhythmic chanting, walking chanting, and sutra recitation.

I'm not quite sure what your reservations might be. They should be friendly and helpful with getting you started. They probably won't be teaching any ShanTao, Honen, or Shinran. It'll be all sutras, with maybe some lectures by Ven Chin Kung or a monk from his organization. You may want to read up a little bit on what Ven Chin Kung teaches before going, there are a lot of free references (books, videos, etc) on the links above.

Hope that helps.
It does thank you. I am nervous because I'm extremely self-conscious in general and for this specifically, this isn't just a random meet up or hangout. It's a spiritual get together. I would feel awful if I not only embarrassed myself but disrupted things for other people.

I got some free material to read from Ven. Master Kung (that is how you address him, correct?) and I also found some other Pure Land material to read like the Tannisho. I do not know if there is substantial differences in "theory" from one Pure Land school to the next but there is never any harm in learning more about history and ideas.

I also found this "Pure Land Handbook" that sounds like it might be good to buy and read
http://www.chanpureland.org/purelandhandbook.html


But thank you again for all the help and links. I'm just anxious about starting something new so that makes me babble.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:07 am

I think as long as you're respectful, you should have nothing to worry about. In Atlanta, you take shoes off before entering the practice hall and everyone dons brown lay robes (provided by the group). I imagine Dallas will be something similar.

I like the Tannisho a lot. There's a few quotes in there that stick with me always.

The Chinese approach to Pure Land is not the absolute Other Power approach of Shinran. Practice (including meditation) and precepts are stressed more heavily. Vegetarianism is standard at the temple, and many lay people will eat that way full time.

Hope you enjoy it. On the other hand, if it's not your thing it's not the end of the world, there's some distance learning/practice options available.
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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Nikkolas » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:22 am

Alright, if I may, I have another question.

Now, it's Buddhism. We all know the Buddha more or less. Gautama Buddha, lived in India, came up with the idea of existence is suffering and we must reach Nirvana to escape it. There are all sorts of ideas that, so far as I know, come from him like the Four Nole Truths, the Eightfold Path, etc..

But what role does he play in Mahayana Buddhism? Because when I was looking up suggested readings on what "concepts" I should learn for Buddhism, I was told the Four Noble Truths just...aren't important in Mahayana Buddhism. And what I've read of Pure Land Buddhism has very little to do with "the" Buddha at all.

I'm just kinda curious about this since I do have this book called "In the Buddha's Words"
https://www.amazon.com/Buddhas-Words-An ... 0861714911

Which is based on the Pali Canon and I'm just wondering if this is like, the foundation of Buddhist thought that I should read completely before even delving into Pure Land sutras and texts.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:46 pm

Gautama Buddha = Shakyamuni Buddha.
Statements about Shakyamuni are all over Pure Land Buddhism, as he did; in fact, teach the 3 Pure land Sutras. One of the most famous anecdotes in Pure Land Buddhism is the parable of the narrow white path between 2 rivers by ShanTao. In the parable, Shakyamuni is encouraging the traveler (which is us) from behind on one end of the path. On the other end of the path, Amitabha is calling out to the traveler, waiting to receive them.

The 4 Noble Truths are the backbone of Pure Land.
Since we want things to be different than the way they are, we suffer. If there was no suffering, there would be no need for birth in the Pure Land. There is a path out of suffering via the Pure Land. Pure Land teachings conform to the Nobe Eightfold Path. There's a thread in the Announcements section of this subforum titled "A helpful mapping" which explains Pure Land in terms of more general Buddhist concepts, as well as providing some parallels for Pure Land teachings in other Buddhist canons. Just because the 4 Noble Truths don't feature prominently in the practice or presentation of Pure Land, doesn't mean they are superseded or completely cast aside.

In the Buddha's Words is a wonderful survey/foundational text of Theravada Buddhism.
One needs to keep in mind though; that as such, it will probably not agree with Pure Land 100%. I haven't seen a Theravada author yet who's been able to resist the urge to take a swipe at Mahayana or Pure Land in their works. This can get frustrating at times and confusing for beginners starting out if they're not expecting it. The idea that there is a non-sectarian foundation of Buddhism that all sects agree upon is unfortunately a fiction. Instead, there are typically what we call "Dharma Seals". These Dharma Seals are earmarks that signify a teaching as "Buddhist" and Pure Land can easily be explained in terms of them.

The 3 typically referenced Dharma Seals are:
1. Impermanence - all compounded phenomena are non-permanent and ultimately dissatisfying.
2. Non-self - all impermanent things are not to be considered as "me, my, or mine"
3. Nirvana - the snuffing out of afflictions is peace

Sometimes these 3 are presented as 4:
1. All compounded things are impermanent
2. All emotions are painful
3. All phenomena are without inherent existence
4. Nirvana is beyond description

In Pure Land terms, because this world is impermanent and our experiences are driven by the 3 poisons of greed, aversion, and ignorance, it is not meant to be clung to. By thinking of Amida, we can reach the Pure Land and eventually find peace. Being grounded in Mahayana, the Pure Land helps us reach the ground of non-retrogression along the path to the supreme perfect awakening of the Buddhas (anuttara samyak sambodhi) for the sake of benefiting all sentient beings.
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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Nikkolas » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:35 pm

Hello again. I really appreciate your prompt and informative replies but I figured I'd hold off saying anything more until I read some more and whatnot. Didn't want to post just to say thanks than I had to come back a day or two later to post again and ask more questions.

I've definitely seen the anti-Mahayana sentiment you mentioned. Heck, I even came upon this website that says all other Pure Land teachings are wrong - or at least should be disregarded - when compared to the one from Shandao..
http://www.purelandbuddhism.org/

I'm a huge fan of history (which is sort of how I got into Buddhism) so I know this site is more than a little biased about saying Chinese Pure Land Buddhism all originated with Shandao. I mean, that's fine. One reason I liked what I heard of Buddhism was that it wasn't as exclusionary as the Abrahamic faiths I was raised in. Pure Land sounded like it was actually the most inclusionary teaching ever

I was very lucky to find audio versions of the 3 Sutras(I can't see all that well so reading something long is a problem) and I'm going through them now in addition to just doing my best to find insightful commentary or lectures on Buddhism. I'm also a huge fan of philosophy so seeing Buddhist philosophy compared/contrasted with certain Western philosophical schools is deeply interesting.

But anyway, I ws mainly posting to talk about this sectarianism which makes me nervous about venturing out into the wider Buddhist world. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to continue studying and meditating on my own. I don't think there's anything wrong with that so far as I know. It's just that I like to have some sort of structure for everything I do. I guess I could always just set up my own thing or maybe find some guidelines online.

Anyway, thank you again for your help.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Admin_PC » Sat Dec 09, 2017 10:10 pm

Nikkolas wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:35 pm
Heck, I even came upon this website that says all other Pure Land teachings are wrong - or at least should be disregarded - when compared to the one from Shandao..
http://www.purelandbuddhism.org/

I'm a huge fan of history (which is sort of how I got into Buddhism) so I know this site is more than a little biased about saying Chinese Pure Land Buddhism all originated with Shandao. I mean, that's fine. One reason I liked what I heard of Buddhism was that it wasn't as exclusionary as the Abrahamic faiths I was raised in. Pure Land sounded like it was actually the most inclusionary teaching ever
Do you think you could quote what you're talking about from the site? If I recall correctly, they're saying later Pure Land teachings should be contextualized, not that they're wrong. There's a lot of fire and brimstone in certain presentations of Pure Land, particularly later ones. They're trying to avoid that. There's also the common statement that all Chinese practices were always syncretic, which can't be established when you read earlier teachers. Shantao wasn't the first, history doesn't maintain that, he was merely one of the most prominent (his commentary on the Visualization Sutra perhaps the most influential Pure Land commentary in existence). Shantao studied from Tao Cho. Tao Cho was influenced by the teachings of Tan-luan. Tan-luan was taught by the missionary Bodhiruci. The teachings of Shantao are in agreement with the Pure Land sutras themselves. That group is merely trying to practice what Shantao taught, without some of the later additions which many find confusing. Many of their statements are actually presented to address criticisms by other schools. The "most inclusionary teaching ever" would probably be the trademark of Chinese Buddhism after the Song Dynasty, but even those forms of Buddhism have sectarianism.
Nikkolas wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:35 pm
But anyway, I ws mainly posting to talk about this sectarianism which makes me nervous about venturing out into the wider Buddhist world.
Yah, sectarianism is a pretty universal trend in all schools. Some folks are worse about it than others. Ignoring it is probably the best advice, as you'll probably run into it regardless of what school you study. That being said, in most cases sectarianism is usually a situation of trying to differentiate & justify a school's teachings, rather than making claims of exclusive ownership of Buddhism at large.
Nikkolas wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:35 pm
Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to continue studying and meditating on my own. I don't think there's anything wrong with that so far as I know. It's just that I like to have some sort of structure for everything I do. I guess I could always just set up my own thing or maybe find some guidelines online.
While having a teacher is usually recommended, there's nothing wrong with self-study & self-practice.

The Amitabha Society in Dallas is not part of that 'Pristine Pure Land' school, nor does it stress Shan-tao's teachings particularly much. They mostly focus on the teachings of Ven Chin Kung, so he'd be the first one to research if you're interested in the type of Pure Land they teach (after the sutras of course).
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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Nikkolas » Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:25 pm

I actually just realized it was a post from you that led me to that site.
viewtopic.php?p=261539#p261539

I found via a random Google search. Anyway, what I was referring to was this first part in the site's biography of Shandao:
"Pure Land practitioners should follow only the explications of Master Shandao and the school’s other lineage masters. If the interpretations of other knowledgeable figures should differ from those of our lineage masters, we should recognize that the others were using their own expedient means to attract and instruct learners. We should neither comment on nor seek convergence with these other teachings, but merely set them aside. It is sufficient to draw from the Shandao tradition alone"

I've definitely heard more harsh criticisms when it comes to religious sectarianism but it just kinda made me cock my head and get a little suspicious, ya know? I came to Pure Land Buddhism by way of Japanese schools and it made me think he was saying "we want nothing to do with them. You don't need that."

Also your older post got me interested in the history of Pure Land in East Asia so I went and found this book
https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Chinese-Pur ... 0791402983

Now I haven't read it yet obviously but I did find a good review that outlined a lot of the facts in it, like how Hui-yuan wa the one who actually made this sutra famous and Shan-tao's commentary only came after his, and how he (Hui-yuan) was pretty important for his time but kinda just got forgotten by history, possibly because Japan's Pure Land tradition follows up on Shandao's, to the extent the writer of that book even calls them the "orthodoxy" of Pure Land Buddhism. (the reviewer sharply criticized this)

Then again, the reviewer says there wre two Hui-yuan's so I'm not even sure if I got the right one you were referencing in your post....

But going by the review and also this article I found on JSTOR stating Ching-Ying Hui-yuan was mainly a Yogacara Buddhist, I have to ask, what is the connection between Pure Land Buddhism and Yogacara Buddhism? Is there one beyond Hui-yuan and Vasubandhu, a founder of Yogacara, also being super important commentator that I see listed right up there with the Three Sutras? (it is on Ven. Kung's website's list anyway)

Moving on, I'd definitely like a teacher. I just need to get a ride to Dallas soon-ish.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by Admin_PC » Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:56 pm

Japanese Pure Land schools are Shandao-based schools. That Pristine Pure Land school you mentioned is almost identical to Jodo Shu in practice, in fact they do speak highly of Honen. The "Pure Land" they are talking about is their own particular group, not all Pure Land practitioners. "Sufficient" means they don't have to worry about interpretations from masters such as Yongming Yanshou & others who taught different things such as that mixed-practice was required.

I have the The Dawn of Chinese Pure Land Buddhist Doctrine book, but haven't read it all yet. Huiyan's interpretation of Pure Land was very influential on Zhiyi, patriarch of TienTai. As most Japanese Pure Land schools originally came from Tendai (Japanese branch of Tientai), the whole reason they adopted Shandao's teachings were because they felt those of Huiyan were not sufficient/not working for them. I think I know the review you're talking about, but the reviewer ignores the significance of Shandao or the blatant fact that in Japan, those Pure Land schools are the orthodoxy.

Vasubandhu's Upadesha on the Amitayus Sutra is very important and was very influential on Shandao. In addition, there's the commentary "The Interpretation of the Buddha Land" - a Yogacara commentary that is currently available from the BDK. Yogacara goes a long way to help explain how the Pure Land exists.
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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by diamind » Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:29 pm

Oh fresh meat!

Best advice is be careful, do alot of research before you visit any centre..even if it's recommended on Dharmawheel.

Buddhism is a great religion but not free from cults and people just after money and sexual favours.

Even an unqualified teacher, tho not intentionally trying to harm people could do alot of damage by misrepresenting the Dharma.

So be mindful.

Also choose your reading list wisely, theres plethora of rubbish out there that's masquerading as Buddhism that's actually just some watered down, feel good, hippy dippy shit.

Lastly and most importantly...

Read this.. As a beginner I strongly recommend you to stay clear of anyone on that list.

http://viewonbuddhism.org/controversy-c ... nable.html

All the best.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by rory » Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:34 pm

You really don't need to worry about sectarianism: I was introduced to Pure Land by a Jodo Shu monk, attended a Jodo Shinshu temple, practiced Pure Land with Tendai, attended a Fo Guang Shan temple and it was all fine! No one ever said a bad word about another group.

I personally prefer a mult-practice school like Tendai as I like the various practices of Pure Land meditation, visualization etc with Tendai philosophy, but that's me. You and Admin PC have other preferences and that's totally ok.

In Dallas you have the Amitabha Association, pure land for sure and I.B.P.S International Buddhist Progress Society, which is also Fo Guang Shan. I'm not a fan of humanistic buddhism but they do many Pure Land practices and the temple goers are great. So give them a try too.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by DGA » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:03 am

Nikkolas wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:48 am
Hello everyone. I recently turned 29 and for all of my adult life I've studied religion, politics and philosophy. Well, I say "studied" but I'm not some master, I just read what interests me in various articles, books, Wikipedia, whatever. However I've never felt all that satisfied with any of it and I've come to wonder if my painful shyness is to blame. Buddhism is one of the most fascinating ideas I've read about but that's all I've done, read. Well, I listened to some lectures but whatever I did, I did in the privacy of my own apartment. I want to try and change that. I figure that, maybe if I brave the company of strangers in a totally unfamiliar setting, I might find...I dunno. Find something.

I live in Fort Worth Texas and sadly there doesn't appear to be any Buddhist stuff too close by but thee are a few Buddhist groups in Dallas.Of the many types of Buddhism I have read of, none interest me more than Zen and Pure Land. I've mostly read about the Japanese schools but the only dedicated Pure Land group I could find is Chinese.

https://www.yelp.com/biz/dallas-buddhis ... richardson

That site has pretty helpful reviews telling me what to expect but it's making me quite nervous. Same for the Zen center I looked up which gave m a long list of "Zen etiquette" for how to bow and when and other things. This is all just making my trepidation flare up though because, while I want so desperately to learn, I don't want to make a fool of myself. To properly be part of the Pure Land I need to learn the right chants which means learning another some stuff in a totally different language and maybe other things, too.

I'm just wondering if anyone here has some advice for a first timer? What was it like for you? Was it hard to learn the chants? Also I mentioned I discovered Pure Land via Japanese schools like Jodo Shu which means I dunno if I should learn the Japanese or Chinese chants.

My apologies for rambling so much. It's just that I want so badly to do this but I've never done anything like it in my life.
When I was first starting out, my emotions were more or less in the same place as you describe. I felt a lot of anxiety and concern that I might put my foot in the wrong place or hold my teacup with the wrong hand or bow at the wrong time. When I worked up the courage to finally show up, I was lucky to get there early because I was able to observe how people interacted with each other, and to ask a few questions. Here's what I found out:

*Newcomers are generally welcomed with open arms, are shown the ropes by those who know what they are doing, and cut a lot of slack. You have to learn, right? It's given that you will make some mistakes but if you have a positive attitude and are willing to learn, someone WILL teach you.

*That bit about having a positive attitude and a willingness to learn is the main thing. Keep your eyes and ears wide open, keep an open mind, and you'll be OK.

*If you are in a place where they don't have that generosity of spirit to guide you, a newcomer, into the community... that's not a good sign at all.

*Pure Land practice is excellent.

*Zen practice is excellent.

*The most important thing is to find yourself in a situation where you can learn. The name on the door doesn't matter much. Tibetan or Japanese or whatever... who cares? What counts is if you are in a learning environment that works for you. Does it click? Are you growing in the practice? If so, then you are likely in the right place.

*Keep an open mind, but also use your mind. Kick the tires. Reflect carefully on what you are taught--really turn it over in your mind. Does it hold up to reason? Take your time with this step.

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Re: New To Buddhism

Post by rory » Sat Dec 16, 2017 1:13 am

DGA:
*The most important thing is to find yourself in a situation where you can learn. The name on the door doesn't matter much. Tibetan or Japanese or whatever... who cares? What counts is if you are in a learning environment that works for you. Does it click? Are you growing in the practice? If so, then you are likely in the right place.
Actually it does matter in a place like Pure Land. Tibetan Buddhism has Pure Land practices but they take a very long time and there is no karmic transfer which is the basis of the Pure Land Sutras. Others here can discuss this in detail but it is a very big deal!
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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