Pure Land Study Group Thread

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Re: Study group, who's interested?

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:51 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:So which bit should we read?

I'm just going to post on the actual letters of Yin Kuang, which make up the body of the book.
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Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:54 am

This is the beginning of the study group for the book Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land - a collection of letters from Pure Land Patriarch Yin Kuang.

Letter 1

In a nutshell, this letter covers a few important topics:
1. Understand impermanence & develop a disinterest in worldly matters.
2. Be prepared to persevere and endure great hardship, but don't be afraid to ask for help.
3. Repent your wrong doings.
4. Be sincere & earnest.
5. Have faith & don't harbor doubts.

This letter had a lot of very deep & quotable passages. I feel these passages speak for themselves and would be a better foundation for discussion than any of my speculation.

With that I'll get started:

The Vows of Samantabhadra, Letter 1 wrote:From all delusions, karma, and demon-states, Amid all worldly paths, I will be freed, As the lotus does not touch the water, As sun and moon do not stop in space.


On realizing acceptable goals:
"If you suffer financial hardship, I suggest you retreat a step. You should reflect thus: 'although there are many in this world more fortunate than I, those who are less well off are hardly few in number. I should seek only to escape hunger and cold; why dream of riches and honor?'

Moreover, if you are content and at peace with your circumstances and surroundings, you can even turn afflictions into Bodhi (Enlightenment), not to mention grief in to peace and joy!"


On developing a disinterest in the body & learning to accept suffering as a teacher:
"If you suffer chronic illness, you should reflect deeply that this body is the very source of suffering, develop a revulsion toward it and strive to cultivate the Pure land path, determined to achieve rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The Buddhas view suffering as their teacher, thus achieving the Ultimate Enlightenment. Likewise, you should consider illness as medicine, to escape Birth and Death."


On the idea that suffering is necessary:
"Without the sufferings of poverty and illness, they [human beings] will, by nature, pursue the world of sight and sound, fame and profit, finding it difficult. to let go."


Next is a quote from Mencius regarding the idea that hardships forge greatness:
"The sage Mencius once said:
'Those who will be entrusted with great tasks should first endure hardship both in body and mind, suffering hunger and destitution or failure in their undertakings. Only then will they be able to forge their character, develop patience, and endurance, and attain outstanding abilities, beyond the ken of the multitude'
-Letter to Teng Po-ch'eng. (Chinese ed Vol I, p 37)

Therefore, you should realize that human character is usually forged in adversity. If adversity cannot be avoided, you should remain at peace and practice forbearance."


More on the benefits of hardships:
"If you are not tested to a certain extent by financial hardship and disease, your worldly delusions will know no bounds and your Pure Land practice will be difficult to perfect."


On perseverance:
"You should persevere in reciting the Buddha's name, to eradicate past karma swiftly and avoid developing a mind of afflictions, resenting the Heavens, blaming your fellow beings, considering the law of Cause and Effect as a fairy tale and rejecting the Buddhas and their teachings as ineffective. You should know that from time immemorial, we have all created immeasurable evil karma."


Now a quote from the Avatamsaka and more on karma:
"The Avatamsaka Sutra states:
'If evil karma had physical form, the empty space of the ten directions could not contain it.'

Thus, how can haphazard, intermittent cultivation possibly annihilate all afflictions and obstructions?"


On the benevolence of the Buddhas and our evil habit energy:
"Sakyamuni Buddha and Amitabha Buddha, out of compassion for sentient beings who lack the strength to rid themselves of evil karma, specifically taught the method of 'relying on the Buddha's power to take their residual karma along to the Pure Land.' "


On repentance:
"..you should engage in earnest repentance, seeking the Buddhas' assistance in eradicating past karma and achieving peace and tranquillity of body and mind."


On asking for help:
"If illness and suffering become unbearable, in addition to reciting the Buddha's name morning and night and dedicating the merits toward rebirth in the Pure Land, you should call wholeheartedly upon the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara). With Her silent vow to rescue sentient beings, the Bodhisattva appears throughout the worlds of the ten directions. If in time of crisis, a person can keep reciting Her name and revere Her, She will respond according to the circumstances, enabling him to escape suffering and achieve happiness."


On the method:
"Although Buddha Recitation is simple, it is very deep and encompassing. The most important thing is to be utterly sincere and earnest, for only then will your thoughts merge with those of Amitabha Buddha and will you reap true benefits in this very life. If you are lazy and lax, lacking even the least bit of reverence and awe, you may sow the seeds of future liberation but you must still bear the inconceivable evil karma stemming from disrespect and over-familiarity. Even if, thanks to residual merits, you escape the evil realms, you will still find it difficult to join the Ocean-Wide Lotus Assembly!"


On scholars vs practitioners:
"Nowadays, there are quite a number of scholars who study Buddhism. However, almost all of them simply read the words of the sutras and commentaries seeking arguments and rationalizations to prove that they are versed in the Dharma. Those with the sincerity and devotion to cultivate according to the Dharma are few indeed!"


On the benefits of reverence and devotion:
"I have always said that to reap the real benefit of the Dharma, you should approach it with a truly reverent mind. One-tenth of reverence and devotion annihilates one-tenth of afflictions and evil karma, and increases merit and wisdom by one-tenth - and this applies to two-tenths, three-tenths or total reverence and devotion.
Conversely, the more lax and disrespectful you are, the more obstructions and evil karma you develop, resulting in a corresponding decrease in merit and wisdom. How sad it is! When you meet with other laymen, you should counsel them along these lines. This would be a great Dharma gift."


On not harboring doubts:
"You must not harbor doubts. To doubt is to turn your back on Buddha Amitabha, distancing yourself from Him, making it difficult to be in communion with Him and be 'received and guided at the time of death.'"


On the depth of the Pure Land path:
"The ancients have taught:
'Only the Buddhas can truly fathom the ultimate meaning of Pure Land; even those Bodhisattvas who have achieved near equality with the Buddhas cannot grasp it completely.'"


The pitfalls of academic study:
"Intelligent persons, these days, may study the Dharma, but since they have not been in the company of fully enlightened sages, they almost always emphasize theory and noumenon (principle) while rejecting "phenomenal" cultivation as well as the law of Cause and Effect. Little do they realize that without phenomenal cultivation and belief in Cause and Effect, theory and noumenon cease to exist."


Mind and Self-Nature reconciled with phenomena and Cause & Effect:
"An Elder Master once said:
'Those who skilfully discourse on Mind and Self-Nature surely can never reject Cause and Effect; those who believe deeply in Cause and Effect naturally understand the Mind and Self-Nature in depth. This is a natural development.'"


Sorry for so many block quotes, but I found these passages powerful personally and I would be very interested to hear everyone else's thoughts.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Dan74 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:35 am

Thank you, Porkchop for sharing. I really enjoyed these selections.

What is the nexus with Zen, though?

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:23 am

Dan74 wrote:Thank you, Porkchop for sharing. I really enjoyed these selections.

What is the nexus with Zen, though?


Well it should probably be "Ch'an" rather than "Zen", but I didn't write the book. That's not to say that there haven't been numerous Zen masters throughout the years who've said that the two paths ultimately lead to the same place (even Hakuin, who's more well-known for his sectarianism). Only mean that this book will reflect common standpoints in Ch'an from mainland China in the Chinese Republican era.

The author of the letters; Yin Kuang, has quite a background in Ch'an as well as Pure Land. Trying to find a good biography, but Damien Keown's "A Dictionary of Buddhism" is a bit inflammatory in some of its description of Yin Kuang - saying he denigrates Ch'an Buddhism, which I've yet to encounter in his letters. The important bits from Keown's own writings talk of a practitioner who lived 30 years on P'u T'uo island under an assumed name in an attempt to withdraw from the world and underwent 2 back-to-back 3-year periods of sealed confinement.

I'm hoping maybe some of the Chinese members who have access to more literature on this master could chime in.

Specifically in regards to addressing Ch'an and Pure Land, the final quote I posted is in regards to the common Ch'an dismissal of the Pure Land method; that the Pure Land is Mind Only, that Amitabha is Self Nature, and that the Pure Land method is only provisional.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Dan74 » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:13 am

Ah, sorry, I didn't get that it was the book title.

As to the final quote, a few rare practitioners may be well-advised to exert all their efforts in one direction and cut the root. Most of us are well-served utilising the many upaya at our disposal, I suspect.

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:27 am

Dan74 wrote:Ah, sorry, I didn't get that it was the book title.

No need to apologize, I should've been more clear. :)

Dan74 wrote:As to the final quote, a few rare practitioners may be well-advised to exert all their efforts in one direction and cut the root. Most of us are well-served utilising the many upaya at our disposal, I suspect.

Good point. I know I'm definitely not in a position to give up everything and go be a wandering ascetic and I doubt at my current capacities I'd be able to make much of a go at it even if the right conditions suddenly manifested. I think that's why I like the method so much, because it was designed for folks like me. The history of Ch'an and Pure Land practice is an interesting one, often antagonistic and yet just as often symbiotic.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Nosta » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:47 pm

I already read the first letter.

Indeed you pointed some of the most important parts from it. Amazing quotes and an amazing author! He speaks with deep Dharma knowledge!

I would like to comment some passages:
"If you suffer chronic illness, you should reflect deeply that this body is the
very source of suffering, develop a revulsion toward it and strive to cultivate the
Pure Land path, determined to achieve rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The
Buddhas view suffering as their teacher, thus achieving Ultimate Enlightenment.
Likewise, you should consider illness as medicine, to escape Birth and Death."


It is more easly said than done, thats why practice must be hard. I suppose that after many hours a day of recitation, for many years, one will achieve a clear mind and be in a better position to face illness problems (like cancers for example) with a strong spirit.

And about hard problems in life, I love these passages:
"Therefore, you should realize that human character is usually forged in adversity.
If adversity cannot be avoided, you should remain at peace and practice forbearance.
Moreover, in speaking of great tasks, the sage Mencius was referring merely
to mundane undertakings. Even so, enduring hardship is necessary for success –
how much more so when lowly beings such as ourselves undertake the great dual
task of achieving Buddhahood and rescuing sentient beings! If you are not tested
to a certain extent by financial hardship and disease, your worldly delusions will
know no bounds and your Pure Land practice will be difficult to perfect. With
your Mind-mirror clouded, you will revolve for many eons in the evil realms – not
knowing when you will ever achieve liberation!
The ancients have said:
If it were not for a period of penetrating cold, the plum blossom could never
develop its exquisite perfume!"



But its not only about fighting adversity or simple recitation as a meditation technique. Recitation (on Amitabha name) by itself will clean your karma and thats one of the most powerful things we will ever learn on any rebirth we may have for eons:
"You should persevere in reciting the Buddha’s name, to eradicate past karma
swiftly and avoid developing a mind of afflictions"


and

"Sakyamuni Buddha and Amitabha Buddha, out of compassion for sentient
beings who lack the strength to rid themselves of evil karma, specifically taught the
method of “relying on the Buddha’s power to take their residual karma along to the
Pure Land.”"



and


"Therefore, you should engage in earnest repentance, seeking the
Buddhas’ assistance in eradicating past karma and achieving peace and tranquility
of body and mind."

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby LastLegend » Sat Sep 20, 2014 2:06 am

I hope I am derailing this thread, but since is Pure Land Zen. I would like to share what I see the connection between the Pure Land and Zen. When reciting Amitabha Buddha orally, one concentrates on hearing at the sound of that recitation. That itself is practicing Zen. It's killing two birds with one stone, i.e., merits, rebirth in Pure Land and at the same time practicing Zen. If one is able just to hear or see without arising thoughts of affliction, that is Zen. A form of samadhi, so to speak.

Another form of Pure Land Zen practice is silent recitation of Amitabha Buddha within one's mind. When one recites, one is hearing and aware of the reciting thought. One is also aware of distracting thoughts but not bothered by them because these thoughts are empty, just as the reciting thought is also empty. So just simply hear and aware of the silent reciting thought.

Bodhidharma:
Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, arching your brows blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, its all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the path. And the path is Zen. But the word Zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.

Do it at your own risk! :tongue:
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Nosta » Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:12 pm

I agree with you Lastlegend, I think thats the way Zen & PLand connect with each other.

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Tue Sep 23, 2014 2:38 am

Great post Last Legend!

Letter 2...
(Sorry if this is a little late, the recent iOS update knocked out my ipad for a few days and I've been using it to track the notes & highlights that I've been making as I've been reading.)

This letter had more quotes that I found very interesting:

1. On studying Buddhism with an emphasis on academia & debates rather than addressing the issue of liberation:
"Today's scholars like to study chapter by chapter, with few showing concern for the issue of rectifying mind and thought. Thus they peruse books all day long without understanding the true intent of the sages, their words and actions differing from those of the sages as greatly as day from night or square from round."
Here the author seems to be condemning those who just look to research philosophy and debates, rather than practical concerns such as purifying the mind.


2. The next quote seems to play on themes from Hui Neng's Platform Sutra, with a slightly different take on the topic. Interesting dialog with Ch'an here and continues the debate between sudden and gradual methods:
"If you do not feel shame and remorse, your Self-Nature may be the same as the Buddhas', but it is hidden by afflictions and evil karma and cannot manifest itself just like a precious mirror which has been covered with dust for eons, not only does it not reflect light, even its reflecting nature is hidden. If you realize that the mirror already possesses the nature of brightness and strive ceaselessly to clean it, the light reflected will gradually increase until it reaches maximum radiance. The mirror can then become, once more, something of value in the world. You should realize that the potential for reflection is inherent in the mirror and is not the result of polishing. If it were not so, a brick would also shine brightly when polished. Yet, you should also realize that although the brightness is inherent in the mirror, without polishing, the day would never come when it would gleam."
Here, the author addresses not just Hui Neng, but other anecdotes from Ch'an masters, and seems to advocate a more gradual path focused on purifying the mind.


3. The next quote discusses the universality of Pure Land practice:
"Pure Land is precisely the sublime method enabling the practitioner to turn his back on worldly dusts to merge with Enlightenment and return to the source (the Mind). Laymen bound up in mundane affairs cannot easily find the time to attend retreats, practice meditation and recite the sutras. This method is, therefore, very suitable for persons such as yourself. Each one can pay respect to the Buddhas and recite sutras or Buddha Amitabha's name according to individual circumstances and capacities, dedicating the merits thus accrued to rebirth in the Pure Land. In addition to your regular cultivation sessions, you should practice Buddha Recitation when walking or standing, reclining or sitting, speaking or remaining silent, eating or dressing, throughout the day, wherever you may be."
Here, the author points out how anybody in any situation can find value in the Pure Land method.


4. The following quote discusses silent recitation vs oral recitation:
"Silent recitation brings the same blessings and virtues as oral recitation, as long as it is distinct, earnest and not subject to distractions."
Thus, we see that it makes no difference whether we say the Buddha's Name aloud or if we merely say it in our heads.


5. This quote discusses nuances of Buddha recitation and gives some advice reaching one-pointedness of mind:
"No extraordinary method is required: you should paste the single word "death" on your forehead or dangle it from your eyebrows, always keeping the following thoughts in mind:

Since time immemorial I have created untold, immeasurable evil karma; if such karma had form, the empty space of the ten directions could not contain it. Thanks to good conditions, I have been reborn in a human body and have, in addition, had the opportunity to hear the Dharma. However, given my evil karma, I must now recite the Buddha's name single-mindedly, seeking rebirth in the Pure Land. Otherwise, when my breath has ceased, [I am bound to endure the sufferings of hells, hungry ghosts and animality]. After recovering a human body, I would lack intelligence and be deluded, prone to create evil karma, unable to perform good deeds readily. In no time, I would sink deeper into the evil realms. With my residual bad karma from previous lives still not repaid, I would commit new evil karma, constantly revolving along the Six Paths throughout eons as numerous as motes of dust - hopelessly lost in the immense sea of suffering, not knowing how to reach liberation."
The author is thus advocating that we realize how precious our opportunity is to have encountered the Dharma and not let this opportunity for cultivation slip through our hands. If we keep this thought in mind, one-pointedness of mind (samadhi) will arise naturally.


6. The next quote sings the praises of the Pure Land method:
"... I have always said that 'if the Nine Realms of sentient beings do not practice this method, they cannot easily perfect the fruits of Enlightenment, while if the Buddhas of the ten directions abandon this method, they cannot benefit the masses far and wide.'

If you have utmost Faith and cultivate earnestly, seeking escape from Birth and Death, then even though you still have not left the evil, deluded world, you will not remain long in the Saha World either. While you may not have reached the Pure Land yet, you will soon be a new guest in the Land of Ultimate Bliss."
This quote could be taken as triumphalist, but it is merely singing the praises of a method that will benefit both the worst sinner as well as the most pious saint. It also serves as a warning to those who would forgo practicing even this easiest of methods, that there would be only continued suffering.


7. The next quote regards obligations:
"Finally, while the key to rebirth in the Pure Land is single-mindedness, you, as a layman, still have your parents and your family. Although you should not unduly seek wealth and honor, you should fulfill your family obligations - for to cultivate the Dharma is not to abandon everything. If you could let go of everything and still manage to provide for your parents and family, that would be all to the good. Otherwise, it would be contrary not only to human morality but also to the Dharma. This is something you should also realize."
Here the author is pointing out the compatibility between training the Dharma and familial obligations as well as common morality. He also makes the point that cultivating the Dharma "is not to abandon everything", which is very interesting to me and part of why this method resonates with me whereas others do not.


8. The next quote regards teaching others:
"If anyone were to advise others to cultivate the Pure Land method, the merits and virtues from such teaching would be entirely his. In the future, he would surely be reborn in the upper lotus grades."
This quote brings to mind the thought that the gift of Dharma is the highest offering one can make.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby plwk » Tue Sep 23, 2014 7:59 am

8. The next quote regards teaching others:
"If anyone were to advise others to cultivate the Pure Land method, the merits and virtues from such teaching would be entirely his. In the future, he would surely be reborn in the upper lotus grades."
This quote brings to mind the thought that the gift of Dharma is the highest offering one can make.
“If a Bodhisattva wishes to explain to sentient beings the profound meaning of the dharma realm, he should first teach them worldly dharmas, then pronounce the profound dharma realm. Why? Because it is easier to transform them in this way. A Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva should protect the minds of all sentient beings. Unless he protects their minds, he cannot tame them. A Bodhisattva should also protect himself. If he does not protect himself, he cannot tame sentient beings. Though not begrudging his body, life, or wealth, a Bodhisattva protects them in order to tame sentient beings.

“A Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva should remove his own evils, then teach others to remove theirs. If he does not remove his own evils but teaches others to remove theirs, it is not right. Therefore, a Bodhisattva should give alms, observe the precepts, achieve contentment, and make energetic progress, then teach others to do the same. If a Bodhisattva does not take Dharma actions himself, he cannot succeed in teaching and transforming sentient beings.

“Good man, the capacities of Bodhisattvas and sentient beings are classified into low, middling, and high. A Bodhisattva of low capacity can transform only sentient beings of low capacity. A Bodhisattva of middling capacity can transform sentient beings of low and middling capacities. A Bodhisattva of high capacity can transform sentient beings of all three capacities.

More from Upasaka Sila Sutra

More samples on the matter here: 1 2 3 4

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:00 pm

Another appropriate quote on the topic:
The Amitayus Sutra wrote: The Buddha continued, “You, gods and humans, and people of the future, who have received the Buddha’s teachings, should ponder them well. Then all can take the right actions with an upright mind. A ruler who cultivates virtue sets an example for his ministers, who in turn command all subjects to maintain good conduct. All should revere the holy and respect the virtuous, and be kind and loving to others. Do not fail the Buddha’s teachings. All should seek to transcend the world and uproot the evils of repeated birth and death, leaving forever the immeasurable anxiety and agony through the three evil life-journeys.

“You all should widely plant roots of virtue and practice the six pāramitās: almsgiving, observance of precepts, endurance of adversity, energetic progress, meditation, and development of wisdom. You each should teach others, who in turn will teach many others, to uphold virtue and to rectify one’s mind and intention. If one observes the precepts with purity for one day and one night in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 100 years in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. Why? Because that Buddha Land is pure, and its inhabitants, having no evil even as slight as a hair, spontaneously accumulate good karmas. If one cultivates virtue for ten days and ten nights in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 1,000 years in Buddha Lands in other directions. Why? Because most inhabitants of other Buddha Lands do good, and few do evil. With no place to do evil, acquiring merit is their natural way of life. However, in this land are many evils, and acquiring merit is not the natural way of life. People toil painfully to satisfy their desires, and they take advantage of one another. Exhausted in body and mind, they eat bitterness and drink poison. Their evils never end.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby DGA » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:10 pm

PorkChop wrote:Another appropriate quote on the topic:
The Amitayus Sutra wrote: The Buddha continued, “You, gods and humans, and people of the future, who have received the Buddha’s teachings, should ponder them well. Then all can take the right actions with an upright mind. A ruler who cultivates virtue sets an example for his ministers, who in turn command all subjects to maintain good conduct. All should revere the holy and respect the virtuous, and be kind and loving to others. Do not fail the Buddha’s teachings. All should seek to transcend the world and uproot the evils of repeated birth and death, leaving forever the immeasurable anxiety and agony through the three evil life-journeys.

“You all should widely plant roots of virtue and practice the six pāramitās: almsgiving, observance of precepts, endurance of adversity, energetic progress, meditation, and development of wisdom. You each should teach others, who in turn will teach many others, to uphold virtue and to rectify one’s mind and intention. If one observes the precepts with purity for one day and one night in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 100 years in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. Why? Because that Buddha Land is pure, and its inhabitants, having no evil even as slight as a hair, spontaneously accumulate good karmas. If one cultivates virtue for ten days and ten nights in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 1,000 years in Buddha Lands in other directions. Why? Because most inhabitants of other Buddha Lands do good, and few do evil. With no place to do evil, acquiring merit is their natural way of life. However, in this land are many evils, and acquiring merit is not the natural way of life. People toil painfully to satisfy their desires, and they take advantage of one another. Exhausted in body and mind, they eat bitterness and drink poison. Their evils never end.


:good:

Namo Buddhaya!

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Dan74 » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:06 pm

LastLegend wrote:I hope I am derailing this thread, but since is Pure Land Zen. I would like to share what I see the connection between the Pure Land and Zen. When reciting Amitabha Buddha orally, one concentrates on hearing at the sound of that recitation. That itself is practicing Zen. It's killing two birds with one stone, i.e., merits, rebirth in Pure Land and at the same time practicing Zen. If one is able just to hear or see without arising thoughts of affliction, that is Zen. A form of samadhi, so to speak.

Another form of Pure Land Zen practice is silent recitation of Amitabha Buddha within one's mind. When one recites, one is hearing and aware of the reciting thought. One is also aware of distracting thoughts but not bothered by them because these thoughts are empty, just as the reciting thought is also empty. So just simply hear and aware of the silent reciting thought.

Bodhidharma:
Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, arching your brows blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, its all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the path. And the path is Zen. But the word Zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.

Do it at your own risk! :tongue:


Thank you, LL, though awareness, mindfulness and even samadhi are not Zen. Hearing and seeing without thoughts of affliction are not seeing your nature, though unafflicted seeing and hearing are.

_/|\_

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby LastLegend » Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:12 pm

It's not seeing the nature, but the nature that sees. What else is seeing and hearing?
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Tue Oct 07, 2014 4:29 pm

Letter 3...

Sorry for taking so long. Couple weeks ago I was out of town, came back with an injury and a lot of stuff to catch up on. I'm working on updating a few letters at once to make up for lost time.

In this letter Ven Yin Kuang responds to a questioner with lofty aspirations.

"In the True Mark Single Vehicle, the marks of loftiness and meagerness cannot be found. Within this Vehicle, whether the marks are lofty or limited depends on how they are conceived. Loftiness and meagerness always possess in full the nature of the Dharma Realm. Moreover, the meagerness to which I refer encompasses all the dharmas of the Ten Realms."
In this quote we see Ven Yin Kuang pointing out that differentiation disappears in the True Mark Single Vehicle.
"Shan Tao has said:
'If you wish to study 'meaning,' [understand the Dharma] you should study all dharmas, from the mundane level to the level of the Buddhas. However, if you want to engage in 'practice,' you should choose a method compatible with the Truth as well as your own capacities and level and then concentrate on it earnestly. Only then can you reap benefits swiftly. Otherwise, even if you spend many eons, you will not be able to escape Birth and Death.'"
Here, Shan Tao is reiterating the Bodhisattva Vow that "Dharma gates are limitless, and I vow to learn them all." In order to reach sentient beings of all capacities, we should learn all Dharma gates. In regards to practice, we should practice within our capacities. This point of Shan Tao was hugely influential on Honen from Jodo Shu in Japan and I think a lot of Honen's critics misunderstood this nuance. Finding a practice that resonates with your capacities, then concentrating "on it earnestly" is part and parcel of the first of the three heart-minds of practice listed in the Visualization Sutra; the Genuine Heart-mind.
"Buddhism is an open method within the ten Dharma Realms - everyone should practice it and anyone can practice it."
This quote is especially true when combined with the teaching of skillful means, or the 84,000 Dharma gates designed for those of varying capacities. No matter where you are, you can follow the path.
"These days, some individuals, mouthing Mahayana teachings, consider themselves awakened to the Way. They say: 'I am [intrinsically] a Buddha, why recite the Buddha's name? Afflictions are Bodhi, what is the need to sever them? Lust, anger and delusion are precepts, concentration and wisdom, why sever lust, anger and delusion?' Their words are as lofty as the heavenly clouds, but their actions, upon close examination, are as low as the underworld!"
Here we see Ven Yin Kuang is addressing a common criticism by those who consider Buddha Name recitation an inferior or provisional path. He points out that many who espouse innate enlightenment, do so as an intellectual exercise, and that the activity that they manifest is more that of demons than of someone who has truly awakened.
"You should study Mahayana sutras and commentaries to ensure that your understanding is broad and complete. As far as cultivation is concerned, you should concentrate on Faith, Vows, and recitation of the Buddha's name."
Here again Ven Yin Kuang makes a distinction between doctrinal understanding and actual practice. All throughout this letter he's cautioned against mistaking doctrinal understanding for practice. In regards to practice, he endorses the simple methods found in the Pure Land Sutras.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:56 pm

Letter 4...

Ven Yin Kuang replies to a letter talking of various practices being done for self improvement, which the questioner feels is of limited success. Ven Yin Kuang lets the questioner know that he rejoices in his actions.

"A mind of sincerity and respect is the key to Pure Land cultivation. With utter sincerity and respect, even though you are only an ordinary being whose virtues are not yet perfected, you will achieve unimaginable results!

Conversely, without sincerity, bowing and reciting are no different from performing on stage, singing and prancing. Although you may be displaying the external signs of suffering, joy, compassion and other emotions, they are all make-believe because they do not spring from the depth of your mind. Any blessings or virtues that may result are but deluded merits of the human and celestial realms, and these are precisely the basis of evil karma and the seeds of immense suffering in the future."
Here, Ven Yin Kuang is teaching about the Genuine Heart-Mind, the first of the 3 Heart-Minds detailed in the Visualization Sutra. From his example, you can see that a Genuine Heart-Mind is essential for Right Intention.
"You should not think that the merits and virtues of reciting the name of, or visualizing one Buddha are less encompassing than those received from reciting the name of, or visualizing many Buddhas. You should realize that Amitabha Buddha is the Dharma Realm Treasure Body. All the virtues of the Buddhas in the ten directions of the Dharma Realm are fully encompassed in Amitabha Buddha. This is like the jeweled net of Indra, whose thousands and thousands of jewels are fully reflected in one jewel, the image of one jewel is reflected in thousands and thousands of jewels, and each and every jewel encompasses every other, in perfect, unimpeded fashion."
I like this quote because it addresses an issue that comes up all-to-often, in regards to "why Amitabha and not some other Buddha"? Ven Yin Kuang is making it plain to see that there is no essential difference. The virtues of one Buddha reflect the virtues of all Buddhas. Also of note is that he considers Amitabha the "Dharma Realm Treasure Body" or "Samboghakaya". This is traditionally a commonly held view in East Asian Buddhism, although not all Pure Land masters have taught such.
"To great sages who have cultivated for a long time, widely varying conditions and environments do not matter; in fact, the more diverse they are, the more focused the minds of these sages become. For beginners, on the other hand, if conditions and environments are varied, the mind-consciousness grows confused and unfocused. Those with heavy obstructions and shallow wisdom may even, at times, be afflicted by demons. For this reason, Buddha Sakyamuni and the Patriarchs all enjoined us to recite the Buddha's name single-mindedly until achieving samadhi - at which time hundreds of thousands of Dharma methods and countless sublime meanings will manifest themselves in full. To exemplifies this Truth, the ancients have said: 'To bathe in the great ocean is to use the waters of hundreds of rivers...'"
This quote is deep. At first Ven Yin Kuang points out the difficulties presented by distractions, and pushes for the simple practice of Buddha Name recitation, but then he reveals that once samadhi is reached that countless Dharma methods will manifest. One practice leads to all practices.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Fri Oct 10, 2014 3:16 pm

Letter 5...

In this letter Ven Yin Kuang teaches about the true nature of the Ten Thousand Dharmas.

"To follow in the footsteps of the Buddhas and sages and escape Birth and Death, you should first develop an attitude of shame and repentance, abandon evil ways, perform wholesome deeds, keep the precepts and practice self-restraint. You should aim for the Truth and practice to your utmost ability. Otherwise there is deceit within deceit. Thus, understanding the Dharma is not difficult; practice is the real difficulty! Many intelligent persons merely verbalize but fail to practice. They therefore waste an entire lifetime, spoiling a visit to the jeweled mountain and returning empty-handed. What a great pity! Their deluded thoughts flare up unchecked because they are not earnest in maintaining correct thought. If they would only concentrate on one realm, deluded thoughts would be converted into 'correct wisdom.' Therefore, the saying goes: 'If the king rules wisely, rebels and bandits will become like his own sons; if he rules unwisely, even his closest friends will turn into enemies.'"
In contrast to the Japanese Pure Land schools, which stress the dichotomy of Self power and Other power; Ven Yin Kuang here is pointing out the importance of the practice of precepts and wholesome deeds. He puts these practices as the foundation of following the Dharma. Ven Yin Kuang criticizes those who only approach Buddhism as an intellectual exercise and praises those who actually practice.
"The conditions leading to afflictions are numerous. Most powerful among them are wealth, lust, and unusual adversities."
In this quote Ven Yin Kuang points out the 3 supportive conditions that he feels lead to further afflictions. These 3 conditions are somewhat related to the 3 poisons (craving, aversion, and ignorance), yet more talking about an environment conducive to further embracing of the 3 poisons rather than pointing out specific causes.
"Ill-gotten gains are more dangerous than venomous snakes."
I like this quote because of its simplicity, its imagery, and its effectiveness in teaching an important lesson on cause and effect.
"To assist fellow beings is precisely to lay the foundation for our own future merit and virtue."
Again, a very simple quote, but a very effective teaching on cause and effect. I like the quote, but at the same time the idea of doing things for other sentient beings with the idea of some personal benefit in the future is not very altruistic to me. I think doing things for fellow sentient beings is a reward in itself.
"Within the family, husbands and wives should respect one another as guests..."
As a married guy with some experience in this area, this quote strikes me as profoundly good advice for maintaining a happy home (especially coming from a renunciate).
"When encountering adverse circumstances, you should develop thoughts of compassion, forgiving those who do not realize their mistakes and avoiding disputes. You should think 'in my previous lives, I have caused suffering and hurt sentient beings on many occasions. If I meet with adversity today, it is merely the repayment of previous debts.' Thinking thus, you become naturally content and do not develop a mind of anger and vengefulness."
I find this quote helpful for dealing with traffic. I try to take it a step further and be grateful for the opportunity to repay such a debt.
"In the case of sages who have cultivated for a long time, all afflictions become the 'illuminating Mind Store' - the ten thousand dharmas have always been without self, the adverse or beneficial consequences of all actions depend on the individual alone."
In this quote, Ven Yin Kuang points out that the 10 thousand dharmas are all empty and that for sages, all afflictions become Dharma teachings.
"Faith, Vows and Practice form the cornerstone of Pure Land. If these three conditions are fulfilled, rebirth in the Land of ultimate Bliss will be achieved. you should pay particular attention to Faith and Vows, and wish wholeheartedly to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land... (and not as a celestial being or a Dharma Master, however awakened, as these are still within the realm of Birth and Death). Only then will your Faith and Vows reach Amitabha Buddha so that His Compassionate Vow may embrace you. In this connection, Elder Master Ou I has said: 'Achieving rebirth in the Pure Land depends entirely on Faith and Vows, while the level of rebirth depends on the depth of practice.' This is a truth solid as steel - even if a thousand Buddhas were to appear on earth, it would not change. Only by firmly believing in this truth will you have a destiny in the Western Pure land."
The Pure Land path in a nutshell. Of all the quotes in this letter, this one seems the most consistent with all branches of Pure Land. Faith (I'm really not sure this is the right translation for this word - as there is definitely some conflicting nuances between the English and the Sanskrit/Chinese/Japanese word) and Vows are primary, while practice determines where in the Pure Land one ends up.
"If you experience difficulty in reaching one-pointedness of mind, you should focus your mind and recite with care. The main criteria of such concentration are utter sincerity and earnestness. It is very difficult to achieve one-pointedness of mind without utter sincerity. However, sincerity is not enough. You should next listen attentively to the recitation. Whether or not recitation is performed aloud, it should originate from the mind. it then proceeds from the mouth and enters the ears (even if you recite silently, the marks of oral recitation still exist in the mind). With mind and mouth reciting clearly, the ears hearing clearly and the mind thus concentrated, deluded thoughts will cease by themselves."
Ven Yin Kuang is pointing out that the first requirement for reaching Nembutsu Samadhi is the Genuine Heart-Mind (of the 3 Heart-Minds of the Visualization Sutra), in other words: being sincere and earnest. Beyond the Genuine Heart-Mind, he says listening to the recitation is also a requirement for Nembutsu Samadhi. Since recitation begins at the mind, we must listen to our minds as we recite. This is a common view among mainland asian Pure Land teachings, even those from the Ch'an school. In contrast, I think Honen's take would be that as long as one recites diligently, one's mind will calm on it's own, and Nembutsu Samadhi will manifest. From Shinran, in some writings he seems totally consistent with Honen's take, while in others, it seems he recommends reciting in gratitude while listening deeply for all the workings of great compassion in our lives - even sometimes appearing to downplay the importance of Nembutsu Samadhi. The Jodo Shinshu school has also been known for spontaneous recitation.
"If you wish to attain liberation in this very life, you should concentrate on the Pure Land method. The Diamond Sutra and the Lotus Sutra should be temporarily set aside, until such time as you fully possess the Pure Land principles and achieve one-pointedness of mind through Buddha Recitation. If you spend time studying while you are trying to engage in cultivation, you may not have the time or energy. Thus, you will achieve neither and lose the benefits of both."
This quote finds a lot of parallels in Japan and the sentiment I believe originates with ShanTao. When Honen said something similar in Japan around 1200CE, he was nearly executed and an entire religious movement sprung up in opposition to the idea. One point that I'm curious about is how much Ven Yin Kuang had access to ShanTao's teachings - as they were only brought back to China from Japan by Yang Renshan (Yang Wenhui) during his lifetime; he quotes ShanTao elsewhere in the book so I imagine he was able to spend some time with his teachings.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Sun Feb 15, 2015 7:34 am

Wow it really doesn't seem like 4 months since I was working on this.
I was really busy at the end of last year and my schedule only recently freed up (for the next couple weeks at least).
Was also a little embarrassed at how critical my last update came off.
Anyway, let's get on with the show..

Letter 6

The true intention of Buddha Sakyamuni, when He appeared in the world to preach the Dharma and rescue sentient beings, was for all beings to escape Birth and Death and attain Enlightenment immediately. However, because sentient beings were all of differing capacities and thus could not entirely meet His transcendental expectations, the All-Compassionate Being resorted to one expedient teaching after another, all of them adapted to the individual capacities of sentient beings.

This reminds me of a quote from Shinran, where he takes the next logical step and says that since the Pure Land teachings can help those of all capacities, then it is truly the reason Shakyamuni came into this world. Yes, a bit of a sectarian statement, but it's not like the Pure Land teachings have never been the target of such sectarian statements.

Other methods depend on the capacities of the practitioner. If they lead only to limited attainment [such as (the Mahayana concept of) Arhatship], those of high capacities need not practice them. If they lead to great attainment, those of limited capacities cannot cultivate them. Only the Pure Land method embraces practitioners of all three capacities, high, moderate and low.

Pretty much what I was saying above...

If Sakyamuni Buddha had not taught this method, the majority of sentient beings in the Dharma-Ending Age could not hope to escape the cycle of Birth and Death.

I happen to agree with this one, but I would include all practitioners of Buddha Remembrance in this group (Theravada, Vajrayana, those mindful of Avalokitesvara, Maitreya, Medicine Buddha, etc).

Only those who have sown the wholesome seeds of Pure Land in previous lives as well as the higher level Bodhisattvas can truly have firm and deep Faith in it.

Aside from being a statement that may come off as sectarian, this is a pretty deep comment that brings up some serious questions. Have we done this before? Did we fail or are we coming back on the early stages of a bodhisattva path? Makes you think..

In discussing the Pure Land method, you should make a general comparison of the ease and difficulty of other-power vs. self-power, as employed in this and other methods, respectively. Otherwise, even if you do not doubt the Dharma, you will doubt yourself, and even a trace of doubt becomes an obstacle. In such a case, even if you engage in cultivation you will not reap the full benefit – not to mention what will happen if you do not cultivate. For this reason, Faith is the first criterion. You should firmly believe that the Saha World is a place of suffering, the Western Pure Land a realm of bliss.

This statement kind of stands alone. To caveat the last part, even if you still haven't fully accepted the idea of the Western Pure Land, surely the mind of an Enlightened Being is a realm of bliss.

You should be wary and not attempt to reason with the mind of an ordinary being, lest you mistakenly think that “all the wonderful, extraordinary events beyond common understanding that occur in the Western Pure Land are myths representing the Mind Dharma, rather than a true environment.” With this misunderstanding, you lose the benefit of rebirth in the Pure Land. This is a major error, so be careful!

This is a very interesting comment that seems at odds with some more modern interpretations of the Pure Land. If all of our experiences are preceded by mind, shaped by mind, then definitely, the closer we are to enlightenment, the more blissful the world will seem.

Sentient beings in the Saha World, facing circumstances that accord or fail to accord with their wishes, often develop the mind of greed, anger and delusion, create the karma of killing, stealing and lust, and tarnish their bright, spotless Self-Nature – this is a filthy bottomless pit. Having created evil karma, they must endure suffering through many lifetimes along the Evil Paths – this is a drawn out imprisonment.

Samsara sux.

Although Amitabha Buddha, the Compassionate One, made such a Vow, if sentient beings do not seek His help, there is little He can do. However, anyone who recites his name with utter sincerity, vowing to leave the Saha World behind, will be welcomed and escorted to the Pure Land. Amitabha Buddha has great power; He can rescue sentient beings from the excrement pit and the prison of the defiled world, guide them to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and help them enter the realms of the Buddhas to assume the prerogatives and functions of the Tathagatas (Buddhas).

Any Buddha or any bodhisattva worth his salt is going to try to help all sentient beings, but we can't be helped unless we seek it out. It's like Honen's poem "Tsukikage", the moon shines equally on all, but it only resides in the hearts of those who gaze upon it.

Rebirth in the Western Land thus requires, first of all, deep Faith and fervent Vows. Without these conditions, even if you were to cultivate, you could not obtain a response from Amitabha Buddha. You would merely reap the blessings of the human and celestial realms and sow the seeds of liberation in the future. Anyone who fulfills the conditions of Faith and Vows is assured of rebirth in the Pure Land. When Elder Master Yung Ming stated that “out of ten thousand who cultivate Pure Land, ten thousand will achieve rebirth,” he was referring to those with full Faith and Vows. Once you have deep Faith and earnest Vows, you should practice Buddha Recitation as your principal method, guided by your Faith and Vows. These three components [Faith, Vows, Practice] are precisely the main tenets of Pure Land – lack of any one of these conditions will prevent you from achieving rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Pure Land in a nutshell. Recitation is our practice, with each recitation we bring to mind our vow to see Amitabha, and recitation is how we receive faith that we will eventually attain Buddhahood.

The form of Buddha Recitation Practice depends on the circumstances of each individual – there is no single set way ... If the cultivator is very busy, having no free time, he should set aside a specific period in the early morning. After washing up, he should bow three times to the Buddha in front of his altar (if he has one). Then, standing erect, he should join his palms and singlemindedly recite the words “Na Mo Amitabha Buddha” as many times as he can in one stretch, each stretch counting as one recitation. He should recite thus for ten stretches, and then utter the following stanza: I vow that, along with other Pure Land cultivators, I will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, See Amitabha Buddha, escape Birth and Death, And rescue all, as the Buddha does. After reciting this stanza, he should bow three times before retiring.

The first part is great guidance about being flexible. The second part is a nice, convenient method for busy folks like me.

While the recitations are few in number, the virtues accrued are profound and rebirth is assured.

This is referring to the above practice. It's another quote that reminds me a lot of Shinran.

Moreover, the practitioner should maintain a virtuous and forgiving mind in all circumstances, guard against mistakes in each of his thoughts, be willing to recognize mistakes, correct his transgressions and gladly perform good actions – only then will he be in accord with Buddha Amitabha. Failure to do so indicates that his mind is still obstructed and thus not consonant with the mind of the Buddha. This makes it difficult for the two to interact.

I tend to think of Amida like a mirror into our own nature. Focusing on the virtues of the Buddha makes us realize the depths of our own darkness. But over time, through realizing the compassion of the Buddha, we begin to emulate that altruism and our mind unconsciously starts heading in the right direction.

Furthermore, when bowing, reciting Mahayana sutras or accomplishing various wholesome deeds, he should dedicate all the resulting merits to rebirth in the Pure Land. He should not dedicate only the merits of Buddha Recitation itself, while transferring incidental merits toward worldly blessings. In the latter case he would not be singleminded, making rebirth in the Pure Land very difficult to achieve.

Vasubandhu, in his commentary on the larger Pure Land sutra says that when our aspiration for seeing Amida and being born in the Pure Land is single minded, then we have developed shamatha. This singleness of purpose is important.

Those who are not versed in the Dharma and reject Buddha Recitation as a “self-benefit” method are speaking thoughtlessly. Do not listen to them.

This is a lesson I need to follow better. Really not sure why some people are so invested in what other people are practicing that they have to go out of their way to criticize, especially when they know nothing of the teachings outside someone else's 15-second summary. But I let those kinds of comments get to me way too much.
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Re: Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land Study Group

Postby Admin_PC » Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:18 am

Letter 7

The Dharma already exists in full in the minds of all sentient beings – both clergy and lay persons can uphold it.


This is a really interesting quote. Reminds me of the line in the Pratyutpanna Sutra, where the Mind doesn't recognize Mind, so it creates the Buddha. Like the fundamental nature of mind is always lurking just beneath the surface, we're just too distracted by the 3 poisons.

You should strive to practice the Pure Land method, reciting the Buddha’s name assiduously. If you succeed in gathering your six faculties together and engage in pure recitation without interruption, you can attain samadhi as a matter of course, in this very life. Why, then, worry about not reaching the higher lotus grades at the time of death? Even if you do not reach samadhi, you will still achieve rebirth [in a lower lotus grade], be part of the Ocean-Wide Assembly, close to Amitabha Buddha. You will gradually return to the True Self-Nature and naturally understand the various teachings. Then, just like an image in a mirror, you will appear in the Saha World without leaving the Pure Land, to rescue sentient beings throughout countless expedients, helping them all to reach the Pure Land and attain the Tolerance of Non-Birth (insight into the non-origination of all things). This will not be turning your back on your present firm determination to cultivate. In fact, you will deserve to be called a green lotus blossom, born amid fire, a true woman of character!


This response to a laywoman is packed with gold. Like the earlier quote, it reminds me of the Pratyutpanna Sutra. At the same time, there are shades of Honen in this response - Recitation Samadhi arising naturally from recitation.

Once you have firm Faith, you should vow to leave the Saha World, like a prisoner desperate to leave his jail, and resolve to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land, like a traveller longing for his native place.


This reminds me of the Lotus Sutra and the parable of the burning house. When you realize you're in the house you must resolve to want to escape.

As someone who has not achieved rebirth in the Pure Land, even if you were presented with the jewelled throne of the god-king Brahma, you should consider it as a cause and condition of perdition, without a single thought of longing. Likewise, wishes such as “rebirth as a male, entering the clergy early in life, attaining great intelligence, great spiritual powers ...” should all be considered tortuous paths of cultivation which can only bring you back to your starting point. Abandon all these thoughts and seek only to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land at the time of death. Once reborn, you will naturally escape the cycle of Birth and Death, transcend the human world, enter the realm of the sages, reach the stage of non-retrogression and attain the stage of Non-Birth. At that time, when you look back, you will discover that the royal throne in the human and celestial realms, even rebirth as a high-ranking monk, are but tiresome occurrences that last for many eons with no liberation in sight. You will then realize that compared to your present lotus grade, those aspirations are no different from a flickering flame versus a rainbow, or an anthill versus a mountain! Thus, the Pure Land practitioner certainly should not seek the blessings and merits of the celestial and human realms, not even rebirth as a high-ranking monk. Just a trace of such thinking constitutes a lack of deep Faith and earnest Vows. Such thoughts place a barrier between you and the Vows of Amitabha Buddha – preventing you from achieving rebirth in the Pure Land. This is a great pity, a great waste, indeed! How could you have the heart to exchange the unimaginably sublime Pure Land for mundane happiness – so that when all the blessings have been exhausted, you would continue to revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death, dragged by the current of karmic delusion, subject to untold suffering? If poison is mixed with butter, the delicious butter becomes lethal. Practicing Pure Land without the right frame of mind brings similar harm. You must extirpate such wrong thoughts in order to enjoy fully the benefits of the Pure Land method.


This passage reflects the singleness of heart for aspiration to birth in the Pure Land.

You certainly should not think that oral recitation [Holding the Name] is shallow, and follow other methods, such as Visualization, Contemplation of an Image or Real Mark Buddha Recitation. Of the four Buddha Recitation methods, only oral recitation is well-adapted to the capacities of sentient beings.


Here we see Ven Yin Kuang really channeling Honen and Shan Tao with the recommendation for exclusive recitation.

If one-pointedness of mind is maintained, the sublime Truth of Real Mark will be fully revealed and the extraordinary realm of the Western Pure Land will appear clearly. Therefore, you can achieve Real Mark through oral recitation; you can see the Western Pure Land without engaging in visualization. This method of recitation is precisely the wonderful door to the Way, the most expedient path to Buddhahood.


Here again we see the theme that oral recitation leads to Samadhi.

It does not matter that you have not read the sutras widely. Without fully understanding Pure Land teachings, even if you deeply understand the entire Buddhist canon and have awakened completely to Self-Mind, it will take you untold eons to fulfill your original Vow to escape the cycle of Birth and Death. Buddha Recitation is the panacea for all diseases. To miss knowing about such a wonderful remedy would be a cause for great suffering and regret! To be aware of but not practice it, or to practice it but not in earnest, is to have even greater cause for suffering and regret!


Book knowledge is no replacement for faith, vows, and practice.

As far as receiving the lay precepts is concerned, you can visit this temple if you have the means and the capacity to do so. Otherwise, why get so fixated on travel? All you need is to have an earnest, sincere mind, repent your transgressions before your home altar for seven consecutive days and express the wish to receive the precepts by yourself. On the seventh day, you should kneel before a Buddha image and say aloud: “Your disciple, by the name of – –, vows to receive the five precepts and fulfill the obligations of a laywoman. I vow that for the rest of my life, I will not take the lives of sentient beings, steal, indulge in sexual misconduct, lie or take intoxicants.”


I find this quote interesting because it bypasses the need for officially recognized clergy being physically present in order to become a lay Buddhist. If people are sincere and dedicated to the practices found in the sutras, consideration about the status of the preceptor should be secondary.

As for your intention to commit suicide because you cannot become a nun, such determination, however powerful and intense, is deluded and insane. In the midst of this Dharma-Ending Age, how many monks and nuns are worthy of being teachers? ... As a woman, especially, you may be subjected to overbearing masters, insulted or drawn into intrigues. You only think that to “leave home” and become a nun is liberation, but you do not yet know the many difficulties and obstacles which monks and nuns face. Do not think, furthermore, that to commit suicide is to free yourself of the cares and worries of this life! Once dead, your soul will be led away by the power of karma to be reborn in another body – not to mention that, given your angry state of mind, you may well be reborn in the animal realm. Under such circumstances, it will be difficult even to regain a female body. Should you succeed in being reborn as a woman or a man, or even as a ruler in the human or celestial realms, there is still no assurance that you will encounter the Dharma and engage in cultivation! Even if you are so fortunate, who knows if you will be in the good position to discover the Pure Land method – a method that enables each and every one to escape Birth and Death in one lifetime.


I love this quote because not only does it defy the straw man that Pure Land practices encourage suicide, it actively recommends the opposite. Plus, it seems Ven Yin Kuang genuinely cares for this person and only wants what's best for her.
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