Teachings of Honen Volume 2

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 18

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Sep 05, 2017 4:18 pm

Day 18 - Steadfast Belief in the Principle of Karmic Causation

Recite Nembutsu ten times while observing the Ten Cardina Mahayana Precepts. It is also heartily desirable to be mindful of the Lesser forty-eight Precepts while relying upon the forty-eight vows of Buddha Amitabha.

In general, to whatever religious practice you devote yourself, you must keep in mind that observance of the precepts is as essential as swimming with a life preserver. Your demeanor must be beyond reproach, as deliberate as if you were walking with a vessel brimming with oil without a drop of spillage. Otherwise, your religious practice cannot be accomplished and your vow cannot be realized.

In reality, however, we are in violation of the Four Cardinal Precepts (the first four of the Ten Cardinal Mahayana Precepts) or guilty of commitment of the Ten Transgressions. Every one of us is karmically evil in that we violate the precepts and commit wrongful acts. No one is without reproach.

Various buddhas of the past, present, and future have admonished, "Do not indulge in evil acts, yet cultivate wholesome deeds." Those who are virtuous will be born in a good place, those who are evil will fall into purgatory. If one who believes in the principle of karmic causation above continues to engage in evil deeds, it is futile to admonish him.

We should strive to avoid evil karma within our capabilities and recite Nembutsu as often as we possibly can in aspiration of Ojo.

-----

The ten cardinal Mahayana precepts, prescribed in the Brahma-Net Sutra (Jp Bommo-kyo). These precepts are to refrain from:
1. Taking any form of life
2. Stealing
3. Committing adultery
4. Telling a lie
5. Selling wine
6. Speaking of faults
7. Praising oneself and reviling others
8. Begrudging others
9. Being angry
10. Abusing the three treasures.
Bodhisattvas must observe these precepts and encourage others not to violate them.

The lesser 48 precepts are also prescribed in the Brahma-Net Sutra.

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojyo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 32.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:05 pm

PC, can you offer some insight on the role the Precepts play in Honen's thought if they are not to be done as a self-power practice? Most often, they are presented as part of the Threefold Training.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:34 pm

From what I gather, Honen's thought was pretty much "do what you can, but Nembutsu is primary". I'm thinking of that passage where he basically says "if being a monk helps you practice Nembutsu, be a monk; if being a householder helps you practice Nembutsu, be a householder". For Honen, nothing is more meritorious than sharing in the merit of Nembutsu. No goal in this life (for him) was above attaining Ojo. I don't see the constant obsession over Self Power/Other Power with Honen. For him, everything takes a backseat to Nembutsu, and at best can only hope to support it. His stance towards precepts was more about getting along with the world. In fact, the 7 Article Pledge is pretty much his admonishment to encourage his followers to accord with the expectations of the world while aspiring towards Ojo:

http://www.jsri.jp/English/Honen/WRITIN ... ikajo.html

1. Refrain from denigrating other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and from attacking Shingon and Tendai, for you are not versed in any of their teachings.

2. In your state of ignorance, refrain from indulging in disputes with men of wisdom or when encountering people with other religious practices.

3. Toward people of other persuasions or practices, refrain from saying, with your mind ignorant and biased, that they should abandon their practice. Refrain from wanton ridicule of them.

4. Refrain from saying that there is no observance of the clerical precepts in the nembutsu path, from avidly encouraging sexual indulgences, liquor, or meat eating, from occasionally calling those who adhere to the precepts men of indiscriminate practice, and from teaching that those who believe in Amida's original vow have no reason to be afraid when committing evil deeds (zoaku muge).

5. As an ignorant being who is unable to distinguish between right and wrong, you should refrain from deviations from the scriptural teachings, from what is not the teachings of your master, from arbitrarily putting forward your own doctrines, from needlessly seeking out disputes, from being laughed at by the wise, and from leading the ignorant astray.

6. In your state of ignorance, refrain from delighting so much in rhetoric, since you know nothing of the true teachings, from expounding various heresies (jaho), and from converting ignorant priests and lay people to the various heresies.

7. Refrain from expounding heresies which are not the Buddhist teachings, and from regarding them as true teachings. Refrain from the deception of calling them the teachings of your master.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:50 pm

:bow:

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 19

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:30 am

Day 19 - Filial Piety

One with filial piety who desires to respect and be dutiful to his parents should rely on the compassion of Buddha Amitabha first. He then should think: To have been given life as a human being and to be able to recite Nembutsu in aspiration for birth in the Pure Land is due entirely to the nurturing by his parents.

Therefore, if you ask Buddha Amitabha to take mercy on your merit cultivated through the practice of Nembutsu, to welcome your parents into His Land of Ultimate BLiss, and to eliminate their unwholesome karma there, Buddha Amitabha will, with certainty, welcome your parents into the Pure Land.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Arahito ni shimesu kotoba (Instruction to a Devotee) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 19

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:36 am

Day 19 Notes

I'm not so sure I agree with how this was translated when it comes to "to eliminate their unwholesome karma there". The nuance here is that the Buddha is doing the work, when in reality the subject wouldn't have been explicitly expressed and by being implied - it would've been more open to interpretation in the original. Buddhas can't eliminate our karma for us without our participation, merely help us to eliminate it. The Pure Land is the perfect place for exhausting our karma, both due to the excellent practices carried out there and the absence for opportunities to commit unskillful acts.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 20

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:31 am

Day 20 - Continual Reflection by the Nembutsu Devotee

Ponder at times the transience of the world in which you live in and know how limited your time in the mortal world is. Also reflect on the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha and implore Him to welcome you into the Pure Land.

On occasion, appreciate the rationale of the joy of having received life in the realm of a human being; bemoan the approaching end to a meaningless life. To have been given life as a human being in the Six Delusive Worlds (hell, starving spirits, beasts, fighting spirits, human beings, and heavenly beings) of the transmigration of birth-and-death is as tenuous as putting a thread from the Brahma Heaven through the eyes of a needle in the depths of the ocean.

At times, reflect on your providential encounter with the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni, and ponder when you might depart from the Six Delusive Worlds for emancipation through observing His teachings if you do not depart on this occasion. Once you are plunged into the evil worlds, you will be unable to hear the name of the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha) for incalculable kalpas (eons). How, then, can you steadfastly believe in the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha?

On occasion, rejoice in the residual virtuous deeds you have cultivated in previous lives. The numbers of the wise and varied classes of people are many, but rare is the person who has faith in the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni and who aspires birth in the Pure Land. It is extremely difficult to become a believer.

Most people bear ill will toward others and are critical of the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni; this causes our descent down the evil path. Believing in the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni, revering them, and aspiring birth in the Pure Land while relying on Buddha Amitabha, are impacted by the residual virtue cultivated in our previous lives. This is not merely the result of our wholesome acts in this life. This validates the fact that the time for birth in the Pure Land has come and you should rejoice with elation. These are the thoughts upon which one should reflect.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Juni-kajo mondo (Dialogue on Twelve Issues) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 21

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:36 pm

Day 21 - Following the Teaching of Buddha Amitabha

Knowing that birth in the Pure Land is possible through reciting Nembutsu, yet indulging in evil karma, neglecting compassionate deeds, and not devoting oneself to Nembutsu is not in accord with the teachings of Buddha Amitabha.

It is as if the compassion of parents nurtures all of their children whether they are good or bad; yet the parents rejoice in good children and grieve for the bad children. Buddha Amitabha extends His compassion equally to all beings and saves the good and bad; but He finds joy in the good and feels sorrow for the bad.

Elation over the good is analogous to the good seed sown in fertile soil resulting in a good crop. Even the good person should recite Nembutsu. This is, in the true sense, the follower of the teachings of Buddha Amitabha.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Nembutsu Ojo-gi (Essentials for Ojo Through Nembutsu) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:38 pm

bemoan the approaching end to a meaningless life
PC, can you add your perspective on the meaning of this passage?
Buddhism is sometimes accused of being nihilistic or pessimistic.

From my view, the "meaningless life" in question is from the perspective of rebirth, i.e. "the approaching end to a life marked by suffering, like so many others into the beginningless past."
This suffering does not have "meaning" i.e. "a greater purpose leading to peace and happiness".
Cyclical rebirth in fact keeps us mired in unhappiness.
All the relationships we forge, things we bring together, etc. are cast apart again at death. This is the experience of samsara, not some arbitrary pessimism cooked up by the Buddha.

Even if we lived according to a theoretically nihilistic viewpoint, avoiding relationships and living in isolation as ascetics, we would still die.
We would lose even this "meaninglessness" and be reborn in some other form, likely in a less fortunate realm, because sadness, hatred, loneliness etc. are not the causes of happiness.
So if clinging to what we will lose is not the solution, neither is rejection of things we never truly possessed.

Birth in the Pure Land has two benefits related to "meaning".
First, it cuts off cyclical birth and its associated suffering, so a major source of obstacles preventing our happiness is removed. If "meaning" is "purpose leading to happiness," then nembutsu is meaningful.
Second, due to the teachers, sages, and environment of the Pure Land, we gain experiential wisdom into reality. We find out for ourselves how things are, no longer being lead astray by our ever-shifting ideas of meaning/no-meaning, or other phenomena in general.

Finally, rather than a rejection of this life and its people, being born in the Pure Land actually allows us to remember those whom we loved in this life, including the countless forgotten others from past lives.
Not only that, we bring them joy in the knowledge that we are no longer suffering and on the contrary are actively working to wake them up from the nightmare of samsara.

This is hardly "meaningless" in the one-sided way a nihilist uses the term.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:15 pm

Honestly, I would have to see the original Japanese. I have it somewhere in like a flat text file, but finding the right passage can still be extremely difficult and time consuming. I'm not sure the Japanese has the same nihilistic overtones. The word I'm thinking of that he might've used (ろくでなし) has more of a connotation of "good-for-nothing" (often used in regards to troublemakers), which would make more sense given the idea of bonbu 凡夫.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 22

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:09 am

Day 22 - Rejecting the Undesirable Teacher

It is indeed lamentable and regrettable that there exist those who say that birth in the Pure Land is unattainable. Please, do not ever be in awe of such words even if the speakers are wise and honorable.

There are people who are learned and respected in their individual paths of endeavor. However, the instruction of those with different understandings and practices will be troublesome for those who are aspiring birth in the Pure Land. These proponents of other practices are referred to as "undesirable teachers who will serve to distance these aspirants from their karmic relationship with Buddha Amitabha."

You must not lend an ear to such misguided people but continue to rely steadfastly on the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha for the attainment of Ojo.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Shonyo-bo e tsukawasu on-fumi (A letter to Nun Shonyo-bo) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese)
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 23

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:42 pm

Day 23 - Receiving Compassion

In general, those who sincerely wish for birth in the Pure Land, who, with implicit faith in the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha, continue to vocalize Nembutsu, will meet their end in the best of circumstances. That is, the purpose of welcoming Buddha Amitabha is to establish the rightly settled state of mind for birth in the Pure Land in the Nembutsu devotee's final moments.

Those who do not understand this simply think that Buddha Amitabha will come to welcome them if Nembutsu is recited with right mindedness at the time of death. They neither believe in the Essential Vow nor understand the meaning of the teaching of the Sutra.

Concerning the rightly settled state of mind for birth in the Pure Land in one's final moments, the Ch'eng-tsan-ching-t'u-ching (Sutra in Praise of the Pure Land) states, "Buddha Amitabha saves us with His compassion, fostering tranquility in our hearts." Through the merit of Nembutsu frequently recited in daily life, Buddha Amitabha is certain to come to take us to the Pure Land at our time of death. The Nembutsu practitioner will establish the rightly settled state of mind for Ojo when he sees Buddha Amitabha coming to welcome him.

Consequently, it is indeed a misguided person who perceives the daily practice of Nembutsu as meaningless and who does so merely for the acquisition of the rightly settled state of mind for birth in the Pure Land and the welcoming of Buddha Amitabha at the time of death.

It should be noted that those who believe in the Essential Vow never harbor doubts about their final moments. We must renew our dedication to Nembutsu which we are reciting today.

-----

The Ch'eng-tsan-ching-t'u-ching (Jp. Shosan Jodo-kyo, Sutra in Praise of the Pure Land) was translated by Hsuan-chuang (Xuanzang - Jp. Genjo) in 650. This is one of the Chinese translations of the Smaller Sutra.

This passage is based on quotations from the Ogo Taro Sanehide e tsukawasu gohenji (A Reply to Taro Sanehide in Ogo) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 24

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:58 pm

Day 24 - The Dominant Karmic Factor in Eliminating Evils

It is taught that one who commits the Five Grave Offenses, including killing one's father, killing one's mother, defiling the blood of the Buddha with evil thoughts, and destroying the harmony of the Sangha, should be destined to the hell of interminable pain and great suffering for infinite kalpas (eons) if he lacks repentance for even a moment.

However, if he repeats Namu Amida Butsu ten times under the guidance of a virtuous teacher at his time of death, each utterance will nullify his evil karma accumulated in the delusive worlds of the transmigration of birth-and-death for eight billion kalpas and assure him of Ojo.

For this reason, no matter how bad, every person, with ten recitations, or just a single utterance of Nembutsu, will attain birth in the Pure Land. It should be known that the attainment of Ojo becomes possible only by the power of the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Shonyo-bo e tsukawasu onfumi (A letter to Nun Shonyo-bo) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 24

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:10 pm

Day 24 Notes

I think it might be important to look into why Japanese Pure Land masters spend so much time talking about the 5 grave offenses. Rather than just ruminating over taking the purifying power of the Nembutsu to its logical conclusion, they were actually addressing real world concerns of that time. 2 of the 5 grave offenses regard killing one's parents. Additionally, filial piety (regard for one's parents) is listed as a guideline for Pure Land birth in at least one sutra. In Japan during the period of these Pure Land masters (especially Honen), droughts and famine were common. At such times, the elderly either willingly or unwillingly went to the mountains to die to relieve the burden on the younger generation. The tradition of Ubasute (taking the elderly to a remote place to die) was common enough that there are various spots (including a mountain) named for the practice. You could imagine that someone who left home to become a Buddhist renunciate might feel similar guilt over not being around to provide for one's parents in such times of hardship as well. In those times, Nembutsu was offered as a salve to help assuage the fears over repercussions for such acts. It's not a pretty thought, but in those times - when bodies were stacked over a meter high along the roadways in Kyoto - such things were a harsh reality.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 25

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:57 am

Day 25 - The Dominant Karmic Factor for Protection

Question:
When does one receive the protection of the light of Buddha Amitabha? Does one benefit in his daily life or at his time of death?

Answer:
The merit of protection by Buddha Amitabha is received in daily life. This is because one who is genuine in hi belief in birth in the Pure Land, holds no doubt and awaits the coming of Buddha Amitabha, is the Nembutsu devotee who embodies the Three-fold Devotional Heart.

The Meditation Sutra teaches that one who is of the Three-fold Devotional Heart will be born, with certainty, in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Buddha Amitabha casts the eighty-four thousand rays of His light of compassion upon one who is resolute in the attainment of his goal. He shines this light continually on the Nembutsu practitioner in daily life and up to the final moment of that person's life.

Accordingly, it is called the "vow in which Buddha Amitabha abandons no one."

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Nembutsu Ojo yogi-sho (Essential Discourse on Ojo through Nembutsu) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 26

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:20 am

Day 26 - Protection from Various Buddhas and Deities

All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten quarters, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Jp. Kannon-bosatsu), Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (Jp. Seishi-bosatsu), and countless other Bodhisattvas as well as Buddha Amitabha, surround one who is faithful to the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha and practices Nembutsu to attain birth in the Pure Land.

They are in his shadow day and night whether he is walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. They dispel evil spirits and deities which deceive him. They relieve him from any trouble inconsistent with reason and enable him to live in peace. They come to welcome him into the Land of Ultimate Bliss when his end arrives. Therefore, one who believes in Nembutsu and desires birth in the Pure Land need not pray to other Buddhas or deities or observe abstinence in order to ward off evil spirits.

Those who rely upon the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are always protected by the benevolence of the King of Deities and His attendant deities, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. How could any Buddha or deity torment you or deter you from your goal when the blessings of innumerable benevolent Buddhas and deities surround and protect you?

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Jodo Shu ryaku-sho (An Outline of the Essentials of Jodo Shu) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 27

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:10 am

Day 27 - A Burden is Lessened

The lessening of residual karma has its limits. An illness which one contracts in daily life cannot be overcome by prayers to various Buddhas and deities. If prayer healed and prolonged life there would be no illness or death.

However, the burden of one's karma is lessened by the compassionate power of Buddha Amitabha for those who are faithful in Nembutsu. This is called a "burden is lessened." Buddha Amitabha indeed protects one from an untimely accidental death. Whatever illness befalls the Nembutsu devotee, that misfortune is the result of residual karma. He should think that although he was supposed to receive a heavy burden, the compassionate power of Buddha Amitabha lessened the burden.

Buddha Amitabha eliminates our burden of evil karma and enables us to attain birth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the great religious goal. There is no reason not to believe that Buddha Amitabha can prolong our short life and lessen our illness in daily life.

Consequently, Master Shan-tao said that those whose faith in birth in the Pure Land in the next life and in the Essential Vow was less than profound would not enjoy the embrace and protection of celestial beings. While reciting Nembutsu we must arouse in ourselves profound faith, loathe this defiled world of suffering, and long for the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

-----

The results of wholesome or unwholesome deeds cultivated in one's previous lives of transmigration through birth-and-death.

This passage is based on quotations from the Jodo Shu ryaku-sho (An Outline of the Essentials of Jodo Shu) of the Wago Toroku (A Collection of the Teachings of Honen-shonin in Japanese)
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 27

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:16 am

Day 27 Notes

I may read this a little different than how it is written, but to me it is profound.
Some points:
1- The first paragraph directly refutes the criticism of magical thinking leveled at Pure Land practitioners.
2- The second paragraph talks about not meeting an untimely accidental death. If we practice Nembutsu, we are preparing for death, so if death comes it's not really unexpected or untimely. The karmic burden is reduced precisely because as Nembutsu practitioners we share in the infinite merits of Amitabha - as Honen says elsewhere it's through Nembutsu that we create this karmic connection.
3- The merits we share in can help us in our daily lives - but as paragraph 1 points out, there are some things we may not be able to escape.
4- Our reliance/faith is the important part.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by shaunc » Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:15 am

Thank you
Namu Amida Butsu.

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