Teachings of Honen Volume 2

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 11

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:33 am

Day 11 Notes

In Japanese forms of Pure Land (Jodo Shu and Jodo Shin Shu), the common dedication of merit is:
願以此功徳平等施一切
同発菩提心往生安楽国

Pronounced:
がーんにしーくーどーくびょーどーせーいーっさーい
どーほつぼーだーいしーんおーじょーあーんらーっこーくー
GAN NI SHI KU DO KU BYO DO SE I- SSAI
DO HOTSU BO DAI SHIN O JO AN RA- KKOKU

Meaning:
May the merit accrued be equally transferred to all
That we may all generate bodhicitta and be born in the land of peace.

So to me, this 3rd mind also becomes a practice of generating bodhicitta; both explicitly (by mentioning bodhicitta) and implicitly (by dedicating all of one's merits equally to all).
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:43 pm

A bit late to the party, but this thread is full of wonderful teachings and reflections. Thank you for putting it together, PC!

Some thoughts I have on Day 1.
Honen wrote:There is no hope for trekking across the treacherous road, the Difficult Path of the Holy Gate.
Honen wrote:Only by the ship, the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha, are we able to cross the delusive ocean of the transmigration of birth-and-death to reach the shore of the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The teachings of the Holy or Difficult Gate and the Easy Gate can be misconstrued.

When I first heard about them, I thought it was unrealistic that nobody could use the Holy Gate to awaken in this lifetime. Here are some reflections since then.

First, enlightenment in Buddhism is specific: anuttarā-samyak-saṃbodhi. This means one is not reborn at all, whether in heavenly realms or the non-material realms associated with the subtlest states of concentration. Even the most wonderful heavens are still Samsara in that beings are born, die, and fall back into lower realms.

Reaching anuttarā-samyak-saṃbodhi, full and complete enlightenment, is not to be underestimated. The Pali Canon teaches about the four stages of Sotapanna (stream-enterer), Sakadagami (once-returner), Anāgāmi (non-returner), and Arahant. This means nothing less than the complete freedom from even subtle forms of: identity, attachment to rites and rituals, doubt, sensual desire, ill will, craving for prosperity, craving for existence in any form, conceit, restlessness, ignorance. Precious few of us could claim these attainments.

And the 10 Bodhisattva Bhūmi are the 10 stages on the Mahayana bodhisattva's path of training and awakening. They are no less rigorous. For example, one's patience is so perfected in the third Bhūmi that...
Hopkins, Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism wrote:even if someone...cuts from the body of this bodhisattva not just flesh but also bone, not in large sections but bit by bit, not continually but pausing in between, and not finishing in a short time but cutting over a long period, the bodhisattva would not get angry at the mutilator.
Can we claim such a thing?

To attain awakening through the Holy Gate, these are the kinds of realizations required to end cyclical rebirth.

Next, the average person's life is full of obstacles, external and internal. And even if great progress is made, we may be cut down by death in an instant. Upon rebirth, few remember their past lives. Although it's said progress is swifter due to the merit of Dharma practice from past lives, we still have to encounter the Dharma, believe in it, and practice all over again. This is like painting half a picture, setting it under a rock in the forest, hoping someone will come along someday, also be a painter, and finish the original image you had in mind. It's not technically impossible, but it is unlikely. That's why the process of full awakening is said to take an extremely long time.

We may be 1 day, 1 year, 1 lifetime, 100 lifetimes away from even the first Bhumi or Stage. Why take such a risk when there is the Easy Gate available to us, if we're so inclined?

So I've come to see the Easy Gate does not denigrate the Holy Gate or do away with it as a principle. But I noticed in my thinking at first, and elsewhere, that the sheer effort and scale of time involved in progressing through these stages over many lifetimes, especially as a householder, is often underestimated.

The advantages of the Pure Land specifically counteract the disadvantages of Samsara.

* Where Samsara is full of beings wracked by greed, hatred, and ignorance, the Pure Land is full of sages, srvakas at all stages, bodhisattvas, the excellent teachers Avalokiteshvara, Mahasthamaprapta, and Amitabha Buddha himself.

* Where the environment of Samsara is wracked with natural disaster and disease, even the trees and birds of the Pure Land proclaim the Dharma.

* Where life in Samsara may be cut down without warning, the life of those in the Pure Land is said to be limitless.

* Where sentient beings in Samsara can't remember their past lives, those in the Pure Land can and thus gain insight.

* Most serious of all: where beings in Samsara continually regress and fall into unfortunate rebirth, the Three Evil Realms do not exist in the Pure Land. That means any karma which would have led to such rebirths is neutralized.

So I don't see entering the Easy Gate as a criticism of the Holy Gate or the many wonderful practices of Buddhism.

It's more realizing the gravity of our situation and our limitations. We decide first to go to the Pure Land, which is easy to do, and then, in an ideal environment full of helpers and teachers, tackle the profound work of the Holy Gate there. Not to mention the Easy Gate has many advantages for the practitioner even in this world, which are explored some in the Benefits thread.

I hope that wasn't too long or lecturing. I wanted to explain my thought process in why I now embrace the Easy Gate :) Day 2 has some really meaty stuff too I'll try to get to soon.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Aug 21, 2017 4:19 pm

I agree with just about everything you wrote. I just tend to view the teachings on Mappo as people honestly looking at their own capacities, rather than ultimate statements on the capacities of everyone. I can't really speak on what other people are capable of or what circumstances they were born into. Perhaps there are people who can carry out the perfect activity of Mahabodhisattvas (such as described in the Lotus Sutra). I just know I'm not one of them. :)
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 12

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:12 am

Day 12 - White Path Between Two Rivers

In the past, the benevolent Prince Great Giver crossed ten thousand leagues of ocean and succeeded in obtaining from the Dragon King a magical gem, which was said to have the power of fulfilling every wish and desire of its possessor. At present, we have traversed the white path which lies between the river of water (greed) and the river of fire (anger) and have attained the magical gem called the "Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha."

It is said that Prince Great Giver lost his magical gem when the dragon gods had misgivings about the relinquished gem and wished it back in their possession. We practitioners of Nembutsu have also lost our faith in the Essential Vow because of the criticism of those who hold teachings and views different from our own.

It is further said that Prince Great Giver emptied the waters of the ocean with a sea shell in order to regain the magical gem. So impressed by the Prince, the six celestial beings in the realm of desire and the four meditative celestial beings in the realm of form helped the Prince succeed in emptying the ocean.

If practitioners of Nembutsu, like Prince Great Giver with his sea shell, try to with unshakable faith, dispose of the criticism of those who hold teachings and views different from theirs, all the Buddhas in the six quarters, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, will extend Their protective hands to enable the practitioners to achieve their goal.

-----

Great Giver = Maha-dana in Sanskrit; Daise-taishi in Japanese; one of the previous names of Buddha Sakyamuni when He performed the bodhisattva practice for the attainment of buddhahood. His story is recounted in the Commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra (Jp Daichido-ron), the Sutra of the Wise and the Ignorant (Jp Gengu-kyo), and also the Commentary on T'i-kuan's Four-fold Doctrines of the T'ien-t'ai School (Jp Tendai Shikyogi Shucchu).

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 32.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 12

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:14 am

Day 12 Notes

This one's actually pretty timely for me because of some other stuff going on elsewhere. Nice to know we got help. :)
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by shaunc » Tue Aug 22, 2017 5:39 am

Thanks for taking the time to do this for us.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:40 pm

shaunc wrote:Thanks for taking the time to do this for us.
Anytime. Sorry I haven't been more consistent. :)
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 10

Post by veggiepeace » Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:12 pm

Admin_PC wrote:Day 10 - The Profound Heart

According to Master Shan-tao, first, we must believe that we are karmically evil mortals; second, we must believe in the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha.

This is because if only belief in the Essential Vow without the premise that we are karmically evil mortals is taught, many people who desire birth in the Pure Land would become perplexed and doubtful. Although people recite the name of Buddha Amitabha as taught in the Essential Vow, if they reflect on their unwholesome passions of greed and anger and on their commitment of the Ten Transgressions or the violations of the Buddhist Precepts, they would become self-denigrating and begin to doubt the teaching of the Essential Vow. They would logically conclude that even though the Essential Vow taught that birth in the Pure Land would be possible through ten recitations or just a single utterance of Nembutsu, this Nembutsu is not meant for common people.

Foreseeing the misconceptions of people in the future, Master Shan-tao preached the above dual beliefs. He also clarified the premise that we are karmically evil mortals burdened by weighty unwholesome passions; however, if we believe implicitly in the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha and recite Nembutsu just once, Ojo is, with certainty, assured.

I, Honen, believe that this teaching of Master Shan-tao is truly noble.

-----

The 10 transgressions are:
1. Taking any form of life
2. Stealing
3. Committing adultery
4. Telling a lie
5. Duplicity
6. Slandering
7. Equivocation
8. Greed
9. Wrath
10. Perverted views

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 22

It means a lot to me to find that here, thanks for presenting!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering <3 (hope that's not too much ;-))
:anjali: Compassion will find Echoes in Actions

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 13

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 23, 2017 3:42 am

Day 13 - Unparalleled Bliss in the Dharma

Buddha Amitabha ended each of His forty-eight vows thus: "If, when I attain buddhahood, all sentient beings are not born in the Pure Land, I will not realize enlightenment."

Ten kalpas (eons) have elapsed since His attainment of buddhahood. It should be known that His Essential Vow was not made in vain. For this reason, if sentient beings recite His name, they will, with certainty, attain birth in the Pure Land. Should anyone fail to be born in the Pure Land, faith in His enlightenment will erod. Even in the age of the extinction of the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha), one who recites Nembutsu just once will still attain birth in the Pure Land.

Even the evil one, guilty of the Five Grave Offenses, is able to attain birth in the Pure Land by the repetition of ten Nembutsu. There is no doubt that we, who have been born in the period of the Three Treasures, who are not guilty of commitment of the Five Grave Offenses, will, with certainty, achieve birth in the Pure Land by the recitation of the name of Buddha Amitabha.

It is most felicitous that we have been blessed with the good fortune of karma which made possible our encounter with the Essential Vow. However, to be faithless is tantamount to not having had the encounter. Because our belief is implicit, our belief in the birth in the Pure Land through reciting Nembutsu should also be unshakable.

We must single-heartedly continue the recitation of Nembutsu, seek emancipation from the delusive worlds of the transmigration of birth-and-death, and attain birth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojyo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 25
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 14

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 23, 2017 3:57 pm

Day 14 - The Four Modes of Exercise

Question:
You have instructed us on the issue of faith for the attainment of birth in the Pure Land. What should we learn about practice for birth in the Pure Land?

Answer:
Practice should be based on the instruction of the Four Modes of Exercises for birth in the Pure Land.

The first mode is to exercise Nembutsu in infinity; the second mode is to exercise Nembutsu in reverence; the third mode is to exercise Nembutsu in continuity; and the fourth mode is to exercise Nembutsu in purity.

The first mode is to exercise Nembutsu in infinity. Master Shan-tao interpreted this thusly, "One should continue Nembutsu without resting until one draws his last breath."

The second mode is to exercise Nembutsu in reverence, which means that one should always be mindful of and revere the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha of the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

The third mode is to exercise Nembutsu in continuity, which is explained in the Hsi-fang-yao-chueh (Essentials for Birth in the West) as follows: "Continue to repeat Nembutsu and develop the heart for Ojo. At all times, direct your thoughts to Ojo."

The fourth mode is to exercise Nembutsu in purity, which is stated in the Essentials for Birth in the West: "Exclusively aspire birth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and worship Buddha Amitabha. Do not include practices other than Nembutsu.

In sum, what is essential for birth in the Pure Land is the daily recitation of Nembutsu."

-----

Essentials for Birth in the West: Saiho Yoketsu in Japanese, composed by K'uei-chi (Jp. Kiki, 632-682). The author encourages the reader to aspire birth in the Western Pure Land while answering the 14 questions posed by other schools.

This passage is based on quotations from the Yogi mondo (Dialogue on the Essentials of 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 14

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 23, 2017 4:13 pm

Day 14 Notes

I think the choice of translating the term as "Exercise" is interesting. The term "practice" usually implies some sort of goal (ie. "practice makes perfect"). "Exercise" on the other hand can either be goal-driven or not. An example of exercise without a goal would be those who approach daily exercise as similar to brushing their teeth - just something one does as part of their daily routine. Without the nuance of having a goal, the idea of Nembutsu as "Self Power" practice is diminished.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 15

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:25 am

Day 15 - Daily Exercise

Question:
Which recitation is more virtuous - to use a string of prayer beads while reciting sixty thousand, to a hundred thousand Nembutsu everyday; or to use the prayer beads with the deliberation and accomplish twenty to thirty thousand recitations?

Answer:
It is difficult for common people to set the number of Nembutsu to twenty or thirty thousand as a specific daily goal. It is, however, desirable to recite as many Nembutsu as possible on a daily basis. Setting a daily goal is to encourage people to continue to recite the name of Buddha Amitabha. Although a daily quota is not a requisite, one should always be mindful of the goal to recite as many Nembutsu as possible.

Without setting a goal in the number of Nembutsu recitations, one is prone to laziness. Therefore, a numerical goal serves as an incentive for continual practice.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 22
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:31 am

Day 15 - Notes

This passage reminded me of something that happened recently. A little while back I asked a Japanese Shin minister in Japan if it was common for followers of Shin to recite Nembutsu on a daily basis, or if it was even okay. That I wasn't sure if it was Self Power or not so I was confused. His answer was to quote Rennyo that we must spontaneously recite with gratitude.

To be perfectly honest, that answer was actually kind of disappointing. I was kind of expecting that answer, but I think the gratitude that Rennyo talks about can only come about when faith is firmly established. Until that sort of faith is firmly established, it's kind of confusing. I think I much prefer Honen's outlook - recite as much as you can and faith is the natural consequence.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 16

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:16 pm

Day 16 - A String of Prayer Beads

Question:
In the recitation of Nembutsu, should we always use a string of prayer beads?

Answer:
You must hold the prayer beads in your hand at all times. In song and dance there must be a beat to guide you in rhythm and timing. In the recitation of Nembutsu the prayer beads are considered to be the score which guides your tongue and hands. If you do not rid yourself of ignorance, illusory thoughts will arise.

This is like the relationship between a host and guests. When you hold the prayer beads your intention should not be the eradication of illusory thoughts but the counting of the number of recitations of Nembutsu. Therefore, Nembutsu is the host, and illusory thoughts are the guests. The guests are free to come and go; however, one should not entertain illusory thoughts while reciting Nembutsu.

You would be terribly misguided should you be holding the prayer beads and uttering slander simultaneously.

-----

This passage is based on quotations from the Todai-ji ju mondo (Dialogue on Ten Issues at Todai-ji Temple) 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 16

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:22 pm

Day 16 Notes:

Wasn't really expecting this one, but it kind of gives me inspiration to wear my wrist mala daily. Lately, it's been hard to find time to practice, especially formally. Wrist mala may be the way to go.
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 17

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:10 am

Day 17 - One Million Recitations of Nembutsu

There is no reference to One Million Recitations of Nembutsu in the Essential Vow of Buddha Amitabha. It is, however, taught in the Smaller Sutra that one who repeats Nembutsu one day, two days, through seven days, will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Therefore, we should strive toward the seven-day recitation of Nembutsu. A Pure Land master deemed seven days as the requisite length of time for one million repetitions.

One Million Recitations of Nembutsu in seven days are the ideal; however, if this is impossible one may take eight days or nine days. This is not to be construed to mean that birth in the Pure Land is impossible if one does not achieve One Million Recitations of Nembutsu. Birth in the Pure Land is still possible by just a single utterance, or ten repetitions of Nembutsu.

Out of the elation experienced in the knowledge that birth in the Pure Land is possible with one, or ten, Nembutsu, grows the joy of the merit of the recitation of One Million Recitations of Nembutsu.

-----

The service of one million recitations of Nembutsu is performed in two ways: an individual recites one million Nembutsu in seven days to ten days; or a number of people recite a total of one million Nembutsu together. The tradition of multiple Nembutsu repetitions became popular in Japan especially after the Heian period (794-1185).

This passage is based on quotations from the Honen-shonin Gyojo-ezu (An Illustrated Biography of Honen-shonin), Chapter 23
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 17

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:12 am

Day 17 Notes

Something about this passage reminds me of the Mahatma Gandhi quote:
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever."

In other words:
"Have faith that your last utterance would be enough if you died tomorrow.
Keep on reciting continuously, forever."
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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 16

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:38 pm

Admin_PC wrote:Day 16 Notes:

Wasn't really expecting this one, but it kind of gives me inspiration to wear my wrist mala daily. Lately, it's been hard to find time to practice, especially formally. Wrist mala may be the way to go.
It's very helpful. I don't have a numeric goal of daily recitations, since the two-ring nenju is hard for me to use with my job.
But a simple 108-bead mala both reminds me to recite whenever I notice it. It helps keep recitation going as a tactile support.

I tend to take mine off my wrist and start using it to support nembutsu in situations where I might be easily distracted, such as walking in public, going to the store, or eating a meal.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2 - Day 17

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:07 am

Admin_PC wrote:Day 17 - One Million Recitations of Nembutsu
I find the dynamic interesting, between one and many nembutsu.

Honen presents the two as follows:
There is a person who takes up recitation early in life and accumulates a large number over many years: this one is born in the Pure Land.
There is another person who hears about the Pure Land on the verge of death, arouses aspiration for birth there, and says a single nembutsu: this one is born in the Pure Land, too.
That both equally are born is the splendid, unparalleled benefit of this practice.
It is quite clear that "one" versus "many" is in reference to one's time left alive.

However, the lower limit of "one nembutsu" was sometimes interpreted to mean "only once calling".
As I understand it, this doctrine taught that someone only needs to say a single nembutsu, in total.
This could also be called "first calling": the first time you say nembutsu is already proof of your birth in the Pure Land, so any other practice is superfluous, even more nembutsu.
The "first/once calling" view persists even today, e.g. in some forms of Shin.

Honen strongly rebuked such an idea. For instance, he said, "If the recitation of nembutsu ceases, upon what would Amida Buddha shine his light?"
I interpret this as showing the connection between continuous nembutsu and aspiration for birth in the Pure Land.

Aspiration for birth is a desire to go to Amitabha's Land and not remain mired in suffering.
A desire not to remain mired in suffering is a desire to remember Amitabha instead of our usual endless thoughts and fantasies.
Aiming to remember Amitabha, we therefore think of him often.
Thinking of Amitahba often, we say his name again and again.
Whether this results in a specific number of recitations per day is not the point; the aspiration is.
How will you end up in Paris if you hardly ever think of going there?
The idea is further explained in Honen's writings on the Three Minds.

Once-calling is an interesting topic that might merit its own thread, since it bears on the nature of nembutsu versus our thoughts and feelings about nembutsu.

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Re: Teachings of Honen Volume 2

Post by shaunc » Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:56 pm

I suppose this topic is where some of the pureland schools disagree. Some will say that one nembutsu said with faith and aspiration is enough other schools encourage their followers to say the nembutsu continually.
Personally I like to say the nembutsu a few times, a few times a day and I find that this keeps the Buddha's teachings in my mind.
Namu Amida Butsu

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