Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

ItsRaining
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Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by ItsRaining » Fri Aug 25, 2017 11:02 am

Most of us practice simply chanting the Buddha's name but I'm also interested in the visualisation practices like that in the Meditation Sutra. This sutra has quite a lot of practices but the way to go about employing them seem a little more than "Visualise a Sun". Are there any more comprehensive instructions on the practice of visualisations?

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rory
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Sat Sep 02, 2017 1:15 am

ItsRaining wrote:Most of us practice simply chanting the Buddha's name but I'm also interested in the visualisation practices like that in the Meditation Sutra. This sutra has quite a lot of practices but the way to go about employing them seem a little more than "Visualise a Sun". Are there any more comprehensive instructions on the practice of visualisations?
Tendai Shu has a wealth of Pure Land visualization practices as well as esoteric ones. The person to ask about this is Rev. Jikai or you can try here:
https://www.tendai-usa.org/
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

ItsRaining
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by ItsRaining » Sat Sep 02, 2017 1:39 am

rory wrote:
ItsRaining wrote:Most of us practice simply chanting the Buddha's name but I'm also interested in the visualisation practices like that in the Meditation Sutra. This sutra has quite a lot of practices but the way to go about employing them seem a little more than "Visualise a Sun". Are there any more comprehensive instructions on the practice of visualisations?
Tendai Shu has a wealth of Pure Land visualization practices as well as esoteric ones. The person to ask about this is Rev. Jikai or you can try here:
https://www.tendai-usa.org/
gassho
Rory
Thanks! I'll look into it.

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:43 am

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this.

We started a Visualization Study group a while back, but it kind of fell off back in February. There are some cool resources on the thread:
https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=24559

There is also the Kannenbomon (THE MERIT OF THE SAMADHI OF CONTEMPLATION ON THE OCEAN-LIKE FIGURE OF AMIDA BUDDHA) from Shan-tao (3 pdfs):
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707004 ... /07KAN.pdf
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707053 ... /12HI2.pdf
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707072 ... /12KN3.pdf
(or 1 html link):
https://web.archive.org/web/20160522115 ... nbomon.htm

Shan-tao's Commentary on the Visualization Sutra is the authoritative text for most Pure Land schools, but it's not currently available in English translation. Another commentary on the Visualization Sutra is the one by Hui Yuan, it was the first one and very influential on Zhiyi Tientai:
https://smile.amazon.com/Dawn-Chinese-P ... 0791402983
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ItsRaining
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by ItsRaining » Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:00 am

Admin_PC wrote:Sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this.

We started a Visualization Study group a while back, but it kind of fell off back in February. There are some cool resources on the thread:
https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=24559

There is also the Kannenbomon (THE MERIT OF THE SAMADHI OF CONTEMPLATION ON THE OCEAN-LIKE FIGURE OF AMIDA BUDDHA) from Shan-tao (3 pdfs):
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707004 ... /07KAN.pdf
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707053 ... /12HI2.pdf
https://web.archive.org/web/20100707072 ... /12KN3.pdf
(or 1 html link):
https://web.archive.org/web/20160522115 ... nbomon.htm

Shan-tao's Commentary on the Visualization Sutra is the authoritative text for most Pure Land schools, but it's not currently available in English translation. Another commentary on the Visualization Sutra is the one by Hui Yuan, it was the first one and very influential on Zhiyi Tientai:
https://smile.amazon.com/Dawn-Chinese-P ... 0791402983
Google Books Preview
Thanks! I didn't expect Shan Tao would have written about visualisation practices, he seems to be portrayed as promoting pure other power a lot. Hui Yuan's commentary also sounds good. IRC his pureland seemed to involve much more meditating and trying to attain Pratyupanna Samadhi so I hope its got some good stuff in it.

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:42 pm

ItsRaining wrote:Thanks! I didn't expect Shan Tao would have written about visualisation practices, he seems to be portrayed as promoting pure other power a lot. Hui Yuan's commentary also sounds good. IRC his pureland seemed to involve much more meditating and trying to attain Pratyupanna Samadhi so I hope its got some good stuff in it.
Absolute Other Power as it is usually presented is really only associated with Shin, and arguably only modern Shin. For Honen & Shan Tao, Amitabha oriented practices with the goal of birth in the Pure Land are only effective because of Other Power. Shinran devotes an entire chapter of the Kyogyoshinsho to Nembutsu as the Right Practice, so the current Shin teaching that regular Nembutsu practice is a Self Powered act is a little... inconsistent imo.

Here's Shan Tao's take on Visualization from the preface of his Ojoraisan liturgy:
It is stated in the Prajnaparamita Sutra Expounded by Manjushri, "I wish to expound the Single-practice Samadhi. I only encourage you to dwell alone in a quiet place, concentrate on one Buddha without visualizing his countenance, and exclusively recite his name. Then, while in the recitative practice, you will be able to see Amida and all other Buddhas."

Question: Why do you teach me to recite the name exclusively instead of urging me to practice visualization? What is your intention?
Answer: Sentient beings have heavy karmic hindrances, the objects of contemplation are subtle but the contemplating mind is coarse, and their consciousness is agitated and their mind is distracted; therefore, it is difficult to accomplish contemplation.
For this reason, the Great Sage, out of compassion, straightforwardly encourages people to recite the name exclusively. Since the recitative practice is easy to follow, they can attain birth in the Buddha-land through continuous practice of it.

Question: Why do many objects appear when only one Buddha's name is recited? Is this not a mixing of the right object of practice and wrong ones and also a confusion of one and many objects?
Answer: Buddhas have attained the same enlightenment, and their forms are indistinguishable. Even if you visualize many Buddhas by concentrating on one Buddha, this does not create any breaching of the Great Principle, does it?
So for Shan-Tao the samadhi and the visions manifest naturally through recitation.

This was apparently true for Honen as well:
http://www.jsri.jp/English/Honen/WRITINGS/sanmai.html

It does make some logical sense though. These men knew the 3 Pure Land sutras. The images detailed in them would've been almost second nature considering how many times they read & recited them (especially the Shorter Sutra - which each was said to have recited many hundreds of times). Every Nembutsu would have had a mental association with these sutras - like a shorthand or a keyword referencing a much larger body of information. I don't think it's farfetched at all that the samadhi and the visions would arise almost effortlessly out of Nembutsu.

That being said, Shan Tao and Honen most assuredly had experience with practicing the visualizations as a separate practice, whether or not they experienced the samadhi as a direct result. Shan Tao wrote about them in the earlier work (Kannenbomon came first, Commentary on the Visualization Sutra was later, and Ojoraisan last).
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by PemaK » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:45 pm

Greetings!

I am New to the "Pure Land" Path as I was a follower of Tibetan Buddhism/Vajrayana/Mahayana, but one of the Admins posted a link regarding "Pure Land," practice and when I read this I thought of your query.

"34) Uninterrupted Recitation

Reciting the Buddha's name without interruption is visualization, and visualization is the cause of wisdom. The previous utterance of the Buddha's name has gone, the next one has not come, the present utterance is not static. (17) Practice visualization in this manner -- clearly but without attachment, without attachment but clearly. Proceeding continuously in this way, you will arrive at the truth that "everything is made from Mind alone" -- Buddha is Mind, Mind is Buddha."

Namu-Amida-Butsu :bow:

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rory
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:31 pm

Hmm, from my experience, I asked a few Jodo Shu priests about visualization and the most they had for me was to meditate on the Setting sun. I don't think Jodo Shu really teaches visualization practices. T

I do know Tendai Shu does; Genshin the famous Pure Land practitioner has this esoteric visualization that Rev. Jikai posed on fb:
https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=25310
And there are many many others...Tendai has a lot of visualization practices for Pure Land! It's kind of incredible but you need a Tendai Shu priest to instruct you. So here is a link to find a priest: https://www.tendai-usa.org/

And this is I think a problem of posting and doing visualization without a master, as a Pure Land master may not be doing those sutra visualizations the same way today. The sutra ones may be just impossible and there are practicable one that evolved later.

So for sure it exists, there is still a continuous tradition in Tendai Shu of Pure Land visualization (maybe some in Shingon too, don't know), you just need to connect.
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Rory
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Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Sun Dec 31, 2017 4:57 am

and check the Tendai thread where I added to the Esoteric Nembutsu thread with theses about Dohan and Kakuban great Shingon masters who wrote very influential works on esoteric Nembutsu. Really fascinating and practices that continue till today!
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Jingang
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Jingang » Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:46 pm

There's a fantastic guided visualisation meditation in the book Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth by Tulku Thondup

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by SonamTashi » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:18 am

Jingang wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:46 pm
There's a fantastic guided visualisation meditation in the book Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth by Tulku Thondup
^^This is a great book! I think it is a fantastic resource for not only Pure Land and Pure Land vizualizations from a Tibetan perspective, but for Tibetan Buddhism in general. It also contains very clear and understandable explanations of the dying process, bardos and karma. For example, I think it would serve as a good intro to those topics before someone tries to jump into reading the Bardo Thodol.

I can't say enough about this book! It contains practices that range in suitability from practices aimed at non-Buddhists interested in Buddhism to practices that require empowerment to practice. There is also an audio guide on the visualizations here.

This book and The Daily Practices of Western Pure Land Buddhism are two books that I've read recently that I feel like I'll have to read again at least once, if not many times, to really digest it all. They are both packed with information.
Formerly known as emceecombs

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Jingang
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Jingang » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:50 am

Me too. I've practiced pure land for a couple of years but this book answered so many questions. The visualisations have radically enhanced my practice and sense of connection to Amitabha.

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:54 pm

Jingang wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:46 pm
There's a fantastic guided visualisation meditation in the book Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth by Tulku Thondup
Maybe a silly question. Does this book teach a Tibetan-style sadhana of Amitabha or something else?

For the thread generally, there is this helpful advice from Cloudwater Zendo.

I'm also trying to summarize each visualization and provide some resources in this Reddit thread.

I'm working through the Contemplation Sutra visualizations, albeit very slowly.

Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith also includes some information on visualization:
2. Contemplation by Thought Recitation
This entails meditation on the features of Buddha Amitabha and His Land of Ultimate Bliss, in accordance with the Meditation Sutra. (The Sutra teaches a total of sixteen contemplations.) If this practice is perfected, the cultivator will always visualize the Pure Land before him. Whether his eyes are open or closed, his mind and thoughts are always coursing through the Pure Land. At the time of death, he is assured of rebirth there.

The virtues obtained through this method are immense and beyond imagination, but since the object of meditation is too profound and subtle, few practitioners can achieve it. This is because, in general, the method presents five difficulties: i) with dull capacities, one cannot easily succeed; ii) with a crude mind, one cannot easily succeed; iii) without knowing how to use expedients skillfully and flexibly during actual practice, one cannot easily succeed; iv) without the ability to remember images clearly, one cannot easily succeed; v) with low energy, one cannot easily succeed.

Very few can avoid all five pitfalls. Thus, upon reflection, this method also belongs to the category of difficult Dharma doors.
8. Lotus Blossom Recitation
As he recites, the practitioner contemplates the four colors of the lotus blossom (blue, yellow, red and white), one color after another without interruption. With his first utterance of the Buddha's name, he visualizes a huge, blue lotus blossom before his eyes, emitting a blue light. With the second utterance, he visualizes a yellow lotus blossom, emitting a yellow light. The third and fourth utterances are accompanied, respectively, by visualization of red and white lotus flowers, each color emitting its own light. He then repeats the visualization in the same sequence. As the flowers appear, he imagines a vague, lingering touch of pure, soft lotus fragrance.

Ancient masters devised this method because many practitioners in the T'ien T'ai School, despite using all available techniques, found it difficult to stem their errant thoughts. This method uses various forms and colors to focus mind and thought. These forms and colors take the marks of lotus blossoms in the Seven-Jewel Pond of the Pure Land ("one utterance of the Buddha's name, one jeweled lotus blossom"), because the lotus blossoms appearing in the Pure Land are inseparable from the lotus blossoms created by the virtues of the reciting mind. At the time of death, the mind-consciousness of the practitioner relies on these jeweled lotus blossoms to achieve rebirth in the Western Pure Land.

If the Pure Land cultivator should discover that he has an affinity with this technique, he should apply it and quickly enter the Wonderful Lotus Blossom Buddha Recitation Samadhi.

9. Recitation Amidst Light
This method was specially designed for certain practitioners who, as soon as they close their eyes to recite, suddenly see filthy forms and marks (ugly grimacing faces, for example), or dark forms and colors swirling around.

With this technique, the practitioner, while reciting the Buddha's name, visualizes himself seated in the middle of an immense, brilliant zone of light. Within that zone of light, when his mind has quieted down, the practitioner feels bright and refreshed. At that time, not only have deluded thoughts been annihilated, filthy, evil forms have also disappeared. After that, right thought is reinforced and samadhi is, in time, achieved.

Although this is a special expedient to destroy evil deluded marks, even the practitioner who is not in this predicament can apply this method to clear his mind and enter deeply into the Buddha Recitation Samadhi.

10. "Contemplation of the Buddha" Recitation
The methods of contemplation taught in the Meditation Sutra are very important and lead to immense virtue, but they are not a popular expedient for sentient beings in the Dharma-Ending Age. Nevertheless, since the ancient masters did not wish to see the special benefits of the meditation method go unused, they selected the easiest of the Sixteen Contemplations (Contemplation of Amitabha Buddha) and combined it with Oral Recitation to form the Contemplation of the Buddha-Oral Recitation technique. (Recitation is predominant, with contemplation of the Buddha occupying a subsidiary position.)

Each day, after reciting the Buddha's name, the practitioner reserves a special period of time for concentrating his mind and contemplating the Embellishments and Light of Amitabha Buddha. This method is derived from Contemplation Number Thirteen in the Meditation Sutra, in which Buddha Amitabha is visualized as some sixteen feet tall and of golden hue, standing at the edge of the Seven-Jewel Pond. If the practitioner cannot yet visualize the Seven-Jewel Pond, he can picture Amitabha Buddha standing before his eyes in a zone of light, in open space, the left hand held at chest level and forming the auspicious mudra, the right arm extending downward in the position of "welcoming and guiding."

To be successful in this meditation, it is necessary, at the outset, to visualize the body of Amitabha Buddha in general, then concentrate on the urna (white mark between the eyebrows). This mark is empty and transparent, like a white gem with eight facets ... The urna is the basic mark among the thirty-two auspicious marks of the Buddhas. When this visualization is successful, thanks to the affinity thus created between Amitabha Buddha and the practitioner, other marks will appear clearly, one after another. However, to ensure success, the practitioner should read through the Meditation Sutra memorizing the thirty-two auspicious marks of Buddha Amitabha before commencing his practice.

With this method, Buddha Recitation should be primary, because if the practitioner does not succeed at visualization, he can still fall back on recitation to ensure rebirth in the Pure Land. In truth, however, recitation aids visualization and visualization complements recitation, so that these two aspects work in parallel, leading the practitioner toward the desired goal.

Although this technique is somewhat more difficult than the others, if it can be accomplished successfully, immeasurable benefits are achieved. It is therefore described here at the very end, to foster diligent practice.
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Jingang » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:44 am

I wouldn't say it's exactly the same as any of those methods but shares a lot in common with all of them. The whole meditation is available on SoundCloud for free so give it a try and see how you find it.

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:38 am

Monlan; are you being taught by a monk, nun priest or longterm Pure Land practitioner who was also taught this? As you just can't do these visualizations or show others how to do them without being taught by somebody who knows what sh/e is doing.
gassho
Rory
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Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:20 pm

Hi, rory.
Can you help me understand where the issue is?

The monk at Cloudwater, Venerable Shih Ying-Fa, has been helping me with questions about the Contemplation Sutra visualizations. He hasn't indicated there's a problem for laypeople to use the sutra.

The other practices come from Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith, a book for laypeople. None require transmission since they're all based on sutra.

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:20 am

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:20 pm
Hi, rory.
Can you help me understand where the issue is?

The monk at Cloudwater, Venerable Shih Ying-Fa, has been helping me with questions about the Contemplation Sutra visualizations. He hasn't indicated there's a problem for laypeople to use the sutra.

The other practices come from Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith, a book for laypeople. None require transmission since they're all based on sutra.
Sure, it's not the super secret thing I'm concerned about but that sects that continue to do Pure Land visualization practices from the Sutra might be doing them in different ways, as I think the Sutra visualizations are just impossible to do as os, so I'm concerned you might be wasting your time. I checked Cloudwater and they're a new sect a combination of Zen and Shinshu, neither of which has visualization traditions. If you like I can ask my knowledgeable Tendai friends how this is done today.
I love Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith! what a great book; I guess I'd want to ask a Vientamese monk/nun for instructions on how to do them.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:34 am

rory wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:20 am
I checked Cloudwater and they're a new sect a combination of Zen and Shinshu, neither of which has visualization traditions.
According to their lineage they're Ch'an, which does have visualization traditions - though I know nothing of the lineage members.
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by rory » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:23 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:34 am
rory wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:20 am
I checked Cloudwater and they're a new sect a combination of Zen and Shinshu, neither of which has visualization traditions.
According to their lineage they're Ch'an, which does have visualization traditions - though I know nothing of the lineage members.
I didn't see that but, that's, to use the Japanese term Rinzai and they don't practice Pure Land as far as I know current head of this Cludwater group was trained in Shinshu where there is no visualization done at all. AdminPC you attended a Tiantai Vietnamese temple; did you learn any Pure Land vizualization practices?

I still will speak with my Tendai friends to find out ...
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:58 pm

From the Jodoshu perspective, Honen wrote in his Senchakushu that any of the visualizations of the Contemplation Sutra can lead to birth in the Pure Land, along with the other practices extolled in that sutra (such as cultivating the bodhi mind). One must of course still have faith and vows, and dedicate the merits to birth in that land.
The question is one of our capacities and which method is best suited for the most people, which of course is nembutsu.

I'm sorry to be slow, but I'm just not seeing the problem in contemplating Amitabha and his land in ways that supplement our faith, vows, and practice :shrug:

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