Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:20 am

As if in answer to my question, I just found this letter from Yin Kuang in "Pure Land Zen, Zen Pure Land."
Yin Kuang wrote:There are, in general, four methods of Pure Land practice: oral recitation (Holding the Name), contemplation of a Buddha image, Visualization (contemplation by thought) and True Mark Recitation.
Among the four methods, oral recitation has the broadest appeal. It is not only easy to practice, it does not lead to “demonic events.”
If you wish to practice the Visualization method, you should carefully read the Meditation Sutra and clearly understand such principles as “This Mind is the Buddha,” “If the mind is pure, the Buddha appears,” “All realms and states are Mind-Only, there should be no attachment to them.” Once you understand that realms and states do not come from the outside and avoid developing attachments to them, these states then become more sublime and the mind grows purer and more focussed. If you reach that point, the benefits of Visualization are significant.
On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with the realms visualized and have not comprehended the essence of the Dharma, but are over-eager to see [auspicious] realms, everything is delusion. Not only are you not in communion with the Buddhas, you even begin to create the causes of demonic events (hallucinate). This is because the more eager you are to see realms, the more agitated and deluded your mind becomes.

You should, therefore, take your capacities and circumstances into consideration and not aim for what is too lofty and beyond your reach – seeking benefits only to receive harm.
...
Therefore, the Great Sage [Buddha Sakyamuni] took pity and specifically recommended oral recitation because He feared that those who were not skillful in using their minds would be lost in demonic realms.
Cultivation through oral recitation is very easy. To achieve rebirth in the Pure Land, you need only ensure that singleminded thought follows singleminded thought. Moreover, utmost sincerity and earnestness are also wonderful methods to treat the deluded mind and demonic realms.
You should think this over carefully and strive with all your mental strength to cultivate.
The warning seems to be about misunderstanding the nature of the visualizations, which can lead to issues.

I don't want to discourage anybody from exploring ways to praise and contemplate Amitabha, but do be aware that visualization can present its own challenges. And that not all Pure Land schools recommend anything beyond the safest, most accessible method of reciting the name.

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

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:52 am

rory wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:23 pm
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.
Rinzai/Linchi (临济) is what Ven Ching Kung (Amitabha Society) was trained in. He literally entered the monkhood at Linchi temple at northern Yuanshan (北圆山临济寺). So yes, that school of Chan does train in Pure Land, as Chinese Buddhism is a bit more syncretic than the Japanese schools. The website says they have training in different Pure Land approaches, one of them being Shin, another being Chan. It looks as if Shin is their approach to faith and Chan is their approach to practice.
rory wrote: AdminPC you attended a Tiantai Vietnamese temple; did you learn any Pure Land vizualization practices?
None whatsoever. The head monk has said that he's familiar with the Diamond and Pure Land sutras (among many others), but his specialty remains the Lotus.

Even though it's the Visualization Sutra that has the most in-depth visualization practices, all 3 Pure Land sutras have built-in visualizations - the other 2 being named "the view/display of the Pure Land" (Sukhavativyuha). The descriptions in the Shorter Sutra are a lot easier for me to picture because the language is a bit more straightforward.

From what I've read, it really hasn't been that uncommon for people to study the sutras with commentaries (like Shantao's Kannenbomon or Hui Yuan's Kuan Ching) in order to learn & practice the visualizations - without direct step-by-step guidance by a teacher. In fact, the murals at Dunhuang and the paintings by Shantao could be seen as supporting this idea of self-study using available resources rather than a lot of interaction with a teacher. A teacher is probably required to get you started on the path, but I haven't seen too much that suggests that the practices require a bunch of continued guidance.

EDIT: Helpful reference
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
法然上人

Sentient Light
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Re: Are there any resources that teach visualisation practice?

Post by Sentient Light » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:09 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:52 am
Rinzai/Linchi (临济) is what Ven Ching Kung (Amitabha Society) was trained in. He literally entered the monkhood at Linchi temple at northern Yuanshan (北圆山临济寺). So yes, that school of Chan does train in Pure Land, as Chinese Buddhism is a bit more syncretic than the Japanese schools. The website says they have training in different Pure Land approaches, one of them being Shin, another being Chan. It looks as if Shin is their approach to faith and Chan is their approach to practice.
AFAIK, the vast majority of Pure Land traditions' monastic clergy is ordained through Linji Chan (or Lam Te in Vietnamese). Technically, in VN, most monastics are Lieu Quan, not Lam Te, but Lieu Quan is an offshoot of Lam Te that is designed to be more "domestic" and... well... nicer. lol. More lay-friendly. The Caodong lineage I don't think exists in VN anymore (if it ever did), and afaik in China, it is more of a single-practice tradition that doesn't really dip its toes into wide varieties of practice methods. And I think Pure Land through Tiantai is fairly rare these days.
Admin_PC wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:52 am
From what I've read, it really hasn't been that uncommon for people to study the sutras with commentaries (like Shantao's Kannenbomon or Hui Yuan's Kuan Ching) in order to learn & practice the visualizations - without direct step-by-step guidance by a teacher. In fact, the murals at Dunhuang and the paintings by Shantao could be seen as supporting this idea of self-study using available resources rather than a lot of interaction with a teacher. A teacher is probably required to get you started on the path, but I haven't seen too much that suggests that the practices require a bunch of continued guidance.
There's always talk of secret transmissions among the monastics, so I do think they practice some proper esoteric tantra-like stuff, but I've never really heard of it being taught to laity outside of Truc Lam Thien (which is not a Pure Land tradition). We're one of the traditions where contact with a teacher is largely unnecessary and most practice can be done at home alone, with some guidance here and there. Because it's Thien, there's this whole direct mind-to-mind transmission thing, but if you've gotten to that level with your teacher, it's not really uncommon for them to just give you a book and tell you to work through it, and then you just come back with questions in a few weeks (or even months). I think, in a lot of regards, Vietnamese people are pretty similar to westerners, particularly because there's so much encouragement on self-study (even in martial arts). It seems to me that there's much more focus on teaching the precepts and virtuous conduct as a support for recitation/meditation, than there is for meditation instruction itself. We're given these texts to read or these sets of instructions, we practice in the group with minimal guidance, and then we spend a LOT of time on precepts, virtue, merit-making, the perfections, the conduct of bodhisattvas, etc. If there's an obstacle arises in meditation, the first attempted remedy is to look at how committed you have been to the precepts.

Thich Phap Hoa said recently in a talk (paraphrasing/translating), "Students come to me asking about scattered thoughts when sitting, how they cannot hold Niem Phat in the mind. Everyone wants perfect concentration right away, but if you ask them if they practiced the vegetarian fast last new moon, it's always, 'Something came up, so I put it off till next month.' If you cannot even focus on fasting just four days out of the month, how can you hope to sit Thien? If you cannot be mindful of your virtue, how can you be mindful of the Buddha?"
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

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

Post by rory » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:17 pm

thank you both Sentient Light and Admin PC I've really learnt a lot :twothumbsup:
had no idea that Lin-Chi was now the principal lineage or what is going on in Vietnamese Buddhism, which is really interesting to learn about, hehe book Buddhists:) but it kind of makes sense to me now as the books that really helped me understand Buddhism and Pure Land were written by Vietnamese monks Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith I'm so grateful for their work in spreading the Dharma this way.
I didn't know about this as I belong to a Japanese lineage. Interestingly sectarianism, which has a bad name, has had the valuable effect in Japan of keeping schools and practices and art forms alive: such as esoteric practices which Tendai and Shingon imported directly from China that have died out under the T'ang persecution as well as as a variety of visualization practices for Pure Land and esoteric ones as well.

The Flower Garland (Huayan, Kegon) and Yogacara (San-lun, Hosso) are pretty moribund but they still exist in Japan and have a rich history of practices and philosophy as well.

I personally like the variety, Ch'an practice, zazen, never really worked for me but shikan does.
warm 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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