Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

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Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Zhen Li » Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:15 am

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and generally can agree with about 95% of what Shantao and Honen claim regarding the Pure Land. However, there are a few things that I found harder to accept in their writings, and I was wondering if anyone would like to further clarify these points in case I misunderstood them.

As disclosure, while I am not currently a member of a Jodo Shinshu temple, I regularly attend one and I have considered joining recently. Even despite these differences, I think I would be inclined to join regardless, but would likely not consider ordination in that tradition (or would not be eligible due to doctrinal divergence). I have until now been essentially a general Mahayana practitioner. My aspiration for many years after this life has been rebirth in Sukhavati, but I have continued to practice other Mahayana practices as well.

Essentially, I have been reading through Honen's Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shu, which is also largely a re-presentation of Shantao's thought. While I accept most of Honen and Shantao's claims, the following I found hard to accept:

1. Chapter 2 -- The Right and Miscellaneous Practices: Here it seems to me that Shantao is over-emphasizing the amount of focus on the Nembutsu that the sutra is requiring of the practitioner which leads him to suggest the rejection of all other practices. The emphasis on the name is indeed important, but the rejection, even of the other practices listed as being requisites for birth in the highest of the highest grade, etc, is really not supported by the sutra. The whole category of "miscellaneous practices" is not found in the sutra. My feeling is that Shantao is reading too much into the text here--we should take the sutra for its word instead of for Shantao's word, i.e. it is better to build stupas and singlemindedly recall the Buddha than only the latter.

2. Chapter 6 -- The Nembutsu Alone Will Remain: This seems to be another instance of reading too much into the text. The text says that the sutra alone will remain for another hundred years. Even if the primary practice suggested by the sutra is the nembutsu, that dosen't mean the nembutsu only, it means the sutra (again, the text of the sutra should have primacy over commentary). Honen here even suggests that the other practices in the sutra will disappear and only the nembutsu will remain, but it seems clear to me that if the whole sutra survives, then it is perfectly conceivable that the other Pure Land practices will remain.

3. Chapter 11 -- The Nembutsu Practice is Praised Above the Miscellaneous Practices: Because the practitioner who thinks of the Buddha is called a white lotus among his fellows, Shantao takes this to mean that the practitioner of the Nembutsu (by which he means reciter of the Name) is the supreme practice among all. Again, this seems to be hyperbole. Yes, if you successfully follow a practice that will lead you to Sukhavati you will definitely be like a White Lotus among your fellows, but the sutra is not saying this is the supreme practice above all others: by this logic, every other sutra, which praises its own practice and practitioners, can be taken in the same way--this is just what sutras do, and we have to be careful about rejecting the rest of the Dharma just because one sutra contains self-praise.

Incidentally, I found the same kind of induction hard to accept with Shinran's claim in Chapter 1 of the Kyogyoshinsho that the Buddha appeared only in order to teach the Nembutsu to beings just because he had a sublime smile and Ananda asked him about it. If this is an indication of the supreme practice, then what about all the other times Ananda asked the Buddha about his smile such as the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra? These kinds of statements and incidents are common in the Sutras, but I don't think they should be taken as the Buddha intending us to engage in single-practice.

4. Chapter 12 -- Only the Nembutsu was Transmtited to Ananda: I think when I got to this section, I was really beginning to have my doubts in Shantao and Honen, since they are claiming that the Buddha is not entrusting practices other than the Nembutsu. This is not at all what the entrustment passage at the end of the contemplation sutra is saying. Directly preceding that passage the Buddha clearly entrusts the entire text of the sutra AND the visualisation samadhi that it went to such length to teach us and which we should certainly practice. Holding fast (持, upholding, maintaining) to the words of the sutra is the same as holding fast to Amitayus' name. This doesn't mean practice only chanting of the name (or, such an important point would be clearly stated somewhere in the sutra). It means that upholding the sutra is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus. This doesn't even mean that practicing the samadhi, etc, is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus, but upholding the sutra is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus. This is just like what many sutras do when they praise their own maintenance and propagation. Upholding the Perfection of Wisdom is upholding the Mother of all Buddhas, etc. Pancaraksa texts are similar: text = Buddha/goddess. The Amitayurdhyana Sutra is the body of Amitayus.

So, in short, I think any reasonable Mahayanist should aspire for birth in Sukhavati. However, I don't believe the sutras support the claim that one ought to abandon other practices in order to get there. I would think that if one truly has bodhicitta, one would continue cultivating as best as one can, even in the Decline of the Dharma Age. For some who don't find other practices interesting, this might mean only practicing nembutsu, but for others, this may involve upholding a myriad of other practices. However, the requirements for entering Sukhavati according the sutras are not steep, and it is an easy path. Once one has met them, I don't necessarily think one ought to have doubts about one's birth, one should be confident that Amitabha Buddha has embraced you. One of the advantages of the Pure Land path is just that: one can overcome that anxiety regarding rebirth. After we have met the requirements for birth, I think it is worthwhile continuing to dedicate our merit to birth in the Pure Land and to pay homage to Amitabha Buddha. However, we should continue to practice the rest of the path here, as we will there, if we are able. In short, what I am essentially objecting to is the rejection of, or denigration of, other practices or practitioners, or any form of anti-intellectualism or anti-practitionerism. Rejecting parts of the Dharma may be more severe than we expect and I wouldn't want anyone to do that.

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Admin_PC » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:13 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:15 am
1. Chapter 2 -- The Right and Miscellaneous Practices: Here it seems to me that Shantao is over-emphasizing the amount of focus on the Nembutsu that the sutra is requiring of the practitioner which leads him to suggest the rejection of all other practices. The emphasis on the name is indeed important, but the rejection, even of the other practices listed as being requisites for birth in the highest of the highest grade, etc, is really not supported by the sutra. The whole category of "miscellaneous practices" is not found in the sutra. My feeling is that Shantao is reading too much into the text here--we should take the sutra for its word instead of for Shantao's word, i.e. it is better to build stupas and singlemindedly recall the Buddha than only the latter.
Personally, I believe the sutra says the exact opposite of what you're saying here. But then, a lot of interpretation is based on how one reads the document(s).

There's a statement at the beginning of the grades of rebirth that says:
The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Sentient beings reborn in the Western Pure Land are classified into nine grades. Those who wish to achieve a high rebirth in the high rank in that land must invoke three minds in order to succeed. What are these three? First, an earnest mind; second, a profound mind; and third, a mind wishing for rebirth in the Pure Land as one transfers one’s merits to other sentient beings. Those with these three minds will definitely be reborn in that land.
Additional requirements are listed later in a section describing a set of requirements that are an alternative to the 3 minds. Erecting stupas is only mentioned in the Larger Sutra - as something to do in order to achieve birth in the middle grade. It's listed along with activating bodhicitta & a wish for birth in the Pure Land - but no mention of Nembutsu/Thinking of Amida. Erecting stupas isn't even mentioned in the Visualization Sutra. It is also not mentioned at all in the Smaller Sutra.

Truth be told, Shantao's liturgy has more aspects than just Nembutsu. Honen followed Shantao's liturgy while alive and his school uses a stripped-down version of it. The liturgy is more than just Nembutsu, it includes the other 5 practices considered "Right Practices", however stupa building is not among them.

I think most of this boils down to what one considers the "main point" of various teachings. Also, It's important to point out that for Shantao and Honen, the Visualization Sutra was a primary teaching. The common thread throughout the 3 main Pure Land sutras is "thinking of Buddha" (literal translation of Nembutsu) - they see it as vocalization because of the statement in the Smaller Sutra about "holding the name", the statements in the Larger Sutra about "hear my name", and the statement in the Visualization Sutra about reciting the name if one cannot concentrate.
Zhen Li wrote:2. Chapter 6 -- The Nembutsu Alone Will Remain: This seems to be another instance of reading too much into the text. The text says that the sutra alone will remain for another hundred years. Even if the primary practice suggested by the sutra is the nembutsu, that dosen't mean the nembutsu only, it means the sutra (again, the text of the sutra should have primacy over commentary). Honen here even suggests that the other practices in the sutra will disappear and only the nembutsu will remain, but it seems clear to me that if the whole sutra survives, then it is perfectly conceivable that the other Pure Land practices will remain.
This may be a fair claim, but I believe the Honen's statement is based on either another sutra or commentary. If the whole purpose of the Larger sutra is the 18th Vow (which, according to Shantao, Honen, and many others it is), then it is a fair statement to say that the Nembutsu alone will remain. The fact that thinking of the Buddha (holding to his name, etc) is the primary/essential practice found in all 3 Pure Land sutras supports this idea.
Zhen Li wrote:3. Chapter 11 -- The Nembutsu Practice is Praised Above the Miscellaneous Practices: Because the practitioner who thinks of the Buddha is called a white lotus among his fellows, Shantao takes this to mean that the practitioner of the Nembutsu (by which he means reciter of the Name) is the supreme practice among all. Again, this seems to be hyperbole. Yes, if you successfully follow a practice that will lead you to Sukhavati you will definitely be like a White Lotus among your fellows, but the sutra is not saying this is the supreme practice above all others: by this logic, every other sutra, which praises its own practice and practitioners, can be taken in the same way--this is just what sutras do, and we have to be careful about rejecting the rest of the Dharma just because one sutra contains self-praise.
Thinking of the Buddha is listed in all 3 Pure Land sutras. It is the running theme of the Pure Land sutras as I pointed out above. After spending a long time with the sutras, I really have a hard time seeing how one could think that other practices are even recommended by them - the benefits of all other practices are ancillary according to the words of the sutras themselves. This statement is a bit of hyperbole for sure, but the people who are compared with lotus flowers in the larger sutra are the Bodhisattvas from the Pure Land. If one is surely to achieve birth through the primary practice listed in all 3 Pure Land sutras, then one will be one of these Bodhisattvas. If one becomes such a Bodhisattva by another method, then one would still be like a white lotus. Chances are; though, that such a method would require a lot more of the practitioner than thinking of a Buddha with a wish to be reborn in his land.
Zhen Li wrote:Incidentally, I found the same kind of induction hard to accept with Shinran's claim in Chapter 1 of the Kyogyoshinsho that the Buddha appeared only in order to teach the Nembutsu to beings just because he had a sublime smile and Ananda asked him about it. If this is an indication of the supreme practice, then what about all the other times Ananda asked the Buddha about his smile such as the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra? These kinds of statements and incidents are common in the Sutras, but I don't think they should be taken as the Buddha intending us to engage in single-practice.
It wasn't just a smile, it was a radiance. The Nibbana Sutta in the Pali makes a similar statement. The reason for the radiance isn't explicitly single practice, but:
The Buddha said, “Very good! Ānanda, your question is opportune. You have developed profound wisdom and truly wonderful eloquence and, out of compassion for sentient beings, you wisely ask about this meaning.

“The Tathāgata, out of inexhaustible great compassion for sentient beings in the Three Realms of Existence, has appeared in the world to expound the teachings for attaining bodhi, to rescue sentient beings, and to give them true benefits. Like an udumbara flower, the auspicious, wonderful flower that appears only once in a long while, He is hard to encounter in innumerable koṭis of kalpas. What you ask now will greatly benefit and transform all gods and humans.
He's saying that the teaching in the Larger Sutra is special because it benefits sentient beings. Any teaching can be special if it benefits a great number of sentient beings. Benefiting sentient beings is the whole reason a Buddha appears in the world and he's saying in no uncertain terms that this sutra contains teachings for such benefits. The thesis of the Larger Sutra; according to the words of the sutra itself, as well as masters such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Bodhiruci, Tanluan, Taocho, Shantao, Honen, Shinran, etc, is that thinking of Amida with a wish for birth in the Pure Land is the guaranteed method for birth in the Pure Land.
Zhen Li wrote:4. Chapter 12 -- Only the Nembutsu was Transmtited to Ananda: I think when I got to this section, I was really beginning to have my doubts in Shantao and Honen, since they are claiming that the Buddha is not entrusting practices other than the Nembutsu. This is not at all what the entrustment passage at the end of the contemplation sutra is saying. Directly preceding that passage the Buddha clearly entrusts the entire text of the sutra AND the visualisation samadhi that it went to such length to teach us and which we should certainly practice. Holding fast (持, upholding, maintaining) to the words of the sutra is the same as holding fast to Amitayus' name. This doesn't mean practice only chanting of the name (or, such an important point would be clearly stated somewhere in the sutra). It means that upholding the sutra is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus. This doesn't even mean that practicing the samadhi, etc, is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus, but upholding the sutra is the same as upholding the name of Amitayus. This is just like what many sutras do when they praise their own maintenance and propagation. Upholding the Perfection of Wisdom is upholding the Mother of all Buddhas, etc. Pancaraksa texts are similar: text = Buddha/goddess. The Amitayurdhyana Sutra is the body of Amitayus.
Again, I don't even see how you come to the conclusion that other practices are encouraged by the sutras. Half of the practices in the Visualization Sutra don't lead to birth in the Pure Land, according to the words of the sutra itself! Holding to the name of Amitayus is explicitly listed in 2 of the 3 sutras and directly inferred by the 3rd! Incidentally, "upholding the name" has a connotation in the English that is just not present in the Chinese. In English upholding someone's name or reputation means trying to live up to their standards. We're not expected to act like Buddhas, that would be beyond most people's reach. This practice of holding to the name is explicitly listed as a method of thinking of a Buddha, which leads to its own particular Samadhi. Honen followed the words of Shantao, because Shantao reached "Thinking of Buddhas Samadhi" himself and because Shantao's teachings led Honen to his own experience of "Thinking of Buddhas Samadhi".

Pure Land is a Dharma door. In every particular Dharma door, certain methods are held as primary. I think a lot of your issues stem from A. not agreeing with the thesis of the 3 sutras and B. the language used when identifying the primary method of the Dharma door.
Zhen Li wrote:So, in short, I think any reasonable Mahayanist should aspire for birth in Sukhavati. However, I don't believe the sutras support the claim that one ought to abandon other practices in order to get there.
I think this wording is particularly dangerous. The wording used by Honen is "put them aside for a while". Honen was fully aware that one would re-engage with such practices as a Bodhisattva in the Pure Land, he wrote 4 commentaries on Genshin's Ojoyoshu, which talks at length about such practices. The point I think you're missing is a matter of priority. Honen & Shantao never really gave up those other practices. They merely prioritized Nembutsu/Nianfo over everything else. If your goal is for birth in the Pure Land, then it makes sense to prioritize what gets you there above everything else. If you think other things are required to get you to the Pure Land, then you're not in line with the Pure Land sutras, plain and simple. As mentioned above, they had results with Nembutsu, so it was their primary form of practice. I find it interesting that breath meditation as a primary form of practice is rarely criticized, but as soon as someone mentions recitation as a primary form of practice, there's suddenly all these additional practice requirements that come into play.
Zhen Li wrote:I would think that if one truly has bodhicitta, one would continue cultivating as best as one can, even in the Decline of the Dharma Age.
There's a lot of literature from Shantao, Honen, and Shinran discussing how faith through nembutsu causes a change in the practitioner. Shinran makes the thesis that bodhicitta is received through such faith and manifests naturally as compassionate activity. For all those masters, it wasn't license to do evil, but a matter of prioritizing Nembutsu and letting compassionate activity manifest naturally from that.
Zhen Li wrote:In short, what I am essentially objecting to is the rejection of, or denigration of, other practices or practitioners, or any form of anti-intellectualism or anti-practitionerism. Rejecting parts of the Dharma may be more severe than we expect and I wouldn't want anyone to do that.
Seriously, Honen and Shantao make tons of statements warning against such denigration. Honen wasn't anti-practice. He was anti-intellectual in the sense of over-thinking the practice or being drawn to debates, but on the other he also called other sutras "wonderful". He talked against people being lazy or thinking they could perform evil because of the Vow. He quoted many sutras in his writings. Shinran did as well.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by rory » Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:46 am

Such an interesting discussion. I was taught by a Jodo monk and attended a Shinshu temple, I have so much to be grateful for and am very appreciative, but for me I never could agree that vocal Nenbutsu was the supreme way, I felt drawn to early strains of Pure Land that to engage in many Mahayana practices: intellectual study of Huayan and Tiantai philosophy, devotion to Kannon, meditation, visualization practices, etc I find Tendai personally more congenial for me.

Right now I'm going through Robert Rhodes' Genshin's Ojoyoushu and the Contruction of Pure Land Discourse in Heian Japan And of course for Genshin, contemplation was key. We seem to forget that this was the central practice and Rhodes translates some very interesting Pure Land contemplations. At the same time the practice of Nenbutsu really developed on Mt. Koya, it's important to realize that before the Kamakura period, Japanese Pure Land was a cross sect movement, it was popular across all sects and such great masters as Kakuban developed esoteric Nenbutsu, it's really a fascinating topic and so deep.

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Zhen Li » Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:06 am

rory wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:46 am
Such an interesting discussion. I was taught by a Jodo monk and attended a Shinshu temple, I have so much to be grateful for and am very appreciative, but for me I never could agree that vocal Nenbutsu was the supreme way, I felt drawn to early strains of Pure Land that to engage in many Mahayana practices: intellectual study of Huayan and Tiantai philosophy, devotion to Kannon, meditation, visualization practices, etc I find Tendai personally more congenial for me.

Right now I'm going through Robert Rhodes' Genshin's Ojoyoushu and the Contruction of Pure Land Discourse in Heian Japan And of course for Genshin, contemplation was key. We seem to forget that this was the central practice and Rhodes translates some very interesting Pure Land contemplations. At the same time the practice of Nenbutsu really developed on Mt. Koya, it's important to realize that before the Kamakura period, Japanese Pure Land was a cross sect movement, it was popular across all sects and such great masters as Kakuban developed esoteric Nenbutsu, it's really a fascinating topic and so deep.

gassho
Rory
Thank you for mentioning these Rory. I would love to read Genshin's work, even through a secondary source. I definitely am committed to keeping up a nembutsu practice, but perhaps I am closer doctrinally to the Tendai position. We'll see.
Admin_PC wrote:Additional requirements are listed later in a section describing a set of requirements that are an alternative to the 3 minds. Erecting stupas is only mentioned in the Larger Sutra - as something to do in order to achieve birth in the middle grade. It's listed along with activating bodhicitta & a wish for birth in the Pure Land - but no mention of Nembutsu/Thinking of Amida. Erecting stupas isn't even mentioned in the Visualization Sutra. It is also not mentioned at all in the Smaller Sutra.

Truth be told, Shantao's liturgy has more aspects than just Nembutsu. Honen followed Shantao's liturgy while alive and his school uses a stripped-down version of it. The liturgy is more than just Nembutsu, it includes the other 5 practices considered "Right Practices", however stupa building is not among them.

I think most of this boils down to what one considers the "main point" of various teachings. Also, It's important to point out that for Shantao and Honen, the Visualization Sutra was a primary teaching. The common thread throughout the 3 main Pure Land sutras is "thinking of Buddha" (literal translation of Nembutsu) - they see it as vocalization because of the statement in the Smaller Sutra about "holding the name", the statements in the Larger Sutra about "hear my name", and the statement in the Visualization Sutra about reciting the name if one cannot concentrate.
Thanks for your comments Admin. Actually, I only mentioned building stupas as one example of the "sundry/miscellaneous" practices. I think the core of what I am trying to suggest is that I don't see the sutra as suggesting the disposal of the sundry practices in favour of the nembutsu. It would be best, in my understanding, to engage in "sundry" practices in addition to the nembutsu. However, I think when we are talking about the deeper level of Amida being dharmakaya, then we can begin to talk about the non-necessity of varieties of practice and conceptuality--I interpret Shinran doing this at many points, but as I read Honen, he is not going to that level but is talking quite practically about the surface level practices one should or shouldn't do.
Admin_PC wrote:This may be a fair claim, but I believe the Honen's statement is based on either another sutra or commentary. If the whole purpose of the Larger sutra is the 18th Vow (which, according to Shantao, Honen, and many others it is), then it is a fair statement to say that the Nembutsu alone will remain. The fact that thinking of the Buddha (holding to his name, etc) is the primary/essential practice found in all 3 Pure Land sutras supports this idea.
Yes, Honen is relying on Shantao if I recall correctly. I still think this is a stretch. For example, we can say that the essence of the practice of the Astasahasrika is patience towards the non-arising of all dharmas. However, this doesn't mean on a practical level that the practice of patience towards the non-arising of all dharmas stands in for the whole sutra. Though, perhaps on a symbolic/semiotic level it does. But again, I feel like Honen or Shantao are not talking on that level. I think they like to keep things very practical.
Admin_PC wrote:Thinking of the Buddha is listed in all 3 Pure Land sutras. It is the running theme of the Pure Land sutras as I pointed out above. After spending a long time with the sutras, I really have a hard time seeing how one could think that other practices are even recommended by them - the benefits of all other practices are ancillary according to the words of the sutras themselves. This statement is a bit of hyperbole for sure, but the people who are compared with lotus flowers in the larger sutra are the Bodhisattvas from the Pure Land. If one is surely to achieve birth through the primary practice listed in all 3 Pure Land sutras, then one will be one of these Bodhisattvas. If one becomes such a Bodhisattva by another method, then one would still be like a white lotus. Chances are; though, that such a method would require a lot more of the practitioner than thinking of a Buddha with a wish to be reborn in his land.
Of course, for the purposes of their line of reasoning, I think it makes sense for Shantao and Honen to make this claim, however, what is the supreme practice, when we are talking on the conventional and not the ultimate level, depends on the conditions of the practitioner, and it is not an absolute matter. Certainly, one might say that the practices of a 10th level bodhisattva in actualizing the Perfection of Wisdom are the supreme practices. For beings in this world, in mappo, the nembutsu is ideal. This is a different claim.
Admin_PC wrote:The thesis of the Larger Sutra; according to the words of the sutra itself, as well as masters such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Bodhiruci, Tanluan, Taocho, Shantao, Honen, Shinran, etc, is that thinking of Amida with a wish for birth in the Pure Land is the guaranteed method for birth in the Pure Land.
Certainly, but this is different from claiming a Buddha appears only in order to lead beings to the nembutsu. He teaches with skillful means according to the requirements of the hearer.
Admin_PC wrote:Incidentally, "upholding the name" has a connotation in the English that is just not present in the Chinese. In English upholding someone's name or reputation means trying to live up to their standards
The way this is used in other sutras really just means memorizing and practicing, then propagating.
Admin_PC wrote:Pure Land is a Dharma door. In every particular Dharma door, certain methods are held as primary. I think a lot of your issues stem from A. not agreeing with the thesis of the 3 sutras and B. the language used when identifying the primary method of the Dharma door.
My main issue is with the selective rejection of the Dharma.
Admin_PC wrote:If you think other things are required to get you to the Pure Land, then you're not in line with the Pure Land sutras, plain and simple.
This is not what I am claiming. What I am claiming is that one can continue the bodhisattva path in the present life, and pick up where one left off when one is reborn there. If one has true faith, practices the nembutsu, and dedicates merit to birth there, I don't think there needs to be anxiety about whether one will be born there while engaging in other bodhisattva cultivation.
Admin_PC wrote:There's a lot of literature from Shantao, Honen, and Shinran discussing how faith through nembutsu causes a change in the practitioner. Shinran makes the thesis that bodhicitta is received through such faith and manifests naturally as compassionate activity. For all those masters, it wasn't license to do evil, but a matter of prioritizing Nembutsu and letting compassionate activity manifest naturally from that.
I also have experienced change through practicing the nembutsu. But those other deeds, compassionate deeds, patient deeds, etc., are not the nembutsu. Practicing breath meditation is not the nembutsu. I think it can aid the nembutsu and vice versa, and this is just a practical observation based on my experience, but such a claim probably wouldn't be accepted by Jodo/Shin orthodoxy. I think the path is an interconnected and holistic affair. I think the nembutsu is an ideal practice, but I think it is also good to practice the rest of the path meanwhile if one wants. Admittedly, some people don't want to, and some people don't experience benefit: fair enough, for them, then the conditions are right for sole nembutsu. So, I think what it comes down to is just remembering the matter of skillful means; putting things in perspective, the nembutsu has its purpose, and other practices have their purpose. They bring benefit both here and in the hereafter, for both self and for other. So, I see no reason to reject other practices.

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by SonamTashi » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:47 am

I don't practice Jodo-Shu and am more of a general Mahayana practitioner, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I found this explanation of Honen's Senchaku process to be helpful. The chart really lays it out pretty simply. As Admin_PC mentioned, Honen didn't say to reject the Holy Path entirely, but to set it aside for later.

The chart and Honen's quotes seem to indicate that the practitioner takes up the Holy Path only upon rebirth in the Pure Land, and this seems to be what is tripping you up. Honestly, if that is the absolute case, then I can see why you might doubt it. I wrote along a similar train of thought here. I think what is really important to remember is that Honen's target audience was low-capacity practitioners. So if you think about it like that, it makes sense that Honen would recommend low-capacity practioners to set aside the Holy Path until they reach the Pure Land. It is skillful means. But what if you aren't a low-capacity practitioner? I mentioned this in my other post in the link, but I think it is fine for medium and high capacity practitioners to reintegrate the Holy Gate into their practice in this life.

BUT! it is important that you first go through the Senchaku process of setting the miscellaneous practices and Holy Gate aside until your faith is settled. The Senchaku process (and Shinjin) is "a method of self reflection that exposes ones capacities." After going through the Senchaku process and firm establishment of faith, you will be able to determine whether it is appropriate or necessary (for one's individual needs and capacities) to reintegrate the Holy Gate practices.

I think this process is necessary in order to be able to integrate the Easy Path and the Difficult Path effectively. You only reintegrate the other practices with the nembutsu upon establishing faith (and thus upon establishing your rebirth), because otherwise you might think (even subtly) that your other practices might be the cause of your rebirth in the Pure Land. Other misconceptions might make effective dual-practice ineffective as well, but if you go through this process then you can pick up the other practices later on without the misconceptions.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Zhen Li » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:28 pm

Thank you for the link SonamTashi. I was aware of the notion that the holy path would necessarily be taken up after birth in Sukhavati. This would be quite orthodox Pure Land understanding with the exception of Jodo Shinshu, who claim that birth in Pure Land is equivalent to nirvana (whether they mean directly or indirectly is of course another matter to consider).

Overall, your explanation accords with my understanding. However, your claim that Honen is writing to a certain target audience is not really one that I accept and is the crux of the matter. Honen only allowed his closest disciples to study and copy the Senchakushu, such as Bencho and Shinran. He is writing to other highly trained and educated ex-Tendai monks. If he were only writing for a low-capacity audience, then of course this would be an entirely different matter. As it is, Honen is definitely suggesting that the right path for this life is only the nembutsu and the holy path is something that only makes sense after birth in Sukhavati. The fact that he rejects holy path in this life, and only accepts auxiliary Pure Land practices actually does not solve this concern (the author of the text in the link seems to think this answers the concern of some of Honen's detractors).

I think what this is doing is underestimating the power of the nembutsu. It is not the case that one need to focus on the nembutsu only in this life in order to be born in Sukhavati. Birth is very simple to attain if you rely on the power of the vow (just have confidence in Amida!). One should both make sure one attains it and then practice as one can here as one would there (So, I agree with Honen here that focus on the nembutsu until one has the three minds is definitely worthwhile). Postponing only makes sense if you would rather study and practice only under a Buddha rather than rely on the sutras, kalyanamitras, and our dimmed faculties in mappo--a claim that I accept, but this is not what Honen is saying, for him, it is not a matter of preference, but of right and wrong practice (a distinction not found in the sutras).

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:44 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:06 am
Thanks for your comments Admin. Actually, I only mentioned building stupas as one example of the "sundry/miscellaneous" practices. I think the core of what I am trying to suggest is that I don't see the sutra as suggesting the disposal of the sundry practices in favour of the nembutsu. It would be best, in my understanding, to engage in "sundry" practices in addition to the nembutsu.

Again, I think you've totally missed the point of Honen & ShanTao. "Disposal" is a poor word to describe what they are teaching. Nembutsu is primary and everything else supports it (not disposed of). I'll give you some examples:
  • Jukai-e (受戒会) is the Jodo Shu ceremony of taking the precepts. Even though Honen said he was unable to follow a single precept, he believed in the concept of the "Dynamic Force of Precepts" (Reading is Believing from the Pure Land Institute p24). In Jodo Shu, these precepts are seen as Miscellaneous (sundry) Practices (zogyo 雑行) in support of the Rightly Established Practice (shojo no go 正定の業 ), the chanting of the nembutsu.
  • Jodo Shu maintained the same ordination platform (tokudo 得度) for it's clergy as Tendai for centuries. In fact, until the Meiji Period, Jodo Shu clergy followed full Bodhisattva precepts - including celibacy & vegetarianism. If it was Nembutsu full-stop, they wouldn't have done this.
  • Nembutsu retreats are strongly recommended by Honen. These retreats involve precepts, vegetarian eating, recitation of Shantao's Ojoraisan Liturgy and multiple practices beyond Nembutsu recitation. The most significant Nembutsu retreat is the Goju Soden E.
  • The 5 right practices according to Vasubandhu (which appear in Shantao's Liturgy) include:
    1. The first door is making obeisance
    2. The second door is praising
    3. The third door is wishing
    4. The fourth door is visualizing
    5. The fifth door is transferring merit.
  • Shan-tao's definition of the 5 "Right Practices” (shogyo) is as follows:
    1) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly read and recite the Meditation Sutra, the Amida Sutra, and the Sutra of Immeasurable Life;
    2) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly contemplate the splendid view of Amida and the landscape in that Land;
    3) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly prostrate oneself before Amida Buddha;
    4) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly utter the name of Amida Buddha; and
    5) when giving praises and offerings is in order, to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly praise and make offerings to Amida.
  • The Four Great Bodhisattva vows are recited in daily practices of Jodo Shu
  • Incense offerings are made with the purpose of purifying body conduct and mind.
  • Honen wrote a poem about compassion that arises from Nembutsu
    If O-Nenbutsu is recited amidst the falling snow of delusions
    Deeply laid wickedness soon melts away
    With the warm light of Amida Buddha.
  • The 3 Minds expounded upon by ShanTao & Honen include observing one's thoughts, words, and deeds. What is meditation but observation of thoughts, words, and deeds?
  • Nembutsu is inherently a meditation upon impermanence, as we do it with the ever-present thought that we will die one day and leave everything behind.
  • Renunciation of suffering is the first step in Jodo Shu and appears quite frequently in Honen's writings.
  • Honen frequently encouraged followers to change their ways if they could (examples found all throughout Promise of Amida)
  • Honen's teachings on 異類の助業 (Irui no Jogo)
    Project Dana - Jodo Mission of Hawaii wrote:Honen Shonin is quoted as saying, “If one has the heart of Nembutsu, then going about daily activities, engaging in various other practices like making offerings or meditating, and getting involved in social welfare activities is something one should do.” For Honen, once the practice of Nembutsu has first become firmly established in one’s life, the engagement in “good practices” (irui-no-jogo) is a natural progression in the deepening of faith. Not only are these “good practices” considered to be supportive of the Nembutsu, in accord with Amida Buddha’s Original Vow, they become an expression of the Nembutsu itself, and should never be considered as a form of jiriki (or self-power).
Zhen Li wrote:but as I read Honen, he is not going to that level but is talking quite practically about the surface level practices one should or shouldn't do.
You see, there's a reason that Honen never wanted others to read the Senchakushu. He only gave it to select disciples and asked them to hide it. He didn't want people to misunderstand it and be led astray. This is a perfectly good example of such a thing. The Senchakushu has strong language, but it's merely about establishing priorities. When he says "cast away", he's using it figuratively - he's talking about goals and priorities. If your goal is to get to the Pure Land, then your priority is to do what gets you there. Never does he actually mean to do Nembutsu and nothing else - or else he wouldn't have spent so much time transmitting precepts, giving retreats, etc. Honen has surviving writings outside of the Senchakushu, which are more appropriate for those trying to learn about his teachings.

The rest of your arguments are based around this fundamental misreading of Honen, so I'm not sure they're really worth addressing.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by SonamTashi » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:48 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:28 pm
Thank you for the link SonamTashi. I was aware of the notion that the holy path would necessarily be taken up after birth in Sukhavati. This would be quite orthodox Pure Land understanding with the exception of Jodo Shinshu, who claim that birth in Pure Land is equivalent to nirvana (whether they mean directly or indirectly is of course another matter to consider).

Overall, your explanation accords with my understanding. However, your claim that Honen is writing to a certain target audience is not really one that I accept and is the crux of the matter. Honen only allowed his closest disciples to study and copy the Senchakushu, such as Bencho and Shinran. He is writing to other highly trained and educated ex-Tendai monks. If he were only writing for a low-capacity audience, then of course this would be an entirely different matter. As it is, Honen is definitely suggesting that the right path for this life is only the nembutsu and the holy path is something that only makes sense after birth in Sukhavati. The fact that he rejects holy path in this life, and only accepts auxiliary Pure Land practices actually does not solve this concern (the author of the text in the link seems to think this answers the concern of some of Honen's detractors).

I think what this is doing is underestimating the power of the nembutsu. It is not the case that one need to focus on the nembutsu only in this life in order to be born in Sukhavati. Birth is very simple to attain if you rely on the power of the vow (just have confidence in Amida!). One should both make sure one attains it and then practice as one can here as one would there (So, I agree with Honen here that focus on the nembutsu until one has the three minds is definitely worthwhile). Postponing only makes sense if you would rather study and practice only under a Buddha rather than rely on the sutras, kalyanamitras, and our dimmed faculties in mappo--a claim that I accept, but this is not what Honen is saying, for him, it is not a matter of preference, but of right and wrong practice (a distinction not found in the sutras).
You're only looking at the rhetoric and not how it is actually put into practice. It would make sense to say the teaching of reintegrating the Holy/Difficult Path after rebirth was intended for beings of all capacities only if none of Honen's disciples (or he himself) never reintegrated it in this life. But Honen did reintegrate it in this life--he kept the precepts, a practice that would be under the difficult path. Precepts can be received in Jodo Shu. In addition, Honen's entire doctrine is wrapped up in the concept of Mappo, which I would argue itself implies it is meant for beings of low capacity, especially because I believe the teaching of Mappo is a tool for measuring one's capacity.
Last edited by SonamTashi on Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by SonamTashi » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:50 pm

Also, being a monastic doesn't automatically mean one is a practitioner of high capacity.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by SonamTashi » Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:02 pm

I think what Admin_PC quoted pretty much sums it up:

"'If one has the heart of Nembutsu, then going about daily activities, engaging in various other practices like making offerings or meditating, and getting involved in social welfare activities is something one should do.' For Honen, once the practice of Nembutsu has first become firmly established in one’s life, the engagement in 'good practices' (irui-no-jogo) is a natural progression in the deepening of faith. Not only are these 'good practices' considered to be supportive of the Nembutsu, in accord with Amida Buddha’s Original Vow, they become an expression of the Nembutsu itself, and should never be considered as a form of jiriki (or self-power)."

If you were really supposed to wait for rebirth before reintegrating the Holy Gate, then this quote would make no sense.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Zhen Li » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:52 am

Admin_PC wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:44 pm
Zhen Li wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:06 am
Thanks for your comments Admin. Actually, I only mentioned building stupas as one example of the "sundry/miscellaneous" practices. I think the core of what I am trying to suggest is that I don't see the sutra as suggesting the disposal of the sundry practices in favour of the nembutsu. It would be best, in my understanding, to engage in "sundry" practices in addition to the nembutsu.

Again, I think you've totally missed the point of Honen & ShanTao. "Disposal" is a poor word to describe what they are teaching. Nembutsu is primary and everything else supports it (not disposed of). I'll give you some examples:
  • Jukai-e (受戒会) is the Jodo Shu ceremony of taking the precepts. Even though Honen said he was unable to follow a single precept, he believed in the concept of the "Dynamic Force of Precepts" (Reading is Believing from the Pure Land Institute p24). In Jodo Shu, these precepts are seen as Miscellaneous (sundry) Practices (zogyo 雑行) in support of the Rightly Established Practice (shojo no go 正定の業 ), the chanting of the nembutsu.
  • Jodo Shu maintained the same ordination platform (tokudo 得度) for it's clergy as Tendai for centuries. In fact, until the Meiji Period, Jodo Shu clergy followed full Bodhisattva precepts - including celibacy & vegetarianism. If it was Nembutsu full-stop, they wouldn't have done this.
  • Nembutsu retreats are strongly recommended by Honen. These retreats involve precepts, vegetarian eating, recitation of Shantao's Ojoraisan Liturgy and multiple practices beyond Nembutsu recitation. The most significant Nembutsu retreat is the Goju Soden E.
  • The 5 right practices according to Vasubandhu (which appear in Shantao's Liturgy) include:
    1. The first door is making obeisance
    2. The second door is praising
    3. The third door is wishing
    4. The fourth door is visualizing
    5. The fifth door is transferring merit.
  • Shan-tao's definition of the 5 "Right Practices” (shogyo) is as follows:
    1) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly read and recite the Meditation Sutra, the Amida Sutra, and the Sutra of Immeasurable Life;
    2) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly contemplate the splendid view of Amida and the landscape in that Land;
    3) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly prostrate oneself before Amida Buddha;
    4) to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly utter the name of Amida Buddha; and
    5) when giving praises and offerings is in order, to single-mindedly and wholeheartedly praise and make offerings to Amida.
  • The Four Great Bodhisattva vows are recited in daily practices of Jodo Shu
  • Incense offerings are made with the purpose of purifying body conduct and mind.
  • Honen wrote a poem about compassion that arises from Nembutsu
    If O-Nenbutsu is recited amidst the falling snow of delusions
    Deeply laid wickedness soon melts away
    With the warm light of Amida Buddha.
  • The 3 Minds expounded upon by ShanTao & Honen include observing one's thoughts, words, and deeds. What is meditation but observation of thoughts, words, and deeds?
  • Nembutsu is inherently a meditation upon impermanence, as we do it with the ever-present thought that we will die one day and leave everything behind.
  • Renunciation of suffering is the first step in Jodo Shu and appears quite frequently in Honen's writings.
  • Honen frequently encouraged followers to change their ways if they could (examples found all throughout Promise of Amida)
  • Honen's teachings on 異類の助業 (Irui no Jogo)
    Project Dana - Jodo Mission of Hawaii wrote:Honen Shonin is quoted as saying, “If one has the heart of Nembutsu, then going about daily activities, engaging in various other practices like making offerings or meditating, and getting involved in social welfare activities is something one should do.” For Honen, once the practice of Nembutsu has first become firmly established in one’s life, the engagement in “good practices” (irui-no-jogo) is a natural progression in the deepening of faith. Not only are these “good practices” considered to be supportive of the Nembutsu, in accord with Amida Buddha’s Original Vow, they become an expression of the Nembutsu itself, and should never be considered as a form of jiriki (or self-power).
Thank you for putting in the time and effort to reply once again. I am familiar with the materials that you have posted. The point however is that there are activities in bodhisattva activity and practice that are not necessarily the nembutsu or related to the nembutsu. Engaging in such activities does not imply that one has abandoned the nembutsu however. Clearly, Honen is suggesting that such activities are to be taken up in the Pure Land, not here.

One can certainly argue that all such bodhisattva practices are supportive of the nembutsu because the entire practice makes up a network of development as a whole. But then the question arises as to why Honen would need to establish Jodo shu as distinct from Tendai, as this is surely accepted in Tendai shu as well. Clearly Honen is rejecting a holistic approach in favour of one that is highly centred on, or supportive only of the nembutsu. All I am saying is that the path can be broader while still maintaining the nembutsu in some respect.
SonamTashi wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:48 pm
You're only looking at the rhetoric and not how it is actually put into practice. It would make sense to say the teaching of reintegrating the Holy/Difficult Path after rebirth was intended for beings of all capacities only if none of Honen's disciples (or he himself) never reintegrated it in this life. But Honen did reintegrate it in this life--he kept the precepts, a practice that would be under the difficult path. Precepts can be received in Jodo Shu. In addition, Honen's entire doctrine is wrapped up in the concept of Mappo, which I would argue itself implies it is meant for beings of low capacity, especially because I believe the teaching of Mappo is a tool for measuring one's capacity.
I am not denying any of this, and I understand your other two posts. However, you both seem to be overlooking that my concern is that a certain selectiveness is being mandated that I am claiming is not necessary to attain birth. For instance, would Honen suggest the recitation of the Great Compassion Dharani? Or engaging in Goma? What about reciting the Perfection of Wisdom sutras or the Golden Light Sutra? These are not directly related to the nembutsu, so this is the distinction that I am trying to bring to light.

Again, if Honen were to suggest the above practices in addition to the nembutsu, then how does he differ from Tendai shu? Clearly, he is suggesting the auxiliary sundry practices (or "miscellaneous practices") inasmuch as they support the nembutsu but not for other reasons (which is why "Holy Path" as whole is being set aside until after rebirth in the Pure Land). What I am claiming is that one can attain birth according to the sutras without abandoning the Holy Path practices in this life (or "setting aside" if you want to be picky).

I would ask kindly that you consider that I understand the Jodo Shu position. I understand what you have both explained and I am familiar with the terms and practices that you have mentioned. Please carefully consider what I have written and give it a fair hearing before declaring it a "missing of the point" or a "misreading."

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 am

Zhen Li wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:52 am
But then the question arises as to why Honen would need to establish Jodo shu as distinct from Tendai, as this is surely accepted in Tendai shu as well.
That's not accurate. The Tendai approach to Pure Land is different, with a lot of stress on visualizations and continuous walking meditation practice. The 30 & 90 day continuous walking meditations are part of the pratyutpanna samadhi practice - one of the 4 main Tendai meditative practices. The goals of those practices are to mainly to reach samadhi in this lifetime. This is what Honen was rejecting. He was also rejecting the idea of birth in the Pure Land as a "backup plan" which is somewhat typical of the Tendai approach (as well as that of many in Chan).
Zhen Li wrote:Clearly Honen is rejecting a holistic approach in favour of one that is highly centred on, or supportive only of the nembutsu.
Actually he's rejecting a more ascetic practice (restricted to a brave few), with goals centered on results in this lifetime, not a holistic one. To be honest, it's fairly dismissive of Pure Land teachings to consider them incomplete, requiring additional practices to be considered "whole". Fair warning, criticisms of Pure Land practice as "one-sided" will not fly here. If you seriously feel that way, then finding another path would be best.
Zhen Li wrote:For instance, would Honen suggest the recitation of the Great Compassion Dharani? Or engaging in Goma? What about reciting the Perfection of Wisdom sutras or the Golden Light Sutra? These are not directly related to the nembutsu, so this is the distinction that I am trying to bring to light.
For what purpose? According to Honen, those activities are fine if one's goal is the Pure Land and one is already settled in the Nembutsu. If one does those practices as one's primary practice with the goals of said practices as one's primary goals - then no, they wouldn't be in line with Honen.
Zhen Li wrote:What I am claiming is that one can attain birth according to the sutras without abandoning the Holy Path practices in this life (or "setting aside" if you want to be picky).
Honen never stopped doing those practices. Merely, his goals changed, that's the entire point of what he said. If your primary goals are meditative practices to be accomplished in this lifetime, while looking at Pure Land as a "back up plan" as most other schools do - then no, you're not in line with Pure Land teachings of Honen, ShanTao, or just about anyone else. Most would argue that if such were the case that you'd have a hard time establishing the necessary aspiration to be born there and the necessary faith to be born there.

Honen, ShanTao, and especially Shinran ask you to go all in, in regards to goals & aspirations. Part time Pure Land practice is not going to cut it. It doesn't cut it with Vasubandhu's teachings on "single-mindedly wishing to be born there". It doesn't cut it with ShanTao's teachings on "continuous practice". If your goals for practice in this lifetime supersede the wish for birth in the Pure Land, then no, you don't have a single-minded wish for birth there - full stop. Again, if this sounds incomplete or one-sided, there are plenty of other schools to chose from.
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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Zhen Li » Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:37 am

Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 am
That's not accurate. The Tendai approach to Pure Land is different, with a lot of stress on visualizations and continuous walking meditation practice. The 30 & 90 day continuous walking meditations are part of the pratyutpanna samadhi practice - one of the 4 main Tendai meditative practices. The goals of those practices are to mainly to reach samadhi in this lifetime. This is what Honen was rejecting. He was also rejecting the idea of birth in the Pure Land as a "backup plan" which is somewhat typical of the Tendai approach (as well as that of many in Chan).
What precisely is inaccurate? My claim was that one's entire practice makes up a network of development as a whole. You are saying that Tendai rejects this claim? Also, in my experience in Chan monasteries no one once characterised the Pure Land as a backup plan. It is taken entirely seriously. Regardless, I see nothing wrong in attaining pratyutpanna samadhi. Again, this is rejecting (your words) perfectly acceptable (in my eyes) parts of Mahayana practice.
Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 am
Actually he's rejecting a more ascetic practice (restricted to a brave few), with goals centered on results in this lifetime, not a holistic one. To be honest, it's fairly dismissive of Pure Land teachings to consider them incomplete, requiring additional practices to be considered "whole". Fair warning, criticisms of Pure Land practice as "one-sided" will not fly here. If you seriously feel that way, then finding another path would be best.
I didn't say it was one-sided or incomplete. I understand that from Shantao's line of reasoning it is entirely complete. The fact that you can, regardless, complete the Holy Path in the pureland is evidence enough I need. What I am doing here is trying to reason through these ideas in debate in order to make sure I got it right, before I conclude that I am not in complete agreement. I think it is fine in all Buddhist circles to reason through the Dharma and come to our own conclusions regarding what practice we think makes sense or not.
Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 am
For what purpose? According to Honen, those activities are fine if one's goal is the Pure Land and one is already settled in the Nembutsu. If one does those practices as one's primary practice with the goals of said practices as one's primary goals - then no, they wouldn't be in line with Honen.
One's primary goal, surely, is Buddhahood. The goals of nembutsu and the goals of reciting other texts are surely all supportive of bodhicitta. What I am saying is that bodhicitta is of primacy. Any practice that supports attainment of Buddhahood should be encouraged. Nembutsu is not exclusive of others. In Chan, for example, you will chant the Amitabha sutras every so often along with some nembutsu. One can easily be assured of birth if one practices in such a way for one day, let alone seven days.
Admin_PC wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 am
Honen, ShanTao, and especially Shinran ask you to go all in, in regards to goals & aspirations. Part time Pure Land practice is not going to cut it. It doesn't cut it with Vasubandhu's teachings on "single-mindedly wishing to be born there". It doesn't cut it with ShanTao's teachings on "continuous practice". If your goals for practice in this lifetime supersede the wish for birth in the Pure Land, then no, you don't have a single-minded wish for birth there - full stop. Again, if this sounds incomplete or one-sided, there are plenty of other schools to chose from.
Singlemindedness (ekacitta) is used in sutras quite often--it is not used in a macro sense (if it is then that is atypical (both in Buddhist and general Sanskrit usage) and the sutra or master would usually in that case specify a longer period of time). It means with a concentrated mind (and I think it is clear that Vasubandhu means this in his gatha). If one then, on the next day, recites the Diamond Sutra and engage in Chan meditation in order to cultivate the Perfection of Wisdom, surely, these are not in contradiction and in fact are supportive of the one same true goal.

While I am inclined to say I am still not 100% in agreement with Shantao (and by extension Honen), I am still not sure if I disagree. But I think I need to see some more argumentation in support of suspending the Holy Path. Rennyo in one of his letters (if I recall correctly) mentions relying on the Sutras before relying on commentaries or masters. Just going off the sutras, and also Vasubandhu as I just stated, I cannot say I agree that one needs to suspend the Holy Path in order to attain birth (i.e. continuous practice, or one-practice practice, whether of only nembutsu or auxiliary practices to the nembutsu but not to other goals). In many places, it still seems to require a stretch of certain passages...

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Re: Some Reflections on Shantao and Honen

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:18 am

Zhen Li wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:37 am
What precisely is inaccurate? My claim was that one's entire practice makes up a network of development as a whole. You are saying that Tendai rejects this claim?
Contrary to popular belief, Tendai was not some big, broad study curriculum that included everything. Furthermore, their Pure Land teachings at the time did not stress birth in the Pure Land after death. Your characterization that Honen could've just stayed Tendai and taught what he taught represents a total misunderstanding of what Tendai taught in regards to Pure Land. Any thing Tendai teaches today already bears influence from Shin and Jodo Shu as both came back under the wing of Tendai for a period of time and Tendai changed to accommodate them.
Zhen Li wrote:Also, in my experience in Chan monasteries no one once characterised the Pure Land as a backup plan.
Oh really? The "whole tiger with horns" story is pretty much a "backup plan". But since you insist.... from the webpage of a Chan temple:
Lu Mountain Temple wrote:In the parallel practice of Chan and Pure Land, we aspire to become enlightened in this life; however, we are also aware that this is an incredibly difficult goal to attain, and thus we use the Pure Land Dharma as a backup plan.
Incidentally, I was told this exact same thing at Chung Tai's Dharma Jewel Monastery.
Zhen Li wrote:It is taken entirely seriously. Regardless, I see nothing wrong in attaining pratyutpanna samadhi. Again, this is rejecting (your words) perfectly acceptable (in my eyes) parts of Mahayana practice.
You're just not getting it. Attaining the samadhi is fine. If it's your main goal in life, rather than attaining Pure Land birth - then it doesn't fit Pure Land teachings.

Listen, you say you understand Jodo Shu, but in quite a few posts in this thread you've not only made incorrect statements from a Jodo Shu standpoint, you've presented straw men as Jodo Shu teachings. In fact, I don't think you've clearly spelled out what your issue is. Everything you've mentioned thus far has been addressed, but the goalposts keep moving. You've got some idea of what a complete Buddhist practice is and for you Pure Land practice doesn't meet that - fine, move on. But don't for a second assert that Pure Land teachings of Shantao, Honen, et al are inconsistent with the sutras.
Zhen Li wrote:One's primary goal, surely, is Buddhahood.
Yes, in Pure Land it's Buddhahood under the guidance of Amida after birth in the Pure Land!!!!
Zhen Li wrote:The goals of nembutsu and the goals of reciting other texts are surely all supportive of bodhicitta.
While Bodhicitta leads to satisfying the 19th Vow, it does not inherently establish the faith to be born outside of the womb.
Zhen Li wrote:What I am saying is that bodhicitta is of primacy.
Not in Pure Land. Faith, Vows, and Practice have the position of primacy because the entire purpose of Pure Land is Buddhahood via birth in the Pure Land. If one can achieve stages along the Bodhisattva path, then the Pure Land of Sukhavati is not even necessary.
Zhen Li wrote:Any practice that supports attainment of Buddhahood should be encouraged.
Depends if the practice leads one away from the Faith, Vows, and Practice required for birth in the Pure Land. There are practices that may lead more quickly to Buddhahood that have nothing to do with the Faith, Vows, and Practice required for birth in the Pure Land. So no, this statement is patently false. In Pure Land terms merit gained via practices performed with doubt will delay one's progress significantly as one will be born in the womb & trapped there without being able to see the Buddha.
Zhen Li wrote:One can easily be assured of birth if one practices in such a way for one day, let alone seven days.
Only a womb birth if sufficient faith is not established.
Zhen Li wrote:Singlemindedness (ekacitta) is used in sutras quite often--it is not used in a macro sense (if it is then that is atypical (both in Buddhist and general Sanskrit usage) and the sutra or master would usually in that case specify a longer period of time). It means with a concentrated mind (and I think it is clear that Vasubandhu means this in his gatha).
That's not what the Upadesa says.
Quotes:
I single-mindedly take refuge in The Tathāgata [Amitāyus]
...
To train in śamatha in accord with true reality, one should do the mind karma of wishing, by single-mindedly thinking of one’s rebirth in the Land of Peace and Bliss.
One enters the third door by single-mindedly wishing to be reborn there.
It's not concentration, it's a single minded wish. Other wishes would be a distraction, it's plain as day in those passages.
Zhen Li wrote:If one then, on the next day, recites the Diamond Sutra and engage in Chan meditation in order to cultivate the Perfection of Wisdom, surely, these are not in contradiction and in fact are supportive of the one same true goal.
Not if that goal is Buddhahood via birth in the Pure Land. Sorry. They don't count as establishing the required Faith, Vows, and Practices. They are separate practices with separate aims. It's intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.
Zhen Li wrote:In this case, it seems I do not agree with Shantao, and by extension Honen on this one. As I said at the beginning, I agree with both on 95% of matters, but this is one I cannot come to terms with them on. As regards Shinran, I think he is doing some more subtle things in his argumentation, and I am not sure I can say I completely disagree with his approach even if it is not conventional (in my opinion), but I think it is more complicated and not the topic of this thread.
That's fine, you're free to disagree. But don't think for a second anything you've posted on this thread is authoritative. From many of your posts, you have some ideas that are just not supported by the sutras - while claiming the same of Shantao. Frankly, I'm tired of belaboring the point. Your continued use of straw men and your penchant for moving the goal posts has me exhausted. I think I'll lock the thread.
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

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