Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Locked
User avatar
SonamTashi
Posts: 105
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:30 pm

Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by SonamTashi » Thu Mar 22, 2018 8:26 am

So I ran into an Amida-Ji temple blog post that is a couple months old, but that I think is highly relevant to clearing up common misconceptions that pop up here from time to time. I found it to be very direct and clear. Hopefully it will be helpful. This isn't meant as an attack on other Buddhist schools. It is just that Pure Land practitioners should practice Pure Land from the perspective of the Pure Land gate, not the perspective of any other school.
I saw a passage about Amida Buddha from Kodo Sawaki, a respected Zen master, quoted over five times lately on Facebook, like a big thing by Pure Land followers who are not careful to what they spread online. At first sight, it's a good teaching, but at the careful examination, we can see its nothing else but a Zen interpretation and NOT in accord with the Jodo Shinshu teaching. Here it is:

"Amitabha doesn’t exist because I believe he exists. Amitabha Buddha exists without being concerned whether I believe in him or not. Regardless what I think or believe, Amitabha is the whole heaven and earth. Being pulled by Amitabha’s original vow that is the absolute reality, I function through my own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self. This is being a Buddha—a great being, a truly mature person. " (Kodo Sawaki Roshi)

So, the first two sentences are ok if taken out of the rest of the passage - yes, Amida Buddha (Amitabha) exists no matter we believe in Him or not. That is true. But the rest of the passage is just Zen talk with NO relevance for us, followers of the Pure Land Dharma gate.

"Amitabha is the whole heaven and earth" - Ok, STOP here. This is a trap modernist teachers use, by mixing Zen ideas into Jodo Shinshu, that is, to portray Amida as anything else but a living, transcendental Buddha with whom you can have a relationship based on faith. No, dear friends on the nembutsu path, Amida is NOT "the whole heaven and earth", but Amida as described in the Larger Sutra - a specific Buddha, an individuated, manifested Buddha in form and Name, with a real enlightened place which can be attained after death and with a clear message: "entrust yourself to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land" (Primal Vow/Original Vow). You are NOT pulled by Amida's Vow if you don't entrust to Him as an individuated Buddha and wish to go to His specific Pure Land. Again - this is a smart trap modernist teachers use to confuse ordinary people - they talk only about the ultimate reality of Amida in order to hide His transcendental manifestations (Sambhogakaya) or His various Nirmanakayas (transformation bodies) which are essential for a faith-oriented school like ours.

We must understand that the goal of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha is to take you to the Pure Land after death, and NOT to function here and now, in this very body, speech and mind as "the all-pervading self"! If you talk this Zen talk, you will confuse people who are called to the simple faith of Jodo Shinshu! The goal of the Primal Vow is that you do exactly what the Primal Vow asks you to do: "entrust yourself to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land". Again, the Primal Vow is NOT a way to realize ultimate Dharmakaya/Buddha nature/"all-pervasive self" so that you "function through your own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self", as Kodo Sawaki says, thus implying that you can "be a truly mature person or a Buddha" here and now. This is clearly a specific Zen interpretation and teaching of the self-power path, which has NOTHING to do with the Pure Land Dharma gate.

Kodo Sawaki implies that through the Primal Vow (Original Vow) he becomes a Buddha with this very body, thus modifying and reinterpreting the most important element of the Pure Land Dharma gate to fit the Zen context: "Being pulled by Amitabha’s original vow I function through my own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self. This is being a Buddha—a great being, a truly mature person". Thus, he somehow speaks about the Primal Vow like he would speak about zazen. However, this is contrary to the Pure Land teaching which states that we become Buddhas ONLY after birth in the Pure Land after death! I hope that you see this difference, dear nembutsu friends, and you will please, stop using passages intended for Zen Dharma gate and Zen disciples on the Pure Land Dharma gate. As long as we are not Buddhas, we should not mix the various Dharma gates because we'll confuse people. What Kodo Sawaki Roshi said in a Zen context and for his Zen students does NOT apply in a Jodo Shinshu context and for Jodo Shinshu disciples! I hope I am not misunderstood as this post is NOT against Kodo Sawaki Roshi for whom I have deep respect as a former Zen practitioner, but against the tendency of many nowadays priests without the settled faith of our tradition of using Zen ideas for Pure Land Dharma gate.

Our Pure Land Dharma gate is simple - we'll dwell in our ultimate Buddha nature AFTER we are born in the Pure Land, not here and now, with this very body, speech, and mind. Here and now we should focus on matters of faith because here and now Amida Buddha asked us to do three simple things in His Primal Vow (Original Vow): "entrust yourself to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my Land". No mention there about any functioning in your own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self, as Kodo Sawaki Roshi said! To function in your own body, speech and mind as all-pervading self is the practice of being a Buddha here and now, which belongs to the self-power schools, not ours!

Again, please stop using quotes and passages from Masters who follow other practices and teachings and who did not receive the faith of the Primal Vow! We should focus on our specific teaching and do what Rennyo said we should do: "cling to the sleeves of Amida", " entrust to Amida and solve the matter of the greatest importance of afterlife"!

We should be people of simple faith and talk about faith in simple terms, instead of playing smart with quotes about ultimate Buddha nature which we don't really understand anyway.

Namo Amida Butsu
:bow: :buddha1: :bow: :anjali: :meditate:

Sentient Light
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:40 pm
Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by Sentient Light » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:58 pm

It is just that Pure Land practitioners should practice Pure Land from the perspective of the Pure Land gate, not the perspective of any other school.
Depending on your tradition, though, there may not be any exclusive "Pure Land gate." In mainland Mahayana as it stands today, there can be no real distinction made between Chan/Thien or Pure Land, the teachings are synonymous with one another. The problem is literalism--there are those students who read that the Pure Land is the Pure Mind, and take that to be literal (i.e. that the teachings on Amitabha are figurative), and this is wrong-view. At the same time, there are students who read that the Pure Land is a destination for birth, and take this to be literal, while regarding the 'Pure Mind' teachings to be figurative teaching devices.

This apparent conflict is rectified when Prajna and Karuna are both realized in unison.

What many of the "pure Chan" disciples do not realize is that the direct perception of one's own Buddhanature as Amitabha is not the end of any path--it is the beginning. It is effectively the same as achieving satori through other methods--the direct perception of Amitabha as one's true nature is the moment of completely entrusting to Amitabha's Pure Land. One has purified the mind, subdued the defilements, brings the Pure Land into the here-and-now... and because of this (not in spite of), upon dissolution of this human body, one is reborn into the highest grades of Amitabha's Pure Land to complete the remainder of the path.
: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:

User avatar
Tatsuo
Posts: 215
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:50 pm

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by Tatsuo » Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:30 pm

In general I agree with Josho Adrian Cirlea that Pure Land teachings based on Honen (Jodo Shu and Jodo Shinshu) are intended to be simple and straightforward, without pretending to have any deeper insight apart from what is taught in the three Pure Land sutras. But his way of rejecting all modernist teachers and groups seems too harsh and divisive to me.
I guess modernist teachings are much more influential in Jodo Shinshu, which in the past was also more open to philosophical speculation (just compare the Kyogyoshinsho and the Senchakushu). I never came across modernist thinking within Jodo Shu so far. I think modernist teachings are (consciously or unconsciously) used as a way to survive in a non-Buddhist environment, where the predominant stereotypes about Buddhism usually involve something between “science of the mind” and rational/secular way of life. By talking about Amida being a mythological character, archetype or true self etc. Pure Land Buddhists can possibly avoid constantly defending their believes and I can perfectly understand anyone who talks about the Pure Land in this way. Of course it’s not in line with Pure Land teachings but it might be not too far from general Mahayana teachings.
  • 南無阿弥陀佛
  • 南無妙法蓮華經
  • 南無観世音菩薩


User avatar
coldwater
Posts: 60
Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:10 am
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact:

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by coldwater » Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm

I am little confused, was Kawaki speaking for Jodo/Shin-shu or Pure Land practice? Or his own (modernist?) practice? or Zen-shu? Is the author bothered by Jodo-Shin-Shu folks reposting a Zen-shu interpretation of Pure Land practice? Or is the author worried that Jodo-Shin-Shu practitioners are believing this is a Jodo-Shin-Shu teaching?

The author of the Amida-ji post seems to conflate the Pure Land practice/gate with the Pure Land DENOMINATION (-SHU) of Japan and alternating between practitioners of Pure Land and Jodo Shin Shu teachings. This is where it gets confusing to me. And Pure Land 'teachings' = whose exactly is being referenced when not in the context of Jodo-Shin-Shu?

These are different things in my eyes. One is a practice with many versions, interpretations, teachings across the Buddhist world (the broad term "Pure Land practice and teachings"). The other is a specific denomination with its teachings and history on the practice (Jodo Shin Shu).

"Masters who follow other practices and teachings and who did not receive the faith of the Primal Vow!" is quite a sectarian statement that invalidates any other denomination's practice of the pure land gate. Is this author sure Kawaki didn't receive faith? How? According to Jodo Shin Shu standards or special spiritual insight the author has into the mind of Kawaki?

I believe what Kawaki said is likely relevant and accurate to his own denomination and practice but to say it is not 'pure land practice' and that he did not receive the faith of the Primal Vow is a bit much. On the other hand, saying what Kawaki taught is not in accordance with Jodo Shin Shu doctrine might be more accurate. Probably would be clear if they stuck to saying Jodo Shin Shu teachings/practice instead of Pure Land followers and practitioners.

User avatar
Admin_PC
Site Admin
Posts: 4369
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm
Location: Texas, USA

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Apr 05, 2018 8:55 pm

coldwater wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm
I am little confused, was Kawaki speaking for Jodo/Shin-shu or Pure Land practice? Or his own (modernist?) practice? or Zen-shu? Is the author bothered by Jodo-Shin-Shu folks reposting a Zen-shu interpretation of Pure Land practice? Or is the author worried that Jodo-Shin-Shu practitioners are believing this is a Jodo-Shin-Shu teaching?
Kawaki was speaking as a Zen person. Certain Jodo Shin Shu teachers/practitioners are presenting his words as a Jodo Shin Shu teaching. It's causing confusion for Jodo Shin Shu practitioners.
coldwater wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm
The author of the Amida-ji post seems to conflate the Pure Land practice/gate with the Pure Land DENOMINATION (-SHU) of Japan and alternating between practitioners of Pure Land and Jodo Shin Shu teachings. This is where it gets confusing to me. And Pure Land 'teachings' = whose exactly is being referenced when not in the context of Jodo-Shin-Shu?
As far as I can tell, "Pure Land" in general refers to the ShanTao interpretation (which is primary in Japan) or mainland east asian interpretations that build on his work. This includes more than just Jodo Shin Shu. It also includes Jodo Shu and some traditional interpretations put forth by mainland east asian schools.
coldwater wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm
These are different things in my eyes. One is a practice with many versions, interpretations, teachings across the Buddhist world (the broad term "Pure Land practice and teachings"). The other is a specific denomination with its teachings and history on the practice (Jodo Shin Shu).
I think this is where a number of us depart from others. In a recent thread it came up that *certain* Humanistic Buddhist teachers were propagating Pure Land teachings that were completely at odds with the main Pure Land sutras, being based more on the Vimalakirti Sutra. These so-called "Pure Land teachings" many of us would consider directly at odds with the general notion of Pure Land teachings and the 3/5 Sutras + 1 upadesha.
coldwater wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm
"Masters who follow other practices and teachings and who did not receive the faith of the Primal Vow!" is quite a sectarian statement that invalidates any other denomination's practice of the pure land gate. Is this author sure Kawaki didn't receive faith? How? According to Jodo Shin Shu standards or special spiritual insight the author has into the mind of Kawaki?
This would require about a small book to unpack. Yes, it is a sectarian statement. It's based around exclusive practice and finds its home in a certain interpretation of ShanTao's teachings (specifically the 3 minds). Heck, it's also at odds with the mainland east asian teachings centered around "faith, vows, and practice". If Kawaki doesn't put either of these as a primary source, then no, he wouldn't fall within the realm of Pure Land teachings according to most Pure Land practitioners - regardless of sub-sect/denomination.
coldwater wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:42 pm
I believe what Kawaki said is likely relevant and accurate to his own denomination and practice but to say it is not 'pure land practice' and that he did not receive the faith of the Primal Vow is a bit much. On the other hand, saying what Kawaki taught is not in accordance with Jodo Shin Shu doctrine might be more accurate. Probably would be clear if they stuck to saying Jodo Shin Shu teachings/practice instead of Pure Land followers and practitioners.
I agree with you somewhat, but in this case Kawaki's directly contradicting the words of the 3 main Pure Land sutras and the words of ShanTao. Full-stop, he's at odds with most traditional Pure Land interpretations. Nowhere in any of those does it tell Pure Land practitioners to "function through [one's] own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self."
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

User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 2990
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:56 am

If relying on Amida rather than on self-power is what matters,
then what difference does it make whether one uses a zen interpretation?
Asserting that one's own understanding is the only true one
is not only an expression of self-power,
but, by limiting Amida Buddha merely to conform to one's own understanding (as a foolish person)
negates the belief that his power is infinite.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Fo Ming (Buddha Bright) Monk"
People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.

User avatar
Admin_PC
Site Admin
Posts: 4369
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm
Location: Texas, USA

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by Admin_PC » Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:58 am

But that's the whole point. When Amida just becomes some vague idea of an all-pervasive self/universe and "reliance" is redefined as manifesting Buddha qualities, then the entire teaching loses all meaning. If we were capable of manifesting Buddha qualities, aka "function through [one's] own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self" - then there'd be no need for Other Power.

Kind of a cheap shot to say that holding to the words of the sutras is running contrary to them.

Keep the Zen interpretations to the Zen subforum. This is the Pure land subforum and traditional Pure Land interpretations are authoritative here.
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

steveb1
Posts: 603
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Amida-Ji: Stop using Zen Masters explanations when referring to Amida Buddha - an example

Post by steveb1 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 9:31 pm

Admin_PC wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:58 am
But that's the whole point. When Amida just becomes some vague idea of an all-pervasive self/universe and "reliance" is redefined as manifesting Buddha qualities, then the entire teaching loses all meaning. If we were capable of manifesting Buddha qualities, aka "function through [one's] own body, speech, and mind as all-pervading self" - then there'd be no need for Other Power.

Kind of a cheap shot to say that holding to the words of the sutras is running contrary to them.

Keep the Zen interpretations to the Zen subforum. This is the Pure land subforum and traditional Pure Land interpretations are authoritative here.
Agreed. Other Power means complete reliance on Amida Buddha and no reliance whatsoever on Zen or any other self-power practices. Modernism which holds that Amida is a mere symbol, myth, or allegory is not only false, but it is also very corrosive to Shin Buddhism as taught by Shinran and Rennyo.

"Accept no substitutes" is the correct directive and guideline.

Locked

Return to “Pure Land”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests