The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

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Nikkolas
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The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by Nikkolas »

Hello. I have had a deep interest in Buddhism for a few years now, even posted on here a while ago. To the extent I am able, I am also a huge fan of philosophy and reading ancient knowledge and wisdom. This means I can't help but ask questions about anything that interests me and that includes Pure Land Buddhism. I want to know how Pure Land Buddhism thinks everything works. I understand its main purpose is salvation but the explanation of tht working is helpful to me..

I've found varying accounts from philosophers on this matter. Especially modern philosophers who think science and recent innovations in philosophy mean that Pure Land Buddhism must also "catch up". They reject the idea the Pure Land is a literal location out there somewhere. They would say Amida and the Pure Land is right here with us right now.

I'm not sure how to understand all this. What is your opinion as a learned devotee? Would you have any suggestions on what I should read in order to understand the status of Sukhāvatī and Amida and how they relate to the "normal world" we can perceive and live in?

Thank you.
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SonamTashi
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by SonamTashi »

See this recent thread:

viewtopic.php?f=104&t=32993
:bow: :buddha1: :bow: :anjali: :meditate:
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

I think, the question, “literal or metaphor?” Is the best part of pure land practice. Maybe it is the essence of it, not unlike a zen koan.

My understanding is that it is both, but not for the usual reasons. Not for “ignorant” reasons, but because of “enlightened” reasons. In other words, there is a point where one’s understanding goes beyond the duality of literal vs. metaphor.

There is a common interpretation of this, a sort of convenient excuse for the intellectual: simple, uneducated people take ‘pure land’ literally, and great minds understand it metaphorically. However, this interpretation misses the point entirely. It still offers only a dualistic view. (Also a bit elitist!)

One way to approach this question is by dissecting the terminology. When we ask if the pure land is real or not, meaning “literal”, what are we really doing? We are comparing that concept to what we perceive to be the reality of our own existence. in other words, We are asking, “is the pure land real the way you and I are real?” But Buddhism teaches us that the way we think we are real is already a delusion. So, that approach is already starting off on the wrong foot.

Another thing to consider is that Amitabha is the Buddha of infinite light. “Amita” means infinite. An infinite buddha cannot be contained within a finite space. Correct? Therefore the Pure Land must also be infinite, and in that sense, we can say it extends all the way to you. All the way to your own mind. And Buddhism teaches that the true nature of mind is likewise already infinite (we just don’t realize it). That is another way of transcending the duality between literal and metaphor.

The really great thing about Pure Land practice, is that for the intellectual or the philosopher, for the person who thinks too much, this is a serious challenge to the ego.
Especially those of us in the west who have grown up with a logic system based on ancient Greek reasoning and so on. We want everything to make sense. We want our squares to have four equal sides and four corners. We feel safe there. Logic is a nice conceptual chunk of samsara to cling onto, But, clinging to samsara is of course is the whole problem according to the Buddha. Isn’t it? We like to look at everything and discuss things as hypotheticals. Is it this or is it that. But Pure Land practice immediately demands that we drop the hypotheticals and simply confront being here right now.
So, the whole point is to abandon that desire for reasoning, that “calculating mind” or “foolish mind” as it is often called.

Calculating everything is like explaining a joke to someone rather than just telling the joke. When you just tell the joke, it’s funny.
When you explain the joke, yes you get the meaning of the joke, but you lose all the humor in it. You ruin the joke, lose the essence of funniness when you explain it. The whole point of it being a joke is that unidentifiable quality, That that intangible essence of a joke that causes one to laugh.

It’s the same way with Pureland practice: you just have to tell it, not explain it, meaning that you just have to chant “Namo Amitabha” or “Namo Omitofo” or whatever, without explaining it, then you get that intangible essence. You get the punchline.
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AJP
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by AJP »

Nikkolas wrote: Thu Feb 27, 2020 1:17 pm Hello. I have had a deep interest in Buddhism for a few years now, even posted on here a while ago. To the extent I am able, I am also a huge fan of philosophy and reading ancient knowledge and wisdom. This means I can't help but ask questions about anything that interests me and that includes Pure Land Buddhism. I want to know how Pure Land Buddhism thinks everything works. I understand its main purpose is salvation but the explanation of tht working is helpful to me..

I've found varying accounts from philosophers on this matter. Especially modern philosophers who think science and recent innovations in philosophy mean that Pure Land Buddhism must also "catch up". They reject the idea the Pure Land is a literal location out there somewhere. They would say Amida and the Pure Land is right here with us right now.

I'm not sure how to understand all this. What is your opinion as a learned devotee? Would you have any suggestions on what I should read in order to understand the status of Sukhāvatī and Amida and how they relate to the "normal world" we can perceive and live in?

Thank you.
To get close you need to recite the Name. Western Philosophy has no way of resolving this matter.
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rory
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by rory »

I am a devoted Tendai Pure Land practitioner
this quote is from the Robert F. Rhodes's book on Genshin: Genshin's Ojoyoshu and the Construction of Pure Land Discourse in Heian Japan

Genshin was the famous Pure Land Master in the Tendai sect.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genshin
Even while remaining mindful (of the buddha) by reciting his name and seeking the Pure Land, contemplate (it in the following way ): {Amida's) body and land are ultimately empty, like mirages or dreams. (Although )they are identical with their substance, they are empty. While empty, they exist. They are neither existent nor empty. To realize this non-duality and truly enter the supreme truth - this is called the markless nenbutsu. This is the supreme samadhi p. 136

Here is a contemplation by the great Tendai Pure Land master Genshin:
The Collection on the Mental Contemplation of Amida (Buddha)
by Sramana Genshin of the Eshin-In.

The Sanskrit character A 1 is none other than the Principle of Emptiness. 2 The character of MI is the Ten Dharma Realms resulting from causes and conditions. 3 That is to say, it is none other than the Principle of Provisionality. 4 To which the Hundred Realms are in eternal compliance. 5 The character TA is none other than the Principle of the Mean. 6 This Middle Way is identical with the Dharmakaya. It has been formerly said, that the sentient beings of the Ten Realms all call on Amida Buddha.

The Dharmakaya of Amida Buddha is the Originally Enlightened Tathagata, and the perfection of the mind. 7 The Sambhogakaya of Amida, is precisely the Rupakaya that is self enjoyed (as well as) enjoyed by others, that results from cultivation. The Nirmanakaya of Amida, is none other than the World of Ultimate Bliss. Amida Buddha is (both) the superior and inferior Nirmanakaya. 8 These Three Buddhas have transformational bodies beneficial to self and other; each body, each function, is eternal and unchanging.

To one with Bodhicitta, it is as if all dharmas are alike Buddhas. All dharmas are none other than the Ten Realms. Consequently, if a Realm does not know Buddha Dharmas in this way, (the beings of it) cannot be reborn in the Pure Land.

9 One who engages Bodhicitta, knows all dharmas are alike Buddha Dharmas. This mind is none other than the karmic cause which results in the Pure Land. To be mindful for (but) ten moments in one’s contemplation of Principle {the absolute}, is the karma which assures rebirth. For those who now contemplate Principle for ten moments, the Dharma Realms are not different from The Middle Way. Samsara is none other than Nirvana. (In the moment) one contemplates the character A, the Forty Two levels of Ignorance, 10 and the Mental Affliction of deluded views and perceptions in common with them, are instantaneously extinguished by becoming the Sambhogakaya Buddha. 11 (In the moment) one contemplates the character MI, the Forty Two Types of Mental Afflictions (that arise from) the myriad phenomena,12 and the evil karma of the Three Lands, are instantaneously extinguished, by becoming the Nirmanakaya Buddha.13 (In the moment) one contemplates the character DA, the Forty Two Levels of Primary Afflictions and the karmic retribution of the Two Deaths, are instantaneously extinguished, by becoming the Dharmakaya Buddha. 14

By contemplating the epithet’s TA and A (which are the) Essence and Function; uncaused are all dharmas, empty and quiescent.15 The character “Mi” is the many causes and myriad forms. These Three Truths contain all dharmas. 16

Here ends the Collection on the Mental Contemplation of Amida (Buddha).

Translation by Rev. Jikai Dehn.
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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明安 Myoan
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by 明安 Myoan »

There was this discussion on r/Mahayana recently that might be of interest.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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明安 Myoan
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by 明安 Myoan »

AJP wrote: Thu Feb 27, 2020 5:39 pm To get close you need to recite the Name. Western Philosophy has no way of resolving this matter.
:good:

See what the name is like across moods, situations, and difficulties.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
Presto Kensho
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by Presto Kensho »

In the Lankavatara Sutra, the historical Buddha likens his teaching to a finger pointing at the moon:
For instance, Mahamati, when a man with his finger-tip points at something to somebody, the finger-tip may be taken wrongly for the thing pointed at; in like manner, Mahamati, the people belonging to the class of the ignorant and simple-minded, like those of a childish group, are unable even unto their death to abandon the idea that in the finger-tip of words there is the meaning itself, and will not grasp ultimate reality because of their intent clinging to words which are no more than the finger-tip to them…

As the ignorant grasp the finger-tip and not the moon, so those who cling to the letter, know not my truth.
http://lirs.ru/do/lanka_eng/lanka-nondiacritical.htm
Shinran Shonin echoed these words of the Buddha:
With regard to relying on the meaning, meaning itself is beyond debate of such matters as, like against dislike, evil against virtue, falsity against truth. Hence, words may indeed have meaning, but the meaning is not the words. Consider, for example, a person instructing us by pointing to the moon with his finger. [To take words to be the meaning] is like looking at the finger and not at the moon. The person would say, ‘I am pointing to the moon with my finger in order to show it to you. Why do you look at my finger and not the moon?’ Similarly, words are the finger pointing to the meaning; they are not the meaning itself. Hence, do not rely upon words.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expos ... and-lands/
With the Lankavatara Sutra in mind, we can see Amida as a finger pointing to Dharma-body, the ultimate reality, even if not a literal Buddha from eons before the Big Bang.

Entrusting the Name, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are led by Dharma-body to the Pure Land, the realm of Nirvana. In sincere gratitude for our rebirth, we say the Nembutsu.

Shinran, like Tan-Luan and Shan-tao, understood the Pure Land to be the formless realm of Nirvana. This is why Shinran referred to rebirth into the Pure Land as the birth of non-birth, just as the Buddha referred to Nirvana as the unborn.
Presto Kensho
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by Presto Kensho »

In the skillful means chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the historical Buddha says that only a buddha can see the reality of enlightenment for what it truly is. For unenlightened beings like ourselves, the Buddha has devised similes and parables, various forms of skillful means, to meet our level of understanding.

Is Amida a literal flesh and blood man who attained buddhahood eons ago, galaxies away? Or is Amida symbolic of the Buddha-nature in all things, compassionately taking us just as we are?

The right answer to this question is whatever’s necessary for you to say the Nembutsu, whatever is the right skillful means for your situation and level of understanding.
Shaku Kenshin
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by Shaku Kenshin »

Presto Kensho wrote: Wed Mar 18, 2020 7:53 pm In the skillful means chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the historical Buddha says that only a buddha can see the reality of enlightenment for what it truly is. For unenlightened beings like ourselves, the Buddha has devised similes and parables, various forms of skillful means, to meet our level of understanding.

Is Amida a literal flesh and blood man who attained buddhahood eons ago, galaxies away? Or is Amida symbolic of the Buddha-nature in all things, compassionately taking us just as we are?

The right answer to this question is whatever’s necessary for you to say the Nembutsu, whatever is the right skillful means for your situation and level of understanding.
:good:
Shaku Kenshin
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Re: The 'Reality" of the Pure Land and Amida

Post by Shaku Kenshin »

Reading the Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra helped me a lot to solve some of the problems I had in understanding how the concept of a literal Pure Land and the idea that Buddha resides in our mind can both be true.
"It is like a monk contemplating the bones of the dead laid out
before him. At times he contemplates them when they are green.
At times he contemplates them when they are white. At times he
contemplates them when they are red. At times he contemplates
them when they are black. Nobody brings these bones to him, nor
do these bones exist, nor do they come from anywhere. They exist
only as thoughts produced by the mind. So it is with the bodhi-
sattvas who possess the numinous power of the Buddha and are
established in the meditation: whatever the quarter in which they
wish to see a Buddha, if they wish to see him they do so. Why? It is
thus, Bhadrapala: this meditation has been perfected by the Buddha's
power. Those who possess the numinous power of the Buddha and
who are established in the meditation have three things: they pos-
sess the numinous power of the Buddha, they possess the power of
the Buddha's meditation, and they possess the power of their
former merit. Because of these three things they succeed in seeing
the Buddha.
"Bhadrapala, it is like a young man, upright and handsome,
who adorns himself. Wishing to see his own reflection, he either
takes a clean vessel and fills it with fine hempseed oil, or takes a
fine vessel and fills it with clear water, or a newly polished mirror,
or a flawless crystal. Thereupon he reflects himself and sees his
own reflection. What would you say, Bhadrapala? When the man
is reflected in the hempseed oil, the water, the mirror or the crystal,
could it possibly be that the reflection enters them from outside?"
Bhadrapala said: "No, God among Gods. It is simply because
the hempseed oil, the crystal, the water, or the mirror are clean
and pure that he sees his own reflection. His reflection neither
emerges from within nor enters from outside."
The Buddha said: "Well done! Well done, Bhadrapala! So it is,
Bhadrapala. When the forms are clear, everything is clear. If one
wishes to see the Buddha then one sees him. If one sees him then
one asks questions. If one asks then one is answered, one hears
the sutras and rejoices greatly. One reflects thus: 'Where did the
Buddha come from? Where did I go to?' and one thinks to oneself:
'The Buddha came from nowhere, and I also went nowhere.' One
thinks to oneself: Th e Three Realms—the Realm of Desire, the
Realm of Form, and the Realm of the Formless—these Three
Realms are simply made by thought. Whatever I think, tha t I see.
The mind creates the Buddha. The mind itself sees him. The mind
is the Buddha. The mind is the Tathagata. The mind is my body, the
mind sees the Buddha. The mind does not itself know the mind, the
mind does not itself see mind. A mind with conceptions is stupidity,
a mind without conceptions is nirvana. There is nothing in these
dharmas which can be enjoyed; they are all made by thinking. If
thinking is nothing but empty, then anything which is thought is
also utterly nonexistent.' So it is, Bhadrapala, such is the vision of
the bodhisattvas who are established in the meditation."

Also, this section of the sutra is related to the quote of Genshin's Ōjōyōshū that rory posted.
In the same way, Bhadrapala, bodhisattvas hear of the Bud-
dha of the present in whatever quarter they are facing, and constantly
reflect on that quarter, wishing to see the Buddha. When they
reflect on the Buddha they ought not to reflect on [him as] an
existing thing, nor should they have [the notion: That this is something']
set up by me. As they would conceive of emptiness so should they
reflect on the Buddha standing there, like a precious gem set on
beryl. In this way bodhisattvas will have a clear vision of the in-
numerable Buddhas of the ten quarters.
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