So many schools

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: So many schools

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:58 am

PorkChop wrote:
shaunc wrote:Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone for their input. It would help I feel if I made myself more clear & explained what experience I had & what problems I'd encountered. Tibetan buddhism is fairly easy for me to access where I live, the plus side is that almost all of them were westerners (language) the down side was that I found it very academic. I'm not an academic, I left school at 15 & work as a driver.
Pure-land (vietnamese) the problem I encountered here was language & very little/no emphasis on meditation. The plus side was that it's easily practised by anyone at any time. Another down side was all the faith needed wishing for the pure-land after death. My own mish-mash of buddhism at least gives me benefit in this life.
Theravada (Thai forrest monks), the meditation was great, but again language was a problem, also the emphasis on becoming a monk/nun before attaining enlightenment made me feel as though all I was practising for was another life where I could become a monk/nun & then achieve enlightenment.
Nichiren, again like pure-land it was a fairly simple practise although I wasn't particularly impressed with the way they rubbished meditation, also basic things like the 4 noble truths the noble eight fold path & the 5 precepts weren't even mentioned. I should also mention this was an SGI group I'd encountered & most buddhist groups consider them to be a bit sketchy at best.
My needs I feel are fairly simple. I'm a lay house-holder (married with 4 kids) meditating helps me a lot & I try to practise daily, at least 5 times/week, not for long usually 10-20 minutes. I start work early 4.00am & while driving to my first job I remind myself of the 4NT, N8P & 5P. I also chant a bit.
If anyone feels that they know of a fairly simple school please don't hesitate to mention it.
A lot of people overlook Pure Land and misunderstand it.
Pure Land recitation IS a type of meditation, specifically buddhanusmrti or mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, (and the Devas).
That being said, Vietnamese Pure Land schools are often based on Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, which recommends combining Pure Land practice and Chan/Zen meditation.

In the Pali Cannon the Buddha mentions mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha (and the Devas) as a way to correctly navigate one's mind, to set it on the right track, and with faith can lead one to birth in a Pure Abode where one may attain enlightenment upon being born there.
The Buddha specifically recommended this practice to householders.
The thing is, Pure Land practice is not just about what happens when you die, it's about properly purifying your mind while you're alive.
So even if you don't win realizations right away, they will come at some point in the future.

I liken the practice to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), where if it's rainy outside every day, you're going to tend to have dreary thoughts, the more dreary thoughts you think, the more dreary your mind becomes, eventually you get depressed. It's also like anger - the more you allow yourself to become angry, the more often you act on your anger, the more you establish that habit of being angry, eventually you become an angry person.
By focusing on Enlightened beings with limitless Compassion & Wisdom, slowly, over time you put the imprints of Compassion & Wisdom on your mind and bring out those qualities in yourself.

Theravadans typically accomplish mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha (and the Devas) with the Iti Pi So chant.
In Mahayana, this became the Pure Land sutras, with Amitabha, Amitayus, Akshobya, and Medicine Buddha (among others); and it also includes very effective visualizations.
In Japan, the Jodo Shu and Jodo Shin Shu movement are somewhat unique in that they don't believe in "self power". Unlike Chinese Buddhism or Tendai, they don't advocate mixing Pure Land practice with Jnana/Chan/Zen meditation, and they don't seem to put the emphasis on dana (giving) or sila (ethics) that most schools do.
Nichiren's chanting of the title of the Lotus Sutra grew up in response to the Jodo Shu & Jodo Shin Shu schools, but it is similar to Pure Land practice in a lot of regards.
Nichiren practice allows for birth in Shakyamuni's Pure Land at Vulture's Peak, it also stresses the Lotus Sutra itself, which is a very deep sutra filled with tons of metaphor, and like other buddhanusmrti practices, Nichiren practice also purifies the mind.

Focusing on "the historical Buddha" can help if you're having a hard time buying into the other Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, or you can remember that in the Dharmakaya, there really are no differences. In emptiness, nobody has an absolute, permanent, separate existence. All Buddhas would have the same enlightenment.

The advantage that the simple chanting practices have over Zen is that you don't need to worry about killing the Buddha on the path if you meet him, because you asked him to be there. :)
In other words, with Pure Land practice, you tend to need less guidance than with anapasatti (breath meditation), but you shouldn't dump breath meditation.
You also shouldn't dump ethics/precepts, the 4NTs, or anything else considered "standard" Buddhism - otherwise, you wouldn't be mindful of the Dharma.
In fact, in the Visualization Sutra (one of the 3 or 4 main Pure Land Sutras), the Buddha tells Queen Vaidehi that she must cultivate the Three Conditions in order to be born in the Pure Land.
They are:
The First Condition is:
1. Be filial to and provide for parents
2. Be respectful to and serve teachers
3. Be compassionate and not kill any living beings
4. Cultivate the Ten Virtuous Conducts.
- Physically, we are to refrain from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
- Verbally, we are to refrain from lying, harsh speech, divisive speech, and enticing speech.
- Mentally, we are to refrain from giving rise to greed, anger, and ignorance.

The Second Condition is:
5. Take the Three Refuges
6. Abide by the precepts
7. Behave in a dignified, appropriate manner

The Third Condition is:
8. Generate the Bodhi mind
9. Believe deeply in causality
10. Study and chant the Mahayana sutras
11. Encourage others to advance on the path to enlightenment
Many of the vows of Amitabha and Medicine Buddha deal explicitly with the precepts, right concentration, wisdom, and compassion.
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