Do you think any of these schools advise doing as much?
At the popular level of Pure Land Buddhism, this is how it generally seems to be understood.
Yes, there are additional intellectual and even mystic elaborations regarding the prerequisites for entering the Pure Land, but that's not really how it is understood on the ground. The common hope is that you get the good grace of Amitabha and get into the Pure Land. You can also get some merit on the merit market (maybe some music performances with sutra recitation by a professional) and dedicate it to your dead relatives in the hope they get into the Pure Land, too.
Recently in Singapore I spoke at length with Chinese Singaporeans who got so fed up with such an approach to Buddhism that they are now vehemently opposed to it. They are now strictly adhering to Theravada now. They would tell me at great length how these sort of Pure Land ideas are what you get with most Chinese Buddhism in their part of the world minus the Humanistic Buddhism.
These are some pretty provocative statements.
Not really. I'm telling you my experience with self-identifying Buddhists.
If thinking of a Buddha is not a valid practice, then householder practice going back to the earliest days is wrong, the scriptural traditions passed down are wrong, and many accomplished masters from many countries are wrong.
I think nianfo
is a fine practice. The principle in effect is that you emulate what you contemplate.
That being said, I think seeking rebirth in the Pure Land while excluding all the essential components of Buddhadharma is unwise.
Who are you to say who gets to exit saṃsāra and who doesn't? Are you perfectly enlightened?
It is my simple belief that liberation from saṃsāra is a lot more complex and demanding that getting the good grace of a buddha and knowing the right incantation or two.
Call me intolerant, but this is just a religious belief on my part. I can't prove it.
If someone wants to do Pure Land, then that is their right. I just don't see much value in the popular versions of it. Even the more advanced forms advocated by figures like Shinran make little sense to me.
Recently in Singapore I gave a lecture detailing the history of Buddhism's transmission from India to China. I said explicitly that the flesh and blood Śākyamuni never taught Pure Land Buddhism or any Pure Land sutra.
One gentleman figuratively blew a gasket. I didn't quite catch everything he was saying as he was speaking Chinese too quickly for me to fully comprehend, but nevertheless he was upset with what I had to say and he had to be calmed down. I explained that his beliefs are indefensible as far as modern scholarship goes.
I could get away with this because it was a Theravada temple.
In any case, Pure Land Buddhism is heavily based on faith and speculation. Aside from mystical experiences, you can't really verify the desired result until you're dead. That's a bit risky sounding for me. I prefer systematic approaches with results you can immediately measure in this life. As a polytheist I'm fine with cosmic buddhas and bodhisattvas aiding beings, but they are subject to limitations just as we are. Putting all your faith in a single buddha given what archaic scriptures say just sounds unwise to me.
Maybe it allows for peace of mind, but again in Singapore my Chinese friend noted how many Pure Land Buddhists he knows will start dying and become disillusioned when Amitabha fails to show up to greet them despite all the faith and merit they've generated throughout life.