Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Mkoll
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by Mkoll » Fri Feb 03, 2017 4:00 am

Friendly_Inquirer wrote:
Mkoll wrote: I can see why there are different conceptions of the nature of the Pure Land because these are mixed messages.
As a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, I hold Shinran Shonin to be authoritative when it comes to interpreting the Pure Land scriptures. Shinran didn't make up things as he went along, as evidenced by his extensive citations of the Pure Land masters and the Mahayana scriptures in the Kyogyoshinsho:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyogyoshinsho

For a more concise and easily digestible introduction to the teachings of Shinran, I recommend the Essential Shinran by Alfred Bloom.
I'm only pointing out the inconsistencies I see in the passage and links you've provided. Appealing to Shinran as an authority doesn't resolve them, but that's OK as I'm not really interested in debate.

Thanks for sharing the information and giving us the opportunity to learn more about Pure Land.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Friendly_Inquirer
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by Friendly_Inquirer » Fri Feb 03, 2017 4:10 am

Mkoll wrote: Appealing to Shinran as an authority doesn't resolve them, but that's OK as I'm not really interested in debate.
Because Shinran simply repeated the Pure Land masters who came before him, such as Shandao and Tan-l'uan, in teaching that the Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, one need not necessarily even mention Shinran as an authority. In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, Shinran isn't listed among the Pure Land masters, despite being the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect, because his only intent was to carry on what had been taught before him.

A more interesting conversation, then, might be to simply accept for the sake of conversation that the Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, since this is what the Pure Land masters taught. This way, it opens up a possible dialogue with Theravada Buddhism in terms of how Theravadans interpret the realm of Nirvana and what they understand it to be.

I would find learning more about the Theravada understanding of the realm of Nirvana to be very interesting.

santa100
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by santa100 » Fri Feb 03, 2017 5:19 am

Friendly_Inquirer wrote:A more interesting conversation, then, might be to simply accept for the sake of conversation that the Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana,...

...I would find learning more about the Theravada understanding of the realm of Nirvana to be very interesting.
The thing is that if you stick with the premise in your first sentence, then I afraid what you hope to find out in your second sentence won't turn out to be very interesting for you after all... :smile:
SN 43.14 wrote:Bhikkhus, I will teach you the taintless and the path leading to the taintless. Listen to that….

“Bhikkhus, I will teach you the truth and the path leading to the truth…. I will teach you the far shore … the subtle … the very difficult to see … the unaging … … the stable … the undisintegrating … the unmanifest … the unproliferated … the peaceful … the deathless … the sublime … the auspicious … … the secure …. the destruction of craving … the wonderful … the amazing … the unailing … the unailing state … Nibbāna … the unafflicted … dispassion … … purity … freedom … the unadhesive … the island … the shelter … the asylum … the refuge … …”

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Feb 03, 2017 9:33 am

Friendly_Inquirer wrote:A more interesting conversation, then, might be to simply accept for the sake of conversation that the Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, since this is what the Pure Land masters taught. This way, it opens up a possible dialogue with Theravada Buddhism in terms of how Theravadans interpret the realm of Nirvana and what they understand it to be.
Nibbāna is not a realm of existence. It is the cessation of craving and ignorance. It is not annihilation either, as there is no self to annihilate. One can only say that it is the destruction of craving and ignorance.

In the gradual sayings, the Buddha said:
‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, appamattakopi gūtho duggandho hoti; evamevaṃ kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, appamattakampi bhavaṃ na vaṇṇemi, antamaso accharāsaṅghātamattampi’’.
Freely translated, this means, “Monks, just as even a small piece of shit smells bad, I do not praise even a little becoming, not even for the length of a finger-snap.”

As I said in reply to your first post, the Buddha does not exist anywhere, having put an end to all causes of rebirth. You can pray to him all you like, but he won't hear you. If you wish to revere the Buddha it is best to practice his teachings: follow the precepts meticulously, develop concentration, and cultivate insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness,¹ and not-self.

¹ Dukkha is much more inclusive than mere physical pain and mental distress. Existence is dukkha, it is not that existence is one thing, and beings who are born experience dukkha from time to time. Being reborn anywhere, in any realm, is dukkha. Even the non-returners in the Pure Abodes are not yet free from dukkha.
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zerotime
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by zerotime » Sat Feb 04, 2017 1:03 pm

santa100 wrote: As far as the Pure Land realm as some sort of manifestation of Nirvana, it doesn't seem to have any support in the Lotus Sutra, another popular Mahayana Text.
in fact Shinran talked about the Pure Land like a "means" although at the same time these means are described being the same nirvana. This is not something strange in Mahayana terms. It follows the same line of other Mahayana schools inheriting the Ashvagosha's function/essence notion as the way in what the enlightenment it's expressed in the mind and world. Something similar to the classic phenomena/noumenon philosophical schema to explain the nature of something.

Mahayana Sutras are very populated with these events of a "phenomenic" aspect at some point of the enlightenment process, including long prefaces with a baroque presentation of many Buddhas, boddhisatvas, devas and the rest. Perhaps these introductions wanted to show a certify of authority of a new scripture, I don't know. I believe the more representative work of all this creative world it is the Avatamsaka Sutra.

I remember a thread in this board about the vision of Buddhas of a respected forest-sangha bhikkhu and immediately came to my mind this issue of the different understanding of the enlightenment process in both traditions. It is interesting.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by santa100 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 8:37 pm

zerotime wrote:I remember a thread in this board about the vision of Buddhas of a respected forest-sangha bhikkhu and immediately came to my mind this issue of the different understanding of the enlightenment process in both traditions. It is interesting.
That's why it's important to keep verifying and examining folks claims. In my experience, the difference between Theravada and Mahayana is not so much in the doctrines but more about the approach. While this is not lumping all of Mahayanists, it's a very common pattern that they tend to put a lot more emphasis on the teaching of their masters than the Buddha's words, as evidenced by this own thread. To Theravadins, whether it's Shinran, Mahasi Sayadaw, or John Doe, none get special favor/treament when it comes to the fact-checking process. Mahayanists on the other hand, again not all of them, seem to favor their masters' words over their sutras even when their own teaching encourage the Four Dharma Reliances which is similar to the Buddha's Four Great References.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 9:59 pm

Hmm, to be fair, famous Theravada monks are highly revered in Asia. However, it's not necessarily the details of their teaching, but the assumption of their Ariya status and therefore the merit one can attain by paying homage. Just look at the statues of Somdej Toh that you'll find all over Thailand (we have one at our local Wat...). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somdej_Toh

Ajahn Mun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mun_Bhuridatta was the one particulary said to have had visions of the Buddha. See Ven Dhammanando's comments here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 02#p270157

One could speculate that some of the Mahayana sutras were the result of such visions, and one should also note the the reforms of Thai Buddhism by King Mongkut and his sons attempted to play down the supernatural aspects. It is perhaps ironical, then, that Somdej Toh, who may have been Monkut's preceptor, has taken on such a legendary role. He appears, for example, as the hero in the Nong Nak ghost story https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Nak_Phra_Khanong

And one shouldn't forget the prevalence of Amulets blessed by monks in Thailand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_Buddha_amulet

Oh, and the Guan Yin statues...

There have been various discussions here, often under the label "Tantric Theravada":
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=10503
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=6599
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=833#p10141
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=785#p10020
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=27614#p393280

:anjali:
Mike

santa100
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by santa100 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:16 pm

Obviously on a lay/secular level, elements of superstition and rituals are there in all Buddhist sects. But when it comes to Dhamma/Dharma discussion, one can clearly see the differences. All s/he needs to do is pay a quick visit to DharmaWheel or any other Mahayana forums and then come back to DhammaWheel to see how folks approach their Dhamma/Dharma when it comes to referencing suttas/sutras versus the works of the masters of their sect. Of course this is not to say Theravada is exclusively sutta-based but there's no question that it places a much heavier emphasis on the Buddha's words instead of the words of any particular master. One can't really say the same thing for the Mahayana side. To be clear, this is just for observation, not judgement. Afterall, if a fellow Mahayanist is able to observe the Precepts better, more advanced in Meditation and development of Insight due to some teaching of his master, than apparently s/he's a better Buddhist than his Theravadins friends. Just like my marital arts analogy in many other posts, whatever approach one uses, as long as s/he walks out of the mat or the ring alive and on two feet, that's what matters..
Last edited by santa100 on Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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zerotime
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by zerotime » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:26 pm

santa100 wrote: That's why it's important to keep verifying and examining folks claims. In my experience, the difference between Theravada and Mahayana is not so much in the doctrines but more about the approach. While this is not lumping all of Mahayanists, it's a very common pattern that they tend to put a lot more emphasis on the teaching of their masters than the Buddha's words, as evidenced by this own thread. To Theravadins, whether it's Shinran, Mahasi Sayadaw, or John Doe, none get special favor/treament when it comes to the fact-checking process. Mahayanists on the other hand, again not all of them, seem to favor their masters' words over their sutras even when their own teaching encourage the Four Dharma Reliances which is similar to the Buddha's Four Great References.
yes, I agree. Theravada is more critical with his own world while the Mahayana is more evasive. Maybe for that reason we are seeing so many Mahayana schools and with more marked differences?. It can condition the Historical evolution in a strong way.

In that episode, I remember how many people logically said that those visions "cannot be enlightenment" according the Theravada teaching. And one can say "well said". Although at the other side, I didn't remember the bhikku said that those visions where nibbana, I believe he didn't say that.
A mahayanist would see in those episodes a part of the enlightened activity, while a theravadist will discuss that point because it is not linked with nibbana.

In Mahayana, this would be part of the enlightenment process because the enlightenment it's something more wide, despite the goal it is also nirvana. In Mahayana terms, it becomes implicit that the same Reality it's enlightenment. And from here "the Buddha" is a different thing in its "phenomenical" sense, and then it is already present in the many manifestations of Reality. So we can make Zen gardens showing the Buddha in a hedge and to say Thanks to Amida because we have found the Path and nothing can impede our enlightenment.

In that way, the mahayana follower is unveiling that enlightened nature in his progress, and it is not strange seeing those descriptions and visions at some point. However, the Theravada tradition never would agree with such wide notion, and these visions or phenomena hardly would be accepted as a part of Enlightenment because nibbana it's the only point here. End of dukkha and final happiness are strictly linked with nibbana defined as the non-conditioned and unborn.

Making a gross simplification, this would be like seeing a cloth half-dirty or half-clean. And maybe the difference is not in the cloth but there is a great difference in the understanding of what to do in the Path and how we should understand what happens.

By the way, Walshe see some connection with faith vehicles like the Pure Land in the faith-follower of SN 55.24:

"Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.[7]"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

- footnote [7]

"An encouraging message for many! Cf. the end of MN 22, and also the charming image of the new-born calf in MN 34. The Commentary (MA) to MN 22 says such people are termed "lesser stream-winners" (cuulasotaapannaa). This term is discussed in VM XIX, 27. The stress laid here on the importance of faith is interesting in view of later developments such as the Pure Land Schools (e.g., Jodo-Shishu or "Shin-Buddhism" in Japan).

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:39 pm

santa100 wrote: ... All s/he needs to do is pay a quick visit to DharmaWheel or any other Mahayana forums and then come back to DhammaWheel to see how folks approach their Dhamma/Dharma when it comes to referencing suttas/sutras versus the works of the masters of their sect. ...
Hmm, the forums you're talking about are tiny groups of western converts. I was talking about communities in Asia, immigrant communities in the west, and westerners who have never heard of these forums...

I have contact here with the Thai and Sri Lankan community obviously, but also the Fo Guang Shan - a Taiwanese-based Humanistic Buddhism group, who invite me to events from time to time. (Ven Shi Huifeng, who used to post here is part of this organisation - he teaches at their University in Taiwan.) Certainly Fo Guang Shan pay a lot of attention to their Venerable Master, but then so do many followers of Ajahn Chah, for example, creating books and calendars of quotations, and so on...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:41 pm

santa100 wrote: ... All s/he needs to do is pay a quick visit to DharmaWheel or any other Mahayana forums and then come back to DhammaWheel to see how folks approach their Dhamma/Dharma when it comes to referencing suttas/sutras versus the works of the masters of their sect. ...
There a areas of DharmaWheel were sūtrāṇi and other related Buddhavacana are of utmost importance. Not all Mahāyāna is Lamaism.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by zerotime » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:42 pm

mikenz66 wrote: Ajahn Mun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mun_Bhuridatta was the one particulary said to have had visions of the Buddha. See Ven Dhammanando's comments here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 02#p270157
yes, he was A. Mun.
I think the Ven Dhammanando said the right thing because that's the right way to observe such things for the people following this Path. Mind-made images
Last edited by zerotime on Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by santa100 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:43 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
santa100 wrote: ... All s/he needs to do is pay a quick visit to DharmaWheel or any other Mahayana forums and then come back to DhammaWheel to see how folks approach their Dhamma/Dharma when it comes to referencing suttas/sutras versus the works of the masters of their sect. ...
There a areas of DharmaWheel were sūtrāṇi and other related Buddhavacana are of utmost importance.
Of course, as clearly clarified by me by saying keywords like "not lumping", "exclusively", etc. in my posts above.

santa100
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by santa100 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:51 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
santa100 wrote: ... All s/he needs to do is pay a quick visit to DharmaWheel or any other Mahayana forums and then come back to DhammaWheel to see how folks approach their Dhamma/Dharma when it comes to referencing suttas/sutras versus the works of the masters of their sect. ...
Hmm, the forums you're talking about are tiny groups of western converts. I was talking about communities in Asia, immigrant communities in the west, and westerners who have never heard of these forums...

I have contact here with the Thai and Sri Lankan community obviously, but also the Fo Guang Shan - a Taiwanese-based Humanistic Buddhism group, who invite me to events from time to time. (Ven Shi Huifeng, who used to post here is part of this organisation - he teaches at their University in Taiwan.) Certainly Fo Guang Shan pay a lot of attention to their Venerable Master, but then so do many followers of Ajahn Chah, for example, creating books and calendars of quotations, and so on...

:anjali:
Mike
I think you're missing my point. We do respect the work of the masters. But there's no deny that Theravadins are very objective in the evaluation of their work. You mentioned Fo Guan Shan, all right, then let me ask you, while Mahayanists turn the teaching of master Hui Neng into a Sutra, yes, a Sutra called the Platform sutra, is there anything equivalent from the Theravada side? (and just to be clear again as always, I'm not bashing master Hui Neng here). You also mentioned the "Westerner" phenomenon, well go over to DharmaWheel and see a lengthly debate between me and all the folks over there quite a while back regarding this same exact topic. They're also westerners, arent' they?

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mikenz66
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism and the Pali Canon

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:47 am

santa100 wrote: I think you're missing my point. We do respect the work of the masters. But there's no deny that Theravadins are very objective in the evaluation of their work. ...
Yes, were're probably talking at cross purposes. By "Theravadins" I guess you mean those who actually read suttas, abhidhamma, etc. I think that's a small minority of all Theravadins (or Mahayana Buddhists also).

There's a whole range of people who practice the various forms of Buddhism. I don't think it's useful to generalise. Some "native" Theravada people I know who obviously have a very good long-term practice, but I doubt they've read many suttas, or have much idea which concepts are from sutta, abhidhamma, commentaries, or more recent sources. Their information comes from monks and Thai Dhamma books.

And, of course, that's also the case for most of the Westerner Buddhist I know (outside of forums such as this, or course). Their information mostly comes from books and talks from teachers.

:anjali:
Mike

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