The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Santi253
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The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Thu May 11, 2017 9:10 am

pilgrim wrote:Because of the popularity of Pure Land, Hui Neng and other apologists of Mahayana gave new interpretations to the practice to make it compatible to the meditation schools. These interpretations were their own. There are no sutras that say Pure Land exist in the mind ( unless one takes Hui Neng's Platform Sutra to be a sutra). One might as well say chanting Coca Cola will bring one to the Flying Spaghetti Monster's kingdom and then ask if that is a legitimate practice. This too exists in the mind and getting people to chant this mantra is just skilful means.
This is not the case. The idea that the Pure Land is the pure mind can be found in several sutras, perhaps most notably the Vimalakirti Sutra:
http://lirs.ru/lib/sutra/The_Vimalakirt ... ,1997.html
Everywhere in the Mahayana sutras it states that as long as a person’s thoughts and behavior are purified, he or she will perceive the world as a pure Buddha land.

The Avatamsaka Sutra starts by saying, “At a certain time the Buddha attained the supreme enlightenment at the tranquil bodhi site in the kingdom of Magadha. The ground was as solid like a diamond, and completely magnificent and pure.” That is to say, upon achieving Buddhahood, the world where the Buddha resides is a pure land for the Buddha….

The Buddha Land Chapter in the Vimalakirti Sutra states, “By relying on the Buddha’s wisdom, one can see that the land of this Buddha is pure.” “Because they don’t rely on the Buddha’s Wisdom, they perceive this land as impure.” It also says, “If a person’s mind is pure, he will see the merit and magnificence of this land."
http://old.shengyen.org/e_content/conte ... 2_1_1.aspx
This teaching that the Pure Land is the pure mind can also be found in the Contemplation Sutra, traditionally regarded as one of the three canonical Pure Land sutras:
Then the World-Honored One said: 'Now do you not know, Vaidehi, that Buddha Amitayus is not very far from here?. . .

Every Buddha Tathagata is one whose spiritual body is the principle of nature (Darmadhatu-kaya), so that he may enter into the mind of any beings. Consequently, when you have perceived Buddha, it is indeed that mind of yours that possesses those thirty-two signs of perfection and eighty minor marks of excellence which you see in a Buddha. In conclusion, it is your mind that becomes Buddha, nay, it is your mind. that is indeed Buddha. The ocean of true and universal knowledge of all the Buddhas derives its source from one's own mind and thought.
http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/meditationsutra.html
If one sees the Pure Land as the pure mind cultivated by right conduct and right meditation, then there isn't a great deal of difference between Pure Land practice and Theravadin practice.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Thu May 11, 2017 3:57 pm

Another thing worth mentioning is that, according to the Shorter Amitabha Sutra, the birds in the Pure Land sing the Eightfold Path. This suggests that Pure Land Buddhism wasn't originally intended to be divorced from the Buddha's earlier teachings.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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chownah
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by chownah » Fri May 12, 2017 4:37 am

Does this mean that the mind is filled with birds singing the same thing over and over again?......I'd rather not, thank you anyway.
chownah

davidbrainerd
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by davidbrainerd » Fri May 12, 2017 4:49 am

If the pure land is the mind why do you have to die to get there? The theory just fell flat on its face.

Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sat May 13, 2017 12:04 am

chownah wrote:Does this mean that the mind is filled with birds singing the same thing over and over again?......I'd rather not, thank you anyway.
chownah
No, it's a metaphor.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sat May 13, 2017 12:08 am

davidbrainerd wrote:If the pure land is the mind why do you have to die to get there? The theory just fell flat on its face.
As the Buddha taught in the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Pure Land is here and now for one who has a purified mind:
At that time, the Buddha pressed the toes of His (right ) foot on the ground and the world was suddenly adorned with hundreds and thousands of rare and precious gems of the great chiliocosm, like the precious Majestic Buddha’s pure land adorned with countless precious merits, which the assembly praised as never seen before; in addition each person present found himself seated on a precious lotus throne.

The Buddha said to Sariputra: “Look at the majestic purity of this Buddha land of mine.”

Sariputra said: “World Honoured One, I have never seen and heard of this Buddha land in its majestic purity.”

The Buddha said: “This Buddha land of mine is always pure, but appears filthy so that I can lead people of inferior spirituality to their salvation. This is like the food of devas which takes various colours according to the merits of each individual eater. So, Sariputra, the man whose mind is pure sees this world in its majestic purity.”
https://www.wisdomlib.org/buddhism/book ... 16185.html
Under this definition, the Pure Land is simply a metaphor of the enlightened mind, whether we experience it in this life or the life to come.

If the Pure Land is seen in this way, then there is no essential conflict with Theravadin teachings that I'm aware of. Please let me know if I am mistaken in that regard.

My only goal in this thread is to hopefully show similarities between Mahayana and Theravada teachings.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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chownah
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by chownah » Sat May 13, 2017 2:58 am

Santi253 wrote:...........
...............

Under this definition, the Pure Land is simply a metaphor of the enlightened mind, whether we experience it in this life or the life to come.

If the Pure Land is seen in this way, then there is no essential conflict with Theravadin teachings that I'm aware of. Please let me know if I am mistaken in that regard.
This is fine but there is one concern. Many people have a difficult time differentiating between what is metaphor and what is literal. This is the root of alot of disagreements about the meaning of many of the pali presentations. If Pure Land believers take it as being metaphoric then I guess that is great (at least from perspecive of it being metaphor) but if they take it as being literal then it is potentially a disaster (at least from the perspective of it being metaphor).....and conversely if they take it as metaphore (at least from the perspective of it not being metaphor) it is a disaster etc. etc.
chownah

Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sat May 13, 2017 3:09 am

chownah wrote: This is fine but there is one concern. Many people have a difficult time differentiating between what is metaphor and what is literal. This is the root of alot of disagreements about the meaning of many of the pali presentations. If Pure Land believers take it as being metaphoric then I guess that is great (at least from perspecive of it being metaphor) but if they take it as being literal then it is potentially a disaster (at least from the perspective of it being metaphor).....and conversely if they take it as metaphore (at least from the perspective of it not being metaphor) it is a disaster etc. etc.
chownah
Perhaps this will be helpful to clearing this up:
The relationship with Chinese “Chan” Buddhism (Zen) is long and complicated, but by the time of the Ming Dynasty (明朝), Chan and Pure Land Buddhism slowly converged into two sides of the same “Chinese Buddhism”. This in turn influenced China’s neighbors of Korea and Vietnam.

To illustrate this point, Buddhist authors in late-medieval China and Vietnam frequently describe Pure Land Buddhism’s practice of reciting the Buddha’s name in terms of three levels:

Mundane, regular level: reciting the Buddha’s name to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
Middle-level: reciting the Buddha’s name to “bring out” the Buddha within the practitioner.
High-level: reciting the Buddha’s name with the understanding that there is no Buddha outside the mind.

The point is that the “ultimate” teaching of Pure Land Buddhism has nothing to do with an external refuge, but that the Pure Land is the mind itself…
https://klingonbuddhist.wordpress.com/2 ... -buddhism/
From this perspective, the point is not to disparage those who recite the Buddha's name and seek to live a holy life in order to be reborn into a pure land after death. Whatever gets a person to practice is what really matters, regardless of what their level of interpretation might be.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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chownah
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by chownah » Sat May 13, 2017 4:46 am

Santi253 wrote:
The relationship with Chinese “Chan” Buddhism (Zen) is long and complicated, but by the time of the Ming Dynasty (明朝), Chan and Pure Land Buddhism slowly converged into two sides of the same “Chinese Buddhism”. This in turn influenced China’s neighbors of Korea and Vietnam.

To illustrate this point, Buddhist authors in late-medieval China and Vietnam frequently describe Pure Land Buddhism’s practice of reciting the Buddha’s name in terms of three levels:

Mundane, regular level: reciting the Buddha’s name to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
Middle-level: reciting the Buddha’s name to “bring out” the Buddha within the practitioner.
High-level: reciting the Buddha’s name with the understanding that there is no Buddha outside the mind.

The point is that the “ultimate” teaching of Pure Land Buddhism has nothing to do with an external refuge, but that the Pure Land is the mind itself…
https://klingonbuddhist.wordpress.com/2 ... -buddhism/
From this perspective, the point is not to disparage those who recite the Buddha's name and seek to live a holy life in order to be reborn into a pure land after death. Whatever gets a person to practice is what really matters, regardless of what their level of interpretation might be.
Is this perspective held by the majority of those who hold to Pure Land? (Thinking of the millions of relatively uneducated practicioners whow might have never studied this as doctrine at all)
Is this perspective the "true" perspective? It does seem to assume that it is the true perspective and that those with the perspective that there is a pure land out there somewhere in the world or in heaven are at a lower level of understanding. (Thinking of condescension here)

There is a somewhat similar (but not quite the same) sort of thing in the pali canon in the story of Nanda where the buddha offered him 500 dove footed nymphs (no accounting for people's tastes in feet) if he kept up with his practise:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
An excerpt:
"Lord, as I was leaving home, a Sakyan girl — the envy of the countryside — glanced up at me, with her hair half-combed, and said, 'Hurry back, master.' Recollecting that, I don't enjoy leading the holy life. I can't keep up the holy life. Giving up the training, I will return to the common life."

Then, taking Ven. Nanda by the arm — as a strong man might flex his extended arm or extend his flexed arm — the Blessed One disappeared from Jeta's Grove and reappeared among the devas of the heaven of the Thirty-three [Tāvatiṃsa]. Now on that occasion about 500 dove-footed nymphs had come to wait upon Sakka, the ruler of the devas. The Blessed One said to Ven. Nanda, "Nanda, do you see these 500 dove-footed nymphs?"

"Yes, lord."

"What do you think, Nanda? Which is lovelier, better looking, more charming: the Sakyan girl, the envy of the countryside, or these 500 dove-footed nymphs?"

"Lord, compared to these 500 dove-footed nymphs, the Sakyan girl, the envy of the countryside, is like a cauterized monkey with its ears & nose cut off. She doesn't count. She's not even a small fraction. There's no comparison. The 500 dove-footed nymphs are lovelier, better looking, more charming."

"Then take joy, Nanda. Take joy! I am your guarantor for getting 500 dove-footed nymphs."

"If the Blessed One is my guarantor for getting 500 dove-footed nymphs, I will enjoy leading the holy life under the Blessed One."
chownah

Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sat May 13, 2017 5:39 am

chownah wrote: Is this perspective held by the majority of those who hold to Pure Land? (Thinking of the millions of relatively uneducated practicioners whow might have never studied this as doctrine at all)
From a Mahayana perspective, it's not either/or, that the Pure Land must exclusively be here and now or exclusively be something that we experience after death.

If Buddha-nature is within all things, and if all things are empty of separate existence, then it cannot be said that the Pure Land is entirely separate from the everyday world in which we live.

That we can experience the Pure Land here and now, through removing our personal defilements, doesn't rule out that we can be reborn into the Pure Land after death as well. It's different aspects of the same reality, not mutually exclusive to each other.

What matters for one's personal interpretation, of whether the Pure Land is here and now or after death, is whichever interpretation better helps the person to practice the Buddha's teachings in one's daily life, whichever interpretation better motivates the individual to practice the Buddha's teachings.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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mikenz66
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by mikenz66 » Sat May 13, 2017 5:56 am

chownah wrote: Is this perspective held by the majority of those who hold to Pure Land? (Thinking of the millions of relatively uneducated practicioners whow might have never studied this as doctrine at all)
One could ask the same question about people in Theravada countries, or of western converts who may or may not have understood correctly... :thinking:

There are many levels of practice in all schools...

:heart:
Mike

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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by form » Sat May 13, 2017 11:14 am

Isn't pure land and abode for a non returner?

Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sun May 14, 2017 11:05 am

mikenz66 wrote:
chownah wrote: Is this perspective held by the majority of those who hold to Pure Land? (Thinking of the millions of relatively uneducated practicioners whow might have never studied this as doctrine at all)
One could ask the same question about people in Theravada countries, or of western converts who may or may not have understood correctly... :thinking:

There are many levels of practice in all schools...

:heart:
Mike
Thank you for pointing this out. May you be happy and well.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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chownah
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by chownah » Sun May 14, 2017 12:51 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
chownah wrote: Is this perspective held by the majority of those who hold to Pure Land? (Thinking of the millions of relatively uneducated practicioners whow might have never studied this as doctrine at all)
One could ask the same question about people in Theravada countries, or of western converts who may or may not have understood correctly... :thinking:

There are many levels of practice in all schools...

:heart:
Mike
Of course this happens with theravadans.....that is the point of my bringing the excerpt from the nanda sutta with the story of the dove footed nymphs. Not only can this happen in theravada countries or with western converts but it even is documented in the pali canon with a disciple who was close enough to the buddha to have had face to face contact and conversations.

I was hoping that santi253 would be encouraged by this admission of the widespread existence of these misapprehensions so that it would be easy to talk about how many mahanayists see pure land as being an actual place either in the world or in heaven....but so far I am still in the dark on this.

I read a portion of a link that santi253 presented that talks about pure land being in the mind. It was interesting. It seemed that it was a presentation of several metaphores about a metaphoric place which exists for the buddha with each metaphor showing how a different aspect of the buddhas purity is manifest in that pure land. For me it raised the question as to whether pure land is a place in the mind or whether it is a metaphor only.

I know nothing about pure land....or mahayana for that matter.
chownah

Santi253
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Re: The Pure Land is the Pure Mind

Post by Santi253 » Sun May 14, 2017 2:09 pm

I am sorry if these Pure Land concepts seem confusing. I recommend Finding Our True Home: Living in the Pure Land Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh. As a Zen monk from a country in Southeast Asia, Rev. Hanh is very appreciative of Theravada Buddhism.
https://books.google.com/books?id=BVn8A ... &q&f=false
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