Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:07 pm

Aloka wrote:
Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:03 am
.

This is an excerpt from "Myth in Buddhism" an essay by Piya Tan:

1.8.1 The Mahāyāna myth. The post-Buddha Indian Buddhists responded with their own genius to the brahminical broadside on Buddhism in a number of ways. From our textual records and history, we can surmise that these responses are mainly philosophical, doctrinal, and ritual, each with their new myths. The main thread running through all these responses was that of making Buddhism more universalist and populist, even triumphalist.

Beginning around the 1st century BCE, we see the rise of the Perfection of Wisdom (prajñā,pāramitā) literature, a central concept of the newly emerged Mahāyāna. Although these texts often give inspiring accounts of meditation, their tone is predominantly philosophical, which are not easily comprehensible or practicable for the masses. Most of these great works, however, have come down to our times.

The new Mahāyāna mythology is rich and colourful with new Buddhas and paradises, the best known of which are clearly Amitābha Buddha and his Western Paradise of Sukhāvati. The earliest Mahāyāna texts often centred around meditation,
but the texts that follow are generally more ritualistic and apotropaic (magical). Many such texts deify the Buddha, so that he is endowed with omniscience and boundless powers, and inhabit various universes, besides ours.

The Mahāyāna mythology as a whole is unparallelled in the history of religion. However, if we look deeply into the threads that run through many of them, we could say that they reflect that their authors are struggling with the death of this historical Buddha. There is a general denial that such a great being as the Buddha could be mortal. This, anyway, is a common reaction of devout believers after the passing of their founders, who then are apotheosized.

The Mahāyāna authors are arguably great literati, living in urban monasteries, especially well versed in Buddhist texts and secular learning. Such urbanized settings, as a rule, are not home for the Buddhist contemplatives, who prefer to live in smaller groups in remote forests, or as eremites (solitary wanderers).
Lacking the detachment of the eremites, these post-Buddha coenobites (settled monastics) are understandably concerned with promoting, or at least preserving, their communities and teachings. They also have to present their followers and the public with a mythology that would continue to strengthen their faith and sustain, even increase, their patronage.

These settled monastics conceived the cults of cosmic Buddhas who are regarded as eternal beings, with whom they are capable of having communion through meditation, prayer, trance or dreams. These new Buddha-myths became very popular, and grew into numerous new schools and sects, as Buddhism spread into other cultures, and was in turn assimilated into local cultures.

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... m-piya.pdf

:anjali:
The specification of "urban monasteries" is striking. I had heard many speak of Mahayana originating in the forests of Southern India.
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

Caodemarte
Posts: 831
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:25 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:07 pm
Aloka wrote:
Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:03 am
.

This is an excerpt from "Myth in Buddhism" an essay by Piya Tan:

1.8.1 The Mahāyāna myth. The post-Buddha Indian Buddhists responded with their own genius to the brahminical broadside on Buddhism in a number of ways. From our textual records and history, we can surmise that these responses are mainly philosophical, doctrinal, and ritual, each with their new myths. The main thread running through all these responses was that of making Buddhism more universalist and populist, even triumphalist.

Beginning around the 1st century BCE, we see the rise of the Perfection of Wisdom (prajñā,pāramitā) literature, a central concept of the newly emerged Mahāyāna. Although these texts often give inspiring accounts of meditation, their tone is predominantly philosophical, which are not easily comprehensible or practicable for the masses. Most of these great works, however, have come down to our times.

The new Mahāyāna mythology is rich and colourful with new Buddhas and paradises, the best known of which are clearly Amitābha Buddha and his Western Paradise of Sukhāvati. The earliest Mahāyāna texts often centred around meditation,
but the texts that follow are generally more ritualistic and apotropaic (magical). Many such texts deify the Buddha, so that he is endowed with omniscience and boundless powers, and inhabit various universes, besides ours.

The Mahāyāna mythology as a whole is unparallelled in the history of religion. However, if we look deeply into the threads that run through many of them, we could say that they reflect that their authors are struggling with the death of this historical Buddha. There is a general denial that such a great being as the Buddha could be mortal. This, anyway, is a common reaction of devout believers after the passing of their founders, who then are apotheosized.

The Mahāyāna authors are arguably great literati, living in urban monasteries, especially well versed in Buddhist texts and secular learning. Such urbanized settings, as a rule, are not home for the Buddhist contemplatives, who prefer to live in smaller groups in remote forests, or as eremites (solitary wanderers).
Lacking the detachment of the eremites, these post-Buddha coenobites (settled monastics) are understandably concerned with promoting, or at least preserving, their communities and teachings. They also have to present their followers and the public with a mythology that would continue to strengthen their faith and sustain, even increase, their patronage.

These settled monastics conceived the cults of cosmic Buddhas who are regarded as eternal beings, with whom they are capable of having communion through meditation, prayer, trance or dreams. These new Buddha-myths became very popular, and grew into numerous new schools and sects, as Buddhism spread into other cultures, and was in turn assimilated into local cultures.

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... m-piya.pdf

:anjali:
The specification of "urban monasteries" is striking. I had heard many speak of Mahayana originating in the forests of Southern India.
There are many theories ranging from Mahayana as the product of forrest ascetics to emerging from lay practioners with varying degrees of evidence. However, the idea that Mahayana emerged as a result of “non-detached” non-contemplating urban monks (how is this known?) attempting to secure patronage seems particularly weak. The essay does not seem to have any evidence at all (inscriptions, textual sources, etc.) and belongs more to literary speculation than to history.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:12 am

Relating to the origins of Amitābha. Many scholars around the turn of the 20th century were very persuaded for a Persian origin for the Buddha Amitābha, on the basis of motivic similarities between Sukhāvatī and the abode of Ahuramazda. This would not be the first time that Mahāyāna Buddhism (is suspected to have) absorbed a god from a local pantheon and reinterpreted him as a Buddha, speaking (Mahāyāna) Buddhavacana.

Unfortunately, speculations as to the Persian origins of Amitābha Buddha are just that, speculation, barring any actual hard evidence surfacing. People used to think all sorts of things about Buddhism in the 1890s.
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

gingercatni
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Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:10 pm
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by gingercatni » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:02 pm

Hello everyone,

I came across this post while surfing looking for something pureland related (thanks google lol!) I just want to add my opinion here. I'm a pureland buddhist, but before I started learning the pureland teachings, I began with Theravada. My journey began in 2008, I practiced meditation read the few Theravada texts available in print and thought I was on the road to nibbana.

However, I realised very early on, that although relatively simple to practice, Theravada was not working for me. Meditation was difficult I could never quieten my mind I felt my practice was robotic and empty without feeling any sense of advancement. I began looking at other schools in buddhism and long story short came to pureland.

Now in short pureland seems the easy way to enlightenment and often criticised by Thervada monks if not the entire mahayana school because of the sutras and their age etc. However unlike most pureland buddhist's, who simply believe that if they chant Amitabha's name they will be saved and carry on their daily routine then that is a great mistake.

Just as with Theravada buddhism where one uses ones own self effort to cultivate their mind and acquire merit, so to do pureland buddhists. If you don't bother to use your own self effort to practice pureland in as much as recitation of the Buddha's name and reading of the sutra's , keeping the precepts then by simply chanting Amitabha's name will not advance you further in buddhism.

Self effort and a commitment to learn the sutra's (which should not be judged so badly by theravada as they are exceptionally complicated and thought provoking) is part of the way in pureland, we as pureland buddhists acknowldege that we cannot attain this nirvana entirely on our own, we'll give it a good try but Amitabha is there to cultivate the part of us we cannot infuse with the dharma.

Pureland is by no means easy, it's a lot about focusing and quietening the mind through buddha recitation, I was a very immature person in 2008, though I've long way to go, the 2018 version of "me" is somewhat subdued mellow, amicable and I believe pureland has helped me cultivate this.

Regarding sutra origins, if we were all in the same room and I said all of this to you in person and at a later date posted it here, does make my words less valid? no, likewise the sutras put to writing at a later stage having been orally transmitted for centuries are just as valid. We are all buddhists and we should avoid the false superiority argument "mine is better because the writing is older" We share a wonderful teaching and we should cultivate from it together. :anjali:

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