Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
A fool from HK
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by A fool from HK » Sun Jan 10, 2016 10:28 am

Ajahn Brahm talks about pure land:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWZ4umyhHA8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

hosuswee
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by hosuswee » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:23 pm

Hi HK,

Yes, buddhist in Singapore were majority from Chinese Mahayana, years ago there is a very famous Venerable preaching about pureland in Singapore and gathered vast support. Many of his followers supported him and his buddhist organisations with great faith.

But some of this Venerable's teaching probably even differs from traditional pureland school and the idea behind his teaching now is reciting Ambitabha Buddha's name and you will gain Buddhahood (念佛成佛).

I personally feel that this is sad for Buddhism and even Mahayana Buddhist community..but I guess the Lord Buddha is just correct, dukha and anicca. BTW, this Venerable I mentioned now resides in Hong Kong.

Back to the title of this tread, I guess the idea of Sukhavati (pureland or the land of bliss) develops over time perhaps either from ancient great Venerable with divine eye who can see the Sukhavati and the Buddha there or the idea evolves from the concept of Suddavasa.

I guess in the Theravada's teaching, the only way to be born in a blissful place and gain enlightenment there is to gain the 3rd stage of enlightenment (anagami), then you will be born in Suddavasa. :anjali:

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Fri Apr 15, 2016 11:04 pm

It's kind of obvious isn't it, that if wants one's anti-Mahayana biases confirmed, a Theravada forum is a sensible place to go (though a few regulars might throw a spanner in the works). And similarly if one wants one's anti-Theravada biases confirmed, a Mahayana forum would be a sensible place to go.

But if one is actually interested in learning about a vehicle, it is best to go the people most knowledgeable about it.

It is not an open-and-shut case that Mahayana was a later development rather than originating from a different school, nor that everything in the Pali canon is directly from the Buddha's mouth or even accords with what Siddhartha Gautama taught. Again, given that the Buddha had arahat disciples, is it not conceivable that they continued and developed the Dhamma? Or does our Judeo-Christian bias that the Holy Scriptures are received and passed down unaltered, preclude such a possibility?

As for Pure Land, it is not that chanting a magic spell will take you to paradise. Chanting is a meditative concentration practice. The devotional aspect helps to develop sila and viriya. If you look into it carefully, you will see it at the very least as a very powerful purifying practice as the unceasing devotion and focus on Amitabha and his limitless compassion. The chanting can continue 24/7, in case of strong practitioners even during sleep. So concentration is maintained constantly! While it doesn't talk about vipassana a lot, insight can follow naturally in the presence of such concerted effort and constant concentration. Faith in Amidabha itself is a powerful drive for practice and those of us who don't know it, know first hand how hard it can be to maintain motivation to practice.

It may not be our cup of tea but we should not rush to dismiss it, IMO.


_/|\_

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daverupa
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by daverupa » Fri Apr 15, 2016 11:37 pm

Dan74-new wrote:It is neither clear that Mahayana was a later development rather than originating from a different school
False dichotomy; both are true. It arose within the monastic community, probably in the Avanti region of India, and probably needed books to function since that's how it appears that the first texts were used, and overall that means ca. 100 BCE at the earliest. The Buddha stopped teaching ca. 400 BCE.
nor that everything in the Pali canon is directly from the Buddha's mouth or even accords with what Siddhartha Gautama taught.
This "Pali Canon" is a disingenuous sort of approach; it's true that most of the Canon - just as with the Mahayana stuff - post-dates the early stuff, which is the NikAgamas, but the fact that these texts are mostly in accord is noteworthy, undergirding much scholastic discussion. Historical criticism has its limits, but it has its reach as well.
Again, given that the Buddha had arahat disciples, is it not conceivable that they continued and developed the Dhamma?
"Developed" is a wiggle word. There's ongoing clarification for ongoing modern audiences, and then there's the critical disjunctions of Mahayana doctrinal commitment that alienate its primary messages from the early texts.

Pure Land is even later than 200 CE, at a very great ideological remove from the historical Buddha's approach.
As for Pure Land... Do not rush to dismiss it.
It doesn't have to be dismissed as useless or without merit. It is simply not at all what the historical Buddha taught. Very simple stuff.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Aloka
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Aloka » 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:
Last edited by Aloka on Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:06 am

This is just more unfounded speculation by someone with very little understanding of Mahayana. It does no justice to it at all.

_/|\_

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Aloka
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Aloka » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:25 am

Dan74-new wrote:This is just more unfounded speculation by someone with very little understanding of Mahayana. It does no justice to it at all.

I think its very likely that Piya Tan has more knowledge and experience of Buddhism in general than you or I have,
Dan74-new.(Were you originally "Dan74" ?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piya_Tan


:anjali:

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:47 am

One and the same, Aloka.

Mr Tan may well have a great deal of knowledge and experience but in that short excerpt I don't see evidence that he is an authority on Mahayana. Take this, for example:
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).
He says 'arguably' which suggests that there are arguments that support this. Can you show me any evidence that this is anything other than Mr Tan's fantasy? In fact, from my scant reading of Mahayana history, Prof Williams argues that early Mahayana communities were either particularly devoted practitioners living alongside their fellow 'non-Mahayana' monks, or hardcore ascetics living in remote places, and the more inclusive push developed later.

I've just been perusing his informative and heavily referenced work "Transmission outside the scriptures? The evolution of Chán Buddhism as a religion in its own right" where after presenting his picture of historical and political development of Chan and its texts with various degrees of evidence, right at the end he asserts that Chan enlightenment is not bodhi and are 'worlds apart' again with hardly any support. I'm sorry I just don't see Mr Tan as a serious scholar of Mahayana, but really a polemicist with a clear agenda.

Have a look for yourself:
5.5.4 Why Chán masters are not awakened. In this study, I have always taken care to use the expression
―Chán enlightenment‖ (and avoided the term ―awakening‖) so that we do not confuse the Chán
or Zen idea with the early Indian notion of awakening (bodhi). Indeed, it is germane to speak of Chán
enlightenment—a fitting imagery reflecting the transmitting of the Chán lamp—as against early Indian
Buddhist awakening, which is a matter of self-effort. Whatever our terminology, the two should not be
misunderstood as referring to the same idea.

John McRae has noted the difficulty, even impossibility, of describing the nature of an exclusively
experiential state, what when one has not attained them. We can at best compare descriptions of bodhi, as
McRae carefully notes:

Nevertheless, even without assuming that we could access the actual experiences of real individuals,
291 it would be useful to compare the descriptions of bodhi in Indian philosophical texts
with those of enlightenment experiences in Chán texts. Where the former describe the ultimate in
terms of wisdom and transcendence, I suspect the Chinese texts tend to a greater emphasis on
realizations of the interdependence of all things. Or one might examine whether the rhetoric of
śūnyatā is used differently in Indian and Chinese texts, with the former being used to obliterate
worldly distinctions, and the latter being used in effect to reify them. (The ―originary enlightenment‖
theories of medieval Japanese Buddhism seem to fit this latter case.) (McRae 2003:150)


Mahāyāna enlightenment and Hīnayāna awakening are literally and spiritually worlds apart. The two
should not confound nor conflate the two. Any Chán priest who claims to be ―suddenly‖ enlightened and
place himself on the same level as the Buddha (indirectly claiming supreme awakening), could be said to
be guilty of an offence entailing defeat (pārājika), that is, automatically falling from the state of monkhood
or nunhood.292
I mean this is a this is a hodgepodge, not an argument, besides of course, the fact that we don't have to accept McRae's conclusions.

See, if tomorrow, a prominent academic publishes findings where (s)he argues that the Buddha never existed and it was all a clever fabrication by a bunch of clever renunciates, would the folks here pack up their cushions and altars and go back to church? I hope not.

_/|\_

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mikenz66
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:05 am

Members,

This thread has been started in the "Early Buddhism" forum, which is for "Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts."

Unfortunately, there seems to be very little attempt to do any analysis on this thread so far. If noone has anything of real substance to contribute I'm inclined to move it to another forum.

:anjali:
Mike

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:13 am

In case someone actually cares about such things, Mike, here's a few references I found in a quick google search:

https://purelandway.wordpress.com/category/pali-canon/

https://purelandway.wordpress.com/objec ... -land-faq/

http://web.mit.edu/stclair/www/authenti ... amuni.html

I only had a cursory glance and there's at least a few decent points, so maybe worth discussing if someone is actually considering Pure Land. Otherwise, what's the point?

_/|\_

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mikenz66
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:25 am

Here's the basic history from Wikipedia:
The Pure Land teachings were first developed in India, and were very popular in Kashmir and Central Asia, where they may have originated.[4] Pure Land sutras were brought from the Gandhāra region to China as early as 147 CE, when the Kushan monk Lokakṣema began translating the first Buddhist sūtras into Chinese.[5] The earliest of these translations show evidence of having been translated from the Gāndhārī language, a prakrit language related to Sanskrit.[6] There are also images of Amitābha Buddha with the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta which were made in Gandhāra during the Kushan era.[7]
...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Land ... y_in_India
There are some references there to books that may shed more light on the origin of the pure land concepts, but this question could probably be answered better at Dharma Wheel: http://dharmawheel.net/index.php.
Here is a resource thread from that site:
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=4317#p42350

:anjali:
Mike

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daverupa
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by daverupa » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:21 pm

I'll recommend Paul Williams' Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations for this topic, an author that Dan also mentioned. It sets up the gist of the Mahayana project.

On page 238, his discussion of Amitabha begins:
In the emergence of a Pure Land tradition in India based on Amitabha or Amitayus, Kenneth K. Tanaka (1990: 3–13) has detected five chronological stages. First, there was the idea that grew up (he argues) soon after the death of Sakyamuni Buddha that there were previous Buddhas...

The second stage, also in the second century BCE, was the development in some circles of the idea of innumerable world realms in each of the 10 directions [focused on Metteya in his Buddha Field]...

The third stage of the evolution of an Indian Pure Land tradition lay in the emergence by the latter half of the first century CE of the Buddha Amitabha or Amitayus as one of these contemporary Buddhas, residing in his Buddha Land of Sukhavati (ca. 100 CE)...

Fourth, by the early fourth or perhaps even the third century CE enthusiasts for this Buddha had adopted buddhanusmrti practices of visualization and recitation of his name...

The final stage in the evolution of the Pure Land tradition may have been critical commentarial development...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

hosuswee
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by hosuswee » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:23 am

Dear friends,

If I ever sound biased against Mahayana or pureland, I asked for your kind forgiveness and my sincere apology.

I would like to point out that many teachings between Mahayana and Theravada were similar although they might have different emphasis regarding ro practices.

Similar to the teachings about Pureland (Sukhavati), Theravada teachings mentioned about Suddavasa. Although the destinations between the two were different but some or part of the idea behind were similar. Thus I accept Pureland as teachings of Buddhism.

Also regarding the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, yes, this is a form of meditation and similar to Buddhanusati of Theravada's teaching. Thus i also accept the chanting of Buddha's name as teaching of Buddhism as well.

However, I personally feels that as buddhist, we should all put in effort to learn and know more about teachings of the Buddha whether from Suttas or Sutras or both, up to individuals, rather than simply accepting talks or teachings by a certain Venerable or Master.

This can be at times dangerous like what HK also mentioned, it looks like blind faith. Because other than the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, a person who is inspired to go to Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati has to develop his bodhicitta and inspire to become a Buddha as well. That's why in Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati, everything there will teach about 37bodhipaksaka or Bodhipakkhyadhamma.

Maybe this is a common problem with many Chinese (I am a Chinese as well), we like to take teachings from elders lock stock & barrel and get everything mixed up. So if anyone blindly thinks that the journey to end samsara is to just to reach any Buddha's (Amitabha, Akshobhya or Medicine Buddhas) Sukhavati must be careful of what you wish for, as you have to continue to practise after reaching there, similar to Anagami when they reach Suddavasa.

:anjali:

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:52 am

hosuswee wrote:Dear friends,

If I ever sound biased against Mahayana or pureland, I asked for your kind forgiveness and my sincere apology.

I would like to point out that many teachings between Mahayana and Theravada were similar although they might have different emphasis regarding ro practices.

Similar to the teachings about Pureland (Sukhavati), Theravada teachings mentioned about Suddavasa. Although the destinations between the two were different but some or part of the idea behind were similar. Thus I accept Pureland as teachings of Buddhism.

Also regarding the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, yes, this is a form of meditation and similar to Buddhanusati of Theravada's teaching. Thus i also accept the chanting of Buddha's name as teaching of Buddhism as well.

However, I personally feels that as buddhist, we should all put in effort to learn and know more about teachings of the Buddha whether from Suttas or Sutras or both, up to individuals, rather than simply accepting talks or teachings by a certain Venerable or Master.

This can be at times dangerous like what HK also mentioned, it looks like blind faith. Because other than the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, a person who is inspired to go to Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati has to develop his bodhicitta and inspire to become a Buddha as well. That's why in Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati, everything there will teach about 37bodhipaksaka or Bodhipakkhyadhamma.

Maybe this is a common problem with many Chinese (I am a Chinese as well), we like to take teachings from elders lock stock & barrel and get everything mixed up. So if anyone blindly thinks that the journey to end samsara is to just to reach any Buddha's (Amitabha, Akshobhya or Medicine Buddhas) Sukhavati must be careful of what you wish for, as you have to continue to practise after reaching there, similar to Anagami when they reach Suddavasa.

:anjali:
:goodpost:

However, we must remember that people all have different kammic roots. Some read the Suttas and feel great joy as so much confusion is dispelled. Others read the Suttas and get more confused. So it is not one size fits all. Pure Land is a very simple accessible practice that largely depends on devotion and commitment, if I understand correctly, and the results can be profound. Whereas other practices are more complex, have more pitfalls. Personally I'm glad it's not just one way to the destination.

ThienPhatHD1980
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by ThienPhatHD1980 » Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:18 am

Hello everyone. This is a great discussion and I would like to add my 2 cent. Many people doesn't accept the 3 Pureland Sutra as real or it was spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha. Since all Mahayana texts are "not considered" as Lord Buddha's teaching then it doesn't matter if there are over 200 mentions of Amida Buddha and his Pureland. All of Buddha teachings or paths must be experienced to be proven true, yet all of the Pureland masters had practiced and proven that Pureland exist but people still doubt. Even in our modern time, there are stories of practitioners knowing their date of rebirth to Pureland with incredible signsat death.
It is true want Lord Buddha said in the Infinite Life Sutra that it's extremely difficult for sentient beings to have faith in the Pureland sutra. That's ok, everyone have their own preferences, merit and timing to enlightenment. There shouldn't be any argument regarding the Dhamma, just experience it before you make any judgement.

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