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Pure Land Buddhism and Amitābha Buddha

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by adrian009, Jul 26, 2019.

  1. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    I’m in Japan at the moment and just visited a temple in Tokyo that’s part of Pure Land Buddhism, one of the most important and influential sects in the history of Japanese Buddhism. It constitutes a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism that exists across Southeast Asia.

    The three primary texts of the tradition, known as the "Three Pure Land Sutras", are the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra(Infinite Life Sutra), Amitayurdhyana Sutra(Contemplation Sutra) and the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra (Amitabha Sutra).

    A recent English translation of these sutras can be found here:

    http://www.bdk.or.jp/document/dgtl-dl/dBET_ThreePureLandSutras_2003.pdf

    Pure Land Buddhism is built on the belief that we will never have a world which is not corrupt, so we must strive for re-birth in another plane, referred to as the "Pure Land".

    The Pure Land traditions focus on the Buddha Amitābha. Amitābha is a celestial buddha and the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism. In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitābha is known for his longevity attribute, magnetising red fire element, the aggregate of discernment, pure perception and the deep awareness of emptiness of phenomena. According to these scriptures, Amitābha possesses infinite merit resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. Amitābha means "Infinite Light", and Amitāyus means "Infinite Life" so Amitābha is also called "The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life".

    Amitābha - Wikipedia

    It seems to me from both my recent study of Pure Land Buddhism and the practices of my Japanese relatives, both Pure Land and Japanese Buddhism generally, differ significantly from how Buddhism is understood and practised in the West.

    I’m posting this in the religious debates section to allow the freedom for any questions and comments. I’m keen to learn more about Buddhism. What is your experience of Buddhism and has anything I’ve posted here changed your perspective on what Buddhism is or isn’t?


     
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  2. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    I practiced Pure Land Buddhism for a while a few years ago. I might add at this point that there are several Pure Lands, each having its own buddha. Amitabha is the buddha of the Western Pure Land. I started with Vajrayana but learned that most of Vajrayana practice requires guidance and initiation by a lama.

    Anyway, Pure Land Buddhism is not unlike bhakti marga ("path of devotion") in Hinduism. One is devoted to a buddha or bodhisattva, meditates on and chants the name of the buddha or bodhisattva. In most cases it's some permutation of namo amitābha buddha (simplified Skt.), namo amitābhāya buddhāya (full Skt. inflection), amituofo (Chinese), oṃ amitābha hrīḥ, etc.

    I stopped practicing Pure Land because felt called back to Hinduism. However, I still revere the buddhas and bodhisattvas and have a small shrine separate from my Hindu shrine.

    Amitabha Buddha (center), and his attendant bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara (right) and Mahāsthāmaprāpta (left).

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    Interesting. I've only visited a Pure Land temple once here. The owner said they set up the temple with chairs etc like christian faith since people are coming from there to practice Pure Land. I guess because of the monotheistic nature of it [at least from what I know] is attractive.
    My opinions based on my experiences. I went to a Vietnamese Buddhist ceremony where I took my precepts. If it wasn't $50 one trip to get there I would go yearly. The abbot, though, is always out of town but everyone is nice and willing to teach and converse.

    Of course I mentioned I practiced Nichiren Buddhism. In Japan it isn't Westernized. Nichiren Shu, Shoshu, and SGI aren't western religions. They did start becoming more secular [better word than Western] because a lot of us don't have cultural understanding of Japanese ethics etc. Nichiren Shu, from what I know, kept their ethnicity. SGI not so much. There are I think other Nichiren "denominations" but not near here from what I looked up.

    I don't practice the Dharma [not Buddhism] anymore, though. The Dharma is still there, of course. The theology of it but that's not the same as actual practice. Site seeing and talking to people are fine but without full "belief" Practice, it's probably more secular understanding than anything else.
     
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  4. Wu Wei

    Wu Wei ursus senum severiorum and ex-Bisy Backson

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    My mother-in-law was a Pure land Buddhist in China, I find this thread fascinating, and although I can add little to this conversation, I can say Buddhism in America was a bit odd to my mother-in-law and that she felt the temples (Buddhist in General) were all rather small. But she was very devoted to chanting and in her house, in China, there was the Amitabha Pureland chant playing on a continuous loop. Actually got use to it while I was there and it became quite relaxing
     
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  5. Nowhere Man

    Nowhere Man Bompu Zen Man with a little bit of Bushido.

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    It's a subjective practice . A good form of Buddhism for people who have difficulty letting go of deities and such where other conventional forms of Buddhism could not be approached due to strong attachments such as those of God's, angels , demons , and Heaven.
     
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  6. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for sharing your experience of Pure Land Buddhism. I’ve only come across Japanese Pure Land, not those in other countries. Though I feel a close affinity for Buddhism and Devotion to Krishna I have never been a practitioner of either faith. There are aspects of Amitābha Buddha and Krishna that echoes the Divine Personage of Christ but that could be due to my limited experience of Amitābha Buddha.
     
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  7. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    This Pure Land Memorial Service totally rocks!
     
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  8. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    There may be a lot of truth in that, but it must be noted that Shin Pure Land Buddhism (also called Jodo Shinshu) is huge in the Buddhist community of Brazil, which would make at least a significant exception. A case can be made that Jodo Shinshu is in fact the most mainstream form of Buddhism here.

    Of course, Brazil also has a huge community of Japanese immigrants and their descendants. In that sense we may be atypical.


    There are definitely many differences in references and language between Jodo Shinshu and other Buddhist branches. as perhaps best illustrated by the contrast with the Tibetan schools. On the other hand, the practices and teachings differ a lot less.

    You may want to research other mainstream Japanese forms of Buddhism. Soto Zen is an obvious point of comparison, and there are indeed enlightening contrasts between it and Jodo Shinshu.

    A considerably more controversial (or at least complicated) potential subject for your research are the Nichiren schools. Word has it that they are incredibly varied there in Japan. Not too many of those took root here in Brazil, but even then they run through a considerable spectrum, and are not always on good terms between themselves.
     
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  9. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Sorry it’s taken a while to respond. I’ve been travelling round Japan with the family. I’m in Shinjuku, Tokyo now.:)

    I first encountered Pure Land Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan nearly 20 years ago through translations of selective Buddhist Teachings from the Mahāyāna Chinese canon first into Japanese then into English.

    The Teaching of Buddha : Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

    The actual origins of Pure Land Buddhism may be traced to India with records within nearly a century after Christ’s crucifixion.

    The Pure Land teachings were first developed in India, and were very popular in Kashmir and Central Asia, where they may have originated. 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. The earliest of these translations show evidence of having been translated from the Gāndhārī language, a Prakrit. There are also images of Amitābha with the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāptawhich were made in Gandhāra during the Kushan era.

    In the Buddhist traditions of India, Pure Land doctrines and practices were disseminated by well-known exponents of the Mahāyāna teachings, including Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu. Pure Land schools arose because of the belief that humans were becoming incapable of Dharma, emphasizing that humans needed help from another power; that power being Amitābha Buddha. Although Amitābha is honored and venerated in Pure Land traditions, this was clearly distinguished from worship of the Hindu gods, as Pure Land practice has its roots in the Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva.


    Pure Land Buddhism - Wikipedia

    So the historicity of early texts of Pure Land Buddhism may be comparable to the Gospels in regards the reliability of their transmission.

    I’m not sure about the monotheistic aspect but found this interesting paper:

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/0048-721X(76)90025-7?journalCode=rrel20

    Vietnamese Buddhism appears rooted in Mahāyāna traditions as with Pure Land and Nichicren.

    My Japanese relatives don’t have high regard for SGI that may have cult like elements associated with it. SGI have a reputation for aggressive proselytising. I recall you were involved with this movement for a few years.

    To me practice of Dharma is about better understanding of ultimate reality and putting those learnings into practice. That’s not going to impress too many purists I know.

    Are you involved with any faith community at present? I know you have had close association with Catholics from time to time.:)
     
  10. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for sharing. The recitation of the name of Amitābha appears to be very important in freeing oneself from the conditions and suffering of this world and to attain rebirth into ( the heaven of) Pure Land.

    I suspect Pure Land practice would be very different in China, Japan and the West. Japan had never been defeated in war until WWll by the USA and had resisted outside influences including Christianity. As Pure Land emerged during the twelfth century in Japan it would have developed its own distinctive character seperate from China.
     
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  11. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    It's okay. I'm in and out myself. I just started classes today. Right now I'm only taking a General course about the school and how to move around it. The other is Introduction to Communication. I can't wait until I get to Quantitative Reasoning and science! ha. Good news, though. Most of my A.S. credits transferred. So, if I play my cards right, I only stay two years in college instead of four. That and it's one class every five weeks so I have no excuse not to study.

    With SGI, sorry to say, very sorry to say, what you're heard is right. I tried not to call it a cult since it has negative implications. Where I'm at SGI is more passive proselytizing [for the life of me, I can never spell this word]. One of the things that got me the most is the conventions. I went to a couple of them. It's huge and all the people there chant Daimaku. Then after that, we are introduced to people who benefited from chanting. They have good cars. Their houses were paid off. Their relationships shined. Then, as I walked over to the "donation" table, people donated [and I think in some cases required] to donate I think about $4,000. Of course, I was told "every little bit helps." I've never been a tither but that floored me.

    I don't know much about Japanese culture; so, I'll leave that to you ;)

    Actually, yes. Years ago, [before my RF days ], I visited a Universalist Unitarian Church. I've heard a lot of things about it after visiting. Some on the political side others on the spiritual side. I side mostly with the spiritual part but it's becoming more political. I looked into the history and it's pretty rich. I wouldn't take most of what you read online to heart, though.

    I'm pulled more to the transcendentalist thought. I'm reading more of Emersons's Work. [The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson – RWE.org]. I love his poetry and didn't know he was part of a religion I would follow later in life.

    What pulled me to it was that everyone, I guess about fifty people, really get to know each other. We learn about each other personally. We ask about each other. We tell the whole church things we want others to keep in mind or pray for us. We tell each other our joys. Even last week we had symbolism by giving what we most cherish [say my aunt's ashes] to the congregation [front of the church] to symbolize our dedication to each other and to things we do out of charity.

    Of course I have a longer story if this isn't long enough [sorry, thought I cut a few words since I left]. Anyway, it has helped me a lot. workshops, hanging out with people and getting to know them on a personal level. I'm even part of the pastoral care team and did a workshop to visit people at hospitals. If we were a bigger church I think that would be great to be involved in.

    Okay. I'm done. But yeah, that's where I'm at so far. I'll take a look at those links. I wish I had more practice of the Dharma and cultural part to make a better solid foundation for the Dharma. That, and if I can brush up on a language to actually talk to the abbots etc personally. That's the biggest barrier.

    But, thanks for asking.
     
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