Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby pilgrim » Tue May 27, 2014 3:27 pm

If PL Buddhism is legitimate, there is no reason for any of us to be Theravadins.

Edit:
"When they hear the profound Dharma, they joyfully accept it and do not entertain any doubt; and so, remembering the Buddha even once, they sincerely aspire to be born in that land. When they are about to die, they will see the Buddha in a dream. Those aspirants, too, will be born in the Pure Land." ~ Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha
TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:That, if you will forgive me for saying so, is not a particularly intelligent observation....

Forgiven, and was mentioned earlier, leave out the ad hominems and address the points. I am also willing to learn.
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Tue May 27, 2014 3:30 pm

That, if you will forgive me for saying so, is not a particularly intelligent observation....
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby beeblebrox » Tue May 27, 2014 3:46 pm

pilgrim wrote:If PL Buddhism is legitimate, there is no reason for any of us to be Theravadins.


I don't think that this conclusion follows... whether PL Buddhism is legitimate or not, it's still not a part of Theravada. It has no bearing on the practice (or its structure) that is taught within Theravada. Any contact with PL Buddhism from this point should be dealt with in ways which are appropriate for one's own practice. I don't think it can be otherwise.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 27, 2014 4:24 pm

beeblebrox wrote: whether PL Buddhism is legitimate or not, it's still not a part of Theravada.


I think there tend to be two dangers in this kind of discussion: one is to overlook the common ground, and the other is to gloss over the differences.

Pure Land is relatively little-known in the West and thus is subject to stereotyping based on shallow knowledge about the tradition and its contexts. People are sometimes therefore surprised that aspects of Pure Land practice can be traced back to early Buddhism.

But at the same time, it is steeped in later doctrines such as Trikaya (Amitabha is considered sambhogakaya, Sakyamuni is nirmanakaya), the veneration of multiple Buddhas teaching sentient beings in the ten directions, the concept of Buddha lands, the notion of "upaya" (skillful means) and so on. More generally Mahayana views the Buddha as transcendental rather than historical. One line of scholarship traces this tendency back to the Mahasamghikas who are said to have emphasized more mystical and devotional passages found in the scriptures. So some of the tensions reflected in this discussion may go back a long way. :reading:

Now, perhaps, in a spirit of ecumenism and interfaith cooperation, we might play around with the idea that recollection of, say, Jesus is okay, because reason X (blah blah New Age syncretism or whatever). After all, if we're going to fit Amitabha in there, Jesus can come too, Laozi can tag along, it's all good.


With respect, I think this is off the mark. As heterodox as Pure Land may appear from a Theravada point of view, it is certainly a Buddhist tradition in the sense that it adheres to foundational Buddhist teachings -- samsara, the aspiration for a way out of samsara, the possibility of enlightenment. The "nuts and bolts" of Buddhism that are found across traditions are found in Pure Land as well. Karma and rebirth are very heavily emphasized in Chinese Pure Land, at least. Wordly dharma are seen to to be impermanent and saturated with dukkha. Nirvana is the ultimate goal for Pure Land practitioners, as it is for Buddhists in all traditions. Good sila is certainly important in the Chinese Pure Land schools.

So it's not correct to say that acknowledging Pure Land as Buddhist opens the door to considering Jesus, Mohammed, Laozi or the cast of Saturday Night Live as dharma teachers. That's a "slippery slope" argument and as such is inherently fallacious.

pilgrim wrote:If PL Buddhism is legitimate, there is no reason for any of us to be Theravadins.


Actually I would say that from a Pure Land perspective Theravada is for those who have the capability.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Tue May 27, 2014 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 27, 2014 4:51 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:... "slippery slope" argument


Well, perhaps. The criterion you've cited for placing a non-historical-Buddha there is "Buddhist tradition", it's own fallacy.

(I mean, come on: that there's a lineage of Buddha-Land-owners and that Amitabha answers prayers is missing from the historical Buddha's Teachings to the exact extent that the Daodejing is missing - just because one is using the linguistic referent 'dharma' at the end of a long historical process, somehow that's supposed to be carte blanche for 'Tradition'? I don't see it.)

In the case of Pure Land, integrous to Chinese Buddhism and otherwise prevalent throughout the Mahayana Buddhist world, there is indeed much that underlies. To the extent that this is all based on what the Buddha taught back in the Middle Country, I suppose we can call it a Buddhist Tradition or Traditions, and we can talk about legitimacy in terms of efficacious practices and so on.

But my concern is exclusively with provenance, whether over Nikayas or Agamas or Sri Lankan Commentaries or Chinese Pure Land. I can see the causes and conditions which led to these various exegetical efforts, but the fundamental divide here appears quite close to that recently noted by Malcolm:

Text criticism, used as a means of discerning the origin of Buddhist texts and its developments, results in nothing more than speculative conjectures being taken as facts by the reading public, and by many Buddhists as well. These speculative conjectures harm the foundations of Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna in particular, which are seen as modifications or corruptions of an ur-canon.

...We must insist that on fact the Buddhist canon, all sutra, tantra and Vajrayāna originate with the Buddhas in general, and Śakyamuni Buddha in particular.

...engaging with people addicted to text criticism or historical analysis of Buddhist texts, or who have aim to replace key concepts in Buddhadharma with concepts drawn from the mundane sciences should be considered extraneous distractions and such people's qualms and objections must be ignored...

Many long, stupid conversations will be blunted in the beginning by a simple statement "This is a teaching of the Buddha. If you don't think so, you are welcome to your opinion but I am not interested in discussing it with you further."


I suppose there are simply irreconcilable approaches to these matters. I'll try /leaving again.

Sigh.
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Aloka » Tue May 27, 2014 5:03 pm

Pure Land is relatively little-known in the West and thus is subject to stereotyping based on shallow knowledge about the tradition and its contexts. People are sometimes therefore surprised that aspects of Pure Land practice can be traced back to early Buddhism.

But at the same time, it is steeped in later doctrines such as Trikaya (Amitabha is considered sambhogakaya, Sakyamuni is nirmanakaya), the veneration of multiple Buddhas teaching sentient beings in the ten directions, the concept of Buddha lands, the notion of "upaya" (skillful means) and so on. More generally Mahayaha views the Buddha as transcendental rather than historical. One line of scholarship traces this tendency back to the Mahasamghikas who are said to have emphasized more mystical and devotional passages found in the scriptures....


Would you mind giving the sources of the information in your posts, please Lazy-Eye.

I would disagree from my own past experience of Vajrayana (which includes Mahayana teachings), that there was a view that the Buddha is transcendental rather than historical.


.
Last edited by Aloka on Tue May 27, 2014 5:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Aloka » Tue May 27, 2014 5:41 pm

daverupa wrote:I'll try /leaving again.

Sigh.


Come back soon, Dave. I always enjoy reading your posts.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 27, 2014 6:01 pm

Aloka wrote:
Would you mind giving the sources of the information in your posts, please Lazy-Eye.



Well, Chapter Two of the Avatamsaka Sutra, for starters ("The Manifestations of the Thus Come One"). Link to a translation here.

In terms of scholarly sources, I had in mind Guang Xing's The Concept of the Buddha, published by Routledge.

daverupa wrote:But my concern is exclusively with provenance, whether over Nikayas or Agamas or Sri Lankan Commentaries or Chinese Pure Land. I can see the causes and conditions which led to these various exegetical efforts, but the fundamental divide here appears quite close to that recently noted by Malcolm...

Text criticism, used as a means of discerning the origin of Buddhist texts and its developments, results in nothing more than speculative conjectures being taken as facts by the reading public, and by many Buddhists as well. These speculative conjectures harm the foundations of Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna in particular, which are seen as modifications or corruptions of an ur-canon.

...We must insist that on fact the Buddhist canon, all sutra, tantra and Vajrayāna originate with the Buddhas in general, and Śakyamuni Buddha in particular.

...engaging with people addicted to text criticism or historical analysis of Buddhist texts, or who have aim to replace key concepts in Buddhadharma with concepts drawn from the mundane sciences should be considered extraneous distractions and such people's qualms and objections must be ignored...

Many long, stupid conversations will be blunted in the beginning by a simple statement "This is a teaching of the Buddha. If you don't think so, you are welcome to your opinion but I am not interested in discussing it with you further."


I suppose there are simply irreconcilable approaches to these matters.


Yes, I think it's a matter of there being a conflict between basic premises; simply put, Mahayana regards the Mahayana sutras as valid buddhavacana and Theravada does not.

As to Malcolm's statement, I partly agree and partly disagree. There is a distinction in my view between articles of religious faith (the givens of a religious belief system) and "fact", which is a word I associate with history and other sciences. By "insisting on fact" he is introducing confusion into his own argument. The validity of the sutras is a given of the religion known as Mahayana Buddhism, period. Whether that given has an historical basis is a question for Buddhologists rather than practitioners.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Mkoll » Tue May 27, 2014 6:40 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Nirvana is the ultimate goal for Pure Land practitioners, as it is for Buddhists in all traditions.

I don't know much about Mahayana so please forgive and correct me if I'm wrong.

I thought the ultimate goal for Mahayana practitioners is to become a Buddha and lead all sentient beings to nirvana? And nirvana is seen as just a stage on that path? Or something?

Nirvana also plays a role in Mahayana Buddhism, but is not regarded to be the final goal, nor to be different from samsara. The tathagatagarbha-literature gives a positive interpretation of Nirvana.

-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_%28Buddhism%29#Mahayana


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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 27, 2014 7:07 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Nirvana is the ultimate goal for Pure Land practitioners, as it is for Buddhists in all traditions.

I don't know much about Mahayana so please forgive and correct me if I'm wrong.

I thought the ultimate goal for Mahayana practitioners is to become a Buddha and lead all sentient beings to nirvana? And nirvana is seen as just a stage on that path? Or something?

Nirvana also plays a role in Mahayana Buddhism, but is not regarded to be the final goal, nor to be different from samsara. The tathagatagarbha-literature gives a positive interpretation of Nirvana.


Probably better if someone more knowledgeable than me answers that question. The way Wikipedia has formulated that section sounds dodgy to me. I understand the goal of Mahayana to be buddhahood, which also means complete realization of sunyata (emptiness). Emptiness=non=duality. If one has arrived at non-duality, then there can no longer be a distinction between nirvana and samsara. From the point of view of ordinary bumpkins like me, though, the distinction still very much applies.

It doesn't seem correct, to my ear, to say that nirvana is "just a stage", as it is synonymous with buddha-hood and enlightenment. However. Buddhas in Mahayana are perceived as remaining in the universe (more of a multiverse, per Mahayana cosmology) to teach sentient beings. Some scholars have put forward the theory that Mahasamghika and (later) Mahayana contemplatives had deep meditative experiences in which they encountered Buddhas and received teachings; some of these teachings may have formed the basis for sutras. And in fact there are early Mahayana texts which depict meditators having this sort of experience.

The ultimate goal is usually referred to as anuttara samyak sambodhi, or supreme perfect enlightenment. Mahayana followers have the penultimate goal, so to speak, of becoming bodhisattvas and helping lead others along the Way. The bodhisattva vows are a commitment to liberate countless sentient beings, eliminate innumerable afflictions, master all dharmas, and attain anuttara samyak sambodhi. This seemingly impossible set of goals (how can one liberate all beings???) can only be realized through prajnaparamita, which is the subject of the Heart and Diamond sutras.

Please take all this with copious grains of salt, though -- I am way out of my depth here. I'm sure you will get some better-informed answers at the other site (Dharma Wheel).
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Mkoll » Tue May 27, 2014 7:17 pm

Yeah I recently made an account over there. Though I'm not quite sure how to couch such a question. And I'm guessing that each Mahayana tradition has their own particular interpretation of how Nirvana figures into their cosmology.
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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Aloka » Tue May 27, 2014 8:18 pm

Mkoll wrote:I don't know much about Mahayana so please forgive and correct me if I'm wrong.

I thought the ultimate goal for Mahayana practitioners is to become a Buddha and lead all sentient beings to nirvana? And nirvana is seen as just a stage on that path? Or something?


Hi Mkoll,

This is the Tibetan Buddhist view:

The Heart of the Buddhist View

RINPOCHE ASKS EVERYONE TO ENGENDER the enlightened attitude, the wish and effort to attain the perfect state of Buddhahood in order to benefit beings in numbers vast as space. Toward that end one resolves to listen to, reflect upon, and meditate on the teachings energetically. One who has realized selflessness and perfected love and compassion for others is a buddha.

The reason it is possible for everyone to attain Buddhahood is that within the minds of all sentient beings is potentially present the Buddhanature which is the seed of enlightenment. This Buddhanature is the union of clarity and emptiness. The difference between a buddha and a sentient being is that in a sentient being, the Buddhanature is obscured by accidental stains, while in a buddha the accidental stains have been purified or removed. The purpose of Dharma practice is to purify these stains so that the Buddhanature will manifest and one will attain enlightenment.

There are three aspects of the Buddhanature: basis, path and fruition. The basis aspect is the presence of the Buddhanature in the minds of all sentient beings, which is comparable to gold present in ore, butter potentially present in milk, or sesame oil potentially present in the seed. If the gold ore is not refined one will not obtain the pure gold, if the milk is not churned one will not obtain butter, and if the sesame seed is not pounded one will not produce sesame oil. In the same way, even though the Buddhanature is present in the minds of all beings, if the accidental stains are not removed, Buddhahood will not be attained. Therefore one should make an effort to purify the accidental stains. Since we all possess the Buddhanature, there is no need to doubt that one can attain Buddhahood.

The path aspect of the Buddhanature is the situation in which one has removed gross obscurations and is gradually refining one's realization and purifying more subtle stains. The moment one directly realizes the Buddhanature, the basis aspect turns into the path. This is comparable to the process of refining the ore, churning the milk, or pounding the sesame seed. The fruition aspect of the Buddhanature is the situation in which all accidental stains along with predispositions have been removed. This corresponds to having obtained the pure gold, the butter, and the sesame oil.

There are signs that the Buddhanature is potentially present within the minds of all.

Maitreya, in a text called The Changeless Nature (Skt. Uttaratantra. Tib; Gyu Lama) has said that the fact that we become wearied with conditioned existence and desire to liberate ourselves from suffering is an indication that the Buddhanature is potentially present within us. This very desire arises because of the Buddhanature. Everyone should make a personal investigation and obtain a personal conviction about this statement.

Continued:

http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/buddhism/cul/cul04.php



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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby pilgrim » Wed May 28, 2014 12:05 am

In authentic PL practice, its existence and practice must be believed in a literal sense. The PL sutras speak of the PL as a factual place, a clear majority of PL practitioners in East Asia believe in its literal existence and the mystical power of reciting Amitabha. The PL teachers speak of it as literal truth.

The modern western Buddhist tends to see PL as a skillful means to develop concentration. But this is really a fringe interpretation first advocated by Hui Neng and the Zen Buddhists in yet another layer of skilful means to absorb PL practitioners into their fold after decades of inter-sectarian conflict. (You know how the first lie starts the ball rolling). If one does not believe in PL in a literal sense but use it as a mantra, then it is just a mantra practice and reciting Amitabha is no more efficacious than reciting Buddho or Coca-cola. This position is no different from that of an atheist Christian. Caught in this cognitive dissonance, why bother?

Either position one takes, I think they both fail the criteria for authentic Buddha Dhamma.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby lyndon taylor » Wed May 28, 2014 12:36 am

Count me in, I'm looking for that temple offering "authentic Buddha Dhamma", but by who's definition????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 28, 2014 12:47 am

pilgrim wrote:
Either position one takes, I think they both fail the criteria for authentic Buddha Dhamma.


Abhidhamma doesn't appear to meet your legitimacy tests either; so I assume you're a strict "Pali suttarian"? :)

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby pilgrim » Wed May 28, 2014 12:51 am

lyndon taylor wrote:Count me in, I'm looking for that temple offering "authentic Buddha Dhamma", but by who's definition????

By the Buddha's definition in the Mahapadesa sutta (AN 4:180)

The Buddha tells the monks of the four great references to be respected by them. If a monks says he has a certain teaching direct from the Buddha himself, his statement should be searched in the discourses and proof looked in the Discipline; if these do not agree, it should be rejected; if they do, accepted.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby pilgrim » Wed May 28, 2014 12:53 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
pilgrim wrote:
Either position one takes, I think they both fail the criteria for authentic Buddha Dhamma.


Abhidhamma doesn't appear to meet your legitimacy tests either; so I assume you're a strict "Pali suttarian"? :)

Strawman.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 28, 2014 1:07 am

It's not a straw man; I don't think I'm misrepresenting your position.

Earlier in the thread you set up several criteria for legitimacy, and then argued that Pure Land fails those tests. So does Zen, and all of Mahayana and Vajrayana for that matter.

It also appears to me that Abhidhamma cannot pass the tests, which is why I am asking if you consider the suttas to be the only legitimate Dhamma. Or perhaps you could indicate what you include in this category; that is, what passes your legitimacy tests and why.

Isn't it a fair question?

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby pilgrim » Wed May 28, 2014 1:22 am

Lazy_eye wrote:It's not a straw man; I don't think I'm misrepresenting your position.

Earlier in the thread you set up several criteria for legitimacy, and then argued that Pure Land fails those tests. So does Zen, and all of Mahayana and Vajrayana for that matter.

It also appears to me that Abhidhamma cannot pass the tests, which is why I am asking if you consider the suttas to be the only legitimate Dhamma. Or perhaps you could indicate what you include in this category; that is, what passes your legitimacy tests and why.

Isn't it a fair question?

It would probably be more expedient to start separate threads to discuss the legitimacy of Abhidhamma, Zen, Mahayana and Vajrayana and I'm sure those who have interest in such discussions will respond appropriately. My personal approach to the texts is irrelevant to the discussion but if you think it is helpful to you, I take the Vinaya and Sutta Pitakas to carry the most authoritative weight followed by the Abhidhamma and then the Commentaries.

But let's get the discussion back on track, why do you think PL is a legitimate Buddhist practice? Others can take it from here, I'm bowing out from this discussion as I don't see it carried much further.

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Re: Pure Land Buddhism - Legitimate?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 28, 2014 3:37 am

:candle: I don't have more to add so I will bow out as well. As for my opinion about PL legitimacy, I can just say again that I think it depends on one's view of Mahayana in general. If Mahayana is valid then there's no special reason to exclude Pure Land, as it has strong enough scriptural support, not just in the Pure Land sutras specifically but also in the Lotus and Avatamsaka, as mentioned earlier.

Since Theravadins don't typically regard those later scriptures as legitimate, then from the Theravada point of view it is natural to see Pure Land as a departure from the true Dhamma. It's still possible to view Pure Land as an elaboration of devotional practices found in the Nikayas, though a Theravadin would usually want to follow the original version of those practices, without the extra conceptual baggage, i.e. trikaya and Buddha fields and so on.

I'm just a student of Buddhism at this point rather than an adept of one school or another, and my inclinations are ecumenical or "pan-Buddhist" in any case. I find that the dhamma/dharma has the same flavor across the various denominations, and that the worldview remains surprisingly consistent despite the doctrinal points of contention.


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