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Re: Light and Shadow

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  • hpl_fan
    ... no longer interested in finding areas of compatibility or comparison with other religions, depite two degrees in religion and years of writing and working
    Message 1 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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      --- In shinlist@yahoogroups.com, Jose Tirado <nodozejoze@y...> wrote:
      > Hello Ray,
      > It is apparent that we disagree and that is fine. However, I am
      no longer interested in finding areas of compatibility or comparison
      with other religions, depite two degrees in religion and years of
      writing and working in such arenas. I am more interested in
      developing a universal Shin sangha and there are precious few places
      I can communicate with those who are simply Shin Buddhists. That is
      why I joined this list.
      > in gassho,
      > José (Kokai)
      >

      I respectfully agree..and disagree. While it can be easy to point
      out similarities between Shin Buddhism and Christianity, I think
      that line of thinking ultimately leads to one of the same failings
      as Christianity itself - separation of things into better and
      worse. I don't want to see this list turn into a "battle of the
      religions" since I come here for my sole interaction with others of
      my faith. I can see there being a place for a continued thread
      about the similarities and differences, as it can be interesting as
      comparative philosophy, but ultimately I don't see the utility of
      Christian-based thought and therefore it's utility in furthering my
      personal journey of Enlightenment. While it may be interesting to
      point out the similarity of Shinjin to Christian Grace, the latter
      comes from a God and it a prize to be attained. How is this way of
      thinking going to help me connect with the universe? Amida's
      compassion simply is - part us, me, you, them, it - it simply as a
      natural element of existence. I don't have to get on my knees to
      beg for anything from the Amida Buddha. I don't have to change
      myself, but rather grow into that which I haven't allowed myself to
      be. That's one thing that originally attracted me to Shin faith. I
      would find it much more usefull if people wanted to discuss how
      Christian philosophy stops itself from attaining elightenment - ie,
      is soooo close, but fails in the end - as an example of looking into
      suffering to find its solution.

      Again, understand that I don't mean to put down Christians - a large
      of my family are compasionate, devoted Cathoics. However, I feel
      like I grew out of that way of thinking long ago.
    • John
      I have not read every word of this thread, but I have thought quite a lot about the issue of the relationship between the story of Jesus and the story of
      Message 2 of 22 , Jul 7, 2004
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        I have not read every word of this thread, but I have thought quite a lot about the issue of the relationship between the story of Jesus and the story of Dharmakara. I find significant parallels. To my mind, and consistent with Mahayana teachings, any words or concepts we place in this correspondence or have as part of our religious doctrine are, by definition, limited. The beauty of Amida is that he is the Buddha of limitless light and life. He is a manifestation of the dharmakaya, or law body of the buddha, which is beyond all word and thought. Human words and thoughts are, by definition, dualistic, and therefore not capable of describing accurately the ultimate Truth of Reality or the essence of the spiritual experience. However, given that we are humans, and that thinking and using words is what humans do, we understandably try to express our experiences with words. But what words are we to use? What concepts? What stories, to explain what we experience? Both Christianity (at least in some of its forms) and Jodoshinshu focus on acceptance of limitations/flaws of self and reliance on "other power" for salvation. Each has a story about a spiritual figure, a "manifestation" (as the Bah'ai folks speak of it), representing an embodiment of the dharmakaya/godhead, who makes a profound sacrifice (on the cross or in the form of eons of good works) so that we may have an easy path (via "grace") to transcend the limitations of our human condition and be reborn into the perfection of wisdom and compassion which we realize is possible and which we desparately seek. Doesn't it make sense that these are merely two different stories that have been developed, using limited concepts, to explain the same truth and the same experience? Personally, my big beef with Christianity is their tendency to want to see their way as the only way, which leads to intolerance (among other things). As to whether this is appropriate "grist for the mill" in this forum, I will leave that for others who have been on here longer to judge. I myself have less problem with the content of the thread, than with the tension that seems to be associated with the process of struggling with the question of what is or isn't "appropriate". In gassho...Daigyo
      • Shin02143@aol.com
        ... Hi, Daigyo, I haven t seen every post on this thread either. While I also find it interesting that there are parallels between the Jesus myth and the
        Message 3 of 22 , Jul 8, 2004
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          In a message dated 7/7/04 7:49:54 PM, ejohnt@... writes:


          I have not read every word of this thread, but I have thought quite a lot about the issue of the relationship between the story of Jesus and the story of Dharmakara. I find significant parallels.


          Hi, Daigyo,

          I haven't seen every post on this thread either. While I also find it interesting that there are parallels between the Jesus myth and the Dharmakara myth, what is more important to me is their differences, for why else would I have switched from Christianity to Shin Buddhism? In addition, it is those "parallels" that give rise to criticism of Jodo Shinshu as a Buddhist-style Christianity, which is a judgement I abhor but find difficult to refute. Shin Buddhism is *not* Christianity in Buddhist guise. I would be interested to hear from others how they counter the criticism of Shin as Buddhist-style Christianity, since it does come up in my life from time to time and I am not very good at explaining the differences without sounding like I am attacking Christianity. Any thoughts??

          gassho,
          Rick S.
          (Shaku Egen)
        • Ray King
          ... hello rick, that is a good question. i have to admit that i was wary of shin and pureland buddhism when i first encountered them Amida as a saviour
          Message 4 of 22 , Jul 8, 2004
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            --- Shin02143@... wrote: >
            > In a message dated 7/7/04 7:49:54 PM,
            > ejohnt@... writes:

            > While I also find it
            > interesting that there are parallels between the
            > Jesus myth and the Dharmakara myth,
            > what is more important to me is their differences,
            > for why else would I have
            > switched from Christianity to Shin Buddhism? In
            > addition, it is those
            > "parallels" that give rise to criticism of Jodo
            > Shinshu as a Buddhist-style
            > Christianity, which is a judgement I abhor but find
            > difficult to refute. Shin Buddhism is
            > *not* Christianity in Buddhist guise. I would be
            > interested to hear from
            > others how they counter the criticism of Shin as
            > Buddhist-style Christianity,
            > since it does come up in my life from time to time
            > and I am not very good at
            > explaining the differences without sounding like I
            > am attacking Christianity. Any
            > thoughts??

            hello rick,

            that is a good question. i have to admit that i was
            wary of shin and pureland buddhism when i first
            encountered them Amida as a saviour figure felt at
            odds with what i had previously experienced as
            buddhism. the aspects of christian thought i now find
            helpful eg paul tillich, don cupitt, meister eckhart
            etc are probably seen as radical, if not heretical, to
            many christians eg don cupitt's sea of faith movement
            explores the ideas of christianity beyond the belief
            in a creator god "out there", beyond a heaven and
            hell. (www.sofn.org.uk)

            it was taitetsu unno's 2 books that first helped me
            understand some of my woeful misunderstandings about
            pureland buddhism. and it was an article he wrote that
            i think helps clarify, at least for me, some of the
            differences between jodo shinshu and christian faith.
            i'll reproduce it below. i'd be interested to hear if
            you find it helpful.

            IS THERE A GOD?
            By Rev Taitetsu Unno

            Yes, but a proper Buddhist answer requires some
            clarification. In the depth of human awareness is a
            supreme reality who is boundless in compassion and
            immeasurable in wisdom and who is involved in the
            endless activity to enlighten all existence.

            Amida Buddha is this fullness of compassion, and his
            sole concern is the expression of unconditional love
            to every form of life.

            AMIDA BUDDHA

            Amida Buddha differs radically from the traditional
            Judeo-Christian concept of God, because of the
            following characteristics.

            1. Amida Buddha is not a creator, but he is a saviour
            who performs his compassionate work without any
            condition whatsoever.

            2. Amida Buddha does not judge or punish man, for man
            is responsible for his own acts and invites the
            consequences, good or bad, of his acts.

            3. Amida Buddha does not perform miracles, but he
            manifests his saving compassion through the rhythm of
            natural laws.

            4. Amida Buddha is not transcendent, standing outside
            this world; but he is immanent, for his very being is
            rooted in the limitations of this world which will be
            transformed by the power of Amida's love.

            5. Amida Buddha is not a wrathful or jealous God;
            rather, the power of compassion fulfilled in his
            Original Vow completes tlhe promise that he will not
            rest until all beings attain the same enlightenment,
            Buddhahood, as himself.

            6. Amida Buddha does not discriminate in any form,
            whether of belief or creed, moral good or moral evil,
            human life or animal life, but he embraces all in
            Oneness with equal warmth.

            7. Amida Buddha does not show his love by the blood of
            crucifixion, sacrificing his own being, but by making
            his compassion accessible to mankind through the
            Nembutsu, his sacred name, which resounds throughout
            the universe. Wherever his sacred name, Namu Amida
            Butsu, is pronounced, there he is.

            Amida Buddha is the timeless content of enlightenment
            realized by the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Amida
            means boundless compassion and immeasurable wisdom.
            Immeasurable wisdom sees into the fragility of human
            life, and boundless compassion is moved by this
            insight to actively embrace all live into the timeless
            fulfillment of truth.

            FRUITLESS QUESTIONS

            Shakyamuni was asked many questions which are being
            asked today: such as, Is there a God? Who created the
            world? Is there life after death? Where is heaven and
            hell? The classic answer given by the Buddha was
            silence. He refused to answer these questions
            purposely, because "these profit not, nor have they
            anything to do with the fundamentals of the religious
            life, nor do they lead to Supreme Wisdom, the Bliss of
            Nirvana."

            Even if answers were given, he said, "there still
            remains the problems of birth, old age, death, sorrow,
            lamentation, misery, grief, and despair--all the grim
            facts of life--and it is for their extinction that I
            prescribe my teachings."

            THE TASK BEFORE US

            By his silence Shakyamuni wanted to divert our
            attention from fruitless questions to the
            all-important task before us: solving life's problems
            and living a life which would bring happiness to self
            as well as others.

            To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a
            God?", Shakyamuni replied with the parable of the
            poison arrow. "if you were shot by a poison arrow, and
            a doctor was summoned to extract it, what would you
            do? Would you ask such questions as who shot the
            arrow, from which tribe did he come, who made the
            arrow, who made the poison, etc., or would you have
            the doctor immediately pull out the arrow?"

            "Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow
            pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha
            concluded, "That is wise O disciple, for the task
            before us is the solving of life's problems; when that
            is done, you may still ask the questions you put
            before me, if you so desire."

            THE TEACHING

            In Buddhism the teaching is a vehicle or a vessel. The
            value of a vehicle lies in its function of
            transporting man to his destination. Unless a vehicle,
            such as an automobile, is used, it is valueless. In
            fact, it is no longer a vehicle; it is a decoration
            piece.

            The teaching must be practiced, if it is going to be
            of value in transporting us from the life of anxiety
            to a life of serenity. When the teaching is not
            practiced, it is like carrying around a vehicle on our
            backs without ever putting it to our use.

            It is meaningless to discuss faith, enlightenment, and
            other goals, if we do not commit ourselves to the
            supreme importance of practicing the teaching in our
            homes and communities. "The journey of a thousand
            miles begins with a single step."

            THE PRACTICE

            To make others happy is the basic practice taught by
            Shakyamuni. It is a simple truth to learn, but a
            difficult practice to fully realize. In personal life
            it means to act by placing ourselves in the position
            of another, and in community life it means to give
            service with joy and gratitude for the bettermanet of
            all.

            As a guide to making others happy, we can practice the
            Four Immeasurable Attituces: friendliness, compassion,
            joy and equanimity. Friendliness is the constant
            endeavor to make others happy, compassion is the
            earnest attempt to alleviate discomfort and pain in
            those around us, joy is to be happy for the sake of
            anothers happiness, and equanimity is the surce of
            wisdom which helps us practice these equally to all
            life and after they are practiced not to become
            attached to them.

            The practice of making others happy is based upon the
            clear understanding of life which is Oneness or
            interdependence. Since life is a dependently
            originated complex, when we make another unhappy, our
            world is that much unhappier: and when we make another
            happy, our world is that much happier. In the
            understanding of Oneness we realize that there is no
            enemy to love, for we are parts of one living organic
            whole.

            But people will say that this practice is too simple
            without trying or after trying will give up easily to
            revert to indifference; therefore, the stress is made
            on effort, patience, and perseverance--the most
            importand practices within the Eightfold Path and the
            Six Paramita.

            A GROWING FAITH

            The purpose of the practice is to make me aware of the
            fabric of my existence. In my attempts to make others
            happy I grow in understanding of myself; I become
            sensitive to the fragile good within me and the
            unreliability of my selfish whims. I realize the
            84,000 blind passions within me for which Buddhism
            teaches 84,000 ways of deliverence. In ratio to the
            growing awareness of my limitaitons is the growing
            awareness of absolute compassion. Ultimately, I am
            made to drop my reliance upon by blind self, my self
            power, and I find a growing faith of my true self,
            nurtured by the stimulating compassion of Amida
            Buddha, the absolute other power.

            In the scriptures it states, "If you desire to see the
            Buddha, you must see his form. If you wish to see his
            form, you must see his heart. And the heart of Buddha
            is great compassion." Great compassion vibrates in the
            heart of man who has been freed from attachment to
            blind self. This vibration, this response, helps us
            effectively realize the practice of making others
            happy.

            WHERE IS AMIDA?

            Amida Buddha is in the depth of my exstential
            awareness. Without my awareness, there is no Amida
            Buddha. A famous Shin-shu work repeats, "When the
            faithful awakens to faith, for the first time a Buddha
            is born." This, of course, is the realization of man.

            From the side of Amida Buddha, he has been with me
            from the beginningless beginning, striving to awaken
            me from the blind forces of my karma which cause the
            agitations of my life. Amida Buddha will not rest
            until the ripening of favorable conditions brings to
            fruition my awareness of my karmic bondage and
            transforms my whole being into the substance of
            enlightenment.

            When the ultimate concern of Amida Buddha for this
            blind self is realized in my existential awareness,
            then I am at the very heart of living peace. From this
            center flows forth the name of Amida, Namu Amida
            Butsu, recited as the prayer of my gratitude. A new
            sense of being and a fresh source of strength are
            provided me as the basis of a creative morality and
            action, for wherever the name is recited, there he is.


            IS THERE A GOD?

            No, not a God of fear and mercy, who is creator and
            judge; but for me there is Amida Buddha. The fullness
            of compassion covers the horizon of my existential
            experience of reality, and my response is the reciting
            of the name in humbleness and gratitude, Namu Amida
            Butsu.

            (Rev Taitetsu Unno was Assistant Minister at the
            Senshin Buddhist Church and UCLA lecturer when this
            piece was originally written.)





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          • Shin02143@aol.com
            ... Thank you, RayKing, very very helpful. I am saving this. It is a priceless treasure of wisdom. Thank you again, gassho, Rick (Shaku Egen)
            Message 5 of 22 , Jul 8, 2004
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              In a message dated 7/8/04 3:40:00 PM, rayking63@... writes:


              it was taitetsu unno's 2 books that first helped me
              understand some of my woeful misunderstandings about
              pureland buddhism. and it was an article he wrote that
              i think helps clarify, at least for me, some of the
              differences between jodo shinshu and christian faith.
              i'll reproduce it below. i'd be interested to hear if
              you find it helpful.


              Thank you, RayKing, very very helpful. I am saving this.
              It is a priceless treasure of wisdom. Thank you again,

              gassho,
              Rick
              (Shaku Egen)
            • Robert Garvey
              ... Thank you, Ray, for posting this very fine article. In reading it, I recalled what D. T. Suzuki wrote in Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, first published in
              Message 6 of 22 , Jul 9, 2004
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                --- In shinlist@yahoogroups.com, Ray King <rayking63@y...> wrote:
                >
                >
                > IS THERE A GOD?
                > By Rev Taitetsu Unno
                >

                Thank you, Ray, for posting this very fine article. In reading it, I recalled
                what D. T. Suzuki wrote in Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, first published
                in 1907.

                ``Buddhism does not recognise the existence of a being, who stands aloof
                from his "creations," and who meddles occasionally with human affairs when
                his capricious will pleases him. This conception of a supreme being is very
                offensive to Buddhists. They are unable to perceive any truth in the hypotheses,
                that a being like ourselves created the universe out of nothing and first peopled
                it with a pair of sentient beings; that, owing to a crime commited by them,
                which, however, could have been avoided if the creator so desired, they were
                condemned by him to eternal damnation; that the creator in the meantime
                feeling pity for the cursed, or suffering the bite of remorse for his somewhat
                rash deed, despatched his only beloved son to the earth for the purpose of
                rescuing mankind from universal misery, etc., etc. If Buddhism is called atheism
                on account of its refusal to take poetry for actual fact, its followers would have
                no objection to the designation.''

                There's little room for doubt as to where he stands on the issue, is there?

                Robert
              • John
                Sorry for the delay in my response, Rick. We just finished up with a couple major external surveys at the hospital where I work that have preoccupied my time
                Message 7 of 22 , Jul 18, 2004
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                  Sorry for the delay in my response, Rick. We just finished up with a couple major external surveys at the hospital where I work that have preoccupied my time and mental focus. You use the term "myth". If we view the question in those terms, I would say the biggest difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that we Buddhists have a framework (in the sutras, etc.) for realizing that our myth about Amida and rebirth in his Pure Land is not a description of the most fundamental level of Reality. That being so, it leaves room for the possibility that there can be other myths that resonate with and are consistent with that Reality. The fact that Christians don't have a basis in doctrine for this possibility results in greater rigidity and intolerance. I also appreciate the fact that there is no element in our way of thinking about Amida which involves judgment against us. That he "accepts us just as we are" is the source of great comfort for me personally. I hope all is well with folks in this group. In gassho. -Daigyo 
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2004 2:21 PM
                  Subject: Re: [shinlist] Re: Light and Shadow


                  In a message dated 7/7/04 7:49:54 PM, ejohnt@... writes:


                  I have not read every word of this thread, but I have thought quite a lot about the issue of the relationship between the story of Jesus and the story of Dharmakara. I find significant parallels.


                  Hi, Daigyo,

                  I haven't seen every post on this thread either. While I also find it interesting that there are parallels between the Jesus myth and the Dharmakara myth, what is more important to me is their differences, for why else would I have switched from Christianity to Shin Buddhism? In addition, it is those "parallels" that give rise to criticism of Jodo Shinshu as a Buddhist-style Christianity, which is a judgement I abhor but find difficult to refute. Shin Buddhism is *not* Christianity in Buddhist guise. I would be interested to hear from others how they counter the criticism of Shin as Buddhist-style Christianity, since it does come up in my life from time to time and I am not very good at explaining the differences without sounding like I am attacking Christianity. Any thoughts??

                  gassho,
                  Rick S.
                  (Shaku Egen)

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