THE BASIC TEACHINGS OF WESTERN PURE LAND BUDDHISM
- THE BASIC TEACHINGS OF WESTERN PURE LAND BUDDHISM
by Jim Davis
This is the Good News of the Buddha Shakyamuni,
a manifestation of the Unhindered Light,
which has come to us from across the centuries.
To take on a new and more Western form
for this New Dharma turning age.
This Good News I first heard from the Buddhist Community,
those who are fellow travelers on our way
and who graciously share their faith with others.
The Community received the Good News from Shinran.
Shinran received and taught
the teachings of the Seven Pure Land Ancestors.
All of whom,
correctly heard and transmitted
the true meaning of the Pure Land Sutras
as given to us by Shakyamuni 2500 years ago.
Thus I establish these teachings.
The classical Pure Land tradition is based
upon the Three Pure Land Sutras:
the Larger Pure Land Sutra,
the Smaller Pure Land Sutra
and the Meditation Sutra.
And of these three sutras,
Shinran took the Larger Sutra as his main text,
out of which he expounded
the awakening of enlightenment through Other-power.
And yet, Shinran did seek out inspiration in other sutras,
and within the writings of the Seven Pure Land Ancestors.
So we can also seek out truth in other sutras;
the Dharma is not bound by three small books.
All the sutras teach various truths
and other great practices.
All of which, if correctly practiced
leads to awakening.
This universe of the body is samsara;
six worlds spin about within it.
It is a chaos of birth-and-death
manifesting itself as beginningless suffering.
Birth, illness, aging and death are sufferings.
To be separated from those you love
or to be attached to those you hate,
are both sufferings.
To have what you do not want
or not to get what you do want,
are also sufferings.
The teachings do not deny that there is happiness.
Yet one should not doubt
that these pleasant states of being are fleeting;
suffering always finds a way back into our lives.
With the passage of time
even our greatest pleasures become boring.
Some feel that death is a way out of suffering.
This is a delusion.
Death does not bring an end to suffering
as due to the weight of our deeds,
the results of our actions take rebirth.
Thus giving rise to a new life of suffering.
This cycle of life-and-death has no beginning,
and if left to itself,
And yet, hope is never far away.
out of the depths of myth,
as beginningless duration,
birth-and-death became conscious of itself.
This consciousness is the One Mind.
It was moved out of great compassion
for the infinite number of beings
trapped within itself and vowed to save them all.
That consciousness is the Eternal Buddha.
The Eternal Buddha is Amida,
the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life.
One should always remember
that Amida is not a god
nor the creator of this universe;
Amida is neither Yahweh or Brahman.
This universe has neither first nor last cause.
One does not stand in awe in Amida's Light;
in the light of awaking there can be no fear.
Amida is our eternal friend
who is there always for us
for Life immortal.
From time to time
Amida's Light takes human form;
into a world of vast darkness and endless death,
the Eternal Buddha takes birth.
Shakyamuni Buddha is the manifestation,
the essence of Amida's Light and Life to this age.
If one takes on the perspective of passionate beings
trapped within the systems of greed, hatred and ignorance,
then this is a dark age.
And yet, through the great compassion of the Buddha's teachings
Amida's Light and Life,
has reached out to embrace us.
This embracing is the awaking of enlightenment.
It is to be grasped
never to be abandoned.
Thus Amida's Light dispels forever all dark ages.
Mappo is no more!
Shakyamuni Buddha taught all who came to him.
according to their level of understanding.
Traditionally it is claimed
that 84,000 different Buddhist teachings were all
proclaimed by him.
And from time to time,
place to place,
one or another of these many teachings
would come to prominence.
Sometimes even new teachings are remembered
As for myself
I follow the Western Pure Land Buddhist path
and hope others will come to benefit from these teachings.
In one sense,
Shakyamuni Buddha's advent into this world
was to bring the teachings to you.
Due to the past good of numerous others,
you have now received this good fortune:
this very teaching you are now hearing.
Since this teaching is here
faith can not be far away.
Amida's Light has shone upon us patiently
it is time for us to wake up.
Due to beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
we have all been chained
to the cycle of birth-and-death.
Since we have up till now
failed in all attempts to free ourselves.
Why do we continue to delude ourselves
with thoughts of self-power?
Amida gives us faith in the other-power.
And through great faith
Amida awakens within us the Pure Land
Freedom is impossible within birth-and-death;
bondage is impossible within the Pure Land.
Awakening faith transforms
birth-and-death into the Pure Land.
This gift of faith in awakening enlightenment
has broken down the gates of hell
and its captives have been freed,
now and forever.
Amida's compassion reaches across the darkness of space and time,
to save all beings.
No harmful karma can stand in the way of this compassion;
nothing we can possibly do
can ever separate us from Amida's embrace.
If through past evil deeds,
we cannot help but to break the many precepts,
then we would be forever lost by our own power.
However, Amida over looks our past faults,
converts evil karma into good
and turns this body into the Pure Land.
One should always keep in mind
that other Buddhist groups may have many rules,
food taboo's, etc.,
all of which, makes it most difficult
for the layperson's faith to awaken.
And yet, these all are traditional spiritual paths,
many taught by Shakyamuni himself
and therefore we should not slander any of them.
However, that does not mean we have to follow them.
As no single Buddhist group ever tries to practice all of the
they pick and choose
according to their times and place.
It is now a new time
and the West is a new place.
It is now the time and place
for a new tradition to emerge.
We hear repeated about the need to abandon the ego,
in order to realize liberation,
from all Asian religions.
And the Pure Land sects are no different.
However, to abandon the ego
is to rely only upon the other-power.
How is this possible?
All efforts based upon self-powered acts
only serve to strengthen the ego.
To accept that nirvana has already been given to us,
is to abandon all attempts to force our way in.
It is based upon faith,
even this faith is given to us.
We do nothing
but accept Amida's gift.
Just say "Namu Amida Buddha"
and live the Pure Land now.
We do not have to go off on great pilgrimages
to India, Thailand, Tibet or Japan,
to hear and receive awakening faith.
When the conditions are right,
awakening takes place in the here and now.
No need to abandon secular life
to enter monasteries
or even take weekend retreats.
This awakening takes place as we live our daily lives.
There is no longer a false split;
no more sacred/profane dichotomy.
The moment of the awakening of enlightenment seeks us out
and finds us
wherever we may be.
Amida is the result of her Vow.
The Vow that if any living being
calls out her name in faith,
they will take birth in the Western Pure Land.
In her land
all who takes birth there
will become great enlightening beings.
Who then return again and again
to the world of birth-and-death
to save the many beings.
The Vow arose out of universal compassion
which manifested itself as Amida.
This compassion is true and real
and so, are its incarnations.
To say "Namu Amida Buddha" through faith
even just once,
is to break the chains of karma.
It is to be embraced by universal compassion
never to be abandoned.
It is to take birth in her land now;
one has become the equal of Maitreya,
the future Buddha.
This gift of faith has been ever present
but only now have we accepted it.
The past good of innumerable past lives
have finally born fruit
in the awakening to enlightenment in this life.
Say the nembutsu just once through faith
and thereafter only out of gratitude.
One's life itself becomes nembutsu.
This is the life of faith:
to awaken to enlightenment,
to act justly,
forgo all fear or superstition
and to teach others to do the same.
The call of nembutsu
and our response to it,
are both manifestations of the awaking of enlightenment.
To hear and to receive
is open to all:
female and male,
young and old,
gay and straight,
non-Asian and Asian,
those good and those evil, etc.
When one's inherent enlightenment awakens
all social distinctions are overthrown
in this life and in the next.
Remember if religion can not free us
in the here and now,
how can we trust it in the next life?
The awakening of enlightenment is a gift;
it is a benefit freely given to us by Amida herself.
No one can stand between us and Amida's gift.
No one can deny or take back from us
awakening faith through the other-power.
Therefore, be free women and men!
Do not grovel or bow at the guru's feet,
nor do any slavish senseless things
in order to receive initiation or transmission.
All can receive the Infinite Light and Life directly,
freely and without preconditions
from Amida herself.
Many who practice Asian religions
do so to gain great powers or
to have all their desires fulfilled.
I have no such powers.
Though I lack them in all ways,
I do not seek them either.
Life is wondrous as it is.
All ways of power I reject!
Since none leads to awakening
seeking such powers
can only lead to more misery.
This world of birth-and-death
is Amida's field of action;
Amida has always poured out to this world,
so that all can awaken to enlightenment.
She has reached out to us
arising out of the very beginninglessness of existence,
so that today we have the great fortune
to hear and say her name.
And now having been set free
birth-and-death itself becomes the Pure Land.
So to conclude,
live your life,
struggle against oppression
And after the end of this life,
return again and again
to this world,
until every last being
including the grass,
and the land
all enter together into Nirvana.
 This is the historical Buddha who lived in northern India over
2500 years ago.
 Another name for Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life
who lives mythically in the Western Pure Land.
 Refers to the end of mappo the last 500 years of a 2500 year
cycle of 500 year wheels. We are now at the beginning of a new 500
year cycle of Buddhist expansion.
 Shinran was the founder of Jodo Shinshu the largest Japanese
Pure Land Sect and who was a major reformer of Japanese Buddhism.
His teachings and methods of teaching are the basis of the Buddhism
 Usually called patriarchs by those who use poor English. They
are: Nagarjuna, Vasubandu, T'an-luan, Tao-ch'o, Shan-tao, Genshin
 Which are the Larger Pure Land Sutra, the Smaller Pure Land
Sutra and the Meditation Sutra.
 These are the three canonical sutras of Jodo Shinshu and most
Pure Land sects.
 This sutra tells us of the origin of Amida Buddha, expounds the
48 vows and describes the Pure Land.
 This sutra describes the Pure Land and the practice of chanting
nembutsu. Due to its shortness it is often used for ritual
chanting in it's entirely.
 This sutra tells us the story of an Northern Indian queen whose
husband had recently been overthrown by his son. In despair she
turns to Shakyamuni Buddha who teaches her 16 meditations concerning
Amida Buddha. This text has been a basic manual for Pure Land
Buddhism until Honen/Shinran began to teach nembutsu-only.
 Also, referred to as birth-and-death
 The six worlds are the realm of the gods, the realm of the anti-
gods (Titans), the realm of human-beings, the realm of animals,
the realm of the hungry spirits, and the realm of the hell-beings.
Traditionally, all six worlds are considered real places, but
Japanese Buddhism during the Middle Ages viewed them as
 The name of the original Hebrew God (God-the-Father/Allah).
 The Hindu creator God who is generally ignored in Modern
Hinduism, but was still a major deity when Buddhism began.
 This refers to the doctrine of mappo or the age when Buddhism
dies out. Originally the last 500 years of a 2500 year cycle, but
overtime extended to 10,000 years.
 Or Shinjin in Jodo Shinshu texts.
 Sometimes those whose prior life had been in the company of the
historical Buddha is able, due to good karma, to remember
 This is basically Jodo Shinshu Westernized and without the
Asian cultural baggage. It is still in the process of defining
itself which is the reason I composed this teaching.
 Some sutras recount individuals who have practiced for numerous
kalpas (billions of years) but still failed to achieve
 The Pure Land is the place where enlightenment occurs.
Traditionally, the Western Pure Land was a place where nembutsu
followers went after death to practice and achieve enlightenment.
Shinran transformed this teaching to the here and now. This body
becomes the Pure Land when we experience awakening.
 Because all things are interbeing, when one awakens so do all
 Buddhism is a universal-cosmic religion not restricted to this
planet. This idea came from a conversation with Rev. Ken O'Neil
of Tuscon, AZ. Note (2003) believe he is teaching now somewhere in
 Rules of conduct which if taken too literally makes life dull
and boring. The problems with rules and legalism is a problem
most religions have had. Mystics in most faiths pass through the
level of legalism to a mysical libertarianism.
 The story is given in the Larger Sutra.
 Ultimate Reality (Dharmakaya) has two aspects: ultimate-reality-
as-it-is and ultimate-reality-as-compassion. Amida is the
personification of the ultimate-reality-as-compassion. In Tibetan
Buddhism Amida (Amitabha) is a Mythical Reality Buddha as is not
the same as ultimate-reality-as-it-is.
 In a sense, all existence except ourselves are manifestations
of universal compassion. When we stop seeing ourselves apart from
universal compassion we realize the unity of Amida and ourselves.
When this is personally experienced we call it the awakening of
 During the Middle Ages in Japan, Korea and Northern China
numerous peasant uprising occurred based upon Pure Land ideology
(against the state and state Buddhism).
 Buddhism considers the land itself to be a living thing.
I first saw this online a year or so ago and though it brilliant
then. I lost track of it, and am utterly delighted to find it again
-- revised? if I'm not mistaken.
If you hear from no one else on this list hear this then from me: I
really appreciate your erudition, your spiritual magnanimity and of
course your effort on behalf of the Dharma.
- thanks for your kind comments.
--- "Peter C. Skye" <skye@...> wrote:
> I first saw this online a year or so ago and though
> it brilliant
> then. I lost track of it, and am utterly delighted
> to find it again
> -- revised? if I'm not mistaken.
> If you hear from no one else on this list hear this
> then from me: I
> really appreciate your erudition, your spiritual
> magnanimity and of
> course your effort on behalf of the Dharma.
> Peter Skye
> Lexington, KY
> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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