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  • jim davis <from_alamut@yahoo.com>
    THE BASIC TEACHINGS OF WESTERN PURE LAND BUDDHISM by Jim Davis 1 This is the Good News of the Buddha Shakyamuni,[1] a manifestation of the Unhindered Light,[2]
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 2, 2003
      by Jim Davis

      This is the Good News of the Buddha Shakyamuni,[1]
      a manifestation of the Unhindered Light,[2]
      which has come to us from across the centuries.
      To take on a new and more Western form
      for this New Dharma turning age.[3]
      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.[4]
      Shinran received and taught
      the teachings of the Seven Pure Land Ancestors.[5]
      All of whom,
      correctly heard and transmitted
      the true meaning of the Pure Land Sutras[6]
      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:[7]
      the Larger Pure Land Sutra,[8]
      the Smaller Pure Land Sutra[9]
      and the Meditation Sutra.[10]
      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;[11]
      six worlds[12] 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,[13]
      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,
      no ending.

      And yet, hope is never far away.
      Long ago,
      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[14] or Brahman.[15]
      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.[16]
      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.[17]
      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[18]
      and taught.
      As for myself
      I follow the Western Pure Land Buddhist path[19]
      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.[20]
      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[21]
      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.[22]

      Amida's compassion reaches across the darkness of space and time,[23]
      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,[24]
      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,
      and yet,
      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.[25]
      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[26]
      which manifested itself as Amida.
      This compassion is true and real
      and so, are its incarnations.[27]

      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.
      Saying nembutsu,
      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,
      great faith,
      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,
      act compassionately,[28]
      struggle against oppression
      and injustice.
      And after the end of this life,
      return again and again
      to this world,
      until every last being
      including the grass,
      the animals,
      the trees
      and the land[29]
      all enter together into Nirvana.


      [1] This is the historical Buddha who lived in northern India over
      2500 years ago.
      [2] Another name for Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life
      who lives mythically in the Western Pure Land.
      [3] 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.
      [4] 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
      I teach.
      [5] Usually called patriarchs by those who use poor English. They
      are: Nagarjuna, Vasubandu, T'an-luan, Tao-ch'o, Shan-tao, Genshin
      and Honen.
      [6] Which are the Larger Pure Land Sutra, the Smaller Pure Land
      Sutra and the Meditation Sutra.
      [7] These are the three canonical sutras of Jodo Shinshu and most
      Pure Land sects.
      [8] This sutra tells us of the origin of Amida Buddha, expounds the
      48 vows and describes the Pure Land.
      [9] 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.
      [10] 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.
      [11] Also, referred to as birth-and-death
      [12] 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
      psychological states.
      [13] karma
      [14] The name of the original Hebrew God (God-the-Father/Allah).
      [15] The Hindu creator God who is generally ignored in Modern
      Hinduism, but was still a major deity when Buddhism began.
      [16] 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.
      [17] Or Shinjin in Jodo Shinshu texts.
      [18] Sometimes those whose prior life had been in the company of the
      historical Buddha is able, due to good karma, to remember
      forgotten sutras.
      [19] 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.
      [20] Some sutras recount individuals who have practiced for numerous
      kalpas (billions of years) but still failed to achieve
      [21] 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.
      [22] Because all things are interbeing, when one awakens so do all
      other beings.
      [23] 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
      [24] 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.
      [25] The story is given in the Larger Sutra.
      [26] 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.
      [27] 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
      [28] 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).
      [29] Buddhism considers the land itself to be a living thing.
    • Peter C. Skye
      Jim, 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
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 4, 2003

        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
      • Jim
        thanks for your kind comments. jim ... __________________________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Tax Center - forms, calculators, tips, more
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 5, 2003
          thanks for your kind comments.

          --- "Peter C. Skye" <skye@...> wrote:
          > Jim,
          > 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.
          > Gassho,
          > Peter Skye
          > Lexington, KY
          > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
          > shinlist-unsubscribe@egroups.com
          > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
          > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

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