This is the Pure Land

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Tariki, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Just thought I would create a small space for some expressions of the Pure Land........

    (This poem was written by a woman who was looking after her husband who suffered from Alzheimers)

    Assumptions and expectations
    Of what I can and should do
    Must be erased from my mind.
    An inner voice reminds me,
    "Be more sensitive and understanding."

    His trousers, T-shirt and long-sleeved flannel shirt
    Are placed side by side on top of the bed.
    He turns them around and around,
    Examining them closely.

    Not knowing the difference
    Between front and back,
    He wears his T-shirt reversed,
    And inside out at times.
    When buttoning his flannel shirt
    The buttons are not in alignment
    With the button holes.

    While cooking breakfast,
    I look towards the hallway.
    He has walked out of the bedroom
    Through the hallway to the dining room.

    He is standing beside the chair
    Wearing the shirts and boxer shorts only,
    Thinking he is properly dressed
    To sit at the table to eat his meal.

    He looks like a little boy.
    His innocence is so revealing
    It warms my heart.
    I smile and tell him
    What he has forgotten to wear;
    He looks at my face and chuckles
    As a glimmer of awareness dawns.

    Together, we put on his khaki trousers,
    Embraced in the centerless circle
    Of Boundless Life
     
  2. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Thank you, Tariki.

    It is no wonder to me that I am drawn to Pure Land. What this person wrote is something I know, and while it was not Alzheimer's, this is how it was. It stays with me even as I let it go. Don't know how to say it. But it works.

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  3. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    InLove,

    Like you, I can relate - in part - to the words because of personal experience. With my own mother, it was alzheimers. However, I can only look back in retrospect, as I knew nothing of Pure Land teachings when I cared for her.

    The following is by the same lady. Once again, I identify.........

    Anger, resentment and frustrations
    Explode like an erupting volcano.

    Knowing that dementia has robbed my husband
    Of his keen memory, his thinking capacity,
    Does not help.

    Caring for him day after day,
    Love, compassion and understanding
    Disappear into thin air.

    Sitting quietly,
    Facing the Buddha altar,
    I meditate on my Reality.

    My human frailties and limitations
    Allow Unhindered Light and Eternal Life
    To constantly illuminate and affirm my total being.

    With palms together,
    I bow in gratitude.


    My identification is with the honesty and the admission of failure, yet all embraced by Infinite Compassion. It is this dual perspective, its existential reality, that draws me to the Pure Land! Darkness "illuminates" light, light illuminates darkness. In a sense, the path becomes the arrival.....

    O Saichi, what is your joy?
    The world of delusion is my joy.
    It contains the seeds of relishing the Dharma.
    Namu-Amida-Butsu is blooming everywhere.
     
  4. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi Tariki,

    This may be vaguely off topic...

    Can I ask what it is specifically about Pure Land that you find appealing?

    I'm asking, so obviously your response can't be evangelising! Feel free to waffle at great length if you so wish, my understanding of Pure Land Buddhism is slight.

    (Actually this does fit under the title of the thread, so maybe not so off topic?)

    Thanks.

    s.
     
  5. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Snoopy,

    No need to worry about going off topic (well, at least from my own point of view - the moderators may think differently!) My favorite threads always seem to be those that end up reading more like a Monty Python script than anything else. I remember way back, on another forum, a thread entitled "What do you think of Christianity?" (it was a Buddhist forum) that drifted into an in-depth discussion of Kami-Kazi pilots in World War 2!

    I think I have already answered you in part, by my words in my previous post......

    My identification is with the honesty and the admission of failure, yet all embraced by Infinite Compassion. It is this dual perspective, its existential reality, that draws me to the Pure Land! Darkness "illuminates" light, light illuminates darkness.

    Perhaps to illuminate my own words, and to expand upon them, I would really need to tell my auto-biography. Each of us is a unique individual, and possibly what would draw one towards a particular expression of the Universal would repel another - as Jung has said (to name drop again!) "there is absolutely no truth that does not spell salvation to one person and damnation to another. All universalisms get stuck in this terrible dilemma.") My own path weaved through Fundamentalist Christianity, Atheism and then a very liberal Christianity, then Theravada Buddhism (when I began meditating following a two year bout of severe depression) - and these are only the main sign-posts. Yet there came a point where the questions posed by my own "individuality" seemed to demand another course. I remember at one time posting on the Buddhist forum that I had a growing disatisfaction with certain Theravada teachings, basically because in my eyes it was fundamentally monastic in origin and therefore, at heart, had very little to say to lay people and the lives they lived from day to day. Someone responded at that time, telling me a lot about the Theravada teachings for lay people, and advising me to look them up. I only found out later that this poster was in fact a "Pure Lander", and I found this deeply moving, that he had seen my questions not as an opportunity to "push" his own choice and preference, but had answered instead according to what he understood to be my own need. Anyway, gradually I learned more and more concerning the Pure Land path and found that, being fundamentally lay based and also totally egalitarian (I've always had a hang up concerning so called "masters" and the "need" for them in Buddhism) it spoke to me.

    I suppose for me the Pure Land way combines certain Christian teachings concerning the efficacy of "grace" and "other power" with all that I have found illuminating in the Dharma. It also explicitly teaches a "universal" salvation with no "double destiny". Again, it understands enlightenment in such a way as to be illuminated itself by the experience of many Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart and St John of the Cross.............I suppose this appeals to my own heart-felt desire for unity and peace between the Faiths.

    To become even more personal, about four years ago I identified the need for "trust" in my life. The words of Shinran where he spoke of "self-power" practices as being obstructions to true surrender seemd to make a great deal of sense. As an experiment - and with a great deal of trepidation -I ceased meditation, and began to say the nembutsu. The rest is silence! (I would just say that now I find that my reading is often a "meditation" in itself - some sort of "compensation mechanism". Often a word, or a short phrase, will initiate a long period of contemplation where the intent of the words sinks in and finds its rest within)

    Anyway, I hope this has been some sort of answer. As you intimated, I have no wish to evangelise (I'll soon be posting another quote on the Thomas Merton thread concerning his views on that!).

    And speaking of quotes - as if I ever need any encouragement! - here are the words of the Japanese Pure Land author Hiroyuki Itsuki, drawn from his book "Tariki" subtitled "Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace"....

    The Other Power derives from the true and full acceptance of the reality that is within us and surrounds us. It is not a philosophy of passivity or iresponsibility, but one of radical spiritual activity, of personal, existential revolution. Its essence is the spontaneous wondrous force that gives us the will to act, to "do what man can do and then wait for heaven's will." Importantly, Other Power is a power that flows from the fundamental realization that, in the lives we live, we are already enlightened. This enlightenment does not come easily. It is born of the unwelcome understanding that, despite our protestations, we are insignificant, imperfect beings, born to a hell of suffering that defines human existence. But in this hell, we sometimes excounter small joys, friendship, the kind acts of strangers, and the miracle of love. We experience moments when we are filled with courage, when the world sparkles with hopes and dreams. There are even times when we are deeply grateful to have been born. These moments are paradise. But paradise is not another realm; it is here, in the very midst of the hell of this world. Other Power, a power that transcends theological distinctions, avails us of these moments. In the endless uncertainties of contemporary life, Other Power confers upon us a flexibility of spirit, an energy to feel joy, and the respite of peace.

    Just to add another word or two. I have always had a deep mistrust of any "religion" that seems to deny the reality of this world - the only world I have ever known - with some other perceived to be "better". Often I have spoken of the "betrayal" of this world. Once again, for me, the Pure Land way looks without rose tinted glasses at this very world and my own experienced reality within it, yet also sees within it the seeds of the "Pure Land", the potential for transformation............rather than transcendence.

    P.S Anyway, I do seem to have "waffled at great length"!
     
  6. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Tariki,

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to lay all this down.

    I'll get back to this when I've got the space to do so.

    Thanks again. Much appreciated.:) :)

    s.
     
  7. taijasi

    taijasi Gnōthi seauton

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    Tariki,

    Itsuki's "Tariki" speaks to me beautifully. Thank you for sharing this. I have been following this thread, learning more about the path of Pure Land Buddhism, and you have added immeasurably to my understanding ... and sense of peace. Thank you again ...

    Namaskar,

    Andrew
     
  8. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Zagreus,

    Glad that these quotes of mine have been of some help! Once again, for me it is the encouragement to be totally honest with oneself and ones feelings and fears that trust in Amida brings. For me, Amida is another name for the nameless, that can take whatever name, the will that works tirelessly throughout Reality for the ultimate enlightenment of all. All experience has the potential to bring enlightenment; even the moments of apparent failure, of deep existential anxiety, can be transformed by pure acceptance, the embrace of Infinite Compassion. And my own experience is that this can be so virtually inspite of our own "beliefs" and "strategies" rather than because of them. There is a technical term in the Pure Land teachings that means "to become so of itself, not by calculation" and for me this means that it is not my own "understanding" or grasp of truth that brings genuine trust/faith but Other Power.

    This is expressed by some words of a Pure Land devotee......

    In the timeless process of birth-and-death,
    for the first time I was made to realize
    the Other Power of Amida Buddha.
    My understanding resulted from listening,
    but listening is nothing but a little scratch on a precious gem.
    I trusted my understanding instead of trusting Amida.
    Until now I was satisfied with my understanding.
    But, my understanding does not save me;
    It is Amida who saves me.



    For me, all the theologies of the world are "little scratches on a precious gem". They have there uses yet ultimately faith is more a letting go (of "self" and its strategies) than a clinging to, or in Christian apophatic terms more a "darkness" than a light.

    Anyway, just to finish, another "ode" from the pen of the Pure Land "saint" Saichi.........

    Nothing is left to Saichi,
    Except a joyful heart nothing is left to him.
    Neither good nor bad has he, all is taken away from him;
    Nothing is left to him!
    To have nothing - how completely satisfying!
    Everything has been carried away by the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.
    He is thoroughly at home with himself:
    This is indeed the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.


    :)
     
  9. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi Tariki,

    Thanks again for all your insightful and honest words. In my ignorance of Pure Land can I ask for elucidation or just comment on the following points (not as a dissection process but as a dialogue).

    Name dropper maybe, but hits the nail on the head, for me.


    Does Pure Land not involve meditation then? This seems strange, given the Eightfold Path?


    This I feel is the same notion as zazen in zen, yes? To sit it to be; to be Buddha-nature. It is simply bringing us to ourselves.


    Again, this reminds me of zen, zen is the living in the world here and now. However, I understood (incorrectly?) that Pure Land was indeed concerned with, well, the Pure Land of Amitabha, better than the world we live in?

    Again, not evangelising or undermining, just communicating…

    s.
     
  10. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Snoopy,

    Just a quick response (I would just say that I am not at my best when seeking to elucidate Pure Land "doctrine" as taught and expounded by others. My style - if it can be given such a grand name! - is more to just tell it like it is for me, right or wrong)

    Anyway, concerning meditation. It can be incorporated into the Pure Land path, or not. As Shinran said, any "self-power" technique and a reliance upon it can preclude or obstruct a full surrender to the "Other Power"...........to grace. However, the Pure Land way is more than the words of Shinran - he is associated with the Jodo-shin-shu, just one of the many divisions. Many Pure Landers do in fact meditate. My choice at that time was founded upon my own perception of where I was and what was required - not always a good thing to think too deeply about! Yet I did feel a deep need to develope trust, and I could see that my "looking back" towards my periods of meditation, and my "looking towards" them, and the way they added "stock" to my life.............were in fact acting in a way that Shinran alluded to. At this moment in time I am seriously considering restarting a meditation practice and I'm looking up certain "receptive" forms where the intent is to "open" to grace. Maybe I will even ask about this on some forum!

    The "we are already enlightened" has many affinities with all forms of spirituality. In Pure Land it is based upon the logic of the Original Vow and the conditions set upon it by Amida. Without explaining fully, the logic is that because Amida IS in fact enlightened then so are we. However, the paradox remains, as perhaps best alluded to by Thomas Merton.............."How far have I to go to find You, in Whom I have already arrived". (D T Suzuki has it that "everything is empty from the beginning", we do not have to make it so, what you see is what you get!)

    And as you say, the idea of the Pure Land prior to Shinran was of a realm "beyond" this one where devotees sought to be reborn; when there they could practice in a more congenial atmosphere. It was this futuristic idea that Shinran completely overturned by insisting that spiritually speaking, the person of True Faith is already in the Pure Land. It is this aspect of Shinran's thought that D. T. Suzuki (known more for his Zen than his Shin) brings forth in his wonderfully informal little book "Buddha of Infinite Light"....based upon a series of talks he gave when in his 88th year....

    ......the Pure land is right here............is this defiled earth itself..........and those who have eyes to see can see it around them.......

    Well, sometimes I have the eyes to see and sometimes I don't! To repeat Merton's words spoken from within his own Christian context..............How far have I to go to find You, in Whom I have already arrived.

    :)
     
  11. Francis king

    Francis king New Member

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    have to say, to me, pure land buddhism is just too messiahanistic and simplistic... although yes, it appeals to softhearted lapsed xtians...(no offence meant, btw...) u will be born in a pure land, chant this mantra a million times n u'll get there...

    namo amida butsu...

    so, u dont have to meditate, or read the sutras, just chant this mantra, and, of course, read these books, and miraculously u'll be reborn somewhere warm, with sandy beaches, with fit young lasses and buff young men in speedoes walking about...

    sign me up!
     
  12. earl

    earl ?

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    As in all religions, there are Pure Landers who are much too literalistic Francis-I've seen some of them offering plans on how to build little table-top machines that will "chant" the nebutsu for you countless times a day while you're doing something else-that's taking an idea to its literalistic, magical absurd point.;) :D But the gift and spirit of that path truly practiced is something else altogether. Tariki, as to forms of meditation, (I still utilize various types-Christian and Buddhist forms- myself), that may be more receptive to "grace," to me the Prayer of the Heart-i.e. Jesus Prayer-can be an example of such a vehicle, (though probably wouldn't work for you for obvious reasons;) ). When I use my version, however, it's usually just shortened down to "Christ have mercy." Even simple mindfulness meditation, opening awareness to whatever presents itself to one's awareness if done with intent to be receptive, to open in surrender to the present moment, not pushing anything away but "surrendering" to what is, can be an exercise in opening to grace. But words are not the key to any meditation. Rather it is intent-the intent to open mind and heart as widely as possible. have a good one, earl
     
  13. earl

    earl ?

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    Actually those nembutsu chanting machines did just remind me of a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism I love- their tradtion of essentially allowing Nature to continuously utter their prayers, blessings, etc by placing them on prayer wheels they place into running streams or on prayer flags that the wind works on until the flag simply disintegrates. My favorite American Buddhist writer, Surya Das, in his book "Awakening the Buddhist Heart" speaks of it this way:

    "There is a Tibetan term, the 'drala principle,' which speaks to what we feel most deeply about nature. 'Drala' means 'beyondness'...'Drala' is beyond dualism or conflict; it's so much bigger than we are that it speaks to a largeness that is beyond our full comprehension or understanding. The spirit of Nature is a good example of drala."

    So we cast our fortunes to the winds:) This drala may explain why folks who meditate in nature, be it by running stream, ocean's shore, by night's sky or cloudless blue sky day, by mountainside or grassy wide-open steppes, find natural support for their endeavors as our small, cramped sense of self can more easily melt into the drala bigger than "we" are in such environs. Personally I've always been a fan of the "sky-gazing" meditative tradition associated with Dzogchen. drala-ly yours, earl
     
  14. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Earl,

    Thanks for your brief advice re "receptive" meditation "techniques". I will definitely - Amida willing! - be renewing some form of practice. As I explained, for better or for worse, I indentified a certain problem and need a few years ago...in order to give the nembutsu a chance. Whether or not the "chance" has been taken...........well, I don't enquire too deeply. Thats not the way of Pure Land. To paraphrase a few words of Thomas Merton - yes, him again! - given in another context, the Pure Land is a way that is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising, so simple that it can get along without being a way at all. And....least of all is it a "way out"..............you enter upon this kind of way when you leave all ways and, in some sense, get lost.

    And speaking as a soft-hearted lapsed Xtian :)D :confused: :eek: :) ) I can only say that the Pure Land way is the easy way............yet few there be who take it. Like all Buddhist ways, put simply, it is a way for the giving up of the ego-self, yet for those who perhaps have to spend more time around the kitchen sink than in the Zendo.

    And to quote that old Christian warhorse, G.K.Chesterton (who better for a softhearted lapsed Xtian to quote?).............."Great things are seen from the valleys (or the kitchen sink!), only small things from the peaks"

    P.S. My words in brackets!


    :)
     
  15. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Whisper heard from the softhearted Christian pew in the back: Amen.:)

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  16. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    InLove,

    Nice to hear some whispers other than my own.......:) Your post made me think of some Buddhist symbolism, taken from some ancient sutta, where the Buddha is depicted as entering one of the deepest hells carrying a lamp. By it's light the inhabitants become aware for the very first time that there are others here beside myself. I think in many ways, such a realization is the beginning of any path - if "beginnings" can ever be traced.

    Anyway, getting back to the intent of this thread - after that Snoopy knocked it off course!! :) - one of two more snippets.

    A poem written by a carer, who looked after her bed-ridden sister for many years.......

    With righteous fervour I tended to her needs
    Day and night, as she lay hostage
    To the crippling disease.
    Then she asked for a measure more,
    And I balked.
    She made me see me for what I am.
    Namu-Amida-Butsu!


    And another from Saichi......

    I don't say the nembutsu.
    It is not necessary.
    Saved by the Buddha's compassion,
    how grateful I feel.
    As for Namu-Amida-Butsu,
    it is ever with me.
    I am ever with it.
    While asleep, Namu-Amida-Butsu.
    While awake, Namu-Amida-Butsu.
    While walking or resting,
    while sitting or lying, Namu-Amida-Butsu
    While working, Namu-Amida-Butsu.
     
  17. earl

    earl ?

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    The thing about "prayers of the heart" for me at least is interestingly how the "feel" of the meditation flows and changes over the sitting. It seems it starts with a receptive opening to whatever "mercy" comes my way, i.e., "Christ have mercy." Then it seems to flow into a form of prayer that says "may I be a vehicle of that mercy"-i.e., "Christ is mercy." Then there is simply mercy flowing in and out. From what I've grasped of your sharing from Pure Land writers, this seems like what they're getting at Tariki. Sorry if I've "intruded" with my hands-on experiences, but I think folks sharing about what they actually do and experience can add to a dialogue that may otherwise be just words on "paper" for us. May we all be blessed and be a blessing onto others, earl
     
  18. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Earl,

    No need for apologies, I need all the help I can get! Although I am relatively well read on most of the various Buddhist meditation techniques, it is only meditation of the "watching the breath" type that I had persevered with - although the Buddha did say that even this type led/evolved towards the "highest". I genuinely welcome your words. I do remember way back on the old Tricycle forums, Jeff Wilson speaking about his own "sitting" with the group who attended his local Zen centre, yet as a Pure Lander he followed his own particular practice of a certain receptivity and "openess" within the meditation. Anyway, I agree with you concerning the exchange of actual experience................sure beats a pedestrian procession of quotes!:D
     
  19. earl

    earl ?

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    Tariki, I've so enjoyed your discussion of Pure Land as I've seen that Pure Land's thought as re Amida, etc. would so match my version of Christianity, (my understanding heavily influenced by Buddhist study & beliefs-1 e.g. being my view of "sin" is that it is synonymous with divine ignorance of our true condition). At any rate I can certainly relate to all the Buddhist meditators who speak of "dry' meditations where one's mind just mucks around in it. Just finished my "prayer of the heart" session. Felt no "merciful" flow simply because my mind was monkeying around. Usually I leave off the standard words which the typical "Jesus Prayer" contains, "Christ have mercy on me-a sinner," as the mercy part is my focus. But this time I thought it appropriate to finish up and smile adding that last part as I wished to acknowledge my foolish ignorance while I at the same time rested in the knowledge that that merciful grace is always just a breath away. I bet you have or could share some Pure Land writings that say the same things in different words. have a good one Derek, earl
     
  20. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Tariki,

    You said,

    "At this moment in time I am seriously considering restarting a meditation practice and I'm looking up certain 'receptive' forms where the intent is to 'open' to grace. Maybe I will even ask about this on some forum!"

    --> As a matter of fact, the Nishi Honganji church in San Diego, California, has a meditation class, taught by the minister. It has been going on for about a year now. That minister (Rev. Mukojima) may have some ideas for you.
     

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