Buddhism and Christianity

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Azure24, Jan 26, 2008.

  1. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Pure Land Liturgy for Birth
    Excerpt:

    Those who are mindful of Amida continuously until the end of their lives as stated above will be born in the Pure Land, ten out of ten and a hundred out of a hundred. The reason is that they are free of miscellaneous influences from outside, they have attained the right mindfulness, they are in accord with the Buddha's Primal Vow, they do not disagree with the Buddha's teachings, and they accord with the Buddha's words.
    Those who set aside the exclusive practice and seek to perform miscellaneous acts will rarely attain birth, perhaps one or two out of a hundred or three or five out of a thousand. The reason is that miscellaneous influences arise in confusion and disrupt one's right-mindfulness. Such practitioners are not in accord with the Buddha's Primal Vow, they are in disagreement with the Buddha's teachings, they do not accord with the Buddha's words, their mindfulness does not continue, their recollecting thoughts are intermittent, their aspiration for birth by transferring their merits towards it is not deep-rooted and sincere, evil passions such as greed, anger and various wrong views arise to interrupt their mindfulness, and they lack the mind of repentance.

    There are three kinds of repentance: principal, short, and extensive, which are explained in detail below.15) Any of the three can be done as one pleases. Otherwise, one will not be continuously mindful of repaying the Buddha's benevolence, one will give rise to haughty thoughts which allow one's acts to be tainted with desires for reputation and profit, one will be covered with self-attachment which alienates one from fellow-practitioners and good teachers, and one will be drawn to miscellaneous influences, resulting in hindering oneself and others from performing the right practice for birth in the Pure Land.
    The reason I say this is that I have recently witnessed and heard about the fact that priests and laypeople have different understandings and perform different practices and that some of them take to the exclusive practice [of the Nembutsu] while others follow miscellaneous practices. If only one practices with singleness of heart, ten out of ten will be born in the Pure Land. Those who perform miscellaneous practices and lack sincerity of heart fail to attain birth, even one in a thousand. The gain and loss of these two types of practice have already been discussed above.


    <...>

    (12)

    I take refuge in the Buddha and repent before him so that my teacher, parents, good friends of the Way, and sentient beings of the universe may destroy the three karmic hindrances21) and together attain birth in the land of Amida Buddha.


    [SIZE=+1]Sincere repentance: (Principal repentance)[/SIZE]


    I take refuge in and repent before Buddhas of the ten quarters;
    May all the roots of my karmic evil be destroyed.
    I will transfer to others the good which I have cultivated since long ago
    So that it may become the cause of birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss for them and for myself.
    I always wish that at the time of death, everyone will see
    All the wonderful objects and manifestations.
    I wish to see Amida, the Lord of Great Compassion,
    Avalokiteshvara, Mahasthamaprapta and Honored Ones of the ten quarters.
    I pray and wish that their divine light embraces me and they extend their hands towards me;
    May I ride the Buddha's Primal Vow and be born in his land.


    After having thus repented, transferred my merits and made an aspiration, I take refuge in Amida Buddha with sincerity of heart.



    I hope this is helpful. :)
     
  2. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Thank you, SG. That was helpful.

    It seems practitioners "who set aside the exclusive practice and seek to perform miscellaneous acts" lose focus and emotional self-control, such that " ... evil passions such as greed, anger and various wrong views arise to interrupt their mindfulness, and they lack the mind of repentance." Here the failure to repent appears as a consequences of dispensing with ("setting aside") the vocalizing nenbutsu that is central to Pure Land practice.

    In other words, the personal act of turning does not appear to be pivotal aspect of practice. To me this is remarkable - not just because it is so different from the Christian tradition, but also because it makes Buddhism an "externalistic" practice. Again, this devotion to and dependence on Amitabha Buddha does not exactly square with Siddhartha Guatama's emphasis on internal work. This is why I wonder whether Pure Land ideology might be considered heretical.

    At ant rate, in the Pure Land view it seems repentance is a kind of byproduct of the practitioner's devotion to Amitabha Buddha rather than being an attitude of faith itself. The word epiphenomena comes to mind. Btw, this PL view appears to be quite different from the Jewish faith as well:
    The full meaning of repentance, according to Jewish doctrine, is clearly indicated in the term "teshubah" (lit. "return"; from the verb ). This implies: (1) All transgression and sin are the natural and inevitable consequence of man's straying from G-d and His laws (comp. Deut. xi. 26-28; Isa. i. 4; Jer. ii. 13, xvi. 11; Ezek. xviii. 30). (2) It is man's destiny, and therefore his duty, to be with G-d as G-d is with him. (3) It is within the power of every man to redeem himself from sin by resolutely breaking away from it and turning to G-d, whose loving-kindness is ever extended to the returning sinner. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. lv. 7; comp. Jer. iii. 12; Ezek. xviii. 32; Joel ii. 13). (4) Because "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccl. vii. 20; I Kings viii. 46), every mortal stands in need of this insistence on his "return" to G-d.
    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=216&letter=R
    Adin Steinsaltz wrote an excellent chapter on the subject of repentance in The Thirteen Petalled Rose.

    In the Talmudic view, the human's repentance appears to be a necessary condition for receiving the Lord's mercy. The Lord responds to the penitent's act of turning. That is, the Lord responds with mercy toward the penitent. It is unclear whether Amitabha Buddha responds to the devotee in the way the personal G-d of the Judeo-Christian tradition responds.

    Back to Christianity. Jesus emphasized the gift character of Grace. But I don't see that as alleviating the problem of The Unforgivable Sin.


     
  3. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Well, that might be putting it a bit strongly, maybe from a Theravadan perspective it is "false and corrrupt." I think the Theravadan tradition only accepts the Pali Canon as the actual words of the Buddha. Mahayana (every other flavour of Buddhism, unless you're counting Vajrayana on its own) accepts the Pali Canon as well as (to varying degrees of emphasis) all these other sutras. Looking at it from the "other side", Mahayana, if you want to be a bit strong about it, has sometimes viewed Theravadan Buddhism as selfish, limited and provisional in its approach and teachings. (which I suppose relates back to my upaya and propaganda comment).

    s.
     
  4. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    My sense is that Pure Land doctrine's emphasis on the vocalizing nenbutsu makes Buddhism superficially ritualistic. This seems a bit odd to me because I see Buddhism as an outgrowth of a good faith effort to cut back on the excessive ritualism of the Hindu religion.

    At any rate, in Pure Land doctrine devotional practice seems to have been reduced to overt, mechanical Buddha recitation. Maybe this is a false impression. Maybe the nenbutsu is not just a verbal exercise. Maybe "invoking Amitabha's name" is short-hand for several Dharma methods, with awareness of one's higher nature as the focus of practice.

    I was not able to crossvalidate SG's quote. But based on that material, for Pure Land followers repentance has the quality of being a secondary byproduct or epiphenomena of some other more central mentalistic process. Compare that with the Biblical view. The Lord is very involved with His Creation and asks directly for commitment involving the person's entire being: "turn unto Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with lamentation." Joel 2:12

    Unlike the Judeo-Christian tradition, repentance doesn't seem to be a primary spiritual attitude in Pure Land Buddhism. Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing, but I see "weeping and lamentation" (signifying the process of purification) as a personal expression of love for G-d and as a precondition for sanctified action in the world.
     
  5. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Netti-Netti,

    My opinion of Pureland is the same as yours. To me, the Nembutsu is a request for assistance, and an opportunity to think pure and pious thoughts — nothing more, nothing less.

    By the way, I used to be a member of a Pureland church. I left, for the exact same concerns that you are now voicing. If you are now looking for something better, I wish you luck.
     
  6. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Thank you, Nick.

    Puzzling. Sometimes the a word like sanjin is translated to mean heart and at other times it's used to designate mind. I see cognition and affect as being very different.

    Anyways,
    I wonder if the request for assistance would indicate repentance or even be synonymous with it, depending on the Japanese translation. While we're on the subject, I came across this vivid passage:
    Repentance and Faith

    Repentance is an important part of Shan-tao's Pure Land theory and practice. He took every opportunity to urge an act of repentance. In the Liturgy for Birth he distinguishes three kinds of repentance:

    (1) the higher degree of repentance is to shed blood from pores of the body and from the eyes;

    (2) the middle degree of repentance is to exude hot perspiration from all the pores of the body and shed blood from the eyes;

    (3) the lower degree of repentance is to become feverish all over the body and shed tears from the eyes.

    More here: Shan-tao



     
  7. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Thank you, Nick. That was helpful. My interest in Buddhism is scattered and my grasp of it is superficial. There's a huge Buddhist literature and it's hard to tell which is core doctrine. This seems to be the case for various religions.
    Translation is a problem, too. Consider that the Japanese word sanjin is sometimes translated to mean mind; at other times it refers to heart or "body."

    Anyways, I wonder if a "request for assistance" might signify an underlying state or attitude of faith (depending what the original term "request" might have been. While we're at it, I found this recently:

    Repentance and Faith

    Repentance is an important part of Shan-tao's Pure Land theory and practice. He took every opportunity to urge an act of repentance. In the Liturgy for Birth he distinguishes three kinds of repentance:

    (1) the higher degree of repentance is to shed blood from pores of the body and from the eyes;


    (2) the middle degree of repentance is to exude hot perspiration from all the pores of the body and shed blood from the eyes;

    (3) the lower degree of repentance is to become feverish all over the body and shed tears from the eyes.

    More here:
    Shan-tao

     
  8. earl

    earl ?

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    Netti-Netti (always liked that phrase "not this, not that" -whole via negativa thing and all:)) & Nick-as to your statements re PureLand Buddhism, there are actually a number of different approaches to PL-the 1 I subscribe to is Jodo Shinshu. There is a great subtlety to their approach that I'm afraid neither of you appear to be familiar with based on your comments. For those who wish to delve into the Jodo Shinshu approach, can think of no better place online to begin than
    nembutsu.info

    Great collection of scholarly and quasi-scholarly essays related to it which explain its subtle depth. I'm both too non-intellectual and/or lazy at this point in my life to do justice to going into that depth here now.:D have a good one, Earl
     
  9. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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  10. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Apparently there are 10 branches of Jodo Shinshu. Where to start?

    I'll be the first to admit that I dabble and that my interest in Buddhism is scattered at best. It's a huge Buddhist literature out there and hard to tell which is core doctrine. This seems to be the case for various religions. Translation is a problem, too. Consider that the Japanese word sanjin is sometimes translated to mean mind; other times it refers to heart or "body."

    I've been interested in Buddhism mainly as a practical methodology. But I'm also interested in theology and religious experience. Maybe the "request for assistance" Nick was talking about indicates an underlying state of repentance ....depending what the original term " request" might have been. It seems more like an act of faith. I did see mention of the possibility of substituting faith in Amida Buddha for repentance. I thought that was interesting.

    Moderators, please ignore whatever junky posts you have from me in your collection of posts requiring moderation. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2008
  11. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Netti-Netti, you said,
    "Apparently there are 10 branches of Jodo Shinshu. Where to start?"
    --> I would start with Nishi Honganji. It is by far the largest branch of Jodo Shinshu.
    "It's a huge Buddhist literature out there and hard to tell which is core doctrine."
    --> When I read of the differences between, say, Pureland, Zen, Theravada, and Dzogchen, I am amazed by the differences. I think it would be hard to identify a core set of Buddhist doctrines, beyond the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, etc.
    "Maybe the "request for assistance" Nick was talking about indicates an underlying state of repentance."
    --> As Earl has indicated, there are many ways to interpret the effect of the Nembutsu. Personally, I do not see the power of repentence in the Nembutsu, although I can see how somebody else would.
    "It seems more like an act of faith."
    --> That is exactly how I see it. Allow me to give an unconventional interpretation of the effect of the Nembutsu. I see it as raising the level of spirituality of the person speaking it. I feel that entering the Pureland requires a minimum level of spirituality (so that a person can enter it), and reciting the Nembutsu gives a person this required level of minimum spirituality.
     
  12. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Well if purifying the mind is a goal in Buddhism, and there are 88,000 dharma doors through which to accomplish this, it would then follow that we humans have the potential of having 88,000 mental hang-ups. (Which would account for the variety of the different sects and practices out there.)
     
  13. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Why not 88,000 dharma doors for only a handful of mental hang-ups?
     
  14. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    That is also possible. {Let's see, anger/aggression, ignorance/laziness, envy/jealousy, pride/arrogance, attachment to fleshly desires, and all of the variations thereof...}
     
  15. earl

    earl ?

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    Actually "repentance" per se plays little role in Jodo Shinshu. Perhaps the equivalent notion comes into play in the Shin adherents' recognition of how "self-oriented" he/she is. That is 1 of the profound realizations of Shinran, the "founder" of Shin Buddhism, who was a Tendai monk for 20 years and accordingly performed years of arduous practices in the attempt to find enlightenment was how much such acts are shot through, consciously or not with "self." He essentially asked the question that even other schools of Buddhism ask themselves now: "how does use of self help one discover not self?" His answer for him was that even when using practices with intent of discovering "not self" it subtly reinforced a sense of self. His answer to that was to essentially let go of all "self" efforts in the act of deeply entrusting Amida, (to this day there are many disagreements as to what "Amida" really is); complete entrusting being the translation essentially of the Shin term "shinjin" more so than faith. Some Shin adherents see Amida as merely a mythic personification of enlightenment itself. However, I'm not so sure-for example when 1 looks at the voluminous literature re near death experiences and notes the common experience of a limitless sentient "light" which greets someone, that, of course, bears a remarkable similarlity to how Amida is mythically described. In fact, a while back while doing an internet search I stumbled upon an interesting paper online by an Asian folklore specialist, (an academic), that makes the interesting case that near death experiences may have been a stimulus to the further development of Pure Land thought in China and elsewhere. Should someone be interested in that paper, I will attempt to find the web address for it. have a good one, Earl
     
  16. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    So far so good. I'd add the following: Idle curiosity, spiritual vanity, spiritual infidelity, hypocrisy, love of power, self-pity, impatience, resistance to change, and unwillingness to learn.

    In one Buddhist text I saw mention of suicide as objectionable principally because it eliminates additional learning experiences.

    Anyways, some of these may overlap with your listing - especially insofar they follow from ignorance.
     
  17. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    It is indeed!

    I don't know how much dabbling you've dabbled, but in my dabbling this is a common site that gets pointed at:

    BuddhaNet - Worldwide Buddhist Information and Education Network

    If you want to be rash and split "Buddhism" into the Theravadan and the Mahayana then for the former, the Word of the Buddha is the Pali Canon:

    Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism

    For the latter, the sutras used/emphasized depend upon the school (though also accepting the Pali Canon):

    http://www4.bayarea.net/~mtlee/

    This is because the Mahayana developed over time and geographically distinct areas; leading to all sorts of fun!

    s.
     
  18. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    It is to be regretted because it is the taking of a life.

    "The Five Precepts are the basis of Buddhist morality. The first precept is to avoid killing or harming living beings. The second is to avoid stealing, the third is to avoid sexual misconduct, the fourth is to avoid lying and the fifth is to avoid alcohol and other intoxicating drugs."

    A Basic Buddhism Guide: The Five Precepts

    s.
     
  19. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    I heard 84,000. Maybe the difference is cos some are revolving? :p

    I think it just means (as we say) "shed loads"; a myriad of means.

    s.
     
  20. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Cyclic? :p

    Perhaps it might be due to a glitch in my scary ability to remember. {Either that, or I found 4,000 additional mental hang-ups related to PMS.} :p
     

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