I am in the process of “converting” from Japanese Pure Land Buddhism to Vietnamese Zen Buddhism. This has been a long time coming. Please let me explain.
In Vietnam, Zen is fused with Pure Land practices, with the intent of realizing Amida Buddha as our own Buddha-nature and the Pure Land as the Pure Mind.
For a book on Vietnamese Zen/Pure Land Buddhism, please read Finding Our True Home: Living in the Pure Hand Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh.
This is much different from the emphasis in Jodo Shinshu, which traditionally sees Amida as an external savior and the Pure Land as a paradisaical destination for after we die.
This exclusive emphasis on the afterlife, rather than seeking to live the Buddha’s teachings here and now, gave me a sense of learned helplessness over my life.
While some might read the Tannisho and gain a sense of freedom from no longer having to worry about their future Buddhahood, it instead gave me the opposite effect.
When Jodo Shinshu teachings say we are incapable of any good deed and must rely on Amida for help, this caused me to lose any motivation for improving as a person.
Lately, I’ve been making an honest effort to change my bad habits, now that I see the effects of negative karma, rather than taking my future Buddhahood as guaranteed.
As it says in the Dhammapada, “By oneself is evil done;
by oneself is one defiled.
By oneself is evil left undone;
by oneself is one made pure.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.”
Nam-mô A-di-đà Phật