Category: buddhahood

Is the Pure Land a Buddhist heaven?

matthewsatori:

The popular conception of the Pure Land as a Buddhist heaven, where we’ll someday meet our deceased relatives, has perhaps more to do with Chinese ancestor worship, with its emphasis on filial piety, than with Buddhism itself.  

Shinran, like Tan-luan and Shandao, understood the Pure Land as the formless realm of Nirvana, rather than a heaven, and therefore referred to it as “the birth of no-birth,” just as the Buddha described Nirvana as “the unborn.”

Buddhism was not immediately accepted in China, because the doctrines of non-self, rebirth, and Nirvana challenged traditional Chinese beliefs about the spirits of dead relatives, that good deeds should be done in their honor. 

If there is no permanent, unchanging self, but instead a stream of consciousness from one lifetime to the next, what good is there in dedicating merit to one’s ancestors? The answer to this question might be unsettling for many.

Chinese folk religion therefore came to produce an image of the Pure Land as a Confucian-like and Taoist-like paradise, as an accommodation of Buddhism to traditional Chinese values and customs. 

Shinran said that he never recited the Nembutsu out of filial piety. Nonetheless, Shinran had compassionate understanding for those who, however misguided, clung to the notion of a permanent self that will meet our deceased ancestors.

As the realm of Nirvana, the true Pure Land is inconceivable. The heaven-like language we use to describe it is a finger pointing to the moon, making the Ultimate Truth accessible to ordinary beings like ourselves:

Meaning itself is beyond debate of such matters as like against dislike, evil against virtue, falsity against truth. Hence, words may indeed have meaning, but the meaning is not the words. Consider, for example, a person instructing us by pointing to the moon with his finger. The person would say, ‘I am pointing to the moon with my finger in order to show it to you. Why do you look at my finger and not the moon?’ Similarly, words are the finger pointing to the meaning; they are not the meaning itself. Hence, do not rely upon words.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expositions/chapter-on-transformed-buddha-bodies-and-lands/

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NAMU-AMIDA-BUTSU

As the realm of Nirvana, the true Pure Land is inconceivable. The heaven-like language we use to describe it is a finger pointing to the moon, making the Ultimate Truth accessible to ordinary beings like ourselves…

I really do not know whether the Nembutsu may …

I really do not know whether the Nembutsu may be the cause for my rebirth into the Pure Land (the realm of Nirvana), or the act that shall condemn me to hell. But I have nothing to regret, even if I should have been deceived, and, saying the Nembutsu, fall into hell.
If I were capable of attaining Buddhahood by other religious practices and yet fell into hell for saying the Nembutsu, I might have dire regrets for having been deceived. But since I am absolutely incapable of any religious practice, hell is my only home.

“To be honest, I think the Buddha is better than a god. While a god might offer the chance to serve…”

“To be honest, I think the Buddha is better than a god. While a god might offer the chance to serve him in heaven, the Buddha teaches us the path to become Buddhas ourselves. Buddha wins.”

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Buddhahood is No Free Lunch

The long and arduous journey of a Bodhisattva seems like the most realistic way to attain Buddhahood. I am unconvinced by anyone who promises that we can attain Buddhahood in one lifetime or after one more rebirth.

It took the Buddha himself many lifetimes of selfless service to attain Buddhahood, as recounted in the Jataka tales:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jataka_tales

And in the story of Bodhisattva Never Despise:
http://www.rk-world.org/publications/lotussutra_B20.html

What matters more than our own personal attainments is cultivating kindness and compassion to all other beings. What matters is living the Six Paramitas of a Bodhisattva here and now, and the rest will assuredly follow.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas encourage us along the path. We have to do the walking ourselves:

  1. Dāna pāramitā: generosity, giving of oneself (in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, 布施波羅蜜; in Tibetan, སབྱིན་པ sbyin-pa)
  2. Śīla pāramitā : virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct (持戒波羅蜜; ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས tshul-khrims)
  3. Kṣānti pāramitā : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance (忍辱波羅蜜; བཟོད་པ bzod-pa)
  4. Vīrya pāramitā : energy, diligence, vigor, effort (精進波羅蜜; བརྩོན་འགྲུས brtson-’grus)
  5. Dhyāna pāramitā : one-pointed concentration, contemplation (禪定波羅蜜, བསམ་གཏན bsam-gtan)
  6. Prajñā pāramitā : wisdom, insight (般若波羅蜜; ཤེས་རབ shes-rab)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pāramitā
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“The Lotus Sutra promises that all who vow to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings will…”

“The Lotus Sutra promises that all who vow to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings will ultimately attain Buddhahood, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. If you practice being kinder and more compassionate here and now, the rest will follow.”

How to Attain Buddhahood

To become a Buddha, one has to cultivate the Bodhisattva path.
The main practices for the Bodhisattva path are the six perfections and
the three sets of precepts: 

The Six Perfections

1. Giving: to give money, Dharma, and fearlessness 

2. Keeping the precepts: to do no evil and to do all good 

3. Patience: to endure and tolerate that which is difficult to endure,
and to do that which is difficult to do 

4. Diligence: to go forward bravely, undaunted by obstacles 

5. Meditative concentration: to fix the mind unwaveringly on one
object 

6. Wisdom: to have limpid, shining insight into oneself and others.

The Three Sets of Precepts

1. To uphold all the pure precepts, without exception 

2. To cultivate all good qualities, without exception 

3. To deliver all sentient beings, without exception

By invoking the supreme vow of great Bodhi-mind, great compassion,
and the wisdom of emptiness, and passing through three immeasurable
kalpas, one may attain the goal of Buddhahood…

The shared vows are made by all Buddhas; namely, the Four
Great Vows: “To deliver innumerable sentient beings, to cut off endless
vexations, to master limitless approaches to the Dharma, and to attain supreme Buddhahood.”
http://www.108wisdom.org/html/OTH_03.pdf

The Lotus Sutra promises that all who vow to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings will ultimately attain Buddhahood, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. 

If you practice being kinder and more compassionate here and now, the rest will follow.

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