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10 years ago  ::  Dec 20, 2008 - 11:55PM #1
Posts: 26
What I know of Pure Land Buddhism is just on the surface and not very deep.

But from my limited experience in knowing of Pure Land Buddhism. This is my understanding.
I have not read the sutras on Amitabha in detail.

In saying the mantra of Amitabha, one aspires to be reborn in his pure land, which is
a Buddhafield in which one can attain swift Enlightenment. Additionally you pray for other beings to be reborn
in the Pure Land of Amitabha and also with meditating on the mantra and Buddha Amitabha, your mind turns
to see your present world as the Pure Land. Your perception turns to see the world as Amitabha's Pure Land. Thus seeing the Buddha Nature behind all phenomena.

I know sometimes in various cultures that they fit Buddhism to fit the faith or cultural and indigenous beliefs. What is the 'correct' way to view Buddha Amitabha's Pureland? As a 'physical' realm like this existence in which one can find swifter means to Enlightenment? Or is the Pure Land innate, a transformative tool to view the world while meditating on it, similar to the "innate Kingdom of God" that Jesus preached, or more relative - the Buddhafields that surround tantric deitys that symbolize the Enlightened Mind used in meditation? Or Both?

Or is it just centered on being a loving devotee of a deity-like Buddha Amitabha, praying to him IN BELIEF AND FAITH to be born in to the Pure Land for a better life than this one, and the chances of Enlightenment in the next rebirth?

I realize that I can read many books to obtain information, but I would like to hear from Pure Land Buddhists. I suppose I prefer to hear the personal experiences of Pure Land Buddhism, instead of a book from a lecturing scholar who doesn't necessarily work on the ground, or in fact is a practicitioner of Buddhism.

Thank You :)

Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha.
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 03, 2009 - 7:55PM #2
Posts: 8
The short answer is yes. All of the above. Different schools within the school emphasize different aspects and see the Pure Land in different lights. Even within the same school different views will sometimes be accepted as stepping stones along the path. A lot of times it seems, books or articles about Pure Land Buddhism will keep things very general and somewhat ambiguous in an attempt to be accessible to people at all points or along the path. I've often found myself reading and wondering where the author stands on such issues because a lot of times it just doesn't come through in the writing. The practice of chanting and meditating on Amitabha, just like anything else in Buddhism, is a means to an end with many angles from which it can be approached. All of those that you have mentioned are "correct." It's just a matter of which angle or angles are correct for the individual. In my own practice, I am not one who regards Amitabha or the Pure Land as literal or physical but that doesn't mean that I think people who do are wrong. I just look at them as approaching the practice from a different angle.
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9 years ago  ::  Mar 19, 2009 - 9:54AM #3
Posts: 34


Haven't visited the Pure Land forum in quite some time (been busy with other things in life), but this is a good question.  Pure Land Buddhism in general isn't too well understood, but that's just a matter of history.  The other issue thought is what is Pure Land Buddhism, and that's a tough question.  Pure Land Buddhism is very broad, with followings all over East Asia, and has been interwoven with other Buddhist groups in varying degrees, so opinions about Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land run across the whole spectrum between mind-only teachings, to literal ones, and everything in between.

Truth is, one's understanding of the Pure Land and of Amitabha Buddha changes over time as one devoutly practices.  Such has been the case with me.  So, of the many people who come to Pure Land Buddhism, they usually come with their own beliefs and baggage, but over time, these change and one's appreciation of the teachings changes as well.  That's why there's no real "bar" to measure Pure Land followers.  Everyone has their own understanding, and yet they all head the same direction across to the Other Shore of Enlightenment.

Hope that helps.

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9 years ago  ::  Aug 18, 2009 - 5:32PM #4
Posts: 2

The difficulty of Pureland.

On the surface Pureland Buddhism is hard to understand especially since it is a form created for "the masses" in a time when monastic pursuit was the way of Buddhism and the commoner was uneducated and "unworthy".

 This does not mean Pureland has no depth and only has the recitation of the name to rely on. Unfortunately the early English translations were written in the 19th century during the "opening" of Japan to the west. These writings had a tendency to reflect the writers immersion in western thought and specifically Christianity. It is easy to understand why they thought they recognized "Christian" traits in Japanese Pureland. It was an odd experience to discover that some of these same misunderstandings still existed in my own Temple amongst life long Buddhists.

 Even today among some Buddhists there seems to be a disregard for Pureland Buddhism because of this surface introduction to the sect. It is a form that has many layers and recitation of Namo Amida Butsu is but a single though important part. We are all different, education, way of life and thought as well a culture prepare us for how we understand a given way. Jodo Shinshu avails itself of many approaches.

 Each individual takes from the Dharma what they can. Some need parables and others are in need of other ways of understanding. As has been said we all must find our path. I had been involved in Buddhism for about five years when I became a member of a Japanese sect of pureland. Had it not been the life long membership of my wife (Japanese American) I would have only known what the surface told me. As an ex-catholic I had little room for faith and the simple recitation of the name, other power etc.

 Where was meditation, who is this Buddha Amida and where is Siddhartha? What was all this chanting about? Lol. After a few years of going as a family experience (we had children by then) and my continued focus on prior Buddhist experience I started to have small epiphanies, I realized that there were indeed layers to what I too thought was a slightly non Buddhist Buddhism.

My greatest difficulty was faith (other power) and my prior delusion of self power. To start any journey you need faith that your decision to take the trip is of value. As you travel you become more comfortable with your decisions and rely more on your experience. You still have faith but it is not blind. Some are happy with a tour bus but others like the adventure of a more self directed journey. After 30 years I know that there is no self power nor other power, both are teaching tools and ultimately delusions, the symbology of Amida and the powerful meditative qualities of chanting.  The power of Buddhism is it's relevance. It's simplicity, symbology, logic and depth. A journey for all types of travelers, tour buses to hiking boots.

 As for recitation think of it as a declaration of intent and not a mantra, In my specific sect we use nenju, beads that bind out hands, join heaven and earth, man and Buddha. They are not used to count at all. Recite as you will with out expectation other than your initial intent to engage in the recitation, to start your journey...see where it leads.

In Gassho,



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9 years ago  ::  Aug 25, 2009 - 11:08AM #5
Posts: 14

Pure Land Buddhism was not created for the masses, the illerate and superstitious.  It is a misconception to state so. Majority of PL practitioners are and have been very well read people and some of the best are lay people who have studied PL and sought out masters for explaination of PL teachings.

Also you cannot compare it to another religion.  To do so would be misleading.

Pure Land contains all the traditional Buddhist teachings and upholds the lineage of Buddha Sakyamuni.  Mahayana Buddhism is vast yes but there is much shared sutras and the Mahayana Storehouse (cannon implies universal contain documents/scripture) contains the complete Pali Triptaka as well.

The original poster mentioned a form of belief of very few practitioners who follow Pure Land Buddhism and over exaggerated it to make it the main point implying it true for all.

Pure Land traditon has offered simple methods to attain the same Buddhist goal of bodhicitta leading to enlightenment. 

Perhaps it migh be better to understand how one practices Pure Land.

Pure Land offers many methods of practice with the primary one being reciting the Buddha name "Amitabha" (Sanskrit origin term meaing - infinite life/light or immortality) and how the name is pronounced varies according to country, language, tradition, ability.  If intention is pure then pronounciation doesn't matter so much.  Amitabha Buddha is one of the Dhyana Buddhas under the primordial buddha Vairocana/rocana Buddha.  He lives in the Western Pure Land.

Recitation is done constantly whether it is silently or outwardly spoken; with or without a mala, done by oneself or with a group.  It is mindfulness practice.  The purpose of Pure Land practice is to calm your mind by training it to be under your control.  Why you want this is because when you pass on that moment of passing your intention is to enter the Pure Land of Amitabha so you may attain bodhicitta and become a buddha yourself.  Because you are so compassionate you naturally have the ability once attaining buddhahood you want to return to this world (saha) to help teach others who ask you. So they can attain buddhahood.

The average Purelander is by choice a dilligent student of sutra study, chants the buddha name, conducts themselve purely, takes precepts, does charitable acts without reward of any kind including merit and virtue.  You most often find the lowest class of people become high level Buddhist scholars without academia experience in this type of practice. This is due to the emphasis of the bodhisattva path which requires continuous study of Buddhism and all it's schools, other religions and societies.

People attract to the Pure Land practice first because its easy and second because you are strongly supported by others and inturn become supporters of other Purelanders.  You are immediately a part of something bigger and very noble whether you believe in PL or not.

Amitabha Sutra Short version often recited daily is a succinct sutra of Pure Land practice

Amitabha Sutra Longer version of 48 parts more detailed instructions and history here.

Visualization of Amitabha Sutra - a specific sutra teaching the exact visualization practice

Check our resources for more.

Ven. Hongyang

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9 years ago  ::  Aug 25, 2009 - 11:28AM #6
Posts: 14

Maybe people need to re-think what they mean by "other" power.  I have the sense that most people don't think too much about what this means.  It's a choice to think like a Christain and translate that view of "other-power" to Buddhist practice and find comfort in that.  Everyone likes that and for most it's fine.  However, it doesn't work on many levels in Buddhism and particularly for Pure Land.

We do rely on a ascended masters' teachings to ease our own minds so we can focus on our practice.  Really being PL is about calming and training our minds to respond to our will which is to be reborn in the Pure Land.

Acceptance of your own will and yours alone with much rigorous practice during your lifetime will help you when you are passing and all those around you are grieving then you will have a calm mind with your fellow PL practitioners by your side (reall not imagined or spiritual) chanting the buddha's name to help your mind remain calm so you may enter the Pure Land.

Purelanders have all the obstacles they have while they live in this world.  PL practice like other forms of Buddhist practice helps train your mind through mindfulness.  Delusions, hallucinations, unrealistic thinking and other kinds of obstacles can be encountered in this life according to your ability, karma, and efforts to be mindful.

Vows (Triple Jewel, precepts),

faith (Dharma, Buddha dharma teachings, masters, your will),

practice (daily mindfulness, active charity, study, dilligence in PL methods)

You can become enlightened in your lifetime if you have the karma for it and the diligence to practice PL doesn't differ from any other schools of Buddhist teachings on this.  However, it's unlikely and the best choice is to be mindful, undertake mindfulness training, achieve what you can while living so that passing your intention is to enter the PL and through cultivation make it.

Ven. Hongyang

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9 years ago  ::  Aug 25, 2009 - 3:01PM #7
Posts: 1,420

Aug 25, 2009 -- 11:28AM, HongYangShi wrote:

Maybe people need to re-think what they mean by "other" power.

What does the expression "other power" mean to you?

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9 years ago  ::  Aug 25, 2009 - 4:37PM #8
Posts: 2

Dear friends,


I do apologise if I made myself unclear or answered an earlier question without restateing the question so as to be clear.

My comment concerning comparison to christianity was in reference to books written by western authors who had recently entered a new open Japan in the mid to late 1800's in an attempt to describe this type of "buddhism" I thought I was clear in this being a descriptions of the wests introduction to Japanese Jodo Shinshu.

As for the educational level of the recipients of the early teachings they were for the most part farmers and merchants. A formal education and especially in Buddhism was rare, as monastic Buddhism was the norm as well as needing to be goverment sanctioned. It was not my intent to indicate that current followers or seekers of the nature of any of these schools were or are uneducated.

I would hold that some current Jodo Shinshu Buddhists especially those that were born into the temples are often cultural members and are only now coming to the realization that there is so much more available to pureland religious practice than the recitation alone.

I would go on to say that if this valuable expression of buddhism is to survive it must lose some of its cultural exclusiveity, build on it's family oriented services and not be afraid to delve deeper into wealth of wisdom available in Pureland Buddhism. Most current westerners are looking for more than some clergy want to or feel comfortable sharing in time to capture the mind or the searcher.

Again I am specifically speaking of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji Ha, I would not portent to speak for any other groups.

In Gassho,










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