Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Pure Land Buddhism Resources

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Four Spiritual Laws


Jesus Film



New Testament/Bible



Audio Bible

Pure Land Buddhism

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Pure Land Buddhism in its various forms perhaps had its origins in India which is known for its superstitious and folklore of religious characters who are portrayed in a mythological backdrop which constitutes 330 million gods. One of the tales behind this movement is the fabled character, king Dharmakara, refereed to as the Buddha Amitabha, Omito or Amida who had supposedly studied for millions of years as a monk which has no historical credibility and is a fictitious storyline in the legendary backdrop of make believe.

Amazingly an inconsistency to his character today is that he is exclusively worshipped by many and yet originally in the earliest Mahayana scriptures he was not singled out for worship as he is one among many of other buddhas.

Also one of the goals of a Pure Land Buddhist is to to be reborn in the western paradise of Amitabha’s Pure Land of Bliss, called Sukhavati, in fulfillment of the 18th vow of Amida. Methods of getting to the Pure Land in being born from a supernatural lotus flower means different things for these various sects and sub-sects.

The requirement according to the primal vow was to call on Amida’s name ten times that is as long as you don’t commit the five gravest offenses and abuse the right Dharma. However, there appears to be conflicting information in the longer sutra which includes meritorious deeds as a prerequisite to entering the Pure Land which perhaps is the reason for the confusion of these varied views. One of the practices of Pure Land buddhists is the visualization technique as described in Amitayurdhyana Sutra which speaks of thirteen progressive visualizations to obtain various levels of rebirth in the Pure Land. One of the important focal points in this practice is to focus on the image of the buddha, which if the image is inherently valuable or significant then how can one be truly benefited when the figurine is merely the figment of someones creative or artistic imagination? Moreover nobody really knows if he really existed let alone recognize what he looked like and by visualizing on this piece of iconic art along with his attendant bodhisattvas and the Pure Land is purely imaginative at best rather than a means of enlightenment. Likewise another questionable visual experience centers around the bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta, who if an individual is able to distinguish their appearance at the moment of death is a welcoming sign to the dying person but if instead the person has visions of other buddhas or bodhisattvas they are to be disregarded as  bad spirits who are disguising themselves in attempting to stop the person from entering the Pure Land. My question is how do they know how to correctly identify or recognize any of these unknown personages as they may all be deceiving spirits?

Anyway one of the main expressions of  Pure Land (Jingtu/Jodo) devotion is   expressed by the mantra of giving homage to the Buddha Amitabha known as “Namo Amitabha Buddha/Namo Amituofo/Namu Amida Butsu”  which for some is said to achieve great merit for the worshipper.  This was latter revised by Shinran who was one of Honen’s disciples and is the founding father of Jodo Shinshu or Shin who reduced the traditional practices of Pure Land movement to the point of putting a greater emphasis on faith in the vow apart from the patriarchal influences of Genshin, Shantao, Honen and  their ritualistic  vocalizations and meditations. So the idea of Nembutsu/Nianfo for Shinran was to be more of a matter of gratitude or respect rather than any kind of a meritorious deed as a reactionary response to jiriki or self power/effort.

Ironically Honen denounced and disavowed his disciple Kosai for his doctrine of “one calling” as being heretical and yet I wonder what he would of thought about this reductive doctrine of Shinran?

Other groups take the concept of vocalization/meditation to a whole new level regarding the mindfulness of the buddha with such religious zeal that it is misapplied. Such practices involve the use of prayer beads to focus on the amount of times this mantra is spoken whether it be 50,000 or 500,000 times day. Some sects even set specific times of the day for repeating this mantra combined with the gestures of bowing. Others place the emphasis in the eventful timing of the mantra such as the moment that precedes death. While others simply believe that you only need to say it once.

So what is a person to believe with such a wide variance of application after all not everyone can be right and perhaps if the truth be known maybe none of them are right.

Furthermore Shinran’s oversimplification of this process is maybe an attempt to ensure that the goals of Amitabha as saving all souls could be more fully realized and attainable for those who would adopt this practiceless practice. Thus perhaps it was a  way of manipulating the Pure Land program in a practical or pragmatic way to gain a greater application and acceptance as being the easy way/path even though this kind of adaptation which is not classical to its origins does not necessitate truth; as being a means to justify the ends of saving all souls by putting people on the fast track to heaven.The methodology of meditation and vocalization is central to the heartbeat of Pure Land devotion and this kind of reductionism puts it in another league apart from traditional beliefs and practices as taking in all the teaching of the Pratyutpannasamadhi sutra, Kuan wuliangshoufo ching/ Kuan-ching/Kanmuryojukyo/Amitayurdhyana sutra,larger Sukhavativyuha sutra/Wuliangshou jing/Muryojukyo and smaller Sukhavativyuha sutra/Omitofo ching/ Amidakyo.

Which brings me to my next point if whether or not these texts, though quite ancient, are really original since the long and short sutras did not survive in their original sanskrit writings. It is likely that this opened the door for other influences and syncretistic or pluralistic beliefs as it was being translated in Chinese. The reason for this is because of the close relationship this movement has with other religious groups such as the Chinese Chan and Tiantai/Tendai schools, as well as the Japanese Shingon sect, which all have strong Pure Land components to their practice and belief. Furthermore one of the original founders of this movement was Tanluan who was a Daoist/Taoist in which it seems he borrowed such ideas as the terrestrial paradise residing in the west along with the repeated invocation of the the esoteric name of the deity and the visualization of supernatural beings. It maybe that Pure Land is not so pure or authentic as it has many commonalities between these other cultural religions. Furthermore in China there are other ritualistic forms of practices such as the chanting of spells, penitential ceremonies and good works which are combined with the observances of this movement.

Anyway there are other questionable matters such as the antiquated and prescientific beliefs as the presumption that the top of the head of the dead person is the last place to cool for those who are entering the Pure Land. Yet this may be best explained from a medical viewpoint apart from any kind of spiritual significance and on the contrary can it equally be demonstrated that those who do not adhere to Pure Land doctrine are undergoing a different kind of phenomena?

Another fallacy to this belief system is that those who depart to the Pure Land leave behind relics or sarira after their cremation which is akin to the childhood fantasies of Santa Claus leaving behind gifts and the tooth fairy who deposited money under our pillows at night while we slept. This is the kind of thing that those of a modern society should recognize as extraordinary in light of reality.

Another component to this ideology centers on the concept of mappo or mafo in which we now live in such a degenerative age that it is not possible to achieve enlightenment. Such proponents of this view are Tanluan, Daochuo and Shantao who based their findings on the contemporaneous events and experiential knowledge/insight of seeing their age as the fulfillment of the final phase of the doctrine as they recognized the evil influences on society such as the immoral behavior of men, degenerative clergy and tyrannical government which included warfare, natural disasters and the corruption of the Sangha. Yet what evidence is there to previously show that human nature at large was ever capable of achieving a completely pristine state as to attain to moral perfection?

Anyway other matters which I find controversial are topics related to reincarnation/samsara and karma and I have written a post about these subjects from a Hindu perspective yet it may be of interest to you to know whether or not there are any common objections which I have made regarding these concepts as being equally applicable to Buddhist philosophy or thought. Also I am including a link about those who have undergone near death experiences which describes those who have been momentarily exposed to the after life.

In moving on there are some philosophical problems or questions that I have with this movement such as the obscurity of the Buddhist scriptures along with its conflicting views between the three sutras in trying to reconcile the tension between faith and works. In other words how can a person be reassured whether or not they have enough merit and devotion or sufficient faith to enter the Land of Bliss? What evidence is there of an obtainable reality to this truth or how can it be presently measured and identified? For those who have simplified the process by faith alone; to the degree that faith is wholly determinative by the choosing of  Amida apart from any self effort or involvement of the human will then why isn’t every living being a worshipper of Amitabah since he is to save all sentient beings? Also since the faith movement of the True Pure Land sect has underwent such a devolution in its accommodating theory then what would keep them from going all the way to embracing a universalism in declaring all beings reborn under the effectual application of Amitabah’s vow in applying it unconditionally to every soul by declaring everyone enlightened. This would be especially beneficial for those who are ignorant or don’t have any knowledge of Amidism. It also calls to question why this easier path has not been more successful since the majority of Japanese do not follow Amida in that they are becoming more and more involved in the cult phenomena known in Japan as the Shin Shinkyo religions. Likewise if the purpose of Amitabha is to save all sentient beings then why is there a relatively small number of believers from a world perspective unlike what you see in Christianity?

Also concerning the idea of mappo which identifies all individuals as inherently evil; how are they capable as being motivated to choose good since their nature remains unchanged until they reach Sukhavati? Moreover for those who believe they can be reborn now then why would they have to continue to be subjected to samsara in going through the rest of their life experiencing suffering and subsequent death? Why are they not directly translated or ushered into the Land of Bliss? Furthermore why would a person that adheres to this belief still undergoes guilt and shame if this was a present reality? Also how does one know whether they are under the influence of their own personal decision of faith juxtaposed to the effectual calling or gift of faith as dispensed by  Amitabha as to ensure rebirth?

In closing I think there are some positive aspects to this religious organization such as their evaluation regarding the fallibility of mankind and the reality of  evil and sin in our society as recognizing the moral depravity of human nature. What I question foremost is the person to whom they are putting their trust in as a Savior in obtaining rebirth and nirvana considering that there is no reliable or corroborating historical reference to his being outside of these religious texts.

Although I think there are some problems with the Shin sect as it does not represent the orthodox beliefs of Pure Land practice yet it is more consistent with the idea of mappo as it recognizes mankind’s inability to achieve something by which they are deficient and are needing the assistance of another power or Tariki. However for Jodo Shinshu to limit their belief to strictly having faith In Amitabah does not make them immune or incapable of being morally responsible in this present life otherwise human law would have no relevance and the word humanitarian wouldn’t be  pertinent to human definition. Though mankind has moral limitations this does not release us from accountability nor does it give us the permission or right to be lawless thus works is a necessary part of living which we can not totally disassociate ourselves from.

While faith is an emphasis among the True Pure Land school other groups realize that along with their confessional affirmation of Amitabha that it is also necessary according to their willful actions to supplement their vocalizations with an authentic response of works through acts of devotion/worship in proving themselves apart from merely taking a dismal approach towards morality which would be irresponsible and fatalistic by dismissing the human condition from dealing with the present realties of their own immoral state. However I am wondering how they are capable of obtaining or meriting a sufficient level of devotion when their present evil condition is it still corrupted with sin.

Another oxymoronic concept that is expounded under the teaching of the True Pure Land sect is that evil and karmic debt can be converted to good which is fundamentally a violation of the law of non-contradiction as one can not be both evil and none evil. Good is always good and evil is always evil and like the opposites poles of a magnet which repel each other so do these concepts as they are diametrically opposing forces.

Another challenging position for Jodo Shinshu is their eradication of moral debt through the process of faith as acquitting the injurious party but does nothing to secure the justice of the offended party who is left as a victim of injustice unless of course you would make an argument that you are somehow contributing to their karmic retribution.

Anyway I suppose this would be a good lead into how a Christian world view sees the dilemma of evil/sin in that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and yet can be mercifully forgiven through the cancellation of our moral indebtedness while equally applying the concept of justice to this iniquitous affair.

The explanatory power and scope of the christian worldview sees good that can come out of evil that results in both justice and mercy which has been accommodated by the willful actions of our Savior Jesus Christ who took our place of punishment whereby removing our guilt and shame by which we have ultimately violated and offended the will and nature of a holy God. This is not only vertically applicable as is is also horizontal in scope as we are instructed to love our neighbor as ourself which may require restitution in the event that we have wronged others. This can only be possible not through our own nature which is corrupted but as we are born again or born anew in the here and now. Therefore sin is efficaciously dealt with not through merely a declaration of righteousness as it applies to an eternal reality but practically as we are being saved from this present evil age as being a new creation or new man as God changes our nature by giving mankind the Holy Spirit. Therefore faith is evidenced by the outworking of morality in bearing the fruit of righteousness. This is confirmed by my  personal testimony and countless others who have embraced Christianity and you can read about them in the links that I have provided.

As with Jodo Shinshu; faith is also a vitality important component to Christianity as well but as it is expressed in a historical person which is verifiable on many levels. The reality of the Christian faith is not merely a confession or a sacrament but rather it is witnessed as a life that is altered and changed by the power of God which is confirmed as a faith that produces works unlike a faith without works which is dead.

In conclusion I must say that I hope that I have not offended you through my post in overextending myself with pointed rhetoric as I would do nothing to hurt or harm the reader of this blog. Actually I am compelled to share my faith with others as I was once confronted by my own erroneous beliefs and for me to ignore this responsibility especially after receiving such a revelatory experience in Christ would be to live a lie and an act of hatred to others by not sharing with them this good news. Thus I apologize if it seemed as if I was too pointed, disrespectful or intolerant with some of my remarks as all I am trying to do is to simply challenge the practitioner to think beyond the boundaries of their belief system in being open to other opportunities. In closing all I ask my friend is for you to be receptive to researching about Jesus and to simply pray to God in your own words to reveal Jesus to you in a personal and real way so as to believe upon Him.

Finally the purpose of this post is not to debate who has the better philosophical view but rather it is to get at the matter of truth for all people everywhere. The concept that all roads or paths are leading the same direction does not work in real life let alone in a spiritual realm and when doing a study on comparative religions it becomes evident that there  is no reconciliation or harmony between all religious views except to say that mankind is by nature incurably religious.

Nevertheless when I first read about Pure Land I saw a lot of similarities as having some common concepts especially within the Jodo Shinshu group and I would like to leave you with some scriptural references you may appreciate and identify with.


Similar to mappo or mafo Jesus speaks of the last days

Mt 24:3-14

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.


Jesus by definition is the immeasurable and infinite light.

John 1:4

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.


John 8:12

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


Jesus is the only way 

Acts 4:12

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”


Jesus through His righteousness and merit gained for us eternal life

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 God made him who had no sin(Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in him(Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.


Romans 5:19

19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man(Jesus) the many will be made righteous.


Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Jesus vowed to lay down his life 

1 John 3:16-17

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.


A person is saved from the eternal consequence of sin and judgement when they exercise faith and trust by calling on the name of Jesus apart from their self power or effort

Acts 2:21

21And everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved.’


Ephesian 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.


Jesus gave use the easy way to be rightly related to God 

Mt 11:28-30

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Romans 3:24-25

24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.


The potential for salvation to all

2Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


We can be reborn by the mercy of God in being justified by his grace as the recipients of eternal life

Titus 3:3-7

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.


John 3:3

3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.


Spiritual priesthood for believers

1Peter 2:9

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


Jesus ultimately delivers us from pain and suffering

Revelation 21:4

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


Jesus has prepared for us a heavenly paradise of bliss

John 14;2-3

I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.



How to know God

Pure Land Buddhism Resources




AMG’s World Religions and Cults, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.1, pg.341, Amidism

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.1, pg.343, Amitabha

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.9, pg.807, Pure Land Buddhism

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.10, pg.744, Shinran

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.15, pg.288, Buddhism

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.1, pgs.291-293, Erik Zurcher

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.2, pgs.1235-1241, John R. McRae

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.7, pgs.4933-4936, Hase Shoto

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.7, pgs.4937-4940, Fujiyoshi Jikai