tiistai 15. syyskuuta 2020

Pure Land Buddhism and the Philosophy of Honen and Shinran By Mark Unno

 

Pure Land Buddhism and the Philosophy of Honen and Shinran
By Mark Unno



Pure Land school.


Advocates of the Pure Land teachings can be identified quite early in Chinese Buddhist history, but Pure Land Buddhism emerged as a major force in the T'ang Dynasty along with Zen. While both arose partially as a reaction against the metaphysical excesses of the philosophical schools, Zen focused on awakening through monastic practice, while Pure Land focused on attaining birth in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha through practices that were accessible to lay people.



Pure Land Sutras.


Three of the most prominent sutras of the Pure Land schools of East Asian Buddhism are The Larger Sutra of Eternal Life, The Amida Sutra (Smaller Sutra of Eternal Life), and The Meditation Sutra. Like many other Mahayana Sutras such as the Lotus, Flower Ornament, and Vimalakirti, these sutras were compiled near the beginning of the Common Era. At the center of these sutras is the story of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, a former king who decides to set out to seek enlightenment. In the process of doing so, he establishes the Western Pure Land; when sentient beings accumulate sufficient virtue, they are born there, and due to the ideal conditions, immediately attain enlightenment. In later developments, especially in Japan, the Pure Land becomes virtually synonymous with ultimate reality, emptiness, nirvana.

Practitioners aspiring to birth in the Pure Land visualize the jewelled paradise of the Buddha Amitabha, where the evil karma of his or her past is transformed into the Pure Land and the virtue of its Buddha. Ultimately, even the Pure Land is transcended, and the practitioner attains awareness of the non-origination of things, a virtual synonym of emptiness.



Amitabha Buddha.


Bodhisattva Dharmakara eventually becomes the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of infinite light. Amitabha is also known as Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, hence the title of the Larger Sutra. In China and Japan, these two names, sometimes referring to distinct Buddhas in the Indian context, are referred to singularly as A-mi-t'o in Chinese and Amida in Japanese. Furthermore, although male in the Indian context, Amitabha becomes increasingly referred to in female, maternal terms in East Asia. The distinctive characteristic of Amitabha is compassion.



The Name of Amida Buddha.


In the Meditation Sutra, it is stated that, for those who are unable to achieve the meditative visualization of the Pure Land, the recitative invocation of Amitabha's name is sufficient to attain birth. In China, and especially Japan, this becomes the most widespread form of practice, known as the nembutsu, in which the repetition of the name, Namu Amida Butsu (I take refuge in Amida Buddha), is the very manifestation of Amida. Philosophically, to take refuge in Amida Buddha is to abandon ego-centered, attached thinking and to entrust oneself to the infinite wisdom (light) and infinite compassion (life) of Amida. Since the ultimate body, or dharmakaya, of Amida is formless, one attains formless reality through the name.



Kannon.


Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, is an emanation of Amida. Originating as a male bodhisattva in India, Avalokiteóvara, this bodhisattva became female in East Asia and has been one of the most popular deities of devotion.



Honen (1133-1212).



Exponent of Pure Land Buddhism. Honen broke with the traditional views of other Buddhists who looked to a variety of teachings and instead advocated the single-minded recitation of the nembutsu, Namu Amida Butsu. Honen was known for his broad and deep philosophical understanding, the purity of his observance of the precepts, and his ability to cultivate various states of meditation including visualizations.



Self-power and other-power.


However, he abandoned ritual observance of all of these practices at the age of forty-three and turned his attention solely to the nembutsu. His conclusion was that, no matter how skillful he may have appeared outwardly, inwardly it was impossible to become free from thoughts of attachment, conceit, and insecurity. The failure of this self-effort or self-power (jiriki) opened up the realm of other-power (tariki), the formless reality of the highest truth taking shape in the wisdom and compassion of boundless light, Amida Buddha, embodied in the name. The two ideas of self-power and other-power are complementary. Without seeing the one, the other cannot be seen; they are like the clouds and the sun that shines through them.



Foolish being.


Honen states, "In the path of the Pure Land one attains birth by returning to an ignorant fool." One aspect of this indicates the foolishness of sentient beings, the other aspect the wisdom of one who is aware of foolishness, a kind of beginner's mind. Thus the same being who attains awareness of his or her foolishness is also regarded as "equal to the buddhas."



Pure Land beyond form.


The Pure Land no longer refers to a jewelled paradise here; it refers to the realm of emptiness in which all beings and phenomena are grasped in their suchness. When a disciple asked Honen near the end of his life, "Master, what is the importance of visualizations," Honen replied, "At first I, Honen, also engaged in such frivolities, but no longer. Now I simply say the nembutsu of entrusting." "Even if one is able to see the jewelled trees [of the Pure Land], they could not be more beautiful than the blossoms and fruit of plum and peach trees [found in this world]."

In a sense, the Pure Land can be understood to be the realm of emptiness. Honen taught that the unfolding of Amida's compassion and wisdom was felt in this life, but birth in the Pure Land in the next. This parallels the relationship between nirvana and Parinirvana in the life of Sakyamuni. As long as one has attachments, it can be misleading and dangerous to say that emptiness is already present. However, at the very end of is life, when a disciple asked Honen if he would be born in the Pure Land, he replied, "Since I have always been in the Pure Land, that will not happen."3



Shinran (1173-1262).



Exponent of Pure Land Buddhism who studied with Honen. His form of Pure Land Buddhism is often referred to as Shin Buddhism, reflecting his expression, Jodo-shinshu, the true teaching of the Pure Land. Like his teacher, he emphasizes the awareness of the foolish being who, endeavoring to free him or herself from the cycle of ignorance and attachment, sees more and more clearly his or her own foolishness.



Shinjin.


Like Honen, Shinran advocated the recitation of the nembutsu. Whereas Honen emphasized simply repeating the name constantly, Shinran emphasized the simultaneous awareness of foolishness and the awareness of boundless compassion. The term for this is shinjin, which is often rendered as true entrusting, a letting go of all attachments which enables the natural unfolding of compassion and wisdom. One who attains the wisdom of true entrusting is regarded as the equal of buddhas. Since the heart of the nembutsu, as is the case in all forms of practice which are thought to embody highest truth, is beyond distinctions, Shinran states, "In the nembutsu, no meaning is the true meaning."4 At the same time, Shinran cautions, "If you talk about [this] too much, then 'no meaning' will appear to have some kind of special meaning."5



Naturalness.


The foolish being is always contriving or calculating to reach a goal dualistically, whether that goal is material, such as worldly success or health, or is spiritual such as enlightenment or birth. The one who becomes aware of this foolishness and is receptive to the compassion of Amida is led beyond this contrivance to a realm of spontaneous freedom. This spontaneity, in contrast to the contrivance of the foolish being, is called jinen honi, the suchness of spontaneity, or more simply, naturalness.



The Vow of Amida.


Shinran understands Amida Buddha in terms of two aspects of the dharmakaya, or dharma-body: dharmakaya-as-emptiness and the dharmakaya-as-compassion. The awareness of dharmakaya-as-compassion leads to the realization of dharmakaya-as-emptiness. The process of being led to the life of spontaneity through the dharmakaya-as-compassion is expressed as entrusting oneself to the Vow of Amida, the vow to lead all sentient beings to buddhahood by awakening them out of their foolishness


lauantai 12. syyskuuta 2020

Awakening - Assuming the Center of the Mandala

 

Awakening -

Assuming the Center of the Mandala



Buddhism is a vast collection of teachings and practices. Some teachings are easy to learn and understand, others are complex. Forms vary yet the essence of buddhist practices is the same. Buddhism is a tradition of awakening from existential fantasy to existential reality.


Roughly speaking, buddhist yogas – meditations and yogic practices –can be divided into two categories,


  1. primary practices that directly generate awakening from self-based delusion and

  2. secondary practices that support the primary practices


This categorisation is oversimplification but at the same time we can easily see which practices and approaches generate instant recognition of wakeful awareness common to all mind phenomena, and which do the same but in a roundabout (long or short) manner.


Guru Rinpoche's Pure Land Buddhism, commonly known as Pemako Buddhism, begins with a primary exercise known as the Two-Part Formula. The two parts or mind modes of the Two-Part Formula (2PF) are selfless state and self-based state. What is unique to 2PF, which is also the reason why it is so effective, is that the self-based mode is purposefully brought back every time it disappears. All thoughts come and go in the mind, and similarly the I- or me-thought comes and goes in impulsive and random fashion. The Two-Part Formula doesn't allow this and the sense of gross I, me, mine-thought is brought back with the affirmation, so that it can be investigated under the microscope of mindful awareness. Because of these two factors together, recognition of selfless awareness and affirmation, the grossest sense of self is put under pressure that it cannot persist. Inevitably sooner or later there will be a shift – awakening - in one's mind.

In our system of training, the technical term for this shift is opening of the 1st bhumi. From the tantric perspective it can be described as assuming of the center of the enlightened sphere or mandala, which in terms of tantric deities belongs to Amitabha Buddha. According to the categorisation above, the 2PF is a primary practice that's sole purpose is to generate awakening from self-delusion. This is the beginning of not only Pemako buddhist path but the beginning of all buddhist paths. Awakening is universal, there is no doubt about that. See Lion-Faced Guru Podcast episode titled Universal Awakening

 

Yourself depicted as Amitabha Buddha radiating as pure light and blessings

As a human being whose existence is marked by painful self-based ignorance, my whole life I have sought for peace and harmony, and I know many who have had the same problem. Acting and reacting from a solid belief in individual self is a world of pain and suffering. This belief, this solidifed, calcified, hardened, crystallised thought causes problems and conflicts in endless ways. This belief, this stubborn belief, is the root cause of our suffering. The good news is that, on the other hand, it is none other than a deeply stuck belief, and as stubborn as it may be it is possible to remove it by investigation. It is as simple as that.


There is no reason whatsoever to think that we wouldn't be ready or fit for awakening, or that awakening should be postponed. Within you, me and everyone else there is a perfectly awake buddha living but she is dormant, as if asleep... Please, wake her up!


Help yourself and come in contact with the reality yourself. I have written extensively about awakening and its implications in Awake-book, that is free of charge.


Namo Amitabha,


- Kim Katami, 12.9.2020

Pemako Buddhism,

www.pemakobuddhism.com

perjantai 4. syyskuuta 2020

How Practitioners Become Fully Enlightened Buddhas

How Practitioners Become Fully Enlightened Buddhas


Seeing through the gross sense of me-ness in the form of thoughts and emotions is the foundation of all yoga and dharma. It needs to be the foundation because if we don't see through the gross ignorance, there is no way we are able to see through subtle ignorance.

In terms of buddhist vehicles, to see through gross selfing is the task of the so called hinayana, or small vehicle, where the focus of practice is to remove the most basic delusions about our self-identity. We cease to think in terms of me and you, self and other, to a noticeable degree and it is tremendously liberating. It is like coming to stand under a waterfall of pure fresh water, after you haven't taken a shower for a long time. It changes you.

But it doesn't change everything, and it is because of this why the so called caring and loving heartmind of all sentient beings (skt bodhicitta) is cultivated in the great vehicle (skt mahayana) of buddhism. Here we come to consider the difference of motivation in hinayana and mahayana.



A great vehicle practicioner takes the vow of becoming fully enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. We take a vow to do all the internal work that is required to uncover ourselves as fully enlightened beings, in order to help, serve and to be an example for others so that they can also find a way out of samsara to liberation. In other words, we commit to complete and thorough death of the ego (jap. taigo tettei), to become buddhas for the sake of others. This death isn't dark or heavy, and it has nothing to do with sacrificing ourselves for others, as it is commonly understood. Realisation is always a very fulfilling and joyful path because you become who you really are, the ground of timeless existence imbued with goodness.

To clarify the difference between small and great vehicle practice, a mahayana practitioner, actually, in practice, takes into one's heart the suffering of all sentient beings. I am talking about the most basic mahayana buddhist practice of taking and giving (tib. tonglen). This practice is not for people who have not built a solid foundation of selflessness realisation because if this is done too early, taking in the suffering of all sentient beings can be overwhelming, too much. It is not dangerous, you just get scared and anxious for some time and if/when you do, it is a sign that you haven't worked on your gross selfing enough. You shouldn't take bodhicitta too seriously too early.

So, when you practice tonglen, you are actually taking in the confusion, anxiety, fear, greediness, jealousy and hatred of all sentient beings, incl. those in your immediate presence, into your own heart. Since you don't have gross selfing of your own anymore, you have developed a capacity to do bodhisattva - or should I say – advanced, practice of the great vehicle. Again, this capacity comes through small vehicle practice which by the way is what is practiced by most practitioners of mahayana meditators in their practice. It depends entirely on one's first hand realisation into selflessness and emptiness (skt anatman, shunyata) whether one is travelling on small or great vehicle. Someone might be chanting Bodhisattva Vows all one's life but without foundational recognition of one's own true nature, it's kind of using mahayana motivation to generate hinayana realisation which is backwards.

An excellent source of study of becoming a buddha are the 48 vows of Amitabha. These vows describe the attitude and motivation of a practicing bodhisattva called Amitabha, who wants to become a buddha for the sake of all beings. In his vows, he repeatedly states that if he after his attainment of buddhahood he failed to bring sentient beings to liberation, then may he not attain buddhahood. He states again and again, that if he fails to become a doorway for other's liberation, then he should never attain it himself. Because of those vows, Amitabha succeeded, and this is the whole point of bodhicitta. A bodhisattva is to put one's whole being, one's life, one's everything on the line for the sake of all sentient beings. This is an attitude that is to be applied in all one's life. A bodhisattva - mahayana practitioners - is to become that attitude, that vow.

Coming back to tonglen – a mahayana meditation exercise – this taking in of the pain of others and giving fresh pure love in return, becomes or should become one's main practice, or actually not merely practice, but a way of living one's daily life. You sit in your home, taking in the pain and giving love. You sit in a cafe, taking in the pain and giving beautiful pure light in return. You do this day and night, among those people, friends and strangers who you're surrounded with. Why? Because that's what buddhas do. Or actually, that's not what buddhas do, it's how they abide. To reach buddhahood, we simple emulate our own buddhahood by mimicking the heartmind of a buddha. This is the meaning of tonglen.

Thank you for reading. May your day be full of light and love,

Kim

keskiviikko 2. syyskuuta 2020

Cessation

Cessation


What I always liked about photos taken right after shifts is how people's faces, like Ugi's here, look as if they've just been thrown with a bucket of cold water. There's kind of a shock there. That's how cessation looks like.

If you are not familiar with the word cessation, that is a hot word in buddhist yoga :) Cessation refers to ceasing of notions and impressions, or ceasing of all self-based mind processes. It is discussed and described everywhere in both buddhist and hindu scriptures. In Sanskrit words such as nirvana, nirodha and nirodha samapatti are used to refer to this experience which actually is an opposite of experience because cessation is rather ceasing of all kinds of experiences. 
 
Tibetan word trekcho, that is frequently used in dzogchen is samapatti in sanskrit which means "correct recognition of reality" or "correct recognition of truth". There are different interpretations of its meaning and there are short and extensive commentaries that discuss it. By all means, study those sources.


Long story short, all bhumi openings and perfections are cessations, so you already know its meaning and profundity of it. When selfing ceases, be it for 1 second, for a day or for good, yourself as a buddha shows up. This is what buddhahood means: to be free of selfing (gross and subtle) that happens in time and place. The first stage of buddhahood is a complete cessation, as the whole karmic body (bhumis 1-10) ceases to spin the dualistic notions and conceptions of me, other and all kind of phenomena. 
 
Yup. Have a nice day all and remember that each one of us is the source of blessings. We are already what we seek.  

Kim


Meaning of Nonduality

Meaning of Nonduality


There is reality and there is fantasy. Nonduality is the absence of fantasy. Hence, one sees, breathes, thinks, lives and embodies the reality. And this reality is full of love... and fresh like wild mint! It is the beating heart, it is radiance of life. It is a word of kindness, it is absence of selfishness. It, nonduality, life without a sense of being a finite entity, is life as it is.


Kim


Sameness of Yogic Practices

Sameness of Yogic Practices



I firmly believe that all yogic traditions like buddhism, hinduism, taoism and christianity have at some stages known and offered paths to full enlightenment. They still do in varying degree. One thing that enchants me is the similarity of practices in different traditions. 
 
For example, in this photo you can see me sitting in meditation, or to be exact nonmeditation (skt abhavana), as it is known in Great Seal of Natural Awareness tradition (skt mahamudra). To be specific, this is a photo of an upward gaze of Leaping Over to the Great Enjoyment (tib thogal long ku, vyutkrantaka sambhogakaya). 

 
In most buddhist meditations separation is made between clarity aspect and energy aspect. For example, vipashyana and metta or cutting through and leaping over (tib trekcho and thogal, samapatti and vyutkrantaka). Same principles are in shaiva tantra as Siva and Shakti where the former is masculine principle and the latter feminine. 
 
In many systems of hindu yoga, incl shaiva tantra that I’m familiar with, this gaze is known as Seal of the Divine Feminine (skt shambhavi mudra), or Seal of the Divine Energy. This mudra or meditation is practiced in both dzogchen of Tibet and tantra of Southern India, to realise the divine energy of enjoyment. To me, it is obvious that both traditions are referring to same principles and using the exact same practices... which I think is really cool. I do believe that there has been and still is, or at least could be, fully enlightened masters or mahasiddhas in all yogic traditions. 
 
However, it is also my experience that a lot of yogic knowledge is scattered and that it is very rare to find everything one needs to know in one place. To gather the foundational knowledge and practices together is something I was told to do many years ago by my masters and I have.

Love and blessings to all,

Kim