Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Why "Progressive"?


The word “progressive” implies a movement beyond tradition and dogma. I have chosen to connect this word with Pure Land Buddhism because I am convinced that this school of Buddhism has a pressing need to progress beyond some of its traditional doctrinal understandings and premodern supernaturalism to remain relevant for the intelligent and critical people of the 21st century. I am aware that some of my views may offend my fellow Buddhists and I apologize in advance. It is not my intention to offend. Rather, this blog is an exercise in challenging some of the dogmas in Pure Land Buddhism which I see as obstacles in it becoming a relevant teaching for our modern time.

The basic teachings of Pure Land Buddhism can be summarized thus: Knowing that in latter times, the spiritual abilities of human beings would degenerate, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni expounded the Pure Land scriptures to provide a way out for all human beings to attain salvation from this world of suffering. Shakyamuni described to his followers how many billions of ages ago, a monk by the name of Dharmakara saw the suffering of all sentient beings and he vowed to save them by creating a paradise (“Pure Land”) with the necessary conditions conducive for attaining enlightenment. The Pure Land that Dharmakara vowed to create would be a place where there would be no suffering and discrimination of any sort. It would be a realm where saintly and enlightened beings could hear the teachings of Buddhism and meditate peacefully without any distractions or danger.

The Pure Land scriptures tell us that after countless ages of practicing austerity and charity, Dharmakara attained enlightenment and he became a Buddha known as “Amitabha” or alternatively “Amitayus”. Amitabha and Amitayus are Sanskrit words and respectively, they mean “Immeasurable Light” and “Immeasurable Life”. According to the Shakyamuni of the Pure Land scriptures, Amitabha’s Pure Land is known as “Sukhavati”, or “The Land of Bliss”. Anyone who has faith in the compassionate vows of Amitabha and seeks rebirth in his Pure Land will be reborn there after this life and be admitted into the presence of Amitabha and the numerous enlightened beings in his Pure Land, to receive training for enlightened. Once enlightenment is attained, the citizens of the Pure Land will return to this world of suffering to save the sentient beings still trapped here.



In mainstream Pure Land Buddhism today, the Pure Land scriptures are accepted as the direct teaching of the historical Buddha and the Pure Land is often described as an actual place somewhere in the universe billions of galaxies away from our planet. The story of how Dharmakara became Amitabha is presented as a historical fact and Amitabha is an actual being living in his Pure Land. At the end of the devotee’s life, Amitabha and his vast entourage of bodhisattvas will come to deliver the devotee to Sukahavati. The vast majority of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism revolves around a religious devotion to Amitabha Buddha, expressed through chanting the Pure Land scriptures and meditating on the name of Amitabha in the hope that at the end of the devotee’s life, one takes birth in his Pure Land. Chinese Mahayana Buddhism also affirms that the devotee who constantly recites the name of Amitabha with faith and devotion can increase longevity and gain protection from demonic influences.

Pure Land Buddhism has an understandable appeal to many people. Human existence is finite. We have to go through many trials and tribulations. Even though we are not sure when or how, it is certain that we will die one day. Many people, myself included, are comforted by the idea of having a benevolent power to protect us and a place to look forward to in the afterlife. This fear of the unknown perhaps explains the vast popularity of Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia (it has almost completely died out in India, the land of its origins).

But we who live in the 21st century are faced with a dilemma when we encounter the basic narrative of Pure Land Buddhism as transmitted to us from premodern India and China. This dilemma is one between accepting the comfort of unverifiable faith and the nagging itch of reason that demands evidence. The Pure Land narrative, when taken literally, requires a human being to take a leap of faith based on something that cannot be verified. A literal reading of the Pure Land scriptures makes extraordinary claims that requires extraordinary evidence. Consider this: Someone informs you that there is a country somewhere in the world which is rich in all manner of natural resources, where its citizens lead carefree lives with everything necessary for their welfare and happiness paid for by the government. You are also informed that this country offers free citizenship to anyone in the world on condition that they swear allegiance to the country’s leader. Would you not be skeptical and demand empirical evidence for this country's existence? Yet there are Pure Land Buddhists who believe in the existence of a supernatural being called Amitabha who, upon their demise, will whisk them off to a literal Pure Land adorned by gold, precious stones and all sorts of magical sights and sounds even though there is no empirical evidence for such a realm.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that Pure Land Buddhism is not a teaching of the historical Shakyamuni, but rather a development of the Mahayana movement which most scholars acknowledge to have arisen centuries after Shakyamuni’s passing. The Mahayana scriptures that we have today resulted ffrom centuries of creation and evolution (from the 2nd century AD up until the 11th century AD) which explains why there are numerous versions of the same sutras. The Larger Sukahavtivyuha Sutra, which is the foundational text for Pure Land Buddhism, has survived in seven versions and there are noticeable differences between them. According to the Zhi Qian and Zhi Loujiachen translation, Dharmakara made 24 vows. The Faxian translation lists 36 vows. The Sanskrit and Tibetan versions has 47 vows while the Bodhiruchi and Sanghavarman translations both have 48 vows. The existence of a plurality of texts suggests a diverse process of creation as Buddhists strove to express their understanding of the historical Shakyamuni’s teachings into new narratives.

Another evidence that the Pure Land scriptures were not the work of a single person are internal and external textual contradictions. The seven surviving versions of the Larger Sukahavtivyuha Sutra are significantly different in content. Only the Bodhiruchi and Sanghavarman versions have a long preamble on the acts of the Bodhisattvas while the others do not. The Zhi Qian and Zhi Loujiachen versions have a long description of the Five Evils of the world, which is absent in the Faxian, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Bodhiruchi versions, although the Sanghavarman version has a short version. The Zhi Qian and Zhi Loujiachen version does not refer to Maitreya’s vision while the other five versions do so,



The Larger Sukahavtivyuha Sutra states that people who have committed the five heinous acts and/or blaspheme the Buddha's teachings are barred from rebirth in the Pure Land while the Contemplation Sutra (accepted by scholars as a work of non-Indian origin) contradicts this by stating that those who commit the five heinous acts can also take birth in the Pure Land should they repent at the end of their lives and trust in Amitabha. Pure Land teachers have traditionally reconciled this by saying that the apparent exclusion clause in the Larger Sukahavtivyuha Sutra was an ethical injunction to warn the sutra’s readers from committing these acts. But it seems to my mind that the more likely explanation is that the sutras were composed by different people with different ideas about who would or would not be excluded from the Buddha’s compassion, as embodied by the Pure Land.

Also, a literal reading of the Pure Land texts can present several difficulties. In the Larger Sukahavtivyuha Sutra, we are told that Dharmakara existed immeasurable ages ago. But the story of Dharmakara is couched in cultural references from ancient Vedic India. In the sutra, Dharmakara is quoted as comparing the splendour of the Buddha Lokeshvaraja to Mount Sumeru. He also vowed to worship as many buddhas as “the grains of sand in the Ganges.” The idea of Mount Sumeru was from borrowed from Vedic cosmology and so the name “Ganges” also came from Vedic civilization.

A further indication of the historical origins of the Pure Land scriptures can be found in Dharmakara’s 26th vow where he aspired to provide the body of Narayana for everyone born in his land. Narayana is a name for the Vedic deity Vishnu. The inclusion of this god and the above-mentioned references from Vedic culture indicates that the writer or writers of the sutra was not trying to tell their readers a literal event which took place billions of aeons ago. They were conveying a myth. The mythological nature of the Pure Land scriptures must be accepted as the basis of a Progressive Pure Land Buddhism.

Note: This is the first of a two part essay which has been published on my blog to discuss Progressive Pure Land Buddhism. The differences between the different versions of the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra were compiled by Luis O. Gomez in the appendix of his book The Land of Bliss - an excellent translation and commentary on the Larger and Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutras.

25 comments:

  1. A very interesting post from our newest contributor Yueheng.

    I think that every school of Buddhism has mythic aspects. Even the relatively stark school of Soto Zen. Coming from quite a rationalistic perspective initially I saw these aspects almost as a sort of 'taint', but I appreciate them more now.

    Also, I don't think that the Mahayana sutras not coming from the Buddha directly needs to be a problem - unless we are using it as a source of authority or mythical literalism. For me the Mahayana sutras validity is in their insight - Buddhism is a living tradition of wisdom.

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  2. For me, the Pure Land and the realm of Hell are the same place - this world. Which one we experience depends on how we live and what mind we live with.

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  3. Justin:

    In Chinese Mahayana Buddhism is that the authority Mahayana sutras are derived from their being the direct teaching of the Buddha and many Buddhist teachers such as Master Yin Guang (a hugely influential Pure Land patriarch who lived from 1861-1940) teach Pure Land Buddhism with a literalist approach. i.e. this saha world is too full of suffering for Buddhists to cultivate, we should take advantage of Amitabha's compassionate vows and take birth in his pure land, etc.

    The result is, as I see it, a religion in which a quasi-theistic buddha called Amitabha is worshiped and devotees try to score brownie points by chanting Amitabha's name as much as possible, so that when they attain birth in the pure land, their lotus grade will be higher (according to traditional pure land mythos, the pure land is divided into 9 lotus grades where people who are reborn there are classified according to their merit/spiritual capacity).

    I think that there is a deeper way of seeing the Pure Land, as a metaphor for a reality that we have to seek in this world. As Hakuin wrote in his Song of Zazen: "This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land!/And this very body, the body of Buddha."

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  4. Hi,

    "I think that there is a deeper way of seeing the Pure Land"

    Sounds like you are creating your own grades of practice even here in this world. But I'm afraid most of us are not as 'deep' as you are.

    Don't forget, too, that although in Japanese Pure Land all is dependant upon just the nembutsu, in wider East Asian Pure Land practice, recitation is seen as working hand in hand with precepts too.

    As for "this very body, the body of Buddha", I wouldn't like to suggest I am at such a high level of attainment. For me......I trust Amita Buddha.

    Whilst also respecting your own take on things. A respect I hope we can share.

    Palms together,

    Marcus

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  5. Yes, I don't doubt there are many people who take the Mahayana sutras as the literal word of Buddha, and this is the traditional stance of all Mahayana Buddhists I think. But scholarship and archeology have moved on - the academic consensus as I understand is that they were written from around 1000CE. I don't have a problem with it either way.

    I think that there is a deeper way of seeing the Pure Land, as a metaphor for a reality that we have to seek in this world. As Hakuin wrote in his Song of Zazen: "This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land!/And this very body, the body of Buddha."

    Yes - this I can relate to. It's one thing to create castles in the air as metaphors but another to think you can rent a room there.

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  6. Marcus:

    Thank you for replying. Yes, I agree with you that in East Asian Buddhism, buddha recitation goes hand in hand with the precepts. But to what aim? From my reading of many Pure Land literatures, there seem to be a strong streak of other-worldly escapism which believes this world to be a terrible place of suffering from which we must escape (to Amitabha's pure land) by religiously chanting Amitabha's name and following the precepts so as to attain a good grade in the Pure Land.

    When I use the word "deeper", I wasn't trying to place myself on a pedestal. It just seems to me that a literal approach to the Pure Land based on accepting a set of ancient dogmas in the hope of attaining birth in an otherworldly paradise is...well...shallow. When one reads the Pure Land literatures, they seem more to be expressing mythology through poetry and metaphor rather than historical facts. As Joseph Campbell once remarked in The Power of Myth:

    "Mythology is not a lie. Mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth — penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words, beyond images. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told."

    When one sees the Pure Land scriptures as sacred mythology, it becomes so much more richer, with infinite room for exploration and relevance to this world, rather than a quasi-theistic religion aspiring for birth in a heaven-like place.

    Also, I don't think that affirming one's body to be the body of the Buddha and this earth to be the pure land is a suggestion that one is at a high level of attainment. If our original nature is Amitabha Buddha, there is nothing to "attain". How can a human being "attain" his humanity?

    Namo Amitabha Buddha :)

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  7. Thank you for this very imforative post about Pure Land.

    I think it is very important that we keep the kitchen and the dinner table seperate. By that I mean, what I can see and taste and smell is not the same as what the waiter is telling me is behind those swinging doors.

    I have great respect for Pure Land as most ever religion, and I think it is a wonderful thing for someone who is strong enough to hold any faith or belief.

    However, for myself, "ehi pashya!"

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  8. I am attracted to Buddhism because Shakyamuni Buddha dealt with the here and now and left speculations about what can't be proven (such as the god question) alone. Call it attachment to ideals but I prefer realism, rationalism, skepticism, and the scientific method, instead of speculation and blind faith. If it was a matter of faith, I'd still be a Christian.

    That's why I like the term "Progressive".

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  9. I like this:

    A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
    "Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
    "I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
    "You, a solider!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar"
    Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued, "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head,"
    As Nobushige drew his sword, Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
    A these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
    "Here open the gates of paradise", said Hakuin

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  10. Hi,

    "I am attracted to Buddhism because Shakyamuni Buddha dealt with the here and now and left speculations about what can't be proven (such as the god question) alone."

    Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. Why not take a flick through the sutras and see for yourself.....

    ....he had discussions with Brahma in heaven, he expounded on his previous lives (both examples from the Pali cannon), he told us about the existence of other Buddhas and other Buddha-Lands.

    etc etc

    You see, saying that Buddha wasn't interested in "speculations about what can't be proven" is to talk about a Buddha from which you have cut away all that you don't personally like.....it's not the full picture.

    If you want a Buddhism devoid of such stuff, that's fine. But do not say that it is the totality of what the Buddha taught.

    Namu Amitabul

    Marcus

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  11. I can totally relate to people who want to see Buddha's teachings as purely empirical and pragmatic but the Pali Canon actually contains a significant amount of supernatural stuff including meeting divine beings and recollections of past lives.

    We don't know whether this is exactly what Buddha taught or not. But Buddha's teachings emerged out of a culture that believed in such things.

    We might have a very different world-view but it doesn't matter. It doesn't mean we can't follow Buddha. I've not seen any evidence that Buddha expected his followers to take what he said on faith alone. He may simply have been mistaken about some things. This is only a problem if you want to believe that enlightenment is or includes omniscience.

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  12. The sutras were written centuries after the Buddha's passing and many of these descriptions of conversations with gods, pure lands, etc. were probably written by later Buddhists who were influenced by Vedic religion and mythology. For example, the Alavaka Sutta records a conversation between the Buddha and Alavaka, a yaksha (demon). Alavaka threatens to confound the Buddha's mind, cleave his heart, or take him by his feet and fling him over to the further shore of the ocean if the Buddha failed to answer his questions. The conversation is very similar to a famous episode in the earlier classic Mahabharata where the Pandava brothers drank from a lake and all of them died except for Yudhisthra. A yaksha appears and tells Yudhisthra that unless he answers his questions, he too would die. So Yudhisthra becomes drawn into a protracted Q and A session with queries like: "How does a man attain greatness?" (Yudhisthra's answer: "A man attains greatness by patience") and "What is the most wonderous thing in the world?" (Yudhisthra's answer: "The most wonderous thing in the world is that everyday people are dying, but human beings still act as though they are immortal."). The resemblance between the narrative in the Alavaka Sutta and the Mahabharata leads one to suspect some borrowing.

    The Buddhist sutras also borrow heavily from Vedic cosmology when they refer to Mount Sumeru or Jambudvipa (the world that we live in). According to the sutras, Jambudvipa is supposed to be one of four island continents that surround Mount Sumeru. But we now know that this is simply the mistaken cosmology of a premodern civilization. Our earth is a globe in a solar system and orbits around the sun. It is not an island and there is no Mount Sumeru. If our faith in the sutras is to accept that everything within these sutras originated from an infallible, omniscient being (i.e. the Buddha), then such faith will become sorely tested by science and scholarship.

    Yes, there are many supernatural elements in the Buddhist sutras, but we must read them with the awareness of their historical origins. The Zen master Eisai once said: "I don't know anything about Buddhas of the past, present, or future. But I know cats exist, I know that cows exist." Eisai was saying that cosmic Buddhas was something that he had no experience of. All that he knew was the empirical reality of his world (the cats and cows) which he directly perceived. Similarly, I don’t know anything about supernatural stuff, buddhas talking to gods or pure lands in distant galaxies. I only know this world and my experience in this world, mediated through spirit and reason.

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  13. Bodhidharma asked, “Can each of you say something to demonstrate your understanding?”

    Dao Fu stepped forward and said, “It is not bound by words and phrases, nor is it separate from words and phrases. This is the function of the Tao.”

    Bodhidharma: “You have attained my skin.”

    The nun Zong Chi stepped up and said, “It is like a glorious glimpse of the realm of Akshobhya Buddha . Seen once, it need not be seen again.”

    Bodhidharma; “You have attained my flesh.”

    Dao Yu said, “The four elements are all empty. The five skandhas are without actual existence. Not a single dharma can be grasped.”

    Bodhidharma: “You have attained my bones.”

    Finally, Huike came forth, bowed deeply in silence and stood up straight.

    Bodhidharma said, “You have attained my marrow.”

    The sutra's with all the supernatural aspects and speculation is and should always be a part of some kind of way of Buddhism. However, it is the marrow of Buddhism, the essence of the teachings that I see many people, especially in the West, yearn for. Truth that helps them now, pragmatic is practice , absolute in its pronouncement as experienced, stripped down to its naked flesh, picked to the marrow. We must be mindful of the times and the people many of these ancient writings where targeted to.

    When Bodhidharma came to China, weather in myth or in reality, in some way it was to break these kind of additions to the base point of Buddhism; to see. This is not based on speculation or the unseen supernatural; and if a person experiences these, that is wonderful and beautiful. However, this is not the point.

    Thank you Yueheng for that informative explanation and excellent post. I have great respect for you and the other Pure Landers, and do not wish to seem to be judging anyone's faith. I humbly bow to you. Keep up your great writings!!

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  14. Wow. I am envious of you guys. I'm just starting out and am finding it tough to know where to start, especially since there is no local sangha.

    Anyways, I am glad that this blog is here.

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  15. Hi,

    (1) "We don't know whether this is exactly what Buddha taught or not."

    If you can say 'we don't if The Buddha really taught that' about the supranatural stuff, then you can just as well say the same about the 4NTs, the 8FP, etc etc.

    It really does seem that you have a pick-n-mix attitude to Buddhism. If it works for you, that's fine, but it's not Buddhism as recognised and practiced by the majority of the world's Buddhists.

    (2) "But Buddha's teachings emerged out of a culture that believed in such things."

    And yet, in so many other ways, the Buddha transcended his culture. I his choice of followers for example (women, lower caste disciples, etc). If he could break beyond the culture of the day in this instance, surely he could have done so in others. The fact he didn't must have some significance.

    Oh, and cpd314 - good luck in finding a Sangha.

    Palms together,

    Marcus

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  16. Marcus:

    The Buddha written about in the sutras often spoke about Mount Sumeru and called our world Jambudvipa, which is supposed to be one of four island continents that surround Mount Sumeru. Are you prepared to accept that our world is not a planet, but actually an island continent surrounding a huge (apparently invisible) mountain?

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  17. Let me be clear Marcus, I don't support a modernist revisionism that sees Buddha as a modern empiricist in a superstitious world and whose teachings were latter corrupted with supernatural traits. I think this is unneccessary and misguided - although ostensibly empiricist proponents of this approach seem wierdly attached to the notion of Buddha's infallability or omniscience. We can't absolutely verify any of the teachings as originating with Siddhartha Gautama. We can't even be absolutely certain that he existed. However, from my amateur perspective it seems far more credible that he existed than didn't, and very credible that he taught the 4NT and 8FP - this is the core of an original teaching that is consistently attributed to him. There are some stories about devas and other worlds however which seem to be myths (whoever started them) - certainly its more credible that there are myths in Buddhism than that there really are devas, and other worlds. And we can see evidence that these myths have their roots in the supernatural culture that Buddha lived in. We can also see evidence that some stories and teachings were added later. Evidence suggests that the entire body of Mahayana sutras was a later addition - but that doesn't invalidate them. On the other hand, I don't think it is credible at all to suggest that all of the supernatural stuff was added. Buddha was a man of his time - he seems to have believed in devas and demons and other worlds and literal rebirth.

    Why wouldn't he? These were the 'givens' of accepted world-view of the society he lived in.

    But what interests most 'progressive' Buddhists is Buddha's original insights not whether he seems to have believed in devas or whether the world was flat or round. Why shouldn't we (and how couldn't we) view his teachings from the perspective of modern understanding - seeing some of it as superstition and some of it as validated by experience and advancing understanding?

    Who cares if it's the same or different from 'Buddhism as recognised and practiced by the majority of the world's Buddhists'. Everything changes and the Dharma takes many forms. Would a Marxist stop being a Marxist if he applied critical thinking and the benefits of experience to Marx rather than following it blindly as a dogma? To me this marks (no pun) the difference between real understanding and dogmatism. Modern/Progressive Buddhism has its origins with Buddha and that for me makes the label 'Buddhism' applicable, not that its very important.

    And yet, in so many other ways, the Buddha transcended his culture. I his choice of followers for example (women, lower caste disciples, etc).

    He was certainly an innovator, a revisionist, but I think his teachings are best understood in the context of the Vedic world-view he was responding to. For example, the most remarkable thing about his rebirth teachings is not that he taught that he said (as so many others did at that time) that we are reborn, but that he tried to remove the need for an abiding self (atman) from that explanation.

    If he could break beyond the culture of the day in this instance, surely he could have done so in others. The fact he didn't must have some significance.

    That doesn't stand up. All the time, all through the history of the evolution of human culture, people are breaking through old ways of thinking - and this is often focussed on certain individuals at certain times. All of these people break beyond the existing culture in some ways and not others. What significance does it have? I have no justification to think that Buddha was omniscient and I think there are teachings in the sutras that are demonstrably false.

    But for me and many others, this is in no sense an invalidation of Buddhism. The value of Buddhism is as a living tradition of wisdom, wisdom that can be verified here in this life, whatever the source of that wisdom.

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  18. Are you prepared to accept that our world is not a planet, but actually an island continent surrounding a huge (apparently invisible) mountain?

    Good question

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  19. Hi,

    No, I am not prepared to accept that. Like I said on the other thread at Yue Heng's Pure Land blog, I also doubt that the Pure Land has a literal physical geographical location somewhere in the universe.

    But neither does that invalidate the claims of faith that come with Pure Land Buddhism, faith in the salvic power of Amita Buddha and a real after-this-life existence in the Pure Land.

    Alongside this faith in the Pure Land I also share your concern with making it a living reality in our lives now. (But I think it is Buddha that does that more than we do it ourselves.)

    Whereas I see both approaches as valid, my fear is that with this 'progressive' label you've adopted, you are not only throwing the baby out with the bathwater, you are also suggesting that the faith of millions of life-long Buddhists is somehow invalid or at a lower level than your own intellectual approaches.

    How far do you go with 'mind-only Pure Land'? How far can you go with it before its link to Buddhism becomes tenous, even meaningless?

    Marcus

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  20. But neither does that invalidate the claims of faith that come with Pure Land Buddhism, faith in the salvic power of Amita Buddha and a real after-this-life existence in the Pure Land.

    Well it shows that the sutras are not an infallible source. It invalidates dogmatism based on claims of the absolute authority of sutras. If the beliefs you describe are based on faith then how could they ever be invalidated for the faithful? If people want to believe these things that's fine by me (as long as they don't start imposing it on others as happens in some religions). Personally it all seems rather speculative. Beliefs are just thoughts, fantasies that exist as part of the reality of life that is directly experiences and that unfolds moment by moment.

    As I understand him Yueheng is interested not in underming Pure Land but in protecting it - finding the validity in it for those who are of a more rational and empirical persuasion.

    Whereas I see both approaches as valid, my fear is that with this 'progressive' label you've adopted, you are not only throwing the baby out with the bathwater, you are also suggesting that the faith of millions of life-long Buddhists is somehow invalid or at a lower level than your own intellectual approaches.

    I'm not at all against traditional Pure Land Buddhism. The purpose of progressive Buddhism as I see it, is to keep the dharma valid for the modern world rather than dismissed as superstitious nonsense.

    How far do you go with 'mind-only Pure Land'? How far can you go with it before its link to Buddhism becomes tenous, even meaningless?

    I think this is best answered by Yueheng, but there have been so many interpretations and re-interpretations of Buddhism that I doubt this would happen. Also, I think this is based on an assumption that traditional Pure Land is the 'true Buddhism', which is highly questionable. The heir of the earliest forms of Buddhism is Theravada, which has more emphasis on experience rather than faith than Pure Land does. So in a sense this would be bringing Pure Land BACK closer to original Buddhism. Every school of Buddhism seems to claim to be the True Buddhism. For me the real matter goes beyond all of our ideas and concepts about 'Buddha' and 'Buddhism' which is just ideas - it's about reality. It doesn't matter what we call it or whether we bow to a statue or a rock. What matters is whether it does what it says on the tin.

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  21. Marcus - How does being progressive have anything to do with judging others faith? It seems that this point is exactly the same view of all other extreme views, dualistic in nature.

    Buddhism, at the end of the day is meaningless, and so is the word progressive and so is the word meaningless, etc. Its just other words, relative to all other words. Unfortunately we do have to live in this relative world, rife with confusion of meanings and endless different conceptions.

    Some people, perhaps, would rather see through the 2,500 years of cultural trappings, and see and experience things for themselves. For many of those introduced to Buddhism for the first time, faith is not an option.

    I humbly respect and bow to you Marcus, and wish you great happiness on your path, as all of us must find our own path.

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  22. Thank you,

    And allow me to bow back; to you, to everyone who has contributed to this wonderful discussion, and to all readers of this blog.

    Wishing Peace and Happiness to all,

    With palms together,

    Marcus

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