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Vajra Fist

Medicine Buddha

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I guess I would add personally my thoughts on Nichiren's thoughts. My greatest exposure and initial immersion into Buddhism was primarily from a Theravada point of view. This being the case meditation was of primary importance and chanting was a minimal importance. So just based upon that I had a tendency not to take what Nichiren said very seriously. 

 On the other hand though the Buddha said to you not just take someone's word for it even his own word for it but to prove everything by experience. My experience that are for showed that hours and hours of meditation we're not really helping to make me much happier. On the other hand experience showed that by doing various mantras I would notice more obvious results as far as I could tell from my subjective point of view. So from a purely experiential basis it would seem to me personally that there's something to what Nichiren said about the third phase of Dharma decline and meditation being less effective in this day and age.

 If one is curious about Nichiren the wiki page about him is actually a pretty good place to start. I tend to avoid SGI sources because they seem culty.

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I don't know too much about Nichiren either but he seems a fascinating character. His teaching seems rather outlandish from the outside but following the steps of his reasoning it makes more sense even if it is still quite radical. One thing offputting about Nichiren is his fierce sectarianism- in his view, all other Buddhist practices are superseded or heretical. He wasn't really unique here- he owes a lot to the religious atmosphere in Japan at the time. In Japan, due in large part of political factors, Buddhism took a very sectarian turn and the differences between the sects were sharply defined, both in terms of doctrine/ practice and in patronage.  This, combined with the persecution he got from other Buddhist sects, kind of painted him into a corner.

 

I have heard Nichiren Shu is a lot less culty than SGI or Nichiren Shoshu though I have not first hand experience with any of them.

 

I recall reading somewhere that the Buddhist monastery on Mount Tiantai in China has a statue in honor of Nichiren, which makes me curious what they make of his teaching about the mantra.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

I don't know too much about Nichiren either but he seems a fascinating character. His teaching seems rather outlandish from the outside but following the steps of his reasoning it makes more sense even if it is still quite radical. One thing offputting about Nichiren is his fierce sectarianism- in his view, all other Buddhist practices are superseded or heretical. He wasn't really unique here- he owes a lot to the religious atmosphere in Japan at the time. In Japan, due in large part of political factors, Buddhism took a very sectarian turn and the differences between the sects were sharply defined, both in terms of doctrine/ practice and in patronage.  This, combined with the persecution he got from other Buddhist sects, kind of painted him into a corner.

 

I have heard Nichiren Shu is a lot less culty than SGI or Nichiren Shoshu though I have not first hand experience with any of them.

 

I recall reading somewhere that the Buddhist monastery on Mount Tiantai in China has a statue in honor of Nichiren, which makes me curious what they make of his teaching about the mantra.

 

It's the sectarianism that also is a little off-putting to me as well. And yes the more traditional forms of nichiren are to my understanding not considered to be culty like the more modern SGI.

 I believe part of the cultural context behind the high degree of sectarianism of the time in Japan was the threat of the Mongol invasions and there is a widespread belief that the correct form of Buddhism had to be found in order to save the nation.

Edited by dmattwads

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One other one that I forgot to mention that I did to my surprise fine to have some effectiveness was the Catholic rosary but I suspect that Mary and Kuan yin are possibly the same being.

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

One thing offputting about Nichiren is his fierce sectarianism- in his view, all other Buddhist practices are superseded or heretical.

 

Agree on this. I remember reading a bit about his views on pure land and I thought it was odd to take such a disparaging view of what is essentially a sutra based practice. Seemed actually a bit like he believed he knew better than the Buddha.

Edited by Vajra Fist

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

Seemed actually a bit like he believed he knew better than the Buddha.

 

I think this is a common misunderstanding but also easy to understand how it could be misunderstood. To the best of my understanding I don't think Nichiren thought he knew better than the Buddha. I believe his main thesis was that there are different methods for different times and that the time of the Buddha was a different time and therefore the methods he taught were good for that time but in the time of Nichiren so he argues new methods were needed for new times. At least I think that's his argument from the best of my understanding of it.

Edited by dmattwads
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Posted (edited)

Right, and he believed his teaching was actually found in the Lotus Sutra itself, even if it wasn't obvious. 

 

To some extent all Buddhists had to make a decision as to what was central and what was provisional. The Mahayana corpus was huge and with no user manual on how to fit all the different practices and doctrines together. So different people came to different conclusions. Some focused on particular practices- zuochan, nianfo, etc., others on metaphysical schools like Yogacara and Madhyamaka. Big-tent schools like Tiantai and Huayan still had to make a schema of overall ranking- which sutras were supreme, which were secondary, tertiary, etc.?

 

In Nichiren's time it had gotten to a point that several major Japanese sects, including Pure Land, were arguing exclusively for their own practice. Like Nichiren the Pure Land sects were saying that in the age of dharma decline, intense practices like zen were no longer practicable or effective. Everyone had to turn to a simpler, more popular practice, which by virtue of being easier was also Buddha's supreme teaching.

Edited by SirPalomides
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There's a similar school of thought in Hinduism with meditation not being adequate for the Kali Yuga but rather chanting practices.

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My father in law has practiced Nichiren most of his life. He's a very well-rounded, and happy guy. But he's no way enlightened.

 

For a practice that (as far as I can tell from my brief reading on the subject this afternoon) believes in enlightenment in this life and rejects strongly the idea of rebirth in a pure land, that is pretty tragic to me. My biggest worry is in dying and remaining in samsara.

 

So many systems promise enlightenment in this life, but it's generally only a small handful of people who make it. Those who don't might be born in the gods' realm, but ultimately they're still in the cycle of rebirth. The sutras say that getting a human body and the opportunity to cultivate is rare. 

 

I'm acutely aware of my limitations. I always done my best to be a decent person, but I know I've hurt a lot of people during my life. I have the opportunity to cultivate but I don't spend every opportunity doing so, playing games on my phone instead or shitposting on Facebook, and spending the bare minimum time on my meditation cushion. 

 

For me, with all my flaws and failures, the pure land tradition really offers the only chance to leave samsara. Trying to do so through enlightenment in this life, whether through the Theravadan tradition, Zen, Vajrayana or - in this case - Nichiren, is something I probably won't be able to achieve. 

 

To bring it back to Medicine Buddha practice, the sutra the mantra will also help those who seek rebirth in Amitabha's pure land.

 

“If their rebirth in the Pure Land is still uncertain, but they hear the name of the World-Honored Medicine Buddha, then, at the time of death, eight great Bodhisattvas will traverse space and descend to show them the way. They will thereupon be reborn spontaneously in jeweled fl owers of many hues."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Vajra Fist said:

My father in law has practiced Nichiren most of his life. He's a very well-rounded, and happy guy. But he's no way enlightened.

 

For a practice that (as far as I can tell from my brief reading on the subject this afternoon) believes in enlightenment in this life and rejects strongly the idea of rebirth in a pure land, that is pretty tragic to me. My biggest worry is in dying and remaining in samsara.

 

So many systems promise enlightenment in this life, but it's generally only a small handful of people who make it. Those who don't might be born in the gods' realm, but ultimately they're still in the cycle of rebirth. The sutras say that getting a human body and the opportunity to cultivate is rare. 

 

I'm acutely aware of my limitations. I always done my best to be a decent person, but I know I've hurt a lot of people during my life. I have the opportunity to cultivate but I don't spend every opportunity doing so, playing games on my phone instead or shitposting on Facebook, and spending the bare minimum time on my meditation cushion. 

 

For me, with all my flaws and failures, the pure land tradition really offers the only chance to leave samsara. Trying to do so through enlightenment in this life, whether through the Theravadan tradition, Zen, Vajrayana or - in this case - Nichiren, is something I probably won't be able to achieve. 

 

To bring it back to Medicine Buddha practice, the sutra the mantra will also help those who seek rebirth in Amitabha's pure land.

 

“If their rebirth in the Pure Land is still uncertain, but they hear the name of the World-Honored Medicine Buddha, then, at the time of death, eight great Bodhisattvas will traverse space and descend to show them the way. They will thereupon be reborn spontaneously in jeweled fl owers of many hues."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reasoning behind your motives make sense for sure.

 I do agree that if there were just thousands of Nichiren Buddhist that were currently enlightened it would make for a stronger argument. Though perhaps if by following Nichiren practices one is going to have a reasonable chance of liberation then I wonder if by default it increases one's chances of obtaining rebirth in a pure abode if that is what is necessary to get the job done?

 

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11 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

To bring it back to Medicine Buddha practice, the sutra the mantra will also help those who seek rebirth in Amitabha's pure land.


 

 

Speaking of the pure land since you seem to be knowledgeable of the medicine Buddha I was going ask how much you knew about Amitofu? For whatever reason the Amitofu chant seems to resonate with me more than the medicine Buddha mantra. Not sure why.

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2 hours ago, dmattwads said:

 

Speaking of the pure land since you seem to be knowledgeable of the medicine Buddha I was going ask how much you knew about Amitofu? For whatever reason the Amitofu chant seems to resonate with me more than the medicine Buddha mantra. Not sure why.

 

The pure land sutra is pretty short. Basically says anyone who recites the name of Amitabha will be reborn in Sukhavati. Amitofu is Chinese, literally just means 'Amitabha Buddha'. Sometimes its preceded by 'Namo' which means either 'homage to' or 'I take refuge in'. 

 

The Japanese version is 'namu amida bu' or 'butsu'. There is also a Tibetan mantra 'om amideva hrih'.

 

If you're interested in the Chinese tradition, I'd recommend a book called 'Taming the monkey mind', which should be free to download.

 

For the Japanese Shin tradition 'River of Fire, River of Water'

 

And for the Tibetan tradition 'Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth' (which is also my favourite book on Buddhism)

 

There is also a Korean pure land tradition and a very active Vietnamese tradition. There's a book called Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith by Thich Thien Tam which is apparently one of the best pure land books out there and goes into some of the siddhis developed through the practice, as well as protection from spirits. I haven't read it though, as it's quite difficult to source here in the UK. Their temple in the states sent me a huge box of books though on all the sutras completely free of charge. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

There's a book called Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith by Thich Thien Tam which is apparently one of the best pure land books out there and goes into some of the siddhis developed through the practice, as well as protection from spirits. 

 

Interesting as I did not realize there were sidis involved with pure land practice. 

 

I had noticed that extensive zhunti mantra practice had an opening effect on my third eye. 

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7 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

The pure land sutra is pretty short. Basically says anyone who recites the name of Amitabha will be reborn in Sukhavati. Amitofu is Chinese, literally just means 'Amitabha Buddha'. Sometimes its preceded by 'Namo' which means either 'homage to' or 'I take refuge in'. 

 

The Japanese version is 'namu amida bu' or 'butsu'. There is also a Tibetan mantra 'om amideva hrih'.

 

If you're interested in the Chinese tradition, I'd recommend a book called 'Taming the monkey mind', which should be free to download.

 

For the Japanese Shin tradition 'River of Fire, River of Water'

 

And for the Tibetan tradition 'Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth' (which is also my favourite book on Buddhism)

 

There is also a Korean pure land tradition and a very active Vietnamese tradition. There's a book called Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith by Thich Thien Tam which is apparently one of the best pure land books out there and goes into some of the siddhis developed through the practice, as well as protection from spirits. I haven't read it though, as it's quite difficult to source here in the UK. Their temple in the states sent me a huge box of books though on all the sutras completely free of charge. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So is there a list of things that Amitabha Buddha helps with in a similar manner as the medicine Buddha list? Besides just getting into the pure land?

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Here's some stuff shared to me by someone I consider a Buddhist stream-enterer. May it benefit any genuine seeker that wish to use this Dharma-gate to enter. 

 

Quote

Supplication:


I prostrate at the feet of the Buddhas in the ten thousand directions, as they give their teachings in the Pure Abodes.


In Mount Grdhrakuta, where the Shakya Buddha made the second turning of the Dharma wheel.


In the Five Pure Abodes of the Saha world, where Enlightened Noble Ones like Non-Returners cultivate.


In Tushita, where Maitreya is teaching Master Xuanzang.


In Sukhavati, where Amitabha holds the West.


In Abhirati, where Akshobhya holds the East.


In Vaiduryanirbhasa, where Bhaisajyaguru holds the further East and transmits His lapis lazuli samadhi.


Homage to Kakusandha (Vairocana), Ratnaketu and Dundubhishvara.


Homage to Padmasambhava who holds the Copper Mountain Pure Land Zangdok Palri and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal.


Homage to Shambhala of Kalachakra, to Dhagpa Khadro.


Homage to Ksitigarbha, Avalokitesvara, Manjushri, and countless other Buddhas of an infinite number of World Systems.


Homage to the Dharma protectors and Bodhisattvas who protect the light of Dharma.


Homage to the Dakinis with mighty power.


Homage to the countless sages of different traditions, the Taoist Immortals, Rishis, Tzadiks, Saints, Yogi, Yoginis.


Homage to all the mighty Nagas who preserve the power of the Dharma.


May all the Buddhas have mercy on us pitiful beings in samsara, may they keep turning the Dharma wheel. May the merit of this instruction benefit beings in all ten directions.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Buddha talks about three thousand great-thousand worlds. He talked about this Sun and its planets - this is called a Solar System in modern science. This solar system is a physical, material world.


In this universe, there are countless, limitless solar-systems. One thousand of these systems is called a small-thousand world.


Now the Buddha also said that one day in another world can take many times longer than a day on this Earth. A "day and night" cycle of the Sun is equivalent to one-year on this Earth.


One thousand of small-thousand worlds make up a middle-thousand world. One thousand of middle-thousand worlds make up a great-thousand world. Therefore, in this Saha world, there are 3,000,000,000,000 solar systems.


Each three great-thousand worlds is under a Buddha. This Saha universe is currently under Shakyamuni Buddha, and will be under Maitreya Buddha. The Buddha is a teacher of man and devas, as well as countless other beings.


This universe is divided into 3 realms - the desire realm, form realm and formless realm.


Out of all the Buddhas, why did Shakyamuni introduce Amitabha Buddha of the Western Pure Land? This is because Amitabha Buddha has the greatest vow - Amitabha too, had cultivated from a human form and took 48 Great Vows. Comparatively, the Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru had taken 12 Great Vows.


When one has become a Buddha, one can too, establish a world to liberate beings. It is as if a millionaire is able to afford sponsoring more people under him.


In the Pure Land of Amitabha, there is no frustration, no sickness or pain, and no problems of male and female. If one can practice chanting the mantra of Amitabha, vowing to take birth there, when one is born there, one is already a Bodhisattva, not a male nor a female, there is no more lustful wish, no more hunger despite a lingering bit of hungry habit. Amitabha Buddha too, has two other companions - Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva.


In these Pure Lands, there is not a single mountainous area in sight. Why is that so? Because the minds of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are unmoving and equanimous. In contrast to this, the human's heart is volatile and uneven, that is why there are high mountains and deep oceans.


To reach the Pure Land, one has to move through nearly 3 thousand great-thousand worlds from this Earth! If your mental force is strong and unscattered at death, at the point of separation from the body, unhindered chanting of Namo Amitabha will send one towards the West, towards the Pure Land. Once one has become a Buddha, one is free to go to whatever universe one wishes to.


At the point of death, there will be a golden light shining forth from the body, a light strong enough that everyone around the person can see. Fragrances will perfuse the air, and celestial music will become audible to everyone present.


Now what is this method? It is the method of Rebirth. In esoteric Buddhism, this is called Phowa.


In order for one to do Phowa, one must be able to open the crown chakra! If one sits down and continuously chants 'Namo Amitabha', eventually, one will chant until this crown chakra is fully opened.


At this point, one should learn the Long Life Method, otherwise one will go immediately and cannot remain in this world.

Therefore, the Life-lengthening method from the Medicine Buddha must be learnt together with the Amitabha Phowa method.


Therefore, the method of chanting the Buddha's name, is truly outstanding.


If one can match the practice of Amitabha, along with the practice of Anapana, gaining the 'helping force' or grace of Amitabha Buddha, your body will live for an outstanding number of years.


How does one chant properly?


Turn the eyes and ears backwards to see and hear the mind. When one is chanting 'Namo Amitabha', use the inner-hearing to hear the chant. Soften the eyes and open faintly.


The chant is: "Na - Mo - Ah - Me - Taw - For"


At every breath out, one is chanting externally. When chanting, do not move the lips or teeth, only move the tongue.


When one runs out of breath at 'Namo', then shut off the chant and mind. Shut the mouth immediately. Let the body naturally take in a breath when it wants to through the nose. All inhalation is through the nose, and all chanting is through the mouth.


As one chants, use it to adjust the chi in the body. If the chest is painful and stifled, as you chant 'Namo amitabha', this sick chi also scatters out. If the stomach is uncomfortable, use medium breath to chant 'Namo amitabha'; If the waist is uncomfortable, use the breath at the dan-tian!


If one does it correctly, the environment will shine with bright luminescence after meditation.


Every frustration, every pain, every karma - one diligently chants with a single-minded attention to the Buddha's name.


If one can sit in for seven days just chanting this in the proper manner while tweaking one's breath properly, the entire body and mind will be transformed.


The right application is certainly not easy. However, if one is able to do it right -


Let us not even talk about seven days. If you are truly able to enter the samadhi realm, within seven hours, your body and mind will transform and one will be free of birth, ageing, sickness and death. One will leap out of samsara.

 

Namo amituofo. May the above be of benefit  :) 

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Due to the lockdown I've had a lot of time to experiment. Just from a personal experience frame of reference I've noticed that Amitofuo seems to resonate with me better than medicine Buddha but I'm not sure why.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

Due to the lockdown I've had a lot of time to experiment. Just from a personal experience frame of reference I've noticed that Amitofuo seems to resonate with me better than medicine Buddha but I'm not sure why.

 

Buddha Amitabha is one of the 5 Dhayani Buddhas associated with the five chakras and 5 coloured lights (Buddhist tantra usually speaks of 5 chakras, although some schools do use 7 and some 10 even) - in respect of Buddha Amitabha, the colour is red, and he's connected with the throat chakra. Maybe this will help you have a bit more clarity over the resonation. Btw, the Medicine Buddha (blue) corresponds with the heart chakra. 

 

 

Edited by C T
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22 hours ago, anshino23 said:

In these Pure Lands, there is not a single mountainous area in sight. Why is that so? Because the minds of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are unmoving and equanimous. In contrast to this, the human's heart is volatile and uneven, that is why there are high mountains and deep oceans.

 

This is something I mentioned in another thread, about Buddhist versus Daoist attitudes to nature and aesthetics. There are no mountains and no oceans in the Pure Land, because they are expressions of mental volatility. Likewise the trees are not really trees but are perfectly symmetrical jewel formations; the birds are not really birds but the Buddha's mental emanations, and they sing nothing but the truths of the Buddha dharma. Overall the subtext seems to be that there is something very wrong with the natural world we see around us- all of it is formed from deluded or confused mental states. It's easy to understand, considering the suffering and violence that seems built in to virtually every aspect of life on earth. This attitude is very prominent in Indian Buddhism but countered to some degree in East Asian Buddhism, partly by application of Nagarjuna's insight that samsara and nirvana are one, partly from, I suspect, the predilection in both Confucianism and Daoism for admiring nature in all its wild imperfections and variety.

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2 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

 

This is something I mentioned in another thread, about Buddhist versus Daoist attitudes to nature and aesthetics. There are no mountains and no oceans in the Pure Land, because they are expressions of mental volatility. Likewise the trees are not really trees but are perfectly symmetrical jewel formations; the birds are not really birds but the Buddha's mental emanations, and they sing nothing but the truths of the Buddha dharma. Overall the subtext seems to be that there is something very wrong with the natural world we see around us- all of it is formed from deluded or confused mental states. It's easy to understand, considering the suffering and violence that seems built in to virtually every aspect of life on earth. This attitude is very prominent in Indian Buddhism but countered to some degree in East Asian Buddhism, partly by application of Nagarjuna's insight that samsara and nirvana are one, partly from, I suspect, the predilection in both Confucianism and Daoism for admiring nature in all its wild imperfections and variety.

 

I guess this is why when Buddha and Lso Tzu tasted the vinegar, the Buddha thought it was bitter and Lao Tzu thought it was sweet.

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Where I am, Amitabha's Pure Land doesn't sound that appealing. Everyone looking the same? No mountains or oceans? No penguins, giraffes, or octopus? Everything perfectly even and symmetrical? It almost sounds like a shopping mall or a Disney park to me. That is my visceral reaction to it. However, if I lived in a place of rampant violence, cruelty, or instability, racked by earthquakes or storms, or, say, I was in an oppressive job carrying backbreaking loads up and down hills, I bet I would find the Pure Land a lot more appealing and my views of nature might be less rosy. So this might have to do with personal circumstances and propensities than philosophical disagreement.

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Well another one that resonates very well with me is nam myoho renge Kyo which is about the lotus sutra as opposed to a

Pure land so not really sure what that means?

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From what I read the Nichiren gohonzon is a mandala depicting  "the ceremony in the air" of the Lotus Sutra, so by chanting daimoku you are entering this mandala. I guess that could be seen as equivalent to a Pure Land, with the Buddha Shakyamuni at the center.

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1 hour ago, SirPalomides said:

Where I am, Amitabha's Pure Land doesn't sound that appealing. Everyone looking the same? No mountains or oceans? No penguins, giraffes, or octopus? Everything perfectly even and symmetrical? It almost sounds like a shopping mall or a Disney park to me. That is my visceral reaction to it. However, if I lived in a place of rampant violence, cruelty, or instability, racked by earthquakes or storms, or, say, I was in an oppressive job carrying backbreaking loads up and down hills, I bet I would find the Pure Land a lot more appealing and my views of nature might be less rosy. So this might have to do with personal circumstances and propensities than philosophical disagreement.

 

It's kind of because of our human frame of reference though. The natural world is a beautiful place. Also watching films is fun and so is spending time with your partner. It's because our lives are relatively comfortable, like the gods in the highest realms of samsara, that cultivation is hard. But you can't take any of that with you. When you die you might descend on the lower paths and even the next time you're in a human body you might not be lucky enough to encounter the Dharma. 

 

There's a fantastic book by a Tibetan delog called Dawa Drolma, where she describes in vivid detail her experiences in the hell realms. It's pretty compelling reading. As anodyne as the pure land might seem to you now, it's infinitely better than the hell realms.

 

I would also say it's better than the best life that's available here on earth. People dedicate their lives to cultivating Buddhahood, but if you looked at the state of a Buddha from the human perspective it looks pretty dull. I mean they don't have mobile phones, PlayStations nor access to Tiger King on Netflix. But they probably have their state, and joys at their level, all of which are unknowable to us on the human level. 

 

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5 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

It's kind of because of our human frame of reference though. The natural world is a beautiful place. Also watching films is fun and so is spending time with your partner. It's because our lives are relatively comfortable, like the gods in the highest realms of samsara, that cultivation is hard. But you can't take any of that with you. When you die you might descend on the lower paths and even the next time you're in a human body you might not be lucky enough to encounter the Dharma. 

 

 

But the Pure Land is full of godlike pleasures and infinitely more comfortable than life on earth. Beautiful sights, sounds, and scents, food that magically materializes, etc. Far from a spartan retreat it's a psychedelic wonderland of bright colors, jewels, flowers. The absence of mountains, animals, etc. isn't because these things would be too pleasurable but because they are considered unpleasant, as either symptoms or causes of suffering.

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