Tianzun

Can someone simply explain the concept of the pure land to me

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I have been researching it a bit but I am not sure if i understand it. Is it a place you can go to if you die?

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A simple explanation to those familiar with the Mahayana ideal. 

 

Quote

 

The path of realization based on the Mahayana conception of genuine wisdom was elaborated as the career of the bodhisattva. As described in Mahayana sutras, it begins with the profound awakening of the mind aspiring for enlightenment (bodhicitta), the determination to become a buddha whatever hardships one may encounter over the course of many lifetimes of endeavor. This unshakable resolution is declared in the presence of a buddha in formal vows, and typically, the bodhisattva receives from the buddha a prophesy foretelling eventual fulfillment of those vows. A standard element of such individual vows is the establishment, through their vast accumulation of merit through praxis, of a buddha land or field of influence (buddhakŠĻ£etra), which is understood as giving concrete manifestation both to the splendor of their attainment and to their activity to bring beings to enlightenment.

 

The bodhisattva then embarks upon the practices and disciplines, to be continued through countless lifetimes, that will finally result in fulfillment. It is said that vast aeons‚ÄĒ‚Äúthree great innumerable kalpas‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒare required for the completion of a bodhisattva‚Äôs practices (the inconceivable stretches of time may be understood as expressing the depths of a being‚Äôs evil karma to be eradicated and the preciousness of enlightenment). The process of practice has been formulated in a scheme of ten stages, in which the most crucial is the stage of nonretrogression, the first (or in some formats, the seventh). While prior to reaching this stage, they will fall back into samsaric existence if they discontinue their practice, once they have attained nonretrogression through stilling their discriminative thought and seeing suchness, they will never regress but steadily advance in their practice to supreme awakening.

 

Although Pure Land Buddhism is sometimes understood to teach a paradisial afterlife, in fact it developed as a method for achieving nonretrogression, one that provided an alternative to the arduous endeavor through numerous lifetimes required for reaching this stage in the earlier formulations of the bodhisattva path. As practitioners found themselves without enlightened guidance in a world increasingly distant from the benign influence of a buddha’s presence, the obstacles to successful practice loomed ever larger and practitioners came to seek a practicable way to advance. The possibility of entrance into an environment that would support one’s efforts in bodhisattva practices emerged, and on the basis of the Pure Land sutras, the concepts of the bodhisattva path were recast to render a new understanding of the nature of practice. - D. Hirota, Stanford U

 

 

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For me, a pure land is what I experience when I have pure vision. If I am able to meet sounds, lights, and rays (all experiential phenomena) with a pure and perfect mind, I generate no karmic traces and occupy a pure land. All beings appear as deities and the surroundings as a perfected mandala. When I meet the world through samsaric vision, I experience the 6 realms and generate karma that keeps me on the wheel interminably. This teaching is from dzogchen. The pure land is here and now, always waiting patiently to be discovered in this very lifetime. It’s a very direct path. It’s a different teaching from Pure Land Buddhism itself.

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Before I can jump into the discussion, I need to do some research. What is the actual meaning or the origin of the term "pure land".

To begin with, I look here to get a general idea first:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Land_Buddhism

"Pure Land Buddhism (Chinese:¬†ś∑®ŚúüŚģó;¬†pinyin:¬†J√¨ngt«ĒzŇćng;¬†Korean:¬†ž†ēŪ܆žĘÖ;¬†RR:¬†Jeongto-jong) is a tradition which is primarily focused on achieving rebirth in a¬†Buddha's¬†"pure land" or¬†buddha-field¬†(Sanskrit:¬†buddhakŠĻ£etra), which generally speaking is a Buddha's field of influence.[6]¬†Some Buddha-fields are considered to be superior places to spiritually train for full¬†Buddhahood, since a Buddha has compassionately "purified" it for this purpose and since in these realms, one can meet a Buddha face to face and study under them.[6]¬†Since it is much easier to attain enlightenment in one of these buddha-fields (due to the¬†corrupt nature of our age), many Mahayana Buddhists strive to be reborn in such a place."

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Shambhala is known as the pure land, but Shambhala may be etheric rather than physical - hence difficult to find/approach by non-enlightened humans.

 

 

 

 

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I started off with pure land as my sole practice, and I still see it as very important. Here's my understanding of why.

 

Buddhists believe in rebirth. They say that to be born as a human being is like a one in a million chance. 

 

There is a story to illustrate that from the baladanpita sutta, of a blind turtle living at the bottom of the sea and surfacing for air every 100 years.

 

Meanwhile, there is wooden cattle-yoke waiting for it amongst the waves. The likelihood that the turtle pops its head through the hole in the cattle-yoke when surfacing is said to be greater than the likelihood of being reincarnated as a human.

 

So there is a very low probability of being born human. 

 

But there must be an infinitely smaller chance of being born with all your physical and mental faculties, in a healthy body and mind. To be born in a country where you're free from the suffering of grinding poverty. My teacher found some statistics, and the chances were so low as to be mind blowing.

 

Then the third layer - being born at a time when the dharma is being spread freely, rather than being jealously guarded in monasteries. And also encountering the dharma and a teacher with whom you have a connection - the possibility is just so minuscule.

 

The point therefore is to say that the opportunity to practice should be grasped with both hands. Practice like your hair is on fire and don't let up.

 

But it still might not be enough. The theravadans have an excellent map for awakening, called the five path model.

 

At the initial stage, it is called stream entry. One who has taken their first steps on the road to awakening. Once you pass this threshold, you will not be reborn in heaven or hell realms, but rather as a human. You will encounter the dharma in each of your subsequent lives and attain full arhatship and liberation from rebirth within seven lifetimes.

 

Some people reach the state of an anigami, or 'non-returner', which is one stage before an arhat. When you reach that level of realisation, in your next life, you will be reborn in the 'pure abodes'.

 

These are like heaven realms, created by buddhas. But they're more like celestial monasteries, or practice environments, than heavens within the three realms. That is to say, there is still the suffering of karma, but it is experienced in such a way that there is no chance of dropping down again into samsara.

 

The pure land tradition is based on several mahayana sutras. In them, it is recorded that Amitabha has vowed to grant rebirth in his own pure abode - sukavati - to those who believe in him and recite his name.

 

Sukavati is a special kind of pure abode, which has levels and degrees. It is said that no two inhabitants of the pure land experience it in the same way. Once you're reborn there, you won't descend to samsara, but will continue to practice until full enlightenment. This may take aeons, but it is assured.

 

In that way, the pure land tradition gained much favour among peasant classes in Asia over the past 1000 years. Those busy householders, or those too burdened by worldly responsibility to enter the monastic life. 

 

Interestingly, it is also used as an adjunct for practice in Chan buddhism, which is like Chinese Zen.

 

At the lower levels, it is treated as a safety net in practice. If you cannot achieve (the Chan equivalent of) stream entry in this life, and therefore guarantee enlightenment in your future lives, you will at least be reborn in Amitabha's pure land at death. 

 

That way, you will at least not fall further into samsara and become lost in future lives, only encountering the dharma again in a million lifetimes.

 

At a higher level, devotion practice is said to be incredibly useful in crossing the threshold into stream entry.

 

While your own power and drive can carry you most of the way, there comes a point where the ego cannot come with you anymore. A stepping out into the abyss.

 

There's an impasse, where the approach that has carried you so far, cannot take you any further. 

 

At this point it helps to have the concept of 'other power'. This is a huge part of Japanese pure land traditions, and describes the effect of surrendering your own ego power and being carried instead by the power of Amitabha's vow.

 

This is a fantastic bridge between the methods leaning up to stream entry and the letting go that must follow. 

 

So apologies for the long post. That's my understanding of the importance of pure land not only as a tradition by itself, but also as a supporting practice for meditators.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

I started off with pure land as my sole practice, and I still see it as very important. Here's my understanding of why.

 

Buddhists believe in rebirth. They say that to be born as a human being is like a one in a million chance. 

 

There is a story to illustrate that from the baladanpita sutta, of a blind turtle living at the bottom of the sea and surfacing for air every 100 years.

 

Meanwhile, there is wooden cattle-yoke waiting for it amongst the waves. The likelihood that the turtle pops its head through the hole in the cattle-yoke when surfacing is said to be greater than the likelihood of being reincarnated as a human.

 

So there is a very low probability of being born human. 

 

But there must be an infinitely smaller chance of being born with all your physical and mental faculties, in a healthy body and mind. To be born in a country where you're free from the suffering of grinding poverty. My teacher found some statistics, and the chances were so low as to be mind blowing.

 

Then the third layer - being born at a time when the dharma is being spread freely, rather than being jealously guarded in monasteries. And also encountering the dharma and a teacher with whom you have a connection - the possibility is just so minuscule.

 

The point therefore is to say that the opportunity to practice should be grasped with both hands. Practice like your hair is on fire and don't let up.

 

But it still might not be enough. The theravadans have an excellent map for awakening, called the five path model.

 

At the initial stage, it is called stream entry. One who has taken their first steps on the road to awakening. Once you pass this threshold, you will not be reborn in heaven or hell realms, but rather as a human. You will encounter the dharma in each of your subsequent lives and attain full arhatship and liberation from rebirth within seven lifetimes.

 

Some people reach the state of an anigami, or 'non-returner', which is one stage before an arhat. When you reach that level of realisation, in your next life, you will be reborn in the 'pure abodes'.

 

These are like heaven realms, created by buddhas. But they're more like celestial monasteries, or practice environments, than heavens within the three realms. That is to say, there is still the suffering of karma, but it is experienced in such a way that there is no chance of dropping down again into samsara.

 

The pure land tradition is based on several mahayana sutras. In them, it is recorded that Amitabha has vowed to grant rebirth in his own pure abode - sukavati - to those who believe in him and recite his name.

 

Sukavati is a special kind of pure abode, which has levels and degrees. It is said that no two inhabitants of the pure land experience it in the same way. Once you're reborn there, you won't descend to samsara, but will continue to practice until full enlightenment. This may take aeons, but it is assured.

 

In that way, the pure land tradition gained much favour among peasant classes in Asia over the past 1000 years. Those busy householders, or those too burdened by worldly responsibility to enter the monastic life. 

 

Interestingly, it is also used as an adjunct for practice in Chan buddhism, which is like Chinese Zen.

 

At the lower levels, it is treated as a safety net in practice. If you cannot achieve (the Chan equivalent of) stream entry in this life, and therefore guarantee enlightenment in your future lives, you will at least be reborn in Amitabha's pure land at death. 

 

That way, you will at least not fall further into samsara and become lost in future lives, only encountering the dharma again in a million lifetimes.

 

At a higher level, devotion practice is said to be incredibly useful in crossing the threshold into stream entry.

 

While your own power and drive can carry you most of the way, there comes a point where the ego cannot come with you anymore. A stepping out into the abyss.

 

There's an impasse, where the approach that has carried you so far, cannot take you any further. 

 

At this point it helps to have the concept of 'other power'. This is a huge part of Japanese pure land traditions, and describes the effect of surrendering your own ego power and being carried instead by the power of Amitabha's vow.

 

This is a fantastic bridge between the methods leaning up to stream entry and the letting go that must follow. 

 

So apologies for the long post. That's my understanding of the importance of pure land not only as a tradition by itself, but also as a supporting practice for meditators.

 

 

 

When I first came across the Pure Land tradition it was the first time I had come across a Buddhist practice that used faith so much, and I quite liked that.

 

I also very much like your interpretation of it ūüĎŹ

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I won't add anything to the descriptions of Pure Lands ideas above, but simply say that those that are drawn to Pure Land teachings should certainly practice them, but also mention that I have seen without doubt that enlightenment is entirely achievable in this life and this "world", without adding any destinations to the journey.

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On 2/9/2023 at 7:18 PM, Tianzun said:

I have been researching it a bit but I am not sure if i understand it. Is it a place you can go to if you die?

 

Yes

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Posted (edited)

The Pureland School is the dominant school in modern Buddhist cultivation , or at  least it  is the dominant way being practiced by millions of people who live in the  Chinese communities : China Mainland, HongKong ,Macao..etc ; a  school that has been  flourishing for thousand of years, starting from the Song dynasty .  Below are its way and  some characteristics  :


1) It tells¬† people to¬† just chanting the name of Buddha ( or name of a particular Buddha) in daily life¬† whenever they get the¬† time :¬† sitting , traveling , eating..etc , so that their mind can settle down and be consolidated into one ( ' Make use of¬† one idea to take the place of thousands of ideas ,worries and emotions ' )¬† ('šłÄŚŅĶšĽ£Ťź¨ŚŅĶ') .

 

2) People chant the name of Buddha and  it  is going to be heard ; due to the  mercy  of the Buddha , He will positively respond to them.  In that case, people's cultivation are going to be  endorsed and  their power enhanced ; it means , beside solely making use of their own power ,  cultivators can multiply the effect of  their cultivation  by  extra divine power;

 

3) So, it is a way easy and can be done by  ordinary people , even those illiterates;  it can also be the last outlet for  intellectuals who having been perplexed and misled by the huge and intricate system of Buddhism , at the end  after their  fruitless  lifetime efforts of  trying to grasp what it is  ,  when their eyesight are now poor, their backs crooked, their memory fainted ..,  they suddenly  find that there is  a simple way out..;  Quite a  sad fact is that no matter  where they start , from Tantric, Taoist , Zen 's.. , many  at their old age return to  the Pureland way .


4) It is  a last-minute rescue for people who are lying on their deathbeds . Minor that  it  may look ,   by chanting the name of Buddha when  they are struggling with their last breath ,  people can  enter the Buddhist heaven easier,  at least not falling  to the hell ;  of course they have to be in sane status  , not  in coma  or  suffered from the Alzheimer's Disease,  otherwise there is no way for them to do  it .

 

5) The Pureland way can also be a supplement , even enhancement,¬† if you cultivate it¬† together Zen¬† , which is called " Á¶™ŚáąťõôšŅģ " (Zen cum Pureland dual cultivation ) , a popular term you can always come across when reading online Chinese Buddhist materials . As it is¬† so powerful that people describe such a combination as¬† 'planting¬† a sharp horn on the head of a tiger ' ('Ťôé Ťßí ').¬† Below I would like to introduce you guys a simple formula for it¬† ( can be viewed as a transition of¬† Pureland way to Zen's )¬† :

 

śúČŚŅÉŚŅĶšĹõ¬† (' First deliberately¬† chanting the¬† Buddha's name for rescue ' )¬† =>¬† ¬†

 

ŚŅĶšĹõÁĄ°ŚŅɬ† ( ' then , having chanted it¬† millions times that¬† it is now a mindless chant ' )¬† =>


šĹõšłćÁĒ®ŚŅĶ ('at last ,¬† people find that it is in fact no need to chant or do anything ' )

 

Edited by exorcist_1699
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I find Pureland fascinating, both conceptually and it's rich history, but with anything that can't really be substantiated it always leaves me wondering but is it real? ūü§Ēūü§Ēūü§Ē

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