95.   Pure Land Sect (XI) - Pure Land Buddhism and other sects

95.   Pure Land Buddhism and other Sects

After Buddhism was introduced into China, five main schools or sects have been developed, namely, The Buddhism [v], Teaching Buddhism [], Vinaya Buddhism [], Esoteric Buddhism [K] and Pure Land Buddhism [b].

Actually, Shakyamuni Buddha did not establish or intend to establish these schools. Even the names of the schools are not mentioned in the Buddhist canon. These teachings evolved to accommodate varying characteristics and temperaments of all people. The disciples of the great masters of each school transmitted these teachings generation after generation.

Among the five schools, The Buddhism represents 'a special transmission outside the scripture', which is characterized by Chan sect. Its emphasis is on meditation practice, or Dhyana in Sanskrit, or Chan in Chinese, through which one points directly to one's mind, sees one's own nature and realizes Buddhahood.

Teaching Buddhism refer to many sects, such as Tien Tai, Hua Yen, San Lun, Fa Hsiang, etc. It takes an intellectual approach to interpret and understand the basic concepts and principles of Buddhism before attempting to practice or cultivate in the attainment of Buddhahood.

In the Vinaya Buddhism, emphasis is on the observation and holding the precepts, which is said by Shakyamuni Buddha before his death , as the 'master' or the 'teacher' of all Buddhists. One should control one's temper and behavior in all actions, and proceed gradually to calm or pacify one's mind, so that serenity is developed and spiritual wisdom is attained.

The Esoteric Buddhism refers to Tantric or Mantric Buddhism, which emphasize the practice of invocation of Mantras, manipulation of Mudras, Mandalas and other Tantric means through the Three Mysteries of body, mouth and mind.

The practices of the four schools are usually difficult for the beginners, while Pure Land Buddhism is the simplest and the most direct way of practices for all people with different capacities and levels (or roots). The purpose of Pure Land Buddhism is to realize enlightenment and singleness of thought in mind. One single thought may pervade all Ten Dharma Realms. All periods of time, both the past and future, cannot be dissociated from the present instant, and the worlds and universes, just like numerous atoms and molecules not separating from one another by a hair's breadth. The practice of Buddha recitation will lead to the singleness of mind


95.1   Pure Land Buddhism and Vinaya [ߩv]

As Shakyamuni Buddha taught, if one only talks about Buddha remembrance and rebirth in the Pure Land, but does not hold to the necessary discipline or sever the defilements- while constantly having defiles thoughts and evil mind he can never attain the Way. Maintaining disciplines and moral conducts is fundamental in the correct practice of Buddha remembrance, and is the pre-requisite of the rebirth in the Pure Land.

As stated in Amitabha Sutra, " means of small good works [lit. roots] or virtues no one can be born in that country.", one should have great merits and virtues, such as upholding the Five Percepts and practicing Ten Wholesome Deeds, etc. in order to be born in Pure Land.

95.2   Pure Land Buddhism and Mere Consciousness [ѩv]

The practice of Buddha Recitation prevents the Alaya Consciousness from further contamination, and is the process of purification of the Alaya Consciousness. Pure Karma is the proper cause of Pure Land, which is the manifestation of compassion and wisdom. If one has a conscious mind to be born in heaven, one in one's Pure Land Buddhism is a wonderful Dharma.

For further details, please refer to next chapter "Mind-only Pure Land".


95.3   Pure Land Buddhism and Hua Yen [Yv]

The principal text of Hua Yen sect is the Flower Ornament Sutra or Avatamsaka Sutra. In the Sutra, a youth Sudanna traveled and visited 53 virtuous teachers or Good Spiritual Advisors. The first one he met, the monk Cloud of Virtue, introduced him the salvation of Dharma of Buddha recitation, the very important Dharma of Pure Land. From there, Sundana continued his visits until he paid visits to all 53 teachers, the last of whom was the great Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Samantabhadra, respected to be the first patriarch of Pure Land Buddhism, taught him to attain Wonderful Enlightenment by turning towards the Western Pure Land and beholding Amitabha Buddha to receive a prediction of Buddhahood. The finale of the Avatamsaka Sutra expounds the Dharma of Pure Land.

Even the supreme vehicle of Hua Yen (Avatamsaka), which encompasses the entire Dharma realm, promotes Buddha remembrance. The Bodhisattvas of the Ten Stages, even those who have already attained Enlightenment, still practice Buddha remembrance

Although the Sutra expounds the Avatamsaka Realm, which contains inconceivable Buddha-worlds, many Pure Land devotees would like to be reborn in Sukhavati as it is a short route to enlightenment and attainment of Buddhahood.


95.4   Pure Land Buddhism and Tien Tai [ѥxv]

The principal text of Tien Tai is the Lotus Sutra or Dharma Flower Sutra, i.e. Saddhamapundarika Sutra, which is said to be the King of all Sutras. Comparing the following extracts from Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra,

As quoted in Amitabha Sutra, "Shariputra, if there be a good man or a good woman, who, on hearing of Buddha Amitayus, keeps his name (in mind) with thoughts undisturbed for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, or seven days, that person, when about to die, (will see) Amitayus Buddha accompanied by his holy host appear before him; and immediately after his death, he with his mind undisturbed can be born into the Sukhavati land of Buddha Amitayus. Shariputra, as I witness this benefit, I say these words; Every being who listens to this preaching ought to offer up prayer with the desire to be born into that country."

As quoted in Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra, 'Anecdotes of Bodhisattva Bhaisajyyaraja', "Anyone who hears this Sutra and practices accordingly, when this present life ends, will go to the Western Pure Land, with Amitabha Buddha and the great Bodhisattvas surrounding the dwelling place, to be reborn on the precious seat in a lotus blossom."

The similarity of these two passages is apparent.

The essence of teaching of Tien Tai sect is Real Mark of all Dharmas, which covers the entire Buddhist teachings, including all phenomena, its natures, its motives and functions, its causes and effects, its beginning and eternity, etc. It is particularly suitable for the Buddhist devotees who are not interested in abstract concepts, since they can manage to study and understand the Real Mark concepts in somewhat scientific ways.

Pure Land Buddhism emphasizes the faith and practice, not many abstract concepts and theories involved. The Pure Land devotees are required to cultivate in this Saha world of Five Turbidities, the Real Mark of their retribution land. When they are reborn in Pure Land in Western Paradise or Sukhavati, it is also the Real Mark of their retribution land, where the beings continue to cultivate. In the practice of Buddha Recitation, the original nature, the original vows, the methods of practices, the cause and effect, its beginning and eternity are clearly and specifically explained. If one comments that too many scriptures are involved in Tien Tai sect, one can limit them to the three main Sutras of Pure Land Buddhism, as they also cover the teachings of the Five Periods and Eight Teachings classified by Tien Tai sect.


95.5   Pure Land Buddhism and Tantrism [Kv]

The Pure Land practice of reciting the Buddha-name bears a familiar resemblance to the chanting of Mantras that plays a major role in esoteric Buddhism. As the Pure Land master Chu Hung [觻] said, "Reciting the Buddha-name is equivalent to upholding a Mantra. After you have gained the power by reciting the Buddha-name, you will be able to face objects with equanimity."

Actually, 'Namo Amitabha Buddha' is a Mantra with all Sanskrit words. 'Namo' means homage, 'Amitabha' means infinite light, infinite life. 'Buddha' means the enlightened one. The whole Mantra is very powerful one, as it is stated in one of the Mahayana Sutras that each single recitation of the Buddha's name can destroy evil accumulated through cycles of birth and death during countless Kalpas.


95.6   Pure Land Buddhism and Chan [Iv]

Both Pure Land Buddhism and Chan Buddhism are considered to be 'practical' schools because they set aside more theoretical concepts, and stress on practice. Buddhahood is the ultimate goal of both Pure Land and Chan. However, the two schools approach it from different directions. In Chan, awakening to the Way (Great Awakening) is the first major step. In Pure Land, that first step is one-pointedness of mind, leading to the rebirth in the Pure Land. In both cases, further cultivation is necessary for the attainment of Ultimate Enlightenment and Buddhahood the goal of Buddhism.

Moreover, Pure Land Buddhism is a religion of faith seeking the rebirth in Pure Land in reliance of the other-power (the vow of Amitabha Buddha), while Chan Buddhism is the practice in a process of meditations in order to attain perfect and complete enlightenment by one's own effort. It seems that reciting Buddha as practiced in Pure Land Buddhism and meditating as practiced in Chan Buddhism are contradictory.

Furthermore, to practice Chan, one is required to stop the thought process, whereas to recite the Buddha's name, one has to concentrate on thoughts. The former is to rein one's mind by practicing Chan, while the latter is to still one's mind by Buddha remembrance by reciting Buddha's name.

The attainment of Samadhi by Chan (Dhyana) meditation and by Buddha Recitation are basically the same. In practicing Chan, due to the effect of previous Karmic power, one may come across different kinds of evil illusions, which obstruct and disturb the practitioner in the right path. In reciting the Buddha's name, no such adverse and side effect will come because due to the will power of the Amitabha Buddha, (1) the effect of Buddha recitation can mitigate the Karmic influence and (2) the practitioner can be reborn in Pure Land without eradicating his previous Karma.

Some people believe in Pure Land, but practice Chan hoping to attain enlightenment, as they think that there is no need for rebirth in Pure Land or to see Amitabha Buddha. Some of them may claim that Pure Land is merely one's own mind, and Amitabha Buddha is one's own nature. Some of them may regard Pure Land being not truly existent, as Pure Land is just an expedient means for ordinary people. It seems to be confusing.

First of all, one has to understand that Pure Land is just mind, but it does not imply that there is no Pure Land. Similarly, Amitabha Buddha is one's own nature, but it does not mean that there is no Amitabha Buddha, thus no need to seek rebirth.

Anyone who practices Chan but cannot rein in his mind may engage in Buddha recitation to still his mind. The Pure Mind is the enlightened mind. In this respect, Buddha recitation is Chan, and vice versa.

By Buddha recitation, one can change impure thoughts to pure thoughts, by using one 'poison' (pure thought of Buddha's name) to 'substitute' or purify the other poisons (impure and delusive thoughts).