Frank Herbert on Permanence and Impermanence

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Frank Herbert on Permanence and Impermanence

The assumption that humans exist within an essentially impermanent universe, taken as an operational precept, demands that the intellect become a totally aware balancing instrument. But the intellect cannot react thus without involving the entire organism … And thus it is with a society treated as organism. But here we encounter an old inertia. Societies move to the goading of ancient, reactive impulses. They demand permanence. Any attempt to display the universe of impermanence arouses rejection patterns, fear, anger, and despair.

-From Children of Dune

Frank Herbert on Bitter Harvests

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Frank Herbert on Bitter Harvests

How tempting it is to raise high walls and keep out change. Rot here in our own self-satisfied comfort. Enclosures of any kind are a fertile breeding ground for hatred of outsiders. That produces a bitter harvest.

From Chapterhouse Dune.

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Frank Herbert, on Atrocity

Atrocity is recognized by victim and perpetrator alike, by all who learn about it at whatever remove. Atrocity has no excuses, no mitigating argument. Atrocity never balances or rectifies the past. Atrocity merely arms the future for more atrocity. It is self-perpetuating upon itself- a barbarous form of incest. Whoever commits atrocity also commits those future atrocities thus bred. 

Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and families of all those whose lives have been unjustly terminated by atrocities committed by anyone for whatever reason. Violence begets violence. May it find neither place of entry nor place of harbor in our hearts.

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Harold Stewart on Faith

Faith has been repeatedly mentioned in these pages, and the reader may well ask what meaning this word has for Buddhism in general and for the Pure Land sects in particular. Faith is the conditio sine qua non not only for the spiritual quest but for accomplishment in any field of endeavour.

Read more of this extract from Harold Stewart’s, ‘By The Old Walls of Kyoto.’

 

Harold Stewart on Faith

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Ippen on Wholeness of Heart

Do not denounce the teachings followed by others;
With wholeness of heart give rise to compassion….

Do not manifest marks of anger and intolerance;
With wholeness of heart dwell firmly in humility’s insights….

Do not generate a mind that cherishes attachments;
With wholeness of heart contemplate the reality of impermanence….

With wholeness of heart aspire for the land of peace.

Ippen on Wholeness of Heart

The Pure Land Upaya as Ekayana

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It seems like we have at last covered enough ground to get right to the primary objective of this blog – to point to the precise reason why Jodoshinshu can be considered by Shinran Shonin to be the ne plus ultra of Ekayana Buddhism – Dharmic praxis par excellence.

Thomas Cleary, in the introduction to his translation of and commentary on the Carya Gita (the Tantric Poems of the Siddhas of old Bengal), mentions that Buddhism is a continuum:

In the first stage [purification], living is a form of responsibility; in the second stage [integration], living is a form of duty; in the third stage [re-creation], living is a form of artistry, encompassing responsibility and duty in creative devotion. Living in all its many aspects becomes a practical art of expressing a constructive relationship with absolute truth in the context of life. Tantra is the consummation of the wedding of absolute and relative knowledge, of insight and compassion.

He also writes that:

In the context of Tantric Buddhism, the principles of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism are personified as supernal beings … Those who only observe from outside, or those within [the] tradition who have forgotten what they are doing, may see or experience this kind of practice as a form of idolatry … From a unitarian pan-Buddhist [i.e. Ekayana] point of view, however, the differences are only external.

As we have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Jodoshinshu employs effort (remembrance / calling, nembutsu) to arrive at effortlessness (Sukhavati, Jodo, the Pure Land). In this it is very similar to Chan. The great Japanese Zen master, Dogen (a contemporary of Shinran who was also originally a Tendai monk), similarly employed effort (meditating / sitting, zazen) to arrive at effortlessness (Dhyana / Chan / Zen).

In his Genjōkōan (現成公案), Dogen has written:

To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.

In the Bendōwa (弁道話), Dogen indicates the rationale behind using effort to arrive at effortlessness:

Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way. In Buddhadharma, practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner’s wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice.

This is Adi-Yoga (Anuyoga / Atiyoga), the quintessence of all tantras, it is the heart of Dzogchen and Mahamudra, the root of Chan / Zen and the essence of Jìngtǔ / Jodoshu / Jodoshinshu.

Sakya Pandita has written of this same unity of effort and effortlessness, of the non-duality of practice and enlightenment:

If one understands this tradition properly,
Then the view of Atiyoga too
Is wisdom and not [merely] a vehicle.

The Guhyagarbhatantra describes how, in the creation stage (corresponding to the first stage mentioned by Cleary, above), one visualises a deity. This visualization or exteriorization is followed by a dissolving of the deity into oneself (this relates to the second stage mentioned by Cleary). This dissolving is followed by coming to rest in the natural state of innately luminous pure mind (which in turn corresponds to the third stage mentioned by Cleary).

All of which brings us back to that oft-mentioned quote from the Anjin-Ketsujo-Sho, on Amida and Practitioners as One Body:

With Pity, Amida fixes his attention on us so that his mind-and-heart penetrates as deep as the marrow of our bones and stays there. It is like a piece of charcoal that has caught fire. We cannot pluck the fire from the burning charcoal however much we try. The embracing light of his mind-and-heart shines on us right through to the core of our flesh and bones. Even though it is contaminated with the three poisons of greed, hatred and illusion and with every other defiling passion and anxiety, there is no region of our heart that is not saturated with the Buddha’s virtue. Thus the Buddha and sentient beings constitute one body from the beginning. This state of unity is called Namu Amida Butsu.

The crux of this matter, and indeed it is the crux of all Buddhadharma, is recorded succinctly in the Samyutta Nikaya:

I (the Buddha) crossed the flood only when I did not support myself or make any effort.

This cessation of effort and spontaneous arising of effortlessness is the naturalness (jinen) spoken of by Shinran.

For instance in Ichinen-tanen mon’i (Notes on Once-Calling and Many-Calling):

In entrusting ourselves to the Tathagata’s Primal Vow and saying the Name once, necessarily, without seeking it, we are made to receive the supreme virtues, and without knowing it, we acquire the great and vast benefit. This is dharmicness, by which one will immediately realize the various facets of enlightenment naturally. “Dharmicness” means not brought about in any way by the practicer’s calculation; from the very beginning one shares in the benefit that surpasses conception. It indicates the nature of jinen. “Dharmicness” expresses the natural working (jinen) in the life of the person who realizes shinjin and says the Name once.

Shinran discusses the stages mentioned above in the following terms:

Gyaku means to realize in the causal stage, and toku means to realize on reaching the resultant stage.

And:

Myo indicates the Name in the causal stage, and go indicates the Name in the resultant stage.

And also:

Ji means “of itself” – not through the practicer’s calculation. It signifies being made so. Nen means “to be made so” – it is not through the practicer’s calculation; it is through the working of the Tathagata’s Vow.

And yet again:

Jinen signifies being made so from the very beginning. Amida’s Vow is, from the very beginning, designed to bring each of us to entrust ourselves to it – saying Namu-amida-butsu – and to receive us into the Pure Land; none of this is through our calculation. Thus, there is no room for the practicer to be concerned about being good or bad. This is the meaning of jinen as I have been taught.

As the essential purport of the Vow, [Amida] vowed to bring us all to Supreme Buddhahood. The Supreme Buddha is formless, and because of being formless is called jinen. Buddha, when appearing with form, is not called Supreme Nirvana. In order to make it known that the Supreme Buddha is formless, the name Amida Buddha is expressly used; so I have been taught. Amida Buddha fulfills the purpose of making us know the significance of jinen.

Shinran Shonin also provides a caution against the danger of slipping back into effort after arriving at effortlessness:

After we have realized this [i.e. jinen-honi), we should not be forever talking about jinen. If we continuously discuss jinen, the no-working that is True-Working will again become a problem of working. It is a matter of inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

To cling to concepts of effortlessness, original enlightenment, and Buddha-Nature is still clinging and is thus a return to effort, adventitious delusion, and self-nature.

The Ekayana is the One Vehicle. The One Vehicle is the Buddha Vehicle. The Buddha Vehicle, properly understood, is no vehicle at all – rather it is inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

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Various Quotes Pertinent to 2016

“Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it.”

“Do actions agree with words? There’s your measure of reliability.”

“They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.”

“Warfare leaves a residue…that often leads inexorably to moral breakdown.”

“Clinging to any form of conservatism can be dangerous. Become too conservative and you are unprepared for surprises.”

 

All quotes from Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert.

 

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On Other Practices

It may be asked, ‘All good practices are virtuous, and each enables one to attain birth in the Pure Land. Why is it then that the teaching of the nembutsu alone is encouraged? In answer, I would say, ‘When I now encourage everyone to practice the nembutsu, I do not mean to set aside the various other good practices. What I mean to say is that the nembutsu is not difficult to perform for either man or woman, whether high-born or low-born, and no matter when, where and under what kind of karmic condition … no practice is more accessible than the nembutsu.’

Genshin’s Ōjōyōshū on Other Practices

Happy Bodhi Day!

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On this Bodhi Day, I would like to take the opportunity to remind myself that bodhi, the development of bodhicitta (the mind that aspires to enlightenment for the sake of all beings), is not just a thing for Buddhists. Indeed, in the world at this moment, the need for the development of bodhicitta is perhaps greater than it has ever been.

We, as Buddhists, have the bodhisattva vow to guide us … we understand that we simply cannot enjoy Nirvana while any one yet remains in Samsara.

As a reflection of that, those of us in America in this time when we are about to elect leaders and determine the direction this country will follow for the next four years, must take the bodhisattva vow with us into the voting booth.

If the American dream is prosperity, it cannot be simply prosperity for Americans, but prosperity for all. We simply cannot in good faith turn our backs on the true basis of that American dream proclaimed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Let us recall what one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin said:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Let us not let anger, xenophobia, and/or the desire for revenge determine how we vote.

Sealing our borders against those in need out of fear will not bring us security. Xenophobia and reactionary nationalism will only warp more minds, engender more resentment, and thus breed more terrorists. For, in the end, those who succumb to the ideology of terror are those who have lost all hope, who have been marginalized, disenfranchised and disrespected and in a state of despair have turned to those who abuse that state of despair to give them a new hope—false though it be—that what they desire can be taken through violence, when in fact it can only be given and received freely.

So on this Bodhi Day—and throughout the season of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Arba’een—let us be forgiving, charitable, welcoming and respectful of all. Let us mourn the dead and cease to commit further atrocities against the living. Violence begets violence.

What is more let us do this not out of mere sentimentalism, but out of the deep hearing of the Name that calls and the resultant realization that this is the minimum basis of harmonious society and balanced living.

Let Americans show the world that America is not just a name nor an empty dream of selfish prosperity for a few but a dream of peace on earth, goodwill toward men (and women) – all of them.