As mentionedbefore, the Pure Land Buddhist teachings have taken on a highlydistinctive shape in Japan, generating new determinations of the central canonical texts andmultiple strands of scholastic and commentarial tradition. It is inrelation to these latter developments that we can best speak of aspecifically “Japanese Pure Land Buddhist philosophy,” forthe creative construals of a practicable Buddhist path to transformedawareness involved, in the forces for their evolution and in thearticulation of their implications, deliberation on such matters as thenature of human existence, self and other, language, reality, andtruth. Further, the disparate streams of Japanese Pure Land thoughtstand as distinctive understandings, often employing their owncharacteristic terminology, of an already highly evolved Buddhisttradition, and a grasp of them often requires a recognition of thetensions between received tradition and reinterpretation that theymanifest.
Many entertain the false notion that if you worship (pooja) the divinities and pay them some respect, they would be highly pleased and help you in your spiritual effort. But it is not sufficient. Without virtue the gates of enlightenment do not open for you. You might have heard that with simple devotion (bhakti) one can please God and become liberated. It is a fallacious belief. You can practice true devotion to God (iswara pranidhana) only when your heart and mind are filled with the illumination of purity (sattva). Also, please do not assume that as a rule your guru will overlook your impurities and take care of your sins because he has taken particular liking for you and given you an approving look. Sometimes he may help people, for reasons completely beyond our grasp. But he would not encourage anyone to stray from the path. A guru looks for people who are sincere and pure and who are willing to go through the hardships to overcome their imperfections. He prefers them to the millions, who are caught in the web of worldly pursuits and go to a guru to assuage their fears and feelings of guilt.
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The Pure LandBuddhist path based on the working of Amida’s Vow is therefore aneffective means toward emancipation from birth-and-death and attainmentof Buddhahood—for Hōnen, the only viable way for people atpresent—and it can be practiced independently of any otherBuddhist teaching or method of praxis. While traditionally the nembutsupractice involved mental concentration and the accumulation of numerousrecitations, Hōnen taught that in the Pure Land path only thesimple saying of “Namu-amida-butsu” with complete trust wasinvolved. There was no specified manner of utterance, no necessity forany accompanying ritual or meditative endeavor, and no stipulation ofthe length of the period of practice or number of repetitions.
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For the Buddhists the problem resolves itself because Buddhist does not acknowledge the existence of permanence in any form at all, except perhaps as emptiness or void (sunya). For the Jains the world is permanently and existentially different because it is devoid of God but filled with countless individual souls in varying degrees of purity and impurity. In the following paragraphs we will step into the shoes of Vedantins and examine the essential nature of reality and existence in terms of non duality and duality.
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Two fundamentalelements of early Mahayana practice contributed significantly to thedevelopment of the Pure Land path. First, the animating force thatinitially gave rise to the Mahayana movement as a whole—thecritical reflection on obdurate self-attachment that attended evenreligious endeavor—was pursued to a culmination in Pure Landaspiration. Second, the Mahayana movement’s formulation ofgenuine practice as the career of the bodhisattva-practitioner providedthe principal framework and symbols for the articulation of Pure Landpractice. In particular, the stage in the bodhisattva’s progressof nonretrogression from perfect enlightenment, which was regarded asholding decisive significance, served to shape the Pure Land path bybecoming its goal.