SHIN AND ZEN INTEGRATED PRACTICE

ZEN & PURE LAND: A COMPARISION
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Due to the differences between Zen Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism as well as those between Orthodox Pure Land Buddhism and Shin (Reformed) Pure Land Buddhism, some confusion and misinterpretation is bound to occur.  The following are simplified charts comparing these paths in general terms. 

The intent is to help clear up any confusion which may occur, particularly when trying to understand the integrated practice of  Zen and Shin.  The charts may also help to clarify the important differences between Pure Land Buddhism as it originally evolved in China and Vietnam and the style of Pure Land Buddhism which developed in Japan.  For additional information please refer to the Shin Buddhism page.

The below charts were adapted with permission   from the original author, Ven. Shih Ying-Fa, Abbot
Cloud Water Zendo, the Zen Center of Cleveland.

Similarities between Zen & Orthodox Pure Land

 

 

Zen

Orthodox Pure Land

Major Emphasis

Developing the eye of Wisdom.

Abiding in the Heart of Compassion.

Personal Turning Point

Raising the Great Doubt.

The experience of Faith.

Major Practices

T'so-Ch'an (J. Zazen),  Kung-An (J. Koan), Silent Illumination (J. Shikan-taza) Hua-T'ou, Walking Practice, Chanting Practice.

Meditation (recitation, visualization etc.), Sutra Reading, Veneration, Transference of Merit.

Elements of Faith

Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Ancestors, Teachers.

Amida's Vows.

The Name

Types of Vows

To save all sentient beings, to end delusions, to master the teachings, to follow the Way and to abide by the Precepts.

To be reborn into the Pure Land, to save all sentient beings, to see Amida Buddha at the moment of death and to abide by the Precepts.

Object of Meditative Concentration

One's own true nature.

Amida Buddha.

 

Similarities between Zen Shin/Orthodox Pure Land

 

Zen

Shin/Orthodox Pure Land

Refines Wisdom.

Opens the Compassionate Heart and cultivates Entrusting Faith (Shinjin in Shin Buddhism).

The direct realization of Emptiness and the aspiration for Enlightenment allows true Compassion to grow.

Realization of oneness with Boundless Compassion (Amida). Opens the Mind of Faith and Wisdom and the aspiration for rebirth in the Pure Land.

Focuses concentration, calming the agitated mind.

Let's go of the selfish ego.    Calms the agitated mind, fostering mindfulness & concentration.

*In Shin Pure Land: we are empowered by Other Power (Amida) to practice the Five Precepts.

*In Orthodox Buddhism: through our will-power, we try to practice the Five Precepts.

 

Differences Between Orthodox & Shin Pure Land

 

Orthodox

Shin (Reformed)

A cooperative and dualistic relationship exists between the practitioner and Amida Buddha; the practitioner tries to become one with the Purified or Buddha Mind.

A person totally relies on the Primal Vow (the Will fo Life) of Amida Buddha; Enlightenment is not dependent in any way on one's own efforts.

Our salvation has already be secured many aeon's ago; we just need to awakened ourselves to that reality.

Our salvation is not ensured yet. There are a number of practices, including countless and self-powered recitation of  the Name; The reciting of the Buddha's Name is a means to Salvation.  Also, other sundry practices are necessary, such as,  the visualization of the Amida and his Pure Land, sutra reading and chanting, etc.

Our salvation is already ensured. Through  the practices of deeply hearing  (monpo) the Call of Buddha and entrusting completely in her Primal Vow, the practicer is necessarily awakened by Amida. As a result, the selfless  and intuitive voicing of  the Name (nembutsu) is the sign of salvation and not its means. Therefore, the nembutsu is not considered a our practice but the Great Practice of Amida.

Based on the triad of Faith, the Vow for Rebirth and Practice.

Based solely on the experience of True Entrusting Faith in Amida Buddha's Primal Vow.

Other Worldly Oriented: The Pure Land is considered to be Amida 's created realm of Rebirth where the conditions for practice are perfect. It is considered to be in the West but also existing everywhere. After death, the faithful practitiioner is reborn in the Pure Land in order to cultivate (free of  hindrances) the Enlightened Mind and afterwards he or she will assuredly experience and stay in Nirvana.  Therefore the Pure Land is just a spiritual way station.

Here and Now Oriented: The Pure Land is considered to be Amida Buddha's Enlightened Realm existing in the very here and now (the Eternal Now); it can only be experienced in this lifetime through Entrusting Faith (Shinjin).  Waiting after death is too late.

The Pure Land is another word for Nirvana. It  is made manifest by the accomplished  Primal Vow  of Amida. After death, the practicer is reborn in the Pure Land/Nirvana, and returns to this suffering world to save all beings. Therefore the Pure Land is a metaphor for ultimate reality. 

 

 

 

"In Zen, the practice is to "Zazen"...to quietly sit...just sit. In Shin Pure Land, the practice is "Mompo"...to deeply listen...just deeply listen. To open our hearts and minds and truly hear the Buddha Dharma."
 
                                              Rev. Bob Oshita 

 
 
Copyright 2008. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.