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I would like to pose a question to practitioners of the various diverse sects of Pure Land Buddhism and to those substantially knowledgable of the writings of Pure Land masters.

There exists the notion that Pure Land style buddhānusmṛti, namely invoking the name of Amitābha in the interest of entrance into Sukhāvatī, absolves practitioners from moral obligations and removes morality from the Buddhadharma. I do not agree with this notion, but it does exist, and this in spite of the obvious and apparent reality that Pure Land practitioners are not any more immoral than any other group of people.

Some Pure Land masters are popularly quoted as saying that even the unrepentant and evil gain access to Sukhāvatī via niànfó in this very life in which they are criminals or evil men. Does anyone have any context to offer for this and how it impacts morality in the dispensation of these masters, who clearly did not advocate for immoral behaviour?

Where does morality and virtue sit contextualized within the Dharma in niànfó-centric practices of Pure Land schools, wherein salvation is potentially available to all through niànfó alone?

Thank you all for your time.

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I will provide a hint to your question grossly, since I'm running out of time. Provided chance, I shall attend to this question if needed.

Some Pure Land masters are popularly quoted as saying that even the unrepentant and evil gain access to Sukhāvatī via niànfó in this very life in which they are criminals or evil men.

If you understood the Pureland doctrines thoroughly, you should learn that there are 9 grades for entering Sukhāvatī, called 九品蓮花 (Nine Platforms of the Lotus [transportation vehicles?!]): best, better, good x 3 = 9). The lowest of these 9, i.e., the good of the good (下品下生), is that when a practitioner who's committed incl. the Five Grave Sins (五逆罪) such as killing the parent, by the time of dying is able to remember/ think of (憶念) Amitābha he will be born in Sukhāvatī. However, the Lotus Platform that carried him takes 12 Great Kalpas to open, i.e., he will arrive in Sukhāvatī after 1612800 million years(?) [161.28 亿年]. The Best of the Best takes a blink of eyes. The criteria must be met is that he should be able to remember/ think of Amitabha - top importance; he repents/laments his wrong deed (懺悔) though he couldn't mend it; he himself has the full confidence of being able to be born in Sukhāvatī.

If any teacher just stating that Niànfó is the one-fix-all, without explaining the above, he is misleading and that's why Pureland to outsiders, even insiders, are sometimes criticized rigorously. I knew there is one very popular and famous Pureland School's Bhikkhu living in Singapore migrated from Mainland China who's teaching an abridged version of the doctrine [his own doctrine?]. He is also called into question by Buddhists of if his meeting the qualification of being ordained as a Bhikkhu because in one occasion in defending himself he revealed that he was born incompetent (黃門), this video with his voice is circulating in the internet. I hope you are not the students following his teaching ;).

If you want to learn properly, I suggest you read the original Classical Chinese 《佛說無量壽經》 《佛說觀無量壽經》, 《佛說阿彌陀經》 is translated by Kumarajiva; or letters of 印光大師. They are not that hard to read, if you know Chinese.

enter image description hereAlso, for Pureland practice, Niànfó is just one of the many methods. Such as above Sutras, it is in fact in it recorded the visualization method, the 《佛說觀無量壽經》 there are in total 16 visualizations one of it is visualizing the setting sun as described in the Sutra.

But the sad thing is, practitioners just follow the teachers, and the methods reduced to one single Niànfó, it is not sure the teachers if they studied the Sutras, or just busy writing articles giving talks to invoke more audiences to recognize their names/fames. No one care to learn from the original Sutras, from directly the Buddha himself.

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  • "If any teacher just stating that Niànfó is the one-fix-all, without explaining the above, he is misleading and that's why Pureland to outsiders, even insiders, are sometimes criticized rigorously." ---Thank you for the context. I suspected such was the case. It is just like in other schools of Buddhism, where people bandy about the discourse of "Everyone is already a Buddha" without context, and then are criticized. – Caoimhghin Apr 26 '17 at 17:25
  • Agree. Whilst "upāya" being rendered the same meaning referring to, sorry, "toilet". I recommend learning from directly the Sutras in this last period of the Dharma time, instead of from anyone or anywhere 2nd handed. By Sutras I mean Chinese Classical the original, not English translated. Not sure about Japanese since I don't read, but avoid the modern works, especially after 1800AD. It started to get corrupted since the Western world enforcing their seize with means penetrating into the cultural-intellectual, not just material resources. – Mishu 米殊 Apr 27 '17 at 13:07
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    "By Sutras I mean Chinese Classical the original, not English translated." <-- that is what I am trying to do, but it is no easy task! A lot of people also do not know that the Classical Chinese versions of many sutras is actually older and more reliable than the Sanskrit, because the Sanskrit versions are usually "back-translations" (i.e. translated from Chinese into Sanskrit). Its all very interesting. – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 17:20
  • Sanskrit versions are usually "back-translations"... for this i'm dealing with the Heart Sutra... it really got me so upset those stupid writings of scholars – Mishu 米殊 Dec 23 '17 at 18:05
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Nianfo "Mindfulness of the Buddha", is a skillful means utilizing the chanting of the name of Amitabha to reach the Pure Land of Supreme Bliss. The Pure Land is of course the blissful clarity of Jhana/ Chan/ Zen. Chanting is a powerful effective way to utilize Right Effort, to enter Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, while speaking Right Speech, especially when one focus one's mind on a sacred object of meditation such as the Buddha. There are criminals and even murderers who were able to experience blissful meditative states after being placed in intensive meditation programs.

"Some Pure Land masters are popularly quoted as saying that even the unrepentant and evil gain access to Sukhāvatī via niànfó in this very life in which they are criminals or evil men. "

In essence, we can enter the Pure Land in this very life, provided we practice Buddhism with discipline, for example by single mindedly chanting the name of the Buddha and purifying one's mind in the process. Even Angulimala, the serial killer from the time of the Buddha, became an Arahant. Of course this does not absolve us of our personal moral responsibility, but we will enter the stream of the Dharma.

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