Most of the books I have read really don't cover the Pure Land segment. There is a local Pure Land group and I was wondering if they (Pure Land Buddhists in general) teach and practice jhana as part of the path to awakening?
Pure Land practice survived only in the Chinese lineage, for only the Chinese Canon has the totality of the Twelve Sections of the Sutras. The other lesser lineage has only one section of the Sutra (Sutta) with large portion missing, could be due to their lack of writing media relied only on oral memorizing. Example, Madhyama Āgama [Wikipedia has most of the articles on Buddhist topics written by Theravadin sympathizers with distorted accounts or misleading narrations] has 222 Sutras but the counterpart Pāli Majjhima Nikāya kept barely 152 Suttas. The Twelve Sections of Sutras such arrangement of all the Buddha's teachings were recorded in the Vinaya(s) recounting the historical event of the 500 Arhats collecting the Sutras:
- Mahisasakas Pratimoksa
迦葉即問阿難言。佛在何處說增一經。在何處說增十經大因緣經僧祇陀經沙門果經梵動經 (Do these Sutras exist in the Pali Canon?? Anyone without bias knows the correct answer)。何等經因比丘說。何等經因比丘尼優婆塞優婆夷諸天子天女說。阿難皆隨佛說而答... 名雜阿含。此是從一法增至十一法。今集為一部名增一阿含。自餘雜說今集為一部。名為雜藏。合名為修多羅藏 (Sutra Treasure)。我等已集法竟。
(A Vinaya existed in Ceylon belonged to Mahīśāsaka School, collected by Faxian (337-422CE). However, it's so unfortunate we found none this Vinaya existed in the Theravada Pali Canon, who self-claimed the oldest tradition or of the "Early School" - how does it relate to the old Sthavira apart from holding a name that meant "elder"?)
- Sarvāstivāda Vinaya
三轉十二分法輪行 (Three turning of the Twelve Dharma Wheels)... 得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提。(The Twelve Dharma Wheels are the Twelve Sections of the Sutras, with Prajna Paramita as the 2nd Wheel, which reconfirmed if one read the Prajna Paramita Sutra in it said as the 2nd Wheel)
- Dharmaguptaka Pratimoksa
大迦葉即問阿難言。梵動經在何處說。增一在何處說。增十在何處說... 如是生經本經善因緣經。方等經 (方等: Vaipulya, meant deep deep very profound teachings = Mahayana teachings, survived only in the Chinese Canon, one of the Twelve Sections) 未曾有經譬喻經。優婆提舍經句義經。法句經... 集為阿毘曇藏 (Collected as Abidharmas Treasure)... 時即集為三藏 (at that time there collected Three Treasures (Tripitaka))。
Tibetan Buddhism has practice based on Amitabha, and very high level of visualization meditation related to Amitabha (very few got such knowledge) - correct me if I missed something.
All cultivation the fruition must come through some form of Dhyana (Pali: Jhana), even dealing Koan the mind must be in a state of Dhyana so that the clarity of mind be obtained to see beyond the conceptual contriving.
Therefore the real Pure Land practice is a Dhyana practice, in short. However, I cannot know what you saw of that local group, since most of the real Buddhist practices are done in the wrong way the meanings are lost these days.
Pure Land the practice method is generally called 念佛 (Niànfó, Japanese: Nembutsu). The real meaning of this character 念, is remembering, or recollecting, even with a sense of missing (missing like missing someone dear to you, here the dear one is Buddha Amitabha, in simplicity). This remembering most common expression is by chanting the name. Chanting can be a loud chanting, or chanting for your own self to hear, or chanting in your heart silently. By this very method, the practitioner's thoughts (fetters) are abandoned, focusing only on ONE thought, that is Amitabha. He should chant and hear his own chant, he should "lose" himself, the chanter and chanting becomes one... This the most effective for modern man to achieve Dhyana, since human faculty in general is in declining cycle from the Buddha's time. Of course there are exceptions.
More sophisticated practice is related to visualization meditation, taught in Amitāyurdhyāna-sūtra, of 16 scenes. Each of these scenes has profound effect, and meaning.
A related post is here. There are more important Sutras related to Pure Land, also the higher meanings, however it seems here to keep this simple is just right. Often time, Ch'an (Japanese: Zen) may incorporate Pure Land, or vice versa.
Who is Amitabha? For modern man who incapable of relating to immaterialistic existence this can be explaint neatly with modernized materialistic etymology, same as Avalokiteshvara, or Manjushri...
It seems to be clear that Pureland practice focuses nearly exclusively on Jhana and refined becoming while teaching in regard of wisdom, incl. the explaining of Jhana and becoming seems to be merely total absent. Isn't the main aim, or general objected aim there a becoming in a refined sphere of being in the Immaterial World and joy in concentration their main focus?
Of cause, my person is not really into those spheres of undertakings by the Westernland-seeker and those being, dwelling there.
Maybe an answer: "No, just, merely uninstructed and not noted/know, practiced" might be proper.
[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]