I'm an older male, actually a grandfather, and a Western convert to Buddhism. I came to Buddhism through meditation and interest in 60's mysticism - Alan Watts, D T Suzuki and the like. I read many books and for many years maintained a regular daily sitting practice, which has rather fallen by the wayside of late. But I think the meditation side of Buddhism was very important to me, I'm naturally drawn to mysticism and feel I intuitively understand it, even though most people think it's just nonsense.

I discovered a Pureland (Jodo Shinshu) sangha in my neighborhood about mid last year. I have gone to the service regularly since then. Actually the Venerable is very pleased to have a new convert as it seems to me converts are very few and far between. I very much like the Teacher and the aesthetics of the liturgy and ceremonies, albeit much is in Japanese (although some teachings are always given in English too.)

It seems to me that if you accept this path, though, you basically give up Buddhism as a kind of D-I-Y path to enlightenment. Pureland is very critical of meditation, which is 'self-power' and doomed to fail - 'only one in a million' can follow the 'path of sages'. Basically part of the message is, don't do it. A recent dharma talk made an explicit point of this.

The thing that drew me to Pureland is that I know I am not a virtuous sage, but just a flawed human with bad habits and problematical behaviours. I actually do believe there is a life beyond (and a life previous) and that I have allowed myself to become corrupted by the culture into which I've been born.

But the obstacle I have with Jodo Shinshu is that in this sense it's very like the Christian religion that I thought I had left - it requires unswerving faith, but you will never know, this side of death, whether the Western paradise is a reality and not simply a cherished belief. It was exactly that which caused me to leave Christianity. One of the reasons I chose to study Buddhism in the first place was that one could arrive at a higher understanding through meditation, even though I have since found out I have an indelible tendency to sabotage my own aspirational goals.

Accordingly, the notion that we're bombu, spiritually inept individuals who can never succeed under their own power, definitely rings true. So it's a bit of a quandary at this point. I have a small Buddhist altar which is my practice place, I have been endeavouring to practice with a Sōtō Zen type of attitude. I feel as though I should continue to make the effort to sit zazen. Not because I will succeed through it, but 'sitting just to sit', as I've always done.

It's not so much a question, as the need to discuss some of this with other practitioners and get their perspectives.

  • 1
    What purpose can wisdom serve if it's not used for this very same life, right here-&-now? If you don't save yourself from suffering and dissatisfaction, can someone else do it for you? Feb 17, 2020 at 7:11
  • One of the most detailed explanations I've read on this site about Pure Land doctrine was in this answer (and so I recommend that). Maybe that will make sense to you, or maybe you'll have another question about that perspective.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 17, 2020 at 13:08
  • That is indeed a great answer ChrisW.
    – wayfarer
    Feb 18, 2020 at 9:43
  • I don't know if you like grammar, there's something called perfect (etymologically "completely made", maybe "already finished"), which is more formal in some languages than others, but more-or-less exists in English too. Anyway Methexis' answer saying, "already-having-been-saved", reminded me of that type of "perfect". That "knowledge of the accomplishment" shows up in the Pali SN 56.11 too, incidentally.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 18, 2020 at 10:44
  • There is something to that, that I've felt for a long time. It's that the whole aim of practice is to awaken gratitude for what has already been given, not to act from a sense of lack or need.
    – wayfarer
    Feb 19, 2020 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


I was a minister's assistant in Jodo Shinshu. Traditionally Jodo/Jodo Shinshu did not teach meditation as it is commonly understood, relying instead on faith in tariki (other power). But practices like sutra chanting and monpo (deep listening) can be thought of as a form of meditation. So it is not meditation that they frown on, but using the Nembutsu as a form of meditation.

It is good to realize that you are a flawed person. The three requirements for rebirth in Sukhavati is (1) belief in Amida Buddha, (2) understanding that you need Amida Buddha, (3) desire for his pureland. Note that these terms are not explained. I think understanding comes with maturity. But the main thing is faith in tariki. This faith may seem similar to Christianity, but that similarity is just on the surface.

I used to be Catholic, but had difficulty believing in atonement through blood. It made no sense for a loving god to be brutal. The very first time I encountered the nembutsu I had a vision of great light. So, I have never doubted Amida. I practice monpo as a form listening to Amida. I practice nembutsu to take refuge and give gratitude. Namu Amida Butsu


Dont pay so much attention to vocabulary and linguistic labels just do. The invitation that begins with « better not to start. once started better to finish » Is the invitation worth accepting. I urge u to follow this thing whatever it is that u are describing. Keep it up no matter how impossible it seems to be the one being in a sea of a million sentient beings. Also PS u will never find ascetics in a monastery only Bhukuni and Bhiku....where does one go to find an ascetic i wonder? Youre quote made me laugh « higher understanding » what is understood remains the same but the one who understands makes it higher or lower. Cant get to where you are going without meeting one or two obstacles!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .