This is out of context, but it contains some points that others might find interesting or might like to comment further upon thus enriching the conversation.

Correspondent: I never asked myself the question why fundamentalism exists.  You are right, it isn't just Christianity... It seems to arise everywhere.  I intuit that it has something to do with fear, possibly fear of death— some variant of the bargaining with God that can happen during grave illness or other life threatening situations.  A need to exert control in a world where none actually exists.  A desperate need for control can easily lead to violence.

Ah, interesting.  If this is the case then PureLand, as you conceive it, is the antithesis of Puritanism or fundamentalism in that it insists on acknowledging the fear, the lack of control, the foolishness right up front.  It doesn't need to be pushed into the subconscious where it can wreak havoc. There are rituals but they are performed as acts of love, without terrible worry about getting them wrong.  It is such a different thing performing ritual as an act of love.  

Which begs the questions of whether aspects of daily life, other activities, even lovemaking can be regarded or entered into as ‘ritual’, a kind of sacrament, an act of worship.  

Something about Puritanism seems like the diametric opposite of love.  

Love and fear as polar opposites—more fundamental perhaps than love and hate.  Dig under hate and I suspect you will find fear...

An rather big area to explore around life and death and fear and what it is to be human on this tiny planet hurtling through an infinitely mysterious universe.


Dharmavidya: I’d like to make some points about definitions. One of my hobby horses is the danger of losing important linguistic distinctions through the process of popularisation. Many old words need to be recovered and restored to their proper meanings or we lose the ability to talk about things with due care.

Fundamentalism, puritanism and dogmatism, for instance, only equate in common usage. In the strict meaning of the terms all three have their separate positive aspects. Fundamentalism should mean adhering to what is fundamentally true rather than being superficial. Puritanism should mean being purified of inessential elements so as to concentrate on the one thing that matters. Dogmatism should mean staying close to the original message rather than temporising in order to accommodate popular prejudice. Dogmatics strictly speaking stands in contrast to apologetics. Preaching is a matter of creating a bridge between where the audience is and where the source of the teaching is. If you start from the audience end, that is apologetics. If you start from the source, that is dogmatics.

The point about whether everything in life could be considered to be a sacrament is very interesting and throws some light on the material about Dogen that I am translating and commenting on. In a certain sense all of life is ritual. The question is how you do it and how you regard it. Some ways bring out the spirit, some don't.

Going back to 'puritanism', I have found through my frequent travels back and forth east-west that the West seems much more moralistic than the East. We in the West are much more concerned about being justified which I supposed comes from the 'fear of God'. In the East, being personally justified is often regarded as a lost or hopeless cause. You try to fit in and do your duty, but humility is required because (a) you will never fully succeed and (b) the world isn't constructed to make it really possible anyway. In the history of the West it was often a life and death and then a salvation/damnation issue whether one had been righteous or not. But in reality, nobody really is, so what is really required is not punitive coercion, but fellow-feeling and sympathy.

Hence, in the East, there is more emphasis - as in Confucius - upon right performance than upon saving one’s soul. This has pros and cons, just as all philosophies do. It does, however, mean that all of life is a ritual. Much modern Western social thinking has been an attempt to get away from ritual. We are all much less formal than we used to be. I hardly ever wear a tie these days whereas when I was young one had to do so for many occasions. However, this does not mean that ritual has gone away - more that it has changed its form. Correct dress is now ‘casual’ in many situations where it used to be ‘formal’ but this is still ‘correct form’ in a new context. Much about modern life is like that - a kind of self-deception in which we pretend to be liberated but are really just as conformist and caged as before.

Sometimes it seems that we just pour the same wine from bottle to bottle and pretend that it is new.

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Running a Course in Korea and Elsewhere

Posted by David Brazier on August 3, 2018 at 1:40 2 Comments

I am currently leading courses on Buddhist psychology here in Seoul, Korea, but as I am putting the course onto this site as we go along, members of La Ville au Roi (Eleusis) are also responding so it is a bit as though the course is going on in several countries at the same time which is nice.

Varlam Shalamov

Posted by Geeta Chari on July 16, 2018 at 0:00 1 Comment

From The Paris Review:

For fifteen years the writer Varlam Shalamov was imprisoned in the Gulag for participating in “counter-revolutionary Trotskyist activities.” He endured six of those years enslaved in the gold mines of Kolyma, one of the coldest and most hostile places on earth. While he was awaiting sentencing, one of his short stories was…

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The Buddha, Season 1, Episode 1

Posted by Geeta Chari on June 29, 2018 at 9:21 1 Comment

I have been watching The Buddha on Netflix, and although I came well-prepared to scoff, there is a surprising amount of food for thought from a Pureland perspective. What follows is a review of the Pureland touches in the episode, coloured inevitably by my upbringing in India, although I have now lived in Britain for more than half my life.

The scene opens in the republic of Kapilavastu, depicted as a green and pleasant land, with the Himalayan mountains as a backdrop. (I was…

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Nembutsu Question

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2018 at 8:22 1 Comment

I found this in a book that I'm reading. It has challenged my current "understanding" of the Nembutsu. I tend to think of the name itself as salvation and the bridge to the Pure Land...

"...Nembutsu is not a means to gain salvation but a reflection of it. Shinran acknowledges there is nembutsu without true entrusting because he lived in an environment where nembutsu was recited for benefits and merit. By itself it cannot produce true entrusting. Nevertheless, they are inseparable as…

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