I’d like to say something about the relationship between Zen and Pureland – Pureland and Zen. Often Zen and Pureland are presented more or less as opposites:
Zen is presented as self-power and Pureland as other-power.
Zen is rigorous and disciplined and Pureland is about emotions and is presented as the “easy path”.
Dogen, one of the founders of Zen in Japan, took his disciples off to remote mountains, where they would be away from society, undistracted in their dedicated practice.
Honen, the propagator of Pureland taught and practiced in the suburbs of the capital, where everybody could come, politicians, ordinary folks, the whole works.
Zen which, perhaps ironically, has the principle of achieving a realization beyond words, has a wonderful and extensive literature and so many books – so wonderful to study.
Pureland, on the other hand, has considerably less books and makes a point of 6 syllables being all you need.
So, there’s clearly a big difference here, and one has the impression of Zen as a discipline for monks and Pureland as a practice for lay people. Of course, all these are stereotypes and stereotypes are only partially true. In actual fact, Zen and Pureland are kind of complementary. My teacher used to say: “It’s like a tunnel. If you go in at the Pureland end, you’ll come out at the Zen end, and if you go in at the Zen end, you’ll come out at the Pureland end.” It’s just two different ways of viewing the Dharma, two different sides to the richness of the Dharma.
Zen can give a degree of rigour to the practice; and this is, of course, also found in Pureland in extensive, lengthy chanting retreats, but Zen has it down to a fine art. At the same time, Pureland can give colour and depth of feeling to the Dharma; and this can be something that is a great addition, if you are a Zen practitioner.
So, I am disinclined to think of them as in opposition to one another. I have practised both and for me they are simply two different dimensions of the same thing, of the same Dharma, of the message of Shakyamuni Buddha which has come down to us through so many ages and experiences. There is a place for retreating to the mountains and having some intense practice; and there is a place for putting that practice to good use in the midst of our social life. Goodness knows the world needs it enough.
I hope that all the schools of Buddhism can work together, complement one another, add something to one another. When I first encountered Buddhism, it was in Cambridge when I was about 20, and we would have a teacher from a different school of Buddhism every week. This was a tremendous richness, a great benefit. It was a wonderful thing. So, I am happy to give lectures and talks and lead teachings and so on in Zen groups, in Pureland groups, in Tibetan groups, in Theravada groups – in whatever groups. It is all Dharma. It is all the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha; and the fact that this group or that group comes at it from a slightly different way, slightly different angle, this is of very little importance. We can all learn from one another and we can share in this great richness of the Dharma which transcends all differences. That, after all, is one of the major things that the Dharma is all about: to overcome the animosity that is in the world, that causes so much grief.
Let’s all be friends together.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much
QUOTATION FROM THE LARGER PURE LAND SUTRA
Long life is rare,
And rare it is too, a Buddha to meet,
And how difficult it is indeed for humans to have wise faith.
If you hear of this path, follow with all speed.
Hear the Dharma, keep it in mind.
Revere it, rejoice and mend.
Resolved on this Way, following this Way,
We shall be such friends.