The Pure Land teachings
The teachings of Pure Land Buddhism is a FAITH PATH teachings, which may also include doing Good Deeds. There are three paths in religion: Faith, Good deeds, and Wisdom. This branch of Buddhism very much resembles the American Protestant Church systems (Adventist, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and more).
Pure Land is NOT the path that the Buddha taught, rather it is a veneration of The Path and the teachings itself!
Pure Land Philosophy
In a nutshell, the Pure Land philosophy and beliefs says that Enlightenment and The Path to Buddhahood IS NOT POSSIBLE IN THIS WORLD (This Existence)
And, though the praying to Amida (Amitābha) Buddha, one will be reborn into the Pure Land where one can achieve enlightenment and join with The Buddha!
Pure Land Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhism in the world, with hundreds of millions of devotees. All it takes is belief, and doing what they ask of you; and then you are in!
Pure Land has been around for hundreds of years, and the churches have fractured, reformed, then fractured again and again; creating uncountable variations of Pure Land churches all over Asia, the Far-East, and now in the West.
In Korea and Taiwan, Pure Land Buddhism has Mega Churches that rival even the largest Christian Mega Church in the USA.
Off-shoots and derivations
There comes charismatic personalities that inject their own ideas and twist into the Pure Land movement and end up creating an offshoot or derived branch of Pure Land Buddhism. Often these charismatic preachers claim divine blessings or knowledge and inspire people with salvation if only they come and listen to their words and do what they say. Such examples are: Nichiren (Soka Gakkai), Ching Hai (Supreme Master), and most recently from China is Falun Gong.
These people and their practices are noted to be DANGEROUS
For example; Ching Hai teaches to fast on nothing but air, not to eat or drink water for days, and Falun Gong teaches to not seek medical help or take medication but to pray to the founder for healing.
The Pure Land method
All Pure Land schools can be clearly recognized though the following characteristics:
- A faith. Believe and “trust the plan” style of teachings,
- A mantra. A phrase recited over and over in a religious fervor (devotional),
- Prostrations: bowing, gestures, rituals, postures or precise movements,
- Code of ethics. Behavior rules that the membership must follow
The Pure Land and Zen
Pure Land and Zen are very different teachings, using different holy books (Sutras) and different religious practices. It is about as different as Catholic is to Baptism!
They may share some of the same holy figures, a few passages in some sutras, and perhaps similar in some cultural styles – BUT ARE FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT!
Kwan Um School of Zen
Kwan Um is a Korean Pure Land sectarian teaching founded in 1972 by Seung Sahn. Look up his history on Wikipedia!
Kwan Um is “Zen Like” in that that engages in Serene Meditation and the members dress up like Japanese Zen Monks, HOWEVER, it is a Pure Land sect at its philosophical core and shares very little with The Path of Zen or any of the Original Buddha’s Teachings. Yes, Kwan Um is Zen in-name-only. Kwan Um has blemished history, their centers rife with sexual abuse, financial misconduct, and accused of using destructive cult tactics. (Wikipedia)
Confusion and delusions
There are endless branches, and branches within branches, of the Great Tree of Buddhahood (Bodhi Tree)
The Path of Zen is not a branch rather is is the sap, the life blood of the tree, from the deep roots to the main trunk, the branches, leaves and fruits.It is our challenge as Seekers of Buddhahood, to not be distracted, tempted or seduced by any particular branch, leaf or fruit that we may encounter. Those things themselves often see themselves as the entire Bodhi Tree complete, but fail to see the sap and very life energies flowing through the branch that they see as the Bodhi Tree.
Muddied and wet mess
All seekers get muddy and wet. That is part of learning, growing and gaining wisdom.
I myself have ventured down many of these Bodhi tree branches, only to keep finding the core cosmic sap, that runs through all branches.
For when you see the Bodhi Tree sap, and understand the nature of it, it is a transcending moment where you see the ENTIRE TREE itself, and even transcend the tree. It is Spiritual Liberation, it is being clean and dry.