Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Which teachers are actually worth listening to?

-revised and updated 05 01 2010-
This is a response by Paul Roberts, posted on true shinbuddhism yahoo group, to someone who asked for names of nowadays authors and teachers that he recommends. Of course, it is related to the modern divergences from Shinshu teaching, a topic that will always be given the necessary attention and space on this blog.

If you are going to read Shin writings from people other than our Dharma masters, here's what you need to find out:
Are they people of the same Dharma views of our Dharma masters, or are they people of different views?
It's really that simple.

The most significant divergences you will find in much the current literature are these:

Divergence #1: The Larger Sutra of Amida Buddha is not a reliable document.

Master Shinran says it is, and that it is a record of the most important teaching that Shakyamuni ever gave, and the reason He came into the world.

Divergence #2: Dharmakara was not a real being, but rather is a "story" - a fable of some sort, with a symbolic meaning.

Master Shinran, Master Rennyo and all the Pure Land Masters accepted that Dharmakara was a real being, even though he existed in his pre-Buddha state ages before the earth was even created.

Divergence #3: Amida is not a real Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha, all the Pure Land Masters, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo all bear witness to the fact that Amida is, indeed, a real Buddha - in fact, the GREATEST of all the Buddhas.

Divergence #4: The Pure Land is not a real place, but only a state of consciousness.

Once again, Shakyamuni Buddha, all the Pure Land Masters, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo all bear witness to the fact that the Pure Land is, indeed, a real place. Beyond that, in the Larger Sutra we see
Amida Himself reveal the Pure Land to everyone listening to Shakyamuni Buddha's sermon at Vulture Peak.

There are many modernist teachers who propagate some, or all, of these ideas. They have a large presence in the English speaking Jodo Shinshu community, both online and in various other media.

Here is a brief list of some of the more well known modernist teachers:

* Alfred Bloom
* Nobuo Haneda
* Takamaro Shigaraki
* Kenneth Tanaka
* Taitetsu Unno
* Jeff Wilson

If you decide to read their writings - or the writings of others who endorse/follow them - you will see for yourself that they express the divergences exactly as I have described above. Often they will use language that is beautiful, drawing from a wide range of philosophical ideas that have become popular in our modern culture.

But the Dharma is not a beauty contest, or a popularity contest either. The only question that is important is: Whose ideas are actually TRUE? Which teachers are actually worth listening to, if you want to come to the end of suffering, and the beginning of Buddhahood, at the end of this lifetime?

It is a question that no one can answer for another. Each of us must decide for ourselves:

- Are the Dharma teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Seven Pure Land Masters, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo true? Is Amida a real Buddha of reward body (transcendental form)? Is the Pure Land a real place?

- Or are the teachings of the modernists true: That Amida is not a real Buddha, and the Pure Land is not a real place.

Of course, empirical verification, the proof method of science, is useless here. You cannot use the tools of science to investigate the truth content of transcendental teaching.

So ultimately, each and every sentient being who is privileged to hear the Dharma, and comes to understand it, must finally listen deeply INSIDE -listening to the Buddha within - to investigate the truth content of any teaching, and the value of any teacher.

When I first began investigating Shin Buddhism for myself, I wasn't aware of any of these divergences in Dharma views. When I began to connect with other Shin Buddhists online, I didn't find anyone who could explain the divergences to me - and encourage me to stick with what our Dharma masters teach, and ignore other teachings.

Eight years later, because of the power of the internet, the situation is very different. There are multiple teachers - whether clerics, scholars or laypeople - who are aware of these divergences and speaking out concerning them.

And thanks to the internet, you don't have to take anyone's word for anything. You can easily do your own research, and validate for yourself that my description of the modernists and their divergences is accurate - just like my description of what our Dharma masters teach is also accurate.

So - if you are going to read the writings of some teacher, please figure out whether he (or she) is teaching the same things as our Dharma masters, or something different.  Once you know who is saying what, you can make a GOOD decision about who to listen to, and who to ignore.

Now let me finish up by explaining just how EASY it really is to figure out for yourself what is Dharma truth, and what is falsehood. All you have to do is LISTEN DEEPLY.

Here's how to do that:

FIRST - You must "empty your cup".  Knowing that you are a foolish ignorant person whose own small store of small thoughts is worth nothing, you must lay them all aside TEMPORARILY.  Whatever you think the truth is - about life, the universe and everything - just let it all go, for now.  As an act of basic humility, just empty your cup, so the Buddha can pour you some of His tea.

SECOND - You must understand the CONTENT of Master Shinran's Dharma message.  It's not hard at all.  He, and Master Rennyo, taught it to countless people who were uneducated, and even illiterate.  If they can understand it, so can you.

THIRD - After you have both heard and understood the content, you must go inside.  Ask the Buddha within, IS THIS TRUE?  Is it true that Amida is a real Buddha of reward body, as Master Shinran teaches?  Is it true that the Pure Land is a real place, a place revealed to Ananda and all those sitting in Shakyamuni Buddha's presence that day on Vulture Peak, as described in the Larger Sutra?

FOURTH - After you have asked the Buddha within, you must WAIT PATIENTLY for an answer, with your cup empty - until the Buddha within fills it.  You may hear a still, small voice - or you may simply get an intuitive sense of what is truly TRUE.  Once again, it is an act of humility to wait in this fashion.  Only those who know that their own BONBU minds are useless when it comes to investigating ultimate reality will actually do this.

I promise you that if only you will LISTEN DEEPLY, you will hear exactly what Master Shinran heard - what Yuien-Bo heard, what Master Rennyo heard - and what countless thousands have heard over the centuries.  You will hear for yourself - from the Buddha within – that Amida Buddha is not only a real Buddha, but THE GREATEST of the Buddhas.    You will hear for yourself that, just like our Dharma masters teach, that all the other Buddhas in the sentient universe praise and worship Him, as with one voice.  And you will hear that the Pure Land is indeed a real place - a place that once did not exist, and came into existence as the great work of Amida Buddha in his pre-Buddha state, as the Bodhisattva Dharmakara.

And if you keep LISTENING DEEPLY to the Dharma of Master Shinran, you will hear that it is the will of Amida that you too would entrust yourself and your karmic destiny ENTIRELY to Him - so that you may take birth in His Pure Land as soon as this life is over – and IMMEDIATELY experience transformation into Buddhahood.

In sum - if only you will do the singular practice of LISTENING DEEPLY to the Dharma - you will be able to confirm for yourself that the words of our Dharma masters are TRUE, and (conversely) the words of those who disagree with our Dharma masters is FALSE.

You will not be able to entrust yourself FULLY to Amida Buddha unless and until you actually do this work of listening deeply, and confirming the TRUTH for yourself?

Why?  Because the pristine Dharma of Master Shinran defies our "common sense" on so many levels.  It is natural that, upon encountering it, you have questions and/or doubts in your mindstream.  In order to become a person of SHINJIN, you must answer all your questions, and resolve all your doubts.

A good teacher can help you do that.  But it is your responsibility, as well as your privilege, to actually take the words of a good teacher, and (once again) VERIFY them for yourself by listening deeply within.

Once you have verified the teaching, and answered ALL your questions and resolved ALL your doubts, you will find it the easiest thing in the world to entrust yourself FULLY to Amida Buddha, and come to the blessed state of settle SHINJIN.


Paul Roberts


related article: - why we say that those who deny the existence of Amida don't have shinjin-

4 comentarii:

Anonymous said...

Very useful and important information. Thank you for sharing.

Matthew253 said...

Alfred Bloom and Kenneth Tanaka are on Eiken Kobai's friends list on Facebook. Kobai Sensei is also a fan of Kiyozawa Manshi on Facebook as well. Why do you condemn others as having false faith who Kobai Sensei happens to like himself?

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

I am not a judge, and I do condemn anybody. I simply state the facts and showed the proofs that those teachers are false teachers and they do not teach the true Amida Dharma. In my teaching activities I do not rely on personal views, but on the Amida Dharma. Those like Bloom and others are mixing the Dharma with personal views which were not shared by the Masters of Jodo Shinshu and they contradict the sutras, so they are false teachers. It is as simple as that. If Kobai Sensei choses, for his own reasons, to be "friend" with them on Facebook, that is Kobai Sensei's own business, not mine. I myself chose not to have any contacts with such people.
If you do not like my style of teaching the Amida Dharma, I reccomend you to simply change the channel and stop reading this website.

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

PS: Again if Kobai choses to be a "fan" of Manshi on the same social network that is again his personal choice. I do not copy the behavior of anybody, no matter who he or she is. I do not care even if Go Monshu sama is a fan of Manshi on Facebook :) Manshi was a false teacher and I explained why in the article, "False statement of Kiyozawa Manshi"

PS: as far as I know, many click "like" on some facebook pages not because thet are fans of them but simply because they want to receive updates with the activities of those pages. I know some people who do this in order to simply stay informed. Thus, clicking "like" does not always mean endorsement. But anyway, again, the fact that Kobai Sensei is a fan on Manshi on Facebook does not make me change what I said about him.