Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A question and answer on samsaric realms and the Pure Land


Question:
If the Pure Land actually exists as real place, that means that the hellish realms and other samsaric places exist literally as well - as a result of our collective karma, as you said in your book. So I would like to know your thoughts about this: if the Pure Land is not symbolic and exists in a specific place (like to the west), does that mean that places such as hells also exist literally in specific places outside of our minds? 

Answer:
Yes, the hells exist specifically as places outside of our minds, too, but they exist because of the minds of those who have a hellish karma. The realm we are living in now exists outside of our minds too, because, as we see, we have these bodies, we have mountains, oceans, forests, etc, I can look to you and you can look to me (there is nothing mythological or symbolic or fictional in this), but in the same time, it exists because of our minds and our karma. My mind, your mind, plus all the other minds of human beings and their karma are the causes for such a human place to exist. The mind streams of beings need their vehicles, and so the worlds and bodies come into existence due to the individual and collective karma of various mind-streams.


In the hell realms there are also mountains, glaciers, and various mind-streams (beings) who have their own vehicles or bodies – the hell dweller bodies. Those people are born into an environment and with bodies which have the cause in their own hellish karma, just like human beings are born into an environment and with bodies who have the cause in their karma which resonates with the human plane of existence.

The nature we see around us is the product or the effect of our karma as humans, while the nature and environment the hell dwellers see is the effect of their karma. Both are real as karmic connections and karmic effects. But while in our human realm we also share the existence with other beings in animal form, which also have their own karma, in hell the so called hell guardians who punish the hell dwellers, even if they are real, they are not in fact, self-existing beings or self-existing mind-streams. Those guardians and punishers and even the terrifying beasts are themselves the manifestation of the karma of those born in hell. So while they are real and they exist in those places, they do not have a self existence. They are part of the environment, so to speak, and they really exist as part of that karmic realm, just like our forests and mountains exists as part of our human karmic realm. The pain the hell dweller experience is also not symbolic, but true and real, just like if I now cut your finger, you will really experience pain :)

You have to understand that ALL manifestations, from the hells to the Pure Land come into existence due to causes and conditions. If you have a karma so evil that you deserve to be born into hell, you will be born there, if you have the karma to be born as human you will be born as a human, and so on… In the same way that unenlightened beings karmically manifest unenlightened realms with various pains and obstacles, a Buddha manifests an Enlightened Realm. If in the first case, the manifestations in unenlightened realms are conducive to more attachments and delusions, in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha there are enlightened manifestations and enlightened forms.

In the Larger Sutra, Shakyamuni said that, for example, the birds of the Pure Land are not the result, like in our realm, of an unenlightened karma, but are manifested by Amida Buddha. If in the hell, various birds and terrifying beasts prey on the hell dwellers because those birds and beasts are the effect of the karma of hell dwellers, in the Pure Land the various birds sing Dharma music and speak about Nirvanic truths, because they are manifested from Amida’s Enlightenment. Both animals (those of hell and the Pure Land) are real, but they exist due to different causes. The beasts from hell have the cause in an unenlightened karma (the karma of hell dwellers), while the second have their cause in Amida’s Enlightenment, and in Dharmakara’s Vows which were brought to fulfillment when He became Amida Buddha.

The fact that Enlightened forms have their basis in ultimate reality beyond form, it does  not mean they do not exist. People often confuse things and think that because of ultimate reality beyond form, the manifestation in Form is not in fact a real existence. But as you read in my book when I explained T’an-luan theory of the Two Bodies, the Dharmakaya of Dharma nature manifests as Dharmakaya of Compassionate means. Both exists and they “are different, but inseparable; they are one but not the same”. Every Enlightened form of the Pure Land has the ultimate reality beyond form in it, just like a hell being too, has the Buddha nature in him, but he does not realizes it and so, he continues to manifest an evil environment and suffer in it. A person who realizes his ultimate Buddha nature, he will also manifest forms, just he will no longer be bound to any form. He will be free of forms, but He (as a Buddha) will continue to manifest forms.

As the Mahayana saying goes, “Emptiness (ultimate reality beyond forms) is  phenomena, phenomena is emptiness”. This means that from ultimate reality beyond form (emptiness) different phenomena or forms appear due to different causes (“emptiness is phenomena”) and that phenomena have the reality beyond form as their true nature (“phenomena is emptiness”). 

A grave heresy is that which is called, “attachment to emptiness” or “nihilistic voidness” in which it is included the denial of the Pure Land because of emptiness or ultimate reality beyond form. In fact, the Ultimate Reality beyond form and unenlightened and enlightened phenomena exist in the same time. Due to evil karma, unenlightened realms exists, while due to Enlightened karma, the Pure Land exist. The first are created by the deeds and thoughts of the unenlightened beings, while the Pure Land has been created by the 48 vows and practices of Bodhisattva Dharmakara who attained perfect Enlightenment. Because of His Enlightenment and access to Ultimate Reality beyond form as the condition, and His Vows and practices as the cause, the Pure Land came into existence. In the same way, because of the ultimate reality as the condition and unenlightened/evil karma as the cause, the phenomena which we call hell, human realms, or gods realms, etc, came into existence.

I hope these explanations can help. Please remember that we talk here about things we’ll know better when we will be born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas ourselves.

Only for Buddhas the hell realms are like non-existent, because they are awake and they do not have the karma to sleep and suffer in the samsaric dream, but for unenlightened beings, the hell and other samsaric realms are real and they exist as forms manifested by their unenlightened karma. A Buddha cannot manifest evil or unenlightened realms because He is Awake and Enlightened, so He can only manifest a Pure Land while He can also go (as a Free Enlightened Person) to all worlds manifested by the collective karma of various beings and preach the Dharma to them there, or do various actions to help them. Both unenlightened beings and Buddhas are surrounded by forms and manifest forms, the first due to their ignorance, while the second due to their Perfect Wisdom and Compassion.


More on this topic in my new book, 


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