I’ve been reading other Buddhist books lately too. For example, I’ve been re-reading a book by the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, called Finding Our True Home. I read this book years ago and didn’t like it that much but lately I’ve reading it again to see if my opinion has changed.
I found a couple interesting quotations here:
The teachings of the Buddha are beautiful and wonderful, because they can bring happiness right at the beginning of the practice. When we begin to practice breathing in to calm ourselves and breathing out with a smile, when we take steps in a leisurely and relaxed way, we already have happiness. There is no reason why we should have to wait a number of years to be happy….That is why the lotus bud from the Pure Land of Amitabha can arise at any time on the form of a smile, in a breath, or in a step. We can help the bud grow and to open. We do not have to wait for the future. (Pg. 45)
I have heard many people say it is difficult to practice meditation but Pure Land is easy. It is a kind of meditation practice. If Pure Land practice does not include meditation practice, then it is just an investment in the future. If Pure Land includes meditation practice, then the Pure Land is available right now and the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism are very close to the spirit of the original teachings of the Buddha. (Pg. 46)
Thich Nhat Hanh specifically mentions four sutras from early Buddhism:
- Anapanasati Sutta – The Sutra on the Mindfulness of Breathing
- Satipatthana Sutta – The Sutra on the Foundations of Mindfulness
- Alagaddupama Sutta – The Sutra on The Water-Snake Simile
- Theranama Sutra – “The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone”
I still feel really ambivalent about this book, years later: what Thich Nhat Hanh says makes a lot of sense and I did read all 4 of these sutras and his understanding of the Pure Land does really seem to fit the Buddha’s teachings. In that sense, the book is brilliant.
But a part of me still wants to believe that the Pure Land is a real place and a real refuge, apart from this world of struggling and strife.
Interestingly, Thich Nhat Hanh addresses that too:
Usually, in the beginning of our practice, the object of our desire and our veneration lies outside of us. The object could be God, Jesus, the Buddha, the Pure Land, or the Kingdom of God. In the beginning when we see that the object of our veneration lies outside of us, what is here and now has no real meaning. We see what is present now as suffering, subject to disintegration and fading away and leading to grief….Human psychology is like that; often we start with the thought that we are not worth anything and so we need to go in search of something that is outside ourselves. We do not know that everything outside of ourselves also arises from our mind. (pg 42)
Again, this makes a lot of sense, but I still have my doubts. So, I’m still reading this, and other Pure Land books at the moment. I hope to post more soon.