Surrender in Faith?

While this course is on Japanese Buddhism, a very interesting part of it is on the Pure Land tradition, established by Hōnen and Shinran, with an emphasis on surrendering ourselves to Faith or to union our hearts (is-shin) with Amida Buddha. The concept is strikingly similar to the Protestant Reformation in the West which emphasized justification by faith alone.

While I understand that this will eliminate the ego or pride in our spiritual practice, I really have a hard time doing nothing (or just praying) and wait for the "Fire" to be suddenly kindled in my heart, and with that, I stop all my sins and start to do compassionate acts. Wouldn't this eliminate the responsibilities of us, as an individual with free will, to be a good person at all? My inability to understand this probably was due to my lack of sufficient faith or enlightenment myself :)

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Morality and Capability

While the Pure Land was criticized as giving way to sin, Honen taught morality along with nembutsu.

In the case of capability, Shinran's point was that as we are ego-driven and calculating, all of our actions are lacking sincerity. Moreover, when you compare them with the good a Buddha or Bodhisattva can do, based on a mindstream purified over eons of practice, there is no comparison.
Thus there is no issue with negating free will, just an expectation that it won't get you to far.
You need the gift of faith from Amida.

Likewise in Christianity, we can all do good, follow the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament, follow the example set by Christ as outlined in the Gospels, take the advice of those like St. Paul, etc. but none of us will come to the father but by Christ.

Related to Bodhictta

Dear Kwang Hang,
Honen followed Shan-tao philosophy.
While Shan-tao inherited the tradition of Tan -luan.
The faith have to be related to Bodhicitta.

I found this interesting article in elibrary:
Chapter 7: Tan-luan
Tan-luan’s major teachings are to be found in his Wang-sheng lun chu:
There are two paths by which the Bodhisattva can search out the stage of non-regression, the path of difficult practice and the path of easy practice.

with metta,

parallels between religions

The more ancient Hinayana Buddhism does not include a revelation -although some documentaries incorrectly refer to it as such-, for Gautama Buddha came to awakening all by himself. Buddha explicitly disclaims his role as savior. As one might expect, later developments such as Mahayana introduced revelations of one form or another. Mahayana texts are explicitly linked to supernatural sources such as the celestial Buddhas, or mythical sources such as the Nagas (serpent-beings) that transmitted sacred texts to a series of sages.
Parallels continue: emphasis could be placed upon individual struggle towards salvation/enlightenment in relative isolation and withdrawal with no stakes neither in direct supernatural intervention, nor in allowances supernatural forces might make (Theravada/Protestantism). Emphasis could alternatively be placed upon group dynamics, social engagement and collective progress that irreversibly enmesh individuals as possible beneficiaries of a bounty of supernatural grace and intervention (Catholicism/Mahayana).
Only a limited number of people1 might receive Gautama Buddha's teaching at one particular moment (Hinayana/Christian gnosticism); or huge, at times limitless, crowds of both human and divine beings could be in attendance as one Buddha preached (Mahayana). Are those motifs too broad?
What about the great physician? Gautama Buddha in both Hinayana (Four Noble Truths) and Mahayana (for example the “wise physician” parable from the Lotus Sutra) is hailed as physician, but so is Jesus (Mark 2:17; Luke 4:23).
Finally, according to Mahayana Nichiren Buddhism, Gautama Buddha is hailed as the eternal savior of the world, just as Jesus is, whereas the founder Nichiren is hailed as Buddha's earthly messenger, just as Mohamed is.

The Jesus Sutras (VII to XI century) expound a mixture of Nestorian Christian, Confucian, Daoist, Mahayana Buddhist doctrines in Chinese milieus. The Nestorian Stele (781 CE) celebrates the alleged establishment of Christianity all over China under the name of “the luminous religion of the Roman Empire”. Readers may notice the fire/solar connection (=light), which was also present in the Amitabha Buddha religion, and earlier still in the characterization of Gautama Buddha (=”the lion (=solar symbol) of the Shakya clan”) and Jesus (“the lion of Judah” or “the chief corner stone”). Zoroastrian gods also have luminous faces that mortals cannot bear to behold. Gods and Saints the world over – and by extension powerful rulers- were often portrayed with a halo around their heads: the luminous face. The Jewish apocryphal Book Of Enoch (III-I century BCE) also details Enoch's ascension to heaven. With god's favor, Enoch became like one of the angels, and his face so bright he couldn't behold it. At the dawn of civilization, Hindu Rig Veda (XV century BCE or older) also claims brilliance and luminosity to be attributes of the gods who naturally shine like gold.

A phenomenon similar to Jesus being removed from the bulk of scriptural baggage -and related practices and austerities- in born-again/evangelical Christianity coalesced in earlier ages in Buddhism. Amitabha Buddha (Buddha of immeasurable radiance, whom some connect with pre-existing sun/fire worship1) Amitabha Buddha (Buddha of immeasurable radiance, whom some connect with pre-existing sun/fire worship1), and Pure Land Mahayana Buddhism appeared around the II century CE.

Both Luther (the inventor of European Protestantism) and Shinran (XII-XIII century Japanese Buddhist monk) thought faith alone could save man. Shinran -like Luther- broke existing traditions and started a lineage of married, meat-eating Buddhist monks devoted to Amitabha Buddha: the True Pure Land Sect (Jodo Shinshu). Shinran's legacy survives in the Monshu, or the founder's lineage still present to this day.

In a Buddhist story, Mattakundali is the young son of a wealthy yet stingy miser. Abandoned to die alone when he's ill, Mattakundali (in this version) beholds the Buddha who's passing by; putting all his faith in the Buddha, he's reborn in heaven.

Is either of these theologies right, wrong or in-between? Did Christian elements influence Mahayana? Did Theravada elements influence Christianity? Both? Neither? Aren't those circularly recurring approaches rather the reflection of human mind's ghosts and circular proclivities that -indeed- have remained the same across regimes, ages and continents?

For what is worth.