Buddhist Syncretism
Chan/Pure Land ~ Self Power/Other Power

Shandao (613-681): The Parable of the White Path

To the Land of Bliss
0:00-12:15 / 17:30-19:00 / 28:30-30:00

Before Hsu-tung moved to China’s most famous Pure Land temple, he had been the abbot of Tamaopeng Hermitage, the most renowned Zen temple in the Chungnan Mountains. I asked him about the difference between Zen and Pure Land practice.
Hsu-tung: In Zen, we keep asking who’s chanting the name of the Buddha. All we think about is where the name of the Buddha is coming from. We keep asking, until we find out who we were before we were born. This is Zen. We sit with one mind. And if the mind runs off somewhere, we follow it wherever it goes, until the mind finally becomes quiet, until there’s no Zen to Zen, no question to question, until we reach the stage where we question without questioning and without questioning we keep questioning. We keep questioning, until we finally find an answer, until delusions come to an end, until we can swallow the world, all its rivers and mountains, everything, but the world can’t swallow us, until we can ride the tiger, but the tiger can’t ride us, until we find out who we really are. This is Zen.

In Pure Land practice, we just chant the name of the Buddha, nothing more. We chant with the mind. We chant without making a sound, and yet the sound is perfectly clear. And when we hear the sound, the chant begins again. It goes around and around. The chant doesn’t stop, and the mind doesn’t move. The sound arises, we hear the sound, but our mind doesn’t move. And when our mind doesn’t move, delusions disappear. And once they’re gone, the one mind chants. The result is the same as Zen. Zen means no distinctions. Actually, Pure Land practice includes Zen, and Zen practice includes Pure Land practice. If you don’t practice both, you become one-sided. (R2H: 95)
Fo Guang Shan ... is an international Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order based in the Republic of China (Taiwan), and one of the largest Buddhist organizations. ... Founded in 1967 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the order promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a modern Chinese Buddhist thought developed through the 20th Century and made popular by this and other modern Chinese Buddhist orders. Humanistic Buddhism aims to make Buddhism relevant in the world and in people’s lives and hearts. While Hsing Yun is a Dharma heir in the Linji Chan (Chinese: 臨濟宗; pinyin: Línjìzong) school, his stated position within Fo Guang Shan is that it is an “amalgam of all Eight Schools of Chinese Buddhism” (八宗兼弘), including but not limited to Chan. In this sense, it is a monastic order, and not a doctrinal school of thought per se. This is the case for much of Chinese Buddhism, as the lineage of the founder or Abbot does not necessarily dictate the thought or practices of members of the monastery. (Wikipedia: Fo Guang Shan)
We arrived at Master Yang’s room on the east wing [of Pahsienkung Taoist temple]. ... Master Yang had been meditating, and he didn’t bother to uncross his legs. ... I asked him about cultivating the Tao. ...
Q: What difference do you see between Buddhism and Taoism in terms of practice?
Yang: Buddhists and Taoists walk the same path. They just dream different dreams. Essentially Buddhism and Taoism are the same. Their sacred texts talk about the same things. It’s just that Taoism emphasizes life, and Buddhism emphasizes nature. But people who truly cultivate cultivate both. In terms of actual practice, Buddhism is somewhat better than Taoism. Even though Taoists talk about cultivating the mind, they often have a harder time suppressing feelings of pride. But to cultivate either of them successfully is very hard. (R2H: 214-8)