This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly shows the rites of ash interment within a progressive form of Buddhism known as Pure Land. In some Buddhist traditions, funeral rites are considered to be a final attempt to help a person achieve a favorable reincarnation.
Buddhism Glossary (Document)
Pure Land Buddhism, an outgrowth of the more progressive Mahayana Buddhism tradition, developed in India around the second century CE. Mahayana Buddhism, the second of the three main branches of Buddhism, emerged from the earliest Theravada tradition, which is considered the most orthodox. Pure Land further developed in China and then reached Japan around the sixth century CE.
In Japan, the tradition rose to popularity when the Buddhist monk Honen (1133-1212) reinterpreted the Pure Land sutras to make them more accessible to the laity. His reforms eliminated many of the complexities found in other Buddhist schools and centered on the oral repetition of Namo Amida Butsu, or "Name of the Amida Buddha."
The Amida Buddha, or the Buddha of Boundless Light, in Pure Land Buddhism is seen as a savior and a worshipper's salvation is dependent upon his grace. The Amida Buddha is one of a number of celestial Buddhas who completed the path of the bodhisattva, according to references in Mahayana texts. Unlike Siddharta Gautama, the awakening of these celestial Buddhas was achieved in the heavens, not in this world.
The belief that Amida Buddha is a savior leads many non-devotees to liken Amida Buddha to the Christian God. There are considerable differences, however. Amida Buddha is not considered a creator, governor of the universe, supreme being, or separate from the universe. Rather, he is a manifestation of the Buddha nature believed to be in all beings. In Pure Land Buddhism, Amida Buddha used his virtue to prepare a pure land, or Western paradise, for those who chant his name. The faithful aim to be reborn in Pure Land, where suffering ends and nirvana is attained.
Shinran, a disciple of Honen, founded the Jodo Shinshu school of Pure Land Buddhism and implemented reforms that increased accessibility to the faith. Shinran believed that one could be reborn in Pure Land only by the grace of Amida Buddha. He rendered various practices of traditional Buddhism, such as the chanting of Namo Amida Butso, monasticism and meditation, as superfluous. Finally, by marrying, he broke with the monastic tradition of celibacy.
HARRY LEONG (at memorial service, Chuang Yen monastery's Great Buddha Prayer Hall, Carmel, NY): Over 30 families are here today for the spring memorial service. And they're from all over the country and even from overseas. The families are here together because for traditional Chinese families, it's considered very important for them to be present at the time when the ashes are interred because it's considered their filial responsibility.
We chant the mantra for rebirth in the Pure Land because it's creates merit. And then, when that merit is generated, we share and we dedicate it to the deceased, which helps the deceased achieve a positive rebirth, or even better, rebirth in the Pure Land.
In Buddhist literature, the Pure Land is described as this very beautiful and perfect place where everything that you see gives you this longing to achieve rebirth there -- this place created by Amitabha Buddha, as a means for us to achieve enlightenment quicker, because the mind is pure, the mind is purified of defilements and the mental afflictions so we can practice without distraction, without suffering.
In Buddhism we believe that all beings are bound to Samsara. Samsara is what non-Buddhists understand as reincarnation. So long as one doesn't achieve spiritual enlightenment, one's continually reborn, in samsara, over and over again. And for Buddhist practitioners, the goal is to escape from this cycle, to achieve supreme Buddhahood, which is Nirvana.
Buddhism makes us understand that death is a natural progression of life. Even though we understand that death and impermanence is inherent in all things, I think it's still difficult for us to let go of our loved ones.
I think about impending death all the time. When you remind yourself about your own mortality, it gives you motivation to have diligence in spiritual practice -- because you feel like time's running out.
My goal in this human realm is the same goal as for all Buddhist practitioners, which is to practice compassion and try to benefit other living beings. And then, hopefully, at the end of this life, to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
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