The Matrix of Practice

Dengyo Daishi once wrote, “A devout believer in the Buddha’s Law who is also a wise man is truly obliged to point out to his students any false doctrines, even though they are principles of his own sect. He must not lead the students astray. If, on the other hand, he finds a correct doctrine, even though it is a principle of another sect he should adopt and transmit it.” Because of this Tendai has always been diverse in its practices, adaptations and this shows in the many lineages found within the Sect.

When Tasogare Shinju came to the United States to inaugurate the Compassionate Lotus lineage in the West, of which Hongaku (本覚) Jōdo (浄土) is the Western lineage assembly, he had the Bodhisattva Vows in mind, especially the one that challenges us to master all Dharmas. This may be the motivation for maintaining such a wide array of undertakings within the Tendai sect. It is because of the determination to offer practices benefiting people of radically diverse karmas, objectives, and propensities in their individual pursuits of Enlightenment.

Below are listed separately in no order of importance, just a few of the practices found within the scope of Tendai. There are many more, but these seem to stand out.

Even when listed individually these practices are actually interwoven and are to be executed in innumerable blends and at different junctures during the practitioner’s spiritual vocation:

  • Actively, dynamically and enthusiastically practicing harmony with other sects and religions
    • Many of fail at this one from the start
    • That is why it is listed first
  • Academic study of all religious subjects contained within Buddhism
  • Amida / Amitabha veneration and the Pure Land practices
  • Artistic projects such as painting or sculpting
  • Ascetic practices such as periodic fasting, marathons of walking
  • Calligraphy – particularly the Heart Sutra
  • Developing gratitude, loving kindness, friendliness, and compassion towards all living beings — beginning with yourself
  • Developing a healthy vegetarian regime (shojin ryori)
    • Or at least, mainly vegetarian while respecting the animal that provides nourishment
  • Development of skillful means (upaya)
  • Expounding the teachings of Śākyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) to willing listeners
  • Fire Rituals such as goma (homa in Sanskrit) and the Invocation of Fudo Myo-o
  • Formal Teacher-Pupil relationships which is the transmission of the Dharma
  • Generating Bodhicitta and making vows for the benefit of all sentient beings without exception
  • Half-Sitting and Half-Walking Samadhi
  • Mahāmudrā practice (makabodara)
    • Mantra is the “Mantra of Light”: On abokya beiroshanō makabodara mani handoma jimbara harabaritaya un
  • Maintaining the Samaya  (sanmaya-kai)
  • Maintaining the Ten (10) Major and Forty-eight (48) Minor Precepts of the Mahāyāna
  • Practice the perfection of the paramitas
    • You may choose between the
      • Pāli Canon’s Ten Perfections or
      • The Mahāyāna Six Perfections
  • Make pilgrimages to temples, monasteries and sacred sites
  • Making offerings to the people, such as donations to food banks, homeless shelters, clothing banks, etc.
  • Offering healing ceremonies
    • There are many besides the usual Medicine Buddha sadhanas
  • Organizing convocations to deliberate on the Dharma
  • Performing Priestly Services Such as Weddings and Funerals
  • Upholding and teaching the Lotus Sutra and other Dharmas
  • Protecting Mt. Hiei and local sacred places as wildlife refuges
  • Providing the circumstance for people to live, study, and practice the
    Buddha’s way in harmony with their unique abilities
  • Purifications, cold-water cleansings and prostrations
  • Recitation of Sutras and Dharanis
  • Relinquishment of personal desires and practicing ahimsa (harmlessness)
    • Buddhism is a practice of renunciation
  • Repetition of mantras
  • Samadhi
    • Through concentration using an object
    • Through choiceless awareness while avoiding choiceless distraction
    • Also called Jhāna or Dhyana practice
  • Shikan (chich-kuan) meditation (samatha-vipassana)
  • Singing and chanting
  • Sitting-only samadhi
  • Sustaining temples as places where people can freely make offerings,
    Pray, Meditate, Chant, Study and Celebrate
  • Visiting hospitals, rest homes, schools, etc.
  • Visualizations of mandalas and other esoteric practices
  • Walking-only samadhi

The Tendai sect is tremendously wide-ranging in possibility of lineage and practice. The priests and lay practitioners are exposed to essentially all the components. Because of individual proclivities each is inclined to indulgence in a specialization of some kind, a limited number of practices they have an attraction to. The diverse lineages or schools and diversity of persons within Tendai will have “friendly” disagreements with each other over the true nature of the Dharma, lineage and practice.

One need not believe every feature of Tendai, not even of your own lineage, school or teacher. Tendai is a Mahāyāna tradition and takes seriously Shakyamuni Buddha’s final instructions to the Sangha: “Work out your own comprehension with persistence!” It has been so for 2500 years, passed from teacher to student with assiduousness. This is advice that anyone who hopes to be happier, calmer and more free can gladly follow. It makes you fully responsible for your own happiness, realizations and liberation. It means that you are the matrix of practice.

If you find these teachings useful or would like to help Hongaku Jodo Compassionate Lotus in its work to help others, please donate to Hongaku Jodo by clicking here.

About Sensei Mui

Sensei Mui is a Buddhist monk who took formal refuge and bhikkhu ordination as a Theravada monk in Thailand during the early 1970s. Since those days he has both studied and was ordained in multiple Mahayana lineages. Today the main focus of his practice and teaching is from the Pure Land perspective. He currently acts as the Director and Administrator for Hongaku Jodo, an educational and practice oriented organization of Buddhist teachers of Dharma, pure and simple.
This entry was posted in Buddhism, Core Teaching of the Buddha, Hongaku Jodo, Pure Land Buddhism, Rational Amidism, Tendai Buddhism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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