-Dogen, "Flowers Fall"
This reminds me of something I once read (again). Basically, a student asked (paraphrasing): People seek rebirth in the Pure Land so they can be sure to attain enlightenment, but if the Pure Land isn't a literal place and is instead symbolic, then why not just go straight for enlightenment? Why seek to literally be reborn in an imaginary/metaphorical place? Here is part of the reply...
In truth, all the pure and impure lands in the ten directions are like dreams and illusions; however, only when we have attained the “Illusion-like Samadhi” can we see them as illusory and false. If we have not yet reached that stage, we will still see them as real, we are still subject to their sway, we will still know sorrow and happiness, we still feel uncomfortable during the summer heat and are even bothered by such small things as mosquito and ant bites. Thus, how can we speak about things being illusory? We should realize that the Pure Land method is a wonderful expedient of the Buddha, borrowing an illusory realm of happiness to help being escape from an illusory realm of great suffering, full of obstructing conditions and dangers. Them, from that happy, peaceful, illusory realm, cultivation progresses easily and the ever-silent realm of the True Mind is swiftly attained...
One more point to bear in mind: if we speak about the Truth of Emptiness without having attained that stage (or at least reached a certain level of achievement in our practice) we certainly cannot convert others but will only end up in useless arguments and disputes. (pp. 152)
Of the two types of attachments, to existence and to emptiness, the latter is very dangerous. Both the Lankavatara and the Esoteric Adornment Sutra state:
"It is better to be attached to existence, though attachment may be as great as Mount Sumeru, than to be attached to emptiness, though attachment may be as small as a mustard seed.”
Attachment to “existence” leads to mindfulness of cause and effect, wariness of transgressions and fear of breaking the precepts, as well as to Buddha and sutra recitation and performance of good deeds. Although these actions are bound to forms and not free and liberated, they are all conducive to merits, virtues, and good roots. On the other hand, if we are attached to emptiness without having attained True Emptiness, but refuse to follow forms and cultivate merits and virtues, we will certainly sink into the cycle of birth and death. (pp.153-154)
-excerpted from the comments of Master Thich Thien Tam in Pure Land Buddhism: Dialogues with Ancient Masters (from the section "Doubts & Questions about Pure Land")
In other words, it is one thing to start a practice believing literally in the metaphors and symbols (represented here as attachment to "existence"), and after long practice, come to move beyond the dichotomy of literal/symbolic based on having realized the Truth being pointed to in the tradition (represented here as attaining True Emptiness). But to just start saying "Oh, these are all just clever systems pointing to X", without ever having developed any genuine sense or appreciation of X beyond a dry and abstract conceptual level, you will then be "too clever" to really do the practices with sincerity, especially those where you need to "buy into" the imagery or the story (this cleverness represented here as attachment to "emptiness"). Hence you are actually #$^@* out of luck and would have been better off just believing in the literal view.
I am also reminded of other things I have read, such as this from a Zen-based group known as the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom....
- All sentient beings are buddhas.
- Samsara is Nirvana.
- One's passions are enlightenment.
- We are an interrelated whole.
- Everyday life is the Way.
Number #3 is particularly relevant and reminiscent of the teachings of the SGI, particularly long-time President Ikeda's views. Which in turn reminds me of sayings like these...
"Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form; form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form" -Heart Sutra "Each form, each particle, is a Buddha. One form is all Buddhas. All forms, all particles, are all Buddhas. All forms, sounds, scents, feelings, and phenomena are also like this, each filling all fields." -Pai-chang"Ultimately, all phenomena are contained within one's life, down to the last particle of dust. The nine mountains and the eight seas are encompassed by one's body; the sun, moon and myriad stars are contained within one's mind." -Nichiren "Each Buddha-Tathagata, as the body of the Dharmadhatu, pervades the mind of all sentient beings. This is why when your mind perceives the Buddha, it is your mind that possesses the thirty-two prominent features and the eighty secondary attributes. This mind that creates the Buddha is the mind that is the Buddha, and the wisdom of the Buddhas true, universal and ocean-like arises from this mind. This is why you should single-mindedly fix your thoughts and contemplatively examine that Buddha, that tathagata, that Arhat, that Supremely Awakened One." -The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life "You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to this oneness by various practices." -Huang Po "Affliction is Bodhi and the cycle of birth and death is Nirvana" -Platform Sutra of Hui Neng "Happy is one who knows samsara and nirvana are not two." - Milarepa "Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death." - Dogen "At this moment, is there anything lacking? Nirvana is right here now before our eyes. This place is the lotus land. This body now is the Buddha." -Hakuin "The Way does not require cultivation, just don't pollute it." -Chan ancestor Mazu