Buddhism

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Re:

Postby existential_elevator » Fri May 08, 2009 9:29 pm UTC

unjovial wrote:I'd be interested to know whether Buddhist "law" (or whatever holy creeds are referred to in Buddhism) actually promotes and encourages idol worship or if it is admonished, yet pursued anyway, as in some christian religions.

Can anybody help with this one?
It varies between different flavours of Buddhism. The general underlying consensus is something like this:

Buddha was a man, not a god. It is not right to worship the Buddha. Worshipping the Buddha, or idols of the Buddha, shows ignorance. However, those people who are not gunning for enlightenment any time soon might find it beneficial to worship an idol. If, in such cases, idol-worship encourages a person to follow the correct path and cultivates right understanding in them, then this is good, because it will make them a better person [and, depending what flavour of Buddhist, it will give them a better rebirth].

There are some kinds of Buddhism that are very big on the idol-worship; these tend to be the less traditional Japanese sects. Some of the more traditionalist Buddhists sects would probably be quite disdainful of the whole thing, especially since Buddha was pretty clear that he didn't want anyone worshipping him.

__Kit wrote:So, what I'm asking for is really for someone to point out some things that are fundamentally wrong with buddhism, I mean, give me the reasons why you aren't a practising buddhist?
It..really depends what kind of Buddhism you want to look at. To me, when you move into less traditional Buddhism - especially Tibetan Buddhim - it starts to get very problematic. But on the whole, Buddhism is a very forward-thinking faith. Just one thing:
__Kit wrote:sort of believing in an eternal soul, not religious, but most definitely spiritual
Err.. Buddhists do not believe in souls. This is a big deal.

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Re: Re:

Postby Goplat » Sat May 09, 2009 5:22 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote:Err.. Buddhists do not believe in souls. This is a big deal.
The soul is the part of a person that lives on after their body dies. If you believe in reincarnation, then by definition, you believe in souls.

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Re: Buddhism

Postby poxic » Sat May 09, 2009 5:33 am UTC

Not necessarily. I can't speak for Buddhism, but "reincarnation <> soul" does exist in other belief systems. For example, shamanism of one variety: what we might call a soul (yes, I first spelled it "sould") does indeed die with the person, but the many "strands" that make up a person continue on their own paths. The soul is, more or less, the temporary union of these strands, each of which is eternal (I think). This particular union of strands = this particular soul. Once this person dies, the soul is dissolved and the strands go on their individual way, perhaps to be gathered into a different grouping for a new soul in the future.

I've probably explained it very badly, but there's one for you. No particular soul is reincarnated, but every strand may have been part of another person before. The strands go on, sometimes clumping up to form a person, but the people themselves do not go on.
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Re: Buddhism

Postby existential_elevator » Sat May 09, 2009 8:11 am UTC

I think you had a good attempt at explaining it, there, poxic. Unfortunately, the concept of anatta is one of the harder tenents of Buddhist belief. I have known a few Buddhists simply ditch the idea of rebirth because it seems pretty inconsistent. In some Buddhist sects, the whole idea of rebirth is pretty marginal anyway.

The important thing to note in relation to that is Buddhist teaching will not use the expression reincarnation, which more-or-less literally means "to become flesh again".

I.. I can attempt to explain fully how rebirth works in Buddhism, but I imagine a fair few people won't be interested. I'll spoiler it though; feel free to ask any clarificatory questions:
Spoiler:
The first thing to remember is that Buddhist anatta is a lash-back against Hindu atman [atta]. Really, you need to understand how the Hindu soul works, then it's a bit easier to see how Buddhist no-soul can work in the same way.

Hindu atta is tripartite. Now: I'm having real trouble tracking down good resources online for this, but.. That means soul is divided into three aspects. One aspect is the spark of god, the other is mumble mumble, and the last is the part which acquires karma. For Hindus, souls are outside of time and space limitations. What is important to remember that this soul is all "you" somehow, it forms a constant "I". But, interestingly, the karma part of the soul is pretty...well, unbound. If, say, you lead a very greedy life, the karma part of the soul might work out your penance in a pig, but of course, a pig doesn't have the other two aspects, so.. well.

Buddhism wonders along and says that the whole idea of a constant "I" is silly, because we can't possibly be the same people we were last week / last year / ten years ago. Even scientifically [feel free to correct] every cell in the body changes in around seven years. They also do not believe in god, or at least not in the same way. So this Hindu tripartite soul gets whittled down to just the karma-bearing part.

There are a few important things to take from this. First is that, in terms of spiritual importance, humans and animals are kind of on par. We humans have consciousness and so on, but we have he same "divine" make-up as animals. Second is that, although karma carries on, the idea of "I" does not. It's not so much that many different karmas can be reborn [though there is an interesting metaphysic of collective karma, which works out on an environmental scale]; it's more that what karma there is does not belong to you, and is not a unique identifier of you.

This is obviously pretty problematic for some teachings. Particularly things like, the collection of stories relating Buddha's past lives. But, you have to bear in mind that Buddhism does and will give mixed signals of teaching if something like that makes it easier for people to understand other important principles of Buddhist life. The stories of Buddha's past lives are a lot like Aesop's fables, and have the same kind of weight in that they are moralistic teachings for people who couldn't really read the dharma. Eventually you have to realise that it's important to cultivate skilful karma for the next rebirth not because that rebirth is for you, but because that rebirth is for anyone; think of environmentalists who want to save the planet for their children. It's just like that.

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Re: Buddhism

Postby Nath » Mon May 11, 2009 9:33 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote:The first thing to remember is that Buddhist anatta is a lash-back against Hindu atman [atta]. Really, you need to understand how the Hindu soul works, then it's a bit easier to see how Buddhist no-soul can work in the same way.

The thing is, Hinduism and Buddhism are both rather hand-wavey about many things. To say 'Hindus believe X and Buddhists believe Y' is an oversimplification. Since there's no central authority, people believe all kinds of things, and even most individuals tend to have rather vague, metaphorical ideas about religion (this gets rather frustrating when I try to discuss these things with my family :)). It's often easy to catch people in contradictions; when this happens, they usually just smile and say something like, 'you shouldn't take these things so literally'. (Of course, there are also people who take everything literally, and believe that some deity has a certain number of arms and will smite you if you don't perform some ritual.)

Indian religions tend to blend together; it's impossible to say where one ends and the next begins. Concepts like reincarnation and karma show up in Buddhism not necessarily because they are an important part of the philosophy, but simply because they were part of the vocabulary people used to talk about these things. Sometimes it's useful to explain things in terms of souls and reincarnation and gods; sometimes these concepts are misleading. (I don't consider myself Hindu mainly because I find most of the concepts are misleading more often than they're useful.)

I do sometimes get interesting insights out of Hindu and Buddhist teachings. An awful lot of it is superficially silly, but interesting metaphorically. For instance, you can think of reincarnation in terms of magical souls, or you can think of it as a person living on through the effects they had on the world. Or you can think of it in terms of your constituent matter, coming together for a few years to form a person, and then going back into the pool to form something else. The same terminology has been used to describe many different things. Some of it is fascinating; some is interesting, but not for the intended reasons; some of it is just silly. It doesn't really matter what the original writers had in mind; these religions work better as directions for thought than as lists of facts.

[/ramble]

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Re:

Postby Pansori » Sat May 16, 2009 6:33 am UTC

Gazette wrote:I used to follow Buddhism, and still a fan of Dalai Lama. Buddhism is more a way of life than the stereotypical "religion." While our western religions stress faith and gods, eastern traditions stress personal discipline and doctrines of thought (think martial arts).

Thoughts are the seeds of action. If your thoughts are impure, your actions will be impure.

It's elegant and pure. There's no other associations or meanings attached.


Modern Buddhism as we know it today has progressed to what is viewed as a way of life for most western countries as well as some Eastern ones; call it what you will, it is still a religion. For Buddhism's first major introduction to the west the rational, discipline, intuitive side of it was promoted whereas the more cultural elements (such as rituals, statues, etc) was downplayed or thrown out completely. Many of the eastern people who were introducing Buddhism used the religion to combat colonialism and the stereotype of the Asian being of lower intelligence than their European counterpart. The way they did this was by throwing out all the religious elements and emphasizing the "scientific" side (such as the Abhidhamma). Eastern Buddhists were not alone, though, early western Buddhists did the same thing. To them, Buddhism was an option outside of Christianity, especially during the Enlightenment.

Not only this, but when Buddhism was first "discovered" the orientalists at the time threw out whatever they felt was an adulteration of the religion by the indigenous people (once again, this would include the religious aspects). True, they did use them for their sources, but not as a primary one, so to say.

Buddhism does have it's thoughtful, intuitive elements, but tbat doesn't make it any less of a religion.

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Re: Re:

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 16, 2009 1:54 pm UTC

Pansori wrote:Buddhism does have it's thoughtful, intuitive elements, but tbat doesn't make it any less of a religion.

Yeah, I'm also always annoyed by the "Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion" claims people throw about. Talk to any of my Thai students for awhile about spirituality, and then try and continue to claim Buddhism is not every bit as much a religion as Christianity is.

People who make that claim should keep in mind that Christianity also has its share of thoughtful, philosophical elements. It has arguments and claims about the existence of God that actually do make some sense on a philosophical level. But the vast majority (as in 99% or more, probably) of believers in both systems don't actually think about it nearly that deeply. Instead they rely on the interpretations of others and go to church/temple from time to time to engage in rituals and to pray because they believe prayer will give them some benefit later on. Religion is religion is religion.
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Re: Buddhism

Postby Angua » Sat May 16, 2009 3:58 pm UTC

I was wondering about this too. I was living in a Buddhist Centre (though I'm not a Buddhist, but it didn't really matter) and there were definitely lots of religion, you have all the different Buddhas, or incarnations of Buddha depending on how you want to look at it, who all had different names and did different things, with different prayers, you set up the shrine differently depending on what you were doing (eg there was one I helped set up for like a two day fasting thing, and all the offerings on the shrine were supposed to be white foods, or come in white packaging). Now, I know that the centre I was in was NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) which has been disowned by the Dalai Lama for being a bit too cultish (but I think that it is more to do with the current Guru of the practice, the people I met) but it was still very much a religion. It might be one where you don't specifically have to worship in the one true way to be enlightened or rewarded (so it doesn't matter if you're Christian, Muslim, atheist or agnostic, so long as you're a good person). Anyone could come to the meditation classes to learn some simple meditation and bits of the Dharma.

From my experience, Buddism is a very spiritual religion, and those who follow it in depth have all the ceremony and faith in beings greater than themselves as those of other religions.

Note, this is all anecdotal.
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Re: Re:

Postby Pansori » Sat May 16, 2009 4:41 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Talk to any of my Thai students for awhile about spirituality, and then try and continue to claim Buddhism is not every bit as much a religion as Christianity is.

People who make that claim should keep in mind that Christianity also has its share of thoughtful, philosophical elements. It has arguments and claims about the existence of God that actually do make some sense on a philosophical level. But the vast majority (as in 99% or more, probably) of believers in both systems don't actually think about it nearly that deeply. Instead they rely on the interpretations of others and go to church/temple from time to time to engage in rituals and to pray because they believe prayer will give them some benefit later on. Religion is religion is religion.


I agree, these days it seems like the idea of RELIGION is something that is looked at in a negative way. I believe that's why so many people are quick to say "Buddhism is not a religion, it's a philosophy/way of life... etc etc..." I think Christianity and Buddhism have the same universal elements that can be found in many religions, and isn't exclusive to any one. At the same time the Buddhism that is in practice today has been referred to by scholars as "Protestant Buddhism", especially in regards to Engaged Buddhism. Many early Buddhists (and today as well) took ideals and practices from Christian missionaries, so a lot of what we see in Buddhism (especially when it comes to humanitarian efforts) does overlap with Christianity.

By the way, Thai Buddhism is a great example of what is a common misconception in the west today: That Theravada is very scientific and rational and has no elements of the supernatural; this isn't necessarily true, especially for Theravada nations like Thailand where past lives, hungry ghosts, and hell is still very much a real thing.

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Re: Buddhism

Postby existential_elevator » Sat May 16, 2009 11:33 pm UTC

It really just... depends. There are plenty of levels of Buddhism, and plenty of different ways of reading it. It could be taken as a religion, it could be taken as a philosophy, and it's never as straightforward as it looks.

for instance: You talk about hungry ghosts; that's from the realms. Now, the realms could be interpreted literally, but they can just as easily be interpreted psychologically [the ghosts representing greed and consumption, the animals representing instinct, the hells representing unskillsful states of consciousness etc etc..]. Once you move from Theravada to Mahayana the concept of being able to act in for some greater good comes into play. I'm wishing I had my notes on me right now. There is a difference between what is taught to lay Buddhists and what is accepted by the teachers because of that. If prayer / supernatural elements will help people act in the right way, then it is okay to do. Buddha was pretty anti-idols and such, and was very clear that he himself was not a figure to be worshipped. You could potentially speculate that this is why some Buddhist religions use a different Buddha or Boddhisatva rather than the historical Buddha as a focus of their worship.

There are actually quite a few very interesting pieces of Buddhist scripture which anticipate some pretty recent psychological models. Early process theories of the mind of the win.

Buddhism often takes the character of the indigenous religions to the region, too. Often the spiritual aspects are subsumed from the previous local religion. Especially so in Japan.

Basically, Buddhism is pretty easy to strip down without losing much. It's very compatible with science, too. And change. Embracing change is important.

The problem really is that the more "religious" you make Buddhism, the more you start to get internal inconsistencies. You get attached to an idol, and you believe your salvation is outside of you in some prayer, you walk away from what the core of Buddhism actually teaches. All these things are eventually just material distraction from the dharma.

sorry, I'm not being super eloquent right now

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Re: Buddhism

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 16, 2009 11:50 pm UTC

The point I was trying to make is that pretty much every bit of that could also be said about other religions, too, especially the last paragraph and especially Christianity.

And so, sure, you can say that's not "real Buddhism" just like you can say most people who identify as such aren't "real Christians". But a few billion people would strongly disagree with your assessment.
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Re: Buddhism

Postby Pansori » Sun May 17, 2009 4:44 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote:It really just... depends. There are plenty of levels of Buddhism, and plenty of different ways of reading it. It could be taken as a religion, it could be taken as a philosophy, and it's never as straightforward as it looks.


I agree that Buddhism is very multifaceted, as are other eastern religions.

for instance: You talk about hungry ghosts; that's from the realms. Now, the realms could be interpreted literally, but they can just as easily be interpreted psychologically [the ghosts representing greed and consumption, the animals representing instinct, the hells representing unskillsful states of consciousness etc etc..]...


As I said earlier, this is a modern view on Buddhism, typical of what many in the west and parts of Asia have come to think of Buddhism. This is also taking an element from one culture, and reshaping it to "fit" into another culture and modern thinking. The scientific side of Buddhism is vastly played up, to the point where one early 19th century Orientalist even tried to explain in scientific terms what Buddha was referring to when he mentioned an aura! =o Yes, it can be viewed from a psychological perspective, but it is also a method of taking the what is perceived to be superstitious/religious elements out of Buddhism.


Buddhism often takes the character of the indigenous religions to the region, too. Often the spiritual aspects are subsumed from the previous local religion. Especially so in Japan.


Yes, which is one of the reasons Buddhism has been able to adapt so easily to many different cultures.

... You get attached to an idol, and you believe your salvation is outside of you in some prayer


Therein lies your problem with viewing Buddhism as a religion. You don't need to have an idol, god, spiritual/supernatural element within a religion. Many eastern religions are atheistic, Buddhism is one among many.

you walk away from what the core of Buddhism actually teaches. All these things are eventually just material distraction from the dharma.


Well, as you said there are many different levels of Buddhism today. There is the educated monk who can recite the 5 precepts and have deep discussion about the Abhidharma and then there is the laywoman who only knows to work towards earning merit so her next life will be better.

In the west there is major emphasis on text, especially when it comes to religious canon material. When early scholars traveled to Asia to learn about the Eastern religions they applied this way of thinking to the religions of the east. What we have today is still an over emphasized view on text. Modern Buddhists are much more educated in the canon than they were 2000 years ago which is wonderful, but it also has its negatives. Like Christianity, one can now dictate what is right, what is not, what is true to the belief, how others practice it wrong, etc etc. Early Orientalists of the Enlightenment truly believed that Asians were once an advanced nation, using Buddhist texts as their evidence, but that they degenerated over time and adulterated this belief with their gods and superstition.

Asian Buddhists like Dharmapala and Suzuki showcased the Scientific side of Buddhism in an effort to be rid of this stereotypes. They took out the rituals, gods, demons, etc and played up the rational, intuitive Asian, that is much more advanced than Christianity and the west in general. I see nothing wrong with viewing Buddhism as a religion... in fact, technically it is a religion; but many see calling it one akin to sullying its good name.

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Re: Buddhism

Postby existential_elevator » Sun May 17, 2009 11:18 am UTC

Pansori wrote:Therein lies your problem with viewing Buddhism as a religion. You don't need to have an idol, god, spiritual/supernatural element within a religion. Many eastern religions are atheistic, Buddhism is one among many.
Oh no, I am more than aware of this. I'm thinking more of the Pure Land, where certain kinds of idol-worship tend to be encouraged; but obviously this kind of idol worship conflicts with the greater teaching of Buddhism. I too would agree that Buddhism is a religion; but I also think that you can equally use it as a philosophy, and perhaps that's how it has been most appropriated in the West. My knowledge of actual practice in the East is all second-hand, so I can't really speak for that.
gmalivuk wrote:that's not "real Buddhism" just like you can say most people who identify as such aren't "real Christians"...
I think the interesting thing is that within Buddhism different Buddhists groups view others as more or less real. From my experience, Thereavadan Buddhists tend to see themselves as part of the older, most pure Buddhism, closer to what the Buddha himself taught. Mahayana/Tibetan Buddhists refer [perhaps somewhat rudely] to Therevadan Buddhists as belonging to Hinayana [the lesser vehicle] and are critical of how little the religion has changed, and feel that they are closer to the real Buddhism.

I find what you're saying very interesting Pansori!

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Re: Buddhism

Postby Pansori » Mon May 18, 2009 3:25 am UTC

existential_elevator wrote: I think the interesting thing is that within Buddhism different Buddhists groups view others as more or less real. From my experience, Thereavadan Buddhists tend to see themselves as part of the older, most pure Buddhism, closer to what the Buddha himself taught. Mahayana/Tibetan Buddhists refer [perhaps somewhat rudely] to Therevadan Buddhists as belonging to Hinayana [the lesser vehicle] and are critical of how little the religion has changed, and feel that they are closer to the real Buddhism.


Yes, that is the propaganda, but it's also not necessarily true. :) If anything, Theravada Buddhism has been moving and shaking its way into modernity at a much more rapid rate than Mahayana. An example is Buddhism among the Newar people in Nepal. The traditional religion that has been practiced there is Vajrayana, which is an offshoot of Mahayana. It relies heavily on a caste system, and the guru is a hereditary position. In recent years Mahayana has been losing interest among the younger generation of Newar Buddhists. This is because Theravada has swept in, removing the importance of caste, guru, and promoting education and vernacular Buddhist texts.

And thanks for the compliment; but I'm so fresh off the semester I can actually remember this stuff. :) Seriously, though, Buddhism is fascinating, especially how it is being practiced in modern times.

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Re: Buddhism

Postby ccx » Fri May 22, 2009 1:52 am UTC

chrispy1 wrote:Broken off from here

chrispy1 wrote:...just to add another level of whatever to do this discussion, Buddhism sees no difference between thinking and doing - if you are capable of thinking something, you've already committed the first step in doing the action; the actual action itself is more or less secondary. Thinking "I'm going to hurt that person" is still a "violent" act.


Anyone here knowledgeable about Buddhism (specifically Tibetian, but I'll discuss anything...). I am fairly well read (my copy of the Dhammapada is very well-read), and I took an Eastern Philosophy class in Uni. So, thoughts?


I'm Buddhist in a Tibetan tradition. Sorry to come to this thread so late. It's 3:30 AM here so I will not read the rest of thread and just respond. I hope I will not repeat somebody.

This topic is about karma aka cause and effect. (karma literally translated means action)
More than half of Buddhist teaching is on this topic, so I will only write what is considered important in my school/tradition.

Please also distinguish it from Hindi concept of karma as fate or some mysterious power.

There are generally 3 things that are taught about karma: How do we create it, how does it (?)affect us, and how to get rid of it.

There are four conditions that need to be met in order for karma to be the strongest:
  • We must know the situation
  • We must wish to do something
  • We must do it or have it done
  • We must be happy from it

If they are not all met, the effect is not as strong. Since karma is basically habit on how we perceive our surrounding created by our previous actions words and thoughts, also a wish to do something has impact on it. That's also why all Mahayana is so full of wishing everybody eternal happiness. It has effect on our mind. And our mind is what Buddhism is all about.

Better explained here.

edit

Belial wrote:I don't think buddhist philosophy is, in theory, terribly concerned with punishment or enforcement.


It isn't. Buddhism is for people that want to change, and has pretty solid reasoning behind why. If you are not sure you can handle your situations you can take some vows or go to monastery to become monk. Generally it's not thing that Buddhism should handle. There's state / law enforcement / local social rules for that.

@DavidinChiangMai: Very well explained.

@Bondolon: Totally incomprehensible to me. Is that some Zen text?

unjovial wrote:... in answer to a question about whether the search for true love would hinder the journey of spiritual enlightenment...


You totally don't need to be monk to be Buddhist. None of Kagyu lineage of enlightened masters was until it came to Tibet. Monks are just more visible because they dress funny and ran the government in Tibet.

unjovial wrote:I'd be interested to know whether Buddhist "law" (or whatever holy creeds are referred to in Buddhism) actually promotes and encourages idol worship or if it is admonished, yet pursued anyway, as in some christian religions.


Buddha dismissed blind faith as insufficient way to knowing the world. Buddhist actually don't worship Buddha (the historical person), but try to attain the state. Buddha means 'awakened one'. It's a state of mind anyone can attain. Just when we spell it with capital B, we usually mean the first person to reach it in our historical epoch.

I just skimmed my (very, very well-read) copy of the Dhammapada (the main Buddhist "Bible").


The complete teaching of Buddha is usually bound in 108 books, with 256 books of commentaries of direct students. Buddhist don't try to cram answer to life, universe and everything into one small book. Also you don't need to read it all in same way you don't need whole apothecary just to cure fever. Buddha gave 48000 teaching for (all possible) 48000 confused states of mind.
I don't know how big excerpt of Buddha's teaching is in Dhammapada, but I guess some parts are specific to Theravada Buddhist traditions. Nothing wrong with that, just don't push it as 'general' Buddhist Bible.

Buddha taught many different kind of students. When you read any Buddhist teaching, you always need to know to whom it was given.

Gazette wrote:I used to follow Buddhism

May I ask why you stopped? Just PM me if you want.
I understand that Gelugpa (Dalailama's school) works in a monastic way, that drives most young people away, but that's not all there is to Buddhism.

The soul is the part of a person that lives on after their body dies. If you believe in reincarnation, then by definition, you believe in souls.


Seeing one as separate from others is a mind habit that *forces* us to reincarnate. You can watch the video on page I mentioned.

Angua wrote:I was in was NKT (New Kadampa Tradition)

They are *very* traditional, at least those I know.

existential_elevator wrote:I'm thinking more of the Pure Land, where certain kinds of idol-worship tend to be encouraged

I don't know how Japanese explain those things, but there's really not much worshiping done in the Phowa practice we have (that gets you to pure land - which is again a state of mind). Maybe you should say something like 'opening to', 'identifying with' or 'realizing you have the same nature as' instead of worshiping.

Phew. I hope I answered all there was.
Okay another edit.

... You get attached to an idol, and you believe your salvation is outside of you in some prayer

There is some famous saying about the Moon and finger pointing to the Moon, isn't there? I Recently heard a 2h+ long lecture by some Dzogchen teacher specifically on this topic. If you don't want to look where the finger is pointing to, just because you are used from faith-based religions that the finger is all that there is, it's not really problem of Buddhism.
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