Buddhism’s Mahāyāna: Meditation
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As in Theravāda Buddhism, so Mahāyāna includes meditation practices to transform rigid mental and emotional habits and turbulent states of mind – something that, broadly speaking, falls within the parameters of Western psychology, particularly in its more clinical and therapeutic aspects. For the most part, these Mahāyāna practices resemble Theravāda ones, but as Mahāyāna spread to countries such as China and Japan, new forms arose. Of these, the practices found in Pure Land and Chan/Zen schools in particular have had enormous appeal and thus warrant extended attention for their psychological implications.
Pure Land, a religion where the faithful rely on heavenly figures for salvation, has roots in Mahāyāna teachings. Its central figure is the bodhisattva Dharmākara, a prince who became the Buddha Amitābha (“Infinite Life,” or Amitāyus, “Infinite Light”). According to the sūtras, Dharmākara made 48 great vows, one of which established a paradise (located in the “West”) where...
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