Throughout history, the Patriarchs have elaborated various systems to categorize
Dharma methods and the sutras in which they are expounded. One convenient division is
into methods based on self-effort (self-power) and those rely on the assistance of the
Buddhas and Budhisattvas (other-power).
Traditionally, most Buddhist schools and methods take the self-power approach: progress
along the path of Enlightenment is achieved only through intense and sustained personal
effort. Because of the dedication and effort involved schools of this self-power,
self-effort tradition all have a distinct monastic bias.
The laity has generally played only a supportive role, which the most spiritually advanced
ideally joining the Order of monks and nuns. Best knowns of these traditions are
Theravada and Zen.
Parallel to this, particularly following the development of Mahayana thought and the rise
of any Buddhism, a more flexible tradition eventually came into being, combine
self-power with other-power - the assistance and support provided by the
Buddhas and Budhisattvas to sincere seekers of the way.
Most representative of this tradition are the Esoteric and Pure Land schools.
However unlike the former (or Zen), Pure Land does not stress the
master-disciple relationship and de-emphasizes the role of sub-schools, gurus/roshia
and rituals. Moreover, the main aim of Pure Land - rebirth in Buddha land through
self effort and the power of Amitabha Buddha's Vows (rather than attainment of
Enlightenment or Buddhahood in the current lifetime) - is a realistic goal, though to
be understood at several levels. Therein lies the appeal and strength of Pure Land.
Compassion, patience, and joy are the heart of our true nature:cherish them.