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HONEN SHONIN AND THE PURE LAND MOVEMENT

by

Edmund Theron G i l d a y

B.A., U n i v e r s i t y o f W i s c o n s i n , 1973

A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF

MASTER OF ARTS

in

THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES

DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES

UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming

to the r e q u i r e d standard

THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

March, 1980

(c) Edmund Theron G i l d a y , 1980


In presenting this thesis in p a r t i a l fulfilment of the requirements for

an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that

the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study.

I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis

for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or

by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication

of this thesis f o r financial gain shall not be al1 owed without my

written permission.

Department of R e l i g i o u s Studies

The University of B r i t i s h Columbia


2075 Wesbrook Place
Vancouver, Canada
V6T 1W5
ii

ABSTRACT

In this study of Honen Shonin and his relation to the institutionali-

zation of an independent Japanese Pure Land school, I have attempted to

isolate the religious and doctrinal issues which affected the evolution of

Pure Land salvationism in general and Japanese Buddhism in particular.

. The background for this:analysis i s provided in Part One, which i s

a discussion of the religious background to Honen and his ideas, and a

summary.of the immediate historical and religious circumstances, put of

which Honen's Pure Land soteriology emerged. Part Two consists of a

detailed analytical description of the Senchaku^shu (jff/jf ) Honen's


?

major dissertation on Pure Land doctrine.

My thesis i s that the reconciliation of the two main currents which

converged during the late Heian and early Kamakura periods, namely the

Pure Land tradition transmitted from India to East Asia and the popular

religious forms indigenous to Japan, climaxed in the single-practice Pure

Land movement of H5nen. This reconciliation was not as much the result of

internal institutional processes, however, as of the unique cultural and

historical circumstances present in the last quarter of the twelfth century,

when Honen was most actively engaged in his ministry.

My..intention. i s to show that Honen's contribution to the Pure Land

tradition and his significance in Japanese religious history have been

greatly underestimated, particularly in the West, and i t i s my hope that

this study w i l l provide a solid base from which to initiate a new evaluation

of Hpnen and his movement.

Leon Hurvitz
Thesis Supervisor
iii

T a b l e o f Contents

Abstract i i

Introduction 1

P a r t I.

Chapter One 3

Endnotes 20

Chapter Two 25

Endnotes 33

Chapter Three 36

Endnotes 44

Chapter Four 45

Endnotes 54

Part I I .

Introduction 56

Chapter F i v e 60

Endnotes 75

Chapter S i x 78

Endnotes 93

Conclusion 95

Bibliography 97
1

INTRODUCTION

T h i s study i s the r e s u l t of much i n q u i r y i n t o the p h i l o s o p h i c a l ,

s o c i a l , and r e l i g i o u s o r i g i n s of p o p u l a r Buddhism i n Japan. In s p i t e of

numerous s t u d i e s o f p o p u l a r r e l i g i o n i n Japan, i n c l u d i n g a few d e a l i n g w i t h

p a r t i c u l a r p e r s o n a l i t i e s , t h e r e has not t o my knowledge been any specific

documentation i n a Western language o f e i t h e r the Pure Land movement or the

first g r e a t c a t a l y s t i n the p o p u l a r B u d d h i s t r e f o r m a t i o n o f the Kamakura

p e r i o d , Honen Shonin (jfct&tA ; a/k/a Genku^ ^. 1


: 1133-1212). To c o r r e c t

t h i s d e f i c i e n c y I propose to p r o v i d e here a s o l i d i n t r o d u c t i o n to Honen

and h i s c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the Pure Land tradition.

Specifically, the i s s u e s t o which my i n v e s t i g a t i o n has been addressed

are t h r e e :

1) the t e x t u a l and d o c t r i n a l h i s t o r y of Pure Land

Buddhism u n t i l the time of Honen;

2) the development of a p o p u l a r S a l v a t i o n i s t movement

based on the t e a c h i n g s o f Pure Land Buddhism;

3) the b i r t h o f an independent Japanese p o p u l a r S a l v a t i o n i s t

s c h o o l , based on Honen's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f Pure Land

Buddhist teachings.

The paper b e g i n s w i t h a d i s c u s s i o n of the r e l i g i o u s background to

Honen and h i s i d e a s . T h i s i n c l u d e s a summary o f Pure Land B u d d h i s t d o c t r i n e

and of the key p e r s o n a l i t i e s i n the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n i n I n d i a , C h i n a ,

and Japan b e f o r e Honen, w i t h s p e c i a l r e f e r e n c e to Pure Land s a l v a t i o n i s m i n

the t h r e e c o u n t r i e s . The l a t t e r p o r t i o n of P a r t I f o c u s e s on Honen h i m s e l f .

A b r i e f b i o g r a p h i c a l s k e t c h p r o v i d e s the immediate h i s t o r i c a l and religious

c i r c u m s t a n c e s out of which Honen's Pure Land s o t e r i o l o g y emerged and p l a c e s

Honen and h i s movement i n p e r s p e c t i v e w i t h r e g a r d to b o t h Japanese Buddhism


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in general and the Pure Land tradition in particular.

The second part of this thesis i s an analytical description of the

contents of the Senchaku-shu ( iH.-'Ff ^) , Honen's major dissertation on Pure

Land doctrine. Attention w i l l be placed particularly on those key doctrines

discussed in Part I.

For the introductory section on early Pure Land Buddhism, I have relied

a great deal on FUJITA Kotatsu ($j^tlS $^JL)'s Studies in Early Pure Land

Thought (Genshi J5do Shiso no Kenkyu jfetfr « ) for both


textual and doctrinal background. The primary text used to establish

Honen's doctrinal position in the latter section i s his Senchaku-shu (T.2608),

a text unavailable in any Western language. I have otherwise relied on

established translations in Japanese, French, and English for most secondary

scriptural and historical works. A l l research materials but the primary

text therefore are modern, though the authenticity of c r i t i c a l references

has been checked when possible and cited when appropriate.

The purpose of the study i s to produce a well-documented introduction

to Honen, and to the Pure Land movement he founded. Such a study w i l l

hopefully lead to a better understanding of Honen's place in the Pure Land

tradition and his significance in Japanese Buddhism. This w i l l also provide

the necessary background for a complete and annotated translation of Honen's

Senchaku-shu, which i s a v i t a l necessity i f the Western world i s really in

the long run to understand Japanese Buddhism.


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Chapter One

The soteriological doctrine which resulted in the Pure Land school of

Honen in thirteenth century Japan had i t s origins in the Mahasanghika

Reformation in India around the f i r s t century B.C. It was then that the

ideal of the Bodhisattva emerged, and from i t the philosophical and soteri-

ological features of Mahayana Buddhism. Over the next few centuries these

features were developed and refined until a number of distinct schools

emerged. While the distinctions were in fact lost for some centuries after

their introduction to ChinaV this fundamental shift in religious perspective

and the resulting forms of religious practice which found expression in

Early Mahayana Buddhism continued to develop. It i s this new perspective,

particularly as represented in the evolution of early Pure Land Buddhist


2

thought, which i s the subject of the f i r s t chapter of this paper.

The germinal forms of Pure Land thought sprang from the earliest

Mahayana tradition as expressed in the Prajnaparamita literature, which


3,

originated in Southeast India (Andhra) during the f i r s t century B.C.

From there the new 'bodhisattva' movement spread west and then north, so

that by the f i r s t century A.D. a large number of Mahayana texts had already

been written, ostensibly to explore the implications of the i n i t i a l Prajna-

paramita teaching and to clarify its mystical message. Among these texts

were the earliest versions of the Pure Land scriptures, namely the Larger

and Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha sutras, both of which were composed in-Northwest


4

India (Kusana) in approximately 100 A.D.

The Larger Sukhavati-vyuha C?v<£^f^&E- ) i s extant in the original

Sanskrit as well as in 3 Tibetan and five Chinese translations.^ The oldest

extant Chinese translation was done by Chih Ch'ien ($ : 222-253) during

the early third century. It i s identified in Japanese as the Larger Amida


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Sutra (^.T^^SlfEi^} . The orthodox version of the Larger Pure Land Sutra,

however, i s the Muryoju-kyo ) translated by Buddhabhadra UfyfttJ&fltfk

359-429) and Pao-yun 376-449) in about 421. 6

The Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha i s extant in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese.

The Sanskrit version consists of materials discovered in Japan and available

in a number of manuscripts and publications.^ The earliest Chinese transla-

tion was done by Kumarajiva ($$$4? : 343-413 or 350-409) i n Ch'ang-an ( I t ^ )

in 402 and i s known as the Amida Sutra (ffl$fiftf(!,ff$L- T.366). A second translation

was done by Hsuan-tsang ( i H : 600-664) (T.367); there was apparently one


% Q

other, by Gunabhadra (&%$M.1'£$ifc :394-468), but i t i s now lost.


Besides these, a third text known as the Kuan-wu-liang-shou-ching

(il!U^ir^*^ T.365) or Contemplation Sutra i s included in the Pure Land canon

and recognized as authoritative by mainstream schools in China and Japan.


9

It was written in Central Asia i n the f i f t h century, and the only extant

version i s said to have been translated into Chinese by Kalayasas ' (

c.383-442 or 424-442).

These three scriptures taken together comprise what i s popularly known

as the "Triple Sutra." Doctrinally, they present a coherent theory of salva-

tion which i s not only consistent with the main currents of Mahayana thought

in general, but also representative of the earliest stages of the bodhisattva

movement in both India and China.

The evolution of the bodhisattva doctrine as represented f i r s t i n the

Prajnaparamita literature and crystallized in the early Pure Land sutras was

primarily a soteriological theory which took on two forms in early Mahayana

Buddhism. The f i r s t was an ethical formula'"''' which recognized the validity

of mystical intuition in Buddhist philosophical rationality (i.e., the


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abhdharmic tradition, at that time primarily the Sarvastivadin school).
The practice of the Paramitas was designed to insure the attainment of insight
-5-

into 'Sunyata,' and was epitomized by the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna.

Later, Vasubandhu, the founder of the Yogacara school, also attempted to

formulate a consistent and practical application of the philosophical

theories of the Prajnaparamita."^ Their expositions of Prajnaparamita

metaphysical and epistemological theories were used to explain the Amitabha

doctrine, and laid the foundation for the Pure Land movement. Their contri-

butions were recognized by later Pure Land apologists who identified Nagarjuna

and Vasubandhu as the f i r s t two patriarchs in the orthodox Pure Land tradi-
15
tion.
The second form was a popular application of the bodhisattva doctrine,

and emphasized the climactic role of Karuna ('compassion') in what was


16

fundamentally a soteriological religious -movement. Karuna was the motiva-

tion for the vows of Dharmakara (j^fk ), and established the legitimacy of

reliance on the power of Amitabha, providing thereby the hope of an effective

and practical means of salvation for those unable to carry out more rigorous

traditional practices.

While the relationship of these two forms and their assimilation i n

Pure Land Buddhist doctrine i s a matter of some interest i n the consideration

of the evolution of Pure Land thought, a more extensive treatment i s beyond


17

the scope of this study. It i s the second form which i s the major theme

of this paper.

The specifics of this Pure Land salvationism can be summarized in four

principal doctrines: Faith, Nembutsu, Devotional Attitude, and Rebirth. It

was upon these doctrines that the movement was founded, and on these points

that i t s development in China and Japan turned. One hopes that, by examining

the doctrines in their earliest expression, i t w i l l be possible to see what

Honen's contribution to Pure Land Buddhism was and how his interpretation
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represented a distinctly Japanese application of the major principles of

Mahayana Buddhism.

I. The Doctrines

A. Faith

The term 'faith' as used in the Pure Land texts i s a translation

of three distinct Sanskrit terms. Sraddha (Pali: Saddha;/g ) i s a

general term found in Buddhist and non-Buddhist literature as well.

It refers to an intellectual affirmation of some teaching, and a v o l i -


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tional assent to i t s consequences. It was this rational conception

of faith which was included in the original Prajnaparamita formula,

and related to the virtue of Wisdom ("Prajna" ) . . Adhimiikti

) was a more specialized Buddhist term for en-

lightened faith. This "Enlightened Faith" was defined as firm and un-

wavering, and i s the mark of the adept (stream-winner: srota'Ipanna;

•f^/tu"^);^^ i t i s basically a confirmation (affirmation) of the insights

of the intellect.^-'- The connection between faith (sraddha) and Wisdom,

and therefore the relationship between Faith (adhimukti) and Contempla-

tion (samadhi), was clearly recognizable and established even in early

Buddhism. Looked at from another perspective, the function of Contem-

plation i s the attainment of Wisdom; Wisdom i s simply the recognition

of Absolute Reality (sunyata). Faith functions f i r s t as a rational

assent to the teachings on Samadhi and Prajna and then, as Prajna i s

realized, i t becomes an affirmation of the reality of the Wisdom (Prajna)

attained through Contemplation.

In the Pure Land scriptures, however, the concern was clearly with

faith itself and i t s soteriological meaning, not with Prajna; no clear

identification of the two can be found in the texts. Thus the terms
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Prasada

) and P r a s a n n a c i t t a ) a r e more commonly

used t o i d e n t i f y t h e f a i t h which i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h Amitabha devotion.

NAKAMURA Hajime (fyfg %> ) d e f i n e s t h i s f a i t h as t h e "calm and pure s t a t e

of mind i n which one f e e l s t h e b l i s s o f s e r e n i t y . " 2 2 i t i s "the tranquil

nature of f a i t h . " 2 3 i t has a p e c u l i a r l y B u d d h i s t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c i n t h a t

i t was o r i g i n a l l y r e l a t e d t o m e d i t a t i v e t e c h n i q u e s . ^ This f a i t h i n a l l

the Buddhas, but most i m p o r t a n t l y i n Pure Land t e a c h i n g f a i t h i n Amitabha,

was e p i t o m i z e d i n the p r a c t i c e o f Nembutsu (fyfo) , 2 5


which was a l r e a d y

an a c c e p t e d p a r t o f e a r l y Buddhism i n general. The q u e s t i o n o f f a i t h ,

e s p e c i a l l y f o r l a t e r a p o l o g i s t s , was then not r e l a t e d p a r t i c u l a r l y t o

p h i l o s o p h i c a l paradigms, but r a t h e r t o t h e form and e f f i c a c y o f nembutsu

p r a c t i c e , and i t was t h i s which caused t h e g r e a t e s t disagreement w i t h i n

and w i t h o u t t h e Pure Land tradition.

Two f u r t h e r p o i n t s must be made w i t h r e g a r d to f a i t h i n t h e Pure

Land s c r i p t u r e s . The f i r s t i s that f a i t h i s fundamentally a suspension

o f , o r d i s p e n s i n g w i t h , doubt. I t i s i n e f f e c t abandonment t o t h e

t e a c h i n g o f t h e Buddha; i n t h i s i t i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y B u d d h i s t . But

the Pure Land d o c t r i n e t h a t even a s i n g l e a r i s i n g o f f a i t h i s s u f f i c i e n t

( f o r r e b i r t h ) i s a concept unfound i n e i t h e r p r i m i t i v e o r s e c t a r i a n

Buddhist thought. I t i s , however, a common m o t i f i n o t h e r Mahayana

s c r i p t u r e s as w e l l , so the Pure Land d o c t r i n e o f f a i t h can be s a i d t o be


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w e l l w i t h i n the main stream o f B u d d h i s t t r a d i t i o n .

The second major c l a r i f i c a t i o n r e g a r d s the r e l a t i o n s h i p o f Pure

Land f a i t h as d i s c u s s e d above and t h e concept o f " b h a k t i " o r d e v o t i o n a l

faith. A l t h o u g h p i o u s d e v o t i o n a l i s m undoubtedly had i t s p l a c e i n p o p u l a r

Pure Land p r a c t i c e as i t d i d i n I n d i a n r e l i g i o u s p r a c t i c e a t l a r g e d u r i n g

the same p e r i o d , t h e term " b h a k t i " does not o c c u r anywhere i n t h e Pure


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Land t e x t s themselves. 0
F u j i t a m a i n t a i n s t h a t the r e l i g i o u s concept

of f a i t h expressed i n e a r l y Pure Land Buddhism was d i s t i n c t from t h a t

r e p r e s e n t e d i n contemporary Hindu l i t e r a t u r e such as the Baghavadgita;

the r e l a t i o n s h i p of f a i t h and samadhi mentioned earlier distinguishes

it c l e a r l y from the " f a n a t i c a l " o r " f r e n z i e d " element a s s o c i a t e d w i t h

"bhakti." 2 9

B. Nembutsu

The e a r l y concept o f "nembutsu" was q u i t e d i f f e r e n t from l a t e r

Chinese and Japanese i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , but those l a t e r interpretations

d e r i v e d j u s t i f i c a t i o n from the s c r i p t u r a l passages d e a l i n g w i t h the

t h r e e ranks o r grades of a s p i r a n t s who were t o be r e b o r n i n the Pure

Land. Most c l e a r l y d e s c r i b e d i n the L a r g e r Sukhavati-vyuha, t h i s dis-

t i n c t i o n o f types i s not unique i n Pure Land s c r i p t u r e s nor i n B u d d h i s t

thought as a whole. T h i s i s not to deny, however, t h a t the d e s c r i p t i o n

i n the L a r g e r S u t r a i s i n f a c t the c o r n e r s t o n e of l a t e r Pure Land soteri-

o l o g i c a l d o c t r i n e , which w i l l be d i s c u s s e d i n d e t a i l i n the next section.

S u f f i c e i t to say t h a t the t h e o r y of d i f f e r e n t p r a c t i c e s f o r v a r i o u s

b e l i e v e r s was o s t e n s i b l y determined on the b a s i s of::'the vows o f Dharma-

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kara, and a l l r e v o l v e d around the proper a p p l i c a t i o n of Nembutsu.

The term "nembutsu" i t s e l f i s the Japanese p r o n u n c i a t i o n of two

Chinese c h a r a c t e r s which were used to t r a n s l a t e a number of r e l i g i o u s

terms d e s c r i b e d i n e a r l y Buddhist l i t e r a t u r e . Fundamentally, i t means

"Reflection ('.& "nen") on the Buddha ($b "Butsu") ." In Pure Land

scriptures^ t h i s term was used o r i g i n a l l y to mean m e d i t a t i o n on the

Buddha and by e x t e n s i o n c o n t e m p l a t i o n or v i s u a l i z a t i o n o f h i s a t t r i b u t e s .

The key term i s (Ch.: n i e n ) which was used to t r a n s l a t e t h r e e d i s -


c r e t e S a n s k r i t terms;
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1) A n u s m r t l ( a l s o t r a n s l a t e d j ^ . ^ = ' j ^ ^ . - ) :
<
>
<
"(unfailing) recollection";

2) Manasikara ( a l s o translated ^j^,.)' =


"bearing i n mind or

pondering";

3) P r a s a n n a c i t t a ( a l s o translated>"^">^^\> ) or Prasada (;f^;|^ ) :


v

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"being i n a calm .and pure s t a t e of mind."

The earliest s y s t e m a t i z a t i o n of t h i s k i n d of d e v o t i o n a l p r a c t i c e

occurred i n the P a l i Nikayas, where we f i n d d e s c r i p t i o n s of the " s i x

s t a t e s of ever-minding" ( ? ^ / % ^ ). R e f l e c t i o n on the Buddha, the first

of these s i x , c o n s i s t e d a l s o of r e f l e c t i n g on the ten t i t l e s o f the

Buddha. This meditative nembutsu was extended e v e n t u a l l y to include

i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu, whereby a p r a c t i t i o n e r u t t e r e d the name of the

Buddha as p a r t of h i s d e v o t i o n a l ritual.

I t i s c l e a r t h a t nowhere i n the o r i g i n a l t e x t s i s nembutsu used to

r e f e r to independent i n v o c a t i o n a l p r a c t i c e as l a t e r Chinese and Japanese

proponents claimed. The o r i g i n a l references to nembutsu i n v o c a t i o n are

t y p i c a l and r e p r e s e n t a t i v e not o n l y of e a r l y Mahayana p r a c t i c e s but also

of p r e - s e c t a r i a n Buddhism and even of n o n - b u d d h i s t i c t r a d i t i o n s i n India

35
at the time. While i t i s a l s o c l e a r t h a t nembutsu i s promoted f o r b o t h

m o n a s t i c s and laity a l i k e , v i s u a l i z a t i o n i t s e l f was d i r e c t l y l i n k e d to


36

meditative techniques i n which i n v o c a t i o n was but one facet. Transla-

t i o n s of the Sukhavati-vyuha s u t r a s began to appear i n the e a r l y f o u r t h

century; these were c i t e d by l a t e r a p o l o g i s t s , n o t a b l y Shan-tao Offr||. :


613-681), as evidence of the e f f i c a c y of i n v o c a t i o n , y e t these i n t e r p r e -

t a t i o n s were c l e a r l y a t v a r i a n c e w i t h the o r i g i n a l i n t e n t o f the earliest

s c r i p t u r e s . S i n c e i t was not u n t i l at l e a s t the f o u r t h c e n t u r y that ex-

plicit references to i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu appeared i n Chinese t r a n s l a -

t i o n s , however, i t i s q u i t e p o s s i b l e t h a t i t was trend along with the


37
toward the use of mantra formulae i n Mahayana Buddhism g e n e r a l l y that
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nembutsu came t o be seen as a form o f i n c a n t a t i o n as w e l l as a contempla-

t i o n technique. I t was not u n t i l the f i f t h century that unequivocal

s c r i p t u r a l r e f e r e n c e s to e f f e c t i v e i r r v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu became e v i d e n t ,

in the C e n t r a l A s i a n Contemplation S u t r a r e f e r r e d t o e a r l i e r .

In the Pure Land s c r i p t u r e s , m e d i t a t i v e nembutsu took on a secondary

a t t r i b u t i o n and r e f e r r e d t o " s e e i n g " the Buddha Amitabha. T h i s took two

forms. The f i r s t a p p l i e d to the a p p a r i t i o n of Amitabha a t the hour of

death, but such v i s i o n s were i n the earliest t e x t s l i m i t e d to those

a s p i r a n t s of the f i r s t and second rank.^8 The i d e a p l a y e d a most impor-

t a n t r o l e i n b o t h the e s t a b l i s h m e n t and the development o f Pure Land

thought, but t h i s i s not to say t h a t i t was a t e a c h i n g l i m i t e d to the

Pure Land school. I t appears i n most of the e a r l i e s t Mahayana s c r i p t u r e s ,

and y e t i t was c e r t a i n l y i n the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n t h a t i t s s o t e r i o l o g i -

39

cal s i g n i f i c a n c e was most f u l l y exploited.

The second form o f " s e e i n g " the Buddha was the appearance of Amita-

bha i n dreams. T h i s was perhaps n a t u r a l l y c o n s i d e r e d i n f e r i o r t o b e i n g

g r e e t e d by (a) Buddha a t the moment of death, but c o u l d be e x p e r i e n c e d

even d u r i n g the f i n a l moments of one's l i f e by a l l ranks of b e l i e v e r s i n

lieu.:of the deathbed v i s i t a t i o n . While i t i s r e c o g n i z e d as one benefit

of nembutsu p r a c t i c e among many, t h i s " B u d d h a - v i s i o n " i s p r i m a r i l y a

s t r i k i n g reminder of the d i s t i n c t i o n s between v a r i o u s types of p r a c t i -

tioners. E s s e n t i a l l y , the f i r s t form i s the d o c t r i n a l l y s i g n i f i c a n t one

in terms o f R e b i r t h , and the second i s perhaps a f o r m a l c o n c e s s i o n to the

u n i v e r s a l i t y of Pure Land soteriology.


C. Devotional Attitude

According to the Contemplation Sutra, there are three conditions

necessary for effective nembutsu practice. These are classified as the

"three devotional hearts (attitudes) l 2 , v ' ] , " namely Sincerity, Pro-

found Trust, and Dedicated Longing or steadfast hope. Elements of a l l

three are found in the Sukhavati-vyuha Sutras as well^but were most

systematized in the later text.

Ry Sincerity C$=f$X/\>,~) i s meant Prasada (cf. above, p. 7), the

serene state of mind in which, a l l distractions are dismissed, and a l l

attention focused on the Buddha or his attributes. This was originally

linked to meditative techniques, and referred to a state of contempla-

tive consciousness. By Profound Trust (3%>^ ) i s meant the utter con-


s

viction that, i f one performs nembutsu, i t w i l l effect rebirth in accord

with the vow of Dharmakara (Amitabha) . Dedicated Longing (|®fcVf$^l!/\> ) >

or steadfast hope refers tp the aspiration for rebirth as a result of

nembutsu practice, and came to be interpreted as conscious reliance on

the efficacy of nembutsu itself rather than on any individual m e r i t ^

The latter two attitudes and their implications are particularly

significant here. Since the distinction between those of higher apti-

tude, who could theoretically effect their own release, and those of

lesser aptitude, who could not realistically expect singlehandedly to

accomplish, that release, was drawn, i t followed reasonably that exter-

nal help would be required. The availability of that assistance was in

fact an integral feature of Mahayana soteriology in general, but i t was

the Pure Land^movement, particularly in China and Japan, that exploited

the theory by expounding the ultimate conclusion that rebirth was a re-

sult not of purity of practice but of purity of attitude, Thus, while


-12T-

f a i t h and p r o p e r a t t i t u d e were c h a r a c t e r i s t i c requirements of any reli^

g i o u s a c t i n b o t h Buddhist and non^-buddhist s o t e r i o l o g y , i t was the

Pure Land s c r i p t u r e s which r e c o g n i z e d the p r a c t i c a l problem of devotion-^

a l a t t i t u d e and provided a t h e o r e t i c a l s o l u t i o n by d e m y s t i f y i n g the

human element i n r e l i g i o u s r i t u a l . I t took even the Pure Land movement

u n t i l the t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r y , however, to c l a r i f y the i m p l i c a t i o n s of

t h i s t h e o r y , and i t was Honen who eventually s y s t e m a t i z e d the d i v e r s i t y

of d o c t r i n e i n h i s Senchaku-shu.

N o n e t h e l e s s , i t has been even i n modern times the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n

of the nembutsu p r a c t i c e i t s e l f r a t h e r than the c u l t i v a t i o n of these

a t t i t u d e s which has caused the g r e a t e s t controversy. In China and

l a t e r i n Japan, the q u e s t i o n of whether nembutsu r e f e r r e d to invocation-

a l or m e d i t a t i v e p r a c t i c e , as w e l l as the e f f e c t i v e number of nembutsu,

far outweighed the c r i t i c a l importance of d e v o t i o n a l a t t i t u d e s , which


42

were i n the o r i g i n a l t e x t s o f f a r . g r e a t e r moment as r e l i g i o u s m o t i f s .

T h i s d i s c r e p a n c y u n d e r s c o r e s the d i s t i n c t i o n between the philosophical

and p r a c t i c a l elements i n the e v o l u t i o n of the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , as


A* 3

w e l l as i n Mahayana Buddhism i n g e n e r a l . A more d e t a i l e d discussion

of t h i s problem and the development of Pure Land s o t e r i o l o g y i n China

w i l l be taken up i n the f o l l o w i n g chapters.


-13-

D. Rebirth

The d o c t r i n e of R e b i r t h i n Amitabha's Pure Land q u i t e obviously

played a c e n t r a l r o l e i n the e v o l u t i o n of the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n . While

l a t e r generations of b e l i e v e r s and s c h o l a r s have e i t h e r assumed the doc-

t r i n e i m p l i c i t l y or g l o s s e d over i t s o r i g i n s , however, i t i s important

to t r a c e i t s development i n order to e s t a b l i s h the r o o t s of the Pure Land

movement which Honen i n h e r i t e d and to p l a c e the t r a d i t i o n w i t h i n the main

stream of Mahayana Buddhism. T h i s survey w i l l approach the d o c t r i n e from

t h r e e p o i n t s of view: first, the o r i g i n of the Amitabha c h a r a c t e r ; second,

the concept of S u k h a v a t i i t s e l f ; and finally, i n l i g h t of the f i r s t two,

the d o c t r i n e of R e b i r t h i t s e l f and i t s origin.

1) There a r e two c u r r e n t t h e o r i e s on the s o u r c e of the Amitabha legend.

One a s s e r t s t h a t i t s r o o t s are i n Z o r o a s t r i a n mythology, the second

claims that i t i s a p u r e l y Indian c o n c e p t i o n . ^ The second theory can be

f u r t h e r subdivided i n t o two: Vedic and Buddhist-mythological models.

Neither theory i s without f a u l t s , however, and P r o f e s s o r F u j i t a approaches

the i s s u e from y e t another p o i n t of view. He b e g i n s by a n a l y z i n g the

name i t s e l f , and f i n d s that before the o r i g i n a l Sukhavati-vyuha Sutras,

the names Amitayus and Amitabha were nowhere c l e a r l y i d e n t i f i e d . It was

only with the appearance of the Pure Land s c r i p t u r e s t h a t the two names

can be a s s o c i a t e d . While s i m i l a r names and conceptions were used i n

s e c t a r i a n Buddhism, e s p e c i a l l y among the Mahasarighika, i t was i n the

process of the development of a new transcendental concept of Buddhahood

t h a t the theory of Amitabha and h i s Western P a r a d i s e arose, and i t was

as a r e s u l t of the p o p u l a r i z a t i o n of P r a j n a t e a c h i n g and particularly

the new bodhisattya d o c t r i n e t h a t the p e r s o n a l i t y of Amitabha evolved.

T h i s i d e a w i l l be developed more thoroughly below. S u f f i c e i t to


-14-

say here that the Amitabha legend sprang from the main currents of

Buddhism, and specifically from the new bodhisattva movement; i t repre-

sents the epitome of Buddhist literary convention, and i s typical of

early Mahayana popular soteriology.

2) The concept of Paradise in the Pure Land scriptures originated in

early Mahayana, in conjunction with the evolution of the transcendental

Buddha theory. Unlike the latter, however, this concept was clearly

based on very early Vedic as well as Buddhist mythology. As Fujita

points out, i t i s a reliable explanation that the actual descriptions

of the Pure Lands of Amitabha are modeled on the design specifications


- 45
for stupas, which were explained in the Vinayas.

The earliest references to Buddhist Paradise were metaphorical

allusions to the blissful.'.state of Nirvana. Even in early sectarian

Buddhism, however, references to Paradise make no mention of the terms

"pure" or "purified," thus leading us to the conclusion that i t was with

the introduction of Mahayanist theories that the Amitabhist conception

of the Pure Land evolved.

The influence of the bodhisattva doctrine mentioned earlier can be

seen in the development of the theory of transcendental Buddhas on the

one hand and the evolution of a practical soteriological doctrine on the

other. Dayal argues that the i n i t i a l concept of Buddhist "faith," which

appears in early texts as "Saddha .(Skt.: Sraddha), referred to an

intellectual and volitional assent and confidence i n some teaching,


47
which in this case was that of the historical Buddha. It was therefore
much more an intellectual exercise than an emotional, physical (ritual-
48

istic) expression of adoration for some charismatic individual. Grad-

ually, as the reputation and dynamic personality of Gautama became more

widely recognized, a psychological change took place. No longer was


- 1 5 -

intellectual affirmation paramount^ faith came to be an emotional, deeply

religious act where belief and devotion were directed primarily toward a

personality rather than his ideas.

Consequently, after Gautama!s death, the concept of Buddha i t s e l f

was expanded. The Sthavira sect, under the influence of Jainism and

Hinduism, began to idealize the historical Buddha. This tendency toward

spiritualization of the Buddha culminated around the time of the Maha-

sanghikas, under whom the Buddha concept became totally objectified and

universalized. The historical Buddha, according to them, was only a

magical creation of the transcendental Buddha.

This conceptualized Buddha was certainly unapproachable to the

ordinary believer, and thus an intermediary was required. Both the

Kathavatthu and the Milindapanha had stressed the social nature of the

Arhat, and this was a clear precedent for the bodhisattva doctrine as

characterized in the Prajnaparamita literature. But i t also displayed

the growing tendency (especially by the f i r s t century B.C.) to return

to the earlier history.of Gautama and to the original ideals. The

Kathavatthu had begun in the third century to raise questions and to

stir up interest and speculation concerning Gautama's biography and

previous lives. In fact i t i s clear that

Originally, the term Bodhisattva referred to


Sakyamunibefore he achieved Buddhahood...
This practicing Buddha (i'.e, , Sakyamuni) was
called Bodhisattva. But even before this,
Sakyamuni was considered to be merely a man
who was following the Path of many former
Buddhas who had already gone to the world of
Enlightenment. On the other hand, thanks to
Zoroastrian influence from Persia, a belief
had sprung up that a Buddha called Haitreya
would appear some time i n the future. This
so-called Future Buddha was supposed to be a
person who was practicing the Faith as a
contemporary bodhisattva. Since (according to
this belief) there were innumerable "Future
-16-

Buddhas" i n the p a s t as w e l l , i t came to be


understood t h a t t h e r e are i n any age b o d h i -
s a t t v a s without number.^

Thus, by the time of the P r a j n a p a r a m i t a l i t e r a t u r e , the concepts of the

t r a n s c e n d e n t a l Buddhas and innumerable Buddha-lands as w e l l as great

Bodhisattvas ("Mahasattvas") were c l e a r l y a s s e r t e d , thus p r o v i d i n g a

r a t i o n a l e f o r e x t e r n a l h e l p on the p a t h to s a l v a t i o n .

Out o f t h i s expanded d e f i n i t i o n of Buddhahood, and as a r e s u l t of

the p o p u l a r i z a t i o n of the b o d h i s a t t v a i d e a l ^ " P a r a d i s e " came to mean

the realms of these innumerable t r a n s c e n d e n t a l Buddhas and their attend-

ants. These realms were i n essence " i d e a l ( i z e d ) s o c i e t i e s " where,in

the presence of the Buddha, devotees would be a b l e to a c h i e v e the h i g h e s t

stages of the B o d h i s a t t v a Path. I t was through the i n t e r c e s s i o n of the

b o d h i s a t t v a s , who a p p l i e d the m e r i t accumulated through t h e i r good works

towards the s a l v a t i o n of o t h e r s , t h a t b e l i e v e r s were a b l e to a c h i e v e re'^riV.:

b i r t h — n o t i n a more f a v o r a b l e s i t u a t i o n i n t h i s w o r l d , but i n a f a n t a s -

52
t i c p u r i f i e d Buddha-realm beyond the h o r i z o n .

3) In the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , t h i s r e b i r t h i s to a Buddha-realm i n the

West p r e s i d e d over by Amitlbha Buddha and h i s a t t e n d a n t s , c h i e f among

whom are the b o d h i s a t t v a s A v a l o k i t e s v a r a (jfj^l §. I^L^-^ ) and

Mahasthamaprapta (JlfgS\%}/TN^ ^ 1
)- 53
While on the s u r f a c e t h i s

s t a t e p h y s i c a l l y resembles the world we l i v e i n now, i t was traditionally

so d e s c r i b e d as a popular image to i n s p i r e the average devotee to p r a c -

tice. On i t s more s o p h i s t i c a t e d d o c t r i n a l l e v e l s , however, t h i s "Pure

Land" i s beyond the dimensions of time or space, and i t s form and f u n c t i o n

a r e c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to the p r a c t i c e of m e d i t a t i o n d e s c r i b e d e a r l i e r as

Buddha-visualization.

According to the e a r l i e s t Pure Land s c r i p t u r a l r e f e r e n c e s , "rebirth"

i s a c t u a l l y a k i n d of s p i r i t u a l metamorphosis,"^ and i n a l l e g o r i c a l terms


-17-

the setting for this transformation i s a jewelled pond i n the land of

Amitabha. Aspirants of the highest rank are reborn on a lotus blossom,

and have attained the status of "non-returning bodhisattva." This has

been accomplished by successful samadhi-practice in the previous (i.e.,

this mundane) existence, and in fact f i t s quite readily within the

general Mahayanist tradition of meditation, visualization, and release.

On the other hand, aspirants of the middle and lowest rank, not having

established perfect Faith i n the Pure Land of Amitabha, are reborn i n a

jewelled..tower in the remote corners of the Amitabha realm, and for five

hundred lifetimes are unable to visualize the Buddha (perfectly) or to

hear his (perfect) teaching expounded. Put simply, this indicates that

the cultivation of unfailing Faith i n the Pure Land teaching i s the

paramount consideration i n determining successful "metamorphosis," and

those who are reborn i n the presence of Amitabha are characterized by

the purity of their faith and trust in Amitabha.^ Thus, the desire to

see Amitabha i s the necessary prerequisite for rebirth i t s e l f , and the

cultivation of the other virtues outlined in the vows of the bodhisattva

Dharmakara (and summarized above under "Devotional Attitude"cand

"Faith") were prerequisites for the spiritual metamorphosis described

above. This spiritual metamorphosis i s in fact a representative doctrine

in Mahayanist soteriology in general.


-18-

II. Summary/Conclusion

In the f i n a l a n a l y s i s , two d i s t i n c t i o n s need to be made i n the d i s c u s s i o n

of Pure Land teaching. The f i r s t i s between Pure Land r e b i r t h and metamorpho-

sis, the second between the types o f devotees who a r e a b l e t o a c h i e v e these

states. As mentioned above, the term " r e b i r t h " r e f e r s g e n e r a l l y to the

accomplishment o f a more f a v o r a b l e s i t u a t i o n i n the next e x i s t e n c e than t h a t

i n the p r e s e n t s i t u a t i o n . T e c h n i c a l l y , t h i s was o r i g i n a l l y connected w i t h

the e a r l y Buddhist and V e d i c concepts of Karma, but, w i t h the advent of the

b o d h i s a t t v a d o c t r i n e , i t came to mean r e a l i z a t i o n of an i d e a l i z e d state

wherein one c o u l d p r o g r e s s unimpeded a l o n g the p a t h t o "enlightenment." On

the d o c t r i n a l l e y e l , t h i s came t o be r e c o g n i z e d as a transformed e x i s t e n c e

which was a t t a i n e d through t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o u s p r a c t i c e s , c h i e f among which

was contemplation. T h i s accomplishment was r e f e r r e d to as "metamorphosis."

Yet on the p o p u l a r l e v e l , such r i g o r o u s p r a c t i c e s were beyond the means o f

o r d i n a r y devotees, and, i n k e e p i n g w i t h the t h r u s t of the b o d h i s a t t v a i d e a l ,

r e l i g i o u s a t t i t u d e came to be seen as more c r i t i c a l than t r a d i t i o n a l religious

discipline. This s h i f t i n emphasis o c c u r r e d both i n t h e o r e t i c a l and practical

t e a c h i n g , and was most apparent i n l a t e r Pure Land t e x t s and i n Chinese

r e c e n s i o n s o f the e a r l y scriptures.

In r e c o g n i z i n g the v a r i o u s degrees of a p t i t u d e among devotees, the Pure

Land t r a d i t i o n f o r m a l i z e d the p o p u l a r i z a t i o n o f Buddhist s o t e r i o l o g y and

practice. While t h i s p r o c e s s of i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n was not completed until

Honen's d o c t r i n a l s y s t e m a t i z a t i o n i n t h i r t e e n t h - c e n t u r y Japan, the seeds f o r

i t were c l e a r l y p l a n t e d i n the e a r l i e s t s t r a t a of I n d i a n b o d h i s a t t v a t e a c h i n g ,

and i t s development r e s u l t e d from e a r l y Chinese i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of the origi-

n a l Sukhavati texts, y e t t o be r e c o n c i l e d were the d i s t i n c t i o n s between the

e f f i c i e n t a g e n t s ^ i n s e c u r i n g t h i s s p i r i t u a l -metamorphosis; the - question


of self-realization versus Other-power reliance came to be a key element in

the later evolution of Pure Land doctrine i n both China and Japan.

Having now looked at the textual history of the most important doctrines

and noted their .".evolution within the greater Buddhist tradition, l e t us now

proceed to a more detailed discussion of their interpretation in the Chinese

context, which served as the immediate source of the Pure Land tradition in

Japan.
-20-

ENDNOTES; CHAPTER ONE

1. Leon H u r v i t z , e t a l . , "The F i r s t S y s t e m i z a t i o n o f B u d d h i s t Thought


i n C h i n a , " U n p u b l i s h e d m a n u s c r i p t , Vancouver, B.C., 1975. Cf. also
R i c h a r d H. Robinson, E a r l y Madhyamika i n I n d i a and C h i n a (Madison,
W i s c o n s i n : U n i v e r s i t y o f W i s c o n s i n P r e s s , 1967), and E r i k Z u r c h e r ,
The B u d d h i s t Conquest o f C h i n a ( L e i d e n : B r i l l , 1959).

2. Much o f t h i s c h a p t e r i s based on FUJITA K o t a t s u ^ f f l ^ ^ , Genshi


Jodo Shiso No Kenkyu fat&0£-f&fi- <nM% [ S t u d i e s i n E a r l y Pure Land
Thought] (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1970). See p a r t i c u l a r l y pp. 354-376 f o r
a d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n o f the r e l a t i o n s h i p between P r a j n a p a r a m i t a
and Pure Land thought.

3. Edward Conze, The P r a j n a p a r a m i t a L i t e r a t u r e (London: Mouton and


Co:.., 1960), pp. 9-12. A l s o , UI Hakuju >f $(/ffi fj> , Bukkyo K y o t e n s h i
$$Lifyfct. [ H i s t o r y o f B u d d h i s t S c r i p t u r e s ] (Tokyo: 1953), pp. 100-110,
and E t i e n n e Lamotte, Le T r a i t e de l a Grande V e r t u de Sagesse de
Nagarj una, V o l , I ( L o u v a i n : Bureaux du Museon, 1944), pp. 25-26.

4. F u j i t a , p. 257.

5. See F u j i t a , pp. 51-61.

6. See F u j i t a , p. 74.

7. See F u j i t a , pp. 97-102.

8. See F u j i t a , pp. 103-114.

9. See F u j i t a , pp. 116-120. T h i s s u t r a i s one of a number i n t r o d u c e d


to China d u r i n g the f i f t h and s i x t h c e n t u r i e s which o u t l i n e d p r a c t i -
c a l methods o f c o n t e m p l a t i v e nembutsu and Amitabha d e v o t i o n .

10. Fragments a r e e x t a n t i n Uighur.

11. F o r a f u r t h e r d i s c u s s i o n and comprehensive b i b l i o g r a p h y o f p r a j n a -


p a r a m i t a , see my "Quest f o r the I d e a l Man," u n p u b l i s h e d m a n u s c r i p t ,
Vancouver, 1974. I t might be h e l p f u l to o u t l i n e the e v o l u t i o n of
the P a r a m i t a theory, s i n c e the Mahayanists c o n t r a s t e d the P a r a m i t a s
w i t h the e t h i c a l i d e a l s o f "Hinayana," s p e c i f i c a l l y , the 37 b o d h i -
paksika=-dharmas, which were c o n s i d e r e d monastic and a n t i - s o c i a l i n
scope and tendency. The A r h a t s then were r e g a r d e d as r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s
of merely n e g a t i v e e t h i c a l i d e a l s , w h i l e the P a r a m i t a s were proposed
as a scheme o f p o s i t i v e moral development. The B o d h i s a t t v a was to
e s t a b l i s h h i m s e l f :.l f i r m l y i n e x i s t e n c e and s t r u g g l e ; h i s s t r e n g t h
would come from a p p l i c a t i o n o f the P a r a m i t a s .
-21-

The .Paramitas, which were f i r s t mentioned in the Astasahasrika


(8000 verse) Prajnaparamita sutra, have certain general characteris-
tics. They are "sublime, disinterested, supremely important, and
imperishable." Each Paramita i s developed through-a progressive
scheme of action involving three stages:
1) Ordinary; the -virtue when practiced for "worldly" happi-
ness;
2) Extraordinary: the virtue when practiced in order to
achieve Nirvana;
3) Superlative (.'Paramita'): the virtue practiced for the
liberation and welfare of a l l sentient beings.
These stages reappear in Jodo theology which w i l l be discussed in
following chapters.

12. Cf. Frederick J. Streng, Emptiness: A Study of Religious Meaning


(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967), pp. 28-35.

13. See Streng for a detailed discussion of the religious concept of


Sunyata.

14. While in many ways the two philosophers' interpretations were


distinctly at odds, their basic assumptions concerning liberation
seem to me to be compatible. The way to favorable rebirth and
eventual Buddhahood was through faith and aspiration, which were
fostered through the cultivation of Prajna (Nagarjuna) and Dhyana
(Vasubandhu).

15. This recognition was due to two works attributed to them. Nagarjuna
is credited with the writing of the Dasabhumikavibhasa (T. 1521:
- l&fiyft) • In the ninth chapter of this text, we find the f i r s t authori-
tative distinction between the "easy path ( ^ ^-j )" and the
"Difficult path ^-j ^ )." This chapter has been interpreted
as an expression of Nagarjuna's personal beliefs. Be that as i t may,
the promotion of Amitabha devotion by such a revered author and the
description of an easy method of achieving "nonregression" through
faith i n the Buddha was taken by later Pure Land apologists as clear
evidence of the legitimacy of their doctrine.
Vasubandhu, the founder of the Yogacara school, wrote a commen-
tary on the Sukhavati-Vyuha entitled the Sukhavati-Vyuhopadesa (T.
1524: X- tftfj )• Two significant points derive from this text.
First Vasubandhu admitted his own desire for rebirth in the Pure Land,
which added a further element of credibility to the Pure Land move-
ment. Secondly, Vasubandhu presented a five-fold schema of Amitabha
meditation, which became a key part of later Pure Land theory, partic-
ularly as expounded by the Sui-T'ang school, which we w i l l discuss in
the next section.

16. Cf. my "Quest," ibid., pp. 27-30.

17. A key text in such a study would no doubt be the Ta-chi-tu-lun (T.
1509: ^ |^) ) • Though not a sutra i t promotes nembutsu-
samadhi, and i t i s considered basically a Prajna text. It i s falsely
attributed to Nagarjuna and i s a compendium of Mahayana teaching, but
emphasizing nembutsu-samadhi. Thanks to Kumarajiva's extraordinary
translation, however, i t more importantly clarified and transmitted
-22-

the I n d i a n i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f Amitabha and Pure Land i d e a s i n the l i g h t


of Madhyamika concepts of sunyata and the c u l t i v a t i o n o f P r a j n a .

18. See F u j i t a , pp. 603-613.

19. I n the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , as i n Mahayana Buddhism g e n e r a l l y , a l l


r u l e s o f conduct proceed from f a i t h ( P a l i : saddha) t o wisdom ( P a l i :
panna) i n theory b u t i n p r a c t i c e a r e , as a l l v i r t u e s , i n t e r d e p e n d e n t .
C f . F u j i t a , p. 604.

20. See F u j i t a , pp. 531-535.

21. F u j i t a , p. 611.

22. NAKAMURA Hajime, Ways o f T h i n k i n g o f E a s t e r n Peoples (Honolulu:


U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s of Hawaii, 1964), pp. 116-117.

23. F u j i t a , p. 606.

24. F u j i t a , p. 609.

25. See below, p. 6 f f , f o r more d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n o f nembutsu.

26. F u j i t a , p. 559; pp. 616-617. T h i s Jodo t e a c h i n g was based on the


E i g h t e e n t h Vow o f Dharmakara; i t s e s t a b l i s h m e n t as a f o r m a l d o c t r i n e
i n p r i m i t i v e Buddhism d i d n o t occur u n t i l the time o f the s e c t a r i a n
splits.

27. F u j i t a , p. 617.

28. F u j i t a , pp. 601, 615.

29. F u j i t a (p. 616) d i s a g r e e s w i t h D a y a l on t h i s p o i n t . C f . Har D a y a l ,


The B o d h i s a t t v a D o c t r i n e i n Buddhist S a n s k r i t - L i t e r a t u r e (London:
Kegan P a u l , Trench, Trubner & Co., L t d . , 1932), pp. 34-35.

30. See F u j i t a , pp. 538-540 and Chapter 4.

31. Sukhavati-vyuha, pp. 96-98. C f . F u j i t a , pp. 537-540.

32. See above, p. 4. F o r an e l a b o r a t i o n on these terms as they a r e used


i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n , see F u j i t a , pp. 545-552, and A l l a n A. Andrews,
The Teachings E s s e n t i a l f o r R e b i r t h (Tokyo: Sophia U n i v e r s i t y ,
1973), p. 2, f o o t n o t e .

33. F u j i t a , pp. 550-551, 616, and Andrews, p. 3.

34. Andrews f e e l s t h a t t h i s was r e l a t e d t o d e v o t i o n a l i n v o c a t i o n s t o the


Three Jewels or the T r i p l e Refuge.

35. F u j i t a , pp. 559-560.

36. F u j i t a , py,.555ff. See a l s o L ' l n d e c l a s s i q u e , Manuel des Etudes


Indiennes, Tome I I , ed. L o u i s Renou e t Jean F i l l i o z a t e t a l . (Hanoi:
E c o l e f r a n c a i s e d'extreme-o r i e n t , 1953), p. 371.
-23-

37. Cf. in particular the Prajnaparamita scriptures of the same period,


e.g., the Heart Sutra.

38. Cf. Fujita, pp. 5 6 6 - 5 6 8 .

39. Fujita, pp. 5 7 0 - 5 8 4 .

40. Particularly in the Larger Sutra, in the Eighteenth Vow where the
three are identified as ^.\> , ^| , • /
v

41. Cf. the f i f t h of Vasubandhu's JS_ - f a .

42. The term "original texts" here and elsewhere in this study refers
to the earliest versions of the Sukhavatl-vyuha. Such an ascription
is not without difficulties. See Fujita, pp. 1 6 7 - 1 6 8 .

43. Naturally, this distinction i s a feature of scripture-based ("in-s


spired") religious traditions in general. The gradual emergence of
sectarianism in early Buddhism and within the Mahayana i t s e l f , as
well as in the monotheistic religions in the West, testifies to the
tendency toward exegesis rather than practical instruction, particu-
larly among the formal apologists. The tendency i s documented in
any number of sources and need not be pursued here.

44. Fujita, pp. 2 6 1 - 2 6 8 .

45. This theory i s not original with Fujita, as he himself admits. It


was f i r s t presented by HIRAKAWA AkiraSpl )^ in his Ritsuzo* no Kenkyu"
1

ffij^ffi % [Studies in the Buddhist Vinaya] (Tokyo: 1 9 6 0 ) .

46. Cf. Edward Conze, Buddhist Texts through the Ages (New York: Harper
and Row, 1 9 6 4 ) , pp. 5 1 - 5 4 .

47. Cf. A.K. Warder, Indian Buddhism (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1 9 7 0 ) ,

pp. 8 9 - 9 0 , and L'Inde classique, pp. 5 8 9 - 5 9 0 .

48. As discussed earlier, i t i s this connotation which was resurrected in


the Prajnaparamita and Pure Land literature. The latter, r i t u a l i s t i c
expression i s more properly called Bhaktj ; on this point, however,
Fujita and Dayal disagree.

49. KAJIYAMA YM.0^~, , "Hahnya-kyo $^l(£,". [The Prajnaparamita Scriptures]


in Nihon no Butten Q/fr < f l f f r # r [Japanese Buddhist Texts] (Tokyo: 1 9 6 6 ) ,
p. 2 7 .

50. Examples of the expression of this are found in the cave temples
which were built concurrently with the development of^early Prajna-
paramita literature. Sanchi i s a fine example. See Etienne Lamotte,
Histoire du bouddhisme indien (Louvain: Institut Orientaliste, 1 9 5 8 ) .

5 1 . Fujita, pp. 5 0 6 , 5 1 4 - 5 1 5 . As pointed out above, while the the theory


of Buddha-realms itself was current in early Buddhism, i t was not
until the Mahaylna that the idea of "purification" (I.e., "Pure Land")
was invoked. In fact in China the term "Pure Land (5^ J - )" came
to be used as a technical designation for the Mahayana concept of
-24-

salyation. See Fujita, pp. 519-522 for further discussion of the


development of the doctrine of rebirth as i t relates to this question.

52. D.T. Suzuki sees the old law of Karma discarded with, the emergence
of the bodhisattva concept and the ideal of Kaxuna. and..lreplaced with
the theory of "Transfer of Merits (Parinamana) . He explains this
11

change i n terms of the metaphysical theory of Dharma-kaya. Cf. D.T.


Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism (New York: Schocken Books,
1963), p. 284. Also see UEDA Yoshifumi X~ffl^ > L , Bukkyo shiso no
Kenkyu ftM-<AM[Studies in Buddhist Thought] (Kyoto: 1951).
For discussions of the Tri-kaya theory, cf. Edward Conze, Buddhist
Thought, DID. 170-173 and 232-237, as well as E. Lamotte, Histoire,
pp. 689-690.

53. The transcriptions %. H- (Avalokitesvara) and^fflffi'&fr' XMahastharr.:.;


maprapta) are variants which appear i n the earliest Chinese recensions
of the Sukhavati-vyuha. Cf. Fujita. p. 174. For further discussion
of the various transliterations of the name Avalokitesvara, see
Fujita^ pp. 72-73. and note 16, p. 76.

54. Fujita, pp. 523-525.

55. Fujitaj pp. 526-527.


-25-

Chapter Two

The introduction of Buddhism i n t o China was characterized by a number of

important f e a t u r e s , not the l e a s t of which was the need f o r a d a p t a t i o n of

sophisticated'rindian philosophical theory to a new language and culture. As

a r e s u l t of the d i f f i c u l t y of such an e n t e r p r i s e , i t was many c e n t u r i e s be-r:..

f o r e d i s c r e t e s c h o o l s of Buddhist thought emerged i n C h i n a . This period of

a s s i m i l a t i o n and e v e n t u a l d i s c r i m i n a t i o n has been well-documented elsewhere]"

so l e t i t s u f f i c e to say t h a t two forms of Buddhism were r e c o g n i z e d i n the

e a r l y y e a r s of Chinese Buddhism. These two generally correspond to the two

categories alluded t o i n the p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r , t h a t i s , philosophical and

devotional.

The t e x t u a l h i s t o r y of Buddhist s c r i p t u r e s g i v e s us a f a i r l y clear pic-

t u r e of the p h i l o s o p h i c a l i n t e r e s t s of the e a r l y Chinese B u d d h i s t s , w h i l e the

remains of g r e a t cave-temples i n the n o r t h of China, c o n s t r u c t e d during the

N o r t h e r n Wei Dynasty i n the fifth and sixth centuries, p r o v i d e ample e v i d e n c e

of p o p u l a r d e v o t i o n . The Chinese of the l a t e Han Dynasty, when the first

t r a n s l a t i o n s of Buddhist s c r i p t u r e s appeared, knew l i t t l e of the Indian and

C e n t r a l A s i a n h i s t o r y of Buddhism, and thus b e l i e v e d t h a t a l l of the s c r i p -

t u r e s were a u t h o r i t a t i v e and equally representative, so they attempted at

first to r e c o n c i l e Buddhist t h e o r i e s w i t h t r a d i t i o n a l Chinese p h i l o s o p h y ,


o

p a r t i c u l a r l y Neo-Taoism. L a t e r , w i t h more a u t h o r i t a t i v e t r a n s l a t i o n s avail-

able, discrete theories e v o l v e d and i n d i g e n o u s Buddhist thought developed.

For the purposes of t h i s paper, i t i s enough to summarize the growth of the

Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , which formed the immediate p r o l o g u e to the Japanese

movement which Honen s y s t e m a t i z e d i n the thirteenth century.

While t h e r e are s e v e r a l v a r i a t i o n s among t r a d i t i o n a l Pure Land l i s t s of

Patriarchs, the Jodo School (>^.£jfl ) of Honen r e c o g n i z e s the f o l l o w i n g , which


-26-

will form the b a s i s of our d i s c u s s i o n of the e v o l u t i o n of Pure Land Buddhism

in China^

(India) (China)

1) Asvaghosa 4) B o d h i r u c i

2) Nagarjuna 5) T'an-luan

3) Vasubandhu 6) Tao-ch'o

7) Shan-tao

(Japan)

H5NEN

I. BACKGROUND

A l t h o u g h Asvaghosa ( l - 2 c A.D.) i s i n c l u d e d i n t h i s t r a d i t i o n a l schema

because the "Awakening of F a i t h i n the Mahayana" (T.1666:£4M?-^S ), a

Hua-yen 0 ^ ^ . ) t e x t p r o b a b l y w r i t t e n i n C h i n a , i s a t t r i b u t e d t o him, i t i s

not likely t h a t the passages recommending f a i t h i n t h e s a v i n g Power of Amita-

bha and m e d i t a t i o n on Him a r e a u t h e n t i c . ^ I n any case, n o t h i n g new was added

to Pure Land thought a s i d e from the p r e s t i g e of b e i n g i n c l u d e d i n such a

g r e a t compendium of Mahayana theory and p r a c t i c e .

We have a l r e a d y mentioned the r o l e s Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu p l a y e d i n

the e s t a b l i s h m e n t of the Mahayana t r a d i t i o n , and have suggested the s p e c i f i c

c o n t r i b u t i o n s to Pure Land t e a c h i n g which i n s p i r e d t h e i r s e l e c t i o n as

Patriarchs

In China p r i o r t o the e s t a b l i s h m e n t o f an independent Pure Land school

in the f i f t h c e n t u r y , a number of important c o n t r i b u t i o n s t o the movement

occurred. Perhaps the most important monk not o n l y f o r the Pure Land tradi-

t i o n but f o r a l l of Chinese Buddhism was Kumarajiva, whose t r a n s l a t i o n s made

it p o s s i b l e f o r the Chinese to grasp the f u l l impact of the mass of s c r i p t u r e s


-27-

6
at their disposal*

Tao-an : 312-385) was an eminent Prajna scholar and Dhyana adept 7

as well as a p r o l i f i c cataloguer of Buddhist texts. He was significant for

a further reason, however, for he organized a cult to Maitreya while living

in Hsiang-yang (%. ) T h i s indicates an important element of eschatologi-

cal concern, which among his contemporaries i s reflected further in the cave-
8

temples in North. China,- and which contributed to the evolution of both the

Pure Land tradition under Tao-an's disciple, Hui-yuan (J&'Jfj, 334-416), and
:

the school of the Three Stages, a short-lived movement founded by a monk

named Hsin-hsing : 540-594). 9

The last of the.important precursors to the independent Pure Land

school of the Sui Period was Hui-yuan?-® Even more than Tao-an, he was

concerned about Prajna and Lao-chuang (j*? "ft : Neo-Taoist) philosophical

speculation and Dhyana practice. He was noteworthy for this discussion for

a single reason. In 402, he helped organize a society on Mt Lu in Kiangsi

) dedicated to rebirth in Amitabha's Pure Land, a signal develop-

ment in Chinese Buddhism which was to affect later institutional and popular

devotion profoundly. Althpugh his group was composed primarily of recluses

and retired gentlement who were not concerned with popular devotionalism but

rather emphasized nembutsu-contemplation, this fraternity became a model for

similar groups in both. China and Japan.H Further, the nembutsu-samadhi

practiced by Hui-yuan and his followers served as a model for one of T'ien-

tai samadhi methods formulated by Chih^-i J | ; 538-597) . This

method became the source of nembutsu practice in Japan, but affected Chinese

Pure Land Buddhism minimally.

Finally, in the Japanese tradition the honor of f i r s t Chinese patriarch

is reserved fqr Bqdhi.ruci (ca. mid-6c) . Bodhiruci i s considered by Japanese

Pure Land devotees as the f i r s t Chinese Patriarch, f i r s t because of his


-28-

translation of Vasubandhu's Sukhavati-Vyuhopadesa, but more directly because

i t was he who converted T'an-luan to Pure Land devotion by presenting him with
— 19
a copy of the Contemplation Sutra.

II. THE INDEPENDENT PURE LAND MOVEMENT

T'an-luan (476-542) was born near Mount Wu-t'ai (&*_M!\ ) in North China,

which had been outside the main stream of Buddhist philosophical circles as a

result of the social and cultural dislocation brought about by non-Chinese

p o l i t i c a l control. In such an atmosphere, popular myth and r i t u a l were

naturally mixed with institutional religious beliefs, and consequently T'an-

luan was f i r s t exposed not to orthodox Buddhist doctrine but to popular '. '.

Buddho-Taoism, which seemed to respond satisfactorily to the religious aspira-

tions of the people.

T'an-luan, converted to Pure Land thought by Bodhiruci i n his youth,

devoted himself to spreading Pure Land teachings and to organizing societies

for the practice of nembutsu. His major literary achievement was a commentary

on Vasubandhu's Sukhavati-Vyuhopadesa, which he presumably obtained from

Bodhiruci. In this commentary, which presents a surprising Prajna interpreta-

tion of Pure Land theory, he emphasized three main themes.

First, because he was living in what was considered a,degenerate age,-*-^

when correct traditional practice was d i f f i c u l t , he asserted that i t was

necessary to rely on the power of Amitabha's vows rather than on individual

effort, which latter had indeed been appropriate during the earlier period.

The distinction between own-power (M $ ) and other-power (JtfLfi} was thus


14

formally acknowledged. It should be noted, however, that T an-luan did not

restrict the application of his "Other-power" doctrine to nembutsu practice,

and this point later caused rather considerable controversy i n Hfmen's move-

ment. T'an-luan further interpreted the eighteenth vow^ to mean definitely


-29-

t h a t i n v o c a t i o n of the Buddha Amitabha's name was not only an e f f e c t i v e "

(thoughtnot e x c l u s i v e ) p r a c t i c e , but p a r t i c u l a r l y a p p r o p r i a t e d u r i n g an age

l i k e h i s own. H i s e x p l a n a t i o n of the l e g i t i m a c y of i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu


16

r e s t e d on the i n h e r e n t Power of the name of Amitabha. T'an-luan thus

r e d i r e c t e d Pure Land thought and p r a c t i c e away from P r a j n a - s t y l e b o d h i s a t t v a

a s p i r a t i o n and r e c l u s i v e i n t e l l e c t u a l i n q u i r y and toward a u n i v e r s a l a p p e a l

for salvation.

There i s s u b s t a n t i a l a r c h a e o l o g i c a l evidence t h a t T'an-luan's efforts

were not i n v a i n . In the a r e a around Loyang (y&f^y ) , where T'an-luan l i v e d

and preached, p o p u l a r Amitabha d e v o t i o n i n c r e a s e d d r a m a t i c a l l y a f t e r 500AD."^

T'an-luan's s p i r i t u a l d i s c i p l e , Tao-ch'o (562-645), was b o r n j u s t fifty

y e a r s b e f o r e what had been c a l c u l a t e d as the b e g i n n i n g of the L a t t e r Days of

the Dharma (Mappo:.$L>& ) , 18 a n { j thus f e l t perhaps more k e e n l y than T'an-luan

the d i s t i n c t i o n between the Holy Path ( i . e . , the B o d h i s a t t v a c o u r s e of the

P r a j n a p a r a m i t a s ) and the way of Pure Land f a i t h when he r e a d o f T'an-luan's

c a r e e r on a monument to him i n the Hsuan-chung Temple (it 3 ). I t i s probable

t h a t he, l i k e so many o t h e r s i n N o r t h China a t the time, had been r a i s e d i n


19

an environment where Pure Land d e v o t i o n a l i s m was commonplace. I f we recall

the p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n i n China toward the end of the s i x t h cen-

t u r y , when c i v i l wars and t u r m o i l were rampant, i t i s not d i f f i c u l t to

imagine why the Mappo t h e o r y was so p e r v a s i v e and why p e o p l e were so r e c e p -

t i v e to a movement which promised s o l a c e and hope r e g a r d l e s s of t h e i r ability

to devote themselves f u l l time t o r e l i g i o u s t r a i n i n g and a u s t e r i t y . - ^ 0

In h i s major work, the A n - l o - c h i (T. 1958: ^^.ijL ), Tao-ch'o reiterated

the d i s t i n c t i o n between the easy and d i f f i c u l t paths which T'an-luan had

preached, but gave a c o s m o l o g i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l a p o l o g e t i c f o r the t h e o r y ,

based on the commonly accepted p r i n c i p l e s of the Three (or Four) Ages of the

Dharma, which was most p o w e r f u l l y summarized i n the Saddharma-pundarika


-30-

Sutra (T.356: ). l l

The A n - l o - c h i i s a response to c r i t i c i s m s , p r i m a r i l y those of the

Vijnana-vada (Yogacara) s c h o o l , c o n c e r n i n g the n a t u r e of the Dharma itself

22

and the p r o p r i e t y of encouraging a d u a l i s t i c p h i l o s o p h y of " r e l e a s e . "

Tao-ch'o e x p l a i n e d the theory of the Pure Land and r e b i r t h i n i t as simply

a form of 'upaya,' t h a t i s , u s i n g c o n v e n t i o n a l t r u t h to l e a d b e l i e v e r s to

23 _

ultimate truth. T h i s was a dynamic Madhyamika argument and i n d i c a t e s Tao-

ch'o' s e r u d i t i o n i n t r a d i t i o n a l B u d d h i s t p h i l o s o p h y as w e l l as i n contempo^-

rary explications.

While Tao-ch'o was encouraging Pure Land d e v o t i o n , p a r t i c u l a r l y invoca-

t i o n a l nembutsu, as the Easy P a t h a p p r o p r i a t e f o r a degenerate age, he d i d

not disavow the e f f i c a c y of nembutsu-samadhi, but r a t h e r recommended i t as

his p r e d e c e s s o r s had f o r those s u p e r i o r b e i n g s and b o d h i s a t t v a p r a c t i t i o n e r s

still s u r v i v i n g a t the end of the second P e r i o d of the Dharma.

Thus, Tao-ch'o not only e s t a b l i s h e d Pure Land f a i t h and d e v o t i o n i n

China w i t h i n the l a r g e r Mahayana t r a d i t i o n by p r o v i d i n g a u t h o r i t a t i v e support

for i t , but a l s o r e i n f o r c e d the p o p u l a r a p p e a l begun by T'an-luan. In f a c t ,

only because of Tao-ch'o d i d the most famous Pure Land master, Shan-tao, even
24

d i s c o v e r the t e a c h i n g s of T'an-luan or become a Pure Land devotee.

After i n i t i a l l y s t u d y i n g San-lun (:J.|jf^ : the Chinese v e r s i o n of Madhya-

maka), Shan-tao became a d i s c i p l e of Tao-ch'o i n 642. His conversion i s

s i g n i f i c a n t s i n c e he had grown up i n an atmosphere much d i f f e r e n t from t h a t

of h i s p r e d e c e s s o r s i n the Pure Land movement. With the u n i f i c a t i o n of C h i n a

under the S u i Dynasty i n 589, a f r a g i l e peace was r e s t o r e d and the d e v e l o p -

ment of the Southern B u d d h i s t s c h o o l s became more w i d e l y known i n the N o r t h

as well.

Shan-tao's p r i n c i p a l work was a commentary t o the Amitabha C o n t e m p l a t i o n

Sutra (T. 1753), but i t r e p r e s e n t s a f a r d i f f e r e n t p o i n t of view from h i s


-31-

earlier writings. H i s "Manual of Amitabha-Nembutsu Contemplation" (T. 1959:

) promotes a p r a c t i c a l method of nembutsu samadhi f o r the

purpose of accumulating m e r i t and thus a s s u r i n g r e b i r t h i n Amitabha's Pure

Land. I t i s evidence of h i s commitment to Pure Land d o c t r i n e as p r e s e n t e d in

the Contemplation S u t r a and i n the t e a c h i n g s of Hui-yuan. It also reflects

Shan-tao's e a r l y exposure to the d i s c i p l i n e d monastic t r a d i t i o n , and perhaps

the i n f l u e n c e of T ' i e n - t ' a i m e d i t a t i o n p r a c t i c e s . I t encourages both visual-

i z a t i o n and i n v o c a t i o n , but the obvious emphasis i s on the former.

H i s "Hymns to R e b i r t h " (T. 1980: ^ ), however, p r e s e n t a

much more p e r s o n a l view of r e l i g i o u s p r a c t i c e , and the i n f l u e n c e of h i s

immediate p r e d e c e s s o r s i s more obvious. I n h i s I n t r o d u c t i o n , Shan-tao attemp-

ted to c a t e g o r i z e the q u a l i t i e s n e c e s s a r y f o r r e b i r t h , namely, F a i t h (4c"':') »


0

practice (J3£23T )> and a t t i t u d e s or modes of p r a c t i c e ( # ^ ). The first,

F a i t h , i s expressed i n the t h r e e a t t i t u d e s of the h e a r t f i r s t d e s c r i b e d i n the

Contemplation Sutra. The second i s the f i v e - f o l d nembutsu p r a c t i c e (A-^-^ )

presented i n Vasubandhu's commentary on the Sukhavati-vyuha. The third is

Modes of P r a c t i c e , which Shan-tao d e s c r i b e d as l i f e l o n g , r e v e r e n t , ceaseless,

and exclusive. In the Hymns, t h e r e f o r e , we see a v e r y s i g n i f i c a n t change i n

Shan-tao's understanding of r e l i g i o u s devotion.

By emphasizing the e x c l u s i v i t y of nembutsu c u l t i v a t i o n , he t a c i t l y r e -

j e c t e d a l l o t h e r forms of Buddhist p r a c t i c e as i n a p p r o p r i a t e f o r the sinful

and deluded devotees l i v i n g d u r i n g the L a t t e r Days of the Dharma. Further,

he c l a s s i f i e d a l l a p p r o p r i a t e nembutsu p r a c t i c e i n t o f i v e t y p e s , i n a c c o r d

w i t h Vasubandhu's schema. The five are:

1) Veneration

• 2) A d u l a t i o n (Invocation)

3) A s p i r a t i o n

4) Contemplation

5) D e d i c a t i o n
At t h i s time, however, Shan-tao d i d not e x p l i c i t l y i n s i s t on the s u p e r i o r i t y

of i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu, s i n c e he c l a s s i f i e d them a l l as e f f e c t i v e methods.

The most profound element i n the "Hymns," however, i s Shan-tao's e x p l a -

n a t i o n o f the s p i r i t u a l a t t i t u d e s r e q u i r e d f o r R e b i r t h . His description of

the "Three Minds" e s t a b l i s h e s h i s own p e r s o n a l c o n v i c t i o n o f h e l p l e s s n e s s

and degeneracy, and forms the b a s i s o f h i s l a t e r i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f Pure Land

d o c t r i n e t h a t i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu was the o n l y e f f i c a c i o u s p r a c t i c e , rely-

i n g e x c l u s i v e l y on the s a v i n g g r a c e o f Amitabha. -' 2


These a t t i t u d e s (£=./0' )

are S i n c e r i t y (^.%nk<^), Deep F a i t h (>$p.\>),


(
v
and D e d i c a t e d Longing ( £ 0 fa]

i\>"), and correspond w i t h the t h r e e a s p e c t s o f f a i t h d e s c r i b e d earlier/ 0

In Shan-tao's commentary on the Contemplation S u t r a , we see the f r u i t i o n

of h i s p e r s o n a l c o n v i c t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g s a l v a t i o n as he goes beyond b o t h

T'an-luan and Tao-ch'o by i n t e r p r e t i n g the e i g h t e e n t h b o d h i s a t t v a vow as

a d v o c a t i n g o n l y i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu, s i n c e t h e Contemplation S u t r a ' s

g r a d a t i o n o f s e n t i e n t beings promised r e b i r t h t o the lowest-grade a s p i r a n t


— 97

w i t h simply ten " c a l l i n g s " on the s a v i n g g r a c e o f Amitabha. He does not

a l t o g e t h e r r e j e c t the o t h e r forms o f nembutsu p r a c t i c e , however, but a s c r i b e s

to them only a u x i l i a r y s t a t u s . T h i s became a c r i t i c a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i n

Japanese Pure Land thought, and we w i l l f a c e i t d i r e c t l y i n our d i s c u s s i o n o f

Honen's nembutsu t e a c h i n g s . Here s u f f i c e i t t o say t h a t Shan-tao's Pure Land

d o c t r i n e not only s o l i d i f i e d the s t a t u s o f the Pure Land movement i n the

Chinese Buddhist community but more i m p o r t a n t l y e s t a b l i s h e d Amitabha devotion

as an orthodox p o p u l a r movement which would o u t l i v e the more t r a d i t i o n a l

s c h o o l s which were dependent on i n s t i t u t i o n a l support f o r t h e i r s u r v i v a l . In

r e s p e c t t o the broader a p p l i c a t i o n of Shan-tao's t e a c h i n g s , i t was the Japatt-

nese Pure Land movement which c a r r i e d these d o c t r i n e s through .to t h e i r ex-^. . : . -

tremes, and t h i s i s the s u b j e c t t o be d i s c u s s e d i n the f o l l o w i n g pages.


-33-

ENDNOTES; CHAPTER TWO

1. For example, see Richard H. Robinson, Early Madhyamika; L. Hurvitz,


"Systematization"; E. Ziircher; and K. Ch'en, Buddhism, and biblio-
graphies therein. Also see P.C. Bagchi, i e Canon bouddhique en
Chine (Paris: 1938), 2 vols.

2. Paul Demieville, "La Penetration du Bouddhism dans l a tradition


philosophique chinoise," Journal of World History, III (1956);
Arthur Link, t r . , "Biography of Tao-an," T'oung Pao, 46 (1958),
1-48; and K. Ch'en, "Neo-Taoism and the Prajna School," Chinese
Culture, 1,2 (1957), 33-46.

3. Based on Appendix Chart IV in Daigah and A l i c i a Matsunaga, Founda-


tions of Japanese Buddhism, Vol. II (Tokyo: Buddhist Books Inter-
national, 1976), p. 339.

4. See Yoshito S. Hakeda, t r . , The Awakening of Faith (N.Y.: Columbia


University Press, 1967), p. 102 and note.

5. See above, p.5 , and endnoteJ.5 above. Also see L. Hurvitz, "Systema-
tization," pp. 6-7, and endnote 6.

6. See Allan A. Andrews, p. 21.

7. See endnote 5 above.

8. See K. Ch'en, Buddhism, pp. 165-177. Ch'en summarizes the observa-


tions of Japanese scholars on the north China cave temples. For
bibliography, see p. 519.

9. The theory of Mappo (' ~%^}Jfc, : saddharma-vipralopa) w i l l be discussed


further below.

10. . MOCHIZUKI Shinko , Shina Jodo Kyori-shi %J§~%£~%$3%-1£-


[History of Chinese Pure Land Doctrine] (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1942), Ch. 3.

11. This group was unrelated to the twelfth century White Lotus sect.
See Daniel Overmyer, Folk Buddhist Religion, (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1976), p. 227, n. 46. The theoretical framework
is based on the Pan-chou san-mei ching jfrjjfB; = 9^L (T. 417, 418).
See Fujita, pp. 222ff; 574ff for further discussion.

12. Mochizuki, Shina, Ch. 6 and Ch. 11, esp. pp. 134ff.

13. Note that the traditional dating for the various "Ages of the Dharma"
differed widely.

14. Mochizuki, Shina, Ch. 7.


-34-

15. These vows a r e :


"18) A l l the b e i n g s o f t e n d i r e c t i o n s with, s i n c e r e profound
f a i t h who seek to be born i n my l a n d and c a l l upon my
name ten times [ i n Chinese, ten times i s i n t e r p r e t e d as
i n a 'complete' or ' p e r f e c t ' manner], except those who
have committed the f i v e c a r d i n a l c r i m e s or i n j u r e d the
t r u e Dharma, s h a l l be born i n my l a n d .

19) . I w i l l appear a t the moment o f death to a l l b e i n g s o f the


ten d i r e c t i o n s committed to Enlightenment and the p r a c t i c e
of good deeds, who seek to be born i n my l a n d .

20) A l l b e i n g s of the t e n d i r e c t i o n s who hear my name, d e s i r e


the Pure Land and p r a c t i c e v i r t u e i n o r d e r to a t t a i n the
Pure Land w i l l succeed."
(As t r a n s l a t e d i n Matsunaga, Foundations, p. 30.
Emphasis added i n vow 18 because t h i s t r a n s l a t i o n i s
not a c c u r a t e . A c c o r d i n g to F u j i t a , the i n v o c a t i o n a l
a s p e c t ( / c a l l upon') i s a l a t e r a c c r e t i o n . )

16. T h i s i s c l o s e l y r e l a t e d t o the T a n t r i c ' d h a r a n i . ' See KANAOKA


H i d e t o m o ' f e ^ f f i , "Dharani and Nembutsu," IndOgaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu
fct/l'lr 11-2(4), (March 1954), pp. 500-502; MOCHIZUKI
Shinkolgfl^fi % Jodo Kyof i - s h i , > ^ j> %&.£g- £. [ H i s t o r y o f Pure Land Doc-
t r i n e ] (Tokyo: JSdokyo Ho sha, 1922), pp. 87-88; FUJIWARA Ryosetsu,
Nembutsu Shiso no Kenkyu Affig?,*?^<n [ S t u d i e s i n 'Nembutsu'] (Kyoto:
Iwanami Shoten, 1970), pp'. 121-131; and F u j i t a , p. 626.

17. See endnote 8 above.

18. C f . TAKAO Giken j t h ^ g j ^ , Chugoku Bukkyo"- s h i r on ^ \%^%% f&


[Essays i n Chinese Buddhist H i s t o r y ] , (Kyoto: 1952[?] ), pp. 54-96. A l s o
MOCHIZUKI Shinko, ed., Bukkyo D a i - j i t e n # g & ^ f f i f e [Large D i c t i o n a r y of
of Buddhism] (Tokyo: S e k a i S e i t e n Kankokai, 1954), v o l . 5, p.4747.
;

19. M o c h i z u k i , Shina,JCh. 6.

20. An i n t e r e s t i n g c o n t r a s t c o u l d be found i n the south of China a t the same


t:.:...;.time, ?.since thev:expatriater..Chinesecliterati a n d _ I h t e l l e c t u a l . Buddh-ist-
c o n t e m p l a t i v e s had been d i s c u s s i n g h i g h l y s o p h i s t i c a t e d m e d i t a t i v e
methods and p h i l o s o p h i c a l d o c t r i n e s w h i l e a w a i t i n g the overthrow o f the
i n v a d e r s and t h e i r r e t u r n home. A contemporary o f Tao-ch'o, C h i h - i ,
was i n f a c t f o r m u l a t i o n the most s y s t e m a t i c and c o n c l u s i v e manual on
samadhi ever p r e s e n t e d a t the same time t h a t Tao-ch'o was w r i t i n g h i s
major work, the A n - l o - C h i ^"5^.^ ["Essays on P a r a d i s e " : T. 1958]. See
M o c h i z u k i , Shina, c h a p t e r s 9 and 12.

21. Cf. L. H u r v i t z , t r . , S c r i p t u r e of the L o t u s Blossom of the F i n e Dharma


(New York: Columbia U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1976), chapter 6; and above, end-
notes 9 and 13.
-35-

22. T'an-luan c l e a r l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d two n a t u r e s of Amitabha r e l a t e d to


h i s t r a n s c e n d e n t a l Body (Dharma-kaya), a dharmarnature and an upaya^
nature. T h i s o f c o u r s e was a d e v i a t i o n from the orthodox p o s i t i o n ,
which i d e n t i f i e d Amitabha as e i t h e r Sambhoga-kaya and Dharma-kaya,
or as simply Nirmana-kaya. For a d i s c u s s i o n o f the r e l a t i o n s h i p o f
upaya and p r a j n a i m p l i c i t i n T'an-luan's t h e o r y , see D. and A. Matsu-
naga, "The Concept of 'Upaya' i n Mahayana B u d d h i s t P h i l o s o p h y , "
Japanese J o u r n a l of R e l i g i o u s S t u d i e s , T, 1 1 (March, 1962). For an
i n t e r e s t i n g t w i s t on the arguments on d u a l i s m , see Bloom's d i s c u s s i o n
of T'an-luan i n Shiriran's Gospel of Pure Grace (Tucson: U n i v e r s i t y of
A r i z o n a , 1965), pp. 10-11. I t should be p o i n t e d out t h a t no s p e c i f i c
r e f e r e n c e s to the T r i - k a y a t h e o r y o r the svabhavas appear i n the o r i g i -
n a l Pure Land t e x t s . F o r the T r i - k a y a t h e o r y i t s e l f , see L, de l a
V a l l e e P o u s s i n , "The Three Bodies o f the Buddha," J o u r n a l of the R o y a l
A s i a t i c S o c i e t y (1906), pp. 943-977, and endnote 52 (Chapter One) above.
For r e f e r e n c e to the nirmana-kaya i n Honen's Senchaku-shu, see below,
p. 68.

23. The L o t u s S u t r a p r o v i d e s an engaging and r e a d a b l e d e s c r i p t i o n of


" e x p e d i e n t d e v i c e s (upaya)," and c l a r i f i e s the reasons f o r i t through
p a r a b l e s and v i v i d images. See f o r example chapter 2 i n L, H u r v i t z ,
t r . , op. c i t . , pp. 22-47. Note i n p a r t i c u l a r the r e f e r e n c e to nembutsu,
p. 40.

24. M o c h i z u k i , Shina, Chapter 15.

25. A c c o r d i n g t o F u j i t a , as I mentioned above i n endnote 12, Shan-tao's


i n t e r p r e t a t i o n was s p e c i o u s , b e i n g based on a f a l s e r e a d i n g of a l a t e r
v e r s i o n of the Smaller Sukhavatx-vyuha. N o n e t h e l e s s , even today the
Shan-tao i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s accepted i n many c i r c l e s , and thus deserves
a thorough r e e x a m i n a t i o n . See F u j i t a , p. 547.

26. A l s o see F u j i t a , p. 131 and M o c h i z u k i , Jodo, p. 327.

27. F u j i t a (pp. 213ff; 5 5 8 f f ) c h a l l e n g e s t h i s argument i n terms of the


s i g n i f i c a n c e of the r e f e r e n c e t o the number o f nembutsu r e q u i r e d as
w e l l as of Shan-tao's d e s c r i p t i o n of i n v o c a t i o n as the fundamental
i s s u e of the passage.
-36-

Chapter Three

The establishment of an independent Pure Land s c h o o l i n Japan i n the

t w e l f t h century was not the r e s u l t of a c o n s c i o u s e f f o r t at institutionali-

z a t i o n any more than i t s c o u n t e r p a r t i n China, but the p r o c e s s of introduc-

t i o n , a s s i m i l a t i o n and eventual emergence of a d i s c r e t e Pure Land tradition

d i f f e r e d from t h a t on the c o n t i n e n t i n a number of ways. First, the method

and c i r c u m s t a n c e s of the i n t r o d u c t i o n of Buddhist c u l t u r e were q u i t e distinct.

Second, the r e l a t i v e l e v e l s of r e l i g i o u s and philosophical sophistication i n

China and Japan d u r i n g the p e r i o d s o f a s s i m i l a t i o n d i f f e r e d considerably.

T h i r d , the i n t e r a c t i o n of i n d i g e n o u s r e l i g i o u s b e l i e f s and practices with

those of Buddhism d u r i n g the r e s p e c t i v e p e r i o d s of emergence was more p r o -

nounced i n Japan and thus c o n t r i b u t e d more s i g n i f i c a n t l y to the process of

i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n than i t d i d i n China. I t i s t h i s t h i r d f a c t o r which i s

the s u b j e c t of t h i s chapter.

Before the i n t r o d u c t i o n of Buddhism, indigenous r e l i g i o u s forms were

d i f f u s e d and sundry.^ E a r l y Japanese r e l i g i o n served two principal functions,

the f i r s t shamanistic, the second s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l . Those who had evidenced

s k i l l i n m a g i c a l p r a c t i c e s , e i t h e r to promote f a v o r from l o c a l or h e r e d i t a r y

gods or to ward o f f the unhappy e f f e c t s of e v i l s p i r i t s or d i s g r u n t l e d

d e i t i e s , were r e c o g n i z e d w i t h i n the l i m i t e d s o c i a l nexus o f t h e i r c l a n s or

t h e i r communities as both r e l i g i o u s and, consequently, p o l i t i c a l leaders.

With the slow and s u b t l e encroachment of Chinese i n f l u e n c e , T a o i s t and Con-

f u c i a n elements were a s s i m i l a t e d , n o t a b l y those d e a l i n g w i t h magic or d i v i n a -

tion. This t r a d i t i o n contributed to a d u a l s o c i a l and religious system,

where the shamans and t h e i r l e a d e r s were a s s i g n e d both r e l i g i o u s and social

prerogatives unavailable to the o t h e r s . E v e n t u a l l y , c e r t a i n c l a n s came to

be i d e n t i f i e d as p a r t i c u l a r l y adept i n m a g i c a l p r a c t i c e s , and these became


-37-

the b a s i s f o r the emergence of the i m p e r i a l and a r i s t o c r a t i c f a m i l i e s of

early history.

With the i n t r o d u c t i o n and a d o p t i o n of Buddhism, however, t h e r e was a

d i s i n t e g r a t i o n of the o l d t h e o c r a t i c c l a n system, and a resulting institution-

a l i z a t i o n of r e l i g i o u s l e a d e r s h i p i n the i m p e r i a l family. But t h i s phenomenon

had little effect in village l i f e , and we see/the i n f l u e n c e of Buddhist prac-

t i c e s not on the b a s i s of i t s p h i l o s o p h i c a l or l i t e r a r y e x c e l l e n c e , but be-

cause i t s r i t u a l was r e c o g n i z e d as more e f f e c t i v e i n t r a d i t i o n a l f u n c t i o n s

than the e a r l i e r models. C e r t a i n l y the elegance of i t s a r t and ceremony was

effective psychologically as w e l l , but the a s s i m i l a t i o n of Buddhist incanta-

t i o n and r i t u a l was accomplished more because of i t s r i c h v a r i e t y and particu-

lar effectiveness i n protection (as opposed to d e v o t i o n ) . E a r l y on, this was

p a r t i c u l a r l y apparent i n the assignment of f u n e r e a l r i t e s t o B u d d h i s t monks.

By the end of the seventh c e n t u r y , a t any r a t e , Buddhism was characterized by

its a r i s t o c r a t i c patronage but more s i g n i f i c a n t l y by i t s r u r a l lay leadership,

which c o n t r i b u t e d to the growth of u p a s a k a - p r a c t i c e s o u t s i d e the structures of


o

Buddhist e c c l e s i a s t i c orthodoxy.

As lay leadership of Buddhist groups became more common, t h e r e was in-

creasing e v i d e n c e of the p o p u l a r a d a p t a t i o n of Buddhism i n the form of Hijiri,

anti-secular charismatic r e l i g i o u s reformers who c o n t i n u e d the upasaka (magico-

a s c e t i c ) i d e a l of the p r e - B u d d h i s t shamans.^ T h i s g e r m i n a l r e a c t i o n by the

t r a d i t i o n a l l o c a l r e l i g i o u s and s o c i a l leaders to the i n t r u s i o n of b o t h Neo-

T a o i s t and Buddhist f a i t h and p r a c t i c e s had perhaps i t s e a r l i e s t proponent i n

Gyogi (^T Jj^,: 670-749), who abandoned the Nara s c o l a s t i c c e n t e r s and began a

career of p o p u l a r t e a c h i n g and public service. Reformers of t h i s k i n d empha-

s i z e d p i e t y and religious conviction, disregarding orthodox methods and doc-

t r i n e f o r an expedient b l e n d of p o p u l a r f o l k b e l i e f and simple i n s t r u c t i o n .


-38-

With the growth of institutional Buddhism under imperial patronage, and

the concomitant introduction of Buddhist legends on the popular level, there-

fore, we find by the end of the Nara period (710-794) a definite movement

outside the capital of both asceticism and proselytizing. The proselytic

element we find in such examples as Gyogi, while the ascetic-magician element

is characterized by En-No-Shokaku ( )\~&\ : 634-701 ), who is said to have

founded the Shugendo (^ffi.fk).


Shugendo arose as a discrete movement in the ninth century (early Heian

period), but had originated among the Hijiri-Upasaka mountain-magicians (Yama-

Bushi: jl^ff^ ) much earlier. By adopting mystical elements from Taoist and

Mantrayana sources, they gradually took on the functions of exorcism and

expiation. Two types of t h i s " H i j i r i " group eventually emerged: the itinerants,

who travelled in the countryside and practiced asceticism in the mountains and

forests, and the sedentary h i j i r i , who lived in villages and practiced exorcism

and other forms of shamanistic rites.

As an element i n a l l of this we find the influence of nembutsu practice

increasing. Originally, with the popular dissemination of Pure Land teaching

along with other Buddhist theories, nembutsu was applied principally as a

magical incantation to dispel evil spirits (Goryo:^'^.) ,^ and to send the

angry or dangerous ghost to Amida's Pure Land. This was a natural applica-r;

tion, since nembutsu had in China been credited with mystical powers,-* and i n

Japan i t was easily adapted to indigenous needs. Opposed to the Nembutsu

monks in vying for popular recognition were the Onmyo-do (f^ffy^ ) » a mixture
of native and Taoist (specifically, Yin-Yang divination) magic and art, and

the Shugendo, an amalgam of Buddhist, Taoist, and native craft.

The f i r s t great catalyst in the systematization of Shugendo asceticism

and the assimilation of nembutsu practice into mainstream Japanese Buddhism

was Saicho ($yrf$^ ' 767-822). Saicho based his teachings on the classifica-
-39-

t i o n of d o c t r i n e s f i r s t s y s t e m a t i z e d by Chih-i. His emphasis on the

universality of salvation, based on the b o d h i s a t t v a d o c t r i n e as w e l l as

the p a r a l l e l concept of b o d h i - n a t u r e , gave r i s e to a new hope f o r aspirants

who wished t o e n t e r h i s order.

S a i c h o ' s c a t e g o r i e s of p r a c t i t i o n e r s g i v e s us an insight into his

u n d e r s t a n d i n g of Buddhist s o t e r i o l o g y , and shows the close relationship

between t r a d i t i o n a l Pure Land theory and t h a t expounded i n the Tendai school.

C o n t r a r y to the s t a n d a r d monastic p r a c t i c e he classified his disciples

a c c o r d i n g to t h e i r aptitudes:^

1) Those who were " g i f t e d , " t h a t i s , who had completed doctrinal

study and community .'practice of the bodhisattva principles, he called

" T r e a s u r e s of the N a t i o n (iS £ )." These remained on Mt. Hiei and

served the n a t i o n by r e l i g i o u s d i s c i p l i n e and teaching;

2)' Those " l e s s g i f t e d , " who had o n l y completed t h e i r doctrinal

t r a i n i n g , were c a l l e d " N a t i o n a l Teachers ( ® 1 » ' P ) . " They were a s s i g n e d to

s e r v e as t e a c h e r s , e n g i n e e r s , and a g r i c u l t u r a l advisors after finishing

their novitiates on H i e i . They went to the p r o v i n c e s f o r s o c i a l work as

well, and to p r o v i d e r e l i g i o u s s e r v i c e s to the people;

3)"- Those who were " l e a s t g i f t e d , " who had performed social

s e r v i c e s but had not received d o c t r i n a l t r a i n i n g , were c a l l e d " s e r v a n t s of

the n a t i o n (^rfi )•" These had g e n e r a l l y been r e c r u i t e d by the provincial

monks as a s s i s t a n t s . A p e r s o n was a s s i g n e d to one of these t h r e e o n l y after

completing twelve y e a r s of a s c e t i c training on Mt. Hiei. . 1

Thus, w i t h i n T e n d a i i t s e l f , one soon found the d i s t i n c t i o n between the

life of the mountain a s c e t i c , who sought i s o l a t i o n i n order to cultivate

c o n t e m p l a t i o n and e v e n t u a l enlightenment, and the l i f e of s o c i a l and relig-

ious service among the common p e o p l e of the nation. By l e g i t i m i z i n g moun-


-40-

tain asceticism and esoteric initiations, and by recognizing the claims and

traditional authority for nembutsu and other magical practices, Saicho's

Tendai school became the inspiration and orthodox foundation for the nembutsu/

Pure Land movement which Honen clarified and systematized four centuries

later.

The second of the major leaders of institutional Buddhism during the

Heian period was Kukai >{""r : 774-835), a younger contemporary of Saicho.

After a Confucian education as a youth, Kukai entered the l i f e of a zoku-

lay Buddhist practicing asceticism in the mountains) and,

finally convinced that Buddhism and Buddho-Taoist mysticism offered more

satisfaction than his Confucian studies, abandoned his earlier education

altogether and entered novitiate training at the Makino-o-San Templ4$|^li iU )

in 798. Shortly thereafter, he was enlisted by the court to study in China,

and departed in 804. Upon his return, he established the Shingon (Jl^ & )

esoteric tradition and is widely acclaimed as the greatest Buddhist figure in

a l l of Japanese history.^

The primary achievements of both Saicho and Kukai in the light of our

discussion are twofold. First, they introduced and legitimized the Shugendo

practices which until that time had remained outside of the orthodox tradi-

tion. By integrating and systematizing the miscellaneous ($$L ) Upasaka

traditions, they were, each in his own way, able to effect a conciliation

of these diverse practices with the orthodox Buddhist schools centered in

Nara. Their interest in, and successful adaptation of, Shugendo practices

was no doubt related to :their early experiences with mountain asceticism.

Second, we must note their truly genuine desire to popularize Buddhism,

which until they began their careers had been aristocratic and unavailable

to the common man, except through folk-level interpretations.


-41-

Ennin jz- : 794-864)> Saicho's s u c c e s s o r , was the f i r s t to promote

nembutsu as a mantra w i t h i n the Tendai m e d i t a t i o n schema which had been

t r a n s m i t t e d from China i n C h i h - i ' s commentary t o the Contemplation Sutra.

By the b e g i n n i n g of the t e n t h c e n t u r y , however, the combination of i n c r e a s e d

s o c i a l i n s t a b i l i t y and the immanence of a l o s t hope f o r r e l i g i o u s satisfaction

w i t h the onset of the L a t t e r Days of the Dharma p r o v i d e d the n e m b u t s u - h i j i r i

w i t h a unique s e t t i n g f o r the p r o p a g a t i o n of t h e i r f a i t h . We find during

t h i s p e r i o d two f i g u r e s who e p i t o m i z e the growth of nembutsu p r a c t i c e and

f a i t h i n Amitabha (Japn.: Amida).

Genshin CM% • 942-1017) was a T e n d a i monk who had been exposed t o Pure

Land t e a c h i n g as a n o v i c e under Ryogen (tk-//$f- : 911-985 ). At about the age

of 25, however, he r e t i r e d from the H i e i headquarters temple t o a compound

near Yokawa (^^."| ). There he devoted his l i f e to s c h o l a r s h i p and m e d i t a t i o n ,

the f r u i t s of which were compiled i n his "Essentials for Rebirth" (Ojoyoshu:

), completed i n 985. The work s u b o r d i n a t e s orthodox Tendai prac-

t i c e s and d o c t r i n e to the Pure Land p o s i t i o n on s a l v a t i o n . Yet i n some o t h e r

works he s u b o r d i n a t e d Pure Land t e a c h i n g s to those of s t a n d a r d T e n d a i , so we

are l e f t w i t h a g e r m i n a l and i n c o n s i s t e n t a n a l y s i s and system. But the Ojoyo-

shu p r o v i d e d the f i r s t s y s t e m a t i c Japanese e x p o s i t i o n of Pure Land d o c t r i n e ,

and Genshin's f o r m a t i o n of a Nembutsu-samadhi s o c i e t y the f o l l o w i n g year testi-

f i e s t o h i s c o n v i c t i o n c o n c e r n i n g nembutsu p r a c t i c e w i t h i n a l a r g e r framework

of discipline. Nembutsu f r a t e r n i t i e s such as t h i s , moreover, became q u i t e

p o p u l a r , and as i n China, they served t o p r o v i d e "mutual e d i f i c a t i o n i n the

r e l i g i o u s l i f e and more e s p e c i a l l y f o r mutual a s s i s t a n c e a t the time of the


9

deaths arid i.funerals of i t s members." P r i v a t e compounds f o r these societies

became more and more numerous, s e r v i n g l a i t y and d i s e n c h a n t e d monks a l i k e as

c e n t e r s f o r r e t r e a t and spiritual instruction. There i s no e v i d e n c e , however,

t h a t the founders or l e a d e r s of such groups i n t e n d e d by t h e i r f o r m a t i o n to


-42-

s e p a r a t e from orthodox Buddhist i n s t i t u t i o n s or t o e s t a b l i s h independent

s e c t s of t h e i r own.

The l e s s t r a d i t i o n a l p r e c u r s o r of the Kamakura Pure Land movement was

another T e n d a i monk of the t e n t h c e n t u r y , Kuya O3L -f*. : 903-972) . Affection-

a t e l y known as the "monk of t h e market p l a c e , " Kuya t r a v e l l e d from v i l l a g e t o

v i l l a g e , p r e a c h i n g about the Pure Land and e n t e r t a i n i n g t h e l o c a l s w i t h inspi-

r a t i o n a l dance and song. He i n i t i a t e d t h e p r a c t i c e of t h e " d a n c i n g nembutsu,"

which was i n t r o d u c e d as a Buddhist a d a p t a t i o n of e a r l i e r dancing r i t u a l s t o

ward o f f p l a g u e s . He encouraged A m i d a - i n v o c a t i o n . f o r both m a t e r i a l and s p i r i -

t u a l s u c c e s s , s t r e s s i n g i n d i v i d u a l f a i t h and u n c e a s i n g p r a c t i c e o f nembutsu.

He had been an Upasaka shaman, and was c r e d i t e d by h i s b i o g r a p h e r s w i t h having

been the c h i e f c a t a l y s t i n t h e p o p u l a r i z a t i o n of Amida f a i t h up t o t h e time.

By t h e e l e v e n t h c e n t u r y , t h e pessimism which had emerged j u s t a f t e r t h e

deaths of S a i c h o and K u k a i became more p e r v a s i v e and p r o f o u n d . ^ During this

period, the Tendai t r a d i t i o n again contributed s i g n i f i c a n t l y t o the e v o l u t i o n

of nembutsu p r a c t i c e . Ryonin {%^{lr '• 1072-1132) i s c r e d i t e d w i t h establishing

the Nembutsu branch of T e n d a i , by i n t e g r a t i n g Kegon (^jj^ ) and T e n d a i d o c t r i n e s

of u n i v e r s a l s a l v a t i o n and the i n t e r p e n e t r a t i o n of a l l e x i s t e n c e , w i t h t h e

Pure Land t e a c h i n g o f r e b i r t h i n Amida's P a r a d i s e . He i n s t i t u t e d t h e "nembu-

t s u chant," and promulgated " c i r c u l a t i n g nembutsu," which l a t e r formed t h e

b a s i s f o r the independent Yuzu-Nembutsu s c h o o l ( i f i ^ ^ ' T - O . The a p p l i c a t i o n

of orthodox d o c t r i n e can be seen i n h i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f " m e r i t - t r a n s f e r e n c e " ,

whereby a l l i n d i v i d u a l s share i n a p o o l of m e r i t , and can draw or t r a n s f e r

m e r i t a p p l i c a b l e t o salvation?~^~ This theory, while not p a r t i c u l a r l y revolu-

t i o n a r y , was q u i t e e f f e c t i v e i n drawing c o n v e r t s t o nembutsu p r a c t i c e , as w e l l

as i n s y s t e m a t i z i n g f u r t h e r t h e Pure Land doctrine.

I t was n o t , however, u n t i l Honen, born t h e year a f t e r Ryonin d i e d , that

all of these d i v e r s e forms became i n t e g r a t e d i n a p o p u l a r y e t a u t h o r i t a t i v e


-43-

movement which f i n a l l y established the independence of an i n d i g e n o u s

Buddhist i n s t i t u t i o n i n Japan.
ENDNOTES; CHAPTER' THREE

. I have relied on the following three works by HORI Ichiro


for much of the material i n this chapter; 1) Folk Religion in Japan
ed. by J, Kitagawa and A, Miller (Chicago; University of Chicago,
1968) ; 2) Wagakurii •minkanT-shihko^shi ho kenkyu 3Xjr")U &$fWtftff £ <r>&&%
[Studies in the History of Folk Religion in Japan], 2 vols. (Tokyo:
r

Sogensha, 1955); and 3) "On the Concept of H i j i r i (Holy-man)," NUMEN V,


No. 2 (April 1958), pp. 128-160, and No. 3 (September 1958), pp. 199-
232.
See the works of Hori for the interaction of traditional and Buddhist
beliefs and practices. Also see Joseph M. Kitagawa, Religion in
Japanese History (New York; Columbia University Press, 1966), ch 1, for
an historical perspective on the same issue.

. See Hori, NUMEN for further details.

. Hori, Folk Religion, pp. 111-127; NUMEN, pp. 155-160 and 208-223; and
Wagakuni, p. 304ff.

See above, p. 29, and endnote 13 (Chapter 2). Also see Bloom, p. 54ff.

Clearly these are related to the Larger Pure Land Sutra's classification
of three levels of aptitude, a view common to many other Mahayana texts
as well. For example, cf. Hurvitz, t r . , Lotus, ch. 5.

7. For a detailed introduction to Kukai's l i f e and ideas, see HAKEDA Yoshito,


Kukai: Major Works (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970).

8. Cf. above, p. 27. Also see Daniel Overmyer, Folk Buddhist Religion
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 85-91.

9. Kitagawa, p. 77.

10. For example, Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1964) and George Sansom, A History of Japan
to 1334 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958), pp. 212-233.

11. Matsunaga, Foundations, pp. 12-26.


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Chapter Four

I. Immediate H i s t o r i c a l Setting

The middle and l a t e Heian p e r i o d ( t e n t h through the t w e l f t h century)

was one of i n c r e a s i n g s o c i a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l m a l a i s e . While the Buddhist

theory of "Mappo" p r o v i d e s a convenient handle to e x p l a i n t h i s phenomenon,

it i s n e c e s s a r y a l s o to t u r n to the p o l i t i c a l stage to get a t r u l y b a l a n c e d

p i c t u r e of the world i n t o which Honen was born.

J u s t as we saw the e f f e c t of the d e l i c a t e l y b a l a n c e d relationship

between the I m p e r i a l f a m i l y and the a r i s t o c r a t i c c l a n s i n the s i x t h and

seventh c e n t u r y , so a l s o was t h a t b a l a n c e an i s s u e d u r i n g the Heian (^-^ )

period. In f a c t , the F u j i w a r a (j|§^f N ) c l a n , which f i r s t came to prominence

d u r i n g the l a t e seventh c e n t u r y , was i n the p r o c e s s of c o n s o l i d a t i n g i t s

p o l i t i c a l power d u r i n g the next 300 y e a r s , through m a r r i a g e and subsequent

Regency as w e l l as through the expansion of i t s l a n d h o l d i n g s and thus o f

i t s wealth. •'-

I t i s t h i s economic f a c t o r which a f f e c t e d the Heian s o c i a l m i l i e u most

fundamentally. I t created f i r s t an u n s t a b l e m i l i t a r y s i t u a t i o n , due to the

r a p i d growth of p r i v a t e e s t a t e s i n newly-opened f r o n t i e r l a n d s . These not

o n l y denied the c e n t r a l government nedded tax revenue; i t a l s o generated the

need f o r i n c r e a s e d s e c u r i t y p r e c a u t i o n s . P r i v a t e e s t a t e owners e n t i c e d non-

landed o p p o r t u n i s t s away from t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l r o l e s by forming mercenary

armies, j u s t i f y i n g t h e i r a c t i o n s by p o i n t i n g out t h a t under the l a n d reclama-

t i o n laws the p r o v i n c i a l l e a d e r s had been a p p o i n t e d c o n s t a b u l a r y o f f i c i a l s

as w e l l . The Buddhist monastic i n s t i t u t i o n s i n both Nara and Heian had also

been granted c e r t a i n tax exemptions on t h e i r l a n d h o l d i n g s , however, so t h a t ,

naturally, t h e i r i n t e r e s t s e v e n t u a l l y c l a s h e d w i t h those of the p r i v a t e es-


-46-

tates and they too began to arm. Meanwhile, the interests of the peasants

were cavalierly ignored, and the disenchanted either turned as mercenaries

to Buddhist or provincial estates for economic relief, or took refuge i n the

popular religious movements which offered them at least some hope for their

2
next lives.

A l l of this was not clearly reflected among intellectuals i n the

capital, however, since under Fujiwara sponsorship there was simultaneously

a tremendous cultural flowering. Not only was intercourse with T'ang and

Sung China vigorous, but domestic creativity was being actively encouraged

as well. The undercurrent to a l l of this, I however, was a quickening sense

of doom, reflected i n literature by such key words as "awar e" & t g and

"mujo" (^/)^fp'j* and in art by the growing dominance of Amidhist themes of

heaven and hell. "Mappo" had indeed infected even the aristocrats.

Eventually, even the Imperial family grew frustrated with i t s auxiliary

role i n running the country, and around 1070 finally had the opportunity to

challenge the Fujiwara monopoly of p o l i t i c a l power. Thus began the confused

institution of cloistered Emperors. By retiring from their o f f i c i a l duties

while retaining p o l i t i c a l influence (by rejecting Fujiwara regency), they

were gradually able to accumulate their own estates, which were granted to

them as retired emperors. They also engaged new advisors from the Fujiwara's

r i v a l , the Minamoto (>/f*N ) clan. But by attempting to exploit this rivalry

they unwittingly set off a series of internal p o l i t i c a l crises which drew a l l

of the various parties with their own vested interests, in the provinces as

well as in the capital, into a monumental military struggle which climaxed

in the Genpei (^.^ ) wars between 1180 and 1185.-

It was precisely during this period of p o l i t i c a l and social disintegra-

tion that Japanese religious institutions were being most sorely tested, and

i t was a time when confident and charismatic leadership was needed to provide
-47-

a v i s i o n o f , and a method of a t t a i n i n g , a new and b e t t e r l i f e . Established

i n s t i t u t i o n s were c l e a r l y u n s u i t e d , but a new movement, which, had i t s roots

deep i n Japanese h i s t o r y , had a l r e a d y begun to take shaped The man who rose

to direct t h i s movement and to f r e e Japanese Buddhism f o r the f i r s t time from

both p o l i t i c a l and f o l k - r e l i g i o u s a l l e g i a n c e was Honen Shonin.

II. Biography

In t r y i n g to r e c o n s t r u c t the s t o r y of Honen's l i f e , we are faced with a

problem of h i s t o r i o g r a p h y common to r e l i g i o u s b i o g r a p h i e s i n g e n e r a l , and to

Buddhist b i o g r a p h i e s i n p a r t i c u l a r . Being dependent i n most cases on "inter-

nal" ( s e c t a r i a n ) accounts, one i s b e s e t w i t h r a p i d l y expanding mythology and

i n s p i r a t i o n a l legendary a c c r e t i o n s as the l i f e of the h i s t o r i c a l f i g u r e r e -

cedes from the memory of the r e c o r d e r s . T h i s i s the r e s u l t , of course, of

two i n f l u e n c e s , one the p r o c e s s of i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n , the second of legiti-

mation. The first i s e x p l a i n e d by Max Weber as an unconscious stereotypical

o c c u r r e n c e i n the growth of any v i a b l e r e l i g i o u s movement/ The second i s , in

the case a t hand, a t r a d i t i o n a l means of e s t a b l i s h i n g a s p i r i t u a l a n c e s t r y ^

c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the b i o g r a p h e r ' s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of h i s s u b j e c t ' s t e a c h i n g .

The l a t t e r i s a s p e c i f i c h i s t o r i c a l aspect of the former.

We have a number of b i o g r a p h i e s of Honen, d a t i n g from 1298? I will

attempt t o summarize the s a l i e n t p o i n t s of these b i o g r a p h i c a l a c c o u n t s , try-t-

ing t o m a i n t a i n h i s t o r i c a l accuracy w h i l e not i g n o r i n g the important sectari-

an a c c r e t i o n s w i t h which the s t o r y i s c u s t o m a r i l y enhanced.

Honen, whose g i v e n name was Seshimaru

p r o v i n c e of Mimasaka

south of the township of Kume

) served as a l o c a l Samurai. When Honen was n i n e , h i s f a t h e r got em-

b r o i l e d i n a c o n f l i c t w i t h the s o l d i e r i n charge of Inaoka, a man namedJGennai


-48-

Sada-Akirakashi Gjfe. ) , who, i t i s r e p o r t e d , i n s t i g a t e d Tokikuni's

assassination. T o k i k u n i , a c c o r d i n g t o l a t e r r e p o r t s , r e p r e s s e d any thoughts

of resentment or revenge, and urged h i s son t o f o r g i v e and f o r g e t t h e crime.

H i s f i n a l words t o h i s son thus r e p u t e d l y determined Honen's f u t u r e .

Honen's r e a c t i o n , i f we b e l i e v e h i s b i o g r a p h e r s , was t o f l e e t o a mountain

monastery, which e x e m p l i f i e d both f i l i a l d e v o t i o n and r e l i g i o u s conviction.

More l i k e l y than t h a t , Honen simply f l e d d u r i n g t h e n i g h t r a i d t o a v o i d

capture. The f a t e of h i s mother i s u n c e r t a i n ; modern s c h o l a r s assume she

d i e d d u r i n g the r a i d .

With the break-up of h i s f a m i l y , we f i n d Honen going t o l i v e w i t h h i s

u n c l e , Kangaku dfj^ff.)» t h e abbot \of t h e Jodo monastery B o d a i j i {% -T^^l)


in 1141. Regardless of h i s b i o g r a p h e r s ' excesses, t h e r e i s no q u e s t i o n t h a t

those e a r l y e x p e r i e n c e s a f f e c t e d H6nen deeply and p e r s o n a l i z e f o r us the

tumult which c h a r a c t e r i z e d the Kamakura p e r i o d . The f o l l o w i n g y e a r , a t h i s

u n c l e ' s s u g g e s t i o n , Honen moved t o Mt. H i e i . There, i n the northern part

of t h e H i e i compound, he began s t u d y i n g under t h e monk J i h o b o Genko (~$!L

~$jjt> )• H i s p r o g r e s s was so r a p i d , however, t h a t , a f t e r o n l y two y e a r s , he

moved t o the Kudokuin (2#$t-j*!t!>), where he became a d i s c i p l e of Higo No A j a r i

Koen 0¥$$iffl$$&), t h e abbot of Kudokuin who l a t e r compiled t h e famous

" C h r o n i c l e s o f Japanese H i s t o r y " (Fuso R y a k k i : ^ ^ " ^ ^ ) . I t was a t Kudoku-

in t h a t Honen o f f i c i a l l y entered the r e l i g i o u s l i f e , t a k i n g h i s vows from

Koen and r e c e i v i n g t h e t o n s u r e a t the age o f 15. Koen, h i m s e l f a d i s c i p l e

of Sugiu no Kokaku 0"p£*i i.'/L ), w a s a T e n d a i monk i n t h e s h a m a n i s t i c

t r a d i t i o n we d i s c u s s e d above. Under Koen's d i r e c t i o n , Honen began s t u d y i n g


12

the t h r e e g r e a t d i v i s i o n s of T e n d a i , but was d i s s a t i s f i e d w i t h t h e w o r l d l y

spirit i n the headquarters on H i e i , so i n 1150 he " f l e d from the w o r l d l y

life" and became a d i s c i p l e of Jigembo E i k u of K u r o d a n i . 13


He was

g i v e n the r e l i g i o u s name HSnenbo Genku (^£^> § ) , p u r p o r t e d l y from t h e


names of his two most influential teachers (Genko ~//ff-]E- and Eiku ^jjl
v
). ^

Honen's study and religious practice under Eiku undoubtedly guided him

through the traditional doctrinal literature, but also introduced him to

the increasingly popular Amidist theories as well. Eiku was of course s t i l l

well within the orthodox Buddhist tradition and as such emphasized Tendai

meditation and the study of esoteric texts and the Vinaya Rules, but the

synthesis of nembutsu-Hijiri practice with Tendai orthodoxy particularly

suited Honen's personal religious needs of the time. He appreciated the

escape from the militarism and factionalism of Hiei's principle compounds,

even though he later abandoned the meditative practices which formed the

core of the Kurodani-Ohara (Jj-./B'""ftjfjfj) discipline.

Honen remained at Kurodanr-^ for over twenty years, practicing the 25

Pure Land meditations and making pilgrimages. For example in 1156, when he

was 24, he went on a seven-day retreat to Shoryoji G^j/yf-vtf ) in Saga

then went to Nara for interviews with some of the great scholars in the

Capital and to study the philosophy of the Six Schools. Among those he met

and debated with were Zoshun Sozo ) of the Hosso School, Kanga

(%±^$& °f t n e
Sanron, and Keiga of Kegon. It was also during this

trip that Honen f i r s t came into contact with Myoe (^^)» who would later

become one of his chief accusers.

While at Kurodani, Honen studied not only the Tripitaka, but many other

literary works as well, such as diaries and historical chronicles. He

sought out a l l manner of records which might help him in his religious quest:

how to achieve personal release, as well as relief for a l l the other helpless

and frustrated people he saw in and out of his cloister. He began to feel

the confusion of depending on his own effort :when no one elso seemed able to

provide any better direction. Not only were the monastic rules d i f f i c u l t ,

but meditation and study were nearly impossible with c i v i l war and monastic
-50-

militancy surrounding him. It was during one of his visits to Nara that he

came into contact with the earlier type of Pure Land devotion propagated by

Yokan : 1033-1111), Chinkai : 1091-1152), J.ippan C ^ | L : d.1144),

and others. In contrast to Tendai nembutsu meditation, this devotion, based

on Shan-tao's teachings, emphasized "Other-Power"'—dependence on Amida's

compassion and assistance rather than on one's own effort, which to Honen

appeared increasingly futile.

It is then not surprising that when, in 1175, Honen was going over

Shan-tao's commentary to the Meditation Sutra, he discovered a passage which

read:
"If one only bears in mind the invocation of the name
of Amida, and without regard for the length of time
.'hejspends. on: i t i n his daily l i f e he does not give up
this continuous practice, this w i l l be called righteous
and determined action. It i s already i n accord with
the vow of the Buddha."

Through this passage, he realized that nembutsu practice itself was the

answer to his search. He became aware of i t s significance for the f i r s t

time, distinguishing between the nembutsu practices he had witnessed and

experienced among the H i j i r i around Kurodani, the orthodox Nembutsu medita-

tion system (based on Genshin's Ojoyoshu) within the Kurodani-Tendai tradi-

tion, and the Jodo teachings of the Nara schools passed down at the

Todaiji (^.^^f )• Having found what he felt answered the existential ques-

tions of his age, he immediately abandoned his previous learning and prac-

tices and turned single-mindedly to nembutsu. At the same time he turned


16
his back on Hiei. In his own account of his conversion.he later wrote,
"This is surely the right teaching (^P ! Dharma-Paryaya)
6

for my disposition. It is certainly the right


practice for my body. Since I have consulted a l l
the Holy men ("Hijiri"), and inquired of a l l the
scholars, there are no more peddlers or guides to
seek out. After their lectures, I used to go with
grief to the scriptures, or sadly turn to the holy
teachings (of the masters)."
-51-

In the same e n t r y , he p r a i s e d Shan-tao's commentary by s a y i n g , " T h i s

t e a c h i n g on the Western P a r a d i s e should be a guide f o r a l l p r a c t i t i o n e r s . "

His t a k i n g Shan-ttao alone as h i s a u t h o r i t y d r a m a t i c a l l y shows how meaningful

t h i s encounter was.

Retreating f i r s t to H i r o d a n i (/L /£h ) t o the west of Kyoto, Honen then

finally settled i n a hermitage i n the mountains e a s t of Kyoto, i n a place

near O t a n i ( a l s o known as Y o s h i m i z u ^ - ^ ), where he e n t e r e d a l i f e totally

devoted to nembutsu.-^ T h i s move symbolized Honen's r e j e c t i o n of h i s own

e a r l i e r t r a i n i n g i n t r a d i t i o n a l Buddhist monasticism, but more p a r t i c u l a r l y

his abandonment of Genshin's T e n d a i form of nembutsu m e d i t a t i o n which was

based on an. own-powered i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of P r a j n a p h i l o s o p h y , i n f a v o r of

simple i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu p r a c t i c e .

The f a c t of Honen's d r a m a t i c c o n v e r s i o n upon r e a d i n g Shan-tao's commen-

t a r y r e p r e s e n t s more than simply another t u r n i n g i n Honen's r e l i g i o u s

t r a i n i n g , as we w i l l see below. In s p i t e of h i s i n t e n t i o n s , however, he d i d

not i n f a c t t u r n t o Shan-tao's system of Pure Land p r a c t i c e but r a t h e r rein-

t e r p r e t e d t h a t t h e o r y i n a way which s u i t e d h i s own s p i r i t u a l needs and

18

those of h i s contemporaries.

E v i d e n c e t h a t Honen< c o r r e c t l y understood the mood of h i s contemporaries

is clear. During the decade f o l l o w i n g h i s d e p a r t u r e from K u r o d a n i , he drew

many f o l l o w e r s i n c l u d i n g monks, noblemen, s o l d i e r s and common people to h i s

retreat. That he was supported by wealthy b e n e f a c t o r s as w e l l as commoners

is shown by the r a p i d p h y s i c a l expansion of h i s compound, and by the a t t e n -

t i o n he e v e n t u a l l y drew from the e s t a b l i s h e d s c h o o l s on H i e i and i n the

capital. A c c o r d i n g to h i s b i o g r a p h e r s , he was invited to Ohara (T*~Jff^ ) i n

1189 (1186, by some accounts) to debate prominent s c h o l a r s of the e s t a b l i s h e d

schools. While modern s c h o l a r s h i p cannot v e r i f y t h i s meeting, i t s mention

in h i s biographies serves to h i g h l i g h t the i n c r e a s i n g p o p u l a r i t y of Honen's


-52-

Pure Land movement, which a p p a r e n t l y was drawing the a t t e n t i o n of some v e r y

i n f l u e n t i a l patrons. As l a t e r i n c i d e n t s proved f u r t h e r , the movement was

growing so r a p i d l y t h a t Honen h i m s e l f soon f e l t c o n s t r a i n e d t o order h i s

f o l l o w e r s t o remain s i l e n t on t h e o l o g i c a l i s s u e s and t o r e s t r a i n themselves

i n p r o s e l y t i z i n g f o r fear of censorship. The b i o g r a p h i e s r e l a t e numerous

i n c i d e n t s of Honen's p r e a c h i n g d u r i n g t h i s time, and tend t o s u b s t a n t i a t e

the c l a i m t h a t h i s Pure Land movement was w i d e l y known and an i n c r e a s i n g l y

f o r m i d a b l e a l t e r n a t i v e t o the e s t a b l i s h e d Buddhist institutions. Popular

l i t e r a t u r e o f the time bears out these c l a i m s .

The year 1198 marked another significant t u r n i n g p o i n t i n Honen's

career. During the y e a r s f o l l o w i n g h i s c o n v e r s i o n from t h e Tendai 25-

m e d i t a t i o n p r a c t i c e s of Kurodani t o Senju (^"fl^" s i n g l e - p r a c t i c e ) - n e m b u t s u ,

many important a r i s t o c r a t s had become h i s f o l l o w e r s . One, the F u j i w a r a

Regent Kujo Kanezane : 1148-1207), requested a c l a r i f i c a t i o n o f ..

Honen's Pure Land d o c t r i n e , and i n response Honen wrote h i s famous essay

e n t i t l e d "Essays- on:.the S e l e c t i o n of Nembutsu P r a c t i c e " (Senchaku Hongan

«. 19

Nembutsu-shu). The f o l l o w i n g chapter w i l l d i s c u s s the d o c t r i n a l aspects

of t h i s work. I t s s i g n i f i c a n c e i n the p r e s e n t c o n t e x t , however, i s t w o f o l d :

i t s appearance v e r i f i e s f i r s t t h a t Honen had by t h i s time s y s t e m a t i z e d h i s

p h i l o s o p h i c a l p o s i t i o n ; and second, he r e a l i z e d t h a t t h e p o p u l a r i t y of h i s

new movement had c r e a t e d a t h r e a t (whether r e a l or imagined) t o the e s t a b -

l i s h e d Buddhist institutions. I n f a c t , Honen f e l t i t necessary to e n j o i n

h i s f o l l o w e r s from r e v e a l i n g the e x i s t e n c e of the t e x t o r i t s c o n t e n t s , lest

i t be used t o j u s t i f y c e n s o r s h i p and r e p r e s s i o n of h i s t e a c h i n g s .

H i s s u s p i c i o n s o f course were borne out, f o r i n the summer of 1204.the

j e a l o u s y of the t r a d i t i o n a l o r d e r s on H i e i and i n the prosperous monasteries

of Nara brought an a p p e a l t o the government t o censure the movement. Honen,

r e c o g n i z i n g the excesses o f some of h i s d i s c i p l e s who were openly c h a l l e n g i n g


-53-

the t r a d i t i o n a l monastic r u l e s ("Vinaya") and c r i t i c i s i n g t h e other schools

2C
and t h e i r p r a c t i c e s , agreed t o e s t a b l i s h a code o f conduct forhis disciples;

But again i n the f a l l o f 1205, the K o f u k u j i (^'Hi'^f) i n Nara p e t i t i o n e d t h e

government, c i t i n g t h e a c t i o n s of Honen's f o l l o w e r s , and i n p a r t i c u l a r Gy5ku

(•^•f 'jcl) and J u n s a i (^^iSl ) , who had a l s o been t h e f o c u s of p r e v i o u s allega-

tions. Although t h e court.was l a r g e l y i n sympathy w i t h Honen, a scandalous

21

incident ( e i t h e r c o n t r i v e d or t r u e ) i n v o l v i n g J u n s a i and some other monks

enraged t h e r e t i r e d emperor Go-Toba ($£^33) s h o r t l y a f t e r t h e K o f u k u j i

p e t i t i o n , and so e a r l y i n 1207 f o u r monks were sentenced t o death and Honen

h i m s e l f was banished t o Tosa p r o v i n c e on Shikoku w i t h f i v e other

disciples. He was soon p e r m i t t e d t o r e t u r n t o t h e mainland, however, and

settled i n the Katsuodera ()^|)%<if ) near Osaka u n t i l he r e c e i v e d p e r m i s s i o n

to r e e n t e r the c a p i t a l i n the f a l l of 1211. He r e t u r n e d t o O t a n i and h i s

now-deserted compound days l a t e r , b u t , perhaps d e b i l i t a t e d as a r e s u l t of the

p o l i t i c a l s t r u g g l e and h i s subsequent e x i l e , he d i e d s h o r t l y a f t e r t h e New

Year of 1212, a t t h e age o f 80. H i s p l a c e o f death i s t h e modern s i t e o f t h e

Chion'in t h e headquarters of the Pure Land s c h o o l he founded.


-54-

ENDNOTES; CHAPTER FOUR

1. This was directly contrary to the intent of the Nara and Heian land
reforms. Concerning these, see Sansom, A History, pp. 57-60 and 82-89.

2. Both offered a sense of community and kinship, which was a c r i t i c a l


feature of their appeal during such an age of social dislocation. Cf.
Sansom, A History, p. 107ff for discussion of these trends.

3. For a vivid portrait of this period, see Morris, Shining Prince.

4. These two words refer to a sense of pathos and impermanence. For a


discussion of these terms and examples, of their use, see Donald Keene's
Japanese Literature: An Introduction for Western Readers (New York:
N

Grove Press, 1955). and Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earli^-. ;
est Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1955), esp.
pp. 92-96.

5. Cf. SHINODA Minoru, The Founding of the Kamakura Shogunate, 1180-1185


(New York: Columbia University Press, 1960). Also see George Sansom,
Japan, A Short Cultural History (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,
1962), pp. 270-347.

6. Cf the discussion of lay religious societies above, p. 27 and p. 41.

7. Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion, trans. Epraim Fischoff (Boston:


Beacon Press, 1963).

8. See Huryitz, "Systematization", and Nakamura, op. c i t .

9. See Harper H. Coates and R. Ishizuka, Honen the Buddhist Saint (Kyoto:
Chion-in, 1925), pp. 77-83.

10. OHASHI T o s h i o ^ ^ f t ^ , HOnen—Spno K5dq to Shjso & — W?tf# ^


[Honen; His Movement and His Ideas] (Tokyo; Hyoronsha, 1970), p. 14.

11. TAMURA Encho )V$r{)% Honen y£,f£ [HSnenJ (Tokyo; Yoshikawa Kobunkan,
1964), as reported in Matsunaga, Foundations, p. 58.

12. See Coates and Ishizuka, p. 133, and note 12, p, 138ff.

13. Eiku was a successor of Ryonin, the founder of the Nembutsu branch of
Tendai, which was later tQ become the independent Yuzu-nembutsu sect.
-55-

14. .~^>1g_ . See Qha.shi, p. 18ff for a discussion of the politics of the

selection of this name.

15. Ohashi, p. 22.

16. Ohashi, p. 27.

17. Matsunaga, Foundations, p. 313, note 25.

18. As stated in his Introduction to the Senchaku-shu (T. 2608).

19. &W%lf&. & fo1k.


/ /
(T. 2608), abbreviated jfgjf^fb .

20. Cf. Matsunaga, Foundations, pp. 62-63.


21. Matsunaga, Foundations, pp. 66-67.
55 a

PART II
-56-

INTRODUCTION

The basis of our discussion of Honen's doctrinal, position is his

Senchaku Hongan nembutsu-shu ( "Essays on the Selection

of the Nembutsu of the Original Vow")."'" According to tradition, i t took

Honen ten years to complete the project, with the assistance of three of

his disciples: Shinkan-bo Kansai (Jlr^iffi) ^ ^ ), Zenne-bo She—ku

)> a n d
Anraku-bo Junsai (^"'^/%^-^\&x ) , who
2
transcribed

the final text under his master's direction. Today the original manuscript

remains in the Rosanji (^iK^T) in Kyoto and is known as the "Grass (-hand)

Manuscript )," after the calligraphic style. This manuscript was

at f i r s t circulated quite discreetly among Honen's closest disciples, but

after his death i t was sealed and engraved and then disseminated popularly.

This f i r s t printed edition was destroyed during the sectarian persecutions

in 1227 but later was frequently reprinted, so that the number of manu-

scripts which survive today is ninety, and there arfe. well over three
3
hundred scholastic commentaries.
The term Senchaku ("choosing; selection")^ which appears in the t i t l e

of this work, is very significant. While clearly i t refers to the soterio-


4

logical necessity of this selection, i t can also be inferred that i t

refers to the personal religious experience of the monk Honen, who

rejected the Hiei compound and a l l that i t represented to him, and then

after many years among the H i j i r i at Kurodani, rejected that tradition as

well and chose the nembutsu-path. The word thus implies "the willingness

to take a risk of faith. With this motif of man's 'choosing,' Honen's

Pure Land movement became qualitatively different from the earlier Pure

Land cults..
-57-

Honen himself explained the f u l l t i t l e of his work in.detail in

chapters one through three. In chapter three, after citing Shanr-tao's

"Hymns to Rebirth," he outlined his revolutionary doctrine of selection

of "single-practice nembutsu" in this way:

Q. "How can we (learn) the principle of this 'selection'?


Why i s the eighteenth vow, which selects nembutsu
alone and rejects a l l other practices, to be regarded
as the original vow ) for rebirth? That i s ,
why is nembutsu to be preferred to a l l other practices
for rebirth?

A. It's d i f f i c u l t to fathom the holy intent (of Amida), and i t


cannot be explained hastily. If, however, we were to try
now to explain i t through examples, we could identify two
principles:

1) Superiority and Inferiority:


The practice of nembutsu invocation i s superior
to a l l other practices, since i t restores the
merit of a l l other virtues. The merit of a l l
other virtuous acts... (like...) are included
in nembutsu invocation...since a l l other acts
can be done while chanting the name of the
Buddha.... Therefore, isn't i t reasonable to
consider rejection :of the: inferior andoselec-
tion of the superior to be the (intent of) the
original vow?

2) Ease and Difficulty:


Nembutsu i s an easy practice, while the others
are d i f f i c u l t . (T. 2608, 5b-c)

Thus, here and throughout the work Honen i s in fact recording the method

of his own inquiry into religious practice and his search for the right

Path.

Yet we cannot dismiss i t as simply a "Confession." On the contrary,

i t expounds a theory which i s rigorous i n i t s consistency and clarity.

It i s a methodical doctrinal exegesis which attempts to systematize

Honen's experience and to place i t within the mainstream of orthodox

Buddhism. The need for such an exegesis was perhaps a personal one,

considering H5nen's thorough scriptural erudition and orthodox training,

and possibly i t was conceived simply as a tool for those who had become
-58-

his d i s c i p l e s , as h i s b i o g r a p h e r s would have us b e l i e v e . "

For the t a s k o f s y s t e m a t i z i n g t h i s " s p e c i a l ' ' nembutsu p r a c t i c e , Honen

u t i l i z e d an extremely c o n v e n t i o n a l t e c h n i q u e / • D u r i n g the p e r i o d of i t s

f o r m u l a t i o n , Honen and h i s d i s c i p l e s c o l l e c t e d , from the s c r i p t u r e s and

commentaries, the important t e x t s d e a l i n g w i t h Pure Land t e a c h i n g s ,

arranged them t o p i c a l l y , and f i n a l l y d e v i s e d commentaries on them. The

purpose of t h i s t r a d i t i o n a l approach was of c o u r s e t o e s t a b l i s h t h e

l e g i t i m a c y of a p a r t i c u l a r d o c t r i n e by e x p l a i n i n g i t f i r s t i n terms of

the s c r i p t u r e s , which were a u t h o r i t a t i v e ("dogmatic"), then i n the words -

of a r e c o g n i z e d master, which p r o v i d e d a s p i r i t u a l a n c e s t r y w i t h i n the

Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , and f i n a l l y by i n t e r p r e t i n g the s e l e c t e d t e x t s i n


g

such a way as t o v e r i f y the i n i t i a l proposition.

The r e v o l u t i o n a r y f e a t u r e of Honen's work, however, l i e s in its

p r e s e n t a t i o n of a l t e r n a t i v e s . P r i o r t o the Senchaku-shu, Buddhist commen-

t a r i e s i n both China and Japan had arranged and c l a s s i f i e d the v a r i o u s

Buddhist p o s i t i o n s , ranked them a c c o r d i n g t o p h i l o s o p h i c a l , r e l i g i o u s , or

h i s t o r i c a l paradigms, and then p r e d i c t a b l y p l a c e d t h e i r own d o c t r i n e a t


9

the top as most e x c e l l e n t or appropriate. I n c o n t r a s t t o t h i s , Honen

c o n f r o n t s h i s r e a d e r s w i t h a l t e r n a t i v e s , p r e s e n t s h i s arguments, and then,

as t h e t i t l e of h i s work suggests, e x h o r t s them t o make t h e i r own d e c i s i o n .


I f (an average) b e l i e v e r d e s i r e s q u i c k l y t o escape
the c y c l e o f b i r t h and death, t h e r e a r e ( o n l y ) two proven
options: ( d u r i n g t h i s day and age, however, one has) t o
abandon the gate of the Sages, and thus c h o o s i n g , t o
enter the gate of the Pure Land. I f one d e s i r e s t o e n t e r
the gate of the Pure Land one has t o choose between the
Proper and the M i s c e l l a n e o u s P r a c t i c e s : one should
d i s c a r d the myriad m i s c e l l a n e o u s d i s c i p l i n e s and choose
to r e t u r n s t r a i g h t a w a y t o the Proper P r a c t i c e . I f one
d e s i r e s t o take up the Proper P r a c t i c e , one must choose
between the P r i n c i p a l and the A u x i l i a r y D i s c i p l i n e s :
one should l i k e w i s e s e t a s i d e the a u x i l i a r y d i s c i p l i n e s
and, having made t h i s c h o i c e , devote o n e s e l f s o l e l y t o the
P r i n c i p a l Routine. The d i s c i p l i n e of the P r i n c i p a l Routine
i s none o t h e r than the i n v o c a t i o n of the Buddha's name.
-59-

I f one invokes the name (of Buddha), he w i l l s u r e l y


a t t a i n r e b i r t h ( i n the Buddha's P a r a d i s e ) , i n accordance
w i t h the Buddha's O r i g i n a l Vow. (T. 2608, 19a)

While there i s no evidence t h a t Honen i n t e n d e d to found a new

school of Buddhism, he was working without p r e c e d e n t s i n h i s attempt

to v a l i d a t e a s i n g l e - p r a c t i c e d o c t r i n e , and thus t h e r e is considerable

debate even today c o n c e r n i n g apparent i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s between h i s own

l i f e and the r e l i g i o u s l i f e he preached ."^ This t o p i c w i l l be discussed

i n the f i n a l chapter of t h i s paper. S u f f i c e i t to say that, given the

h i s t o r i c a l s i t u a t i o n and r e l i g i o u s t r a d i t i o n from which Honen emerged,

the p r o d u c t i o n of a work of such p o t e n t i a l l y r e v o l u t i o n a r y impact was

a major accomplishment.

My d i s c u s s i o n of the c o n t e n t s of the Senchaku-shu i s d i v i d e d into

two parts. In the f i r s t section (Chapter F i v e ) , I w i l l summarize the

contents of the work a c c o r d i n g to i t s i n t e r n a l o r g a n i z a t i o n . That i s ,

the f i r s t s e c t i o n w i l l be a chapter-by^-chapter o u t l i n e of the Senchaku-shu.

T h i s w i l l be followed by a more extended t o p i c a l treatment of the major

Pure Land d o c t r i n e s discussed i n previous chapters. I n t h i s way, i t will

be e a s i e r to i s o l a t e the t r a d i t i o n a l elements i n h i s e x p o s i t i o n , while

clarifying those f e a t u r e s which were u n i q u e l y Honen's c o n t r i b u t i o n to

Pure Land soteriology.


-60-

Chapter Five

The organization of the Senchaku-shu is quite straightforward.

Generally, i t can be said to be divided into four sections, each of

the last three parts relying to a greater or lesser: degree on Honen's

interpretations of one of the three principle Pure Land scriptures.

The f i r s t section is introductory and purports to establish Honen's

teaching within the mainstream Pure Land tradition. Schematically,

this can be shown in the following chart;

Chapters Doctrinal Content Traditional/Scriptural


Authority
I. 1-2 Introduction: The Tao-ch' o/Shan-tao
Reasonable Path

II. 3-6 The Proper Path The Larger Pure Land


Sutra

III. 7-12 The Proper Attitude The Contemplation Sutra


and Discipline

IV. 13-15 The Accepted Path: The Smaller Sutra


Benefits and Endorse-
ments

16 (and Summary and Acknow- The Smaller Sutra


conclu- ledgements
sion)

Honen begins his dissertation by referring the reader to Tao-ch'o's


12
distinction between the easy and d i f f i c u l t paths. He argues that the
most general categories applicable to the question of how to achieve the

"non-returning (Skt: —
avinivartaniya; avaivartika)"13 state are two.

The f i r s t is the Way of the Sages (^ ^ ) , and this he identifies as

the d i f f i c u l t path (II^Mf ). It refers to the practices associated with


the bodhisattva ideal."*"^ In contrast, Honen presents the Pure Land Way

(.T^jL-r ^
1
) and identifies i t as the easy path (^ ^7 ) ^ Going s t i l l

further, he identifies the Difficult Path as dependent on own-power,


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while the Easy Path relies on the Power of Another, that is, Amida •

Buddha."^

The Easy Path refers to desiring rebirth- in the


Pure Land simply by means of faith in . the Buddha, and
riding the Power of the Buddha's Vow,. finally attain-
ing rebirth in his Pure Land. (T. 2608, 2b)

In chapter two, Honen cites Shan-tao's classification of various

Buddhist p r a c t i c e s B r o a d l y defined, there were, according to Shan-tao,

two main divisions. A l l those other thah~. nembutsu were considered

miscellaneous; nembutsu alone was Proper. Drawing on Vasubandhu's earlier

schema, Shan-tao had identified five principle forms of nembutsu and

accorded each of them validity, although citing invocational nembutsu

as particularly appropriate during the Latter Days of the Dharma. Honen,

however, goes further in ascribing unique efficacy to invocational nem-

butsu, by denying even auxiliary status to the other forms of nembutsu,

except in a purely theoretical sense. In so stating, Honen asserts that

there are even degrees of propriety within those generally identified as

Principle Practices. Only invocational nembutsu i s proper, and only when

i t corresponds to the Original Vow—that is, when Amida Buddha (and no

others) i s the object of nembutsu—is i t to be considered standard and

proper.

The question of the propriety of single-practice nembutsu and its

relationship to the Original Vow i s continued i n the third chapter. It

is a forceful statement summarizing the distinctions already outlined i n

the introductory section and carries Honen's argument for exclusive

nembutsu practice even further. He bases his position f i r s t on Shan-tao's

interpretation of the intention of the passage on the Original Vow i n

the Larger Sutra, which reads: "If I become a Buddha, and i f the myriad

of sentient beings who desire to be born in my land c a l l upon my name


-62-

,even ten times, relying on the Power of my Vow,.if they are not reborn

;may I not a,chi.eye.Perfect Enlightenment," Actually ? S,ha.nTvtap had jmisrep-

resented the Sutra's intent and Honen had misunderstood Shan-tao's appli-

cation of this interpretation, but Honen was convinced that his presenta-

tion was sound both doctrinally and practically. Doctrinally, i t i s

consistent with the Original Vow (as interpreted by Shan-tao) and in a

practical sense i t , i s the most reasonable understanding of the efficacy

of single-practice nembutsu.

Q. A l l good acts have merit, each leads to Rebirth


(according to Genshin's Qjoyoshu), so why do you
suggest that this nembutsu i s the only way?

A. The recommendation of nembutsu is not intended


to interfere with the practice of any other pious
acts.,.. It is just that nembutsu i s easy and
therefore everyone i s capable of rebirth through
i t , while the other practices are d i f f i c u l t and
therefore don't provide such opportunities for
a l l people equally to be reborn.

The rejection of the d i f f i c u l t and the selection


of the easy i s considered the (intent of the)
Original Vow.... The rich and wise and clever
and widely-experienced are so few that i f the
Basic Vow were for those few who are capable of
carrying out such diverse practices as commis-
sioning statues and stupas, or practicing
"samadhi," then few indeed would attain rebirth.
But Amida (i.e., Dharmakara) had pity for a l l men
without discrimination and chose to help a l l men
without exception. So he certainly didn't make
his most important vow to help only those who
could carry out those elite practices. Thus, the
exclusive practice of nembutsu invocation i s con-
sidered the (intent of the) Main Vow. (I. 2608, 5-6)

Honen with this answer avoided the intricacies of scholastic inquiry

concerning the definitions of invocational nembutsu—he was writing the

text not only for his educated sponsors and associates but was establish-

ing an easily understood doctrine of practice which the i l l i t e r a t e masses

of his day could appreciate. So while attempting to preclude orthodox chal-


-63-

lenges to h i s d o c t r i n e by a c c e p t i n g other p r a c t i c e s as theoretically

valid (but a u x i l i a r y ) , he was l e g i t i m i z i n g h i s Easy Path t e a c h i n g i n the

eyes of the o r d i n a r y devotees who were h i s p r i n c i p a l concern.

The q u e s t i o n of " e f f e c t i v e nembutsu" had always been s k i r t e d by

Pure Land proponents i n the p a s t , some of whom had indeed advocated

i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu but who i n the end had admitted i t to be but one

e f f e c t i v e type of nembutsu among many. H5nen, however,- was categorical,

for he claimed t h a t i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu was the s i n g l e practice

appropriate for r e b i r t h . He based t h i s t e a c h i n g not o n l y on the scriptural

evidence of the Vow of the B o d d h i s a t t v a Dharmakara but a l s o on the e s t a b -

l i s h e d d o c t r i n e s c o n c e r n i n g d e v o t i o n a l a p t i t u d e (chapter f o u r ) and the

Degenerate Age of the Dharma ( c h a p t e r s i x ) . He i n s e r t e d a summary s t a t e -

ment on the b e n e f i t s and advantages of i n v o c a t i o n a l nembutsu ( c h a p t e r five)

between the more t h e o r e t i c a l d i s c u s s i o n s of Buddhist d o c t r i n e both t o

m a i n t a i n a p r a c t i c a l tone and t o p r e c l u d e any tendency t o get bogged down

i n petty philosophical disputes. He was w r i t i n g p r i m a r i l y f o r laymen and

thus wanted t o a p p e a l to t h e i r judgement r a t h e r than t h e i r erudition.

Thus, w h i l e i n the opening c h a p t e r s Honen admits the theoretical


19

p o t e n t i a l of a c h i e v i n g r e l e a s e through own-power under c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s ,

i n chapter f o u r he p r e s e n t s a cogent apology f o r the Pure Land Way by

referring the r e a d e r f i r s t to the v a r i e t y of human a p t i t u d e s . By addres-:'.

s i n g the i s s u e t h e o r e t i c a l l y , he appeals to the layman's s e n s i t i v i t y and

common sense, w h i l e a v o i d i n g (he thought) a d i r e c t c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h

the orthodox monastic system, which was based on the Way of the S a i n t s .

To do t h i s , Honen reviews the c a t e g o r i e s of men as f i r s t presented i n the

L a r g e r Pure Land S u t r a . The h i g h e s t grade i s made up of those who leave

the s e c u l a r world and renounce a l l w o r l d l y d e s i r e s . These a r e Buddhist

monks. The medium grade c o n s i s t s of devout laymen who, although unable


-64-

to carry out the discipline of a monk, perform good works and keep the

rules of conduct for the laity ("upasaka"). Of the lowest grade are

those who are unable to perform even the things mentioned above, but who

sincerely desire rebirth nonetheless. To emphasize the significance of

these differing aptitudes, Honen again quotes Shan-tao in his commentary,

but reaffirms that even i f there remain those of the higher grades, the

fundamental effective practice for a l l i s the same, that i s , nembutsu.

In chapter five, Honen continues his argument for single-practice

nembutsu, here identifying the obvious advantages of invocation. He

f i r s t quotes the Larger Sutra: "If there is anyone who, hearing the

name of the Buddha praised, is so moved by feelings of belief and devotion

that he dances in celebration and accomplishes even one nembutsu, know


20
this: that person has achieved great benefit; there is in fact no merit
21

greater than this." Honen then comments, "Would a person who could

accumulate the unmatched benefit of nembutsu set about to do miscellaneous


;

practices of comparably negligible merit?" Here Honen is presenting a

very practical case. Not only does i t make good "economic" sense to

practice nembutsu, but i t is really the only effective act which any of us

can be sure of performing correctly. If even the lowliest of believers

can achieve rebirth by simply one sincere invocation of Amida, then surely

how much more reasonable to assume that people of higher capacity ( i f any

truly exist in such a degenerate age) can achieve the same result through

Amida's Saving Power.;.

Since i t was the age of Mappo, Honen reasoned that to discuss the

subtle doctrinal nuances and rigorous practices of earlier Buddhism was

quite useless. In chapter six, he explains in detail the f u t i l i t y of

those miscellaneous disciplines, noting that in such an age as his the

ordinary man was helpless, without some outside Power, to carry out even
-65-

the most basic of practices. Again he quotes the Larger Sutra, which

proclaims, "After the beginning of the 10,000 Years of the Latter Days of

the Dharma, a l l other practices w i l l be outmoded, and only the Nembutsu

w i l l remain." According to tradition, the Mappo period was to begin 2000

years after Gautama's extinction, which, in the Japanese calculation, was

1052. Since they were already more than a hundred years into the Degener-

ate Age, there was no reason to assume that anyone capable of understanding

or practicing the Way of the Sages s t i l l remained. Thus, Honen's single-

practice Nembutsu was uniquely appropriate for the time.

Chapter seven is quite brief, and through numerous scriptural

citations seeks to verify the assistance afforded by Amida's b r i l l i a n t

and pervasive grace to those who rely on nembutsu practice. Those deluded

by a trust in self-reliance w i l l not be aided by Amida's Power, however,

since the single c r i t i c a l factor in Pure Land salvation is Faith in

Amida's Original Vow.

In chapter eight, Honen takes up the subject of Faith and discusses

i t in terms of devotional attitudes. Honen's teaching on nembutsu

practice is in fact premised on his interpretation of man's nature and the

nature of the mysterious Power of the Original Vow. In his discussion of

the three classes of devotees in chapter four, he had identified the

nature or disposition of man as the basis for distinguishing between the

classes of man. Now, in the longest (three Taisho pages) and one of the

most c r i t i c a l chapters of the Senchaku-shu, Honen interprets the "Three

Minds (]ELiU N
)" of faith which were f i r s t introduced in the Contemplation

Sutra. His exposition of this doctrine, which w i l l be discussed in detail

below (chapter six), was a crucial factor in Honen's apology, and i t

later caused much doctrinal controversy with the traditional schools,

particularly the Tendai.


-66-

.Chapter nine, while extremely short, i s s i g n i f i c a n t as a summary of

Hpnen's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n Qf .§hahr-.ta,g's..Fojur .Modes'-of -.Practice ( J t 9 ^ 7 ^ ) ?

which described the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of e f f e c t i v e nembutsu invocation, The

four are;

1) LIFELONG C^ ^f|k
9
): One should not wait u n t i l

the l a s t moment of one's l i f e to c a l l on the

name of Amida, since there i s a danger that one's

attitude at that time w i l l not be sincere. It

shpuld be recalled that the nembutsu s o c i e t i e s

which-flourished around the mountain retreats had

as one of their chief concerns the preparation

of a proper environment, both, r e l i g i o u s and

emptipna,l, for nembutsu p r a c t i c e and mutual

support and i n s p i r a t i o n at the time of a

member's death. Honen here attempts to l e g i t i -

mize these s o c i e t i e s ;

2) REVERENT ( S f \&), ; also known as % f'f" ): One

i s to p r a c t i c e nembutsu with great reverence and

veneration, for i t i s the sacred teaching of the

Buddha;

3) EXCLUSIVE ): By this i s meant nembutsu

should not be used to supplement any other practice.

Rather, a l l other practices are subsidiary to i t ;

4) CONSTANT ( j & l f l ' f l ^ ) : One should never discontinue

nembutsu invocation, even fpr a moment, so that

Amida and his Pure Land remain always i n one's mind,

and therefore the resolve to be reborn through

Amida's Power w i l l never fade.


-67-

Honen goes beyond earlier commentators, however, by simplifying .even

further the.clajS.sjLficati.on of these characteristics, . stating that the

f i r s t i s the most c r i t i c a l since i t precludes assuming a false sense

of accomplishment which successful application of the other three might


22

at any given moment i n s t i l l . Honen in this chapter i s emphasizing the

necessity of total commitment to the Pure Land Path, and the necessity

of preventing the insincerity and superficial religious practice that

many people of the time considered characteristic of institutional

Buddhism.

Chapter ten continues the theme of constancy and commitment, this

time citing the praises of Amida and his attendants in the Contemplation

Sutra for those who steadfastly adhere to the invocational nembutsu path.

Listening to the scriptures and the other forms of nembutsu are not

appropriate or in .accord with the Main Vow; only invocational nembutsu


23

is praised as proper and effective in securing Buddha-vision and rebirth

in Amida's Pure Land. The discussion in this chapter complements that i n

the previous one about the qualifications of believers. Here the c r i t i c a l

elements of that faith and practice are assessed with reference to the

stated resolution of the Buddha, and to the soteriological benefits which

accrue therefrom. Even those who have accumulated lifetimes of foul karma

can, by calling on the name of Amida, be relieved of the evil consequences

of their past misdeeds, and at the moment of their death, "Amitabha w i l l

dispatch (the provisional aspects of) Amida and His attendants Avaloki-

tesvara and Mahasthamaprapta., to appear before them as they c a l l upon His

name, and They w i l l praise them, saying, 'Because you have called upon the

(power of the) name of Buddha, a l l your sins have been erased, and we

therefore have come to welcome you (.to. the .Pure Land of Amitabha)'."

Honen goes pn to say that


-68-

While hearing the scriptures, i s indeed.a


virtuous thing, i t i s not (what) the Original
Vow/(.refers, to) . Since the practice of nem-
butsu alone, is, the proper practice (as defined),
in the Original Vow, i t alone i s praised by
Amida (Nirmana-kaya). Furthermore, the effec-
tiveness; of the two practices in eliminating
karmic consequences i s quite different as well...
(According to Shan-tao's commentary) hearing the
Scriptures purifies the listener of 1000 kalpas
of karmic guilt, while invoking the Buddha's
name even once can eliminate more than five
million kalpas of karmic consequences...it can
calm eyen the most troubled of souls.
(T. 2608, 13b)

Honen here once again relies on emotional reasoning as well as doctrinal

consistency to substantiate his argument for single-practice nembutsu.

Chapter eleven expands on the substance of the previous chapter,

comparing the benefits of "special nembutsu" with those of other practices,

including nembutsu contemplation. Honen again points out the place of

invocational nembutsu in the larger framework of Pure Land doctrine and

cites further scriptural passages which support his contentions. First,

he sets out to clarify the distinction between Buddha-visualization and

nembutsu meditation as outlined in Shan-tao's commentary on the Contempla-

tion Sutra.- Nembutsu i s identified as the "King of Meditative Practices"

and invocation the single method of nembutsu with guaranteed results.

Honen then identifies five characteristics of the nembutsu practitioner

and goes on to clarify the relationship between these and the nine levels

of aptitude among devotees. The crucial factor in a l l of these questions

is twofold: f i r s t , the Power and scope of the Original Vow, which applies

only to invocational nembutsu; second, the unique applicability of nembutsu


25
to a l l grades of practitioners. In this discussion, Honen identifies his
— 26

nembutsu teaching with, the dharani tradition, and ..calls nembutsu invoca-^;'..

tion the Milky E l i x i r (that i s , most excellent) of a l l attitudes for sal-

vation. S t i l l , for the average reader, the gist of Honen's message i s


-69-

captured in the descriptions which. are proyided.at both, the beginning and

the'. end of the chajpter of the benefits, both.in.this l i f e and beyond, in

store for the devoted nembutsu practitioner.

Chapter twelve, the last in the section based on the Contemplation

Sutra, i s an explanation of yet another of Shan-tao's categorizations of

practical methods. Once again, Honen uses the traditional question-

answer format to clarify his theory of single-practice nembutsu and to

place i t within the orthodoxy of the Shan-tao Pure Land tradition. Here,

the question concerns H5nen"s contention that, according to the Contem-

plation Sutra (and the Sukhavati-vyuha Sutras as well), Sakyamuni

entrusted Ananda with the teaching that invocational nembutsu—calling

upon the name of Amitabha—alone was the perfect method of achieving

salvation. Yet Shan-tao had asserted the principle of Calming and

Dispersing ( } ^ ^ ) C ^ r )> virtues which were originally related to contem-

plative techniques and which Shan-tao adopted with reference to nembutsu

meditation. Honen, however, explains that the cultivation of these

virtues was not intended to be seen as equal in beneficial efficacy to

nembutsu invocation (as Shan-tao actually envisioned them). Rather,

Honen contrasts them with the nembutsu path.and denies that the benefits

derived from them are significant. In presenting this, he carefully

outlines the methods of practicing each of the virtues. As for Calming

(the Mind), there are thirteen types, but each is based on self-reliance.

Thus, although they have indeed been advocated in the scriptures and

commentaries as nembutsu meditative techniques, they are qualitatively

different from inyocatipn. As for Dispersing (Distractions and Karmic

Debts), '' there are nine basic types of beneficial practice, each of
2

which i s appropriate to the particular aptitude of the believer. But

again, these practices are distinctly different from invocation, and


-70-

therefore inappropriate,

Honen regards thse§ types of "virtuous practices" as substantially

identical, quoting numerous scriptural references, and finally concludes

that they were advocated for previous ages, and only nembutsu invocation

was provided by the Buddha for a l l ages and classes of believers. The

only reason these other miscellaneous practices were mentioned at a l l was

to contrast them with-invocation and to show the obvious superiority of

nembutsu through examples. It was, in Buddhist parlance, an 'expedient

c method' (upaya ^ -jrg :. ). Nonetheless, what makes Honen so

adament about the uniqueness of nembutsu invocation, i f he admits the

other practices were also advocated in the scriptures? He repeats his

earlier apologies: f i r s t , only nembutsu i s practicable in the Latter

Days of the Dharma; and second, only nembutsu i s in accord with Amida's
28

Vow. By virtue of His great compassion, Amida closed the gates of these

miscellaneous practices which had for so long been accessible but which in

the Period of the Degenerate Dharma were impassable, and in their place

He opened through the Power of His Vow the gate of Nembutsu, the only

safe and sure route to salvation.

In chapter thirteen, Honen expounds his belief that nembutsu invo-

cation i s the source of myriadfold benefits, while a l l other practices,

though good, are practically worthless as sources of merit. He does this

simply, in the form of two brief quotations, one from the Smaller , -J. • J::,
_ 29
Sukhavati-vyuha, the other from Shan-tao's commentary on the Sutra.
The substance i s the same: those who hear the word of Amida Buddha, be

they men or women, and who devote themselves fervently to the name of

Amitabha for a week or even a day, w i l l certainly be welcomed by Amida

and innumerable saints at the hour of their death and escorted to the

Pure Land. Shan-tao describes this Pure and Perfect World,and the
-71-

metamorphosis which-.Rebirth i n i t w i l l e f f e c t . Both, passages (the sutra

and Shan-tao' s commentary) c l e a r l y i n d i c a t e , hqweyer, t h a t those who

devote themselves to the sundry v i r t u o u s p r a c t i c e s o t h e r than nembutsu

w i l l be i n c a p a b l e o f a c h i e v i n g this rebirth. Honen c o n c l u d e s the c h a p t e r

by exhorting the r e a d e r t o r e c o g n i z e nembutsu as the I n v i n c i b l e Source o f

a l l goodness and the incomparable p r i n c i p l e o f r e b i r t h .

Chapter f o u r t e e n i s an a f f i r m a t i o n of the s i n g u l a r e x c e l l e n c e o f

nembutsu i n v o c a t i o n . I t a c t u a l l y c o n s i s t s o f numerous q u o t a t i o n s from

Shan-tao's v a r i o u s commentaries which p u r p o r t t o p r o v e t h a t t h e m y r i a d

Buddhas of the s i x d i r e c t i o n s a r e unanimous i n t h e i r endorsement of

nembutsu. When the q u e s t i o n i s r a i s e d whether any o f the q u o t a t i o n s

a c t u a l l y prove t h a t a l l the Buddhas have endorsed nembutsu, Honen r e p l i e s

that f i r s t o f a l l the Pronouncement o f Amida's Vow was made i n the

presence o f a l l the Buddhas o f the s i x d i r e c t i o n s , and t h e i r a p p r o v a l o f

H i s Vow i s tantamount to endorsement o f i t s i n t e n t and e f f e c t . Secondly,

he c l a i m s t h a t , a l t h o u g h the Mahayana s c r i p t u r e s do d e a l w i t h the o t h e r

p r a c t i c e s as w e l l , i n the end the o n l y p r a c t i c e which i s p r o c l a i m e d

genuine i s nembutsu. The i m p l i c a t i o n i s t h a t no other p r a c t i c e i s pure

and u n i v e r s a l l y acceptable. The Vow i t s e l f i s a g a i n the p r o o f .

Chapter f i f t e e n i s a v e r y b r i e f statement o f the p r o t e c t i o n and

support promised by a l l the Buddhas to those who p r a c t i c e nembutsu invo-

cation. Honen here harks back t o the e a r l i e s t use o f nembutsu among the

common p e o p l e i n Japan, t h a t i s , as a m a g i c a l i n c a n t a t i o n to d i s p e l evil

30

spirits and ward o f f c a l a m i t y . I t was c e r t a i n l y s t i l l p a r t o f the

r e l i g i o u s r i t u a l o f a great many o f h i s audience, and Honen i s a t t e m p t i n g

to l e g i t i m i z e t h i s f u n c t i o n o f nembutsu p r a c t i c e and t o i n t e g r a t e this

element i n t o h i s l a r g e r t h e o r y o f Pure Land s o t e r i o l o g y .


Chapter s i x t e e n c o n s i s t s o f two s h o r t q u o t a t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g
-72-

Sakyamuni's t r a n s m i s s i o n of nembutsu t e a c h i n g through S a r i p u t r a ( i n the

Smaller Sutra) , T h i s is, f p l l q w e d by a., s u b s t a n t i a l l y longer, and cpntextu-

a l l y separate s e c t i o n which, i s a c o n c i s e m e t h o d i c a l summaryof Honen's

d o c t r i n e as p r e s e n t e d i n the f i r s t f i f t e e n chapters. While most modern

commentators do not a s c r i b e a s e p a r a t e o r g a n i z a t i o n a l heading to this

second s e c t i o n s i n c e i t f o l l o w s immediately ( w i t h no i n t r o d u c t o r y heading)

a f t e r the q u o t a t i o n s , I tend to take the p o s i t i o n t h a t i t i s so distinctly

d i f f e r e n t from the e x p l a n a t o r y s e c t i o n s of the e a r l i e r c h a p t e r s that i t

s h o u l d be g i v e n a s e p a r a t e heading. In o r d e r not to d e v i a t e too g r e a t l y

from the t r a d i t i o n a l view, however, I r e f e r to t h i s s e c t i o n as the

C o n c l u s i o n r a t h e r t h a t a t t r i b u t i n g to i t the weight of a chapter desig-

nation.

In h i s c o n c l u s i o n , Honen f i r s t c a t e g o r i z e s the v a r i o u s k i n d s of

Selection (Senchaku: ) d e s c r i b e d i n the Pure Land S u t r a s . These

31
a r e shown i n the f o l l o w i n g diagram:

S c r i p t u r a l Source Type of Choice Specific


-73-

The v a r i e t y of ways o f y i e w i n g t h i s S e l e c t i o n of Nembutsu of c o u r s e i n

np way alters, the .|unda,menta,l meaning pf the term, . The a b s p l u t e p o i n t

i s t h a t nembutsu a l o n e i s to be s e l e c t e d i f one i s to be sayed. In a

word, " s e l e c t i o n of nembutsu i s c o n s i d e r e d the a c t of r e l i g i o u s convic%: .c...


:

tion." 3 2
By showing t h a t t h i s ' s e l e c t i o n ' was a fundamental and critical

element i n even the e a r l i e s t of Pure Land s c r i p t u r e s , Honen i s a t t e m p t i n g

to show the orthodoxy of h i s d o c t r i n e w i t h i n b o t h the g r e a t e r Mahayana

and the Pure Land tradition.

That t h i s i s the c e n t r a l i s s u e o f h i s e n t i r e t h e s i s i s c l e a r .

Furthermore, by b e g i n n i n g h i s summary, w i t h a d e t a i l e d e x p l a n a t i o n of h i s

use of the term ' s e l e c t i o n , ' and by p o s i t i n g the S e l e c t i o n of (Invocational)

Nembutsu as the c e n t r a l theme o f the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , he s e t s the

stage f o r t h e c l i m a x of h i s p r e s e n t a t i o n , which e x p l a i n s h i s own inter-

p r e t a t i o n of h i s p l a c e i n the g r e a t e r Mahayana t r a d i t i o n as w e l l as w i t h i n

Japanese Buddhism i n g e n e r a l and the Pure Land movement i n p a r t i c u l a r .

T h i s b e g i n s w i t h a v e r y summary statement o f the d o c t r i n a l c o n t e n t s o f

the Senchaku-shu. Then, through a s e r i e s of q u e s t i o n s and answers,

Honen i d e n t i f i e s the uniqueness o f h i s p o s i t i o n . First, the masters o f

the o t h e r (orthodox) s c h o o l s do not admit the t e a c h i n g s on the Pure Land

to be c o r r e c t : they a l l s t i l l m a i n t a i n the Way of the Sages. Shan-tao

a l o n e a t t r i b u t e d s i n g u l a r s t a t u s to the Pure Land t e a c h i n g s , and therefore

Honen r e c o g n i z e s him a l o n e as h i s s p i r i t u a l a n c e s t o r . Second, he uses

Shan-tao as h i s prime t e a c h e r r a t h e r than o t h e r s i n the Pure Land tradi-

tion. While the o t h e r Pure Land t e a c h e r s d i d m a i n t a i n t h a t f a i t h i n the

Pure Land i s e s s e n t i a l , they had not a c c o m p l i s h e d Pure Land Samadhi (that

is, they had not had the e x p e r i e n c e of nembutsu-induced v i s i o n s ) , as

Shan-tao had. The i m p l i c a t i o n : . i s t h a t they were.not apt t o , e i t h e r ,

u n l e s s they espoused h i s s i n g l e - p r a c t i c e d o c t r i n e , and, w i t h o u t such a


-74-

yision ? t h e y w e r e u n q u a l i f i e d to be accepted as s p i r i t u a l masters.

T h i r d , . eyen'.. sjuch. a,' g i f t e d - Pure Land tea,cher..a;^, Hi.e4.guan Ga Korean) , 3 3

who had a c h i e v e d nembutsu samadhi, was not c o n s i d e r e d h i s master s i n c e

H i e i g u a n h i m s e l f was a d i s c i p l e of Shan-tao; a d i s c i p l e i s not a m a s t e r ,

and a master s u r e l y not a d i s c i p l e . I t i s simply out of the q u e s t i o n .

F o u r t h , i t i s not r e a l l y a matter of t r a d i t i o n a l concepts of l i n e a g e .

C e r t a i n l y , i f t h a t were the case, Honen would have to r e c o g n i z e Tao-ch'o

as h i s s p i r i t u a l a n c e s t o r , s i n c e Tao-ch'o had been Shan-tao's master ( i n

the t r a d i t i o n a l l i n e a g e ) . While Tao-ch'o was unquestionably a great

t e a c h e r , he had not accomplished nembutsu-samadhi, and t h e r e f o r e i t was

u n c e r t a i n i f he had a c h i e v e d r e b i r t h i n Amida's Pure Land. I n the case

of Shan-tao, on the o t h e r hand, Honen quotes numerous s o u r c e s , including

Shan-tao's own t e s t i m o n i e s , to e s t a b l i s h t h a t Shan-tao had i n fact had

v i s i o n s of Amida and H i s Pure Land and had indeed a c h i e v e d r e b i r t h i n i t .

Honen c o n t i n u e s h i s p r a i s e of Shan-tao f o r a g r e a t d e a l of the r e s t of

the c o n c l u d i n g s e c t i o n , and by so doing p r o v i d e s a b r i l l i a n t summary of

the b e n e f i t s of nembutsu and a s t e r l i n g t r i b u t e to h i s acknowledged master.

In the f i n a l l i n e s of the Senchaku-shu, Honen o u t l i n e s the m o t i v a t i o n

for his treatise. I t was to share the r e l i e f he h i m s e l f had felt upon

d i s c o v e r i n g the nembutsu p a t h w i t h those of t h i s contemporaries who

c o u l d be convinced to make the c h o i c e — t h e l e a p of f a i t h — w h i c h he

proposed. He b e l i e y e d h i s was the o n l y a p p r o p r i a t e course i n an age of

degeneracy, and he hoped by c o l l e c t i n g the e s s e n t i a l t e a c h i n g s on nembutsu

i n one p l a c e to a s s i s t those who l i k e h i m s e l f had been s e a r c h i n g f o r

something s o l i d t o b e l i e v e i n .
-75-

ENDNOTES: PART, I I : .'INTRODUCTION


AND
CHAPTER FIVE

1. F o r t h i s study I have r e l i e d e x t e n s i v e l y on the commentaries o f


ISHII K y o d o ^ ^ f ^ L i n Senchaku-shu Zenko $g,?f Q&'^fc.
[Complete L e c t u r e s on the Senchaku-shu] (Kydto: K e i r a k u j i Shoten,
1959) and Senchaku-shu K o g i 'j&f Hfftlx [ L e c t u r es on the Senchaku-shu]
(T6ky5: Meicho Shuppan, 1976), as w e l l as on v a r i o u s o t h e r commentaries
and t r a n s l a t i o n s , to supplement my own r e a d i n g o f the o r i g i n a l t e x t

(T. 2608).

2. Ohashi, pp. 102-110.

3. See I s h i i , K o g i , pp. 10-51.

4. T. 2608, 19-20.

5. Kitagawa, p. 112, f n . 59.

6. See above, p.47.

7. I s h i i , K o g i , p. l O f f .

8. See the d i s c u s s i o n o f l e g i t i m a t i o n above, p.^7 .

9. F o r example, T ' i e n - t a i , Hua-yen, and Shingon c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s .

10. See Matsunaga, Foundations , pp. 60-62.

11. T h i s i s my expanded i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f I s h i i ' s analysis.

12. See above, p.29.

13. T. 2608, l a . C f . I s h i i , K o g i , p. 115.

14. T. 2608, 1.

15. T h i s r e f e r s t o Nagarjuna's d i s t i n c t i o n n o t e d above, pp.5, 30.

16. C f . I s h i i , K o g i , p. 117.

17. See above, pp.30-32.

18. See above, pp.31-32.


-76-

20. A c c o r d i n g to C h i h - i (.538-597), the t h i r d p a t r i a r c h of the Japanese


T e n d a i t r a d i t i o n , the term "f'j-^ifc- ( " b e n e f i t " ) used here should be d i s -
t i n g u i s h e d from the terml/7f"S>.. ("merit"), w i t h which i t i s o f t e n mistaken-
ly identified; r e f e r s to the m e r i t d e r i v e d from p e r s o n a l good
deeds, t h a t i s , i t i s the r e s u l t of i n d i v i d u a l a c t i o n s and not dependent
on the t r a n s f e r of m e r i t from an " o u t s i d e " s t o r e . % \ \ o n the o t h e r hand
r e f e r s to the b e n e f i t d e r i v e d from an e x t e r n a l s o u r c e , t h a t i s , i t i s not
... the_.result of the m e r i t of i n d i v i d u a l p r a c t i c e but of the grace of
"another." See OHASHI T o s h i o ^ J ^ f ^ j E ^ H5nen-Ippen zjjfc -Jh [Honen and
Ippen] (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1971), p. 114, f n . Thus, Honen i s c a r e f u l l y
d i s t i n g u i s h i n g even here between the Way of the Sages, which r e l i e s on
Own-power (£",;# ), and the Pure Land Path, which r e l i e s on the Power of
Amida's name and the O r i g i n a l Vow (jiH*/} ).

21. T. 2608, 8c.


22. T. 2608, 13a-b.

23. See above, p.8-9.

24. See above, PP-31T32.

25. See above, pp.31-32.. and p.63 .

26. See above, p.9 and p.29 , note 16.

27. T. 2608, 14c.

28. T. 2608, 17a.

29. >^

30. See above, p.38 .

31. Adapted from Ishii, Kogi, p. 695. Note the inclusion of a fourth Sutra,
the Pratyutpanna-samadhi Sutra (T.417-8). Also notice the indeterminate
nature of selection.

32. 3&*fo5.^#H'?VJto&f--&Cf (T. 2608, 18c). "Thus one knows that


the Three Scriptures have singled out Buddha-recollection as their very
essence, and that is a l l . "
This i s a most troublesome passage. Was Honen here intending to sug-
gest his choice of nembutsu was in fact the f i r s t step on the road to
founding his own school? Or was he simply saying that to" select nembutsu
in accordance with the Triple Sutra (i.e., as the Buddhas had done) i s
the paramount achievement in Buddhist religious life? Commentators dis-
agree. Some take i t simply as a reiteration of Honen's consistent posi-
tion, yet others, including Ishii, attribute much greater import to the
passage in view of Honen"s insistence that invocation i s the essence of
nembutsu. Ishii suggests in his commentary that this indeed has been
and should be taken as indicative that Honen intended to establish a new
Pure Land school. (Kogi, pp. 695-696).
My position is between these two opinions. Based on the organization
of the concluding section as well as on specific statements within the
-77-

body of the commentary, I conclude that Honen was cleverly avoiding a


declaration of independence, yet suggesting that such a move would be
logical and consistent with the intent of the Pure Land scriptures.

33. Hieiguan ( : Hyegwan) was a seventh century Korean who came to Japan
in 625, and introduced the Sanron teachings ( 5 . ^ ) to the Nara schools.
He lived i n Gangoji (ft-S^'if ) in Nara, which was the f i r s t monastery
built in Japan.
-78-

Chapter S i x

Honen's e x e g e s i s , as i n d i c a t e d i n t h e p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r , was systematic

and r i g o r o u s , y e t was i t s i g n i f i c a n t as a r e v o l u t i o n a r y t e a c h i n g i n the

g r e a t e r Pure Land t r a d i t i o n , o r was i t simply a r e s t a t e m e n t o f orthodox doc-

t r i n e s and p r e v i o u s l y t r a n s m i t t e d i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s ? Surely there i s a strong

element o f orthodoxy i n Honen's p r e s e n t a t i o n , but as I have t r i e d t o suggest,

i t was i n those f e a t u r e s o f Pure Land thought which, u n t i l Honen, had r e -

t a i n e d t r a d i t i o n a l Mahayana c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s t h a t Honen's c o n t r i b u t i o n was

original.

H5nen's unique p o s i t i o n i n the Pure Land t r a d i t i o n can be r e c o g n i z e d by

r e c a l l i n g the o r i g i n a l d o c t r i n e s d e s c r i b e d i n Chapter One o f t h i s essay and

comparing them w i t h Honen's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s as p r e s e n t e d i n t h e Senchaku-shu.

Such a t o p i c a l summary w i l l s e r v e to h i g h l i g h t the e n d u r i n g f e a t u r e s o f

c l a s s i c a l Pure Land thought and to i s o l a t e those elements which H5nen e s - . . .. .

poused t o e s t a b l i s h h i s unprecedented s i n g l e - p r a c t i c e d o c t r i n e o f i n v o c a -

t i o n a l nembutsu.

The c r i t i c a l Pure Land d o c t r i n e s p r e s e n t e d i n Chapter One were f o u r :

F a i t h , D e v o t i o n a l A t t i t u d e , Nembutsu P r a c t i c e , and R e b i r t h . I t was p o i n t e d

out t h a t the concept o f F a i t h was i n t i m a t e l y l i n k e d w i t h D e v o t i o n a l A t t i -

tudes; t h i s was p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e i n l a t e r Pure Land s o t e r i o l o g y and c u l m i -

nated i n Honen's e x e g e s i s o f the Three D e v o t i o n a l A t t i t u d e s , The q u e s t i o n

of proper Nembutsu P r a c t i c e , which i s the l o g i c a l c o r r e l a t e o f the problem

of A t t i t u d e , was seen by Honen a s a simple e x c l u s i v e s e l e c t i o n o f i n v o c a t i o n -

a l nembutsu. H i s e x p l a n a t i o n i s u n c o m p l i c a t e d , but h i s p o s i t i o n i s r a d i c a l :

by a d v o c a t i n g t h i s easy and p r a c t i c a l p r a c t i c e as the s i n g l e s a l u t a r y method

a p p r o p r i a t e t o h i s age, Honen i n f a c t d e p a r t e d on a v e r y unorthodox c o u r s e

which, even h i s master Shan-tao had not espoused, though as we have seen ....
-79-

Hpnen maintained t h a t H i s was simply a t r a n s m i s s i o n of Shan-tap's

t r a d i t i o n a l Pure Land I n t e r p r e t a t i o n • F i n a l l y , pn the d p e t r i n e p f Rebirth,

Hpnen emphasized the manner and fprm pf R e b i r t h d e s c r i b e d i n Chapter One

aboye (p.13) but made much, l e s s of the d i s t i n c t i o n between the h i g h e s t and

lpwer grades of a s p i r a n t s , and t h e r e f o r e of the q u a l i t a t i v e d i f f e r e n c e s i n

types of R e b i r t h . H i s assumption t h a t t h e r e was v i r t u a l l y no one of the

h i g h e s t grade s t i l l a l i v e i n the L a t t e r Days of the Dharma p r e c l u d e d the

n e c e s s i t y of d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r f a t e , and h i s r e f e r e n c e s to the Pure Land

were l i m i t e d c h i e f l y to d e s c r i p t i o n s of an i n s p i r a t i o n a l character.

A, The element of F a i t h as expressed i n the terms Prasada or Prasanna-

c i t t a was r e l a t e d i n Pure Land thought g e n e r a l l y to the form and effi-

cacy of nembutsu p r a c t i c e and was i d e n t i f i e d i n the Contemplation Sutra

and by Chinese commentators as a m e n t a l a t t i t u d e . T h i s mental a t t i t u d e

was d e f i n e d by t h r e e i n t e r r e l a t e d a s p e c t s of p s y c h o l o g i c a l o r i e n t a t i o n ,

each of which was r e q u i s i t e f o r e f f e c t i v e nembutsu. The three aspects

of t h i s F a i t h C^jc.iV>) are S i n c e r i t y , Profound T r u s t , and D e d i c a t i o n


v
and

Longing. Shan-tao was the f i r s t tp e x p l a i n them i n d e t a i l and, in

Chapter 8 of the Senchaku-shu, Honen r e l i e s to a g r e a t e x t e n t on h i s


1
comments. The f o l l o w i n g diagram summarizes these c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of

Faith.

Smaller Large Contemplation Shan-tao/ Specific


Sutra Sutra Sutra Hpnen Referent

Zealous
Conviction

F a i t h i n the
Buddha's Vow

Dedication Desire for


and R e b i r t h and
Longing Bodhisattva
Resolve
- 8 0 -

Qf the f i r s t characteristic, Sincerity, Honen identifies two forms; in

a personal sense, i t i s the conviction that one w i l l indeed be saved i f a l l

other paths are abandoned, that i s , i f the Easy Path of nembutsu practice

alone i s zealously adhered to. This identifies the required compatibility

of internal attitude (zeal) and external form (nembutsu). In a larger

sense, i t i s the commitment to help others achieve salvation by sharing the

understanding of "sincerity" which they themselves have acquired.

We can see in this aspect of Pure Land Faith: the basic elements of

religious- conviction common to a l l Mahayana Buddhism: 1) simplicity of

character, integrity, ingenuousness, the absence of hypocrisy which i s

naturally assumed to be a necessary attitude in other ethical systems as

well; 2) positive altruism, which i s realized in the bodhisattva Dharma-

kara's vows and which is characterized by the bodhisattva ideal.

Because Honen's entire thesis i s based on the inability of "modern

man" to actually realize the second form in the Latter Days of the Dharma,

however, he does not pursue the matter of bodhisattva altruism. Instead,

he emphasizes the all-encompassing features of this sincerity in daily l i f e ,

enjoining i t s integration and application in thought, word, and deed. "Do

not treat these things lightly: the internal and external, the clear and

obscure, a l l are essential aspects of this attitude we c a l l 'Sincerity.'"

Furthermore, Honen specifies the application of this attitude in nem-

butsu practice, as noted above. In this he goes beyond Shan-tao and other

Pure Land apologists, for he isolates i t s meaning within the context of

exclusive invocation and uses the sense of "zealous conviction to an estab-

lished pattern of belief and action," much in the way that "sincerity (i.e.,

integrity, honor)" (g^,(|);^(^) i s used in modern Japanese, He in this way

applies a uniquely Japanese interpretation to a standard Buddhist concept,


-81-

not as a universal or absolute.standard, but in the specific and restricted

context of invocational nembutsu, which is the single salutary practice

appropriate for his age.

The second characteristic of Faith is Profound Trust. Once again,

Honen admits two aspects. The f i r s t is the utter belief that man i s totally

engulfed in delusion, that from the distant past he has remained ignorant,

and that he w i l l not now be able to escape the evil world nor attain even

the inkling of a notion of release from these woes because of his profound

and enduring ignorance. The second aspect is the correlate of the f i r s t .

Man, recognizing his utter helplessness, must then commit himself completely

to Amida's promised aid, submit without reservation to the infinite mercy

and solemn Power of His Vow, and accept absolutely that he thereby w i l l be

saved. Honen thus insists that for modern man i t is v i t a l to abjure one's

own ability to effect salvation and to rely entirely on the saving Power of

Amida's Vow. Man's inherrent abilities, not to mention the intricate and

sophisticated teachings and practices of earlier ages, were so obscured in

the Degenerate Age that only by throwing oneself at the mercy of Amida's

grace could one he assured of Rebirth in His Pure Land.

It i s this absolute resignation, this total submission, this unswerving

conviction which i s called "blissful belief" Off :Shingyo) because of the


2

security i t affords the helpless aspirant. Honen did not, however, dis-

regard the fundamental significance of his interpretation. In fact, he

realized he was opening for consideration a sensitive and potentially dis-

ruptive question concerning the c r i t i c a l elements; of Buddhist Faith which

challenged the very heart of orthodox Buddhist practice. He went far beyond
any previous commentator in assigning absolute status to the doctrine of
3
Faith, and the central teaching in his challenge revolved around the
-82-

issue of dependence.

The orthodox schools maintained that the f i r s t c r i t i c a l step on the


path to salvation was the arousal pf Bpdhi-nature: (^jj"^,^ ;Bodhicitta) .
But bpth. Shan-tao and Hpnen maintained that the c r i t i c a l factor was a recog-
nition that even without this step one could, by the power of Amida's Vow,
4

be saved. They both identified this preliminary Arousal as a subsidiary

and futile effort, representative of the teachings of the "Way. of the Sages."

Honen, moreover, emphasized the foolishness of a l l such self-reliant prac-

tices by his twofold argument for invocational nembutsu, without directly

decrying the doctrine of Bpdhicitta arousal. He rested his case on the ease

of nembutsu invocation on the one hand and on the superior efficacy of rely-

ing on Amida's infinite compassion rather than on the dubious power of

individual effort on the other.

This dual apology climaxes theoretically in his presentation of the

elements of True Faith, and particularly in the explanation of "Profound

Trust." By f i r s t submitting that Profound Trust implies a.-deep-seated con-

viction of helplessness, Honen is reiterating his thesis that in such an age

as his, self-reliance was not only futile, i t was in fact a reflection of the

depth of delusion to which modern man had receded. The complement of this

theory of utter helplessness, however, was that there was indeed an alterna-

tive; an easy, superior alternative which denounced self-reliance, grate-

fully acknowledged the unfathomable Compassion of Amida, and relied utterly

on the Power of His Original Vow.

The third aspect of this Faith i s "Dedicated Longing." By this is

meant the desire to be reborn in Amida's Pure Land and the resolve :. even-

tually to^cultivate pure bodhisattva altruism and subsequently to return tp

this world to save other deluded beings. Honen illustrates the primary as-
-83-

pect by relating a parable known as the "White Path: between Two- Rivers."

Once there was a traveler who had come a very long distance,
following a road leading West. Suddenly, he saw on the road
ahead of him two rivers. On the south was- a river of f i r e ,
on the north a river of water. The two rivers were less
than 100 meters wide/ They were deep, and i t was impossible
to determine how far in either direction each extended.
Running between the two rivers was a white path, about 15
centimeters wide. From the eastern to the western edge:
of the confluence of these rivers, the path ran only 100
meters. The waves of the river of water splashed against
the very edge of the path, dampening i t s surface; the
flames of the other licked the sides of the path, charring
i t so badly that i t could be used only once—there could
be no turning back. The path seemed to melt into the
relentless torrent of billows and blaze.
The man had already traveled a vast distance just to
reach this point and the area was uninhabited save by
brigands and wild beasts. If they spotted him there alone,
they would certainly swoop in and k i l l him. Fearing such
a death, the man straightway began to run toward the West,
but suddenly he again faced the great rivers, and this gave
him pause. He thought to himself, "I cannot even distinguish
the north from the south of these raging torrents. Even as
I watch, the single white path through the middle grows ever
narrower and narrower. Though the opposite side can surely
not be far, how on earth can I get there? Undoubtedly,
today I am doomed to die, yet is i t better to turn back
and thereby eventually f a l l into the clutches of brigands
or ferocious animals, or to flee north or south where fierce
beasts and poisonous insects w i l l face me in swarming packs?
Or should I head West, and seek to follow the path? If I
do this, I might very well be overcome with terror and
f a l l into the flames or the raging waters."
Certainly, the horror of such a predicament i s beyond
the imagination!
At any rate, the traveler continued thinking, "If I turn
back, I w i l l surely die. If I stay here, death i s just as
certain. If I proceed, again, I w i l l die. There:.is no
escaping death of one sort or another. Yet, I'd prefer to
follow this path and go forward. The path i s already there—
surely, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to make i t
across."
While he was thus pondering his dilemma, he suddenly
heard the voice of someone approaching him from the east,
saying, "Simply retrace your steps and you w i l l certainly
not die'. If you stay there, death i s ineyitable," Then
a person on the west called out, saying, "Make up your
mind, be steadfast, and come straight ahead! I haye the
power to protect you! You need not fear falling into the .::.
fiery maelstrom!"
Now, the traveler had already made up his mind and come
that far, so when he heard the encouragement in these com-
peting voices, he steeled himself, and relying on his pre-
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vious determination, set out again on the path, proceeding


straight ahead and permitting no doubt or indecision to
cross his mind. But he had hardly taken a step when the
brigands to the east called out again, saying, "Turn back'
Come this way! That path, i s so treacherous you w i l l never
make i t ! You'll surely die—there's no doubt at a l l ! We
don't want to see you come to harm--come join us!" Even
when he heard these voices, however, the traveler didn't
consider turning back. Single-mindedly he forged ahead,
concentrating only on the path, and in no time at a l l he
reached the western shore, where he found relief and solace
from his ordeal. When his true friends there saw him, they
a l l rejoiced, and they celebrated together endlessly.
(T. 2608, llb-c)

Honen goes on to explain in some detail the significance of each

element i n the parable, yet for us i t i s sufficient to outline the major

metaphors and substantive doctrinal implications. Of course the area

east of the confluent rivers represents this world, the western area the

Pure Land Paradise of Amida. The torrents of fire and water represent

respectively the passions of rage and avarice which threaten the devotee

from within and without and which impede his progress. The voices calling

him from the east are a l l those forces and influences which distract one

from the goal, including the deluding effects of previous existences and

the pervasive confusion of the Mappo period i n general, the misdirected

guidance of one's associates and teachers, as well as the false dependence

on oneself or on any other mortals for insight or assistance i n achieving

salvation. The voice from the West, of course, i s that of Amida, offering

reassurance that the White Path w i l l surely lead to His Paradise and that

by His Power the traveler w i l l be protected. Finally, the White Path

i t s e l f represents the single sure route to rebirth i n the Pure Land,

nembutsu invocation: reliance on the Power of the Original Vow.

Several things are significant about Honen's use of this parable to

illustrate his doctrine of Faith and more specifically the aspect of

Dedication and Longing. First, he pictures a person who i s sincere in his


-85-

d e s i r e to a c h i e v e R e b i r t h ; ngt o n l y had he a l r e a d y walked a g r e a t

d i s t a n c e , but even when he f a c e d h i s most c r i t i c a l challenge ? he d i d not

t u r n a s i d e from the "Pure Land" p a t h . Second, the t r a v e l e r ' s a t t i t u d e

at t h i s c r u c i a l turning point epitomizes t h a t sense of h e l p l e s s n e s s , of

absolute r e s i g n a t i o n , which i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Profound T r u s t , His

o n l y support was h i s unswerving c o n v i c t i o n t h a t , a l t h o u g h t h e r e were

indeed no t a n g i b l e guarantees of s a f e passage, s i n c e he had committed

h i m s e l f up to t h a t p o i n t and t h e r e was s u r e l y no b e t t e r a l t e r n a t i v e , he

had no reason to doubt t h a t the narrow White Path was h i s best chance.

Honen's emphasis on the d e s p e r a t i o n , f o l l o w e d by u t t e r r e s i g n a t i o n , of

t h i s hapless t r a v e l e r h i g h l i g h t s the e f f e c t of the r e a s s u r i n g v o i c e of

Amida, which i s to say, the a s s u r a n c e p r o v i d e d by H i s O r i g i n a l Vow,

T h i r d , i t was the t r a v e l e r ' s ardent d e s i r e to r e a c h the Western bank

which prevented him from b e i n g d i s t r a c t e d by f e a r or d e c p t i o n . Once

committed to the Path, he allowed no other thought to e n t e r h i s mind and,

by c o n c e n t r a t i n g t o t a l l y on the P a t h i t s e l f — e a c h step an a c t of total

F a i t h and unswerving d i s c i p l i n e - — b e f o r e he knew i t , he was transported

to Amida's Western Paradise.

A l t h o u g h Honen has made use of a p a r a b l e which Shan-tao presented

first i n h i s Commentary on the Contemplation S u t r a , ^ his interpretation

i s unique i n a number of ways. For one t h i n g , the p o i n t of Shan-tao's

p r e s e n t a t i o n was c o r r e c t nembutsu m e d i t a t i o n , whereas Honen has emphati-

c a l l y r e j e c t e d a l l other p r a c t i c e s besides i n v o c a t i o n as s u b s i d i a r y and

futile. H5nen, t h e r e f o r e , i s u s i n g the p a r a b l e on a much l e s s allegorical

l e v e l and i n f a c t p o i n t e d l y d e c r i e s the a p p l i c a t i o n of any o t h e r method

i n h i s e x p l a n a t i o n of the p a r a b l e , p l a c i n g the proponents of such m i s c e l -

laneous s e l f - r e l i a n t p r a c t i c e s among the t h i e v e s and wolves on the eastern

side. Thus, a l t h o u g h the p a r a b l e i t s e l f i s open to a v a r i e t y of i n t e r p r e -


-86-

tations, the thrust of Honen's message i s that only by relying completely

on Amida's compassion can success be assured. Furthermore, Honen has

placed this parable in the center of his long and detailed exegesis of

the characteristics of true Faith and uses i t to place his interpretation

in stark relief against the orthodox (traditional) doctrines of Faith

and Practice which he characterizes as vain and deceptive.

Honen concludes his discussion of these three aspects of True Faith

by once again warning that these three are absolutely necessary for rebirth,

and negligence in developing any single facet renders the others invalid.

B. Nembutsu

The fundamental and indispensible act of nembutsu invocation i s the

only practice guaranteed in the Scriptures to be effective. This is the

primary argument Honen uses to identify the method of achieving rebirth.

A l l other practices are d i f f i c u l t and subject to numerous qualifying pre-

scriptions. Furthermore, invocational nembutsu, according to Honen, is

unique in that i t does not depend on proper performance: i t i s so easy ..

even the least adept can carry i t out successfully. Nor i s i t preliminary

or subordinate to other practices: i t i s the unqualified, supreme method

of salvation, since i t i s the only act which relies absolutely on Amida

Buddha's Power for i t s effect.

In chapter two, Honen distinguishes between Proper Practices and

Miscellaneous Practices, rejecting the latter as inappropriate during the

Mappo era and further classifying Proper Practices, which in general are

nembutsu-oriented, into five types.

1) Reading the Scriptures (J|Hi £ )

2) (Amida) Contemplation ft )

3) (Amida) Veneration C ^ f #i£-ff )


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4) (Amida) Invocation

5) (Amida) Praise (ff fX^Bf >


(T. 2608, 3a)

Of these, Honen classified number 4, that i s , Invocational Nembutsu, as

correct (essential) and the others as auxiliary.^ It was on this point

that Honen broke with a l l previous Pure Land patriarchs and established

the single-practice nembutsu discussed earlier on doctrinal as well as

practical grounds.

Yet several questions remain. First, i f i t is so easy and so effec-

tive, why i s i t necessary to repeat the invocation, given that even one

nembutsu i s sufficient to assure rebirth? The answer of course rests on

the quality of Attitude, which has already been discussed. If a person

invokes Amida's name frivolously, then certainly that person cannot be

said to have really performed the requisite nembutsu invocation. Thus

the definition of nembutsu invocation itself is a c r i t i c a l feature of

Honen's argument. To utter the name of Amida without sincerity, without

trusting utterly in i t s Power, without believing that rebirth is the sure

reward, i s as though the traveler, arriving at the confluence of the

rivers, rolled a stone down the Path because he could neither commit

himself to the Westward course nor proceed unwaveringly on such an

apparently treacherous route. No one would claim that his fate was more

certain as a result of the experiment.

Second, what then should a person do to purify his motivation.,and

establish himself on the Pure Land Path? As described earlier, Honen


7

outlines four characteristics of effective nembutsu invocation: i t should


8

be lifelong, reverent, exclusive, and constant. These are eyident i n

the parable as well. The traveler, i t w i l l be recalled, had already come

a long distance ("life-long"), and therefore at the moment of final deci-:..,.


-88-
sion he was mentally prepared to rely on this Westward course ("exclu-

sive") and to disregard the others. While he was crossing the bridge, he

did not allow his thoughts to stray in the slightest ("constant"); he went

forward with determination and conviction. Reverence for the sacred

teaching of the Buddha and for the mysterious Power of His Name was pre-

sumably not felt to require any clear analogue in the parable, although

as discussed above a reverent attitude was implicit throughout the parable.

Honen furthermore constantly enjoins his readers to seriousness: the


9

teachings concerning nembutsu are sacred and must not be taken lightly.

C. Rebirth

In the latter chapters of the Senchaku-shu, Honen describes not only

Amida s Pure Land but also the characteristics of those who have success-
1

fully carried out nembutsu and therefore are welcomed to the Pure Land

Paradise.

Even before death, there are numerous benefits associated with nem-

butsu. Honen quotes various sutras and commentaries in his description

of the nembutsu practioner. The person who practices nembutsu i s like a

white lotus blossom, the most excellent of flowers. Even from ancient

times, the lotus has been the symbol of perfection, the celebrated flower

upon which the sacred dragon of legend dances. The man who invokes Amida's

name properly i s thus unique among men, a rare and charming person, the

finest of distinguished figures, an incomparably enviable and elegant

prince of a fellow. He finds friendship and grace in every quarter. Yet

that is just the beginning. The great bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and

Mahasthamaprapta w i l l be his constant companions, and as his dear friends

w i l l watch over him and act as his teachers and confidants, guiding him

forward on the true path. Finally, at the hour of his death, they w i l l
-89-

appear to him i n the company of Amida and innumerable other Buddhas and

s a i n t s to welcome him through the gate to the Pure Land.. A l l of these are

b e n e f i t s which accrue i n t h i s l i f e , but o n l y to those who c a l l upon the

Name of Amida.

A f t e r death, the nembutsu devotee w i l l be l e d i n t o the Western P a r a -

d i s e by Amida's a t t e n d a n t s , who w i l l be h o l d i n g l o t u s blossoms, and he

w i l l be seated on a golden l o t u s d a i s . No sooner w i l l he be s e a t e d than

he w i l l have a c h i e v e d the s t a t u s of ' a n u t p a t t i k a (dharma) k s a n t i

^ ) , ' t h a t i s , the b o d h i s a t t v a s t a t e of " n o n - a r i s i n g (of o b s t a c l e s ) . " 1 0

Thereupon, he w i l l e n t e r the h i g h e r stages of the B o d h i s a t t v a course. 1 1

Still, Honen does not d w e l l on t h i s metamorphosis nor on the idealized


12

s t a t e of Amida's Pure Land. Rather, he d i r e c t s h i s r e a d e r s ' • a t t e n t i o n ;

to the p r o c e s s of a c h i e v i n g r e b i r t h and attempts to a v o i d the inclination

to r e i t e r a t e the d i s t i n c t i o n i n the next life between those of h i g h e r and

lower a p t i t u d e s . As was p o i n t e d out i n Chapter One above, the achievements

of those of the h i g h e r grades were t r a d i t i o n a l l y d e s c r i b e d i n m e t a p h o r i c a l -

l y c o n c r e t e terms, y e t were i n a m e t a p h y s i c a l sense i n e f f a b l e . S i n c e Honen

throughout h i s apology has denied the l i k e l i h o o d of t h e r e b e i n g anyone i n

the L a t t e r Days of the Dharma capable of achieving these i d e a l i z e d s t a t e s

immediately, he l i m i t s h i s d i s c u s s i o n of them to summaries of traditional


13

doctrine. For the r e s t , he g e n e r a l i z e s by c a l l i n g i t a p e a c e f u l l a n d ,

without famine or d i s e a s e or the s p e c t e r o f death to d i s t u r b those who

live there. And of course t h i s i s the o r i g i n a l s o t e r i o l o g i c a l significance

of even the s c r i p t u r a l d e s c r i p t i o n s : to i n s p i r e the average devotee to

practice. Because Honen r e s t e d h i s e n t i r e t h e s i s f o r e x c l u s i v e nembutsu

i n v o c a t i o n on the E i g h t e e n t h Vow, i t i s n a t u r a l t h a t he d i d not go beyond

the„general g o a l of R e b i r t h i t s e l f i n h i s apology. As was noted earlier,

the d e s i r e to see Amida i s the n e c e s s a r y p r e r e q u i s i t e f o r r e b i r t h itself,


-90-

while the cultivation of the other virtues outlined in the yow§ of Dharma-

kara were prerequisites f o r the spiritual metamorphosis, which, the tradi-

tional Mahayana schools had set as the goal for a l l devout Buddhists.

Honen once again i s attempting to redirect Buddhist attention away from

esoteric doctrine to popular practice.

The parable cited earlier is representative of the method Honen

espouses throughout the Senchaku-shu. The stress i s on selection and com-

mitment. Only one sentence describes the result, and that i s a simple

statement that relief was achieved. Such i s the thrust of Honen's message:

Faith and resolute practice, rather than erudition and rigorous discipline,

are the essential elements of the Buddha's message.

The strength of Honen's teaching is evidenced in both the immediate

success of his movement and in the continuation and development of his

doctrine by his followers. Without his epoch-making treatise on the

selection of invocational nembutsu, however, i t i s impossible to imagine

what would have become of the Buddhist community in general, and of the

Pure Land tradition in particular. Not only did Honen redirect Japanese

Buddhism irrevocably by rejecting the e l i t i s t tendencies inherent in the

state-supported institutions, but he brought Buddhism as a realistic and

practical soteriolpgical vehicle within the reach of the ordinary man in

Japan,

While Honen's exposition of popular Pure Land doctrine was done with

an eye on the orthodox tradition, we have seen that his efforts were not

greeted with enthusiasm in a l l quarters. Neither was i t the last word in

the evolution of popular Pure Land teaching, but perhaps because of Honen's

bold presentation and charismatic leadership the best-known Pure Land

patriarch in Japan, Shinran

further the work of his master. For i t was immediately after Honen's
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death in 1212 that one of Honen's f i r s t and most acerbic c r i t i c s , Mype

($\%,- \ 1173-1232), published twp bppks condemning Hpnen and his

followers as heretics and slanderers of the Dharma.

Myoe's criticism centered on two chief concerns. The f i r s t was

the misbehavior of some of Honen's followers, and continued the argument

to which Honen himself had tried to respond immediately before his exile.

The second, and to My5e more serious, was Honen's rejection of 'bodhicitta'

as a primary cause and condition of religious aspiration. While Myoe was

basing his criticism of Honen's single-practice doctrine on the discussion

of bodhicitta in the Senchaku-shui ^ he was apparently ignoring the


1

context and intent of Honen's presentation. Not only did Honen f a i l to

elucidate completely his understanding of the traditional bodhicitta

doctrine in the Senchaku-shu, but he pointedly avoided a scholastic

approach to i t . He was writing for the edification of the ordinary man

in a Degenerate Age and as such rejected the questions of philosophical

theory and Buddhist idealist ethics, in spite of his own erudition and

eminent qualifications to pursue such questions.

The task of defending and clarifying Honen's nembutsu thesis was

therefore l e f t to his followers, the most eminent of whom was Shinran,

who became his disciple in 1201. In his Kyogyoshinsho ( ) and

Gutokusho \\ )"^ Shinran emphasized and elaborated that "the faith

of the individual accorded by Amida's Other Power is nothing but the great
1 A

'bodhicitta'. In his writings Shinran also clarified and expanded on

the concept of Faith Qfci^y ) and i t s arising, which cemented the doctrine

of Other Power and the absolute efficacy of Amida's vow. Shinran believed,

moreover, that he was simply elucidating Honen's ideas, since he named his

school the True Pure Land school, based on his masters' teaching, to

distinguish and differentiate iti-from the other movements which other


d i s c i p l e s w e r e s t a r t i n g .
-93-

ENDNOTES: CHAPTER SIX

1. T h i s diagram i s adapted from I s h i i , KOgi, p. 356.

2. I t i s t h i s a s p e c t of F a i t h which l a t e r Pure Land a p o l o g i s t s have


most o f t e n emphasized, and which most f u l l y c a p t u r e s the e s s e n t i a l
s p i r i t of the o r i g i n a l concept of Prasada or P r a s a n n a c i t t a which
was d e s c r i b e d above i n Chapter One. I t i s a l s o the e s s e n t i a l
meaning of the "Untroubled Mind" i d e n t i f i e d i n the S m a l l e r S u k h a v a t i .
But i t was not on t h i s d o c t r i n a l a s p e c t t h a t Honen f o c u s e d , and
because of t h i s i t was l e f t to h i s d i s c i p l e S h i n r a n to e x p o s t u l a t e
i t s i m p l i c a t i o n s more f u l l y . See Bloom, Shinran's GOspel, f o r a
d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n of Shinran's t e a c h i n g s on F a i t h .

3. See Ishii, K o g i , pp. 3 4 9 f f ; 368-476, esp. 397ff.

4. The images i n t h i s p a r a b l e a r e common to many other Mahayana


s c r i p t u r e s as w e l l .

5. T. 2608, 2-3; a l s o , T. 2608, 17, e t . a l . Cf. Ohashi, Honen- -Sono


Kodo, p. 95, and above, Chapter Two, p.30 .

6. Cf. above, pp. 12-14.

7. T h i s c l a s s i f i c a t i o n i s based on Shan-tao and on the Hosso


s c h o o l s "Standard I n t e r p r e t a t i o n s on the West" i& /> i f f % % %jk'j$ltJiL
(T. 1964), a t t r i b u t e d to K ' u e i - c h i C j j _ ^ : 631-682).

8. Cf. above, pp.67-71 .

9. C f . above, pp.14-17 .

10 T. 2608, 17. For a b r i e f but t r e n c h a n t d e s c r i p t i o n of the stages


of the b o d h i s a t t v a ' s c o u r s e , see Tsukamoto, p. 482 ( f o o t n o t e one
to page 185).

There a r e i n the Senchaku-shu numerous r e f e r e n c e s to the attainment


of v a r i o u s t r a d i t i o n a l s t a t e s of r e l e a s e , but these a r e g e n e r a l l y
l i m i t e d to s c r i p t u r a l q u o t a t i o n s and b r i e f e x p l a n a t i o n s . For
example, see T. 2608, 9c-10, e t . a l .

12. T. 2608, 16-17.

13. As w e l l as i n h i s Shozomatsu Wasan ).


-94-

14. See BANDO Shojun*)^^'^^/b , "Myoe's Criticism of Honen's Doctrine,"


The Eastern Buddhist VII, No. 1 (New Series) (May, 1974), pp. 37-54.

15. See Bloom, pp. 37-59.


CONCLUSION

The purpose of this study has been to analyze the role of Honen

Shonin in the evolution of Pure Land Buddhism, in hopes of determining

the significance of his contribution to Mahayana Buddhist history i n

general, and Japanese religious<history in particular.

By tracing the development of Pure Land Buddhism, both philosophical

and popular, from i t s origins in India to i t s mature form in the middle

of the thirteenth century in Japan, I have attempted to touch upon the

crucial factors affecting i t s development. There i s ample evidence that

social and p o l i t i c a l elements in India, China, and Japan greatly trans-

formed Pure Land soteriology and that the emergence of an independent

popular Pure Land school in Japan was the ultimate result of these

influences. The question of Honen's role in the final stages of this

process, however, might f r u i t f u l l y be reviewed.

Although attempts had been made in China to redirect the soteriolo-

gical emphasis of Mahayana Buddhism, the Pure Land school there was unable

to emerge with a unique and viable method of salvation. Nembutsu practice

was inextricably tied with traditional meditative techniques andCwas

considered by most schools as a contemplative method. In spite of efforts

to isolate invocational nembutsu, i t remained a subsidiary practice

within a larger schema.

This was true in Japan as well, although those who did promote

invocational nembutsu increased with the changing social and p o l i t i c a l

climate. Under the influence of the indigenous diffused religion, however,

nembutsu practice, and in particular invocational nembutsu, became more

common outside of the institutional centers. With the introduction of

esoteric Buddhism in the ninth century, an attempt was made to reintegrate

this nembutsu practice into the orthodox tradition, as i t had been in


-96 ^

China. An e f f o r t was a l s o made to u n i v e r s a l i z e B u d d h i s t i n s t i t u t i o n s ,

but due to the s c h o l a s t i c i n c l i n a t i o n s of these e s o t e r i c s c h o o l s , as

w e l l as the i n c r e a s i n g s e c u l a r i z a t i o n of Heian monastic i n t e r e s t s , this

e f f o r t proved futile.

I t was not u n t i l Honen, who l i k e many of h i s contemporaries was

d e s p e r a t e l y s e a r c h i n g f o r r e l i g i o u s meaning i n an o t h e r w i s e c h a o t i c w o r l d ,

t h a t the H i j i r i movement and the orthodox t r a d i t i o n were j o i n e d i n a

p r a c t i c a l and l e g i t i m a t e form. I t appears c l e a r to me t h a t i t was HSnen's

unique c h a r a c t e r which made t h i s u n i o n p o s s i b l e , f o r he a l o n e was a b l e to

e x p l o i t h i s t r a d i t i o n a l t r a i n i n g and adapt the orthodox d o c t r i n e s to h i s

h i s t o r i c a l c i r c u m s t a n c e s andathereby e x t r a c t the nembutsu movement from

both the s e c u l a r i z e d monastic and the f o l k r e l i g i o u s t r a d i t i o n s to form a

new and independent Pure Land s c h o o l . I t was i n f a c t the f i r s t time that

Buddhism i n Japan had been f r e e o f both p o l i t i c a l and p o p u l a r r e s t r a i n t s ,

i n t h a t he had d i v o r c e d the Pure Land movement from t r a d i t i o n a l B u d d h i s t

s c h o o l s and from p r i m i t i v e m a g i c o - r e l i g o u s elements.

Thus, a l t h o u g h Honen d i d not o s t e n s i b l y i n t e n d to form a new school

of Japanese Buddhism, h i s s y n t h e s i s of these d i v e r s e elements inevitably

l e d to d o c t r i n a l c o n f l i c t and s e c t a r i a n d i v i s i o n . Perhaps the f o r m a t i o n

of an independent Pure Land movement was not the same as the c o n s c i o u s

f o u n d i n g of a s c h o o l . I t l i t t l e m a t t e r s , f o r Honen's c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the

h i s t o r y of Japanese Buddhism, and Mahayana Buddhism i n g e n e r a l , has f a r

outweighed the academic s i g n i f i c a n c e o f such a q u e s t i o n . I t was left to

o t h e r s to d i s c u s s , but the accomplishment itself, as I have t r i e d to show,

was Honen's, and h i s f u l l s t o r y remains to be w r i t t e n .


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Sophia University, 1973.

Bagchi, P. C., Le Canon bouddhique en Chien, 2 vols., Paris, .1938.

BANDO, Shojun f. '\Q ^ , "Myoe's Criticism of Honen" s Doctrine,"


The Eastern Buddhist, VII;, 1 (New Series), May, 1974, pp. 37-54.
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Bloom, Alfred, Shinran's Gospel of Pure Grace, Tucson, University


of Arizona, 1965.

Ch'en, Kenneth, Buddhism in China, a Historical Survey, Princeton,


Princeton University Press, 1964.

______ "Neo-Taoism and the Prajna School," Chinese Culture I, 2,


1957, pp. 33-46.

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