Otani University Presentation: 「中世仏教における「秘密念仏思想」:阿闍梨道範と密教浄土教」

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Greetings! Yesterday at Otani University, I presented a paper on Dohan’s Pure Land thought. Below I have posted the outline for the talk, and a brief bibliography. I’ll eventually post an English version, but for now, here is the Japanese version.

中世仏教における「秘密念仏思想」:阿闍梨道範と密教浄土教文化

アーロン・プロフィット(Aaron Proffitt: proffitt@umich.edu

阿闍梨道範(1179-1252):鎌倉初期の高野山の学僧

  • 阿字観、弘法大師信仰、光明真言、六大不二思想、真言宗安心論
  • 中世の禅と浄土教
  • 道範の「秘密念仏思想」を中心とする研究を通じて、日本中世社会に対する高野山密教浄土教文化の重要性と道範の貢献を主張します。

この発表は四つの部分に分かれています。

  • 第一、道範と「鎌倉仏教」、顕密体制と諸宗兼学
  • 第二、道範の生涯と修行した寺院における阿弥陀信仰活動
  • 第三に、道範の『秘密念仏抄』における「念仏」
  • 第四に、道範の念仏思想の可能性

 

第一:鎌倉仏教と道範

黒田以前と黒田以後

  • 「鎌倉新仏教」の宗祖を中心的に扱う傾向にありました。
  • 鎌倉時代とそれ以前の密教的な思想・儀式と文化的な背景を無視すること
  • 宗祖と同時代に活躍した他の僧侶たちの活動も考慮されない傾向
    • 道範:宗祖ではなく、密教思想家でした。
    • 道範の密教浄土教についての研究が増えてきています。
  • 奈良時代から日本の僧侶は諸宗兼学して、あらゆる分野に精通していました。
  • 東アジアの仏教文化は諸宗兼学の傾向にありました。

宗派枠組みを超えた道範

  • 真言密教、空海教学
  • 天台学、善導流の浄土教、南都諸宗等
  • 顕密体制と諸宗兼学

「顕教」と「密教」を定義するには、恐らく三つの方法があります。

  • 一つには、「秘密仏教」は「大乗仏教」が成立した後、その枠組みの外で発展したので、大乗仏教とは別個に扱う、という考え方です。
  • もう一つは、密教は大乗仏教と共に発展した大乗仏教の一種と捉え、大乗仏教と一緒に考えるという方法です。
  • もう一つは、密教は大乗仏教における「最上乗」に関する儀礼上の技法(Ritual Technology)と言説(Discourse)であると考える方法です。

道範の「顕密念仏」

  • 道範の秘密念仏の立場は「密教」の念仏というだけではなく、中世における念仏実践の多様性に反応して、「顕密念仏」の理論を構築したと思っております。

第二:道範の生涯と密教浄土教

道範と「秘密念仏」についての研究には三つの立場があるようです。

  • 第一は:混合主義(シンクレティズム)
  • 第二は:正統的な真言宗の浄土教立場
  • 第三は、「ポスト宗派主義」の立場
    • 道範を中世高野山真言密教という文脈から考える時、阿弥陀信仰は単に、真言宗に入っていた浄土教ではありません。道範の真言密教では、浄土教は偏在的であり、目立つ位置がありました。
    • 道範の念仏思想は、高野山の特殊な密教浄土教文化を表しています。

道範の生涯

  • 正智院の明任
    • 14才の時、高野山に上って正智院の明任のもとで出家しました。
    • 正智院の本尊は阿弥陀如来
  • 醍醐寺の実賢
    • 三宝院の口伝「命息釈」
      • 阿弥陀如来は法身大日如来の永遠の命として働き、その阿弥陀仏は衆生の「命息」として現れます。
    • 彌陀・弥勒信仰
  • 仁和寺の守覚法親王
    • 広沢流
    • 本尊は阿弥陀如来
    • 彌陀・弘法大師信仰
  • 宝光院の兼澄
    • 阿弥陀如来を本尊
    • 阿弥陀如来像の前で行われていた葬儀
  • 華王院の覚海
    • 密厳浄土:浄土と穢土を区別しない、絶対不二という観点
    • 来世往生信仰を批判して、現世での即身成仏を強調しました。
  • 禅林寺静遍
    • 密教思想を重視
    • 法然の弟子である隆寛、証空、明遍との交流
    • 称名念仏を中心
    • 浄土という概念の二元性と密教の一元性とを調和させるもの

道範の配流

  • 金剛峰寺と大伝法院との暴力的な戦い
  • 道範と数人の高野山の高僧が配流
  • 道範は讃岐に配流
  • 『南海流浪記』
    • 善通寺(弘法大師の誕生の所に建った寺院)に住みました。
    • 弘法大師の入定した高野山から離れた道範は、空海の誕生した場所と関係をもちました。おそらく、道範は自分のなかに、密教僧としてのアイデンティティを再確認するために、弘法大師と自身の関係を追求したのではないでしょうか。道範の弘法大師信仰は阿弥陀信仰を締め出しませんでした。
    • 道範は阿弥陀像を作って、阿弥陀に関する儀式も行っていたようです。道範の密教思想は弘法大師と阿弥陀如来の両方への信仰を内包していました。

道範だけでなく、高野山を中心とする中世紀州に展開した仏教は、弘法大師と阿弥陀如来とを共に信仰することに矛盾はなかったのかもしれません。これは今後の研究課題と思っております。 

第三:道範の念仏思想

道範の「秘密念仏」は「密教の念仏」または「真言宗の念仏」だけではなく、むしろ「顕密・兼学の念仏」に近似しています。

四重秘釋

  • 名號事。問。廣聞當世。眞言止觀行人。 多依彌陀稱名之行。期往生極樂 。是於念佛三昧。不簡時所諸緣。 有無間修之德故。唯就易行。歸此本願家歟。稱名有淺深顯密之義耶。其四重者。一此彌陀佛者。昔在因依。初爲無諍念王。於寶藏佛所。發無上道心。次爲寶藏比丘。於世自在王佛所。發四十八願。果願成佛。名彌陀佛。此悲花雙觀等所說。是爲淺略。
  • 二此彌陀佛者。大日法身普門萬德中。金剛五智。沙觀察智。胎藏八葉。證菩提門也。此兩部大經所說。是爲深祕。凡顯教。十方諸佛。各別因人修行證果也。眞言十方如來。四重曼荼。皆是一行者。顯德[得]萬德也。
  • 三 此彌陀佛者。是大日法身。三世常住惠命。是云無量壽。故彌陀卽大日。一門卽普門也。是爲祕中深祕。
  • 四 此彌陀佛者。卽一切衆生色心實相。性淨圓明 平等智身也。所謂衆生八辯心蓮卽彌陀三點曼荼 。 雖淪無明淤泥。非染非隱。 雖開 始覺 佛光。非生非顯。 三際不變。 萬德凝然。是爲祕祕中深祕。(中略)[是故] 此[中]深祕名號。[卽]祕密眞言。故同雖云稱名。全不同常途淺略也。」(SAZ 2: 226-227)

觀世音蓮華眼

  • 「觀世音蓮華眼。卽同一切佛。無盡莊嚴身。」

真言行人

  • 「眞言行人卽淺解深祕。卽易知頓證。 故順道俗同歸之佛號。付彌陀稱名本願者也。」

観心相当解釈

  • 「阿弥陀」の三字の念仏を天台大師の三諦説、実範の阿字観と臨終行事、伊字三点説、三身、三尊、三毒等
  • 「南無阿弥陀仏」五字と五大、五智如来、五煩悩等

空海の『声字字相』

  • 「又就『声字実相』釈之。称三字六字之声名為声. 此三字六字。弥陀如来。三身五智果名。是云字。名即字故。此声字所呼仏体為実相。大師於声字実相。作依主有財等五種釈。五種中持業為深秘。持業者声即字。声字即実相也。是故称六字之声字。即如来実相体也。以之思之。」

善導の念仏

  • 「善導念仏之気中。感見化仏。是即声即実相之真容。勿作西方来之想。」

道範の「命息釈」

  • 顕家於弥陀有補所故。約有量無量立名。是浅略也。又有甚深義趣。以一切衆生寿命。名無量寿。謂弥陀蓮華語密体故。六道四生語声。迷悟十界言音。皆是弥陀法界体也。此言音六大中風大。是則一切衆生出入息也。此息風為衆生命根。大日経説命者所謂風。相応経宣根本命金剛。是皆以息風為命根也。是故弥陀即衆生寿命。以衆生界無量故。名無量寿。是則同体大悲之極理。音声解説之実智也。留心深可思之。

気と心と言葉

  • 問。何故此仏以称名為本願耶。答。此尊普門三密中語密仏也。名則語故。以称名為本願也。(中略)釈迦為身密。(穢土)弥陀為語密。(浄土)大日為意密。(密厳)此中弥陀居穢土密厳中間浄土。引生死淤泥衆生。入円寂性淨蓮台。是則語有中道功能。通内証外用之故也。法花記釈住立門側云。円中之機。当門正見。正空三昧。偏真慧眼。傍窺法身。(中略)仍中道為入証正門故。語密弥陀為出離証入之本尊也。

第四:道範と密教浄土教の宗教的な多様性に対する反応

  • 道範の秘密念仏思想は鎌倉初期の高野山の顕密・諸宗兼学という文脈のなかで展開しました。
  • 「秘密」は密教だけではなく、むしろ顕教と密教の両方を含んでいるといえます。
  • 「顕密念仏」
  • 初期鎌倉時代
    • 不安・暴力的な時代
    • 権威と伝統とを疑問視する傾向
    • 中世社会における念仏実践の多様性
      • 学僧の間では二つの傾向
        • 覚海は仏様の客観的・普遍的観点から論じて
        • 静遍は凡夫の主観的・普遍的観点から論じて
      • 道範はその両極の間に立ちました。道範の念仏思想の第一のポイントは、全ての衆生は同じ命を持っていますので、様々な観点を持っているのに、彼らは、そのまま、最上乗を得る可能性は否定できません。ここから、道範の「秘密念仏思想」は中世日本の宗教的多様性について価値を持っているだけではなく、様々な問題を抱えた現代社会にも価値を持っていると言えるでしょう、というのが私の結論です。

道範の生涯と思想の資料 [Resources for Dōhan’s Life and Thought] 

「秘密念仏抄」[“The Compendium on The Secret Contemplation of Buddha”]

  • Dōhan 道範, “Himitsu nenbutsu shō 秘密念仏抄,” in Shingonshū anjin zensho 真言宗安心全書 (SAZ), vol. 2, 227-266, ed. Hase Hōshū 長谷宝秀 (Kyoto: Rokudai Shinpōsha 六大新報社, 1913-1914); “Himitsu nenbutsu shō gai 秘密念仏鈔外,” 3 fasc., Zoku Jōdoshū zensho 続浄土宗全書, vol. 15 (Tokyo: 山喜房仏書林, 1974); “Himitsu nenbutsu shō 秘密念佛鈔,” 3 fasc., Dainihon bukkyō zensho 大日本佛教全書, vol. 70 (Tokyo: 佛書刊行会, 1919).
    • Himitsu nenbutsu shō kenkyūkai 秘密念仏抄研究会, “Dōhan  cho ‘Himitsu nenbutsu shō’ no kenkyū—honbun kōtei to kaki kudashi gochū  道範著 「秘密念仏抄」 の研究–本文校訂と書き下し・語註 Buzan gakuhō 豊山学報 39 (1996): 105-130.

他の道範のテキスト (抜粋) [Other Texts by Dohan (selected)]

Dohan shōsoku 道範消息, Nihon koten bungaku taikei 日本古典文学大系 83:76-83.

Dainichikyōso henmyō shō 大日経疎遍明抄, Zoku Shingonshū zensho 続真言宗全書 (ZSZ) 5.

Nankai rurōki 南海流浪記. Gunsho ruijū 群書類從 18.

Joōshō 貞応抄 T. 77:2447.

Shakumakaenron ōkyōshō  釋摩訶衍論應教鈔 T. 69:2288.

Gyōhō kanyō shō 行法肝葉鈔 T. 78:2502.

Kōmyō shingon shijū shaku 光明真言四重釈, 1 fasc. Shingonshū anjin zensho 真言宗安心全書 (SAZ) 2:74-81.

Rinjū yōshin ji 臨終用心事. 1 fasc. SAZ 2:792-795.

道範の生涯 [Primary Sources on Dohan’s Life]

  • Azuma no kuni kōsōden 東国高僧伝, fasc. 9, DNBZ 104.
  • Hōkōin sekifuki 宝光院析負紀, Kongōbuji shoinke sekihushū金剛峰寺諸院家析負輯, fasc. 1, ZSZ 34.
  • Jike Shōchiin 寺家正智院, Kii zokufūdoki紀伊続風土記, fasc. 4, ZSZ 37.
  • Kitamuroin rekidai keifūsshi 北室院歴代系譜写, Kongōbuji shoinke sekihushū金剛峰寺諸院家析負輯, fasc. 10, ZSZ 34.
  • Kongōchō mujōshū dendōroku zokuhen 金剛頂無上正宗伝燈広録続編, fasc. 6, ZSZ 33.
  • Kōsō gōjō Shōchiin Dōhan den 高僧行状正智院道範伝, Kii zokufudōki 紀伊続風土記, fasc. 10, ZSZ 39.
  • Honchō kōsōden 本朝高僧伝, fasc. 14, DNBZ 102.
  • Kōya shunjū hennen shūroku 高野春秋編年輯録 (KSS), fasc. 8, DNBZ 131.
  • Mikkyō bunka kenkyūjo seikyō chōsa han 密教文化研究所聖教調査班, “Kōyasan Shinnōin seikyō monjo chōsa gaiyō ichifu, shiryō kaishō Dōhan nikka rinjū higi 高野山親王院聖教文書調査概要一付 史料紹介道範日課臨終秘儀,” Kōyasan Daigaku Mikkyō bunka kenkyūjo kiyō 高野山大学密教文化研究所紀要 16, (2003): 79-92.
  • Nanzan chūin shingon hihōshoso denpu 南山中院真言秘法諸祖伝譜, fasc. 2, ZSZ 32.
  • Shōchiin ruiyō senshi meibo 正智院累葉先師名簿, in Kongōbuji shoinke sekihushū金剛峰寺諸院家析負輯, fasc. 1, ZSZ 34.
  • Yahō meitokuden 野峯名徳伝, fasc. 2, DNBZ 106.

道範の生涯と思想の研究 [Research on Dohan’s Life and Thought]

  • Hasuzawa Jojun 蓮沢浄淳, “Kakkai sonshi no monka 覚海尊師の門下,” Mikkyō bunka 密教文化 10 (1922): 151-166, 167-228.
  • Matsuzaki Keisui 松崎惠水, Heian mikkyō no kenkyū: Kōgyō DaishiKakuban wo chūshin toshite 平安密教の研究 : 興教大師覚鑁を中心として (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan 吉川弘文館, 2002), 739-752, 785-790.
  • Nakamura Honnen 中村本然, “Dōhan no Jōdokan 道範の浄土観,” Kōyasan daigaku ronsō 高野山大学論叢 29 (1994): 149-202.
  • _______, “Dōhan ki Shoshintonkakushō nitsuite 道範記『初心頓覚鈔』について,” in Yamasaki Yasuhiro kyōju koki kinen ronbunshū: Mikkyō to shobunka no kōryū 山崎泰広教授古稀記念論文集: 密教と諸文化の交流, ed. Yamasaki Taikō kyōju kokikinen ronbunshū kankōkai 山崎泰廣教授古稀記念論文集刊行会 (Kyoto 京都: Nagata bunshōdō 永田文昌堂, 1998), 151-184.
  • _______, “Shōji jissō gi shō (Dōhan ki) ni tokareru nyogi gensetsu nitsuite—sono ichi, Shaku makaen ron to Kūkai no chosaku ni miru nyogi gensetsu wo chūshin toshite— 『声字実相義抄』(道範記) に説かれる如義言説について — その一 『釈摩訶衍論』と空海の著作にみる如義言説を中心として—,” Mikkyō bunka 密教文化 203(1999): 1-20.
  • _______, “Dōhanki Bodaishinron dangi ki ni tsuite 道範記『菩提心論談義記』について,” in Mandara no shosō to bunka: Yoritomi Motohiro hakase kanreki kinen ronbunshū マンダラの諸相と文化 : 頼富本宏博士還暦記念論文集, ed. Yoritomi Motohiro hakushi kanreki kinen ronbunshū kankōkai (Kyoto: 京都: Hōzōkan, 2005), 395-430.
  • _______, “Dōhansen Kongōchō kyō kaidai kanchū ni tsuite 道範撰『金剛頂経開題勘註』について.” Mikkyō bunka kenkyūjo kiyō 密教文化研究所紀要 21 (2008a): 29-52.
  • _______, “Sentaku hongan nenbutsushū ni tokareru gogyaku jūzai nit suite 『選択本願念仏集』に説かれる五逆重罪について,” Indogaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū 印度学仏教学研究 116 (2008b): 129-136(R).
  • _______, “Shingon kyōgaku ni okeru shōshikan 真言教学における生死観,” Nihon Bukkyōgaku nenpō 日本仏教学会年報 75 (2010): 169-184(R).
  • _______, “Dōhan no seibotsunen nitsuite道範の生没年について,” on the blog for 高野山大学密教文化研究所, from December 15th, 2011, accessed, May 17th, 2012, http://www.koyasan-u.ac.jp/mikkyobunka/blog/diary.cgi?field=9.
  • Ōshika Shinō 大鹿眞央, “Chūsei Tōmitsu kyōgaku ni okeru sankōdan kaishaku: Dōhan ni okeru daisankōdan kaishaku wo chūshin ni 中世東密教学における三劫段解釈: 道範における第三劫段解釈を中心に,” Indogaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū 印度學佛教學研究1 (2011): 115-118. _______, “Tōmitsu ni okeru shochisokugyokusetsu no tenkai 東密における初地卽極説の展開,” Tōyō no shisō to shūkyō東洋の思想と宗教29 (2012a): 71-89.
  • _______, “Chūsei Tōmitsu kyōgaku ni okeru shohōmyōdō no hensen: daihachi jushin to no kankei wo chūshin ni 中世東密教学における初法明道の変遷: 第八住心との関係を中心に,” Indogaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū 印度學佛教學研究1 (2012b): 40-43.
  • _______, “Chūsei Tōmitsu kyōgaku ni okeru shukuzen kaishaku no tenkai: Dōhan no shukuzen kaishaku wo chūshin ni 中世東密教学における宿善解釈の展開 : 道範の宿善解釈を中心に,” Chizan gakuhō 智山學報 63 (2014): 131-149.
  • Ōyama Kōjun 大山公淳, “Dōhan daitoku no Kōya hiji 道範大徳の高野秘事,” Mikkyō bunka 密教文化 11 (1923): 116-135.
  • Kushida Ryōkō 櫛田 良洪, “Himitsu nenbutsu shisō no bokkō 秘密念仏思想の勃興,” Taishō daigaku kenkyū kiyō tsūgō 大正大学研究紀要 通号 48 (1963): 43-80
  • _______, Shingon mikkyō seiritsu katei no kenkyū真言密敎成立過程の研究 (Tokyo: Sankibō Busshorin 山喜房佛書林, 1965), 181-232.
  • James H. Sanford, “Breath of Life: The Esoteric Nenbutsu,” in Esoteric Buddhism in Japan (1994), repr. in Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, ed. Richard K. Payne (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2006), 161-189.
  • Satō, Mona 佐藤 もな, “Dohan ni kansuru kisoteki kenkyū.” Other works by Satō include: “Dōhan cho Himitsu nenbutsu shō inyō bunken shutten chūki 道範著『秘密念仏抄』引用文献出典注記,” Bukkyō bunka kenkyū ronshū 仏教文化研究論集 4 (2000): 130-141(L).
  • _______, “Dōhan no himitsu nenbutsu shisō myōgokan wo chūshin toshite 道範の秘密念仏思想名号観を中心として,” Indogaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū 印度学仏教学研究2 (2001): 108-110.
  • _______, “Chūsei Shingonshū niokeru jōdo shisō kaishaku: Dōhan Himitsu nenbutsu shō wo megutte 中世真言宗における浄土思想解釈道範『秘密念仏抄』をめぐって.” Indo tetsugaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū インド哲学仏教学研究 9 (2002a): 80-92.
  • _______, “Shingon kyōgaku niokeru jōdo kan, Dōhan no baai 真言教学における浄土観道範の場合.” Shūkyō kenkyū 宗教研究75-4 (2002b): 214-215.
  • _______, “Dōhan ni kansuru kisoteki kenkyū denki shiryō wo chūshin toshite 道範に関する基礎的研究 伝記史料を中心として,” Bukkyō bunka kenkyū ronshū 仏教文化研究論集 7 (2003a): 85-95 (L).
  • _______, “Dōhan cho Jōōshō in kansuru ichikōsatsu Tōji Kanchiin shozōhon wo chūshin toshite 道範著『貞応抄』に関する一考察 東寺観智院所蔵本を中心として.” Indogaku Bukkyōgaku kenkyū 印度学仏教学研究51-2 (2003b): 131-133.
  • _______, “Dōhan no kyōshugi ni tsuite 道範の教主義について,” Nihon Bukkyō sōgō kenkyū 日本仏教綜合研究 5 (2006): 67-78(R).
  • Jacqueline Stone, “The Secret Art of Dying, Esoteric Deathbed Practices in Heian Japan,” in The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations, Bryan J. Cuevas and Jacqueline I. Stone (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007a), 134-174.
  • George Tanabe, “Kōyasan in the Countryside: The Rise of Shingon in the Kamakura Period,” in Revisioning “Kamakura” Buddhism, ed. Richard K. Payne (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998), 43-54.
  • Tanaka Hisao田中 久夫, “Dōhan no ‘Shoshin tonkaku shō,’ ni tsuite 道範の「初心頓覚鈔」について,” Nihon rekishi 日本歴史172 (1962): 87-89.
  • Toganoo Shōun 栂尾祥雲, Nihon Mikkyō gakudōshi 日本密教学道史 (Wakayama 和歌山: Kōyasan Daigaku Shuppanbu 高野山大学出版部, 1942).
  • Ueda Shinjō 上田進城, “Hairyū no Ajari Dōhan 配流の阿闇梨道範,” Misshū gakuhō 密宗学報 161 (1912): 617-642.
  • Yamaguchi Shikyo 山口史恭, “Dōhan cho Himitsu nenbutsu shō no hihan taishō nitsuite 道範著『秘密念仏鈔』の批判対象について,” Buzankyōgaku taikaikiyō 豊山教学大会紀要 30 (2002): 81-122. (See especially 81-82, and footnote 1, 115-116).

What is Pure Land Buddhism (Part 2)?

Greetings, ya’ll.

Here I will continue my entry on Pure Land Buddhism. Last time I explained that the term “Pure Land Buddhism” is used to refer to both:

1. Broad Mahayana concern for rebirth in the “Buddha Realm” (aka, “Pure Land”) of a particular Buddha

2. Jodo, Jodoshin, and Ji Schools that emerged in medieval Japan.

I also mentioned that I tend to reserve the label “Pure Land Buddhism” for the later, preferring to recognize the former as a basic, or generic, dimension of Mahayana Buddhism.

Anyway, today I will describe the Pure Land Buddhism of Honen briefly, and I think in Part 3 I will talk about Honen’s disciples, including Shinran, and then I’ll talk about Ippen (who is totally fascinating, even though I know far too little about him!). Eventually, after briefly sketching “Pure Land Buddhism,” I will move on to consider other broader issues in Mahayana thought and practice concerning the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha. Eventually, I might actually talk about my own research! Ah!

But for now…

(Note: Since this is a short blog entry, I will not cover everything, just a few things that immediately spring to mind. So if you feel that I’ve missed something important, please let me know :-) )

In the late Heian period, a Tendai monk named Honen came to embrace one part of the Mt. Hiei monastic curriculum to the (seeming) exclusion of the other parts. Honen took the Larger Pure Land Sutra as his justification for practice, and preached a radically universal path to awakening. According to Honen’s reading of the Larger Pure Land Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s sole reason for appearing in the world was to preach the Dharma of the Buddha Amitabha, that who ever calls upon this Buddha by name in the form of the nenbutsu, “Namu Amida Butsu,” giving rise to deep faith in this Buddha, will attain Rebirth in that Buddha’s land, where awakening is more easily attainable. Honen argued that the nenbutsu was a practice selected by both Amitabha and Shakyamuni, and that this practice is praised by all Buddhas as an all-embracing, superior gate to awakening.

Honen’s logic was quite simple, yet compelling. The best Dharma must necessarily be that which saves all sentient beings without exception. Since beings possess a broad range of capacities and abilities, potential for awakening cannot depend on the abilities of sentient beings, because then only a few would attain awakening. In other words, the “Path of Sages,” the elite practice culture, could not be the ultimate basis for Buddhism. Moreover, since the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni was so far in the past, the declining capacities of sentient beings to attain awakening had similarly made it even more difficult to rely upon even one’s singlular devotion to the Dharma. Therefore, the highest Dharma cannot be reserved solely for those with money or intellect, or the circumstances to cultivate extraordinary effort. Honen argued that sentient beings needed to rely on the “other power” of Amida (Skt. Amitabha).

After reading the entire canon three times, Honen concluded that the chanting of the name of the Buddha Amitabha, “Namu Amida Butsu,” was simple enough to be universally attainable, and moreover, had been selected by all Buddhas as an effective practice for the universal attainment of Buddhahood. Therefore, the only essential practice is the nenbutsu, all else is secondary.

By Honen’s time, the nenbutsu was already a popular practice in all levels of society in China, Korea, and Japan. In Japan, during the mid-late Heian period, Pure Land movements of lay people and lay-monastics  had grown more widespread, so there are some scholars that see Honen as “tapping a market” that was already flourishing. I think that this perspective better explains the backlash and persecution that Honen experienced. I don’t find his nenbutsu doctrine to be all that “radical,” most monks in East Asia say the nenbutsu and aspire for Rebirth in the Pure Land, but what I do find to be radical about Honen was his ability to tap into the faith of the common people. This devotion and will, not fancy “doctrine,” is what the authorities feared. If salvation lies in a universal practice, if salvation lies in the hands of the Buddha Amida, and not the state, not the clergy, not even the effort of the lucky few, then common people are perhaps less obliged to follow the legal contracts that threaten divine retribution.

If Amida Buddha is the ultimate unmediated source of awakening, then the state does not control one’s ultimate fate. I think the state was already fearful of uprising (most oppressive regimes are), and Honen’s doctrine was empowering to common people and elites alike, providing them with a practice that gave them individually a direct line to salvation/awakening. Other forms of Buddhism had already been doing this for some time, but Honen’s charismatic teaching style seems to have struck a chord with commoners, samurai, elites, and other monks.

Honen did not implant Amitabha/Pure Land devotion in the minds of the populace, but I think his invocation of the power of the Pure Land mythos was potentially anti-institutional, on the one hand, and profoundly empowering, on the other. Pure Land Buddhism is interesting, I think, because it seems like an “other worldly” path, but inevitably seems to lead to “this worldly” action. This elicited both persecution from the authorities, and the fervent embrace of people open to a new interpretation of an already common object of devotion.

During the Kamakura period, Honen had many famous disciples like Bencho, Shoku, and others who preached different versions of Honen’s doctrine. Honen leveled substantial critiques against many forms of Buddhist practice, but that doesn’t mean that he rejected them absolutely. He still kept the precepts and engaged in long periods of meditative nenbutsu practice. Honen remained a “Tendai” monk till his death. Some say that he practiced what he preached, but didn’t preach all that he practiced. As a result, his disciples and the traditions that drew their inspiration from his teaching career were quite diverse.

Honen’s magnum-opus, the Senchakushu, was written as a secret teaching to his immediate disciples. Many modern and contemporary scholars, I think, misread Honen in two ways. First, Honen was not rejecting all forms of Buddhism other than nenbutsu recitation. We can see this from his own lifestyle. Second, Honen did not found a new kind of Buddhism. We can see this from the early history of his immediate followers and their interactions with other monks. Honen explains at the end of his text (it seems like many don’t actually read to the end…) that all forms of meditation are available for practice in the Pure Land. He argues for a preliminary “bracketing” of these various practices while focuing on nenbutsu for now, so that you can get to the Pure Land, and then you will attain awakening through the various practices that he “rejects” at the beginning.

Honen also mentions that assurance of rebirth in the Pure Land is attainable in this life, and some have read that to mean that glimpses of the Pure Land are possible in this life. Some of his disciples seem to have taken a traditional Shingon/Tendai view that these “glimpses” are the same as Pure Land rebirth, that the Pure Land is attainable here and now, and this would mean that for those who attain assurance of rebirth here and now, all practices are once again available for practice. I think this is probably an extreme interpretation of Honen, but it is one interpretation.

I think that like many Buddhist thinkers, Honen established his teachings with an implicit tension built in. This tension sould have an effect on the lives of those who seriously engaged in his form of practice. Honen taught a means of transformation that was new, but not wholly dissimilar from the perspectives that preceded him. The reason I reserve the label “Pure Land Buddhism” for those traditions growing out of Honen’s career is because he rooted his practice primarily in the Pure Land mythos of Amitabha’s Pure Land, and when/if other practices were included, they were included with that perspective in mind.

Honen’s disciples, and the disciples of Honen’s disciples, came from many different Buddhist institutions with their own perspectives on Pure Land practice. Honen did not establish a new kind of Buddhism, but rather constructed a conceptual position from which monks interested in Amitabha could come together and evaluate the various claims made about Pure Land Rebirth. Eventually, this conceptual position, known as the Jodo “shu,” came to become its own sect apart from the traditions of Kyoto and Nara institutions. (At this time, the word “shu,” which is today often translated as “sect,” meant something closer to “discipline” or “area of study/focus.” Sometimes these “shu” were associated with a particular institution, and over time, these “shu” became “sects.”) However, this did not happen in Honen’s lifetime, but happened several generations or centuries later.

During Honen’s time, there were many different perspectives on the nenbutsu and its function as a form of practice. Some engaged in intensive chanting retreats, saying the name millions of times until a vision of the Buddha appeared before them. This is perhaps one of the earliest uses of “nenbutsu” (which literally means “Buddha Mindfulness”), to bring about an encounter with a Buddha that had not passed into parinirvana. Other monks practiced a “tantric” form of nenbutsu practice in which the chanting of the name of a Buddha like a mantra in which attainment of Pure Land Rebirth is attained in this body, here and now. (Btw, most mantras are in fact simply the names of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. The famous, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” is a mantra for Avalokitesvara, “Mani Padme” being another name for this Bodhisattva, somewhat-literally “Mr. Jewel-Lotus.”) Others chant the name of a Buddha and realize that this world itself is a Pure Land being “purified.” In other words, there are many diverse perspectives on what Pure Land devotion might entail. Honen built upon his creative reading of the Chinese monk Shandao, and simply focused on the cultivation of faith in the Buddha Amitabha through the practice of the nenbutsu, a single minded devotion that is said to bring about a transformation in this life, and Buddhahood in the next. In a way, Honen established a new perspective from which to engage and debate the meaning of Buddhist practice and devotion, adding a new voice to an already diverse Mahayana Pure Land environment.

That is all for now. I apologize if that post was a bit rambling. Sometimes the thoughts just flow in whatever order they want. If this were an academic paper, I’d refine it down and reorganize. But, we’re all friends here, so whatev’s ;-) Let me know if you have any questions or comments or suggestions!