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should be recited once or many times. Since, theoretically, Amida had
vowed to save all those who acknowledged their own helplessness and The Canons of Medieval Taste 99 who threw themselves upon his infinite mercy, one recitation should have
sufficed. But there was an apparently natural tendency for some people
to believe that they could make their salvation more certain or even
achieve a “better salvation” if they repeated the nembutsu over and over.
The individual who was thus motivated to recite the nembutsu continuously was, of course, either consciously or unconsciously guilty of a certain lack of trust in Amida, since he felt the need to bolster his faith
through added personal effort. Moreover, if repetition of the nembutsu
was indeed helpful in the quest for salvation, then those with the greater
leisure to practice it would have the best chance to be saved.
It was Hònen’s disciple, Shinran (1173–1262), who finally resolved
this problem by asserting that Amida promised salvation unconditionally
to all who sincerely called upon him once, whether or not they actually
pronounced the nembutsu aloud. With salvation assured by this single act,
the individual was free to recite the nembutsu as often as he wished, but
such recitation would then be simply an expression of thanksgiving to
Amida, and would in no way modify the already given promise of rebirth
in the pure land.
Shinran spent many years in the provinces, especially the Kantò,
where he preached his message of salvation through unquestioning faith
in Amida. He had particular success as a proselytizer among the peasantry, who formed the nucleus of what came to be known as the True
Sect of Pure Land Buddhism. Through the centuries, this sect has
attracted one of the largest followings among the Japanese, and its
founder, Shinran, has been canonized as one of his country’s most original religious thinkers.
Another evangelist of Pure Land Buddhism, active in the late thirteenth century, was Ippen (1239–89), who urged the practice of the
“circulating nembutsu” or chanting of praise t...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13