This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: him a reincarnation of
[Prince Shòtoku]; others say he is [Kûkai], reborn to make Buddhism flourish.
Even to the censorious eye of old age, he seems not an ordinary mortal but
an awesome manifestation of a god or a buddha.19 Whereas formerly they had scarcely questioned that spiritual fulfillment could be found in this world, the courtiers by the eleventh century
increasingly cherished the thought of attaining salvation in the next. Such
salvationism was not new to Japan but had been introduced to it as early
as the seventh century in the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism. Pure
Land Buddhism was based on adoration of the transcendent buddha
Amida, who an eternity earlier had vowed to save all beings, provided
only that they placed their faith wholly in him. By simply reciting the nembutsu (an invocation in praise of Amida),20 an individual could ensure that
upon death he would be transported to the blissful “pure land” of Amida
in the western realm of the universe.
Amidism was made particularly appealing to the courtiers of the late
Heian period by the popular doctrine of mappò, “the latter days of the
Buddhist law.” This doctrine held that after the death of Gautama, some
five centuries b.c., Buddhism would pass through three great ages: an
age of the flourishing of the law, of its decline, and finally of its disappearance in the degenerate days of mappò. Once the age of mappò commenced—and by Japanese calculations that would be in the year 1052—
individuals could no longer hope to achieve Buddhist enlightenment by
their own efforts, as had the followers of Hinayana and even of the Mahayanist sects of Shingon and Tendai esotericism. There would be no alternative during mappò but to throw oneself on the saving grace of another,
such as Amida, in the hope of attaining rebirth in paradise.
Eventually, it was the Pure Land sect, with its simple message of universal salvation, that provided the practical means for the spread of Buddhism to all classes of Japanese in the medieval era. But in its first phase
of development in Japan, Amidism was embraced—and interpreted in
characteristically aesthetic terms—by the Heia...
View Full Document
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