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Unformatted text preview: , love, and beauty that the Genji exemplified in the tradition
of courtly culture.
While certain courtiers like Teika attempted to evade the realities of the
new age by devoting themselves single-mindedly to the traditional arts,
other individuals were drawn into the great movements of religious conversion that occurred in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. There
had been a scattering of evangelists from at least the eighth century in
Japan who had traveled into the provinces bearing the gospel and helping with the building of bridges, the digging of wells, and other public
works. In the Heian period the priest Kûya (903–72) became especially
famous as a popularizer of Amidism. He danced through the streets and
sang songs such as this:
He never fails
To reach the Lotus Land of Bliss
If only once,
The name of Amida.8 But not until the Kamakura period was Buddhism finally carried to all
corners of the country.
Amidism had appealed to the Heian courtiers in part because of the
opportunity it gave them to reproduce in literature and art the blisses of
the pure land and the joy of Amida’s descent to greet those about to
enter it. Yet the nembutsu, or invocation of Amida’s name, had simply
been one of a number of practices followed by the doctrinally catholic
adherents of Tendai Buddhism; and Amidism was not established as a
separate sect until the time of the evangelist Hònen (1133–1212).
Like all the great religious leaders of the Kamakura period, Hònen
received his early priestly training at the Tendai center on Mount Hiei.
He found himself, however, increasingly dissatisfied with the older Buddhist methods of seeking enlightenment or salvation through individual,
merit-producing acts, and came to stress utter reliance upon and faith in
Amida as the only one able to save men in the corrupt age of mappò. Yet,
in actual practice, Hònen did not insist upon absolute faith in Amida’s
One of the most fundamental doctrinal problems in Pure Land Buddhism was whether the nembutsu—the calling upon Amida to be s...
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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