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Pure Land schools

Pure Land schools. A devotional form of Buddhism centring on the Buddha Amitābha (Skt.; Chin., O-mi-tʾo; Jap., Amida) and his transcendent realm known as Pure Land. Everything in Pure Land is conducive to Buddhist enlightenment; hence, persons born there in their next lifetime will attain nirvāna without fail. Pure Land Buddhism originated in India, but it gained its largest following in E. Asia once Pure Land scriptures were translated into Chinese. One of China's early Pure Land adherents was Hui-yuan (334–416). The spread of Pure Land Buddhism to the general populace occurred a century or two later as a result of the evangelistic efforts of several Pure Land masters. The first of these was Tʾan-luan (476–?560). He embraced the Pure Land teachings at the urging of the Indian priest Bodhiruci, a famous transmitter and translator of Buddhist scriptures. Tao-chʾo (562–645), who carried on Tʾan-luan's work, added a historical dimension to the Pure Land teachings. Taoch'o's successor, Shan-tao (613–81), was the great systematizer of Pure Land thought. He encouraged believers in five types of religious practice: reciting scripture, meditating on Amitābha and his Pure Land, worshipping Amitābha, chanting his name, and making praises and offerings to him. Among these he emphasized the invocation of Amitābha's name as the paramount act leading to birth in Pure Land. The simplicity of this practice, known as the nien-fo (Chin.; Jap., nembutsu), made Pure Land an appealing form of Buddhism to those unable to perform more rigorous religious devotions.

Pure Land Buddhism passed into Japan as one of many cultural imports from China. From c.10th cent., Pure Land increased in popularity with the publication of a handbook on Pure Land practice by the Tendai priest Genshin (942–1017), entitled the Ōjōyōshū. Pure Land did not emerge as an independent school of Japanese Buddhism until Hōnen (1133–1212). Under Hōnen's leadership a formal Pure Land school known as the Jōdo school came into existence. Among his followers Shinran (1173–1262) stressed faith in Amitābha as the essence of the nembutsu and as the true cause of salvation. His followers, drawn primarily from the peasant class, went on to establish the Jōdo Shinshū school of Buddhism. The other major Pure Land school to arise in Japan was the Ji school founded by Ippen (1239–89). He also inherited Hōnen's teachings, but he advocated simple repetition of Amitābha's name whether undergirded by faith or not. All of these schools made Pure Land one of the dominant forms of Buddhism in Japan.

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"Pure Land schools." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pure Land schools." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pure-land-schools

Pure Land Buddhism

Pure Land Buddhism or Amidism, devotional sect of Mahayana Buddhism in China and Japan, centering on worship of the Buddha Amitabha. According to the Pure Land Sutras, composed in India in the 2d cent. AD, Amitabha vowed to save all sentient beings by granting them rebirth in his realm, the "Western Paradise," a pure land endowed with miraculous characteristics ensuring its inhabitants easy entry into nirvana. Salvation could be attained by invoking the name of Amitabha with absolute faith in his grace and the efficacy of his vow. It was believed that Amitabha and his retinue would appear to the faithful at the time of death and convey them to his paradise. In both China and Japan the movement gained impetus from the idea of the "end of the Dharma," which divided the development of Buddhism into three ages: that of the true, the counterfeit, and the decaying dharma, that is, Buddhist teaching. Those living in the present final, degenerate age cannot attain enlightenment by the original means of self-effort, austerity, and superior knowledge and must rely entirely on faith. There were devotees of Amitabha in China as early as the end of the 3d cent. AD; the sect was officially founded in 402 by its first patriarch, Hui-Yuan. Later masters spread the faith among the masses, sometimes using evangelical methods, contrasting the torments of hell with the bliss of the "Western Paradise." In Japan, Pure Land Buddhism was established as a sect by Honen (1133–1212), who taught that even those who had mastered Buddhist philosophy "should behave themselves like simpleminded folk" and renounce all practices except the nembutsu, recitation of the formula Namu Amida Butsu [homage to Amitabha Buddha]. His disciple Shinran (1173–1262) carried Honen's teachings to their logical conclusion by abandoning monastic celibacy and marrying. Shinran held that reliance on one's own effort or on any practice other than the nembutsu would show lack of faith in Amitabha. He broke with Honen's followers on these issues and became the leader of the True Pure Land Sect, which grew to be the largest Buddhist sect in Japan. The numerous representations of Amitabha with his attendant bodhisattvas and the depictions of hell testify to the influence of Pure Land Buddhism on Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art. For translations of the Pure Land Sutras, see E. B. Crowell, Buddhist Mahayana Texts (1894, repr. 1969) and Alfred Bloom, Shinran's Gospel of Pure Grace (1965).

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