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Kūya

Kūya or Kōya (903–72). Founder of the Kuya Sect of the Japanese Tendai (Chinese, T'ient'ai) school of Buddhism. Born in Kyōto, he became a novice monk in his infancy. He was also one of the early advocates of Pure Land Buddhist teaching and practice in Japan, spending his career as an itinerant teacher urging the common people to place faith in Amida Buddha (the Buddha of Infinite Light) through the constant invocation of the Pure Land nembutsu mantra, namu amida butsu, ‘I take refuge in the Buddha of Infinite Light.’ For this reason, he was popularly regarded as a nembutsu-hijiri (‘nembutsu holy man’). Kūya was also famous for his social work activities, to demonstrate in practice (and to inculcate) Amida Buddha's compassion among the people. In 938, after an extensive period of itinerant teaching in the northern provinces, he settled in Kyōto and began spreading Pure Land teaching and practice there. In Kyōto he was also popularly known as ichi no shōnin (‘first of the saints’), ichi hijiri (‘first of the holy men’), and amida hijiri (‘Amida holy man’).

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