DAOCHUO (562–645), known in Japan as Dōshaku; Chinese pioneer of Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia. Daochuo advocated devotion to Amitābha Buddha and rebirth in his Pure Land as the only practice in our age that would guarantee salvation. Although Pure Land devotion was popular among most Mahāyāna Buddhists as a supplementary practice, Daochuo followed Tanluan (c. 488–c. 554) in regarding it as necessary for salvation. Other forms of Buddhism he branded as the "path of the sages" (shengdao), too difficult to practice during these times.
A religious crisis caused in part by the bewildering demands of Indian Buddhist texts in the eyes of Chinese practitioners was exacerbated by famine and war in the Bingzhou area of Shansi Province where Daochuo lived, and he became the first Pure Land thinker to proclaim that the ten-thousand-year historical period predicted by the scriptures for the final decline of Buddhism (i.e., the mofa; Jpn., mappō ) was at hand. Accordingly, he deemed traditional practices inadequate since no one could attain enlightenment based on self-effort. For Daochuo, the only hope was through outside help. He preached that the Wuliangshou jing (the Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra ) was designed for this period and that reliance on the compassionate vows of the Buddha Amitābha—which guarantee people of ordinary religious capacities rebirth in his Pure Land followed by speedy and painless enlightenment there—was the only soteriologically effective action remaining.
After his conversion to Pure Land in 609, Daochuo took up residence in the Xuanzhong Monastery. There, he lectured over two hundred times on the Kuan wu-liang-shou ching (*Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra) and advocated its practices, especially the vocal recitation of Amitābha's name (nianfo; Jpn., nembutsu). Departing from the view of Tanluan, for whom nianfo involved a transcendent quality of mystical union with Amitābha's name, Daochuo was the first Chinese Buddhist to teach reliance on verbal recitation, which was to be aided by bushels of beans or rosaries to record the number of recitations. (Daochuo himself is alleged to have recited the name of Amitābha as much as seventy thousand times a day.) As a consequence, Pure Land devotion spread rapidly among the laity under the slogan "chant the Buddha's name and be reborn in the Pure Land" (nianfo wangsheng) and rosaries became ubiquitous in Chinese Buddhism.
Because the prajñāpāramitā literature affirmed that reality is characterized by both form and emptiness, Daochuo argued for the legitimacy of using verbal recitations and attention to the physical aspect of Amitābha and his Pure Land. These practices, he believed, were temporary expedients to lead people to formlessness, nonattachment, and nonduality after rebirth in the Pure Land. In his only surviving writing, the Anloji, Daochuo acknowledges that understanding the Pure Land as formless is superior to seeing it as form, and that one's original motivation should be a desire for enlightenment (bodhicitta) in order to save others, not just desire for the bliss of Pure Land. However, according to the Mahāyāna doctrine of "two truths," those who understand the ultimate truth of emptiness are able to use the conventional truth of form to save beings, thus legitimizing temporary attachment to concrete forms in Pure Land devotion-alism.
The most important disciple of Daochuo was Shandao (613–681), who wrote systematic works that firmly established Pure Land as a major religious tradition in East Asia and influenced Honen in Japan. It was the sense of crisis and urgency that permeates the Anloji that dramatized the necessity of Pure Land devotion, while the concrete methods of practice that Daochuo promoted made Pure Land attractive and accessible to common people. Pure Land devotion thus became a popular social movement in China for the first time, and the sound of Amitābha's name has been chanted unceasingly in Chinese Buddhist worship ever since.
The Anloji (Jpn., Anrakushū) of Daochuo is available in George Eishin Shibata's "A Study and Translation of the Anraku Shū " (M.A. thesis, Ryūkoku University, 1969).
Readers of Japanese will want to consult Nogami Shunjō's Chugoku jōdo sansoden (Kyoto, 1970) and Yamamoto Bukkotu's Dōshaku kyōgaku no kenkyū (Kyoto, 1957).
David W. Chappell (1987 and 2005)