Skip to main content

Nenbutsu (Chinese, Nianfo; Korean, Yombul

NENBUTSU (CHINESE, NIANFO; KOREAN, YŎMBUL

Nenbutsu, also transcribed as nembutsu (Chinese, nianfo; Korean, yŏmbul), is the religious practice in Pureland Buddhism of chanting or invoking the name of the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit, AmitĀbha or Amitāyus; Chinese, Amituo). There are many buddhas whose names can be chanted, but in practice, nenbutsu typically refers to chanting Amida's name. In Japan, the practice consists of reciting the six-character formula Namu Amida Butsu (Chinese, Namo Amituo fo), "Homage to Amida Buddha." This invocation can be spoken once or repeatedly. Commonly it is intoned as a melodic chant, but can also be uttered in ordinary intonation. It is sometimes used as an ancillary practice in meditative trance or visualization, but more frequently it is performed as an independent and self-contained practice. Buddhist liturgy, especially of the Pure Land tradition, typically contains sections or interludes of nenbutsu chanting.

Religious chanting, which was common in Buddhism from an ancient period, no doubt influenced the development of the nenbutsu. But another influence was the practice of reflecting or meditating on the Buddha. In fact, nenbutsu literally means thinking on the Buddha or keeping him in mind (Buddhānusmṛti). To that extent, it does not explicitly denote verbal activity. But since chanting sacred syllables or names often accompanied meditation, the practice of intoning the Buddha's name coalesced with the idea of keeping him in mind. Over the centuries there emerged two primary views of nenbutsu chanting: One treated it as an aid to visualizing the Buddha, which was considered a practice leading to enlightenment; the other treated it as an act resulting in birth in Amida's Pure Land paradise. The two, however, often overlapped. In Japan, the verbal practice eventually overshadowed visualization, so that nenbutsu came to mean invoking Amida's name without necessarily meditating on him, though mental awareness of the Buddha was always considered one aspect of saying his name.

See also:Buddhānusmṛti (Recollection of the Buddha); Chanting and Liturgy; Pure Land Schools

Bibliography

Andrews, Allan A. "Pure Land Buddhist Hermeneutics: Hōnen's Interpretation of Nembutsu." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 10, no. 2 (1987): 7–25.

Fujiwara, Ryosetsu. The Way to Nirvana: The Concept of the Nembutsu in Shan-tao's Pure Land Buddhism. Tokyo: Kyoiku Shincho Sha, 1974.

Hori, Ichiro. "Nembutsu as Folk Religion." In Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change, ed. Joseph M. Kitagawa and Alan L. Miller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Pas, Julian. Visions of Sukhāvatī: Shan-tao's Commentary on the Kuan Wu-Liang-Shou-Fo Ching. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

James C. Dobbins

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Nenbutsu (Chinese, Nianfo; Korean, Yombul." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Nenbutsu (Chinese, Nianfo; Korean, Yombul." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nenbutsu-chinese-nianfo-korean-yombul

"Nenbutsu (Chinese, Nianfo; Korean, Yombul." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. . Retrieved September 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nenbutsu-chinese-nianfo-korean-yombul

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.