Franck GUYEN

Pure Land - II. What the Other Buddhist Schools Say About Pure Land and Its School

jeudi 16 juin 2016 par Phap

See Pure Land - I. What the school of Pure Land says about itself

This article is derived from my Master Degree which has been (successfully) submitted to the Institut Catholique de Paris.
Any fault or error are due to me.

We (the reader and I) are debtful to Lady Evelyne P., who has worked hard to improve my original English version. Thank you, Evelyne.

Table of contents

1. Continuity and rupture within the Big Vehicle

1§. We have just seen how the Pure Land stream developed in different ways the ideal of birth in the Pure Land of Amida. Let us now examine how this ideal has been received in others schools belonging to the Big Vehicle - due to the limited scope of our study, we’ll shunt the question of the relationship with the “Small Vehicle” Hinayana (sc.) 小乘 #1.

2§. In the first place we have to confirm that the Pure Land stream belongs to Buddhism.

  • This belonging was questioned by R.P. Wieger for a while since he suspected Amitabha to be derived from a solar divinity within the Iranian Mazdeism #2 ;
  • Reichhelt and Saeki diagnosed some Christian Nestorian influences in the Pure Land developments – according to them, Shandao had met Nestorian monks in the Chang-an 长安 capital #3.

3§. Against that, Lubac and Pas make it clear that the alleged contacts have no historical ground to support them on the one hand, and that the historical developments of the Pure Land can be explained solely by the internal potentialities of the Buddhist message, without any external influences.
We’ll develop this last position which we adopt for the time being – we’ll qualify it in a further study.

4§. First of all, let us recall that the Pure Land of Amida belongs to a list of well-known Pure Lands, even if it ultimately dwarfed or absorbed them : for instance, the incompetent Buddhist monks or the household masters who were prevented to enter the “monastic” order could aspire to be born in the Tushita sky 兜率天, (tosotsuten Jap.) in the company of the Bodhisattva Maitreya 弥勒 (Miroku Jap.), or in the Pure Land of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara 觀世音 (Kannon Jap.), sometimes located on the Potakala Mount, or in the Pure Land of the Buddha Akshobya #4 .

5§. As a matter of fact, the main Pure Land concept existed already in major texts of the Big Vehicle, such as the Sutra of the Lotus 妙法蓮華教 #5 and the Vimalakirtinirdesa 維摩詰所説經.

  • In the Sutra of the Lotus, Buddha Sakyamuni’s prediction always contains the description of the disciple’s future Pure Land #6, which is part of his identity as a Buddha, of his own achievement #7 .
  • According to the Vimalakirtinirdesa, the quality of the Pure Land depends upon the quality of the spirit of Bodhisattava ; when he becomes a Buddha, his Pure Land is determined by the qualities he cultivated during his career as a Bodhisattva and the beings in affinity with his qualities are born there #8.

6§. The Treaty of the Great Virtue of Wisdom (mahâprajñâpâramitâsastra – abr. MPPS) ranks Amida’s Pure Land (more exactly Amida’s world 阿彌陀佛世界) under Padmavati 華積 ’s one #9 : the MPPS states that Dharmakara was not able to access the supremely pure worlds, implying that the monk Dharmkara could not see the highest practices, which explains why his Pure Land does not belong to the “supremely pure words” #10.

7§. We find in the MPPS that the Bodhisattva seek not to be separated 不離 from the Buddha, and so they practice the commemoration of Buddha Buddhanusmrti (sc.) 念佛(Nembutsu jap.), or the “concentration” samadhi (sc.) 三昧 of the commemoration of Buddha in order to systematically be born in the presence of Buddha, which is a rare opportunity #11.

8§. What’s more, the commemoration makes the practitioner visualize Buddha’s body which outshines any worldly object of attachment, and this vision saturates one’s lust #12. Being continuously born in the presence of the Buddha, the practitioner could hope to make progress on the road to perfect Enlightenment.

9§. This commemoration of Buddha 念佛 belongs to the six “commemorations” anusmrti #13. The MPPS quotes the Pratyutpannasamàdhi sutra 般舟三昧 to buttress his claim that the practitioner of the « Concentration of the Commemoration of Buddha” 念佛三昧 #14 will be born in the Pure Land of Amida ; there, he will “spontaneously” 自然 (cf. supra) practice the commemoration of Buddha, according to the MPPS #15.

10§. The Nembutsu 念佛 practice means commemoration most of the time in the MPPS, but we can find a text where it is obviously a vocal practice 稱 ; in this text, a huge fish threatens to wreck a boat and its passengers avoid death by “shouting unanimously and in one single cry : Namo Buddhaya (Homage to the Buddha !) » 衆人一心同聲稱南無佛。 #16.
The MPPS does not specify Buddha’s name, unlike the Pure Land invocation : 南無阿彌陀佛 Namu Amida Butsu (Jap.).

11§. To put it in a nutshell, doctrinal and practical elements of the Pure Land can be traced back in fundamental sutra which were seminal to famous schools.

  • For instance the famous syncretist 天台 Tendai (Jap.) school made room for the Nembutsu samadhi in its practice #17 ;
  • someone as influential as Genshin developed the Pure Land doctrine to such a point that he was acclaimed by Shinran as the first of the Japanese patriarchs of the Pure Land, and yet his whole life was spent in the Tendai school.

In this sense, we can speak about continuity within Mahayana.

2. Ruptures within the Big Vehicle

a) The petition against Hônen
12§. After stressing that the ideal of birth in the Pure Land of Amida fits inside the Buddhism of the Big Vehicle, we must also underline the ruptures with the other Mahayanist schools.

13§. We already said that Daochuo was the first author to give the Pure Land stream its identity by setting it aside from the others on the ground that it was the only one left which was practicable in the time of mappô ; Daochuo has set the identity of the “Pure Land school” by separating it from the other schools. Daochuo’s stance was determined y his analysis of the time and circumstances.

14§. Shandao went farther in this process of separation by advocating the “exclusive” practice of the invocation of the name thanks to his analysis of the name 稱名 (shômyô), without any mixing with meditation practices #18.
At that time, Shandao proposed this way to “ordinary men” who were full of passion but he did not question the efficacy of the more “demanding” practices used by the monks and so the conflict was avoided.

15§. Hônen made the conflict unavoidable since he disqualified all practices other than the Nembutsu (in the acceptance of shômyô) as unable to produce results even for monks. Hônen generalized the consequence of the Decay of the Law mappô and applied it to all practitioners of the Law, unlike Shandao #19.

16§. The conflict became public in Japan during the case of the petition 奏状 by the Kôfuku temple 興福寺 ; this petition was written in 1204 by Jôkei 貞慶( (1155-1213) from the Hossô 法相 school in the name of the eight established schools in Japan #20.
Jôkei asked the Emperor to forbid Hônen’s teaching ; he picked nine errors in this teaching, the charge being the exclusive promotion of the vocal Nembutsu (shômyô) together with the disqualification of any other practice #21.

17§. The point is not that Hônen was founding a Pure Land school, it was that he was promoting a school advocating the exclusive vocal Nembutsu as a mean to be born in the Pure Land #22.
According to Jôkei, this mean is an “expedient device” a upaya, (方便 hôben Jap.), which is used by the Pure Land masters to attract the weaklings into the Path of the Awakening – and as such it is only temporary #23.

18§. It seems to us that Jôkey fundamentally blamed Hônen for confusing the absolute and the relative levels of the Truth, the Nembutsu belonging to the latter level #24.
This is the crucial question, and it sounded so to Shinran when he mentioned the Kôfukuji opposition to Hônen at the end of the KGSS #25 :

« Despite this fact, monks of various temples, being blind in discerning the teachings, are unable to distinguish the true 眞 from provisional 假 ways 門 » #26.

. Shinran takes back Jôkey’s charge and returns it to him. It means that the true question is the following : does the Way of the Pure Land belong to the provisional way or to the “true” way ?

  • If it is provisional, it means that the Pure Land is an “expedient device”, a transformation Land located in the Triple World – therefore the practitioner does not go outside of it and he has to be born again several more times ;
  • if “true”, then the Pure Land is a retribution if not a Dharma one #27, and it is “extra-samsaric”.

19§. This question is raised in the two following objections.

b. First objection : the Pure Land is a mental construction
20§. One may argue that Hônen and Shinran oppose this impure world to the Pure Land of Amida in a dualistic way, which is wrong since the Shara world is not different from the Pure Land of Sakyamuni for instance, as says the Vimalakirtinirdesa  : the inhabitants of the Saha world are blinded by their passions and so they perceive a world littered by refuse, full of crevices and mountains when in fact this word is a levelled one made of jewels #28.

21§. According to the Vimalakirtinirdesa, the Buddha Sakymuni makes the Saha world look impure in order to help its inhabitants make progress, as an “expedient device” #29 : as far as the absolute truth is concerned, there is not such thing as two places, one pure and the other impure #30.

22§. One then has to interpret further the parable of the White Path and the Two Rivers by saying that the traveller discovers he is in fact dreaming and there is no river to cross #31. The idealist school of the Vijnânavâda and later the Zen school held that the Pure Land is in fact the practitioner’s heart #32.

23§. Furthermore, when interpreting the birth in the Pure Land like a samadhi training, one may argue that this birth is a purely mental event : as for any samadhi, the Samadhi of the Nembutsu gives way to a training in wisdom prajna 智慧 which makes the practitioner feel the vacuity 空 of all empirical phenomena, of all dharma.
When going out the samadhi, the practitioner feels that nobody had met anybody and that nobody had gone anywhere #33.

24§. When interpreting the Samadhi of the Nembutsu in this way, one must conclude that there is no meeting face to face between the practitioner and Amida, and that there is not such thing as a Pure Land where one can go. In this case, it would be an error to give a reality to the Pure Land that could be described as failing from regulating the samadhi by the prajna #34 .

25§. If we follow this line of thought, we may conclude that the birth in the Pure Land does not come out of a geographical move but out of a transformation of the practitioner’s mind here and now – it is a purely mental event occurring during the Samadhi of the Nembutsu.

c. Second objection : the Pure Land must be a Land of transformation

26§. The traditional schools of the Big Vehicle holds that only the Bodhisattva can see the Buddha of retribution (and their Lands) ; therefore “ordinary men full of passions” can go only in the Land of transformation nirmana 化土 which appears magically thanks to the Bodhisattva who use them as “expedient devices” : they cannot be born in the Pure Land of Amida and see him, if this Land is a Land of retribution sambhoga ksetra (sc.) 報土

3 A decisive stake for the Pure Land – Shandao’s answer

27§. According to us, Shandao was the first to settle the position still prevailing at Hônen’and Shinran’s time ; his followers, including Hônen and Shinran, didn’t add anything new to his line of argumentation so we’ll focus on Shandao’s line.

28§. An historical event triggered Shandao’s argument : he had to face the She-Lun 攝論 #35 school : Daochuo before Shandao had to deal with this school which was unknown to Tanluan. According to the She-Lun school, ordinary beings could obtain birth in some lower level Lands of retribution #36 ;
29§. besides, the She-Lun school stated that they had to be born several times before gaining access to the last Pure Land of Amida.
This latter point has been called “intention toward another time » 別時意 ; Asanga (390-470 or 310-390) already expressed this point of view when he criticized Pure Land concepts #37.

30§. Shandao could not but reject this doctrine since it sets limits to the saving power of birth in the Pure Land of Amida. According to Shandao, ordinary beings can rely on the vocal Nembutsu to be born immediately (after death) in the Pure Land of Amida without having to transit through some inferior Pure Lands several times.
This guarantee comes from the power of Amida’s Vow which makes up for ordinary beings’ failings.

31§. Let us quote Shandao :

« Concerning the great Vow, the Longer Sutra says : “All ordinary beings, good or evil [wishing to] obtain rebirth, must absolutely avail themselves of the karmic power of Buddha Amita’s great Vow, as the decisive condition #38

“Amida’s universal Vow has the strong power, enabling ordinary people who recite the Name to attain birth immediately” #39


32§. According to Shandao, the Pure Land of Amida exceeds the normal course which prevents ordinary beings from accessing a sambhoga ksetra 報化 because this Land is a result of the achievement of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s Vow.

The reasoning goes as follows #40 :

  1. Dharmakara’s vows grant the ordinary beings their birth in the Pure Land of Amida ;
  2. there they will be freed “immediately” from all obstacles to the Enlightenment – “immediately” meaning that they don’t need to be born again (against the position of the She-Lun school) ;
  3. These vows are effective – “they are not vain” #41 - Shandao used the following syllogism to prove his point : the effectiveness of the 48 vows is a precondition for the Bodhisattva Dharmakara to become a Buddha. But – and here lies the fundamental assertion – “he has become a Buddha” #42. Henceforth his vows are effective ;
    Shandao argues that we know this because Buddha Sakyamuni told us so in the sutra, and Buddha Sakyamuni never lies.

33§. According to us, Shandao’s controversy with the She-Lun school reveals what is fundamentally at stake here : the salvation of the ordinary beings blinded by their passions. Amida wanted this salvation and he achieved it through the saving device he put into place during his Bodhisattva career. The Pure Land plays a key role in this device since salvation is granted to people being born there, and this birth has been made available to everybody, even ordinary people, even the worst criminals.

34§. Shandao ranks first the Pure Land of Amida because it can be accessed by everybody. This superiority was already proclaimed in the Contemplation Sutra when Queen Vaidehi selected it among all other Pure Lands. We could go a step further and say that it is not only superior but that it cannot be compared to the others in so far as it is the only Land of Retribution that can be accessed by ordinary beings #43.

35§. The insuperable excellence of the Pure Land is linked to Amida’s own insuperable excellence. His superiority was shown in the Long Sutra when Dhamaraka studied the best practices of the Buddha before he started to achieve his Bodhisattva’s career – whose results proved to be better than the others. This superiority is confirmed by the fact that Buddha praises him in accordance with his vows.

36§. In the end, Buddha Amida looks as if he were superior to Buddha Sakyamuni #44.

  • Shandao still allocates to Buddha Sakyamuni a role echoing that of Buddha Amida since he is in charge of sending sentient beings to Amida’s Pure Land while Amida welcomes them on the other side (see the parable of the White Sand) #45.
  • Shinran introduced a dissymmetry between Amida’s and Sakyamuni’s parts when he wrote : “[How do we know that] Shakyamuni’s primary objective in appearing in this world was to expound this sutra [The Long Sutra] ? “ #46.

37§. Bloom lays it down clearly : “ we can generally trace a path from a relative Buddha as one among many, to the chief in Shan-tao, to superior in Hônen and Supreme in Shinran” #47.

38§. Let us recapture this chapter from a higher point of view. It seems to us that the open rupture triggered by Hônen and Shinran can be explained through the process of a logic #48 developing itself to the full. The aim is to account for a salvation open to every one including the worst criminals #49.

39§. This universality of the salvation (which strains the restrictive clauses of the Long Sutra) required work on two fronts :

  • since a criminal cannot take advantage of any merit of his own, ask less and less from the addressee of the salvation ;
  • ask more and more to the salvation device from the point of view of the provider of the salvation (Buddha Amida, formerly Bodhisattva Dharmakara, and the story of the achievement of his Vows), from the point of view of his Pure Land, from the point of view of the Nembutsu (understood as either a practice to ensure a salvation to come or as a grateful answer to a salvation which is already felt – the latter understanding being that chosen by Shinan.

40§. Thanks to this logic, we can build a spectrum based on the corresponding parts respectively played by 自力 jiriki (Jap.) and 他力 tariki (Jap). We can then locate the different authors on this spectrum#50.

41§. We would like to go back to the parable of the White Path with this spectrum and try to deal with an intriguing question : the climax reached a turning point when the fleeing traveller calculated that the risky treading of the White Path was nonetheless the lesser of two evils ; Sakyamuni’s and Amida’s voices rose only after the man performed this calculation. It sounds then as if man plays an active part in one’s own salvation, in other words the jiriki part is not nil #51.

42§. We can encounter several attitudes : Shinran considers that Amida is the sole actor of the salvation process #52, so we might say that even the calculation proceeds from Amida. This position is interesting because it gives a greater place to the Other-Power.

43§. As far as we are concerned, we are attracted by Blum’s analysis #53 ; as we understand it, it says that the sentient being exerts himself through practice until he realizes that he goes nowhere ; at that point, despairing of his own strength, he leaves it to the all-powerful compassionate Vow of Amida.
In keeping with the doctrine of the tariki, the jiriki practice cannot produce any positive result during mappô but yet it has to be practiced as a preparatory step.
Blum’s analysis is interesting because it can be used to explain Hônen’s and Shinran’s existential experience.

44§. We would like to mitigate the impression of system that may emerge from our study. Aspirants to the Pure land receive not only the intellectual joys inherent in any global doctrine : they also receive an emotional bonus.

45§. This is evidenced by Shinran’s expressions of joy and gratitude in his KGSS. According to us, the aspirants to the Pure Land see themselves as the objects of the infinite compassion (borne by the infinite light) of Buddha Amida, without them deserving it in the least. Shandao put it clearly :

« Since this Buddha watches over only the Nembutsu followers, embraces them and does not forsake them, he is called ’Amida.’”. #54

46§. According to Shandao, the Name of the Buddha “Amida” is characterized by the power of embracing unfailingly any one who call upon him. This unwavering embrace grants to the “Nembutsu follower” the Birth in the Pure Land of Amida, and beyond the Enlightenment, according to Shandao. And how could the “Nembutsu follower” refrain from expressing his gratitude ?

©, december 2007
©, june 2016
© fr. Franck Guyen op, june 2016


n.1. as it is called by the authors we study.
n.2. Cf. LUBAC (de), Henri, Aspects du Bouddhisme, AMIDA, Seuil, 1955, p.245. As for the Iranian influences, see ibidem, p.238-239.
n.3. Regarding Reichelt’sposition, see REICHELT, Karl Ludvig, Truth and tradition in Chinese Buddhism, translated from the Norwegian, Shanghai, 1927, p.131-132.
See Lubac’s criticism about Reichelt’s position in LUBAC (de), Henri, Aspects du Bouddhisme,..,op. cit., p.228.
Concerning the Xi’An stele (engraved in 781 and discovered in 1625), Lubac sees an amidist influence in the Christian expression rather than the other way round (see p.232-233).
Yves Raguin draws the same conclusion in his article « La stèle de Xi’an » (cf. « Le monde de la Bible » n°119, mai-juin 1999, p.82-83).
More recently, Pas has dedicated a whole paragraph to the possible relationship between Shandao and Nestorianism ; Pas quotes Lubac’s book ; he draws the same conclusion, i.e. the Nestorians borrowed to the Buddhists rather than the other way round (cf. PAS, Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati : Shan-Tao’s Commentary on the Kuan Wu-Liang Shou-Fo Ching ; Paperback ; 1995, p.315-318).
n.4. « One of the earliest Buddha who became the object of a personal cult seems to be Akshobhya, with his Buddha-kshetra, Abhirati, in the east” (PAS, Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati, op. cit., p .29)
n.5. Here are the references to Amida and his Pure Land in the Sutra of the Lotus :

  • chapter VII introduces Amida like one of the two Western Buddha : 西方二佛。一名阿彌陀。(T.9,262,25c1) ;
  • chapter XXIII (Chin.) XXII (sc.) grants the female being her birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss of the Blessed Amida 即往安樂世界阿彌陀佛 (T.9,262,54c2) if she hears the present chapter during the 500 years following Buddha Sakyamuni’s death ;
  • in the chapter XXV (Chin.) / XXIV (sc.), the Sanskrit version – but not the Chinese one - contains four stances to the Buddha Amitabha, which link Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara to the Guide Amitabha in the land of Sukhavati, the pure universe : “In the Western region, there lies Sukhavatî, this pure universe which is a treasure of bliss ; there rules the Leader [of men] Amitâbha, who leads creatures like a coachman. No women are born there ; the laws of procreation are unknown there ; there, Jina’s sons are born from supernatural transformations, and they appear sitting in the centre of pure lotus flowers” – we translate the French : « A l’occident, là où se trouve Sukhavatî, cet univers pur qui est une mine de bonheur, est établi le Guide [des hommes] Amitâbha, qui dirige les créatures comme un cocher. Là, il ne naît pas de femmes ; là, les lois de l’union des sexes sont absolument inconnues ; là les fils du Djina (vainqueur), mis au monde par des transformations surnaturelles, paraissent assis au centre de purs lotus » (Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi, traduit du sanscrit par M. E. Burnouf, Tome 1, Traduction et notes, Maisonneuve Frères, Paris, Nouvelle édition, 1925 [1° édition de 1852], p.267 st.29-32)

n.6. The Buddha lists for the Buddha-to-be the following characteristics of his future Pure Land : its name ; its types of inhabitants ; its ornaments.
He also reveals : the duration of his career as a Bodhisattva ; his future name and titles as a Buddha ; the name and characteristics of the kalpa he will manifest himself ; the characteristics of his Teaching (during his lifetime ; after his complete Nirvana, duration of the “Good Law”, then of the “image of the Law”, then of the “extinct Law”) ; the list of Bodhisattva that will transmit his Teaching.
See for instance the prediction to Sariputra in : Le Sûtra du Lotus, traduit du chinois par J.N. Robert, Fayard, 2002, p.97-98.
The Chinese reads : 國名離垢。其土平正清淨嚴飾。(T.9,262,11b21)
n.7. We must remember that in absolute truth, all the Buddha are one of the same. But, as “Nagarjuna” wrote, “when expounding the Law, one has to proceed in order : it is impossible to say everything at once”
We translate the French : « Quand on expose la Loi, il faut procéder par ordre ; il est impossible de parler de tout à la fois ». (Le traité de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse de Nāgārjuna (mahâprajñâpâramitâsastra), traduit du chinois par É. Lamotte, Tome IV, Université de Louvain, 1976, p.1801)
n.8. See Soûtra de la liberté inconcevable Les enseignements de Vimalakîrti, traduit du chinois par Patrick Carré, Fayard, 2000, p.25-29 : « The bodhisattva who wants to form a Pure Land should purify his spirit ; when his spirit is pure, his Buddha Land is pure »
- we tranlate the french : « le Bodhisattva qui veut conquérir une Terre Pure doit purifier son esprit ; quand son esprit est pur, sa terre de bouddha est pure. » ibidem, p.28.
Carré translates from the Chinese : 若菩薩欲得淨土當淨其心。隨其心淨則佛土淨(T.14,475,538c5).
This is the second time we use this quotation. As a reminder, let us mention that the Vimalakirtinirdesa mentions explicitly the Buddha Amida 阿彌陀佛 in chap. 7 (cf. T.14,475,548b16).
n.9. “The world of Buddha Amitabha is not similar to Padmavati’s. Why ? Though Buddha [Lokesvararaja] guided the bhiksu Fa tsi (Dharmàkara) through the ten regions to show him the pure worlds, the strengths and the qualities of this bhiksu were too thin so he was not able to perceive the supremely pure worlds »
- we translate the French : « L’univers du Buddha Amitâbha n’est pas semblable à l’univers Padmavati. Pourquoi ? Bien que le Buddha [Lokesvararaja] eût conduit le bhiksu Fa tsi (Dharmàkara) dans les dix régions pour contempler les univers purs, les qualités et la force de ce bhiksu étaient [trop] faibles et il ne put pas apercevoir les univers suprêmement purs. »
(MPPS, traduit du chinois par É. Lamotte, Tome I, chapitres I-XV, Université de Louvain, 1944, p.601).
Lamotte traduit : 阿彌陀佛世界不如華積世界。何以故。法積比丘佛雖將至十方觀清淨世界。功徳力薄不能得見上妙清淨世界。(T.25,1509,134b7-9)
n.10. The MPPS sets up three kinds of « Buddha’s worlds » (“champs de Buddha” writes Lamote) 佛世界 : the pure ones 淨, the impure ones 不淨and the mixed ones 雜.
Cf. Tome V, p.2228-2229 translating :諸佛世界種種有淨不淨有雜。(T.25,1509,302b16)
Let us also mention the following references :

  • Vol I, p.556 (T.25,1509,127a10) mentions the appearance of Amida and his retinue to a dying monk who had recited the « sutra of the Buddha Amida » 阿彌陀佛經 (maybe the Short Sutra)
  • Vol V, p.2228 (T.25,1509,302b14) dealing with Amida’s longevity and radiance Vol V, p.2308, (T.25,1509,309a3) naming Amida the « Bodhisattva (sic) of Infinite Life » : 無量光菩薩
  • Vol V, p.2335, (T.25,1509,311c13-14), describing Amida’s Samgha as a « mixed » community 雜以爲僧, including a few Sravaka and lots of Bodhisattva. [MPP does not do it, but we can draw a parallel between the Amida’s mixed Samgha and his mixed Buddha’s world : since Amida’s world is not entirely pure (according to the MPPS), it can receive Sravaka who cannot enter pure worlds – we’ll see that Shandao’s position is incompatible with such an elaboration : Shandao holds that Amida’s Pure Land is entirely pure AND that at the same time it can receive Sravaka]

See infra for other references in the MPPS. Since Lamotte did not translate the whole MPPS, our list of reference is necessarily incomplete.
n.11. « Furthermore Bodhisattva always enjoys commemorating Buddha. When he leaves a body for another, he is endowed with always meeting the Buddha …/.. At last, Bodhisattva always practices the commemoration of the Buddha in an excellent way : therefore he always meets the Buddha wherever he is reborn”
- we translate the French : « En outre le Bodhisattva se plaît toujours à commémorer le Buddha. Quand il abandonne un corps pour en assumer un autre, il obtient toujours de rencontrer les Buddha.(…) Enfin le Bodhisattva pratique toujours excellemment la Concentration de la commémoration des Buddha : c’est pourquoi, partout où il renaît, il rencontre toujours les Buddha ». (MPPS, Tome IV, p.1926).
Lamotte translates the Chinese : 復次菩薩常愛樂念佛故。捨身受身恒得値佛。復次菩薩常善修念佛三昧因縁故。所生常値諸佛。(T.25,1509,276a13.18)
n.12. « Those who see the Buddha’s body forget the five wordly objects of enjoyment and do not recall anything ».
We translate Lamotte’s French : « Ceux qui voient le corps du Buddha en oublient les cinq objets de la jouissance du monde et ne se souviennent plus de rien ». (MPPS Tome III, p.1348-1349).
Lamotte translates :見佛身者忘世五欲萬事不憶。(T,25,1509,220a5).
n.13. Cf. MPPS, Tome II, p.642. Le sutra de la Contemplation says that the six « commemorations » (Lamotte) belong to the practices of uppermost level : 三者修行六念(T.12,365,344c16).
Further on, the MPPS speaks about eight commemorations : « The Bodhisattva must cultivate :

  • 1. the commemoration of the Buddha (Buddhanusmrti),
  • 2. the commemoration of the Law (dharmanusmrti),
  • 3. the commemoration of the Assembly (samghanusmrti),
  • 4. the commemoration of morality (silanusmrti),
  • 5. the commemoration of letting go (tyàganusmrti),
  • 6. the commemoration of the divinities (devatanusmti),
  • 7. the commemoration of inspiration and expiration (anapanasmrti)
  • 8. the commemoration of death (rnarananusmrti) ».

We translate Lamotte’s French : « Par le Bodhisattva doivent être cultivées : 1. la commémoration du Buddha (Buddhanusmrti), 2. la commémoration de la Loi (dharmanusmrti), 3. la commémoration de la Communauté (samghanusmrti), 4. la commémoration de la moralité (silanusmrti), 5. la commémoration de l’abandon (tyàganusmrti), 6. la commémoration des divinités (devatanusmti), 7. la commémoration de l’inspiration et de l’expiration (anapanasmrti) 8. la commémoration de la mort (rnarananusmrti) » (MPPS Tome III, p.1334).
Lamotte translates : 念佛念法念僧念戒念捨念天念入出息念死。(T.25,1509,218c22)
n.14. The MPPS gives the following definition of the Buddhanusmrtisamadhi :
« The Buddhanusmrtisamadhi deals with the qualities and the magic force unrolled by the Buddha of the triple time and of the ten regions, and all the Buddha generally speaking, from the moment of their first production of the thought of the Bodhi to the extinction of their Good Law ».
We translates Lamotte’s French « L’objet du Buddhanusmrtisamadhi, ce sont les qualités et la force magique mises en oeuvre par les Buddha du triple temps et des dix régions, et tous les Buddha en général durant l’espace de temps allant de leur première production de la pensée de la Bodhi jusqu’à la disparition de leur Bonne Loi. » (Tome III, p. 1383).
For the Chinese, see T.25,1509,223b18-19.
n.15. « [the commemoration of the Buddha Buddhanusmrti 念佛] is reached through retribution in the « field » of the Buddha Wou-leang-cheou (Amitayus) ; men being born there commemorate spontaneously the Buddha ».
We translate Lamotte’s French : « Est obtenue par la rétribution celle [la commémoration du Buddha Buddhanusmrti 念佛] du champ du Buddha Wou-leang-cheou (Amitayus) ; les hommes qui y naissent commémorent spontanément (svarasena) le Buddha » (MPPS Tome III, p.1361).
Lamotte translates : 果報得者如無量壽佛國。人生便自然能念佛。(T.25,1509,221b8).
n.16. MPPS Tome 1 p.414. See T.25,1509,109a22
n.17. Ennin brought it back from China to Japan ; he learnt it on the Wu-tai mount in China in 847. Cf. GIRA Dennis A., Le sens de la conversion, op. cit., p.55. Let us remember that one of the Zen schools, the Ôbaku (Jap.) school, mixes Nembutsu with Zen practices.
n.18. See Ducor. According to him Shandao establishes that « the contemplations are only « expedient devices » and that the deep meaning of the Sutra deals with the exclusive practice of the vocal nembutsu ».
We translate Ducor’s french : « …/… que les contemplations ne sont que des moyens habiles et que le sens profond du Sutra porte sur la pratique exclusive du nembutsu jaculatoire » (Hônen, Le gué .., op. cit., n.2 p.202)
Let us take notice of Pas’s rather uncommon position. According to him, Shandao considered it relevant to maintain the meditative nembutsu , along with the vocal nembutsu, even for « ordinary people ».
Pas states that the common interpretation about Shandao results from the biased perceptions of the Jôdo et Shinshû schools.
We cannot easily agree with him, since the following assertion by Shandao seems pivotal for us : “Amida’s universal Vow has the strong power, enabling ordinary people who recite the Name to attain birth immediately”.
Inagaki translating the KGSS quoting Shandao.
The Chinese reads : 直爲彌陀弘誓重。致使凡夫念即生。(T.83,2646,630b15). [Shinran quotes it again T.83,2646,630b18].
Shandao wrote it in his Hymns (cf. T.47,1979,435b11-12).
n.19. Chappel followed another track : according to him, the « sectarian » movement (Chappel seems to use this adjective in a derogatory way) in Kamakura (Japan) is a revival of the Chinese movement in the VII th century « which claimed to be the only effective method and an alI-sufficient source of salvation for everyone.”
Cf. p.160 in CHAPPEL, David W., The Formation of the Pure Land Movement in China , op. cit., p.139
n.20. Before that, there were several episodes of trouble coming from the Tendai 天台 school on the Mount Hiei. In 1204, Hônen tried to soothe Mount Hiei by showing his good will in a declaration signed by 77 of his disciples . The signatories pledged not to criticize the other schools nor to discredit the monastic rules of the Vinaya.
Concerning the Kôfukuji petition, we rely totally on the English translation by MORREL, Robert E., « Jôkei and the Kôfukuji petition » published in : Japanese Journal of religions studies 10/01/1983, p.6-38.
n.21. The title of the petition goes as follows : “ A Petition requesting that an Imperial Edict be issued to rectify the doctrine of Single-practice Calling upon the Name of the Buddha long advocated by the monk Genkû [Hônen]” .” (MORREL, Robert E., « Jôkei and the Kôfukuji petition », op. cit., p.21.
n.22. After reading the Senchaku, Myôe, another contemporary of Hônen, denounced in 1212 -3 Hônen’s doctrine :
« Whether Myôe agreed or not with amidism was not the point ; he was criticizing the exclusivism of Hônen brand of amidism, and its consequences, the rejection of the bodhicitta and of the disciplinary regulation”
– we translate the French : « Qu’il l’acceptât ou non, ce n’est pas l’amidisme que critique Myôe, c’est l’exclusivisme de l’amidisme de Hônen, et ses corollaires, le rejet du bodhicitta et du code disciplinaire. »
(GIRARD, Frédéric, Un moine de la secte Kegon à l’époque de Kamakurq, Myôe (1173-1232) et le « Journal de ses rêves », École française d’extrême orient, 1990, Adrien Maisonneuve, Paris, 1990, p.89).
n.23. Jôkei wrote in his petition : « In his explication of the Meditation Sutra, Shan-tao states that if one simply employs Buddha’s name, this is an expedient device (hoben) to lure a person of small spiritual potential.” (MORREL, Robert E., « Jôkei and the Kôfukuji petition », op. cit., p.31).
n.24. Hônen failed « to examine carefully what is provisional and what is absolute in the sectarian position, drawing away from the superficial and penetrating to the profound, understanding the provisional while taking refuge in the absolute”. ” (MORREL, Robert E., « Jôkei and the Kôfukuji petition », op. cit., p.21)
n.25. Blum mentions the fact that the new school had been banned on several occasions after Hônen’ death : 1224, 1227, 1234-1235 and1240 (cf. BLUM, Mark L., The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism, A Study and Translation of Gyõnen’s Jōdo Hōmon Genrushō, Oxford University Press, 2002, .n.2 p .204
n.26. Inagaki translates 然諸寺釋門昏教兮不知 眞假門 戸。T.83,2646,642c7.
n.27. For the theory of the triple Buddha’s bodies : “According to this text, Buddha has a threefold body :

  • (1) The dharma or ideal body, whose nature is principle and wisdom ;
  • (2) the sambhoga, enjoyment or reward body, which appears only to the Bodhisattvas ;
  • (3) the nirmana or transformation body, which manifests itself to ordinary persons for their worship”.

PAS, Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati, op. cit., p.153
n.28. Cf. Shariputra 舍利弗’s declaration in : Soûtra de la liberté inconcevable, Les enseignements de Vimalakîrti, traduit du chinois par Patrick Carré, Fayard, 2000, p.29. He got the following answer : « Venerable, it is your mind which has high and low ! “.
We translate the French : “Il lui est répondu : « C’est votre esprit, vénérable, qui a des hauts et des bas ! «  ». 仁者心有高下。(T.14,475,538c17)
n.29. After he revealed to Shariputra the purity of the Saha world, the Buddha Sakyamuni declares : “My Buddha kingdom 佛國土is always pure at it is at this moment. I show this world as impure and full of evils just to free the base beings”.
We translate the French : « Mon royaume de Bouddha 佛國土, ô Shâriputra, est toujours pur comme à cet instant. C’est seulement parce que je veux libérer les êtres vils que je manifeste cette terre impure avec tous ses maux 惡不淨土. ».
Soûtra de la liberté inconcevable,…, op. cit., p30. (T.14,475,538c27)
n.30. See also Lamotte’conclusion about the Buddhaksetra  : « The Vimalakïrtinirdesa holds several times (see p. 225, 240, 295, 326, 343) that the Buddhaksetra are void.(…) The Buddha show various kinds of Buddhaksetra in order to help mature the beings, whereas the Buddhaksetra are in fact all intrinsically pure and undifferentiated. (…) The Buddhaksetra is therefore only a mere construction in the minds of the beings to be converted”.
We translate the French : « A plusieurs reprises, le Vimalakïrtinirdesa (voir p. 225, 240, 295, 326, 343) proclame l’absolue vacuité des Buddhaksetra. (…). C‘est uniquement pour faire mûrir les êtres que les Buddha manifestent des Buddhaksetra de toutes espèces, mais les Buddhaksetra sont tous foncièrement purs et indifférenciés.(..) ). Le Buddhaksetra n‘est donc qu’une simple construction mentale élevée dans la pensée des êtres à convertir ».
(L’enseignement de Vimalakirti (Vimalakirtinirdesa), traduit et annoté par E. Lamotte, Louvain, Publications Universitaires, Institut Orientaliste, 1962, Appendice 1 p 400-401).
See also Butsudo in : 法寳義林 Hôbôgirin, dictionnaire encyclopédique du bouddhisme d’après les sources chinoises et japonaises, Maisonneuve, fasc. 3, 1937, reprinted 1974, p.198-203.
n.31. Cf. MPPS, Tome I, p. 588 and the Chinese text in T.25,1509,132a22-24.
See also : PANIKKAR, Raimundo, Le dialogue intrareligieux, op. cit., p.144 : « The other bank in the representation of the Buddhist metaphor is so entirely transcendant that it does not exist ; (…) There is no way to the other bank because there is no bridge, furthermore because there is no other bank »
- we translate Panikkar :« L’autre rive dans la représentation de la métaphore bouddhique est si totalement transcendante qu’elle n’existe pas ; (…) . Il n’est pas de voie pour aller vers l’autre rive car il n’y a pas de pont, ni même une autre rive ».
n.32. Cf. Ducor’s introduction to Hônen, Le gué ..., op. cit.,p. 36.
This position was held more recently by D.T. Suzuki : “(..) the nembutsu aims at reaching the Pure Land, which is not different from one’s own spirit, and at looking inside the original nature of all the beings, which is Amithaba himself”.
We translate the French : « (…) le nemboutsou se propose d’atteindre la Terre de pureté, qui n’est pas autre chose que le propre esprit de chacun, et de voir dans la nature originelle de chaque ètre, laquelle est Amitâbha lui-même. » SUZUKI, Daisetz Teitaro, Essais sur le bouddhisme Zen, Tome II, traduit sous la direction de J. Herbert, Albin Michel, Paris, 1956, p.672.
See also ibidem p.678 : « You’ll see that the Pure Land of the Peaceful Light is not different that this earth and the the Buddha Amitâbha is your own spirit ».
We translate the French : « (..) vous verrez que la Terre Pure de la Sereine lumière n’est rien d’autre que cette terre-ci et que le Bouddha Amitâbha est votre propre esprit. »
n.33. The MPPS says : «  »When going out of his concentration三昧起, the Bodhisattva thinks : ’Where do the Buddha come from since I didn’t go anywhere ?’. In this movement, he knows that the Buddha didn’t come from somewhere and that he himself did not go anywhere”.
We translate the French : “Sorti de concentration 三昧起, le Bodhjsattva fait la réflexion suivante : ‘ Les Buddha d’où viennent-ils, alors que moi- même je ne suis allé nulle part ?’. A ce moment précis, il sait que les Buddha ne viennent de nulle part et que lui-même n’est allé nulle part. »
(MPPS, Tome IV, p.1930). Cf. T.25,1509,276b8-9.
n.34. It is an error because, as the MPPS says, like the Garuda which needs both wings to fly, the one who wants to meet the Buddha after his death must associate prajna to samadhi (samdhi of the commemoration of the Buddha) . Cf. MPPS, Tome IV, p.1930. Cf. T.25,1509,276b16-17.
n.35. Its name come from the Chinese title of its founding text, Asangha’s Mahayana samparigraha 攝大乘論
n.36. Cf. PAS Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati,… op. cit., p.152. She-Lun belonged to a group of schools which determined four instead of three levels of Pure Land by dividing the sambhoga in two levels.
n.37. Cf. PAS Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati,… op. cit., p.154. Cf. FUJITA, Kôtatsu, “Pure Land Buddhism in India”, op. cit.,p.34,who suggested the translation : « intention indicative of another time ».
According to Fujita, Vasubandhu recaptured his brother’s criticism in his commentary of the Mahayanasangraha.
n.38. PAS Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati,… op. cit., p.146, translating the Chinese : 言弘願者。如大經説。一切善惡凡夫得生者莫不皆乘阿彌陀佛大願業力爲増上縁也。(T.37,1753,246b10-11).
The KGSS quotes this excerpt from Shandao in T.83,2646,594c1.3
Let us recall that Tanluan separates the karmic power produced by the Bodhisattva Dharmakara and the karmic power of the Buddha Amida who maintains his Land (cf. KGSS quoting Tanluan in T.83,2646,624c14.15).
n.39. The Chinese reads : 直爲彌陀弘誓重。致使凡夫念即生。(T.83,2646,630b15). [Shinran quotes this sentence by Shandao a second time in T.83,2646,630b18].
Shandao’ sentence is to be found in his Hymns (cf. T.47,1979,435b11-12).
- This excerpt has already been quoted – see the petition against Hônen
n.40. For more details, see Shinran’s quotation of Shandao in his KGSS : T.83,2646,625b6-18.
n.41. 願不徒然. Cf. Tanluan quoted by Shinran in T.83,2646,624c25
n.42. Shandao writes : 今既成佛。(cf. T.37,1753,250b18 quoted by Shinran in T.83,2646,625b12)
n.43. See BLUM, Mark L., The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism, op. cit., n.55 p.224 : « Only Amida Buddha brings ordinary beings to a sambhogakâya-Buddhaksetra ».
n.44. Belittling Sakyamuni is one of the nine charges written by Jôkei against Hônen’s teaching.
Let us remind ourselves that in the absolute level of the truth the idea of superiority is meaningless since, “according to the expression of the Ratnakuta (T 310, k. 86, p. 493 b-c), ‘all the Buddha are only one Buddha and all the Buddhaksetra are only one l Buddhaksetra’ ».
We translate Lamotte’s French : « selon la formule du Ratnakuta (T 310, k. 86, p. 493 b-c), ‘ tous les Buddha ne sont qu’un seul Buddha, et tous les Buddhaksetra ne sont qu’un seul Buddhaksetra’ » (L’enseignement de Vimalakirti, …,Lamotte, op. cit., p.400).
Shandao was fully aware of this when he wrote : “Although the Enlightenment of all Buddhas is one and the same, when discussed in terms of vows and practices, they have their own causes and conditions”.
(Shinran quoting Shandao - Inagaki translates : 諸佛所證平等是一。若以願行來取。非無因縁。(T.83,2646,594a8-9). - See the corresponding text in Shandao : T.47,1980,47,439b10-11
n.45. See PAS, Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati, op. cit., p.161-162
n.46. Inagaki translating T.83,2646,589b12 :何以得知出世大事.
A little further, Shinran wrote : « Thus, the reason for Tathagata’s appearance in the world, as evidenced by the witness and protection of Buddha countless as the sands of the River Ganges, is solely to present this sutra [the Short Sutra]. »
- Inagaki translating T.83,2646,630b20.
Shinran justifies this assertion by the fact that the Short Sutra was expounded by the Buddha « of his own accord without awaiting questions. 無問自説 mumon jisetsu (jap.) » (Voir aussi la note de Ducor : Hônen, Le gué.., op. cit., n.1 p.177)
Before Shinran, Hônen wrote that « fudamentally the Buddha’s intent was to expound directly the nembutsu practice only »
- we translate Ducor’s French translation : « Fondamentalement, l’intention du Buddha était d’exposer directement la seule pratique du nembutsu ». (Hônen, Le gué…, op. cit. p.106).
Ducor translates the Chinese : 原夫佛意雖唯欲正直説念佛之行。(T.83,2608,8a13)
n.47. BLOOM, Alfred , “Shinran in the context of pure land tradition” in : Japanese religions vol. 17, January 1992, vol.1, , Kyoto, p.15.
n.48. Let us remind our reader that we don’t aim at proposing a law which makes the historical developments of the Pure Land « historically necessary ».
n.49. We read in Blum a confirmation of our theory : « Although universal salvation is at least implied in all forms of Buddhism, in Pure Land doctrine it is a foundational hermeneutic presumption”, BLUM, Mark L., The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism, …, op. cit., n.48 p.179
n.50. Pas seemed to be using this spectrum when he wrote : « Whereas Shinran’s attitude is perhaps one extreme and Buddha Shâkyamuni’s (complete self reliance) the other, it does not seem unjustified to put Shantao somewhere in the middle : both faith (sincerity !) and self-effort are balanced out and brought to a humanistic harmony.” PAS, Julian F., Visions of Sukhavati ..., op. cit , p.322-323
n.51. One could also ask what the origin of the White Path is : is it derived from Amida or from man or from both ?
n.52. « In the Mattô-shô as well as in the conclusion of the Shôzômatsu wasan, Shinran himself acknowledges that the process through which man reaches salvation, this economy of salvation where everything, from start to end, is achieved through the natural work of the power of the Vow, totally independent from man’s intents or efforts or reasonings, are beyond any human understanding. If that were not the case, salvation could be realized by man’s effort and would stop being the exclusive fruit of the Other Power ».
We translate Gira’s French : « Dans le Mattô-shô, ainsi que dans la conclusion du Shôzômatsu wasan Shinran lui-même reconnaît que le processus par lequel l’homme atteint le salut, cette économie du salut où tout, du début à la fin, s’accomplit par le travail naturel de la puissance du Vœu dans une indépendance totale vis-à-vis des intentions, des efforts et des raisonnements de l’homme, sont au-delà de toute intelligence humaine. Si cela n’était pas le cas, le salut pourrait être réalisé par l’effort de l’homme et cesserait d’être exclusivement le fruit de la puissance de l’autre » GIRA, Dennis, La conversion…, op.cit., p 213
n.53. We rely on the following excerpt : « But the most radical interpretation came from Shinran, who dismissed this issue [savoir quelle est la seule et unique pratique révélée pour naître dans la Terre Pure] as irrelevant. By expanding the implication that the Buddha’s Vows are directed to ordinary people, he show that the traditional paradigm of practice as cause and enlightenment as its effect had to be set aside for a new scheme where practice had meaning only when it led to its own obviation, as it was at that point that the grace of the Buddha could be realized.” BLUM, Mark L., The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism, …, op. cit., n.16 p.274
n.54. Inagaki translates : 唯觀念佛衆生攝取不捨故名阿彌陀已上又云 T.83,2646,594a18.
Shinran recaptures the end of Shandao’expression in T.83,2646,596b16 : 攝取不捨。故名阿彌陀佛。- See the corresponding characters in Shandao T.47,1980,439c23-24

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