Panel : Buddhism and Pure Land
Dr. Christoph Kleine
Institute for the Study of Religions, Philipps-Universität (Marburg)
Reflections upon the impact of Hônen’s nenbutsu doctrine
on non-scholastic literature of Kamakura Japan
It is commonly believed that Hônen’s reinterpretation of the traditional Buddhist practice of “buddha recollection” (nenbutsu) exerted a significant impact on Japanese religiosity in general and on the Japanese’s soteriological and practical outlook on Pure Land faith in particular. Many scholars claim that Hônen’s understanding of the nenbutsu and the operation of Amida’s grace offered the common people an easy path to liberation which had been hardly accessible for the majority of sinful human beings before.
Kasahara Kazuo, for instance, on the basis of an investigation of the Heike monogatari, asserts that, under the influence of Hônen’s teachings, women gained a much higher degree of certainty concerning their birth in the Pure Land (ôjô) than ever before. The evidence Kasahara provides, however, is by no means convincing, and it is quite obvious that a more thorough investigation of literary documents is necessary to reevaluate Hônen’s impact on non-scholastic Buddhism.
In my paper I shall attempt at such an investigation of non-doctrinal source materials, such as edifying narratives, novels, war chronicles, etc. Firstly, the question shall be raised whether or not a significant change in the attitudes towards nenbutsu and ôjô is detectable in the texts. Secondly, the relationship between a scholastic and a non-scholastic religious discourse shall be considered in order to evaluate the meaningfulness of a comparison between doctrinal and narrative texts.