Pure Land Buddhism

Also known as Amidism, Pure Land Buddhism is a major branch of Buddhism in East Asia. It focuses on Amitabha (or “Amida” in Japanese) Buddha and follows the theology of the Pure Land sutras. Its roots can be traced back to some of the Mahayana Buddhist sects from other countries.

Yutenji, a Pure Land Buddhist temple at Nakameguro, Tokyo.

History

The teachings of Pure Land Buddhism were first introduced in India. It was then brought to China in 147 CE by An Shih Kao and Lokaksema, monks who translated the Buddhist sutras into the Chinese language. From China, it then spread to Japan where it gained a huge following.

Jodo is the oldest and most predominant branch of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan, having been founded in the 13th century by Honen, a Tendai monk who made it into a separate sect known as Jodo Shu. His Japanese teaching states that anyone who follows Amida’s teachings can be reborn by doing the nembutsu, which is the repetitive chanting of Amida Buddha’s name.

KCP students strike a pose in front of The Great Buddha of Kamakura |KCP at Flickr

Beliefs

The main goal of Buddhism, aside from achieving enlightenment, is to surpass the cycle of birth and death.  Pure Land traditions offer reprieve from karmic transmigration. It is believed to surpass all other realms and is considered to be the land of paradise where many gods and people reside. By entering this land, you achieve complete enlightenment.

There are a lot of Buddhas; has its own Pure Land, with Amida’s the most popular. Amida is known for doing good deeds from countless past lives that allowed him to become a bodhisattva, which means “enlightened being.”

Amida figure on a lotus, displayed in Horniman Museum, London

Photo by Mistvan

It is believed that repeating the name of Amida Buddha thousands of times everyday will focus all your attention and devotion to the Buddha, and it will earn you enough karma to enter the Pure Land. You can do this out loud or mentally, and you may use prayer beads.

Another practice of Pure Land Buddhism is meditation and visualization of Amida Buddha. This practice is based on Amida Meditation Sutra, where there are 13 progressive methods of visualization. This is equivalent to achieving the different stages of rebirth.

You can learn more about Pure Land Buddhism in Japan by following these links.