Interpreting the Name of Amida Buddha

Interpreting the Name of Amida Buddha

  • Sunday, June 2, 2013 | 4:00pm – 5:30pm | Gage Residence, Fort Camp Lounge

Patti Nakai (Buddhist Temple of Chicago) “Penetrating the Seven-Syllable Barrier: Nembutsu for Newcomers”

“What is that nah-mah-boo-hoo stuff you all keep saying?” Questions like that are asked by almost all first-time visitors to Jodo Shinshu temples in the Americas. For those with little or no connection to Japanese culture, “Namu Amida Butsu” is just a string of seven syllables. This paper will look at ways that Jodo Shinshu temples introduce the nembutsu to newcomers and will suggest that instead of focusing exclusively on the “six-character Name,” we should explore alternative expressions of the nembutsu found in Shinran’s writings and the interpretations of modern Shin teachers.

Mutsumi Fujiwara Wondra (Ryukoku University) “Significance of the Amida Tathagata’s Name in Shin Buddhism”

All branches of Buddhism express reverence. Shin Buddhism, known as Jodo Shinshu, as established by Master Shinran (1173-1263), expresses reverence to the Amida Tathagata. Shin Buddhists say the Amida Tathagata’s name, Namo Amida Butsu, when putting both palms together with a nenju (Buddhist rosary beads). Inside the Nishi Hongwanji, the statue of the Amida Tathagata is placed in front and its names are shown on both sides.

In this paper, I will examine the significance of Amida Tathagata’s name based on Shinran’s writings, supported by the Larger Sutra and T’an-luan’s Commentary of Vasubandhu’s Discourse on the Pure Land. What does the Amida Tathagata’s name mean to Shinran himself? What does hearing and calling the name mean to Shin Buddhism? Also, how does the name relate to any people in our contemporary world, regardless of different language or culture?