Praxis in Chinese Pure Land Soteriology

Praxis in Chinese Pure Land Soteriology

  • Sunday, June 2, 2013 | 1:45 – 3:45pm | Gage Residence, Isabel MacInnes Room

Charles B. Jones (The Catholic University of America) “Self-Power and Other Power in Early Modern Chinese Pure Land Thought”

The relationship between individual effort (zili 自力) and that of the buddha Amitābha (tali 他力) in attaining rebirth in the Pure Land has been a major theme within the tradition and scholarship. The dominant Japanese Pure Land schools have taught sole reliance Amitābha’s “other-power” for attaining rebirth. However, Chinese Pure Land teaching never preached exclusive reliance on other-power, and to this day promotes a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between self-power and other-power in producing rebirth. This presentation will explore two accounts of this cooperation, the “Colloquy on the West” (西方合論) by Yuan Hongdao (袁宏道, 1568-1610) and the “Commentary on the Shorter Sutra” (阿彌陀經疏鈔) by Yunqi Zhuhong 雲棲祩宏 (1535-1615).

Michael Conway (Eastern Buddhist Society, Otani University) “A Transformative Expression: The Role of the Name of Amituo Buddha in Daochuo’s Soteriology”

Pointing to references to Daoist medicinal practices in the third section of the second chapter of Daochuo’s Anleji, previous scholarship has suggested that he viewed the name of Amituo Buddha to be a magical spell. This section of the Anleji is made up of eleven questions and answers about the soteriological efficacy of the nianfo and addresses a series of doubts and questions about the ability of the name of the Buddha to awaken ignorant sentient beings to the ultimate truth of Buddhism. By considering Daochuo’s reference to these Daoist treatments within the broader context of this section, this paper aims to show that for him, the name of Amituo was not a magical spell on par with Daoist remedies, but instead an expression of the working of Amituo with the power to transform human ignorance into wisdom.

James Zeller (Florida State University) “Bridging Gaps: Yunqi Zhuhong, A Non-Sectarian Buddhist Master”

In my previous work, I have argued that Yunqi Zhuhong was not necessarily a Pure Land or Chan monk, but rather by subjecting him to these categories we would be dismissing the work that he sought to do. I believe that Zhuhong sought to transcend sectarian boundaries through the practice of nianfo and its multiple benefits for various facets of social rank; lay people recite the name for salvation, monks recite the name as a gong’an (koan) but can also be saved by Amitabha if their meditation fails. Aside from his prescriptive nianfo practice, Zhuhong’s own monastery, Yunqi Temple, syncretizes various elements from all streams of Buddhism–adding on to the possibility that he was indeed a Buddhist restorer. The work this semester will likely center around his lay society, a Society for Releasing Life, and the development of such societies as popular practice before they transform into human-centered benevolent societies.