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Aspects of Buddhism

The duty of compassion is complicated by this necessary reliance on the imperfect tool of language.

Just as early Mahayana concerned itself in the Vimalakirti Sutra with compassion for the unenlightened and preaching to help them on their way, other forms of Mahayana Buddhism extended the possibility of enlightenment as a series of steps to be undertaken by anyone. Pure Land Buddhism and the nembutsu was an example of an approach that offered the potential benefits of enlightenment to a much greater number and, like earlier variants, did not preach total withdrawal from the evils of the world as the only means to enlightenment. Shin Buddhism broadened the possibility of enlightenment to the point where it rejected almost all practice. The salvational essence of the promise inherent in the primal vow of the Buddha Amida lies at the heart of nembutsu and the exposition of Pure Land ideas found in the Tannisho.

The Tannisho consists of the sayings of Shinran (1173-1263), the founder of Shin Buddhism. The text was, it is claimed, compiled in the decades following Shinran's death by a follower named Yui-en, of whom almost nothing is known. The basis of Shin Buddhism is the recital of the nembutsu, "Namu-Amida-Butsu," "which is the deep wish, called the Primal Vow of Amida, touching each of us, so that we may be liberated from self-delusion" (Unno, Afterword to Tannisho, 38). Amida Buddha, made a number of vows, one of which resulted in the creation of the nembutsu as "the ultimate gift to mankind" by means of which anyone can "become transformed and receive true enlightenment" (Unno 39). Birth in the Pure Land had previously been believed to depend on departure from this world and eventual arrival, through a series of steps, toward enlightenment, in the Pure Land. But, according to Shinran, the recital of nembutsu established the individual's enlightenment itself and even while remaining in the grip of the passions of samsara...

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Aspects of Buddhism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:08, November 27, 2015, from
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