It has been commonly understood in past scholarship that Shinran strongly rejected the necessity of the welcoming of Amida Buddha and bodhisattvas at the moment of death, based on his remarks in his letter entitled “Concerning Thought and No-thought” (Unen munen no koto) and his Notes on Essentials of Faith Alone. However, it is also known that Shinran affirmed anticipating Amida’s welcome at the moment of death in writings given to his followers.
Though Shinran denied the necessity of the welcoming of Amida, nevertheless, facing the situation of his faith community, he also sent messages to his followers supporting the popular belief of the welcoming of Amida at the deathbed. This paper argues that Shinran’s interpretation of the Nineteenth Vow cannot be strictly fixed to one single point of view. We must also take into account the social situation and locality of his followers when we read his writings.
In this paper, I compare Shinran’s (1173–1262) and Seikaku’s (1167–1235) understanding of raikō (welcoming of Amida Buddha and bodhisattvas). Raikō is the Pure Land Buddhist belief that Amida Buddha comes with attending bodhisattvas just before the death of the faithful who wish to be born in his Pure Land. Past research has suggested that Seikaku simply adopted the popular Pure Land belief of raikō, while Shinran developed a new interpretation by negating the necessity of raikō at the moment of death. However, in examining Seikaku’s Yuishinshō 唯信鈔 and the Seikaku hōin hyōbyakumon 聖覚法印表白文, my research finds no indication that Seikaku emphasized the anticipation of raikō at the deathbed. Seikaku, in these writings, recognizes the virtues of raikō at one’s deathbed. However, he never recommends people to prepare the deathbed rituals anticipating raikō at the moment of their death. Instead, he clearly places significance on the everyday practice of nembutsu. Seikaku’s understanding of raikō follows his master Hōnen’s, and his emphasis on everyday practice of nembutsu over the popular practice of deathbed rituals is consistent with Shinran’s understanding of raikō.
There are many prior studies on Shinran’s 親鸞 understanding of Amitābha’s welcome at the hour of death. According to these previous studies, the practitioner employs self-power (jiriki 自力) in order to be welcomed by Amitābha, and they deny that one may expect such a welcome at death. Shinran asserted that when true faith was acquired one joins the group of those certainly destined to be saved in the present life and that it is not necessary to request Amitābha’s welcome at the hour of death. However, Shinran’s disciples awaited Amitābha’s welcome at the hour of death based on his teachings.
Previous studies focused on the teachings of Shinran and simply mentioned that the disciples did not have an understanding of a singular welcoming by Amitābha at the hour of death. Furthermore, conventional studies seldom mentioned the outlook of Shinran’s disciples in the Kantō region in Japan after the death of Shinran, their focus being on Amitābha’s welcome, and its effect on Shin Buddhist history.
I divide this discussion into the two periods: while Shinran was alive, and after his death, and I discuss the outlook of Shinran’s disciples focusing on Amitābha’s welcome.
In the Kamakura era, Hōnen’s followers headed to the Kanto area and tried spread their teachings, while there were many doctrinal disputes among them about Hōnen’s teaching. One of the discrepancies is clearly shown in Shinran’s letter in 1251 (Kenchō 3) concerning the understanding of Amida’s welcoming at the moment of death, an important issue among Shinran’s followers. Previous research assumes that the dispute was caused by Hōnen’s followers particularly by Ryōchū in the Kanto area. However, there has not been enough research on the situation of Pure Land Buddhism in the Kenchō period in the Kanto area. As a matter of fact, many of the historical records and writings including Ryōchū’s have not yet been published. This paper uses Ryōchū’s unpublished Kangyōsho-Kikigaki, showing his thought of the welcoming of Amida Buddha (raigō) in order to clarify the situation of Pure Land Buddhism in the Kanto area during the Kenchō period.
Buddhism Painting can easily be considered from the angle of handicrafts and the aspirations of the common people in early modern Buddhism.
There are many connections between images of Amida coming to meet the dying and Genshin 源信. Thanks to the efforts of artists and related stories, as well as wood-block prints, images of Amida coming to meet the dying portrayed on silk fans were widely distributed. Such images were valued by people as relics.