I am very excited to get this book in the mail the other day. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much free time, but I finally got to start reading last night and it was worth the wait.
The book, titled Genshin’s Ōjōyōshū and the Construction of Pure Land Discourse in Heian Japan by Robert F. Rhodes. This is a book that looks at medieval Pure Land Buddhist thought before schools like Jodo Shu and Jodo Shinshu arose. Genshin (源信; 942 – 1017), the famous monk and central topic of this book lived during a period of explosive growth in Buddhist thought in Japan, which was being imported in waves from China and Korea, and helped develop Pure Land Buddhist thought more than before. His most famous work, the Ōjōyōshū (往生要集, “The Essentials of Rebirth in the Pure Land”) went on to influence later generations of Buddhists, but there’s almost 0 information in English about it. People just kind of naturally assume that Pure Land Buddhism began in Japan with people like Honen and Shinran, but it’s already clear in the book that there was already a lot more that went on leading up to the 12th century. Because of the tendency for Jodo Shu/Jodo Shinshu Buddhism to dominate the conversation in modern-day Buddhist discourse (not just in English) sometimes these details are obscured or forgotten.
This book has been sitting in my wishlist for years, but it’s always been a bit too expensive to purchase, even as a used book, but with things looking up a little this year, I finally decided it was time. I have some personal questions that I would like to get some guidance on, but also I want to flesh out some details here on the blog and on Wikipedia (the Genshin article is awfully short).
Namu Amida Butsu
P.S. Subsequent posts about Genshin and this book can be found here, here, here and here.
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