Genshin and the Essentials of Pure Land Buddhist Practice

An old altar we setup years ago. The central image was purchased from Tsukiji Honganji in Japan and venerates Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light.

I continue reading my new book on the eminent Buddhist scholar-monk Genshin (源信; 942 – 1017), and one part of the book summarizes Genshin’s approach to Pure Land Buddhism:

  1. Aspiration for enlightenment.
  2. Controlling one’s conduct.
  3. Having deep faith.
  4. Being sincere.
  5. Remaining constant in one’s practice.
  6. Remaining mindful of the Buddha.
  7. Arousing the vow to be reborn in the Pure Land.

Let’s look at each one of these briefly.

Aspiration for Enlightenment has historically been a common topic in Mahayana Buddhism1 in general, and just means that one perceives the nature of reality and that life is hard not just for oneself, but also for others. In so doing, one resolves to pursue the Buddhist path and in time help teach and liberate others too.

Controlling one’s conduct means slightly different things to different Buddhist teachers, but in general it means living a wholesome, clean, upright life particularly with respect to how you treat other people.

Having deep faith is a bit different than the concept of “faith” in Western religious culture. It is a sense of increasing confidence in the teachings that grows as one explores them. One’s faith is shaky at first, and that’s fine, but as one explores the Dharma further and further it is like a shot in the arm that helps them through good times and bad.

Being sincere is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be an ass.

Remaining constant in one’s practice is probably one of the harder elements, but in practical terms it means riding the highs and lows of life and finding a sustainable approach to Buddhist practice according to one’s circumstances.

Remaining mindful of the Buddha can mean somewhat different things to different Buddhists but in general it means holding the Buddha in one’s thoughts as they go about their practice and their daily lives.

Arousing vow to be reborn in the Pure Land simply means that rather than simply dabbling in Pure Land Buddhist practices, one explicitly wants to go there. This is closely related to the aspiration for Enlightenment because the intention of the Pure Land isn’t so much a blissful, heavenly realm so much as a place that is highly conducive toward the pursuit of the Buddhist path.

Anyhow, hope this is helpful!

1 That is, Buddhism practiced across all East Asia. Chances are, you’ve encountered Mahayana Buddhism and didn’t know it. 🙂

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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