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Hōnen

  • Mark L. Blum
Chapter
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 8)

Abstract

Hōnen 法然 (1133–1212) is regarded as the founder of the first monastic order of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. Today all institutional forms of Pure Land (S. Jōdo 浄土) Buddhism derive from Hōnen and taken together comprise the largest form of organized religion in Japan. The textbook evaluations of his historical impact in Japan typically suggest that his understanding of the human condition and the most appropriate Buddhist response to that condition constituted a genuine paradigm shift in Japanese philosophical and religious consciousness at that time, one that continues to reverberate strongly in Japanese culture today. In my view, the ideational structure of Hōnen’s thought was, in fact, mostly derivative of previous Buddhist thinkers, but for reasons that are not entirely clear, the way that he framed these issues led to the creation of a discourse that truly challenged the power structure of the major Buddhist institutions in his day. We know this not merely from the debates they engendered but, more significantly, from the subsequent persecutions that occurred intermittently for two centuries of Hōnen, his disciples, and a number of religious orders that traced their authority to Hōnen by that power structure and even new institutions that replaced it. While Hōnen’s writings evince little in the way of an overt political agenda in a social sense, philosophically they represent a value system that we know brought forth feelings of deep admiration and devotion in some, loathing and fury in others. Just what were those values, why were they so controversial and ultimately so convincing to so much of the Japanese population, how did Hōnen argue them, and in what way do they continue to resonate in the Japanese consciousness today? These are the core issues I attempt to explain below. However, because we cannot fully understand any philosophical system without appreciating its context, particularly a primarily religious thinker like Hōnen, I also present a broad summary of doctrinal and philosophical issues surrounding his core ideas in the generations immediately preceding and following him.

Works Cited

Abbreviations

  1. CWS: Shinran 親鸞. The Collected Works of Shinran. Translated by Dennis Hirota. 2 vols. Kyoto: Jōdo Shinshū Hongwanji-ha, 1997.Google Scholar
  2. HZS: Hōnen zenshū 『法然全集』 [Complete Works of Hōnen]. 3 volumes. Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1989.Google Scholar
  3. T: Taishō shinshū daizōkyō 『大正新修大蔵經』. 85 vols. Edited by Junjirō Takakusu 高楠順次郎 and Kaigyoku Watanabe 渡邊海旭. Tokyo: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924–34.Google Scholar

Other Sources

  1. Blum, Mark. 2000. Samādhi in Hōnen’s Hermeneutic of Faith and Practice. In Wisdom, Compassion and the Search for Understanding: The Buddhist Studies Legacy of Gadjin M. Nagao, University of Michigan Buddhist Studies Series, ed. Jonathan Silk, 61–94. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.Google Scholar
  2. Sueki Fumihiko 末木文彦. 2004. Hōnen no senchaku hongan nenbutsu shū senjutsu to sono haikei 「法然の『選擇本願念仏集』撰述とその背景」 [The Compilation of Hōnen’s Senchaku Hongan Nenbutsu Shū and its Background]. In Nenbutsu no seija hōnen 『法然: 念仏の聖者』 [Hōnen, the Sage of the Nenbutsu], Nihon no meisō 『日本の瞑想』 [Meditation in Japan], ed. Shinkō Nakai 中井真孝, vol. 7, 85–110. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark L. Blum
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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