Pure Land and the Environmental Movement in Humanistic Buddhism

  • William Yau-nang NgEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 9)


There are two most popular interpretations of the Buddhist idea of Pure Land. The first one regards Pure Land as actual places in the external world created by different buddhas. The second one understands Pure Land as an inner stage of mind resulted from spiritual cultivations. This paper attempts to show that Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan, especially Master Sheng Yen (1931–2009)’s teaching, developed hand in hand with a new understanding of Pure Land, which not only challenges the traditional understanding, but also provides a theoretical grounding for the social engagement of Buddhism in general and environmental protection in particular. The paper argues that the Pure Land teaching of Sheng Yen demonstrates a three-dimensional understanding of Pure Land. In spatial terms, the inner dimension emphasizes the purification of one’s mind; the vertical dimension emphasizes the transmigration to the other world, the Pure Land of Amitabha; and the horizontal dimension emphasizes the establishment of Pure Land on the earth. This three-dimensional Pure Land not only integrates the two traditional interpretations, but also adds a socially engaged dimension to it. The concept of Pure Land thus differs sharply from the old syncretic tradition. It can be described as “this-worldly Pure Land”. It is a new orientation of Humanistic Buddhism, which deviates drastically from the traditional idea of leaving the mundane world for a world of ultimate happiness.


Sheng Yen Humanistic Buddhism Pure land Engaged Buddhism Environmental movement Buddhism in Taiwan 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hong Kong Baptist UniversityHong KongChina

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