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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The exclusivist strand of Pure Land Buddhism that developed in China and took strong root in Japan stresses the inability of human beings to bring about their own liberation from the effects of karma through their own ethical practice, and instead views reliance on the working of Amitābha as the only possible path to liberation. Because of its denial of the efficacy of ethical action as a cause of Buddhahood throughout its history, this tradition has addressed a variety of delicate problems dealing with the relationship between ethical action and Buddhist attainment. This chapter explores how that tension played out in various recensions of the central sutra of the tradition, and the thought of two representative thinkers: Shandao (613–681) and Shinran (1173–1262). These considerations show that the Pure Land tradition offers many insights that might help advance discussions in the discipline of Buddhist ethics in the future.

Keywords: Pure Land Buddhism, Shin Buddhism, Amitābha, Amitāyus, Dharmākara, Shinran, Hōnen, Shandao, Daochuo, Rennyo

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