The Importance of Practice
Jôdo Shû teaching attaches great importance to Buddhist practice (jap. „shûgyô“ or simply „gyô“), which means Nenbutsu recitation. How do we practice Nenbutsu in Jôdo Shû? First of all, according to Hônen Shônin, „A person who believes in nembutsu, though he may have learned the entire teachings of Buddha Shâkyamuni, should consider himself an ignorant person with minimal potential who knows not a single letter“. (1) We should not be pride and consider ourself as an educated, wise person who studied many Buddhist scriptures, but recognize that we are just „ordinary people“ (jap. „bonbu“). Another important condition of the mind is the „Threefold Heart“ (jap. „sanjin“):
1) the genuine heart (jap. „shjôshin“): to be totally sincere and true to ourselves and others.
2) the profound heart (jap. „jinshin“): to deeply believe that in our present life, we are ordinary beings who have suffered from endless deaths and rebirths by Karma conditions, and to deeply believe in the Vows of Amida Buddha and his promise to welcome us in his Pure Land when calling his name.
3) the heart that seeks birth in the Pure Land through the decication of merit (jap. „ekô-hotsuganshin“): to devote the merits of our practice and good acts to birth in the Pure Land. (2)
Based on this state of mind, Hônen Shônin names Four Modes of Practice for Nenbutsu exercise (jap. shishu-hôhen): the long-term practice, the practice of veneration of Buddha, the exclusive practice of Nenbutsu, and the continuous (uninterrupted) practice. (3)
If you want to learn Nenbutsu practice:
there are regular Nenbutsu recitations held by Jôdo Shû members online (per Zoom, Skype etc.). Scheduled events are updated in our News section.
You can also contact us by e-mail to arrange an „Introduction to Nenbutsu practice“ for beginners. We offer introduction classes free of charge, with explanation, demonstration and joint exercise of O-Jûnen (tenfold Nenbutsu) and Nenbutsu Ichie (multiple Nenbutsu recitation). Anyone is welcome to join.
The Jôdo Shû way of Nenbutsu practice can also be applied to daily life: while we completely trust in the Original Vow of Amida Buddha to embrace and welcome us in his Pure Land, at the same we show our best efforts to call his name as often as possible. In daily life, we also try to give our best every day, while on the other hand we recognize that we are just human beings and cannot achieve everything by our own power and capacity. It means that by trusting in Amida Buddha, we don`t need to worry about anything, but this does not lead us to passive acceptance and resignation.
„After I have attained buddhahood, should any of the sentient beings in the ten directions, who aspire in all sincerity and faith wishing to be born in my land, recite the Buddha`s name even ten times and not be born there, then may I not attain perfect enlightenment, with the exception of those who have committed the five grave offenses or maligned the true dharma.”
18th Vow of Dharmakara, “Original Vow”,
as expounded in the Sûtra of Immeasurable Life (4)
(1) From: „The Promise of Amida Buddha. Hônen`s Path to Bliss.“, transl. by Jôji Atone and Yoko Hayashi, Wisdom Publications Boston 2011: p. 312.
(2) From: https://jodo.or.jp/about/sencyakusyu/hongan8/
(3) From: https://jodo.or.jp/about/sencyakusyu/hongan9/
(4) From: „The Immeasurable Life Sûtra“ in “The Three Pure Land Sûtras. The Principle of Pure Land Buddhism”, Jodo Shu Press, Tokyo 2014: p. 73f. The “ten directions” are east, west, north, south, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, upward and downward, i.e the whole world or universe. Regarding the translation “recite the Buddha`s name”: according to recent research, the character in the Chinese text often translated as “contemplation” is now understood to include the meaning “vocalization”. Fujita Kotatsu, “Jôdo Sanbukyô no Kenkyû” (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2007), p. 458-473). In particular, in the Japanese Pure Land Faith it is understood as reciting the Buddha`s name, in Japanese “Namu Amida Butsu”. The “five grave offenses” (Sanskrit: pancanantariyani) are 1) killing one`s mother, 2) killing one`s father, 3) killing an arhat, 4) causing blood to come out of the body of the Buddha, 5) causing a schism in the Sangha.
„The Buddha said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, …
Furthermore, you should now abhor the pain and suffering of birth, death, old age, and sickness. The veils of evil are impure and not to be savored. It is appropriate to sever yourself from them, be upright in form, proper in conduct, and increase the practice of good. You should purify yourself for practice and cleanse the impurities of your mind so that your deeds are true to your word and your inner thoughts and outward expression match. People should attain transcendence themselves and also turn to save others. They should endeavour in their vow to save others and accumulate the roots of good.
Even if you struggle and suffer for the brief period of one lifetime, soon you will be born in the land of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. There you will have limitless ease, at length receive the result of the path of virtue, sever the roots of the cycle of birth and death, and not again suffer the maladies of avarice, enmity and delusion. Should you wish for a lifespan of one aeon, a hundred aeons, or even a quadrillion aeons, you need only to think of it and you can attain it. The unconditioned nature of that land is next to the path of nirvana.“
From: „The Immeasurable Life Sûtra“ in „The Three Pure Land Sûtras. The Principle of Pure Land Buddhism”, Jodo Shu Press, Tokyo 2014: p. 125