What To Do With Your Twilight Years

Earth-son, I greet you by the twenty-seven Names that still remain, praying the while that you have cast more jewels into the darkness and given them to glow with the colors of life. –Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead Lately, after reading an article about the infamous Villages retirement community in Florida, I’ve been ponderingContinue reading “What To Do With Your Twilight Years”

Morning Odaimoku, Evening Nenbutsu

Japanese Tendai Buddhism, that is the Buddhist sect descended from the venerable Chinese Tiantai (天台) tradition started by Zhiyi (智顗, 538–597), has a number of interesting, not to mention pithy, teachings and phrases. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular phrase called asa daimoku ni yū nenbutsu (朝題目に夕念仏). In its most literal sense, it meansContinue reading “Morning Odaimoku, Evening Nenbutsu”

The Power of Goodwill and the Nembutsu

From time to time, I am reminded of the importance of goodwill, or metta, in Buddhism, and as an example of this the famous Circle of Hierocles, which I wrote about here. Lately, I’ve been inspired to recite the nembutsu1 not so much as a personal practice but for the sake of sharing a bitContinue reading “The Power of Goodwill and the Nembutsu”

Genshin, We Hardly Knew You

I am happy to report that I finally finished my book on Genshin (源信, 942 – 1017), a 9th century Japanese Buddhist monk who was a big influence on later Pure Land Buddhist thought. Genshin is often referred to as a “patriarch” in Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, but available information about Genshin in English (andContinue reading “Genshin, We Hardly Knew You”

Genshin and the Essentials of Pure Land Buddhist Practice

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: Aspiration for enlightenment. Controlling one’s conduct. Having deep faith. Being sincere. Remaining constant in one’s practice. Remaining mindful of the Buddha. Arousing the vow to beContinue reading “Genshin and the Essentials of Pure Land Buddhist Practice”

The Eternal Light of the Dharma

Something cool I wanted to share with readers: the Japanese Buddhist temple of Enryakuji (mentioned in a previous post) on Mount Hiei has a 24-hour livestream video of a special oil lamp called the fumetsu no hōtō (不滅の法灯) which means something like the “eternal Dharma lamp” : According to tradition, this small oil lamp hasContinue reading “The Eternal Light of the Dharma”

There Is More To Pure Land Buddhism Than Just The Nembutsu

(Warning: Buddhist rant) Recently, I got into a debate online (that always ends well) about so-called “auxilliary” practices with some fellow Buddhists on an old, private discussion forum for Jodo Shu Buddhist teachings. The debate started after someone on the forum asked about whether visualization of Amida Buddha was permitted in Jodo Shu, and IContinue reading “There Is More To Pure Land Buddhism Than Just The Nembutsu”

The Lotus Sutra and the Pure Land: a Medieval Japanese Perspective

Page 56 of my new book highlights a common theme in early-medieval Japanese Buddhism (e.g. the Heian Period, 8th-12th c.) expressed in the writings of one Yoshihige no Yasutane (931-997): “Truly now, nothing takes precedence over the Lotus Sutra in making all sentient beings enter into the buddha’s insight and wisdom.  For this reason, IContinue reading “The Lotus Sutra and the Pure Land: a Medieval Japanese Perspective”

Tiantai Buddhism and the Three Marks of Existence

Tiantai Buddhism was the first natively “East Asian” Buddhist school in Chinese history, and by extension the rest of East Asian Buddhism. Its founder, a monk named Zhiyi (538–597, pronounced “Jih-ee”), didn’t borrow existing Indian systems of understanding of the Buddhist teachings, but developed a system of his own to make sense of the massiveContinue reading “Tiantai Buddhism and the Three Marks of Existence”