Can Bodaishin Be a Cause of Rebirth?: Reconsidering the Doctrinal Conflict between Hōnen and Myōe
Abstract

Abstract:

Genkūbō Hōnen’s (1133–1212) Pure Land discourse, centered on recitation practice (nembutsu), discards all other Buddhist practices, including raising bodaishin. Such an exclusive attitude offended other monks such as Myōe who believed that bodaishin is a prerequisite and goal of Buddhist soteriology and thus cannot be neglected. This contrast between Hōnen and Myōe has been demonstrated and reinforced by several scholars as a typical ideological difference between New Kamakura Buddhism and Old Buddhism. However, by using some methodological insights from “Western” scholarship, this article reexamines a doctrinal conflict between Hōnen and Myōe and proposes that the latter’s criticism of the former did not hit a point, as they actually argue bodaishin from different aspects, one from a shallow and the other from a deep level. Whereas Myōe was a “dreamer” and optimistic that people could perform both shallower and deeper levels of bodaishin, Hōnen was a radical monk who emphasized a more realistic view: that most people are not capable of maintaining such practices from the beginning. Instead, Hōnen offered people nembutsu as a method to cultivate bodaishin.