Volume 3, 2015
Is Shōmyō Nembutsu Magic?
Reconsidering Shinran’s Nembutsu Debate in Japanese Scholarship from a Multidimensional Perspective
This research offers a fresh perspective helpful in navigating the debate in modern Japanese scholarship of the so-called nembutsu = magic debate. According to the majority of scholars, Shinran had no need to embrace the practice of “magical” recitation in his Pure Land soteriology that emphasized faith, but chose to keep it only because of his respect for Hōnen. I argue, on the contrary, that Shinran was following Hōnen’s intention to make use of the “magical function” of recitation practice, brought about through Pure Land metaphors and syntactic rhetorics, as a tool for training people incapable of performing the mental act of contemplation practice.