Seizan | Pure Land school

Amitābha Pure Land
Amitābha Pure Land

1. Seizan | Pure Land school

Seizan (西山) is the name of the branch of Jōdo-shū Pure Land Buddhism that was founded by Hōnen's disciple, Shōkū (1177-1247).

Shōkū often went by the name Seizan as well, however the name derives from the western mountains of Kyoto where Shōkū often dwelt.

The main temple of this branch of Buddhism is at the temple of Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji in the city of Kyoto.

The temple formerly served as a Shingon Buddhist temple, but when Jōhen headed the temple, he took an interest in Jōdo Buddhism (originally in order to criticize it) and designated Hōnen as the 11th chief priest.

Later, Hōnen's disciple became the head priest of Eikan-dō, and established the Seizan branch, fully converting the temple into a Jōdo one.

2. Doctrine

As a branch of Jōdo, the central practice is devotion to Amida Buddha, and recitation of the nembutsu.

Shōkū coined the term shiraki no nembutsu, which refers to a practice where one devotes himself to intense study of Buddhist literature, and then recites the nembutsu with deep, sincere faith.

The idea behind shiraki no nembutsu is to demonstrate that in the Age of Mappō, people cannot achieve Enlightenment with their own effort and so they should rely on the compassion of Amida Buddha.

Seizan Buddhism also seems to incorporate techniques from the Shingon and Tendai sects including the use of maṇḍala, and other ascetic practices.

Shōkū, its founder, was said to recite the nembutsu 60 000 times a day and would endure other ascetic practices.

Unlike some of Hōnen's disciples, such as Kōsai, who attempted to eschew other Buddhist practices in favour of the exclusive nembutsu, the Seizan branch attempted to organize all Buddhist practices into a hierarchy, with the nembutsu being the foremost practice.

This is a similar approach to that found in Shingon, Tendai and Kegon sects of Buddhism.

Because his teachings were compatible with the dominant Tendai tradition, Shōkū was not exiled when Hōnen, Shinran and many of the more radical preachers of the Exclusive Pure Land practice were exiled.

In Seizan thought, it is thought that practices other than the nembutsu do contain some merit, but not equal to even 1 recitation of the nembutsu.