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Ippen

(1239—1289)


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(1239–89).

Founder of the Jishū (literally, ‘time school’) of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. His sobriquet, Yugyō Shōnin, means ‘wandering holy man’, and accurately reflects his homeless lifestyle. He made it his primary practice to chant the name of Amitābha Buddha constantly, and to try to convert others to the practice by handing out amulets inscribed with the nembutsu which he would encourage people to chant. Once a monk declined this gift, saying that he had no faith in Amitābha, and that it would be hypocritical for him to chant the name. This caused a crisis in Ippen's thinking: if Amitābha were powerful enough to bring all beings to the Pure Land after their death.then could he not bring even those who had no faith? This doubt was resolved during a trip to Kumano, where a manifestation of Amitābha assured him that faith was immaterial; the Buddha's power was indeed enough to bring beings to rebirth. After that, he continued to distribute his amulets and encourage people to recite the name even if they did not believe. Ippen travelled with a group of disciples, both male and female, and they became known for their performance of the odori nembutsu, or ‘dancing nembutsu’, in which he and his followers would dance while chanting Amitābha's name. Spectators frequently reported miraculous occurrences during these performances, such as the appearance of purple flower-like clouds in the sky. Because he travelled with a mixed group, Ippen was very concerned with issues of morality, and he had his followers carry a set of blocks wherever they went, with which they would construct a wall between the men and the women at night when they slept. The Jishū remained strong for a time after Ippen's death, but by the 15th century it was eclipsed by the Jōdo Shinshū.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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