Engaged and engaging Pureland Buddhism, 5 Sep 2007
By Peter M. Schogol (Lexington, KY USA) (from Amazon site)
The number of books written in English on Pure Land Buddhism is steadily increasing, as is the number of translations on the subject from Japanese and other languages. Still, we get the impression that the readership for these books continues to be those already interested in or committed to one or other of the Pure Land schools. For those who've not encountered Pure Land Buddhism, it holds that self-perfectibility through meditation, the keeping of precepts, or tantric practices, is beyond the reach of most ordinary men and women because of our accrued karmic bonds and limitations. Pure Land emphasizes instead the transfer of the vast storehouse of merits accumulated by the Buddhas to the individual to bring her or him to Pure Land, which is -- depending on the interpretation -- either a 'place' where there are no hindrances to enlightenment, or enlightenment itself. It's perhaps inevitable, though a shame nevertheless, that THE OTHER BUDDHISM: AMIDA COMES WEST isn't any more likely to catch the eye of those for whom Buddhism is synonymous with arduous disciplines. This excellent book likely will become known only to a few, but those few may find their previous appreciation of Pure Land Buddhism transformed by it. Caroline Brazier is a psychotherapist, an ordained religious in the Amida Order and a priest in the Amida-shu which is a contemporary presentation in the West of Jodo Buddhism, the oldest Pure Land school in Japan. Centered on nembutsu practice, self-examination and contrition, and social engagement, Amida-shu is -- arguably -- the form of Pure Land Buddhism best integrated with progressive Western religious and social sensibilities. Rev. Brazier makes a compelling and ultimately persuasive case for Amida Pureland Buddhism by rooting its message in a clear Buddhist psychology. While at times chewy, THE OTHER BUDDHISM is never pedantic or erudite for its own sake. On the contrary, Rev. Brazier writes as a poet with an acute sensitivity to the bittersweet quality of the impermanent and interdependent. All in all, a highly recommendable book.