Speaker: Aaron Proffitt, Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies, University at Albany-SUNY
The recitation of the name of a buddha (nenbutsu) is often associated with deathbed practices and traditions commonly grouped under the rubric Pure Land Buddhism. In this talk, Professor Aaron Proffitt will consider this widely popular practice as understood by practitioners of mantra, focusing in particular upon the work of Dohan (1179-1252), an early-medieval Japanese scholar-monk and Esoteric Pure Land theorist. While Pure Land practices such as aspiring for rebirth in a purified buddha land are often seen to be at odds with the recitation of mantra for this-worldly benefits, in fact, in medieval Japan these approaches to the practice of Buddhism were often carried out in tandem. In some cases, the nenbutsu was understood as a mantra, and because many mantras are in fact the very name of a particular buddha, bodhisattva, or god, many mantras would technically qualify as “nenbutsu.” As we will see, Dohan’s “esoteric nenbutsu” theory reveals that for some medieval Japanese Buddhist practitioners, the so-called mystery of speech as a willed act, an act of “self power,” rests in its expression of the mystery of breath, as an unwilled act, an expression of “other power.” In this way, the nenbutsu as mantra is said to transcend and collapse perceived binaries between buddhas and beings, this world and the Pure Land.
Professor Aaron Proffitt is an Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at the University at Albany-SUNY. Proffitt received his PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of Michigan, and his monograph, Esoteric Pure Land Buddhism, is currently in-press with University of Hawaii Press, Pure Land Buddhist Studies series.
Presented via Zoom
Register at: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcuf-CsrDMvH9a02UR3MCAR_3t_83P_OpHa