The Indian Roots of Pure Land Buddhism

Insights from the Oldest Chinese Versions of the Larger Sukhavativyuha
Jan Nattier
Publish Place: 
Pacific World, Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Third Series No 5.
Publish Year: 
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Masatoshi Nagatomi was a panoramic thinker. Raised in a Jodo Shinshu family, he chose the distant world of Indian Buddhism as his research field. Educated at Kyoto University, he went on to complete his doctorate at Harvard University, spending time studying in India as well. When thinking about Indian Buddhist literature he could call upon analogies from East Asia; when discussing Buddhist rituals in China he could draw upon his knowledge of Tibet. In sum, for him Buddhism was not a regional or sectarian entity but a worldwide and multi-faceted tradition, and no student of his could fail to be impressed by the broad range of his perspective.

Most students of Pure Land Buddhism, by contrast, have approached
their topic within a far narrower frame. Generally this form of Buddhism
has been treated as an East Asian phenomenon, and indeed it is often
studied (with, one should recognize, many valuable results) within the
parameters of a single school or sect. This paper, however, is intended as a small attempt to emulate Professor Nagatomi’s sweeping cross-cultural vision of Buddhist history by examining the evidence for Pure Land Buddhism not in East Asia, but in India.