Volume 10 2003
Foundations of Ethics and Practice in Chinese Pure Land Buddhism
Charles B. Jones
The Catholic University of America
The primary goal of this project was to find a Chinese text that took on the relationship between human religious activity and the saving power of Amitābha in a systematic way. Alas, such a text has so far eluded me. However, by looking at several texts, I have been able to find hints and indications here and there which, added together, constitute a fairly complete and consistent soteriological scheme that relates self-power to other-power. Fully aware of the hermeneutical dangers one faces in collating proof-texts from works spanning greatly-separated times and places around the Chinese empire, I will venture to lay it out as best I can with some confidence that it indeed represents a characteristically Chinese way of approaching the relationship of self-power and other-power, human striving and the Buddha’s original vow-power. I will do this by focusing on a particular arena of human religious activity: ethics and precepts, “ethics” indicating general norms of human behavior, and “precepts” meaning specific vows taken in ritual contexts.