Foundations of Ethics and Practice in Chinese Pure Land Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
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.

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