Namu Amida Butsu

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. Nenbutsu Prayer Legends .

Namu Amida Butsu, the Amida Prayer

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Humanity


AMIDA BUDDHA (Skt. = Amitabha)
Buddha of Infinite Light and Life
Lord of the Beyond and the Afterlife

Amida is one of the loftiest savior figures in Japanese Buddhism, and Amida faith is concerned primarily with the life to come, the life in the beyond. Amida is also one of the Five Tathagata of Wisdom. The world-famous Big Buddha (Daibutsu) statue in Kamakura, around 15 meters in height, is Amida. To followers of Japan's Pure Land sects (Joodoshuu 浄土宗), Amida has eclipsed the Historical Buddha as the most popular divinity in Japan's Mahayana traditions.

Read the details about this deity here.
Mark Schumacher  


The Amida Prayer, Namu Amida Butsu


Buddha Amitabha vowed to save all beings, even those who have committed serious transgressions. This vow prompted Saint Shinran, the founder of the True Pure Land school of Buddhism, to write,
"A good person will be reborm; how much more so the evil person."
This belief in the power of Amitabha to save every person, no matter what their faults, gave rise to the sects of the Pure Land and True Pure Land and to the pratice of nembutsu prayer, the chanting of the sentence or rather the short mantra,
"Namu Amida Butsu" .. "I venerate Amida Buddha"
as a way to achieve salvation.

This is on of the prayers that appears in various versions in many haiku of Issa, who was a member of the Pure Land Sect. His trust in Amida Buddha was great.

I leave it all to you, trust in the Buddha, anata makase あなたまかせ
I trust in you, tanomu, tanome 頼む
Mida みだ 弥陀
Praise Amida ! nenbutsu 念仏

Namu Amida Butsu
When chanting this invocation fast, it sounds like

namudabu namudabu なむだぶなむだぶ
namandabu なまんだぶ
namandabutsu namanda butsu なまんだぶつ
namu aa aa 南無 ああ ああ

Prayer Ceremonies for Amida
nenbutsu, nembutsu 念仏

Great Prayer Ceremony, ônembutsu, oonenbutsu 大念仏

. haikai kuhonbutsu 俳諧九品仏
Takahama Kyoshi and the nine states of Amida

. Oojooji 往生寺 Temple Ojo-Ji .
Gokuraku oojoo 極楽往生 gokuraku-ojo 
for a safe passage to the Amida Paradise in the West after death


Amida Buddha -
you smile at life
you smile at death

Read the whole sequence: Amida Buddha
by Gabi Greve


hana chiru ya shoomyoo unaru tera no inu

cherry blossoms scatter--
growling Buddha's name
a temple dog

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

The temple dog is growling the nembutsu prayer:
"Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"
This is appropriate for the situation, since the blossoms are dying and only Amida Buddha's intercession can bring salvation: rebirth in the Pure Land.

Chanting only the name of Amida or other deities is especially common in the Sect of the Pure Land, to which Issa belonged.

称名 (しょうみょう): 仏や菩薩の名を称(とな)えること。

shoomyoo 声明 is the chanting of prayers accompanied by musical intstuments in other Buddhist sects.

Voices of Animals and Haiku
Gabi Greve  

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Haiku poets about Issa
(collected by David Lanoue)

Jôdoshinshû, the Pure Land sect that revolves around the epic of Amitabha, counts Issa as one of its members. Following this stream of Buddhism, those who repeat the name of Amida expect to experience the liberation of rebirth in the Western Paradise. Simply by monotonously repeating the chant, "Namu Amida Butsu" (the nembutsu), one will one day enjoy salvation. Alan Watts notes that this is the common understanding of the doctrine, but he adds that its esoteric grounding is different: Amida is our own true self. We are Amitabha.

We don't need to attain satori; we are already enlightened. Free of this tyrranical search, Kobayashi Issa can surrender to the rhythms and colors of samsara in all of its infinite variety. And perhaps, deep in his heart, he repeats with each poem, "Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu..."

Carlos Fleitas on Issa 


In her well-known essay about haibun (Was ist ein Haibun?/ What is a haibun?, 1998) Dr. Lydia Brüll refers to Issa's religious belief. She explains that Issa was a follower of Amida Buddhism (Pure Land Buddhism). Pure Land Buddhism is very common in Japan (more popular than Zen-Buddhism). The founder was Shinran Shonin (1173–1262). In the center of this spirituality we find Amida Butsu (a Japanese expression for Buddha Amitâbha, the Buddha of infinite light and life).

The main thing in Shin-Buddhism is belief, the trust in Amida Butsu who has promised to save all sentient beings who rely on him. In contrast, the Zen-Buddhist tries to achieve enlightement (satori) with the help of meditation (zazen) and koans.

The Shin-Buddhist has only one thought: he avoids to trust in his own power (jiriki 自力); he fully relies on the Other Power (tariki 他力). Shin belief is that only the Other Power, only the promise of Amida Butsu, can save one. The Shin-Buddhist recites the Nembutsu (namu Amida Butsu — honor to Amida Butsu, refuge in Amida Butsu) with devotion. The trustful spoken Nembutsu will save, will lead to rebirth in the Western Paradise (sukhâvati), which is a preliminary stage of Nîrvana.

Angelika Wienert on Issa 


Priest Ennin (794 – 864) and the Nembutsu

He went to China to study the Buddhist Canon. On his return to Japan, he established many rituals special to Tendai, the so called “Secret Tendai Teachings” (taimitsu 台密).
He also brought back special rituals to chant the prayers for Buddha Amida, the five-tone nembutsu recitation (jogyodo nembutsu, joogyoodoo 常行堂念仏), which is still practised widely in the Tendai communities.

The Jyoogyoo-Doo Hall 常行堂 at Mt. Hiei-Zan, Kyoto
The Nembutsu is intonated for 90 days here. To do this will lead you straigt to the Paradise in the West (gokuraku) after death.


Read more about Ennin here !
Ennin 円仁
by Gabi Greve  


Priest Ryoonin 良忍 Ryonin (1073-1132 and the Yuuzuu Nenbutsu 融通念仏 Yuzu Nembutsu

Yūzū-nenbutsu-shū - Yuzu nenbutsu Sect
The distinction of this Pure Land sect lies in its emphasis on the nature of interconnectedness amongst phenomena.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


There is a lot more on the internet on this subject now.
Just googeling with
"namu amida butsu" haiku
I found about 412 hits.


kigo for spring

Hyakumanben Nenbutsu 百万遍念仏
Saying the Nenbutsu Prayer one million times

A prayer for all human beings, not just the well-being of oneself.
It occurs for 7 days (sometimes 10 days) .
The priest or monk walks around the inner sanctuary, saying the Namu Amida Butsu prayer as he walks, step by step.
In some temples this prayer session occurs in January, May and September.

There is also a rosary with hyakuman beads, one million beads 百万遍数珠.


kigo for all summer

genenbutsu, natsu nenbutsu 夏念仏 (なつねんぶつ)
Nembutsu prayers in Summer

..... natsu nebutsu 夏ねぶつ(なつねぶつ)


kigo for early autumn

rokusai nenbutsu 六斎念仏 (ろくさいねんぶつ)
Rokusai "six memorial days" prayers

rokusai 六斎(ろくさい)、rokusai e 六斎会(ろくさいえ)
rokusai koo 六斎講(ろくさいこう)Rokusai prayer group
rokusai odori 六斎踊(ろくさいおどり)Rokusai dance
rokusai daiko 六斎太鼓(ろくさいだいこ)Rokusai drum

Prayers and dance for Amida Buddha, performed at Amida temples, with gongs and drums.
Usually on the six monthly memorial days, the 8, 14, 15, 23, 29 and 30.

Now this is performed in August, with the Obon rituals.

. Rokusai Drums and Saint Kuya .


kigo for early winter

betsuji nenbutsu 別時念仏 (べつじねんぶつ) special nenbutsu prayer
jishuu saimatsu betsuji 時宗歳末別時(じしゅうさいまつべつじ)
別時念仏/遊行の一つ火 "one fire for Ippen"

At Yugyooji 遊行寺 Temple Yugyo-Ji in Fujizawa, Kanagawa
In memory of
. Saint Ippen 一遍聖人 .

From November 18th to 30.
For 27 days and nights a fire is kept in the main hall to honor Ippen.
People come to repent the sins of the past year and purify their hearts.

. the 10th night, juuya 十夜 (じゅうや)
prayer night of the Jodo sect of Pure Land Buddhism .

Often on November 9th.
yonenbutsu 夜念仏 Nenbutsu-Prayers at Night
(sometimes listed as late autumn)


kigo for late winter

kan nenbutsu 寒念仏 
Nembutsu prayers in the cold

Winter Ascetic Practises (kangyoo)


nenbutsu odori 念仏踊り the Nenbutsu Dance

source : カラーブックス図書目録
Takinomiya no nenbutsu odori 滝宮の念仏踊り Nenbutsu dance from Takinomiya
From the Tenmangu Shrine at 綾歌山滝宮天満宮 / Takinomiya, Ayagawa, Ayauta District
The dance is held every year on August 25. The dolls are made in its honor, they are about 20 cm high, dancing under an umbrella. There are nine straw dolls hanging down, moving and turning around if the wind blows.
This dance started in 888, when a great drought happened in Sanuki and the local governor, Sugawara Michizane 菅原道真, ordered rain rituals and dances.

. Kagawa Folk Art - 香川県  .


Some Haiku by Kobayashi Issa

fuji no hana namu aa aa to soyogi keri

wisteria blossoms
"Praise Ah... Ah...!"
they rustle

tada tanome tanome to tsuyu no kobore keri

simply trust! trust!
dewdrops spilling

Tr. David Lanoue

Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo


susutake ya hotoke no kao mo hito naguri // susudake

bamboo soot broom--
Buddha's face too
gets a smack

Tr. David Lanoue

Look at a Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo

. susu dake, susudake 煤竹 bamboo for cleaning .


tonikaku mo anata makase no toshi no kure

come what may
trusting in the Buddha…
the year ends

Tr. David Lanoue

Look at a Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo


nenbutsu ga urusai tote ya kari kaeru

even if their Amida prayer
is so noisy today -
geese departing

Tr. Gabi Greve

. WKD : kaeru kari 帰る雁 departing geese .

nenbutsu o sazukete yaran kaeru kari

teaching how to
praise Buddha ...
the geese return

Tr. David Lanoue

- Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo -


sore nari ni joobutsu toge yo katatsuburi

just as you are
become Buddha!

Tr. David Lanoue

Look at a Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo


ganchoo ni juu nenbutsu no yukiki kana

on New Year's morning
the prayers to Buddha
come and go

According to Shinji Ogawa, the word "juu nembutsu" refers to a Buddhist scripture of that name. I assume that it refers to a recitation of namu amida butsu ten times in a row. In any case, I took "ten" out of my translation, because this doesn't add much significance for the English speaking reader: "ten prayers to Buddha" is now "the prayers to Buddha."

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

karazake mo tatakeba naku zo namu amida

beating time
on a dried salmon too...
praise Buddha!

More haiku by ISSA with Amida as subject .
Tr. David Lanoue

WKD : Salmon (sake)

ich schlage den Takt
mit einem getrockneten Lachs -
Gebet an Amida

Tr. Gabi Greve

suzushisa wa hotoke no hoo yori furu ame ka

coolness -
is it coming from the rain
of the direction of Buddha?

Issa is lodging in the temple Jooshooji 浄照寺 Josho-Ji, which hosts the statue of Amida Buddha. The entrance to the hall is from the east, so pilgrims face to the West, the Paradise of Amida, when offering their prayers.


source : curatorseye.com

hota pokiri-pokiri namu amida butsu kana

nap and crackle
goes the fire...
"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

Tr. Lanoue

Kobayashi Issa 小林 一茶

- Compiled by Richard Bohn -
Joys of Japan, 2012


source : Nakamura Sakuo

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 .


namu-namu to sakura-akari ni netarikeri

praising Buddha
he sleeps in the light
of night cherry blossoms

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the 3rd month (April) in 1816, when Issa was back in his hometown. Someone, perhaps a wandering Pure Land monk (one is mentioned in the next hokku in Issa's diary: see below), is lying asleep under a cherry tree in full bloom. There is a faint, mysterious luminescence coming from the white or pink-white blossoms above the sleeper that is due to reflected starlight or moonlight. In Issa's time hana-akari meant both the faint reflected night luminescence from cherry blossoms as well as the synesthetic feeling that the night air was dimly glowing because of the blossoms. Issa also uses the term to refer to the night glow of plum blossoms. In this hokku Issa is able to see the sleeper, so there seems to be some reflected light from the night sky.

The hokku suggests the man has gone to sleep while chanting Amida's name, so either the person is wearing a monk's robes or Issa has heard him earlier chanting praises to Amida beneath the cherry tree. I take Issa to be suggesting that spoken words aren't the only way a person (or animal or plant) can praise Amida. The man seems to lie blissfully open to the opening cherry blossoms around and above him, suggesting that Issa sees the man's way of sleeping as a form of praising Amida and repeating Amida's name with unconscious body language and with his basic mode of being. Amida is the Buddha of unlimited light and compassion, and the soft luminescence of the cherries all around Issa and the faint glow on the sleeping man's face seem to be the soft light of Amida's Pure Land beyond any distinction of here/there or now/then.

This is the following hokku in Issa's diary:

okifushi mo sakura-akari ya nebutsu-boo

sleeping and waking
in faint blossomlight --
a Pure Land monk

The mendicant Pure Land monk 念仏坊 (nebutsu [=nembutsu] or "Buddha-name" monk) wanders from place to place praising Amida with only trees for shelter. The visible blossoms now accentuate Amida's spiritual light.

Issa no doubt empathizes a lot with the sleeping monk and may consider him to be a kind of double of himself, but I think these two hokku are also based on objective observation of a separate person or people who are traveling on the same road as Issa to/in the Pure Land.

Chris Drake

fuji no hana namu aa aa to soyogi keri

wisteria blossoms
rustling Thank you

This hokku seems to be from late in the third month (April) in 1816, since wisteria blossoms are a late spring image, and the hokku belongs to a group of late spring hokku inserted into the last part of Issa's diary for the eleventh month (December) in 1815. Wisteria is a climbing shrub, commonly with a thick trunk, that traditionally is often trained to rest its widely spreading branches on trellises, from which numerous long stems hang down, each with hundreds of small, delicate lavender to deep purple blossoms extending out in every direction. A large wisteria in bloom literally gives the impression of being a purple cloud floating in the air, and when a breeze blows, the many blossoms brush against each other and rustle as if murmuring, or, to Issa, praying.

The soughing of the wisteria blossoms here resembles the beginning of the most basic prayer to Amida Buddha that Issa and every Shin Pure Land Buddhism believer often repeats. In Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, Namu-, the Japanese version of a Sanskrit salutation and expression of homage, basically means two things: 1) I entrust myself completely, and 2) Deep thanks from the bottom of my heart. Hōnen, the founder of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, tended to stress the first meaning, along with constant repetitions of the prayer, while Shinran, the founder of Shin Pure Land Buddhism, to which Issa belonged, tended to stress the second, since he taught that reciting Amida Buddha's name was not a matter of obligation, ritual, or a certain number of repetitions but instead was a spontaneous expression of sincere and profound thanks to Amida. That is what the rustling wisterias sound like to Issa, and their long swaying stems must resemble a moving purple cloud, an image that Issa seems to assume readers will associate with the sounds of the blossoms, since in Buddhist art Amida is often depicted while descending to earth on a purple cloud surrounded by bodhisattvas playing celestial music in order to greet the soul of a sincere believer who has died and guide her or him to the Pure Land.

Thus the sound of the rustling blossoms, their voice, utters the sound of Amida's name in a way that extends it out toward infinity. In Sanskrit the vowel "a" represents the beginning of the universe and of a basic mantra (aum or om), and the "A" of Amida represents a negative prefix, as in the "a-" in English "atemporal," for example, although in Amida's case it is like the "in-" in "infinite," since Amida is the Buddha of infinite light, so the cluster of four "a" vowels in the hokku suggests both the eternal beginning of Amida's infinite name -- a metonym for Amida's name as the whole visible and invisible universe -- and the beginning of an audible vision of the Pure Land on earth. In the translation I use more than four "a" vowels since in Japanese each vowel represents a moraic syllable and thus the whole sound is four syllables long, whereas each "a" represents only a single letter in English. I take Issa's orthography to represent a long, extended vowel, one long enough to suggest the endlessness of Amida Buddha's name. And overlapped with Amida's name is a breathy exclamation of joy and thanksgiving.

* For the year of composition of the group of late spring hokku found in the December section of Issa's diary for 1815, see Maruyama, Issa Shichiban nikki 2.183.

Chris Drake


- quote
A raigō (来迎 "welcoming approach")
s an appearance of Amida Buddha on a purple cloud at the time of one's death. It has given rise to a type of Japanese painting (a raigō-zu) of a Buddha accompanied by bodhisattvas. As a ritual, such a painting is carried into the house of a person who is near death.

Among the upper classes, raigo paintings and sculpture became very popular, as they depicted the Amida Buddha coming down in celebration in relation to dead relatives or to one's own house. Some of these paintings are clearly yamato-e, or Japanese paintings in that they gave artists a chance to paint Japanese landscapes.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Amida Raigo zu  阿弥陀来迎図 with Fudo Myo-O as attendant
. Kuroda Mudooji 黒田無動寺 Kuroda Mudo-Ji .


yamagoe no Amida no gotoku - hatsu hi no de

like Buddha Amida
coming over the mountains -
First Sunrise !

Amida coming over the mountains to welcome the souls of people departed.

Gabi Greve, Januaray 2005
Look at the Amida here !  


clear Autumn day
by the little lake -
Namu Amida Butsu !

Gabi Greve, 2005
Look at the Lake here !  


雨の音 屋根が教える 南無阿弥陀
ame no oto yane ga oshieru Namu Amida

sound of rain -
my roof teaches me
the Amida Prayer

Gabi Greve

old cedar tree -
namida namida no
namu amida

PHOTOS are here:
Gabi Greve, October 2009


chiru hana ya hotoke-girai ga ukare keri

cherry blossoms are falling -
those who do not care about Buddha
are making merry

Kobayashi Issa

The human life is just as short as that of a cherry blossom ...


ana tooto cha mo dabu-dabu to juuya kana

Ah, the blessed sound!
The tea also says, "Da-bu, da-bu!"
The ten nights.

tr. Blyth

The season's holy chant
from the teapot too, "dabu, dabu"--
for ten nights.

tr. Sawa and Shiffert

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

. WKD : Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


shirayuki no naka ni koe ari kannembutsu

Within the clouds
There are voices:
Winter nembutsu.

tr. Blyth

Dabu Dabu   ... Translating Haiku Forum

Related words

. Welcome to Gokuraku 極楽 the Buddhist Paradise ! .

Paradise 極楽 (ごくらく) gokuraku

Amida Buddha is the Lord of the Paradise in the West,
Gokuraku Joodoo 極楽浄土 Gokuraku Jodo.

gokuraku no chikamichi ikutsu kan nenbutsu

how many shortcuts
to paradise ?
praizing Amida in the cold

Tr. Gabi Greve

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

kan nenbutsu
kigo for late winter

Winter Ascetic Practises (kangyoo)


- - - - - Kobayashi Issa - - - - -

At the East Gate of the Pure Land in Tennoji Temple, summer

gokuraku ni kata ashi kakete yoosuzumi

I put one foot
down in Paradise --
evening cool

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the 11th month (December-January) of 1819-20, though it is in the same lunar year that is evoked in Year of My Life. However, 11/16 was January 1, 1820, so the hokku may have been written in 1820. In any case, it's a summer hokku about Tennoji Temple in Osaka, a very famous old Tendai-school temple visited by Issa many years earlier. When Issa visited, he evidently went to pray at the West Gate, one of the most notable and visited places in the temple because it was believed to also be the East Gate, that is, the earthly entrance to Amida's Pure Land paradise in the west, far beyond the setting sun. Just outside the East Gate of the Pure Land is a Shinto torii, since in pre-westernized Japan Buddhism and Shinto and popular shamanism were intimately linked and intertwined.

At Tennoji, the torii or god-welcoming gateway frames the setting sun during the time of the spring and fall equinoxes. The setting sun was important, because meditation on the setting sun was part of Tendai and later of Pure Land Buddhism under Honen that was believed to help people concentrate on the reality of the invisible Pure Land. Issa doesn't mention meditation on the setting sun here, and Shinran, the founder of the True Pure Land school, didn't stress it as much as Honen, but "evening cool" in the hokku suggests there is a good chance Issa went to the gate at around the time the sun was setting and actually saw it setting in the distance over the Inland Sea to the west as he prayed to Amida. In summer the setting sun isn't framed by the torii gateway, but it was nevertheless a spiritual sight many pilgrims in Issa's time wanted to see.

The hokku seems to be about the moment Issa, walking west from the center of the temple, begins to enter the large wooden gateway. Only one leg has touched the eastern edge of the Pure Land, but even before Issa steps with both feet inside the gate, he seems to feel a coolness he guesses must be a bit like the incomparably refreshing coolness that is said to be felt by those who are reborn on lotuses in one of the lakes in the Pure Land. Like the sun setting in the west that is visible from the gate, the air apparently has a certain blissful feel to it that most cool evenings lack. This is not the only hokku in which Issa feels he is in the Pure Land while he is still on earth -- some of his hokku on canola fields, for example, seem to suggest something similar -- but it is one in which Issa himself is explicit about the experience. Perhaps that's because at Tennoji he is probably having this experience along with other pilgrims.

By setting the hokku in summer while he writes in winter, is Issa thinking back and remembering the death of his infant daughter the previous summer, as described in Year of My Life? Is he imagining himself going with her soul to the western edge of the visible world?

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 Issa in Edo .

. Temple Tennooji 天王寺 Tenno-Ji Osaka .


Daruma Museum
A Tourist Guidebook to Paradise  
GokuRaku no Kankoo Annai 極楽の観光案内

Nishimura Kocho
Nishimura Koochoo 西村公朝 (にしむらこうちょう)

gokuraku ni chikamichi ari ya kuro ageha

there is a shortcut
to paradise !
black winged butterfly

- autor ? source : www.gendaihaiku.gr.jp/

kuro ageha - Papilio protenor, spangle


***** WKD : World Kigo Database: Saijiki of Buddhist Events
Look here for more kigo about the various Nembutsu Ceremonies (nenbutsu 念仏)

***** WKD : butsumyooe 仏名会 Chanting of the Buddhas' Names
..... o butsumyoo 御仏名(おぶつみょう)Butsumyo Ceremony

***** WKD : Saint Hoonen, Hoonen Shoonin, Honen 法然上人 と浄土宗
Founder of Pure Land Buddhism and Haiku

***** WKD : Hibutsu (secret Buddha statue) and Haiku 

***** WKD : Hotoke, the Dead and Haiku  仏 ほとけと俳句

***** Voice of Buddha - by Gabi Greve  

***** Tannishō 歎異抄 Tannisho and priest Yuien 唯円
Shinran and the Nenbutsu


. haikai kuhonbutsu 俳諧九品仏
Takahama Kyoshi and the nine states of Amida

Kigo for Summer

. Nenbutsu Prayer Legends .





Gabi Greve said...

Thank you Gabi san for your recommendation of my work in your site.
The site is very useful to study about Buddha.
I will use your site as good reference, if you would please.

nakamura sakuo.

Your haiga about Issa are always a joy, Sakuo san!

Anonymous said...

pierced by birdcalls ...
autumn morning

Ella Wagemakers

Anonymous said...

to the west
is Buddha's Paradise...
withered fields

saihoo wa gokuraku michi yo kareno hara


by Issa, 1819

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

to the west
is Buddha's Paradise...
withered fields

Dear Gabi,
This haiku is indeed revealing.
I think here the reference to mythic or mystic west is a reference to India, where Buddhism originated..

India is to the west of China, Tibet, Korea and Japan. In fact, Hiuen Tsang or Yuan Chwang, the famous Chinese pilgrim who visited and remained for a number of years in India in the 7th Century AD, refers to his travellogue as 'Travels in the Western World'.

A friend from India

Anonymous said...

while praising Buddha
with wide-open mouth...
a thicket mosquito

namu aa to ookuchi akeba yabu ka kana


by Issa, 1816

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...



Unknown said...

Once again I came here.
It is always safety feeling to visit your Buddha site.



Anonymous said...

float, sea slug--
Buddha's law permeates
this world!

uke namako buppoo rufu no yo naru zoyo

by Issa, 1814

In one of his "paraverses," Robin D. Gill renders this haiku using Christian semantics; he has Issa tell the sea slugs that "the day of judgment/ is nigh!"
As I said to him in an e-mail--from which he quotes in his book--I believe that this Christianizing of the language brings the poem home to the English/Christian reader.

In the eschatological scheme of Pure Land Buddhism, however, there is no "Last Judgment." In Pure Land terms, I think Issa is telling the sea slug: "Keep on being yourself; keep up the good work; keep floating!"; Rise, Ye Sea Slugs (Key Biscayne, Florida: Paraverse Press, 2003) 147.
Robin goes on to note (brilliantly) that "uke (float) is a homophone for uke (receive)," and so Issa hints that the sea slug is
"receiving the Buddhist law" (148).

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

ima made wa bachi mo atarazu hirune kaya

until now
no divine punishment -
napping in the mosquito net

Kobayashi Issa
. . . Tr. Gabi Greve

bachi ga ataru ... to receive punishment, to suffer from your wrong deeds

Anonymous said...

they praise Buddha too--
frogs on a rock
in a row

namu-namu to kawazu mo ishi ni narabi keri


by Issa, 1822

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - Chris Drake said...

why should I care
even if cherry blossoms
are from the Pure Land?

nan no sono saihou yori mo sakura-bana
who cares? even if [they're] cherry blossoms
so what? from the west
it doesn't ["the west" means
matter the Pure Land]

This hokku was written in the 2nd lunar month (March) of 1810, when Issa was in the area east of Edo Bay now known as Chiba Prefecture. It is cherry blossom season, but Issa finds the beauty of the blossoms becomes a hindrance that prevents him from concentrating on the spiritual aspects of Amida Buddha's Pure Land at the westernmost edge of the universe. The first line is stressed and is written in katakana script ( ナンノソノ ), which is similar to putting something into italics or bold letters in English. It sticks out like a piece of strongly felt dialog -- with himself, with the cherry blossoms, with the reader. He seems to be saying something like, Give me a break, will you, cherry blossoms? Even if the cherry blossoms have appeared in this world from the Pure Land, they are still a distraction to Issa, since he feels they are keeping him from more important meditations on the Pure Land itself amid his daily life, and he will not mourn the scattering of their petals.

More of the comment by Chris Drake


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

yo ni sakaru / hana ni mo nebutsu / mōshikeri

Matsuo Basho

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

namu hotoke / kusa no utena mo / suzushi kare

Matsuo Basho

Gabi Greve - Haiku Culture Magazine said...

Elaine Andre wrote

Amida Butsu . . .
and by all the other names
rays of light

Haiku Culture Magazine

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

Namu Amida
in my little patch
even canolas bloom

namu amida ore ga homachi no na mo saita

A hokku sequence, with comments by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Issa said...


hana saku ya zaike no mida mo go-kaichoo

cherries blossom --
even a lay believer's Amida
shown at a temple

a statue of Amida Buddha belonging to lay believer Hikosaka Toubeh of Hiraide village is shown to the public at Kourakuji Temple --

Read the comment by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Honganji 本願寺 Hongan-Ji, Hongwanji
Temple of the Primal Vow of Buddha Amida

There are at least four Hongan temples:
two in Kyoto (Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji) and two in Tokyo (Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji).

and more hokku by Kobayashi Issa

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho and the nebutsu / nembutsu
koke uzumu tsuta no utsutsu no nebutsu kana

yo ni sakaru hana ni mo nebutsu mooshikeri / mōshikeri

and Nehan Rituals

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

amaida ameuri あまいだ飴売り vendors of "Amida candy"

a pun on Amida, nenbutsu ame 念仏飴
amai da 甘いだ "this is sweet"

It was sold by vendors looking like monks.

uta nebutsu ame 唄ねぶつ飴 singing the nenbutsu candy vendor

ameuri in Edo

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Amida Raigo zu  阿弥陀来迎図
at temple Kuroda Mudooji 黒田無動寺 Kuroda Mudo-Ji

and Fudo Myo-O

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

namu daihi daihi daihi no shimizu kana

I bow down to you
and your endless compassion
pure Buddha-water

This hokku is from the summer of 1812 and is in a manuscript Issa showed to the Edo poet Seibi for his evaluation. Issa has stopped at a spring somewhere, and the water is so pure and no doubt cold he feels the water itself is surely a Buddha, one that has shown its compassion to him.

Namu in the first line is often translated as "homage to," although in the True Pure Land school, to which Issa belonged, it usually means something like, "Full of gratitude, I rely completely and joyfully on the compassionate Amida Buddha." In Japanese folk shamanism, anything or anyone can become a Buddha or a god (kami), so it's not clear whether Issa regards the pure spring water to be a separate Buddha or simply a local effluence of Amida. Probably this distinction itself wouldn't have made much sense to him. The repetition of the i-vowel six times in the three daihi, 'great compassion,' and twice in shimizu, 'pure water,' increases the feeling that a spiritual fusion of compassion with the water itself has taken place.

The phrase "great compassion" (daihi) is the Japanese translation of the Sanskrit mahā karuṇā, and it was often placed before the name of a Buddha or a bodhisattva, especially the merciful bodhisattva Kannon. Great compassion and great wisdom were probably the two most important qualities possessed by Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in East Asia, and compassion is also an important quality in Theravada Buddhism. Normally the phrase was recited only once before the name of a Buddha or bodhisattva, but Issa repeats it three times -- a colloquial rhythm -- indicating how much he appreciates the mercy shown by the pure water on this very hot day.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

amagasa mo higasa mo anata makase kana

rain hats, sun hats --
they, too, entrust themselves
to Amida Buddha

This humorous yet philosophical hokku is from the seventh month (August) of 1811, when Issa was traveling around in the area just east of the city of Edo. It is one of several hokku Issa wrote about depending on and entrusting oneself completely to Amida Buddha. The phrase anata-makase was commonly used in the True Pure Land school of Buddhism. In this usage, anata is a pronoun meaning 1) that person, others, people, 2) that esteemed person (the founder Shinran was referred to as anata), 3) the most honored personage of all, Amida Buddha, and 4) since the 18th century anata had become a polite form of 'you' used when speaking to an esteemed person, thus allowing a believer the possibility of having an I-Thou relationship with Amida. The second half of the phrase, -makase, is a gerund-like verbal noun appended to anata/Amida that indicates the condition of being completely dependent on and trusting in Amida. It is not an independent verb. Although -makase can be attached to a number of nouns and pronouns, only in True Pure Land usage does it entail deep, total reliance and trust. In Issa's time a secular offshoot of anata-makase was also used metaphorically to describe someone who had made himself dependent on a powerful person in order to gain an advantage.

In the majority of Issa's hokku about entrusting oneself to Amida, the subjects are animals or people, but in this hokku the various hats are what are usually regarded as non-sentient "objects," yet Issa treats them as if they were sentient beings. It's possible that Issa is a Pan-Amidist who believes Amida's compassion pervades everything in the universe, but this is a hypothesis that would have to be backed by lots of evidence. Even without this assumption, however, I think it's possible to read this hokku as another of the many examples of Issa's persistent personification of objects. The hats may not seem alive to humans, but humans treat them almost like friends whenever they put them on, and the hats, conscious or not, are able to teach humans something important about their relationship with Amida. As Issa says at the end of Year of My Life, it is all too easy to speak about completely trusting Amida, but it is difficult to do it, since we tend to want to use our trust as a lever or ladder to guarantee our entrance to the Pure Land, that is, to use our trust and prayers to Amida as a form of self-help or spiritual technology instead of fully and wholly entrusting ourselves to the compassion of Amida. Hats, on the other hand, never seek to use their wearers as a way of lifting themselves to paradise. They depend completely on their wearers for their existence and simply do their best to protect their heads, and they also have the ability to question the border between animate and inanimate: if readers of this hokku think it is extreme or demeaning to compare humans to hats, then they are still in the "self-power" mode and have not yet truly experienced "other-power" -- sheer, unqualified dependence on and trust in Amida.

In another semi-humorous, semi-serious hokku about an "inanimate" object, Issa makes an even starker point:

will the snowman
get a year older? he relies
utterly on Amida


will the snow Buddha
get a year older? he relies
utterly on Buddha

toru toshi mo anata-makase zo yuki-botoke

continue reading

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

nenbutsu no kuchidome 念仏の口止め no more nenbutsu prayers

on December 16

Since the deity of the New Year (Toshigamisama 年神様) does not like this prayer, it is now forbidden to utter it until January 16.
God of the Year (toshi toku jin)

Gabi Greve said...

Bukkyo University Spring
Special exhibition on gestures of Buddhist prayers,
May 30-June 28, 2015;



Gabi Greve said...

Manifestations of "Raigo," Coming of the Buddha,
an exhibition at the Research Center of Classic Performing Art, Kobe Women's University


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

shaba 娑婆 / しゃば / シャバ this world of Samsara
Shaba and Jodo 娑婆と浄土 the Defiled World and the Pure Land

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayash Issa

nembutsu mo samisen ni hiku matsuri kana

a festival
but the shamisens adore
Amida Buddha, too!

This hokku is from the seventh month (August) of 1821, when Issa was living in his hometown. Festivals are a summer image, but this festival may be related to the big Bon Festival, or Festival of Returning Souls, in the seventh month, at the beginning of lunar autumn. There are several hokku about Bon Festival dancing and other early autumn images in the hokku surrounding this hokku in Issa's diary. The Bon Festival represents a mixture of Buddhism and traditional Japanese shamanism, and Bon dances are danced to music and songs. Some of the songs mention perpetual, total homage to and adoration of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of the western direction and the personification of infinite light who is believed in several schools of Japanese Buddhism to preside over the Pure Land, where all humans may be reborn if they die with a pure mind and complete belief in and reliance on Amida. In such songs Namu Amida-butsu often became Namu Amidō ya or similar rhythmical phrases.

In the festival evoked by Issa one or more songs and probably dances are performed in order to show respect for and complete belief in Amida. The songs and dances are also performed to please the souls of the ancestors who have returned to the village during the time of the festival, since in the Shin school of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism Amida's Name is chanted or sung not as a ritual but to express the joy and faith of the singer, and those at the festival wish to share their joy with their ancestors and with Amida. Implicitly the song is also a prayer that the ancestors will be reborn or have already been reborn in Amida's Pure Land. Drums, gongs, flutes, and shamisens were commonly played at Bon and similar summer and early autumn festivals, and there is probably more than one shamisen player here, since it is a big outdoor festival. A shamisen is a three-stringed instrument resembling a banjo or guitar whose strings are stuck with a plectrum, creating a surprisingly wide range of sounds. Both men and women play shamisen, so the shamisen players in the hokku could be of either gender or both. For Issa the instrument becomes an instrument of worship by means of sound.
* Issa's complete works glosses the instrument only as 'samisen,' but in Issa's time it was also, interchangeably, called 'shamisen.' Since 'shamisen' is the more common pronunciation in contemporary Japanese, I use that pronunciation in the translation.
Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

tengo テンゴ と伝説 Legends about Tengu from Toyama 富山県

下新川郡 Shimoniigawa district大家庄村 Oienosho

Tengosama likes to follow people who walk alone at night. When they turn round and see his long nose, they become afraid and begin to chant the Amida Buddha prayer. Some people even become more strong in their religious belief in Amida after such an experience.

Gabi Greve said...

Kyoto Sokujo-In
御寺泉涌寺塔頭 即成院
Statue of Amida Nyorai and 25 Bosatsu

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

kiraigoo 鬼来迎 ki raigo - Demons coming down to Earth
and oni mai 鬼舞 Demon Dance

Temple 広済寺 Kosai-Ji
千葉県山武郡横芝光町虫生 / Musho, Yokoshibahikari, Sanbu District, Chiba
Ritual on August 16

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

juuni koobutsu 十二光仏 / 十二光佛 Juni Kobutsu
12 Buddhas of Light - Amida Nyorai


Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

boofuri no nebutsu odori ya haka no mizu

mosquito larvae
dance in memoriam...
the tomb's puddle

Literally the larvae perform nenbutsu odori: a Buddhist incantation combining chanting and dance.

David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

suzushisa ya goraku joodo no hairiguchi

summer cool--
the gate to Buddha's
Pure Land

Issa imagines the Western Paradise—symbolic of enlightenment—to be in this world or at least right next door to it. Nature perceived with open heart and mind is the gateway.
David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Miyagi

munewari Amida 胸割り阿弥陀 Amida with a cut breast
Once upon a time
A priest from the temple 充国寺 Jukoku-Ji in Aoba was on his way back from Kyoto along the Kiso Highway. Suddenly a robber attacked him, but a tree at the roadside fell down and killed the robber. The priest could not forget the piercing look of hatred of the man. When he was back at his temple, a baby had been born to a family of his parish and he went there for a blessing. He picked up the baby and when he looked at his face, it had exactly the expression of the robber on the highway. The priest was so afraid, he killed the baby.
Therefore he was to be executed and take to 七北田刑場 the execution ground in Nanakita. When the executioners came to pick him up, all the 小僧 little temple acolytes cried as they sent him off. They went back to the main hall . . . as there was a lound sound of something crashing.
The statue of Amida had a cut right through the breast !
They sent the statue back to Kyoto to have it repaired, but when it was brought back the breast was cut again.
The statue could not be repaired and so it remained cut.

Gabi Greve said...

Susa Jinja 須佐神社 Susa Shrine, Izumo
kiriake shinji 切明神事(きりあけしんじ) special Nenbutsu Ritual