Buddhist invocation (念仏)

The Buddhist invocation is generally to recite 'Namu Amidabutsu' as a devotional exercise in the Jodo-kyo sects of Pure Land teachings.

It can be roughly divided into three in the history of Buddhist doctrine.


In early Buddhism, a tenacious belief in Buddha (憶念) was called Buddhist invocation. 修定 of Buddhism is basically understood as stopping all conscious activity. 隨念 is a way to stop all other conscious activity by concentrating on a specific subject when it is difficult to stop conscious activity. 見仏' which makes Buddha Body (仏身) (色身) a subject of tenacious belief, 'meditation' and '観仏', which are observation in jhana samadhi (禅定三昧), became to be included in Buddhist invocation.


With the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism, it was regarded as an important ascetic training (Buddhism) to admire the virtue of Buddhas and hold a mass. Therefore, Buddhist invocation in samadhi was regarded as that training. The Tendai sect performs Jogyo-zanmai as ascetic training at Jogyo-do (Jogyo-zanmai-do, Hanshu-zanmai-do)of Mt. Hiei-zan.

Kanso Nenbutsu (観想念仏)/Invocation of the Buddha's name

In the practice of Jodo-kyo in China, there are two streams of Buddhist invocation.

Kanso Nenbutsu (観相念仏)' (to ponder the figure of Buddha)

Byakuren-sha of Eon, Zenkan Nenbutsu (禅観念仏) of Jimin, etc.

The Kanmuryoju-kyo Sutra (meditation sutra), in which Kanso Nenbutsu is described, are not seen in the books translated into Sanskrit or Tibetan, and there are theses that it was edited in China or Central Asia, so that Kanso Nenbutsu was a mainstream at the early stage of Jodo-kyo in China. In Japan, Kanso Nenbutsu was mainstream in Nara Buddhism (the Hosso sect) and Heian Buddhism (the Tendai sect).

In Ojoyoshu, written by Genshin (a priest), Kanso Nenbutsu was accorded high value and was therefore popular among aristocrats during the Heian period. Given that influence, the style of architecture and art by which to show the Pure Land and Amida-triad (such as Byodoin Temple in Uji and Chuson-ji Temple in Hiraizumi) developed during the Heian period.

While Jokei recommended Kanso Nenbutsu of Shaka, he criticized Senshu Nenbutsu (専修念仏) of Honen.

Invocation of the Buddha's name (a so-called Buddhist invocation)

Particularly, Zendo insisted that a tenacious belief in Buddha and the invocation of the Buddha's name were the same, and recommended the invocation of the Buddha's name.

It did not need to mediate Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land in particular, so architected spaces (temples and halls) and religious arts (statues and pictures of Buddha) were not necessary either. Therefore, since anyone could recite Buddha's name without regard to time or space, it contributed to the prevalence of Buddhist invocation among people from various walks of life.

The stream of invocation of the Buddha's name was taken over by Ryonin, a founder of the Yuzu Nenbutsu sect, at the end of the Heian period in Japan, and the invocation by the Yuzu Nenbutsu sect recited 'Namu Amidabutsu' and was later called Dai Nenbutsu (大念仏).

In the Jodo sect, which was founded by Honen, Senju-nenbutsu (meaning the single-minded recitation of 'Namu Amidabutsu') has been incorporated and taken over by the Jodo Shinshu sect founded by Shinran, from the same lineage.

Odori Nenbutsu (踊念仏(おどりねんぶつ))

Odori Nenbutsu is to recite Buddhist invocation and songs, dancing while beating a drum or ringing a bell.

It is said to originate from Kuya. In the Kamakura period, when Ippen of the Jishu sect visited Tomono of Shinano Province (Saku City, Nagano Prefecture), he performed Odori Nenbutsu after the example of Kuya. At about the same time, Shunjo IKKO, a priest of the Jodo sect in Kyusyu, performed Odori Nenbutsu independently of Ippen. After these events, priests of the Jishu and Ikko-shu sects (meaning the lineage of Shunjo IKKO as opposed to the Jodo Shinshu sect, later the Jishu Ikko-ha sect) came to perform it in missionary work, whereby it spread throughout the country.

It had a significant influence on Bon Odori dance, Nenbutsu folk dances and the kabuki Odori dance, as begun by IZUMO no Okuni.

[Original Japanese]