In the framework of the general Buddhist concept of “karmic retribution (inga) of good and evil deeds, the Pure Land Buddhist tradition developed a unique way to treat the problem of evil persons. Based on Indian and Chinese sources, Japanese Pure Land tradition attempted to include also evil persons in the possibility to attain religious liberation. This is probably one of the most distinct features of Pure Land Buddhism in comparison with other Buddhist schools. During the Heian period this issue was called “birth of an evil person” (akunin ojo) into the Pure Land. During the end of this period, Honen began to argue that evil persons even have the proper disposition for birth into Pure Land because they can rely on Amida Buddha’s power. This kind of Pure Land discourse, however, did not permit moral libertinism, as it was the case of the “inherent awakening” (hongaku homon) discourse in Tendai Buddhism which developed during the end of the Heian period in order to justify “evil monks” (akuso). Honen’s Pure Land discourse maintained the tension between evil persons to be saved and the necessity for religious practice and for following the Buddhist precepts.
This publication by Muto Kazuo is a significant Christian contribution to the predominantly Buddhist “Kyoto School of Philosophy.” Muto proposes a philosophy of religion in order to overcome the claim for Christian exclusivity, as proposed by Karl Barth and others. On such a foundation, he investigates the possibilities for mutual understanding between Buddhism and Christianity. Thereby he engages in a critical exchange with the Kyoto School philosophers Nishida, Tanabe, and Nishitani. Throughout his discourse, Muto applies their method of logical argument (the “dialectic” of
soku) to the dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism. He thus opens up new perceptions of Christian faith in the Asian context and, together with his Buddhist teachers, challenges the modern Western dialectical method of reasoning.