The doctrinal background of Buddha-name texts largely follows the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism and the flourishing of the concept of merit. The conception of the Buddha also gradually expanded from one of the three Buddhas of past, present, and future, to one of Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods. From this, an increasing number of Buddha names have emerged. According to the ideas in Buddha-name texts, it is possible to achieve exorcism, protection, eradication of bad karma, improvement of one’s meditational abilities, guarantee of one’s rebirth in the Pure Land, and even Buddhahood through the merit of ritual chanting of Buddha names. As a result, beginning in the Wei–Jin (220–589), Buddha-name texts became popular in
In the Jingji section of the Taishō canon, there are 24 Buddha-name texts. Most are limited to enumerating names of Buddhas and listing their merits. Among them, there are 15 texts that explain the merit of Buddha names, and 9 that promote chanting and worship. The combining of Buddha-name texts with repentance ritual may be said to create a new development within the genre of repentance texts. The formation of these Buddha-name texts not only had an important influence on medieval Buddhism, it also played a role in medieval religion, history, politics, society, art, and culture that merits further study.
The current article relies on texts in the Taishō canon for its source materials. It also includes materials from Dunhuang manuscripts, frescoes, histories, and steles, in hopes of further exploring the relationship between Buddha-name texts and repentance rituals, as well as the impact of the former on the latter.
Buddha-name sūtras; Buddhist repentance rituals; merit; Buddha-name worship; Buddha-name repentance texts