Nembutsu ［念仏］ (): (1) To meditate on a Buddha. Later interpreted as invoking or reciting a Buddha’s name, especially that of the Buddha Amida. Contemplation on Shakyamuni Buddha was an important practice in early Buddhism. Later Mahayana sutras came to describe various Buddhas, and people’s desire to see them led to the development of meditation aimed at envisioning these Buddhas. The idea also developed that meditation on a specific Buddha would enable one to be reborn in that Buddha’s land. Eventually the Buddha Amida came to be the most popular object of such meditation. The Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra states that even an evil person can attain rebirth in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land by reciting the Buddha’s name on his or her deathbed. Thus, Nembutsu primarily concerns Amida Buddha. The practice of the Nembutsu is believed by its practitioners to lead to rebirth in Amida Buddha’s land, or the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss. While it initially meant meditation on Amida, it later came to mean the recitation of Amida’s name. In China, from the time of Shan-tao in the seventh century, the latter usage became more prevalent, for he equated meditation on Amida with the recitation of his name. In Japan, Hōnen (1133–1212) followed the example of Shan-tao and went further to establish the practice of reciting the name of Amida Buddha as the only means for attaining rebirth in the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss.
(2) The Nembutsu school, another name of the Pure Land school in general. A Pure Land believer is also called a Nembutsu believer. See also Nembutsu school; Pure Land school.