- Spring Equinox and the Pure Land
- February 23, 2016 - March 21, 2016
The vernal equinox is a time when the Japanese traditionally honor their ancestors. Such equinoctial folk beliefs predate the introduction of Buddhism to Japan; however, as Buddhism took root and developed in Japan, it appropriated ancestral worship into its own system of beliefs. For example, because the sun sets directly in the west during the spring equinox, it was originally associated with sun worship. After Buddhism took hold, this translated into worship of the Pure Land Paradise in the West.
The Meditation Sutra, one of the three main scriptures of Pure Land Buddhism, describes how one may be born in this Western Paradise by envisioning the Pure Land, first in its various parts and then as a comprehensive whole. One of these practices is to imagine the Buddha Amitabha (Amida) against the setting sun, bathed in radiant light.
The way in which Japanese honor their ancestors on the spring equinox is thus a combination of Pure Land Buddhist beliefs together with sun worship and ancestral worship. As you view these works, perhaps you too can imagine the exquisite beauty of the Pure Land shimmering in the light of the setting sun.