Zen & Pure Land: Not So Different?

I visited the local Jodo Shinshu temple this morning for the annual Obon service, and there were many similarities to what one might find in a Japanese Zen temple, such as chanting sutras, bowing to a Buddha statue, lighting incense, ringing bells, etc.

The main difference is that, rather than practicing zazen or silent meditation, the main practice is reciting the Nembutsu. But many Zen masters have, throughout history, recommended the Nembutsu as a meditation device, at least for lay people.

The Zen teaching is that one recites the Nembutsu, which is the name of Amida Buddha, Namu-Amida-Butsu, to awaken the Buddha within. While Zen is more well-known in the West, the Jodo Shinshu sect of Pure Land Buddhism is the largest Buddhist tradition in Japan.