In order to survey the contrast between helping the weak and respecting the strong as these notions appear in a selection of religious, philosophical and political writings from premodern and Meiji Japan, it will be useful to begin our discussion with an examination of Pure Land (Jddo) Buddhism, the teachings of which advocate the salvation of the masses and the impoverished classes. In contrast to Christianity, which teaches that the Lord will save believers, Buddhist doctrine in general calls upon devotees to enlighten themselves through ascetic practice. However, Pure Land teaching differs from mainstream Buddhist doctrine in that believers are taught to rely fully upon Amida’s power to grant them rebirth in the Pure Land.1 This precept is based on an anecdote about Amida recounted in The Larger Sutra on AmitAyus (MuryDjukyD). According to this text, while still a disciple seeking enlightenment, the Bodhisattva Amida was given the name Dharmakara. He thereupon made forty-eight vows, promising that he would not accept enlightenment if he could not fulfil these vows. The eighteenth of these forty-eight vows, crucial for Pure Land teaching, says:
When I attain buddhahood, if all sentient beings in the ten directions who aspire in all sincerity and faith to be born in my land think of me even ten times they shall be re-born in the Pure Land. If they are not, then may I not attain supreme enlightenment.