Shin Buddhist scholar Dr. Rev. Alfred Bloom, who taught at the Institute for Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California, and the University of Hawaii, died last Friday. He was 91. Bloom passed away at St. Francis Hospice in Nuuanu, Hawaii, following heart problems, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.
“Al moved on to the next step of his journey the evening of August 25, 2017. Earlier in the day he was surrounded by his family and several close dharma friends; family was present at his passing. Al was comforted by the love of his community, who shared the nembutsu [ritual reciting of the Buddha’s name] together and assurance of the boundless compassion of Amitabha Buddha,” a family statement read, in part. “We are deeply saddened by our loss but are so filled with love and gratitude—for the life he gave us, for his presence in the world to share his thoughts, for the amazingly generous hearts who have shared this time with us in thought and action and prayer.”
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“The passing of Dr. Bloom is huge, though not unexpected, as he had health issues going back decades and in recent years his body and energy had significantly declined. He was one of the most important American Buddhists of the 20th century, and his legacy is both significant and enduring,” said author and Tricycle contributing editor Jeff Wilson. “My own journey into Pure Land Buddhism began with Dr. Bloom’s classic scholarly monograph, Shinran’s Gospel of Pure Grace, which I was assigned in college. Strategies for Modern Living—his commentary on the short Shin masterpiece Tannisho—has been a well of insight that I have returned to many times. His self-study curriculum, later collected and published as The Promise of Boundless Compassion, helped bridge the gap of my undergraduate and graduate studies. And I consult his reference volume The Essential Shinran frequently in my continuing study of the Pure Land way.”
In 1995, Bloom wrote in Tricycle that Shin Buddhism, started by Japanese priest Shinran (1173-1268), has been compared to a watered down version of Buddhism “by those who believe meditation practice constitutes the core teaching of Buddhism.”
“However, comparisons with meditation actually miss the point of Shin Buddhism, which offers instead a discipline of the heart demanding deep self-reflection, constant awareness of one’s gratitude to the Buddha, and compassion for all beings,” Bloom wrote in “The Western Pureland.” We’ve made this article available to all readers to learn more about the history of Pure Land.
A visitation and memorial service were held on Sept. 2.
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