Kūya

Kūya (空也)(903-972) was an itinerant Japanese priest who, along with Genshin and Jakushin, was an early promoter of the practice of the nembutsu amongst the common people in order to attain salvation and entry into the Pure land of Amida. The movement gained in strength during the Heian period as a reaction against the worldly and military character of the established temples during the age of Mappō.

Said to have been of aristocratic or imperial descent, Kūya was a Tendai monk but departed from Mount Hiei and proselytized the nembutsu in Kyoto and the provinces, gaining the name ichi hijiri (holy man of the marketplace) and Amida hijiri. Kūya took images with him on his travels and added musical rhythm and dance to his prayers, known as odori nembutsu.[12] Like Gyōki, he is said to have performed works for the public benefit such as building roads and bridges, digging wells, and burying abandoned corpses.[13][14][15]

Biographies of Kūya were written by his friends and followers Jakushin and Minamoto-no-Tamenori, and Number 18 of the Ryōjin Hishō derives from 'Kūya's Praise'.[13][16] The late tenth-century collection of biographies of those who had attained rebirth in the Pure Land, the Nihon ōjō gokuraki ki, attributes to Kūya the devotion of all Japan to the nembutsu.[15] He is also known as founder of Rokuharamitsu-ji.[17]