DHARMAVIDYA: SHORT ANSWERS: 1. Natural progression; 2. Acknowledgement by teachers plus existence of disciples; 3. Practicality
1. I trained in Zen with Kennett Roshi. She was definitely a "religious" Buddhist. She was completely out of sympathy with the secularising trend, had originally wanted to be an Episcopalian minister, deeply appreciated the transcendental and mystical aspect of Buddhism and taught Zen in terms of reliance upon the "Cosmic Buddha". She trained in Japan and the whole of Buddhism in Japan is influenced by Other Power. Tathagata in Japan is Nyorai, literally "he who comes to save us". To me, Pureland expresses what i learnt from her better than any other approach. Of course there are also still recognisably Zen elements in my style and these continue in Amida Shu.
2. Kennett Roshi recognised that I had had kensho experience. Gisho Saiko sensei asked me to bring Pureland to the West. Adachi Sensei senior told me to "be another Honen Shonin". i got the message. Furthermore, there were people wanting to practice with me. I did not feel terribly confident to begin with, but I did my best. Gradually, as the practice community has matured I have found my feet and together we have evolved something that seems to me rather wonderful in the form of a sangha community where there is palpably great love, trust, faith, commitment and willingness. The Dalai Lama was once asked when you know somebody is a teacher and he said when there are genuine disciples. I am profoundly grateful to the people who have put their trust in me and I see my role as simply to ensure, as best I can, that they thrive spiritually.
3. Doctrinally it would be difficult to put much space between Amida Shu and Jodo Shu, or even Jodo Shin Shu. The differences between the two major Japanese brands of Pureland seem rather academic if you are not Japanese. Shinran believed himself to be a true disciple of Honen. Nonetheless, new schools emerge. In our case it was largely practical. Very few Western Buddhist denominations are still attached to Japan even if they started off that way. We did not even start like that. We evolved. It is much better for the spiritual health of our community that it be self-regulating, though we remain in good spiritual friendship with our Japanese friends. The name Amida Shu came about through a conversation with the abbot of Anraku Ji temple in Japan, who started to refer to us by this term. We kept it. Organisational independence enables us to evolve more quickly and to incorporate aspects of Western culture as skilful means without changing the core message. It also means we can put the core message into blunt Western language. So, it all works better this way.
Namo Amida Bu.