Amida Trust came into being in 1996. In 1998, a small group met at a house in France for a retreat devoted to the examination of Buddhist teaching as a basis for social action. This turned out to be a particularly formative and intense meeting and it culminated in an unanticipated ceremony in which some individuals took bodhisattva vows. This event was later to be regarded retrospectively as the foundation point of the Amida Order. The Order was formerly recognised by the trustees of Amida Trust in 2001.
Thus, in effect, a small new religious movement came into being. It has continued to evolve. The vows taken in 1998 subsequently underwent a process of revision and from this ultimately came a constitution called “Provisions for the Structure, Continuity and Governance of the Amida-shu”. The title is generally shortened as “Provisions”. A distinctive feature of the document is its inclusion of procedures for its own revision through processes of consultation. This means that the Amida-shu can continue to evolve through the initiative of its own members. This makes it a distinctive form of organisation in the world of Western Buddhism.
Amida-shu is inspired by Pure Land teachings and principles, but it is administratively independent. The Order formed under the umbrella of the Amida Trust. However, as Amida-shu and the order grew beyond the UK, they outgrew their parent body. The Order and Shu remain a purely religious fraternity and do not have a bank account. Organisations do, however, get set up as necessary to achieve particular purposes. Thus there is now an Amida (USA) based in Hawaii, an Amida Mosaic in Ontario in Canada, and the Instituto Terapia Zen Internacional, seated in Spain but operating internationally. In some parts of Europe, Pure Land is so unfamiliar that it makes more sense to present it as Zen-plus: in other words, Zen plus nembutsu (nien-fo) chanting.