Hoonen Shoonin


Saint Hoonen, Hoonen Shoonin, Honen
法然上人 Saint Honen (1133 - 1212)

Founder of Pure Land Buddhism

For kigo about his memorial day see below.

I live very close to the temple where Honen was born,
Tanjo-Ji in Okayama prefecture.

. Temple Tanjo-Ji in Okayama
MORE Information 誕生寺 Tanjooji


The Life of Honen Shonin

Honen Bo Genku (1133-1212), or simply Honen, is one of the most outstanding figures in the long history of Japanese Buddhism. Along with Dogen, Nichiren and Shinran, his disciple, he represents the core of the revolutionary Kamakura Buddhist movement which created the first popular and uniquely Japanese forms of Buddhism. Though not as noted in the West than these counterparts, Honen is perhaps the most pivotal of the four since he was the first to break with the established centers of Tendai (Ch. T'ien T'ai) and Shingon (tantric) patronized by the royal court and military authorities.

It was at age 43, with a deepening exposure to the Pure Land teachings of the great Chinese Master Shan-tao (Jp. Zendo), that Honen made this radical break to pursue his own spiritual vision. The rest of his life is an unfolding of his own particular and uniquely Japanese vision of Pure Land Buddhism. This second period of his life also marks the blooming of his teachings amongst the peasant classes of medieval Japan and his clashes with imperial and shogunal authority.

From his systematization of a unique Japanese Pure Land tradition, the nembutsu (念仏nenbutsu), or calling on the grace of Amida Buddha, has become the most popular form of Buddhist practice and devotion in Japan. Two of Japan's largest denominations, Jodo-shu (浄土宗 joodoshu) centered around Honen and Jodoshin-shu centered around his disciple Shinran, are further marks of his legacy.

I. A Personal Portrait
Major Biographies of Honen
II. Early Life and Training in Tendai-shu
Social and Religious Turmoil in Late Heian Japan
Syncretic Development of the Tendai School in Japan
Tendai-shu Esoteric and Exoteric Lineages
The Influence of Genshin's Ojoyoshu on Honen
III. Religious Conversion
Textual Evidence in the Biographies
IV. Persecution and Final Days
Kofuku-ji Petition (Kofuku-ji sojo)

1133 Born on April 7 in Mimasaka in present day Okayama Prefecture
1145 Leaves home to become a monk at the Tendai center of Mt. Hiei
1150 Moves to the Kurodani Retreat area of Mt. Hiei and studies under Eiku
1175 Has conversion experience reading Shan-tao's Commentary on the Meditation Sutra and leaves Mt. Hiei.

1186 "Ohara Debate" with group of Buddhist scholar-monks from Nara and Mt. Hiei marks seminal moment in legitimation and spread of teachings
1191 Gives series of lectures on the Three Pure Land Sutras (jodosanbukyo) to a large group of scholar monks at Todai-ji in Nara
1195 Genchi becomes the first of his major disciples

1198 Honen's magnum opus, the Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shu (Passages on the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow), is dictated and transcribed to his disciples Junsai, Kansai and Shoku.

1198-1206 Experiences sustained states of absorption and spontaneous visualization of the Pure Land which he chronicles in the Sanmai-hottokuki (Record of Attaining Samadhi)
1201 Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shinshu, becomes his disciple

1204 Writes the Shichikajo-kishomon (Seven Article Pledge) in response to the Genkyu Oppression by the monks of Mt. Hiei
1207 Sent into exile to Shikoku by Emperor Gotoba after two of his ladies in waiting are converted and become nuns under Honen's disciples Anraku and Juren who are subsequently beheaded.

1211 Finally is allowed to return to Kyoto four years after his pardon
1212 Writes Ichimai Kishomon (The One Sheet Document) and passes away on January 23 reciting the nembutsu

.. .. .. .. ..

More details about Saint Honen .

The Memorial Statue of the Mother of Saint Honen in Mimasaka.

© Gabi Greve

Tanjoo-ji 誕生時

The Ceremony of the 25 Bosatsu 二十五菩薩練供養
Third Sunday in April


This temple is also famous for its huge Gingko biloba tree (another kigo).


Memorial Ceremony for Honen, April 18 to April 25

This is a kigo for late spring, category Observance. There are some variations for this kigo.

Gyoki 御忌
Hoonen-ki (Honenki) 法然忌
Enkoo-Ki 円光忌

taking part in the ceremony, gyoki moode 御忌詣で
Temple with a memorial ceremony, gyoki no tera 御忌の寺

loosening the strings of the sutras, kyoo no himotoki 経の紐解き
..... (on the first day of the seven day ceremonies)

special kimono for the gyoki ceremony, gyoki kosode 御忌小袖
..... (worn by the chique ladies of Kyoto for this ceremony)

Ceremony for Hoonen, gyoki-e 御忌会
..... (sometimes on the 25 of January)

First Lunchbox, bentoo hajime 弁当初め > Lunchbox (kigo)
..... (visitors bring their own lunchbox and enjoy it in the temple grounds)

The Gyoki Ceremony at Temple Chion-In, Kyoto

Chio-in is just north of the Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park.It is the head temple of the Jodo ("Pure Land") sect of Buddhism. It is one of the most important spritual places in Japan. The Jodo sect is the most popular Buddhist sect in Japan.
The 74-tons temple bell is also the largest in Japan. It takes as many as 17 monks to operate it at the New Year ceremony in which the bell is struck 108 times representing the 108 desires in the mind to be gotten rid of before the new year begins

Picture Scroll of his Life at the Chion-In


The Gyoki Ceremony at Kita Kogane, with many pictures

Great photo of the pagoda by Frantisek Staud

Chion-In with many pictures of the compounds.



分かれても まだ会える 浄土あり

Jodo Paradise -
the place where we meet again
after we part

Gabi Greve, April 2007


. Temple Tanjo-Ji in Okayama
MORE Information 誕生寺 Tanjooji

. Tanjo-Ji in Autumn 2007   
The Huge Gingko Tree

autumn deepens -
the beauty of prayer
in stone

Tanjo-Ji Neirkuyo 誕生時 練り供養  

. The Big Buddha of Tanjo-Ji 2009

. O-Shichi Kannon お七観音  

. More of my PHOTOS from Temple Tanjo-Ji
Take the Slide Show !


"Honen and Shinran:
Treasures Related to the Great Masters of the Kamakura Buddhism"


This year sees the 800th grand memorial of Honen and the 750th of Shinran, two of the most important figures in Kamakura Buddhism.
source : Japan Times, October 2011


Traversing the Pure Land Path:
A Lifetime of Encounters with Honen Shonin

Edited by Jonathan Watts and Yoshiharu Tomatsu

In establishing his own Pure Land Buddhist community in 1175, Honen (1133-1212) initiated the great Japanese Kamakura Buddhist reformation in which the great teachers Shinran, Dogen and Nichiren subsequently followed. Drawn from The Forty-Eight Fascicle Biography of Honen Shonin written around 1313, this volume chronicles the lives of the many different kinds of people whom Honen taught to find release from suffering and Birth (ojo) in the Pure Land “just as you are”. Significant new editions of Honen’s own words clarify the various interpretations that his followers took of his teachings. Also, numerous, short information boxes offer background into the history and teachings of Pure Land Buddhism.
- source : jsri.jp/English/Raft -





Gabi Greve said...


Namu Amida Bustu
the Amida Prayer and Haiku  


Gabi Greve said...

O-Shichi Kannon お七観音

at Temple Tanjo-Ji


Gabi Greve said...

九品仏 浄真寺 Temple Kuhonbutsu (Kuhombutsu) Joshin-Ji
東京都世田谷区奥沢7-41-3 / Setagaya, 7-41-3 Okusawa
Every three years the temple features a special festival,
o-men kaburi お面かぶり "wearing a mask".

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Shizuoka 静岡県御前崎市 Omaezaki city
jashin 蛇身 the body of a snake
Near 見付 Mitsuke there is a pond called Sakuragaike 桜が池 "The Cherry Blossom Pond".
皇円 Saint Koen (1074 - 1169), the mentor of 法然 Saint Honen, meditated here waiting for 弥勒 Miroku Bosatsu to come back the earth, trying to become a serpent that would never die. When he was about to die, he jumped into the pond and became a serpent.