Jōdo-shū (浄土宗, "The Pure Land School"), also known as Jōdo
Buddhism, is a branch of Pure Land
Buddhism derived from the teachings
of the Japanese ex-
Tendai monk Hōnen. It was established in 1175 and
is the most widely practiced branch of
Buddhism in Japan, along with
1.1 The Founder: Hōnen
1.2 After Hōnen
4 Geographic distribution
7 External links
The Founder: Hōnen
Hōnen was born in 1133, the son of a prominent family in Japan whose
ancestry could be traced back to silk merchants from China.
originally named Seishimaru after the mahāsattva Seishi (Sanskrit
Mahāsthāmaprāpta). After a rival official assassinated his father
Hōnen was initiated into his uncle's monastery at the age of
9. From then on,
Hōnen lived his life as a monk and eventually
studied at the famous monastery of Mount Hiei.
Hōnen was well respected for his knowledge and for his adherence to
the Five Precepts, but in time,
Hōnen became dissatisfied with the
Tendai teachings he learned at Mount Hiei. Influenced by the writings
Hōnen devoted himself solely to
Amitābha as expressed
through the practice of nembutsu.
Hōnen gathered disciples from all walks of life, and
developed a large following, notably women, who had been excluded from
serious Buddhist practice up to this point. This included fishermen,
prostitutes and fortune tellers.
Hōnen also distinguished himself
by not discriminating against women who were menstruating, who were
thought at the time to be unclean. All of this caused concern among
the religious and political elite of
Kyoto and eventually Emperor
Go-Toba issued a decree in 1207 to have
Hōnen exiled to a remote part
of Japan and given a criminal's name. Some of Hōnen's followers were
executed, while others, including Benchō, Ryukan and Shinran, were
exiled to other regions of Japan away from Hōnen.
Hōnen was pardoned and returned to
Kyoto in 1211, but
died soon after in 1212, just two days after writing his famous
Hōnen and his disciples were largely exiled to remote
provinces, and due to differences in background and monastic training,
the teachings began to take on regional differences. Some sub-sects
died out quickly, while others survive through the modern era. The
main branch of Jōdo Shū started under Hōnen's disciple Benchō, who
was exiled to Chinzei on the island of Kyushu. There,
preached Hōnen's doctrine while refuting what he considered
deviations taught by other disciples (particularly Kosai's
controversial "once-calling" teaching).
Another monk named Ryōchū became his disciple for a year, and then
spread Benchō's and Hōnen's teachings throughout Japan before
reaching the capital at Kamakura. Ryōchū helped to legitimize the
"Chinzei branch" of Jōdo Shū as the mainstream one, and is credited
as the 3rd Patriarch accordingly. He also referred to Benchō, his
teacher, as the 2nd Patriarch after Hōnen. Ryōchū also met with
Renjaku-bo, whose own teacher Genchi, had been another disciple of
Hōnen. Renjaku-bo felt that Genchi and
Benchō had been in complete
agreement, so he willingly united his lineage with Ryōchū's, helping
to further increase its standing.
Jōdo Shū through the Chinzei lineage continued to develop until the
8th Patriarch, Shōgei (聖冏, 1341-1420) who formalized the training
of priests (rather than training under
thus formally establishing it as an independent sect.
Jōdo-shū is heavily influenced by the idea of Mappō or the "Age of
Dharma Decline". The concept of Mappō is that over time society
becomes so corrupt that people can no longer effectively put the
teachings of the Buddha into practice anymore. In medieval thought,
signs of Mappō included warfare, natural disasters and corruption of
Jōdo-shū school was founded near the end of the Heian period,
Buddhism in Japan had become deeply involved in political
schemes, and some in Japan saw monks flaunting wealth and power. At
the end of the Heian, warfare broke out between competing samurai
clans, while people suffered from earthquakes and series of
Jōdo-shū teachings, sought to provide people a
simple Buddhist practice in a degenerate age, that anybody could use
toward enlightenment: devotion to
Amitābha as expressed in the
repetition of the nembutsu. Through Amitābha's compassion, a being
may be reborn in the pure land (
Sanskrit Sukhavati) where they can
pursue Enlightenment more readily.
Hōnen did not believe that other Buddhist practices were wrong, but
rather, they were not practical on a wide-scale, especially during the
difficult times of the late Heian.
Repetition of the nembutsu is the most fundamental practice of
Jōdo-shū, which derives from the
Primal Vow of Amitābha. In home
practice, or in temple liturgy, the nembutsu may be recited in any
number of styles including:
Jūnen (十念, "Ten Recitations") - reciting the nembutsu ten times,
with the last drawn out.
Nembutsu Ichie (念仏一会, "Nembutsu Gathering") - reciting the
nembutsu as many times as possible in a sitting, regardless of number.
Nembutsu Sanshōrai (念仏三唱礼, "Three Intonations of Praise") -
a style involving three drawn-out recitations of the nembutsu,
followed by a bow. This is repeated twice more for a total of nine
However, in addition to this, practitioners are encouraged to engage
in "auxiliary" practices, such as observing the Five Precepts,
meditation, the chanting of sutras and other good conduct. There is no
strict rule on this however, as
Jōdo-shū stresses that the
Amitābha is extended to all beings who recite the
nembutsu, so how one observes auxiliary practices is left to the
individual to decide.
Chion-in, the highest temple of Jōdo-shū.
Infinite Life Sutra
Infinite Life Sutra is the central Buddhist scripture for
Jōdo-shū Buddhism, and the foundation of the belief in the Primal
Vow of Amitābha. In addition to this, the Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra and
Amitabha Sutra are important to the
Jōdo-shū school. The
writings of Hōnen, contained mostly in the
Senchaku-hongan-nembutsu-shū (often abbreviated to Senchakushū), are
another source for
Jōdo-shū thought as is his last writing, the
Ichimai-Kishōmon (一枚起請文, "One-Sheet Document"). Most of
what is known about Honen and his thought is attributed through
sayings collected in the following century, the Senchakushū, and
letters to his students and disciples.
Jōdo-shū, like other Buddhist schools, maintains a professional,
monastic priesthood, who help to lead the congregation, and also
maintain the well-known temples such as Chion-in. The head of the
Jōdo-shū school is called the monshu in Japanese, and lives at the
head temple of Chion-in, Kyoto, Japan.
The main 'Chinzei' branch of Jodo Shu was maintained by the so-called
"Second Patriarch" and disciple of Honen, Benchō. However, other
Hōnen branched off into a number of other sects and
interpretations, particularly after they were exiled in 1207:
Shoku founded the
Seizan branch, which structured the Buddhist
teachings into a hierarchy with the nembutsu at the top. Because his
teachings were compatible with the dominant
Tendai sect, Shoku was not
Ryukan, one of Honen's more elderly disciples, emphasized the efficacy
of the nembutsu as practice and encouraged its frequent recitation,
leading to his teachings being called the "many callings school" or
tanen-gi (多念義). He was exiled to eastern Japan where he died en
Kōsai taught the idea that a single recitation of the nembutsu was
all that was necessary. His doctrine of "once-calling" or ichinen-gi
(一念義) provided considerable controversy, and Honen eventually
Kōsai and his teachings. He was later exiled to the island
Chosai, the last of Hōnen's direct disciples, felt that all practices
Buddhism would lead to birth in the Pure Land.
Awanosuke, the fortune-teller, is credited with the double-stranded
Buddhist prayer beads
Buddhist prayer beads used in Jōdo-shū, though he did not establish
a branch of his own.
Another disciple, Shinran, founded Jōdo Shinshū, which diverges
somewhat doctrinally, but otherwise is heavily influenced by Hōnen
and his teachings. In Jōdo Shinshū,
Hōnen is considered the Seventh
Patriarch. Depending on the viewpoint,
Jōdo Shinshū can
be considered another branch of Jōdo-shū.
Jōdo-shū is mainly found in Japan, a sizable Jōdo-shū
community exists in
Hawaii as well as a few temples in the continental
^ "Nyorai-in in Settsu". Retrieved 2008-11-23.
^ "About Honen Shonin". Retrieved 2008-11-23.
^ Traversing the Pure Land Path: A Lifetime of Encounters with Hōnen
Shonin. Jodo Shu Press. 2005. pp. 152–153.
^ a b Hattori, Sho-on (2001). A Raft from the Other Shore : Honen
and the Way of Pure Land Buddhism. Jodo Shu Press. pp. 16–19,
52. ISBN 4-88363-329-2.
^ "Teachings and Practice". Retrieved 2011-10-17.
^ "The 4 Eras of Honen's Disciples". Retrieved 2008-11-23.
^ Traversing the Pure Land Path: A Lifetime of Encounters with Honen
Shonin. Jodo Shu Press. 2005. pp. 89–94.
^ Traversing the Pure Land Path: A Lifetime of Encounters with Honen
Shonin. Jodo Shu Press. 2005. pp. 124–131.
Matsunaga, Daigan, Matsunaga, Alicia (1996), Foundation of Japanese
buddhism, Vol. 2: The Mass Movement (Kamakura and Muromachi Periods),
Los Angeles; Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1996.
Hisao Inagaki, Harold Stewart (transl.): The Three Pure Land Sutras,
Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research 2003.
ISBN 1-886439-18-4 PDF
English Language Site for Jodo Shu - The official website for Jodo
Shu. Also contains information on Pure Land
Buddhism in general.
The Jodo Shu Research Institute - Responsible for providing research
and English-language resources on Jodo Shu, as well as publications.
Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
Iconography in Laos and Thailand
Mahapajapati Gotamī (aunt, adoptive mother)
Places where the Buddha stayed
Buddha in world religions
Three marks of existence
Two truths doctrine
Ten spiritual realms
Hungry Ghost realm
Three planes of existence
Vipassanā (Vipassana movement)
Seven Factors of Enlightenment
Four Right Exertions
Four stages of enlightenment
Upāsaka and Upāsikā
The ten principal disciples
Emperor Wen of Sui
Chinese Buddhist canon
Tibetan Buddhist canon
Early Buddhist schools
Basic points unifying Theravāda and Mahāyāna
Buddhism in India
Buddhism in India
Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution
Buddhism and the Roman world
Buddhism in the West
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
Persecution of Buddhists
Banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal
Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism
Women in Buddhism
The unanswered questions
Japanese Buddhist architecture
Korean Buddhist temples
Thai temple art and architecture
Tibetan Buddhist architecture
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Om mani padme hum
Maya Devi Temple
Temple of the Tooth
East Asian religions