Our Jodo Shu

Honen, the founder of the Jodo Shu denomination, was born in 1133 in Japan.  His childhood name was Seishimaru.  The turbulent era in which he lived was full of social and political turmoil and chaos.   According to Honen's life story, his father Tokikuni Uruma, a military chief, was killed in a night raid by his enemy Sada Akira.  As a young child, Seishimaru wanted to avenge his father's death.  However, his father's dying request was that he does not take revenge and instead enter monastic life.   Thus, young Honen went to the local monastery to become a priest.  Shortly thereafter, seeing that he was an exceptional student, his teacher sent him to Mt. Hiei, the center of Buddhist studies at the time.  There, he studied under several teachers.  But his studies did not bring him peace of mind. 
Honen was an extremely learned man.  There are legends that say that he read seven thousand volumes of sutra through five times!  Once Honen came across Ojoyoshu (Teachings Essential for Birth into the Pure Land) by Genshin (942-1017), which led him to the writings of the great Chinese Pure Land Master,  Zendo (Shan-tao/Shandao, 613-682).  In Zendo's Commentary on the Meditation Sutra, Kangyosho, Honen came across the line: "Whether walking or standing, sitting or lying, only repeat the name of Amida with all your heart.  Never cease the practice of it even for a moment.  This is the very work which unfailingly issues in salvation, for it is in accordance with the Original Vow of Amida Buddha."   With this, Honen became convinced that Nenbutsu was the only way to salvation in the latter age of decline (Mappo).
Honen taught that all sentient beings could be saved by the great compassion of Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Life and Light.   In is chaotic age, people believed that they were not able to reach enlightenment with their own power (jiriki), but needed to rely on Amida's saving power (Tariki).  The only way to achieve enlightenment was by wholeheartedly calling Amida's Name.
In 1175, at the age of forty-two, Honen left Mr. Hiei to live in a hermitage at Yoshimizu in eastern Kyoto to spread the way of Nenbutsu to people from all walks of life, to men and women, to young and old.  In his most important written work, Senchaku Hongwan Nenbutsushu (A Collection of Passages on the Nenbutsu chosen in the Original Vows), he explains why the Nenbutsu was best suited to save all beings, and cites passages from various sutras and commentaries to show that to say "Namu Amida Butsu" is the only way to ensure one's delivery to Amida Buddha's Pure Land.

Denomination: Jodo Shu ( Pure Land Buddhism) 
Founder: Honen Shonin ( 1133-1212)
Established: 1175 (5th Year of Joan Period)
Center of Belief: Amida Buddha, the Infinite Life and Light.  The Buddha of Boundless Compassion and Wisdom.
Mantra (Shomyo): Reciting the Holy Name of Amida Buddha, Namu Amida Butsu 
The Heart of the Teachings: Simply believe in Amida Buddha's Original Vow of salvation for all beings (Hongan) and recite Amida Buddha's
Holy Name wholeheartedly so that salvation can be attained in this world and world to come.
Daily Practice: Asking for His guidance, protection, and inspiration, recite Amida Buddha's Holy Name.   Waking up in he morning and 
before you go to sleep, recite the Nenbutsu, Namu Amida Butsu, ten times with 
Basic Scriptures: The Three Pure Land Sutras and the Ojo-ron Commentary.
Daily Devotion Book: Otsutome

There is no place where the moonlight 
Casts not its uplifting ray;
With him who has the seeing eye
Alone that light will stay.
- Honen Shonin (1133-1212)- 

Life of Honen Shonin

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A Chronology of Honen Shonin (1133 - 1212)

A.D. | Honen's Age | Events
1133 | 1 | 4th Month - Born in Mimasaka province (now Okayama Prefecture;) named Seishi-maru.
1134 | 2 | Floods, famine and tuberculosis strike the country.
1141 | 9 | Spring - Honen's father, Uruma no Tokikuni, killed by Sada-akira.   Seishi-maru sent to Bodai-ji, his uncle's temple.
1145 | 13 | Spring - Ascends Mt. Hiei and begins study with Genko.
1146 | 14 | The great fire of Kyoto.
1147 | 15 | Begins study with Koen and is ordained.
1148 | 16 | Spring - Begins study Tendai doctrine.
1150 | 18 | 9th month - Begins study with Eiku and given the dharma name, Honen-bo Genku.
1156 | 24 | Visits the Shakado hall on the way to Nara to study and find the way of salvation. Hogen political insurrection.
1159 | 27 | Heiji political insurrection.
1167 | 35 | Taira no Kiyomori becomes chancellor (dajodaijin).
1171 | 39 | Kansai becomes Honen's disciple.
1175 | 43 | Spring - Honen founds his independent Pure Land denomination, Jodo Shu, at Kurodani. Leaves Kurodani for Hirodani. Meets Yurenbo Ensho.
1177 | 45 | Yurenbo dies. Honen leaves Hirodani for Higashiyama Otani (later known as Chionin)
1181 | 49 | Nationwide famine strikes.
1183 | 51 | 7th month - Minamoto no Yoshinaka invades Kyoto.   The only day Honen does not study.
1186 | 54 | Autumn - Ohara Debate (or in 1189)
1190 | 58 | Honen lectures on the Three Pure Land Sutras (Jodo-san-bu-kyo) at Todai-ji temple in Nara.
1192 | 60 | Kumagai Naozane becomes Honen's disciple.
1195 | 63 | Genchi becomes Honen's disciple.
1197 | 65 | Shoko becomes Honen's disciple.
1198 | 66 | Honen writes the Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu-shu (Passage on the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow). Kosai becomes Honen's disciple. Honen attains absorption in the nembutsu (nembutsu-samadhi).
1199 | 67 | Shoko is given a copy of the Senchaku-shu.
1200 | 68 | 1st month -Dogen, founder of Zen sect Soto-shu, is born.2nd month - Honen attends Kansai's deathbed.
1201 | 69 | Shinran becomes Honen's disciple.
1202 | 70 | Kanezane ordained by Honen. Chosai becomes Honen's disciple.
1204 | 72 | 3rd month -Ryukan is given a copy of the Senchaku-shu.8th month -Shoko leaves for Kyushu.10th month - The armed monks of Mt. Hiei appeal to Zasu Shinsho to stop the nembutsu.11th month -Honen warns the nembutsu followers to conduct themselves properly by issuing the Seven Article Pledge(Shichikajo Kishomon).
1205 | 73 | Monks from Kofuku-ji temple appeal to the Imperial Court to stop the nembutsu. Shinran is given a copy of the Senchaku-shu.
1206 | 74 | Anraku and Juren executed.7th month - Honen leaves Otani for Komatsu-dono.
1207 | 75 | 2nd month - Order for Honen's exile to Tosa issued.Honen leaves Kyoto and, via Muro-no-tsu harbor, arrives on Shikoku island.4th month - Kanezane dies.12th month- Imperial Order of Honen's pardon issued.
1208 | 76 | Honen stays at the Kachiodera temple in Osaka.
1211 | 79 | 8th month- Permitted to return to Kyoto.11th month - Honen begins to live at Higashiyama Otani.
1212 | 80 | 23rd of 1st month -Honen writes the One Sheet Document (Ichimai Kishomon) and gives it to Genchi. 25th of 1st month- Dies at the age of eighty. Koben (Myo-e) writes the Zaijarin to criticize the Senchaku-shu.
1220 |   | Ji-en writes the Gukansho, an account of the Kamakura Era.
1227 |   | The monk of Mt. Hiei try to exhume Honen's body at Higashiyama cemetery. Shinku and other disciples of Honen move Hone's body to Nison-in temple.   Ryukan, Kua and Kosai exiled.1st month -Honen's body cremated at Awano.

Otsutome Book

The Hawaii Council of Jodo Missions originally published the Otsutome Book in 1978 to commemorate the 800th Anniversary of the founding of Jodo Shu.  With English translations of the sutras by Rev. Dwight Ryokan Nakamura, the Otsutome book played a significant role in the services of all the Hawaii Jodo Shu temples and was loved by both Japanese and English-speaking members for thirty six years.  However, since time has changed the situation and needs of the temples in haaii, both members and ministers felt it was time to update the Otsutome book.
Now PDF version is available to download for free!