Master Shandao (Zendo)

     Saint Honen, the founder of the Jodo Sect or Pure Land Sect, admired Saint Shandao (Zendo) in this way: 
How could I be free worldly illusions if there was no Saint Shandao? 
     Saint Sandao was born in Lin-tzu(Linzi District, 臨淄) Shantung Province(山東省), China in 613 A.D. towards the end of the Sui(隋) Dynasty.  In those days, China was in the political turmoil of the war years, yet, was highly developing her civilization.  Prince Shotoku of Japan sent his envoys, students and monk students several times to China to learn her cultural values. 
Saint Shandao spent his early days in such an upheaval, yet, progressive society.   
      He became a monk when he was young and studies San-lun Sect(三論宗) from master Ming-Sheng(明勝法師).  He visited many masters seeking for the teachings of the Buddha.  When he was twenty years of age, he received a ritual of being officially accepted into the order of disciples by abiding the Buddhist precepts.  Since then, Saint Shandao abided by the precepts very strictly and he did not see even the face of woman to avoid the disturbance of his mind.  Saint Shandao had an impressive image of the painting of the Pure Land in his mind he saw in his childhood He believed that there would be no world he could gain his peace of mind other than the Pure Land. 
      One day, he learned the teachings of O-Nenbutsu through reading the Sutra of Meditation on Amida Buddha.   He wanted to know more about the teachings of O-Nenbutsu and he visited Saint Tao-cho’o (Doshaku道綽) at Hsuan-chung Temple (玄忠寺)in Shansi (石壁)Province.   Saint Tao-ch’o had lectured on the Sutra of Meditation on Amida Buddha several hundred times when Saint Shandao visited him.  
     Saint Shandao became a disciple of Saint Tao-ch’o (Daochao).  After his intensive study and practice, he was convinced that the recitation of Amida Buddha’s name was the only teaching which the ordinary people could follow among many teachings of O-Nenbutsu.  Saint Tao-Ch’o and Saint Shandao recited O-Nenbutsu, Amida Buddha’s name, over ten thousand times everyday. 
      After Saint Tao-cho’o passed away, Saint Shandao returned to the Wu’chen(悟眞寺 Wuzhen )Temple in Chung-nan Mountain (終南山)south of Ch’ang-nan(長安), the capital of T’ang Dynasty, in Shensi south of Ch’ang-an.  Saint Tao’cho’o and Saint Shantao recited O-Nenbutsu, Amida Buddha’s name, over ten thousand times everyday. 
     For over 30 years while he was at the Wu’chen Temple, he did not remove his clothing except for taking bath, did not sleep in the bed and recited O-Nenbutsu fervently having sweat even in the cold winter.   He also copied the Sutra on Amida Buddha over ten thousand times and painted more than three hundred.  He also copied the Sutra on Amida Buddha, over ten thousand times and painted more than three hundred Pure Land frescoes. 
He wrote and composed hymns to praise Amida Buddha.  He repeated the ritual of singing these hymns six times a day of reciting O-Nenbutsu realizing one’s ignorant and wicked nature, and of reading the Sutra on Amida Buddha. 
In his later years, he moved to the Kuang-ming Temple (光明寺) in Cha’ang-an to teach O-Nenbutsu  which he firmly believed that everyone could be saved by reciting it. 
     He wrote books, made wall-paintings of the Pure Land and composed hymns for the people.  As a result, all classes and ages of people became his followers.   A legend tells that one follower of him did a religious suicide because he wanted to go to the Pure Land as soon as possible as he was taught that he could be received int the Pure Land by reciting O-Nenbutsu even if he was bad and ignorant. 
     Saint Shandao passed away on March 14, 681 at the age of 69.He wrote four volumes of Commentary on the Sutra of Mediation on Amida Buddha.  Saint Honen respected this book as this was the only book for the ordinary people to be saved.   Saint Honen established the Jodo Sect convinced by reading the passage of this Commentary that the only way for the ordinary people who were unable to cut the roots of the wickedness to be saved was the recitation of O-Nenbutsu.   The passage is as follows: 
To recite Amida Buddha’s name exclusively and whole-heartedly without discontinuing wherever you are, whatever you do, and whenever you can, is called the right and conclusive action because this action complies with Amida Buddha’s Supreme Vow of O-Nenbutsu. 

     Saint Honen praised Saint Shandao in many ways: 
I founded the Jodo Sect not by myself but solely depending on the teaching of Saint Shandao. 


Saint Shandao is not an ordinary person.  He is Amida Buddha and reborn into this world to save the people.   

     We, the followers of Saint Honen, respect Saint Shandao, master of Saint Honen, as Koso, Exalted or Eminent Founder although Saint Honen is the founder of the Jodo Sect. 
      We enshrine Saint Shandao’s image on the right hand side (a place to honor ) of Amida Buddha and Saint Honen’s image on the left hand side. 
(In 19080, Hawaii Council of Jodo Missions publish several Dendo Series on Saint Shandao commemorating the 1,300th year grand memorial services honoring him.) 

Teaching of Saint Zendo (Shandao)

To bless others by conveying Tathagata’s boundless compassion, constitutes true repayment of the Buddha’s Grace.   -Shandao- 

 The teaching of Pure Land or Jodo Buddhism originated in India and developed into a practical form of belief in China.   This teaching attracted the popular masses with its offer of a simple way to salvation through reciting of the Name of Amitabha Buddha.   The faith and practice of recitation allowed the individual to be born in the Pure Land, from which state he would be assured of the achievement of Nirvana or enlightenment.   The Pure Land in Buddhist teaching was established by Amitabha Buddha, with His great vows to save all beings, as a result of the infinite merit he acquired through ages of practicing compassion. 

Tan-luan (476-542) popularized the Pure Land teaching by joining it to the theory of the decline of the Buddha-Dharma, and he was followed by Tao-cho’o (562-645) and Shandao (613-681). 

Shandao was a celebrated scholar and an active promoter of Jodo Buddhism in the T’ang Dynasty.  Due to his holy life and compassion toward others he was often been called a transformation of Amitabha Buddha.  His name is immortal in the history of Pure Land doctrine because of his elaborate views presented in them on the nature of Amitabha Buddha and His Pure Land. 
Beside the four volumes of commentary on the said sutra, he composed the following four treatises and hymnals: Ojo-raisan-ge , Hoji-san, Kannen-homon, Hanju-san.  All of his writings were based on the strict self introspection and awareness of the fragility and facility of human nature. 

Most of them were in the form of poems or hymns which directly appealed to the religious sentiments of the people in those days.  He also encouraged the followers to draw a mandala diagram to help them understand the significance of Pure Land.  Always exceedingly pure of nature, he put tremendous effort into creating solemn rituals in their religious practices with beautifully composed poems and music, which easily infused the teachings into the hearts of contemporary people. 
Analyzing the pure land teaching in the method of meditation, attitude, and conditions of practice, he established a comprehensive religious life as follow: 
1.       Three states of mind: 
a.       True mind – genuine and sincere mind 
b.       Deep mind- true mind of deep faith 
c.       Hearty desire to be born in the Pure Land. 

2.       Five Right Practices: 
a.       Chanting the Sutra 
b.       Meditating on the Buddha 
c.       Worshiping the Buddha 
d.       Uttering the Name 
e.       Worship and veneration. 

3.       Four ways of Exercise: 
a.       Reverently 
b.       Wholeheartedly 
c.       Continuously 
d.       Throughout the life-time 
These were all exclusively directed towards Amitabha Buddha and his Pure Land alone.  Among them, the fourth Right Practice, the utterance of His Name, was specifically designated as the Right Assurance or “decisive practice for birth into the Pure Land” in accordance with the original vow of the Buddha. 

He interpreted the words “even with ten thoughts” in the supreme Eighteenth Vow in his own way to mean “even unto ten times utterance.”   He meant the utterance could be innumerable or even ten time or a single utterance whatever it may be.  The number of utterances was, however, not essential, but the quality of it was of great importance. 

Although the Amitayurdhyana Sutra describes the varieties of meditation on the characteristic distinguishing marks and virtues of Amitabha Buddha, as we as the utterance of His name, the latter is the real essence of the Sutra in view of the Supreme Vow. 

Shandao was a rare combination of Saint, mystic artist, poet, orator and even architect.  Through his great effort and untiring demonstration of compassion, Nembutsu became popular among the people with the belief that the utterance of Buddha’s Name was the most excellent and the easiest way for the ordinary man to be born into Pure Land and attain enlightenment. 

He clarified the fact that Amitabha’s Pure Land was the true Land of Reward, and developed a comprehensive interpretation of religious life, with the understand of human nature and universal deliverance.  The Pure Land teaching thus condensed by Shandawith the decisive practice of Nembutsu was handed down by Saint Honen and bore magnificent fruit in Japan five hundred years later. 

He returned to the Pure Land at the age of sixty-eight reciting with his last breath the Name of Amitabha.  Namu Amida Butsu 

The Meeting of Saint Honen and Master Shandao (Zendo)


In the course of our lives, if we should want very much to do something or to see someone, we might find ourselves saying, “…even in a dream.” So much do we desire a certain experience that we should feel joy and gratitude to realize our wish in a brief and transient act of creative imagination as we sleep. 

In fact most of us do have dreams that fulfill our wishes. For people of every race and culture, regardless of age and sex, dreams are an important source of knowledge and comfort. In recent times, the psychologists Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung have revived the ancient art and science of analyzing dreams, and throughout the course of history countless great men and women in every walk of life have used dreams to help them deal successfully with the problems of living. The founder of the Japanese Pure Land Movement, Saint Honen, also found a source of wisdom and inspiration in his dreams. 

In the year 1175 C.E., Saint Honen began to propagate the exclusive practice of Nenbutsu based on the teachings of the Chinese Meditation Master Shandao (Zendo). From the day of his decision to follow the way of Nenbutsu Saint Honen revered Master Shandao as his personal teacher, and though he carefully studied the writings of all the Chinese and Japanese Pure Land teachers, he always considered himself a direct disciple of Master Shandao. The text he most often consulted was Master Shandao’s Commentary on the Scripture about the Contemplation of Amitabha Buddha. He commissioned a painting of the Five Masters, which depicted the lineage of the Pure Land Movement in China. Often he gazed at it longing to see Master Shandao. 

But Master Shandao had died about five hundred years before Saint Honen was born, so it was impossible for Saint Honen to meet him in the reality. It was natural, therefore, he should wish to see his teacher in a dream. One night his cherished wish to meet Master Shandao was realized. He had the following dream: 


Saint Honen stood upon the thickly forested bank of a great river at the foot of a high mountain. He climbed the mountain and looked westward toward the setting sun. The sky was filled with purple clouds. Flocks of birds gave forth an indescribably beautiful song and shone with an unearthly light. To Saint Honen, these were signs that someone was about to be received into the Land of Final ease. Then he saw in the distance the figure of a monk floating towards him across the purple clouds. The upper half of his body appeared to be clothed in the black robe of an ordinary Chinese priest and the lower half had the form and golden color of a Buddha’s body. Bowing his head and placing his palms together in reverence, Saint Honen asked, “Who are you, Venerable sir?” The bhikshu answered solemnly, “I am Shandao, a monk of China, You are spreading the way of exclusive cultivation of Nenbutsu, which is precious beyond price and of incalculable benefit to sentient beings. I am grateful, and therefore I came to see you.” So moved was Saint Honen by this message, and by the sight of his beloved teacher, that he was unable to speak even one word. Before he could reply, he awakened from the dream. 

Owing to the depth of Saint Honen’s religious aspiration, and his debt of wisdom to Master Shandao, his joy must have been even greater than ours would be if we met in a dream with a departed relative or good friend. Thus it was the Saint Honen, knowing full well that the meeting had taken place only in a dream, was nevertheless much strengthened in his resolve to continue on the power of Amitabha’s vows and recitation of “Namu Amida Butsu”. Because Saint Honen believed that Master Shandao approved of his teaching, he spread the knowledge of the Pure Land and Nenbutsu with confidence and vigor wherever he went. 

According to Saint Honen’s biographers, he met Master Shandao in dreams several times thereafter. The dream described herein is known as the Meeting of Saint Honen and Master Shandao. It has been the subject of many paintings during the past eight hundred years. Sometimes the figure of Master Shandao alone is depicted in painting or sculpture. It is called Meditation Master Shandao in the Dream or the Half-Golden Saint. 

The meetings of Master Shandao and Saint Honen are regarded as confirming the succession of spiritual leadership in the Pure Land Movement, and the direct transmission of is to be held. The most important and elaborate of such ceremonies is the Goju Soden or Fivefold Transmission of the Pure Land Teachings. Though infrequent, it is done as often as possible to strengthen the faith and practice of Saint Honen’s followers. 

Hotsugan-Mon / Prayers for the Follower. 

I pray with all my heart that I will be received into the Pure Land of Amida Buddha, without any suffering and disturbance of mind and body, according to His Supreme Vow, and with the guidance of His disciples from the Land in my last moments. I pray that I may return from the Pure Land to this world, with the supernal power of the Buddha, to help and guide all those who are lost and suffering to find their way of peace. Though my wishes are lofty and endless like the Universe. I have determined to realize them. Being embraced by Amida Buddha, I hereby commit myself to this purpose .

From Jodo Mission Dendo Series No. 16 Revised by Pure Land Institute