Years of Teaching

Honen’s teaching career closed with his death at the ripe age of eighty. Many were the people who were influenced by his teaching and personality: from the days with his monastic brothers in the Kurodani hermitage on Mt. Hiei beginning in 1150; through the period of his active teaching of the Pure Land Way at Nishiyama, Yoshimizu and Komatsudono in the environs of Kyoto after 1175; to his exile in Shikoku in 1207; and finally his death at Otani back in Kyoto in 1212. From emperors to warriors to high level monks to thieves and prostitutes, Honen encountered and encouraged people to search for spiritual liberation through Birth (ojo
) in the Pure Land "just as you are".

I am just a common man, hailing from an out-of-the-way place not worth mentioning. Though I be greatly deluded and foolish, I must not doubt the way of ojo, because anyone who does so has yet failed to understand Amida Buddha's Original Vow (hongan), seeing that it was made for no other purpose than the saving of those mired in bad karma. So then, as you call upon his sacred name, do not entertain the slightest doubt of its efficacy. In the words of Amida’s Vow, “all sentient beings of the ten quarters,” are included - all sorts of people, learned and ignorant, defiled and immaculate, good and bad, law-keepers and law-breakers, men and women alike. The only possible obstacle to the attainment of ojo is the lack of desire for the Pure Land and neglecting to call upon Amida’s sacred name. So apply all your energies to the continuous practice of the nembutsu.

And so Honen proclaimed his universal message in this way:

Those who fail to understand the meaning of this truth will doubt their own powers and not obtain ojo. Those who think that it is only the nembutsu of the pious and learned which can lead to ojo, that there is no ojo for the ignorant and unlettered or for those who go on creating bad karma every day, even if they say the nembutsu, have not yet grasped the fact that the Original Vow (hongan) includes both the good and the bad. It is impossible in this life to change one's nature which has been inherited through the karma of a pre-existent state. So those who call upon the sacred name should do it with the nature they now have: the wise person as a wise person, the fool as a fool, the pious as pious, the agnostic as agnostic, and thus all equally may attain ojo. Whether a person is rich and noble or poor and mean, whether one is kind or unkind, greedy or generous, indeed no matter what one is, if one only repeats the nembutsu in reliance upon the mysterious power of the Original Vow, one's ojo is certain. Amida's Original Vow was made to take in all conceivable cases of people if they would but practice the nembutsu. Without inquiring at all into the level of their abilities but merely by saying the nembutsu in simple earnestness - this is all that is needed for anybody.

High Level Monks
        Tendai Zasu Kenshin
        Sanron and Shingon scholar Myohen
Aristocrats & Royalty: Kujo Kanezane
Outcastes - The Poor and Criminal


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