Honen's 8 Types of Senchaku

The origin of the term senchaku or "selection" comes from the Ta-a-mi-t'o ching (Larger Amida Sutra, the earliest Chinese translation of the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra). In this sutra, Dharmakara Bodhisattva contemplates the various heavenly lands of other Buddhas and "selects" the best aspects of each of them for his own land in which he will reside as Amida Buddha. Honen greatly expanded the use and interpretation of this term in the Senchakushu. In Chapter Sixteen, at the conclusion of his work, he lists eight ways in which the nembutsu was "selected" as the one and only practice perfectly suited for the salvation of people in the "last age of the Final Dharma."

Derived from the Sutra of Immeasurable Life (Wu-liang-shou ching)

Selected by Amida Buddha

Senchaku Hongan - gselection of the nembutsu in Amida's original vowh

Honen, along with a long line of Pure Land teachers before him, understood that Amida Buddha was referring to the uttering of the nembutsu when he said in his original vow, "When I attain Buddhahood, if all sentient beings in the ten directions, who aspire in all sincerity and faith to be born in my land and think of me [by uttering my name] even ten times are not born there, then may I not attain supreme enlightenment." (T. 360, 268a) In Chapter Three, Honen explains this choice in detail on the grounds that the nembutsu has two merits; 1) it is the most powerful means for Birth in the Pure Land, 2) it is readily available even to the weakest person.

Senchaku Sandan -gselection of the nembutsu through the special praise of Shakyamunih

Honen understood that Shakyamuni had chosen the nembutsu saying, "If sentient beings should hear the name of Amida Buddha, and dance for joy, should think of him even once, then they can be sure of attaining the great benefit of acquiring unsurpassable merit." (T. 360, 279a) Honen felt that Shakyamuni did not praise various other practices but praised only the nembutsu for the three classes of people who can attain birth in the Pure Land. He explains this choice in Chapter Five.

Senchaku Rukyo - gselection of the teaching of the nembutsu by Shakyamuni when he designated it to stand aloneh

The incident on which this "selection" is based occurs when Shakyamuni says, "In the future world, when the teaching of the sutras have disappeared, I, pitying [sentient beings] with compassion, will cause this sutra to remain for yet another hundred years as a special exception. Then all the sentient beings who encounter this sutra shall, if in their hearts they so desire, attain salvation." (T. 360, 279a) Honen sees this as referring directly to the nembutsu recommended in the sutra. Thus, Honen thought that even though Shakyamuni expounded various practices, ultimately he selected only the nembutsu and selected it as the teaching which would outlast all others by one hundred years. This selection is explained in Chapter Six.

Derived from the Meditation Sutra (Kuan wu-liang-shou ching)

Selected by Shakyamuni Buddha

Senchaku Sesshu - gselection of the nembutsu through Amida's divine light embracing those who practice ith

Honen understood that many practices other than the nembutsu are expounded in this sutra, but he felt that the nembutsu was chosen by Amida Buddha and that Amida's rays of light embrace the sentient beings who practice the nembutsu and never abandon them. (T. 365, 343b) This idea is explained in Chapter Seven.

Senchaku Kessan - gselection of the nembutsu made when Amida Buddha in his transformation body praised the beings of the highest level of the lowest class who utter his nameh

This selection is based on Honen's interpretation of the passage under the section on the nine levels of people concerning the upper third of the lower class of people which reads, "Amida's transformation body will come before the practitioners with words of praise and say, good men, because you have uttered the Buddha's (my) name, all of your sins have been destroyed. So we have come to welcome you." (T. 365, 345c) In this way, Honen understood that Amida Buddha in his transformation body did not praise the practice of hearing the names of the sutras but rather the practice of the nembutsu, and, therefore, that Amida has "chosen" the nembutsu practice. This selection is explained in Chapter Ten and Twelve.

Senchaku Fuzoku - gselection of the nembutsu made by Shakyamuni when he entrusted it to Ananda for transmission to future generationsh

This selection is based on the passage in which Shakyamuni declares to Ananda, "You must uphold these words! To uphold them is to uphold the name of Amida Buddha." (T. 365, 346b) Following Shan-tao, Honen felt Shakyamuni was referring to the recitation of the nembutsu, felt that although various practices other than the nembutsu are expounded at first, this passage in the final part of the sutra proves the primacy of the nembutsu. This selection is explained in Chapter Twelve and Sixteen.

Derived from the Amida Sutra (A-mi-t'o ching)

Selected by the various buddhas of the six directions

Senchaku Shojo - gselection made by all buddhas of the six directions witnessing the authenticity of the nembutsuh

This selection is based on the passage, "They have all given witness to the fact that if any sentient beings utter the name of Amida Buddha for one to seven days, or even ten times, or at least once, still less even if one should think of Amida Buddha only a single time, then he or she will certainly attain Birth. Because they bear witness to this, it is called the sutra that protects the Nembutsu." (T. 366, 347b-348a) Honen understood this passage to mean that the buddhas of the six directions give witness only to the practice of the nembutsu for gaining birth in the Pure Land and do not give witness to the various practices in other sutras regarding birth in the Pure Land. This selection is explained in Chapter Fourteen.

Derived from the Sutra of the Samadhi Where All the Buddhas are Present (Pan-chou-san-mei ching)

Selected by Amida Buddha

Senchaku Gamyo - gselection of the nameh

Honen called this "selection of the name" since Amida taught that, "Those who wish to be born in my land should constantly [select to] recite my name without interruption." (T. 417, 899a-b; T. 418, 905b). This selection is listed in Chapter Sixteen and is the only selection not referred to in the previous chapters of the Senchakushu.