Ippyaku-shiju-gokajo mondo

(One Hundred Forty-five Questions and Answers)

In the Ippyaku-shiju-gokajo mondo, the end of the 140th clause (mondo) says "written on December 14 in the first year of Kennin". This would give us the approximate date of 1201 for this clause, although it is not know exactly from when the others are. Ryo-e, a disciple of Honen's disciple Ryochu, first compiled these clauses in his Wagotoroku, of which only copies exist today. The version of the Ippyaku-shiju-gokajo mondo contained in the Muchushofuron by Choen (1290-1371), a disciple of Ryo-e, contains only 140 clauses. This sheds some doubt on whether the original version in the Wagotoroku ever contained 145 clauses. It is appears that 5 clauses were added later on. (JZ. 9, T. 83, SHZ.647-669)

These 145 clauses are responses by Honen to questions from ordinary lay people (women are mentioned in the record) concerning the life-style of a nembutsu practitioner and of a lay person. Many of the questions concern somewhat arcane aspects of life during the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. For example, "Must we perform a veneration (kuyo/puja) when repairing or restoring an old temple building?" This question reflects the common practice of Buddhist lay followers to make merit through erecting temple buildings and stupas. Honen responded that such venerations were certainly not necessary. Other questions reflect on practical aspects of the nembutsu path. For example, "Is there a certain number of nembutsu we should recite every day?" - to which Honen responded, "If you are neglectful, then 10,000 is good." It is to these types of contemporary concerns that Honen's Buddhist teachings had a clear and distinct meaning.


Can we be reborn in the Pure Land if we just pray to Amida Buddha whole-heartedly, even if our hearts are not completely reformed or we are not well trained?

The fluctuation of the mind is a natural thing for ordinary people; So it is impossible not to fluctuate. However, if you chant the nembutsu from the bottom of your heart, your defilements will disappear and you will certainly be able to be reborn in the Pure Land. If you continue to chant the nembutsu, even the heavy defilements which can generate delusions will disappear.


Even if we are not priests, can we still be reborn in the Pure Land?

There are many lay people who are reborn in the Pure Land.


Is it true that when a corrupt person dies, Amida Buddha will go back without taking him to the Pure Land?

Why does Amida not return without taking the person, just because that person is corrupt? For Amida, there is no difference between a righteous person and a corrupt person. The corrupt may be seen as righteous and the righteous be seen as corrupt, depending on one's perspective. The nembutsu is the only important thing. Even if you are clean, you will not have divine favor if you do not recite the nembutsu. Just chant the nembutsu casting aside all the conventional ideas. There is much evidence to prove this.


Is it better to recite the nembutsu abstaining from doing evil and doing only good, or to recite the nembutsu believing only in the true vow of Amida Buddha?

Abstaining from evil while doing good things is the total admonition of Shakyamuni Buddha. But for us, living in the real world, we disobey the admonition, so by believing from the bottom of our hearts in the real vow of Amida Buddha to save all kinds of people, we are able to say "Namu Amida Butsu". Amida Buddha will lead all into the Pure Land without any discrimination between people with or without wisdom, or between those who can or cannot keep the precepts. Please keep this in mind.


A prostitute from Muro awakens from Honen's words and attains Birth in the Pure Land (Muro-no-yujo, Honen-ni yori hosshin-shite ojo-o togeru) from the Honen Shonin gyojoezu, scroll 34, section 24-25.