Gyakushu seppo

(The "Pre-emptive Funeral" Sermons)

The Gyakushu seppo is a transcription of a sermon given by Honen at a Buddhist service held for Nakahara no Morohide, thought to be the father of Honen's disciple Junsai. The gyakushu or "pre-emptive funeral" was a Buddhist service conducted during an individual's lifetime as a reminder of life's transience and to pray for that person's happiness after death (Tanabe, 40-41, 46 & Otani, 3-47). Especially popular during the latter Heian period, a gyakushu might be sponsored for oneself or for another person and was sometimes conducted if there was reason to think that resources or persons might not be available to perform a proper funeral at the time of death.

This particular text is believed to be a disciple's transcription of Honen's sermon for Nakahara no Morohide lasting forty-nine days. Honen preached six times, once every seven days, and his disciple Kansai preached in his stead during the last seven-day period. This service is said to have been performed in 1194, that is between the writing of Honen's commentaries on the Jodosanbukyo and the Senchakushu. There are versions of the Gyakushu seppo written in both Sino-Japanese kanbun and in the phonetic Japanese syllabary kanagaki. The title of the kanbun version is the Gyakushu seppo, while one of the kanagaki versions is called the Honen shonin gossepo no koto.

This work centers on three points: 1) Honen's original interpretation of the two "bodies" or aspects of Amida, his true form (shinjin) and his manifestation (keshin) [Takahashi, 84-94]; 2) the lineage of Pure Land Buddhism (Katsuki, 219-234); and 3) the superiority of nembutsu recitation over all other practices. The latter two teachings are further developed in the Senchakushu. Therefore, this work represents Honen's first attempt at a systematic presentation of his teaching and thus, next to the Senchakushu itself, has been valued in Jodo Shu as his most important work.


Gyakushu seppo T. 83, 138a-154b; JZ. 9, 383-417; SHZ. 164-310

Katsuki Joko. "Honen shonin ni okeru sojosetsu no mondai," Honen jodokyo no shiso to rekishi (Sankibo: Tokyo, 1974).

Otani Kyokuyu, "Gyakushu hoe no seiritsushi teki kenkyu" Todo Festschrift.

Takahashi Koji. Honen jodokyo no shomondai (Tokyo: Sankibo, 1981).

Tanabe, Willa Paintings of the Lotus Sutra ( New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1988).