The Todaiji Lectures

According to the Amidakyoshaku, Honen was asked in 1190 to give a lecture at Todaiji in Nara by Shunjobo Chogen, a Shingon monk who had been responsible for the reconstruction of Todaiji after it was burned in 1180. Todaiji's own records, however, do not record this fact. Therefore, we need to examine Honen's various biographies to further ascertain this event.

According to the 48 fascicle Honen Shonin Gyojoezu, Honen was asked by Shunjobo Chogen in 1191 to give a series of lectures about the Jodosanbukyo at Todaiji during the reconstruction of the temple. During his lecture, Chogen exhibited paintings of the Kangyo Mandala and the Five Chinese Pure Land patriarchs (jodogoso) which he had brought back from China. This biography, however, offers a different date than the Amidakyoshaku.

According to the 4 fascicle Honcho Soshi Denki Ekotoba, Chogen upon his return from China presented Honen with an image of Shan-tao and a painting of the Kangyo Mandala. In this biography, however, there is no mention of Honen giving lectures at Todaiji.

According to the Honen Shonin-e, of which only 4 fascicles remain, Chogen brought back from China a picture of Shan-tao and one depicting the Pure Land heaven. This biography mentions how Honen conducted a veneration (Jp. kuyo, Skt. puja) for the picture of Shan-tao and for the Jodosanbukyo, but did not give any lectures on these texts. Additionally, there is no date given for the conducting of this veneration.

The 9 fascicle Honen Shonin den ekotoba concurs with the Honen Shonin Gyojoezu in saying that Chogen brought back pictures from China of the Kangyo Mandala and of the Five Chinese Pure Land patriarchs. However, the text refers to this event as "it was said" to have taken place. Additionally, this biography does not speak of Honen giving any lectures at Todaiji.

In the 9 fascicle Shui Kotoku den ekotoba, written by Shinran's disciple Kakunyo approximately 90 years after Honen's death, there is no mention of any picture of the Pure Land, but there is mention of the picture of the Five Chinese Pure Land patriarchs. Additionally, there is no mention of Honen giving lectures.

The 9 fascicle Honen Shonin Denki, concurs with the Honen Shonin Gyojoezu on the date of Honen's lectures at Todaiji as 1191. It says, however, that Honen did not lecture on the Jodosanbukyo but rather on the Kangyo Mandala and the establishment of the exclusive nembutsu for gaining birth in the Pure Land.

In looking at these various records, Kishi Kazuhide concludes there is a great inconsistency concerning the pictures and images of Shan-tao, the pictures of the Kangyo Mandala and the Five Chinese Pure Land patriarchs, and the lectures themselves. Furthermore, references about lectures on the Jodosanbukyo only appear in the more recent biographies, and only two biographies mention any date of the lectures. Based on these conflicting accounts, Kazuhide seriously doubts whether the lectures actually took place at all (Kishi, 103-139).

for more on Honen's biographies


Kishi Kazuhide, "Gyakushuseppo to Sanbukyoshaku," in Jodoshu tenseki kenkyu (Kyoto: Dobosha, 1988).


At the partially rebuilt Buddha Hall, Honen lectures on the Jodosanbukyo (Honen, konakaba no daibutsuden-de, Jodosanbukyo-o ko-zuru) from the Honen Shonin gyojoezu, Scroll 30, section 18.