Commentaries on Genshin's Ojoyoshu

Honen wrote three commentaries on the Ojoyoshu (SHZ. 3-26). One was later divided into two, so today four commentaries appear in the Taisho canon and other collections. As mentioned above, scholarly opinion is presently divided as to the date of their composition. There are two opinions as to when they were written. One maintains the traditional view that they were written before Jodo Shu was "founded" that is to say, before Honen's adoption of the exclusive nembutsu in 1175 (Todo, 81-82; Ohashi, 5-6). The other argues that Honen wrote them in his old age (Tsuboi, 192-197). This introduction follows the first in assigning these commentaries to the early stage of Honen's Pure Land thought.

1) Ojoyoshu Senyo (Commentary on the Essentials of the Ojoyoshu): This short commentary (less than four pages in the Taisho canon) gives an abbreviated explanation of the ten chapters of the Ojoyoshu. Honen selects only certain passages for discussion and interpretation to point out that Genshin's true intent lay not in the contemplative nembutsu but in the recitation of Amida's name. (T.83, 136a-138a; JZ. 9, 379-382; SHZ. 3-10)

2) Ojoyoshu Ryoken (An Explanation of the Ojoyoshu): This work in one fascicle is included in the sixth fascicle of an early version of the Kango Toroku, preserved at Zensho-ji. The Kango Toroku is a collection of Honen's writings, letters, and answers to questions compiled by Doko, a disciple of Ryochu, the Third Patriarch of Jodo Shu. The Zensho-ji manuscript was transcribed by Eku (1644-1721). This commentary, however, does not appear in a slightly later version of the Kango Toroku published in the fifth year of the Shotoku era (1715). This short work interprets the Ojoyoshu from the stand point of Honen's emphasis on the recited nembutsu. (SHZ. 10-14)

3) Ojoyoshu Ryaku Ryoken (An Explanation of the Outline of the Ojoyoshu): Though the title of this one-fascicle work is almost the same as the Ojoyoshu Ryoken included in the Zensho-ji version of the Kango Toroku, it is clearly a different text. The reason for this similarity is probably that Gizan (1647-1717), who edited the 1715 edition of the Kango Toroku, used this same title for the latter portion of the Ojoyoshu Shaku (see below), which he took from an early version of the Kango Toroku and published as an independent text. (T. 83, 134a-136a; JZ. 9, 374-379; SHZ. 14-17)

4) Ojoyoshu Shaku (Commentaries on the Ojoyoshu): One manuscript of this work is in the library of Kanazawa Bunko; another is included in the Zensho-ji Kango Toroku. This is the most detailed of Honen's four commentaries on the Ojoyoshu. This commentary, too, does not adopt the standpoint of the Ojoyoshu but rather interprets it from the standpoint of Honen's emphasis on the recited nembutsu. (SHZ. 17-26)


Todo Kyoshun, "Jodoshu kaishu e no rekitei," in Katsuki Joko, ed., Jodoshu kaisoki no kenkyu (Kyoto: Heirakuji, 1970).

Ohashi Shunyu, Introduction, SHZ.

Tsuboi Shun-ei, Honen jodokyo no kenkyu (Kyoto:Ryubunkan, 1982).