Recent Japanese Scholarship on Honen:
The Historical and Bibliographical Dimensions

Toshihide Adachi
Bukkyo University

The Historical Dimensions
I would like to begin with an introduction of some findings in the field of historical science. In this area, the most impressive and important achievement is the "Theory of the Exoteric-esoteric Buddhist System". This theory was advocated by Prof. Toshio Kuroda around thirty or forty years ago.1 He asserts that, even in the Middle Ages (i.e. in the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period), the true central force of the Japanese religious world was not Kamakura New Buddhism, but conventional exoteric and esoteric Buddhism. This latter Buddhism was established in the Heian period and had been a controlling factor in society along with the governors of that period through the Middle Ages. He named this social system the "Exoteric-esoteric Buddhist System" (kenmitsu-taisei). According to this theory, it is considered that Kamakura New Buddhism was a temporary reform movement which, after a while, became buried in the "Exoteric-esoteric Buddhism System" (i.e. became the Establishment). Therefore, it follows that in the Middle Ages, the teachings of Honen, Shinran, Dogen, and Nichiren were heresies and anti-establishment teachings.

Inheriting this new theory of Kuroda's, Prof. Masayuki Taira has illustrated more accurately how unorthodox the teaching of senju-nembutsu (exclusive nembutsu) was.2 He discusses that the teaching of senju-nembutsu does not deny in theory the possibility of our attainment of enlightenment through the Holy Path (shodomon). Honen merely denied in theory all kinds of Pure Land Buddhism other than senju-nembutsu. However, Honen asserted that it is practically impossible to attain enlightenment through the Holy Path in the Age of the Dharma's Decadence (matsudai). Therefore, we can characterize the teaching of senju-nembutsu as an exclusive teaching.

However, when Taira published his papers on Honen, not all scholars understood Honen's teaching in the same way as he did. Some scholars comprehended that Honen did not reject all other practices in favor of the nembutsu, because he himself performed other practices and religious rites like administering the precepts to Kujo Kanezane and attaining meditative samadhi (sanmai hottoku).3 Some other scholars criticized Honen as two-faced, because his behavior conflicted with his teaching.4

When Taira attempted to justify himself, it was necessary for him to brush aside these interpretations. It is regretful that today there is no time to introduce his full and detailed arguments, but he has proved through the analysis of the structure of Honen's thought that the matters concerning the precepts and sanmai hottoku were not contrary to his teaching. Let me give you just one example. He explains that Honen's experience of sanmai hottoku is not inconsistent with his teaching, because Honen "naturally" experienced visions of Amida Buddha and his Land while chanting the nembutsu, but never "intentionally" sought them as a practice for birth.5

After analyzing the character and the fundamentals of Honen's teaching, Taira next explains why it was unorthodox. As mentioned above, the senju-nembutsu taught that there was no other means but vocal nembutsu for all to attain enlightenment and that therefore we should equally chant the nembutsu. Consequently, this teaching came to bring not only religious equality6 but also social equality to medieval society. In the Middle Ages, since the religious authorities and the social or worldly authorities were closely connected to each other and at the same time the social hierarchy corresponded to the religious hierarchy, a religious equality that led to a social equality could have broken up the framework of medieval hierarchical society. Accordingly. Honen's teaching was regarded as unorthodox and suppressed.

In addition to this, the teaching of senju-nembutsu was undesirable for rulers who managed feudal regions by means of religious control. At the time of Honen, rulers had persuaded people that they could obtain the Buddha's protection if they paid land rent, while they would suffer the Buddha's punishment if they did not pay it. The followers of senju-nembutsu, however, did not fear this religious control, because they believed that Amida Buddha would protect those who chanted the nembutsu even if they did not pay land rent. Therefore, the teaching of senju-nembutsu was regarded as undesirable for the feudal lords and was suppressed.

This is an outline of Taira's argument. Though quite a few scholars have protested against his interpretation, it has become generally accepted, especially among younger scholars. Besides these findings, many studies on Honen in the area of historical science have been published.8 However, today I am unable to discuss them because of time limitations .

An Evaluation of Honen from a Buddhological Standpoint
Next, I would like to introduce the research of Prof. Noriaki Hakamaya, though it is neither historical nor bibliographical. I understand that he is quite well known also in the United States for his theory of Critical Buddhism. As you know, he has been criticizing the concept of "innate Buddha-nature" (hongaku) as non-Buddhist for a decade. As a part of his criticism, he attacks Myoe who considered bodhi-mind (bodaishin) as the basis of Buddhism and who severely protested against Honen who rejected bodhi-mind. Based on Hakamaya's definition of the concept of "innate Buddha-nature", if bodhi-mind is the very same concept as "innate Buddha-nature", it is not a concept of correct Buddhism. Therefore, he concludes that Myoe, who regarded bodhi-mind as a fundamental of Buddhism, did not rightly comprehend Buddhism.

In contrast to Myoe, Hakamaya evaluates Honen highly. He maintains that Honen valued dependent origination (engi) (i.e. temporal causality) which Hakamaya regards as the central concept of correct Buddhism. The teaching that people can be born into the Pure Land without fail if they chant the nembutsu is precisely founded on temporal causality.9 Although I cannot judge whether Hakamaya's view regarding Honen and Myoe is appropriate or not, I think it to be worthy of notice.

The Bibliographical and Philological Dimensions
When I began to study about Honen, what amazed me was the backwardness of bibliographical and philological studies on Honen. For one thing, there was no index to Honen's writings except to the Senchakushu. What is more, compared with an abundance of doctrinal research on Honen, bibliographical and philological research was scant. In fact there was no one book on bibliographical and philological research which covered the whole of Honen's writings. In regards to these two problems, the situation concerning the matter of an index has hardly improved.11 However, as to the latter problem, a great step has been taken in the publication of Prof. Masaaki Nakano's work.12

This work is a fundamental research on three main collections of Honen's writings: the Daigo Manuscript, the Saiho shinan-sho, and the Kurodani shonin gotoroku. In the first half of his book, he deals mainly with their bibliographical issues, their mutual relationship, and the questions of when, by whom, why, and how these collections were compiled. In the latter half, he deals with comparative studies of several parallel texts concerning six pieces of literature ascribed to Honen such as the Sanmai hottoku-ki. He also discusses the reliability of these pieces, the reasons for making changes in the text, and other things. Added to these, the issue of the brush strokes of Honen and his disciples is also discussed. This book is full of fundamental and instructive information and therefore should be read by many scholars of Honen.

Among the many achievements of this book, it is most instructive to a researcher like me who is interested in Honen's doctrinal thought that he intends to clearly prove the reliability of those three collections. For instance, he proves that the oldest edition among the surviving texts of the Kurodani Shonin gotoroku is relatively reliable in general.13 There has been little research such as this, though we do know the articles which point out the unreliability of the text. Because awareness of the reliability of the texts is indispensable to doctrinal research14, his achievement is important regarding this point. However, this does not mean, of course, that Nakano's work is complete and comprehensive. We are under an obligation to correct and develop his research.

In addition to this problem. I want to point out the following problem as a future task. This is the necessity of taking the character or purpose of each item into consideration for doctrinal research. When we investigate Honen's thought, we find that all literature has been treated equally until now. However, Honen preached in various ways according to the particular purpose or to the particular person. He was not just a mere thinker; he was most importantly a religious leader.

For example, he rejects all practices other than the nembutsu in the Senchakushu.15 At the same time, he sometimes permits them as an expedient in his letters to his followers.16 Similarly. I can point out a subtle disparity in teachings between the Senchakushu and the So Sanmon Kishomon or the Shichikajo seikai. I suppose this is caused by the different purposes for writing them.17 If we do not take the individual characteristics of each piece of literature into consideration, Honen's thought appears full of inconsistencies and we lose the fundamentals of his thought.

Therefore, I would like to propose the necessity of more detailed investigation into individual pieces of literature18 and of research into Honen's thought based on the results of that investigation. Such research as this will enable us to more accurately understand Honen's thought.

The above is an introduction to the bibliographical and philological research on Honen's writings . Next, I will refer to the newest achievement of philological research on his biographies by Prof. Shinko Nakai.19 He makes a comparative study of Honen's early biographies in the first chapter of his book. Among others, a noteworthy aspect of his research concerns the date of the Genku shonin shi-nikki. He discusses that it was compiled after the compilation of the Honcho soshi denki ekotoba ("Shikan-den") / the Denpoe (-ruzu), utilizing the accounts of the Ichigo Monogatari and the Shikan-den. It seems to me that there is much justice in his view. Including this view, his research is generally exhaustive.20

Finally, let me introduce the newest bibliographical finding. It is a discovery of an older manuscript of the Shui kango toroku. This manuscript will provide scholars with some interesting topics 21 A photograph of it is going to appear in the coming issue of Jodo Shugaku Kenkyu (Studies in Jodoshu Buddhism)22 which will be published within three or four months.

1. Toshio Kuroda, Nihon Chusei no Kokka to Shukyo (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1975), p. 413ff. Toshio Kuroda, Kuroda Toshio Chosaku-shu : Vol.2 Kenmitsu taisei ron (Kyoto: Hozokan,1994).
2. Masayuki Taira, "Honen no shiso-kozo to sono rekishi-teki ichi," Nihonshi Kenhyu 198 (Kyoto, 1979), pp. 1-34; Masayuki Taira, "Ken'ei no honan ni tsuite," in Nihon Seiji-shakai-shi Kenkyu, ed. by Kishi Toshio Kyoju Taikan Kinen-kai (Tokyo: Hanawa Shobo. 1985), Vol.2, pp. 87-ll8. Besides these, he has published several papers on Honen and senju-nembutsu. These articles are assembled in the following book: Masayuki Taira, Nihon Chusei no Shakai to Bukkyo (Tokyo: Hanawa Shobo, 1992). I would like to add that Prof. Hiro Sato also understands Honen as Taira does - Hiro Sato, Nihon Chusei no Kokka to Bukkyo (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1987).
3. e.g. Akihisa Shigematsu, Nihon Jodokyo Seiritsu-katei no Kenkyu (Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten, 1964), pp. 495-497, 654; Toshihide Akamatsu, Zoku Kamakura-bukkyo no Kenkyu (Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten, 1966), pp. 200-203.
4. e.g. Kojun Fukui, "Honen den ni tsuite no ni-san no mondai," Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu 5-2 (1957), pp. 567-571. Kojun Fukui "Honen Shonin no shasho-kijo ni tsuite," in Tsukamoto Hakase Shoju Kinen: Bukkyo-shigaku Ronshu (Kyoto, 1961), pp. 615-630.
5. As regards the precepts, Taira maintains that Honen passively recommended some of his followers to observe the precepts as worldly ethics. Against this interpretation, I suppose that Honen recognized the precepts as a Buddhist practice and suggested observing them, because the observance of the precepts is appropriate for a Buddhist unless it prevents the nembutsu. But whichever interpretation you take, Honen's behavior about the precepts was not contradictory to his teaching, because he did not suggest observing them as a practice for birth. For an interpretation on administering the precepts to Kujo Kanezane, see Makoto Hayashi, "Senju nembutsu-shu hassei no ichi-danmen," Tokai Bukkyo 33 (Nagoya: 1988), pp. 34-35.
6. Before Honen appeared, various practices were assigned to people according to their religious ability or social status. Senju-nembutsu, on the other hand, taught that all of us should equally perform one practice; vocal nembutsu (calling Amida Buddha's Name).
7. Kenji Matsuo, Kamakura Shin-bukkyo no Seiritsu (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1988).
8. For instance, we have Yuishin Ito's and Kiyoshi Yoshida's research: Yuishin Ito, Jodoshu no Seiritsu to Tenkai (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1981), which presents several interesting findings, and Kiyoshi Yoshida's Genku Kyodan Seiritsu-shi no Kenkyu (Tokyo: Meicho Shuppan, 1994). They regard Honen's order as a group of saintly recluses (hijiri). However, Taira is critical of their interpretation. He maintains that saintly recluses basically belonged to the Establishment and Honen's order should be distinguished from any group of conventional saintly recluses.
9. Noriaki Hakamaya, "Nihon bukkyo ni okeru Myoe no Honen hinan no imi," in Nihon no Bukkyo, ed. by Jiyu Bukkyo Konwakai (Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin, 1992), pp. 487-524; Noriaki Hakamaya, Dogen to Bukkyo : Junikan-bon "Shobogenzo" no Dogen (Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan, 1992), pp. 124~l30, 138-157.
10. As Hakamaya points out, it is at least certain that the thoughts of Myoe are in part influenced by the concept of "innate Buddha-nature".
11. However, a colleague of mine has already inputted the texts of the Daigo Manuscript and the Kurodani shonin gotoroku onto his computer. He is now working on the Myogi shingyo shu. In addition, I hear that another scholar has put the Saiho shinan-sho on computer. As Japanese scholars know well, the Honen Shonin Gyojo-ezu inputted by Shojun Inaoka is already open to the public. I expect that an index to Honen's writings and biographies will be published as soon as possible by making good use of these electronic texts.
12. Masaaki Nakano, Honen Ibun no Kisoteki Kenkyu (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1994).
13. Comparing the Saiho shinan-sho edition and the Gotoroku edition of the Shichikajo seikai with its original text in Nison-in temple's possession, I can conclude that the Gotoroku edition is as reliable as the Saiho shinan-sho edition or even more so. Toshihide Adachi, "Shichikajo seikai shohon taisho, yakuchu," Honen-shonin Kenkyu 4 (Kyoto: Honen-shonin Kenkyu-kai, 1995), pp. 2-24.
14. I cannot accept without hesitation the following points in his work: his hypothesis about the purpose of the compilation of three main collections, his assumption of the existence of an original text from which all biographies of Honen's were derived, his interpretation of the So Sanmon kishomon, and his evaluation of the Betsu denki in the Daigo Manuscript among others.
15. Some scholars understand that the twelfth chapter of the Senchakushu accepts birth in the Pure Land by practices other than the nembutsu. However, by analyzing the framework of the chapter, we can see that their interpretation is not right. I am going to prepare an article on this issue.
16. For example, Honen allows Kumagai Naozane to perform some practices other than the nembutsu.
l7. See Toshihide Adachi, "'Naisenju-getendai' to 'shasho-kijo'", Bukkyo Bunka Kenkyu 37 (Tokyo: Jodo Shu Kyogakuin 1992), pp. 70-74, and Toshihide Adachi, "Honen-jodokyo ni taisuru hihan to kai," Jodo Shugaku Kenkyu 19 (Kyoto: Chion-in Jodo Shugaku Kenkyujo, 1993), pp.15-17.
1 8. Honen Shonin Kenkyu-kai (the Society for Research on Honen), which is managed by Prof. Nakano, has a plan to publish a commentary on individual pieces of literature included in the Saiho shinan-sho.
19. Shinko Nakai, Honen den to Jodoshu-shi no Kenkyu (Kyoto: Shibunkaku Shuppan, 1994).
20. Nakai's evaluation of the Betsu denki differs from Nakano's. I agree with Nakai as far as this issue.
21. In particular, comparison between the newly discovered manuscript and the Daigo Manuscript will interest scholars.
22. Noboru Kajimura and Toshihiro Soda, "Shinshutsu Daitokuji-bon Shui Kango toroku ni tsuite," Jodo Shugaku Kenkyu 22 (Kyoto : Chion-in Jodo Shugaku Kenkyujo, 1996).