Jodo Shu

Pure Land Denomination

The above painting from picture book biography called the Honen Shonin e-den depicts Honen's establishment of the Jodo sect (jodo isshu kaishu). Jodo Shu traces its history back to this moment in 1175 when upon leaving Mt. Hiei, Honen set up residence on Higashiyama and began his teaching career. While this is perhaps best understood as a mythical or spiritual beginning for Jodo Shu, a more distinct beginning for the sect dates from the time of Ryochu, the student of Bencho who was one of Honen's core disciples. Ryochu was able to establish Bencho's teachings, known as the Chinzei doctrine, at the center of an increasingly fractious nembutsu movement about 30 years after the death of Honen. Meanwhile, the followers of Honen's other close disciples established their own orders, such as Jodoshin-shu which formed from Shinran's teachings and Seizan jodo-shu which formed from Shoku's teachings. Although all of these movements regard Honen as an important teacher, it is only Jodo Shu which claims him as its principal teacher and which attempts to carry on his essential teachings. Yet even at such an early period, Jodo Shu was more of an idea than an institution. It was not until the early 15th century that the teachings and training system of Jodo Shu was systematized and that it gained official government approval. This was soon followed by a period of great prosperity ushered in by the patronization of Tokugawa Ieyasu himself in 1590. From this prosperity to the excesses of the late Edo period and through the war period, Jodo Shu has continued to develop and change. Present day Jodo Shu has about seven thousand temples, of which Chion-in in Kyoto is the head temple. There are seven other main temples in the country and nineteen overseas temples in Hawaii, mainland USA and Brazil.

I. Development of Japanese Pure Land under Honen's Disciples

The 4 Eras of Honen's Disciples

Individual Portraits of Honen's Disciples 

Japanese Pure Land Lineage

II. Legitimization and Development of Jodo Shu


Honen establishes a hermitage at Yoshimizu on Higashiyama (Honen, higashiyama-no-yoshimizu-ni ori-o musubu) from the Honen Shonin gyojoezu, scroll 6, section 9.

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