An Illustrated Biography of Shinran, the Honganji Shonin
(Honganji Shonin Shinran Denne)
Compiled by Kakunyo
Introduction, translation and notes
by Zuio H. Inagaki

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Scroll Three


With the flourishing of the Pure Land teaching, the Path of Sages dwindled in influence. Enraged scholar-monks in Nara and on Mt. Hiei held Master Genku responsible for this and appealed to the court for his expeditious punishment. It is stated in A Collection of Passages Revealing the Provisional Transformed Buddhas and Lands of the Pure Land Way, Chapter 6:

When I humbly contemplate matters, I find that in the various teachings of the Path of Sages, both practice and enlightenment have long become impossible to realize and that the true teaching of the Pure Land way is now flourishing as the sure way to Enlightenment.

Despite this fact, monks of various temples, being blind in discerning the teachings, are unable to distinguish the true way from the provisional way. Confucian scholars in the capital, being confused about practices, cannot tell the difference between the right and wrong paths. Thus, scholar-monks of Kofukuji temple presented a petition to the retired emperor [Gotoba-in] (Takanari by name) in the first part of the second month in the year fire/hare of the Jogen era(1) during the reign of emperor [Tsuchimikado-in] (Tamehito by name).

Lords and vassals who opposed the Dharma and justice harboured indignation and bore resentment [to the Nembutsu teaching]. Thus, Master Genku, the great founder who promulgated the true teaching of the Pure Land way, and a number of his followers were, without proper investigation of their crime, indiscriminately sentenced to death or, deprived of their priesthood, exiled under criminal names. I was one of them. Hence, I am neither a priest nor a layman, and so I took 'Toku' as my surname. Master Genku and his disciples spent five years in remote provinces in exile.

The criminal name of Genku Shonin was Fujii-no-Motohiko, and the place of his exile was Hata in Tosa Province. The criminal name of Shinran Shonin was Fujii-no-Yoshizane, and the place of his exile was Kokubu in Echigo Province. I will not enumerate other disciples' death charges and exiles.

On the seventh day of the eleventh month in the first year of Kenryaku, the year metal/sheep(2), during the reign of Emperor [Sado-no-in, Morinari by name], the imperial order to pardon Shonin was issued through Lord Okazaki Norimitsu, the Middle Counsellor at the Court. At that time, Shonin's name, with 'Toku' (short-haired) as the surname, was announced to the Emperor; this impressed the Emperor and won the praise of his attendants. Even though Shonin was pardoned, he continued to stay on to convert country-folk.

1. This corresponds to 1207, when Shinran was 35.
2. This corresponds to 1211, when Shinran was 39.

Section 10 At the gate of the Imperial Palace

1. A court noble, Lord Chikatsune, walking toward the main gate.
2. Probably Soncho of the Office of Temples and Shrines.
3. The police inspector, Motokuni.
4. Detective, Suesada, chasing Juren and others.
5. Juren who was charged and executed.
6. Juren's attendant.
7. Chikatsune, who acted as prosecutor, passing the sentence.
8. Sasaki Saburo respectfully receiving the sentence.

Section 11Court nobles' meeting

1. Jinjuden Hall in the Imperial Palace.
2. Court nobles discussing the charges against Honen and his disciples.

Section 12 Honen's exile.

1. Honen about to leave his hermitage for his destination in Tosa Province, Shikoku Island.
2. Honen's disciples shedding tears of sorrow.
3. Another group of his disciples.
4. The palanquin-bearers.
5. Lay disciples seeing off Honen.
6. Police inspector, Hisatsune.
7. Police officer, Taketsugu, going to escort Honen to Shikoku.

Section 13 Shonin's exile at the age of 35.

1. Shonin boarding a palanquin at his hermitage.
2. The palanquin leaving for Echigo Province.
3. Shonin's disciples shedding tears of sorrow.
4. Saibutsu-bo.
5. Ren'i-bo.
6. Police inspector, Otsuki Yukitsura, .
7. Police officer, Minamoto-no-Akikane, going to escort Shonin to Echigo.
8. Asakura Shuzen sent here to attend Shonin by Lord Kujo Kanezane.


Shonin moved from Echigo over to Hitachi Province, and settled down at Inada Village in Kasama County. Although he lived in retirement, priests and laypeople followed one after another to visit him; even though the lowly gate was closed, people, both high and low, crowded the cottage. Shonin's cherished desire to spread the Buddha-Dharma was thus fulfilled, and his long-standing wish to benefit sentient beings was quickly realized.

Shonin remarked, "The dream of the bygone days in which I received an inspiration from the World-saving Bodhisattva exactly fits what is happening now."

Section 14 Spreading the Dharma in the countryside.

<Right> In Kokubu and its surrounding area.
1. Shonin on his missionary tour in the snow along the Japan Sea coast.
2. Saibutsu-bo.
3. Ren'i-bo.
4. A factory for producing salt.

<Left> At Inada in Kanto district.
1. Shonin's hermitage at Inada.
2. Shonin.
3. Saibutsu-bo.
4. Shoshin-bo.
5. Local people coming to listen to the Dharma.


As Shonin spread the teaching of the exclusive practice of the Nembutsu in Hitachi Province, those who doubted and abused it were few, and many accepted it in faith. However, there was a monk [said to be a yamabushi(1)], who bore a grudge against the Buddhist teaching [Shonin was promulgating], culminating in an attempt to kill him; thus he was seeking an opportunity to realize this.

Shonin often passed through a deep mountain called Itajiki-yama. On that mountain the yamabushi waited for him in ambush many times, but was unsuccessful. As he contemplated the cause of this failure, he was struck with a rare, strange thought. Thereupon, he decided to go and see Shonin. When he called at the hermitage, Shonin came out without hesitation. As soon as he saw Shonin's august countenance, his vicious intention quickly disappeared and, furthermore, he could not hold back tears of regret and shame.

After a little while, he confessed to Shonin the grudge that he had entertained against him. Shonin, however, did not appear surprised. The yamabushi broke his bow and arrows on the spot, threw away his sword and stick, cast away his hood, and took off his persimmon robe. As a result of this transformation, he thus took refuge in the [true] Buddhist teaching, and finally fulfilled his aspiration for birth in the Pure Land. What a wonderful thing! He was later known as Myoho-bo; this is the name given to him by Shonin.

1. 'Yamabushi,' literally 'mountain sleeper'; a follower of mountain Buddhism (shugendo); so called because he lives in the mountains while engaged in ascetic practices.

Section 15 Conversion of Bennen.

<Right> Bennen trying to kill Shonin on the mountain path.
1. Bennen's men.
2. Bennen waiting for Shonin's coming.

<Left> Bennen's conversion.
1. Shonin at the age of 49 greeting Bennen.
2. Bennen at the age of 38 confronting Shonin.
3. Shonin seated in the house.
4. Bennen becoming Shonin's disciple and receiving the Buddhist name, Myoho-bo Shoshin.
5. Saibutsu-bo and Ren'i-bo.

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