Honen Shonin (1133-1212) was the great propagator of Pureland in Japan after his descent from Mt Hiei in 1175 to spread the nembutsu practice and faith in the saving vows of Amida Buddha.
Honen had six chief immediate disciples.
Benchō (1162-1238), aka Shoko, became Honen’s disciple, age 35, in 1197, having formerly followed Tendai Buddhism.
Teaching: 1. reciting Amida’s name is the “specific nembutsu”. When faith is settled, all other Buddhist practice then becomes “general nembutsu”. 2. The Holy path and the Purerland Path should both be studied in order to avoid one-sided dogmatism.
Legacy: Jodo Shu
Kōsai (1163-1247), aka Jokaku-bo, became Honen’s disciple, age 35, in 1198.
Teaching: He believed that a single recitation of nembutsu could awakened innate enlightenment (hongaku) and generate birth in the Pure Land of Amida.
Legacy: His teaching, heavily criticised by other Honen disciples, soon died out.
Shinran (1173-1262), became a disciple of Honen, age 28, in 1201. Author of Kyogyoshinsho and speaker of the Tannisho.
Teaching: Absolute reliance upon Other Power, one’s own efforts being useless yo achieve salvation.
Legacy: Little known in his own time, he is now revered as the founding figure of Jodo Shin Shu. This prominence is substantially due to the success of Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499) who built up the Honganji branch of Jodo Shin Shu into the largest religious denomination in Japan.
Teaching: He was a strident apologist for Honen’s teaching, countering the arguments of non-Pureland schools. In 1227 he was exiled and died on the journey.
Shōkū (1177-1247) became a disciple of Honen, age 13, in 1190. When many of Honen’s surviving disciples were exiled in 1227, he was able to stay in the capital Kyoto and became leader of the numbest community at that time.
Teaching: That all Buddhist practices contain some merit, but that their purpose is to lead people towards the practice of nembutsu.
1. Founded Saizan Jodo Shu.
2. His disciple Shōtatsu had a disciple Ippen (1239-1289) who founded the Ji Shu.
Chōsai (1184-1266), aka Kakumyo-bo, became a disciple of Honen, age 18, in 1202.
Teaching: That birth in the Pure Land can be attained not only by numbest but also by a variety of other practices.
Legacy: He was popular and influential in his own time but left no lasting impression.