Honen Shonin, the founder of the Pure Land school in Japan, opened wide the doors of Buddha Dharma to the entire Japanese society. While many of the established schools had taken a scholastic bent, pursuing rarefied doctrines and complex practices inaccessible to the laity, and especially the simple farmers and craftspeople, Honen invited all to attain the highest enlightenment.
Misunderstood in life, often by his own disciples, Master Honen sought to clarify his message one more time before entering the Pure Land of the Buddha Amideva (Amida):
In China and Japan, many Buddhist masters and scholars understand that the remembrance of the Buddha is to meditate deeply on Amida and the Pure Land. However, I do not understand the remembrance of the Buddha in this way.
Reciting the name of the Buddha does not come from studying and understanding its meaning. There is no other reason or cause by which we can utterly believe in attaining birth in the Pure Land than the remembrance of the Buddha.
Reciting the name of the Buddha and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally gives rise to the three minds and the four modes of practice (reverential, exclusive, uninterrupted, and lasting).
If I am withholding any deeper knowledge beyond simple recitation of the name of the Buddha, then may I lose sight of the compassion of Shakyamuni and Amida Buddha and slip through the embrace of Amida’s original vow.
Even if those who believe in the remembrance of the Buddha deeply study all the teachings which Shakyamuni taught during his life, they should not put on any airs and should practice the remembrance of the Buddha with the sincerity of simple lay followers.
I hereby authorize this document with my hand print. The Pure Land way of the settled mind is completely imparted here. I, Genku, have no other teaching than this. In order to prevent misinterpretation after my passing away, I make this final testament.
—Honen Shonin, January 23, 1212