Chion-in Temple

“Hate not and forgive”: Decisive words in Honen Shonin’s life from his father

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“Hate not and forgive”: Decisive words in Honen Shonin’s life from his father

“Namu Amida Butsu” or “Nanmandabu” are words often seen or heard when visiting a temple in Japan. Do you know what it means?

“Namu Amida Butsu” means to “entrust all to Amitabha, or Amida Nyorai in Japanese”. In the Jodo sect, it is said that anyone can go to heaven, or Gokuraku Jodo, if they chant this Buddhist prayer.

While this is a simple and easy to understand teaching, Jodo and its close counterpart of Jodo-shin together form the largest religious sect in Japan. Chion-in Temple is the head temple to Jodo Buddhism founded in the Kamakura period (1185-1333 AD), equipped with impressively large gates. In other words, Jodo is the topmost sect in teaching passing on the teachings of Namu Amida Butsu.

Jodo Buddhism had its widespread boom in Japan during the Kamakura period. Its founder was Honen Shonin, a priest from Okayama who radically transformed the religious views of his time. His simple teaching to just chant prayers was fresh and made the hearts of people in those days flutter.

Many Japanese people have heard “Namu Amida Butsu” somewhere before, but how did it come about? To find its roots, we unravel the life of Honen Shonin and find a theme tied to us in the present: forgiveness.

Though his father was killed during his childhood, Honen Shonin lived by the words of his father by avoiding hatred, becoming a Buddhist priest, and saving many people. How could he have saved people without despising his father’s murderer? We’ll explain as we walk around Chion-in Temple.

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