Genshin (Monk) (源信 (僧侶))

Genshin was a Buddhist priest of the Tendai sect who lived during the mid-Heian period. He was called 'Eshin Sozu' with an honorific title.

He was the sixth founder among the Seven Patriarchs which Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism), determined. He was called 'Genshin Kasho' or 'Genshin Daishi' (literally a great master, an honorific title given by the Imperial Court) with an honorific title in "Koso Wasan" and other literature.

In addition, Shinran honored and admired Genshin's virtue and teaching in "Shoshin nenbutsuge" (in the chapter on Genshin).

Genshin, having broadly elucidated the teachings of Shakyamuni's lifetime, Wholeheartedly took refuge in the land of peace and urged all to do so;

Ascertaining that minds devoted to a single practice are profound, to sundry practice, shallow, He sets forth the truly difference between the fulfilled land and the transformed land.

A person burdened with extreme evil should simply say the Name: Although I too am within Amida's grasp,

Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him; Nevertheless, great compassion is untired and has always illuminated me.

It is said that Yokawa no Sozu (the Prelate of Yokawa) in the "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji) written by Murasaki Shikibu modeled after Genshin.


He was born in Toma, Kita katsuragi District, Yamato Province (present day Nara Prefecture) in 942.
His childhood name was 'Sengiku-maru.'
His father was from the Urabe clan and his mother was from the Kiyohara clan.

In 948 when he was seven years old, his father died.

In 950 when he was nine years old, he began to learn from Ryogen (912-985, commonly called Gansan Daishi), Chuko no So (father of restoration) of Mt. Hiei, because of the influence of his pious mother, and learned shikan-gyo (Tendai meditation) and Shana-gyo (a study of Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhism).

In 955 he received tokudo (entering the Buddhist priesthood).

In 956 when he was fifteen years old, he lectured "Shosan Jodokyo" (a Buddhist sutra) and was selected as one of the lecturers of Hokke hakko (ceremonial series of eight lectures on the eight scrolls of the Lotus Sutra) by the Emperor Murakami. When he sent the rewards granted (such as clothes) from the Emperor to his mother who was living in his hometown, she sent them back to him with waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) to remonstrate with him. Following her instructions, he put away fame and fortune and chose the way to seek truth with nenbutsu-zanmai (mental absorption in the nenbutsu) in a secluded life at the Eshin-in Temple in Yokawa (the present building was the former Betto Daishi-do Hall in Sakamoto Satobo which had been removed and rebuilt on the present location).

His mother's waka to remonstrate with him was; 'It is a pity that you became a common priest, even though I thought you would be a bridge to send Buddhism to later ages. Please be a true seeker.'

In December 984, his master Ryogen fell sick, and Genshin started to write "Ojoyoshu" (Buddhism book).

On January 31, 985, his master Ryogen entered nirvana.

On March 985, he completed "Ojoyoshu."

In 1004 FUJIWARA no Michinaga was embraced, and he was assigned to gon shosozu (Junior lesser prelate).

In 1005, only one year after assignment, he resigned the position of gon shosozu because he did not favor fame, following his mother's instruction.

On July 12, 1017, he entered nirvana at the age of seventy-six. When he was dying, he had a thread tied to the hand of the statue of Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata), putting the palms together.

[Original Japanese]