Jodo Shu (浄土宗)

Jodo Shu is one of the denominations of Buddhism in Japan, which was founded by Honen Shonin and the teaching and practice of which is Jodo Kyo Senju-nenbutsu (Exclusive Nenbutsu). Honzon (main image) is Amida Nyorai (Funagokoryumida).


Honen swore to be a monk, following the will of his father, URUMA no Tokikuni.

He was sent to his uncle's temple, Bodai-ji, before he went to Mt. Hiei, the center of Buddhist study. He studied hard under Kangaku Shonin there.

But after four years, his teacher monk Kangaku Shonin said to Seishimaru 'I have nothing to teach you any more. How about going to study at Mt. Hiei?', so he went to Mt. Hiei in 1145, when he was only 13 years old.

After that he learned Buddhism under Genko Shonin at Eizan Komponchudo. After Seishimaru had learned everything Genko Shonin could have taught, he started to study under Koen Ajari. Seishimaru was ordained officially by Koen in 1147, when he was 15.

In 1150 (18 years old), Seishimaru moved to Bessho of Seiryu-ji Temple (in Sakamoto, Otsu city), was taught by Jigenbo Eiku Shonin, named Honen-bo Genku (used one Kanji character each from Genko and Eiko).

In 1175, when he was 43, Honen realized the truth of Senju-nenbutsu by Kanmuryojukyosho (Kangyosho, Commentary on the Meditation Sutra), written by Zendo Daishi, so he left Mt. Hiei for Higashiyama Yoshimizu and began to spread the teaching of the nenbutsu. It is said that this is the beginning of Jodo Shu.

The words of Kangyosho, which made Honen found Jodo Shu are:
The way of Ojo (birth in the Pure Land) is to continue to recite the name of Mida (Amida) intently whenever and wherever, regardless of length of time. That is because it leads to the true wish of Mida.

Recite the name of Mida intently. Whenever and wherever, it doesn't matter how long you recite. Continue to recite the name of Mida and it is the true way for Ojo. That is because it leads to the true wish of Mida.

"Namu Amida Butsu" means to believe in Amida Butsu. It is said the nenbustu of Jodo Shu began with the selection of these words, Mida Butsu.

"Senchaku Hongan nenbutsu Shu" (Passages on the Selection of the nenbutsu in the Original Vow) is the main sacred book, which is a compilation of dogma.

When Honen founded Jodo Shu, he was criticized by old temples such as Tendai denomination and Kofuku-ji temple of Nara, and exiled to Sanuki province (Jogen persecution), but he propagated Jodo Shu there as well.

After that he was pardoned but forbidden to enter Kyoto, so he continued to propagation based at Katsuo-ji Temple in Settsu Province. Honen was allowed to come back to Kyoto in 1211(Kenreki 1), but passed away at the age of 80 next year.


After Honen passed away, Shinku, an elder disciple, succeeded the Jodo Shu denomination, but there were subtle differences in the interpretation of the dogma of Honen between disciples such as Shoku, Bencho, Kosai, Chosai, Ryukan and Shinran.

In 1227, Senju-nenbutsu was forbidden again, and Jodo Shu was damaged heavily and moved toward separation (Karoku persecution). The reason for this persecution was that nenbutsu priests were suspected of robbery when the treasure of Hossho-ji Temple was stolen. In addition, monks of Enryaku-ji Temple attacked nenbutsu priests, "Senchaku Hongan nenbutsu Shu (Passages on the Selection of the nenbutsu in the Original Vow)" was banned, and Honen's mausoleum at Higashiyama Otani (Kyoto) was destroyed. At this time Kosai was exiled to Iki Province and Ryukan to Mutsu Province as well. Honen's body was accepted by Raigo Enku of Uzumasa Koryu-ji Temple and cremated at Ao'no in Nishiyama.

After that, Jodo shiryu (four sects of Jodo Shu) were founded. That is the four sects that were the mainstream of Jodo Shu after Shinku's death, Seizan-gi of Shoku, Chinzei-gi of Bencho who was patronized by the Kusano clan in Kyushu, Chorakuji-gi of Ryukan who spread Tanen-gi in Eastern area after exile there, Kuhonji-gi of Chosei who taught Shogyohongan-gi against Shoku in Kyoto. These four sects do not include Shinran's sect, one of the strongest sects at that time, which became independent as Jodo Shinshu after he died. Other independent sects were founded left and right by other priests such as Tanku of Nison-in Temple in Saga (Kyoto), Genchi who revived Chion-in Temple and Kosei who introduced Ichinen-gi. But only Seizan-gi and Chinzei-gi remained through the Middle ages, other than Jodo Shinshu, and they were called Seizan School and Chinzei School.

On the other hand, the Kamakura Shogunate oppressed Jodo Shu to stop nenbutsu in Kamakura, but Seizan-ha was welcomed by Hojo clan later and built a base in Bengayatasu of Kamakura. Moreover, Ryochu, who was a disciple of Bencho, founder of Chinzei-ha, had established his influence in Kanto area based on Goshin-ji Temple (present Komyo-ji Temple in Kamakura city). Gokuraku-ji Temple in Kamakura (Kamakura city) was said to have been a Jodo Shu Temple before becoming a Shingon-risshu temple, and Kotoku-in (Kamakura Daibutsu) is a representative Jodo Shu temple in Kamakura (it is said that it was in the Edo period that it officially became a Jodo Shu Temple, there are various opinions about the early period. But Jodo Shu fell into an era of separation; Nishiyama-ha separated to Nishitani-ryu, Fukakusa-ryu, Higashiyama-ryu and Saga-ryu after Shoku died, and Chinzei-ha separated into Shirohata-ha, Nagoe-ha, Fujita-ha, Ichijo-ha, Kobata-ha and Sanjo-ha after Yoshitada died.

From the Nanbokucho period to the Muromachi period Shokan and Ryoei of Fujita-ha and Shogei and Shoso of Shirohata-ha appeared within Chinzei-ha and founded new sects, overcoming Seizan-ha and other sects of Chinzei-ha. Especially, Seido insisted on the rule of Goju-soden (Fivefold Transmission) because Jodo Shu has a succession of dogma and genealogy, and tried to integrate various sects by organization of genealogy and dogma. Shoso built Zojo-ji Temple and his disciple, Gutei, built Daiju-ji Temple at the request of Chikatada MATSUDAIRA.

Chion-in, which was revived by Shirohata-ha after the Onin War, was admitted as the head temple of Jodo Shu by Emperor Ogimachi in 1575 and given authority to grant or deny vestments to Jodo Shu monks in Japan ('Kiharinji'). In addition, after the foundation of the Edo Shogunate by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, who was a descendant of Chikatada MATSUDAIRA, Jodo Shu was protected heavily. Sonsho in Chion-in and Son'o in Zojo-ji Temple were especially respected by Ieyasu. In 1615 Jodoshu hatto was established as one of the rules of Jiin shohatto, in which Chion-in was recognized as the head temple, and Zojo-ji Temple was given the name of Daihonzan and Sorokusho (a government office of religion) was founded there although it had a lower position than Chion-in. At this time the Edo government established Jodo Seizan-ha hatto for Seizan-ha independently. By these rules Jodo Shu was protected by Tokugawa Shogunate, in other words, Shogunate and domain system.

After the chaos of Haibutsu kishaku, Tetsujo UGAI and Gyokai FUKUDA tackled modernization of Jodo Shu. Integration of Chinzei-ha by the Shirohata-ha that unified Nagoshi-ha and others led to the prototype of present Jodo Shu. After World War, Kurodani Jodoshu, based in Konkaikonmyo-ji Temple, and Honpa Jodoshu (Jodoshu Honpa), based in Chion-in, became independent, but in 1961, when a memorial ceremony for the 750th anniversary of Honen's death was held, Jodoshu Honpa returned and Kurodani Jodoshu also returned 16 years later. The representative director of Jodo Shu as a present religious corporation is called 'Shumu Socho' and responsible director is called 'Naikyoku'.

On the other hand, Seizan-ha has been separated into Seizan Jodoshu, Seizan Zenrinji-ha and Seizan Fukakusa-ha. Jodoshu Shasei-ha, which was separated in the reform movement in Edo period, also has remained.

Characteristics of Jodo Shu Temple

Main image: Amida Buddha

Main image (left): Seishi Bosatsu (Seishi Bodhisattva)

Main image (right): Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon Bodhisattva)

Left: Zendo Daishi

Right: Honen Shonin

Note: the following two are Chinzei-ha (Jodo Shu)

Second founder: Genchi Shonin, Bencho Shonin

Third founder: Ryocho Shonin

Note: the following is Seizan-ha (Seizan Jodo Shu, Jodo Shu Seizan Zenrin-ji Temple ha, Jodo Shu Seizan Fukakusa ha)

Second founder: Shoku Shonin

Jodo Shu sutras

Jodosanbu-kyo (Three Sutras of the Pure Land)

Muryoju-kyo Bussetsu muryoju-kyo (Sutra of Immeasurable Life)

Kanmuryojukyo (Meditation Sutra)

Amida-kyo (Amida Sutra)

Ichimai-kishomon (One Page Document)

Isshi-koshosoku (Reply to a Disciple)

Jodo Shu official song
There is no village where the moon light does not reach; it exists in one's mind. This song originated from a song of Gatsurin-ji Temple, No. 18 of the 25 Sacred Sites of Honen.

Head temple

Kachozan Chion-in


Higashiyama Zenrin-ji Temple (Kyoto city) (Eikando) (Zenrinji-ha)

Ao Komyo-ji Temple (Nagaoka city) (Seizan Jodo Shu)

Kyogoku Seigan-ji Temple (Fukakusa-ha)

Chinzei Seven Daihonzan (head temples)

San'enzan Zojo-ji Temple (Tokyo)


Shiunzan Konkaikomyo-ji Temple (Kyoto city)


Tenshozan Komyo-ji Temple (Kamakura city)


Hyakumanben Chion-ji Temple (Kyoto city)


Seijozan Zendo-ji Temple (Fukuoka city)


Zenko-ji Daihongan (Nagano city)


Zenko-ji Temple (Nagoya city)


Shojoke-in (Kyoto city)



Bukkyo University (Kyoto city)

Tokai Gakuen University (Nagoya city, Miyoshi cho) - Part of Tokai Gakuen/Tokai Junior & Senior High School

Junior High School, High School

Shiba Junior & Senior High School: former Jodo Shu Tokyo branch school

Tokai Junior & Senior High School (Nagoya city): former Jodo Shu Aichi branch school

Tokai gakuen High School (Nagoya city): a sister school of Tokai Junior & Senior High School

Higashiyama High School (Kyoto city): former Jodo Shu Kyoto branch school

Uenomiya Junior & Senior High School (Osaka city): former Jodo Shu Osaka branch school

Uenomiya Taishi Junior & Senior High School (Taishi cho, Osaka prefecture): Jodo Shu Osaka Branch School

Chinzei High School (Kumamoto city): former Jodo Shu Kyusyu branch school

[Original Japanese]