Kuhon (Kyuhin) (九品)
Kuhon (Kyuhin) refers to a three-way classification of things and people's characters and each classification is divided into further three categories.
It is considered to be the origin of the current classification, so-called 'johin (high-quality goods) and gehin (lower-quality goods).'
Kuhon in China
In China, Kuhon was a classification used in judging people and hiring government officials.
In China, when people and characters of things were classified, first, they were divided into three categories, johin (higher-quality goods), chuhin (the middle grade goods) and gehin (lower-quality goods), and then, each category was further divided into three grades. This is also called sansankuhon (classifications of three, three and nine). Namely, the classifications are as follows.
The highest of higher-quality goods, the highest of middle grade goods, and the highest of lower-quality goods. The middle of higher-quality goods, the middle of middle grade goods, and the middle of lower-quality goods. The lowest of higher-quality goods, the lowest of middle grade goods, and the lowest of lower-quality goods.
The word of so-called gehin, which refers to the family in the lower class and the lower position in aristocracy, originates in this classification.
Kuhon in Buddhism
When Buddhist scriptures were translated, the above-mentioned classification 'kuhon' was used. Although in China, the reading of classification in Buddhist scriptures and that of the original classification are the same, in Japan, there is the difference between the two.
In Buddhism, Varga in Sanskrit was translated into 'hon'. Additionally, in Buddhism, '九品' is read 'kuhon', which does not contain dull sounds, but '上品・下品'is read 'jobon, gebon', both of which contains them.
Kanmuryojukyo' (one of Buddhist scriptures) described that there are nine patterns to go to gokuraku jodo (the Pure Land of Amitabha) according to an ability of all living things in Buddhism (especially, Jodo [Pure Land] sect). This is also called kuhon ojo (nine patterns to go to gokuraku).
Later, Zendo described it as Kuhonkaibon and suggested that all living things were essentially straying beings. He spread his unique belief that a difference of jo (high) and ge (low) came from a difference of Mahayana Buddhism (based on altruism) and Hinayana Buddhism (based on egoism) or whether one got involved in evil things or not. Then, his teaching had a significant influence on Honen and Shinran and it was handed down on to later generations.
The three highest categories are called jobon.
People in these three categories of jobon are called johaishoso (top class of Buddhists who reborn in the Land of Happiness according to the nine levels of religiousness), because they meet Mahayana Buddhism, which is called gudai.
Jobon josho refers to people who can go to gokuraku jodo (the Pure Land of Amitabha), because they have shijoshin (sincerity), jinshin (strong belief in Buddha) and ekohotsuganshin (accumulating good deeds).
These people are divided into three kinds.
The first kind refers to people who do not kill any creatures out of mercy and stick to religious precepts. The second kind refers to people who recite Mahayana Buddhism Hodo-kyo sutra. The third kind refers to people who practice Rokunensho (six precepts of Buddhism).
With accumulated good deeds and strong hope to go to jodo (the Pure Land) where Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) is, they can go to gokuraku jodo in one day or seven days. They have bravery and unwavering pursuit of his faith and Amida and Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) come to meet them at their death, then they are sent to the Pure Land lying on a hard rack and immediately realize mushobonin (recognition that nothing really arises or perishes).
People who do not recite Mahayana Buddhism Hodo-kyo sutra, but really understand the primary meaning of it, have no fear and tremble in their mind, believe in ingaritsu (the principle of causality), and do not criticize on Mahayana Buddhism.
Due to those good deeds, Amida and Bosatsu come to them and they can go to gokuraku jodo. After staying one night, lotus flowers are in full bloom filling up the floor, and in seven days, they reach enlightenment, visit the land of each Amida or Bosatsu, and then after a long time, they gain mushobonin.
People who believe in ingaritsu, never criticize Mahayana Buddhism and only hope to reach enlightenment.
By accumulating good deeds, they hope to go to gokuraku jodo. After arriving in the Pure Land, flowers are in full bloom in one day and one night, and after 37 days later, they can open their eyes and listen, visit the land of each Amida or Bosatsu and then, after a long time, they can go to gokuraku jodo with the rank of juji (41 to 50 grades of 50 ranks).
The next three categories following jobon are chubon.
These three chubon are called chuhaishoso (second class of Buddhists who reborn in the Land of Happiness according to the nine levels of religiousness), because they meet Hinayana, which is called gusho.
People who adhere to religious precepts such as gokai (five commandments) and hakkai (eight commandments) and do not commit evil deeds.
They go to the Pure Land and louts flowers are in full bloom, and then, immediately reach enlightenment and gain sanmyo rokushintsu hachigedatsu (special ability to communicate with Buddha and emancipation from worldly attachments).
People who adhere to five and eight commandments all day, stick to shami (religious precept that the youngest monks have to follow), practice gusokukai (the full precepts) and have dignity and no lack of things.
They go to the Pure Land and lotus flowers are in full bloom and listen to sutra with joy and gain yoru (the rank you get when you can reach enlightenment by going to the Pure Land and coming back to this world seven times) and then, after a long time, they become an arhat.
People who is devoted to their parents and support them and put importance on peace and justice and are merciful to others,
At the time of death, they come to know a real hope of Amida Buddha and easy life in this world. After going to the Pure Land, they listen to teachings from Seishi Bosatsu (Mahasthamaprapta) and Kanzeon Bosatsu (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) and then, after a long time, they become an arhat.
The next three categories following jobon and chubon are gebon.
People in these three categories are called guaku (meeting evil), because they commit evil deeds in their life and go to hell due to violating the law, and they also called gehaishoso (third class of Buddhists who reborn in the Land of Happiness according to the nine levels of religiousness).
People who do not criticize Mahayana Buddhism Hodo-kyo Sutra, but are not ashamed of a lot of evil things they committed.
At the time of death, they listen to Kyodai (title of Buddhist scriptures) of Mahayana Buddhism Junibu-kyo (the Twelve Divisions of Scriptures) to expiate their 1000 heinous crimes and call upon myogo (name) of Amida to be granted pardon for their 500 million atrocious crimes, and then, meet Kebutsu (incarnation of Buddha) and go to the Pure Land. After 77 days later since they arrived there, lotus flowers are in full bloom and they listen to monpo (the teachings of Buddha) from Kannon (Deity of Mercy) and Seishi (bodhisattva) and understand them, which arises deep devotion to Buddha in their mind and after a long time, they can entered the first stage of Bosatsu.
People who violate five and eight commandments and gusokukai (entire precepts), steal assets of monks, and are not ashamed of preaching something against Buddha.
At the time of death, the moment they are going to hell, they listen to jurikiitoku (dignity), koumeishintsu (light on everything, which can salvage people reciting sutra) and gobuhosshin (five steps for ascetic practice) of Amida Buddha, so, they are granted a pardon for their 800 million atrocious crimes. A flame in the hell turns to be flowers in the heaven and they listen to teachings from Kannon and Seishi bodhisattva, and then, they have an aspiration that they want to reach enlightenment.
People who should go to hell, because they committed five rebellious sins, ten ferocious crimes and evil deeds.
At the time of death, they are aware of what good deeds are and faintly listen to teachings of Buddha, and then they try to recite sutra, but they can not do that because of struggling with labored breath. All they can do is just to have a strong faith in Buddha and call upon myogo of Amida (Invocation of the Buddha's name). Soon after, they can be granted a pardon for their 800 million atrocious crimes and go to the Pure land seeing golden lotus flowers. After a long time, lotus flowers are full bloomed covering the floor and they listen to teachings from Kannon and Seishi, and then, the greatest faith in Buddha comes to them.