Master Genku (Honen)

Twenty Hymns based on his writings and biography


As our teacher Genku appeared in the world
And spread the One Vehicle of the universal Vow,
Throughout the entire country of Japan
Favorable conditions for the Pure Land teaching emerged.


Our teacher Genku appeared
Through the power of the Light of Wisdom,
And revealing the true Pure Land way,
He taught the selected Primal Vow.


Though Shan-tao and Genshin urged all to enter the true Pure Land way,
If our teacher Genku had not spread it among us
On these isolated islands in this defiled age,
How could we ever have awakened to it?


Through countless kalpas and innumerable lives,
We did not know the strong cause of liberation;
Were it not for our teacher Genku,
This present life also would pass in vain.


Genku, at the age of fifteen,
Became aware of the reality of impermanence;
Manifesting a long-cherished aspiration to reject this defiled world,
He entered the path to enlightenment.


The supreme virtues of Genku’s wisdom and practice were such
That even the teachers in the various schools of the Path of Sages
All turned to him for guidance and revered him
As master of the diamondlike precepts embodied in the one-mind.

Teachers in the various schools: Genku’s teachers in the Path of Sages later all turned to him for guidance.
l.4: the teachers of the various schools all became Genku’s disciples.


When Genku was alive
He emanated a golden light,
Which the Chancellor, an ordained layman,
Saw before him.

Chancellor: The regent Kanezane; the kanpaku. The lord Tsukinowa, whose Buddhist name was Ensho.


It was said among the people
That the original state of our teacher Genku
Was Master Tao-ch’o,
Or again, Master Shan-tao.


Genku appeared as Mahasthamaprapta,
And also as Amida.
Emperors and ministers venerated him,
And the ordinary people in the capital and the countryside revered him.


The ordained retired emperor of the Jokyu era
Revered our teacher Genku;
Monks of Sakyamuni’s tradition and scholars of the Chinese classics
All alike awakened to and entered the true Pure Land way.

Retired emperor: Gotakakura-in


When the time came for the Buddhas’ guidance through skillful means,
They appeared as Master Genku
And, teaching supreme shinjin,
Opened the gateway to nirvana.


To encounter a true teacher
Is difficult even among difficult things;
There is no cause for endlessly turning in transmigration
Greater than the hindrance of doubt.


Genku emanated a radiance
Which he always revealed to his followers,
Without discriminating between the wise and ignorant
Or between those of high station and low.


When the moment of death approached,
Our teacher Genku said,
“This is my third time to be born in the Pure Land;
It is especially easy to accomplish.”


Genku himself said,
“Formerly, I was among the assembly on Vulture Peak;
I practiced austerities with other sravakas
And guided beings to the Buddhist path.”


Born on isolated islands scattered like millet in the sea,
He spread the teaching of the nembutsu;
In order to guide sentient beings,
He came into this world many times.

Isolated islands scattered like millet: this country of Japan.


Amida Tathagata, manifesting form in this world,
Appeared as our teacher Genku;
The conditions for teaching having run their course,
He returned to the Pure Land.


At the death of our teacher Genku,
Radiant light shone in the sky like purple clouds;
Music sounded, subtle and elegant,
And the air was fragrant with rare perfumes.


Monks and laypeople, men and women, gathered beforehand;
Ministers and nobles assembled in numbers.
Lying on his right side with head to the north, facing the West,
He observed the manner of the Tathagata’s passing into nirvana.


The death of our teacher Genku
Came in 1212, in early spring;
On the twenty-fifth day of the first month,
He returned to the Pure Land.

Here ends the Hymns on
Master Genku

Here ends the Hymns of
the Pure Land Masters