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»Voice of the Nembutsu    »Dharma Teachings    »Jodo Shu Hymns (eisho)
Jodo Shu Hymns (eisho)
Nembutsu Hall at Shitenno-ji in Settsu
Amida Buddha
the mind focused west,
like an empty and abandoned cicada shell,
the voice becomes cool.
by Honen Shonin

At the age of fifty-three, Honen Shonin visited the Nembutsu Hall near the West gate of Shitenno-ji in present day Osaka. Here, he chanted the nembutsu and practiced visualization of the sun (nisokan). The Shingon monk Myohen of Mt. Koya came here at great pains, his spirit in disarray, to learn about the nembutsu. Honen explained to him how Birth through the nembutsu is for ordinary, deluded beings. He said that expecting to have a mind perfectly clear of delusion while reciting the nembutsu is just as unrealistic as living with our eyes and nose cut off. This verse compares chanting the nembutsu and going to the Pure Land to a cicada leaving its shell behind, and also indicates the depth of Honen's absorption in the nembutsu (nembutsu zammai).

Explanation of Verse: If we chant the nembutsu with all our heart, desiring for Birth in the Pure Land and yearning for Amida who resides in the West, just like the cicada who leaves its shell behind, we will forget everything, leaving behind suffering and anxiety, and joyfully chanting the nembutsu in a refreshed voice.

At Shitenno-ji Myohen listens to Honen about Birth in the Pure Land (Myohen, Shitenno-ji-de Honen-ni nembutsu-ojo-no-koto-o kiku) from the Honen Shonin gyojoezu, scroll 16, section 13.
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