Important Cultural PropertyThe Biography of the Monk Hōnen

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  • 1 scroll
  • Color on paper
  • 32.7x1409.3
  • Kamakura period/14th century
  • Donated by Matsunaga Yasuzaemon
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10571

From the end of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period, when people were strongly worried that now was the mappou (Age of Dharma Decline), Honen (1133 –1212) advocated Senshū Nenbutsu (concentration on repeating the name of Amitābha Buddha) widely and was revered as the founder of the Pure Land school of Buddhism in Japan. There are a few groups of Honen's Denki Emaki (biographical paintings). Myōjō-ji (Myōjō temple) in Tokyo has a copy of original manuscript of the nine-volume version in the early modern period. Kōfukujirin Amida Butsu (Kōfukujirin Amitābha Buddha) is written on the opening pages or the end of the volume. Because of this, the surviving versions in this group are called Rinna-bon (Rinna version, with Rinna taken from Kōfukujirin Amida Butsu). The Tokyo National Museum version corresponds to volume eight of the Rinna version.
The nenbutsu doctrine was persistently criticized by the traditional Buddhist schools, and in Kennei 2 (1207), Honen was banished to Tosa (today's Kôchi Prefecture). This eighth volume depicts the last part of his biography, in which Honen was pardoned, came back to Kyoto from Tosa, and passed away at Higashiyama Otani. In this picture, while sick in bed, Honen still continues teaching his disciples the wisdom of nenbutsu, but in Kenryaku 2 (1212), he passed away peacefully and went to the Pure Land.