Hōnen ［法然］ (1133–1212): Also known as Genkū. The founder of the Pure Land (Jōdo) school in Japan. Born in Mimasaka Province, in 1141 Hōnen became a disciple of his uncle, Kankaku, a priest of the Tendai school in the province, in accord with the wishes of his assassinated father. In 1145 (1147 according to another account) he entered Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei, where he studied the teachings of the Tendai school under Genkō and Kōen. In 1150 he began to study the Pure Land teachings under Eikū. He left Kurodani on Mount Hiei, where Eikū lived, and went to study the doctrines of other schools. On his return he read through the Buddhist canon. He is said to have reached an awakening in 1175 upon reading The Commentary on the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra by Shan-tao, a patriarch of the Chinese Pure Land school. Thereafter he dedicated himself solely to the Pure Land practice of Nembutsu, or the chanting of Amida Buddha’s name. The Pure Land school in Japan considers this awakening by Hōnen as the date of its founding. Hōnen then moved to Yoshimizu in Kyoto where he devoted himself to the exclusive practice of Nembutsu and attracted a great number of followers. In 1186, at the request of Kenshin, later the chief priest of Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei, Hōnen preached the Pure Land teachings at Shōrin-in temple in Ōhara, Kyoto, where he is said to have refuted priests of the Dharma Characteristics (Hossō), Three Treatises (Sanron), Flower Garland (Kegon), and other schools. This event is known as the Ōhara Discourse. Alarmed at the spread of his teachings, the priests of Mount Hiei and Kōfuku-ji temple, a major temple in Nara, petitioned the throne against Hōnen. Matters came to a head in 1206, when two court ladies were persuaded to become nuns of the Pure Land school at a prayer service conducted by Hōnen’s disciples Junsai and Jūren. This incident aroused the anger of the Retired Emperor Gotoba, who banned the Pure Land teaching and exiled Hōnen to Tosa in 1207. In 1211 he was permitted to return to the capital, where he died the following year. Hōnen’s best-known work is The Nembutsu Chosen above All, written in 1198. In it, he defines the cause for attaining rebirth in the Pure Land to be the exclusive practice of Nembutsu, and urges that people discard all sutras other than the three basic sutras of the Pure Land teaching (the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, and the Amida Sutra). He also wrote commentaries on the three Pure Land sutras and on The Essentials of Rebirth in the Pure Land by Genshin.