Birthday of Master Honen (1133-1212)
Yesterday, April 7, has been another important day for Jodoshu followers. It was a day when our Master Honen was born in Mimasaka (currently Okayama), Japan in 1133. So It was the 882nd Happy Birthday of our Master.
However, this morning, I found out various websites in English nowadays say Honen's birthday was May 13th, 1133 and he passed away on February 29, 1212, while most Japanese websites, including official Jodoshu website, said April 7 was his birthday and his date of death was January 25, 1212.
Soon I realized this difference happened depending on which calendar system did they follow? Is it new Gregorian calendar or old lunisolar calendar? It's a simple difference, but without any explanations, I thought it was confusing.
As you may know, for a long time, Japan has followed several Chinese lunisolar calendar systems. Then in 1873, Japan has officially started to use a current Gregorian Calendar System.
Just like Chinese New Year is celebrated usually in February, there is about one month difference between Gregorian and Chinese lunisolar calendar.
O-Bon in Japan is same too. Traditionally, it has been observed around July 15th. But since 1873, Japan has started to use a Gregorian Calendar. Then there became two customs. One is to stick to the old date according to the lunisolar calendar, which is around August 15th of the Gregorian Calendar. Another custom is to follow the new date of July 15th of the Gregorian Calendar, which should have been around June 15th, according to the lunisolar calendar.
So back to the birthday of our Master Honen....
The fact he was born in April 7 is true. However, "April 7" was according to the old lunisolar calendar, which is different date today according to the new Gregorian Calendar.
So if we are seeking for the truth to be exact, we need to "translate" the date from the lunisolar calendar date to the Gregorian Calendar date since English language has followed Gregorian calendar. On the other hand, Japan still use its own era-system or Regnal year called Gengo. So if we follow this Gengo era, no translation of the dates is necessary. We can definitely say "April 7"is Master Honen's birthday.
Yes, two dates are sometimes confusing. But there is one good thing for sure.....we can celebrate Master's birthday at least two times a year! I had never thought of May 13th as a Master's birthday, but I will pay attention to this day, too, from now on.