Tokuhon Shonin


At the time of ending (6)
Mind should be experiencing (8)
Messed and distracted (5)
Unless you know and prepare (7)
Death can happen anytime. (7)


終わりには 心顛倒するものぞ 常に終わりの 用心なければ
Tokuhon Shonin (1758- 1818)
(Translated by Kosen Ishikawa)


This poem was written by Tokuhon Shonin (1758-1818) , born in Wakayama, who was well-known as a Saint of Nenbutsu practitioner during late Edo period. He organized “Nenbutsu-ko” called “Tokuhon-ko” around the capitol city and travelled around Japan in order to preach and practice the essence of Nenbutsu to all people.

He was also known as an outstanding poet and calligrapher. He wrote many holy-name of Amida Buddha “Namu Amida Butsu” with his unique style to give many people. Wherever he stayed at temple, he was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of people with enthusiasm and then after he left, the monument of “Namu Amida Butsu” by his calligraphy was dedicated in commemoration of having Tokuhon Shonin at the temple.

This monument is called “Myogou-seki” or “Holy Name Stone.” There are about one thousand of his monument of “Namu Amida Butsu.” It is said there was no one who didn’t know Tokuhon in Japan at that time. His style of chanting Nenbutsu was known as hard hitting of wooden drum and bell with strong voice. It’s called “Tokuhon Nenbutsu.”

Fortunately I was raised at the temple where this Holy Name monument was dedicated and grew up with chanting of Nenbutsu naturally. Then I happened to know my style of chanting Nenbutsu is similar to Tokuhon style.

In this poem, Tokuhon starts with a strong warning of our ending. At the time of dying, we are supposed to fear it and our mind can be easily distracted and confused. Then how can we avoid this fear of death and distracted mind? Tokuhon simply stressed we need to prepare for death anytime. By always realizing this moment could be our last moment, we won’t waste this time nor we won’t be confused. We cannot avoid death but we can avoid worries of death by preparation of death at each moment.

He didn’t mention anything about Nenbutsu in this short poem but what he really meant was Nenbutsu in the present moment can be the best preparation for our ending which could be a brand-new beginning of the Prue Land.