Hoonko is a time to express our gratitude to Shinran Shonin, the founder, on the day of his death, January 16, 1262. Literally, the Japanese characters “Ho-On” means “return of gratitude” and “Ko” means “to clarify the meaning of.”
Hoonko is the most important for the Jodo Shin Buddhists because it is a day to pay our respects to the founder of the sect, Shinran Shonin. We commemorate the anniversary of his death. On this occasion, we assemble together to pay our homage to his memory and to Amida Buddha for having awakened us to the existence of life’s supreme debt of gratitude.
Shinran Shonin lived in the Kamakura Era, Japan. In a time of disunity and violence, Shinran Shonin sought a way for all beings to attain perfect peace equally. Shinran Shonin interpreted Buddhism on the level of common people. During the period in japan, to become a Buddhist meant having to leave one’s home and family to enter a life of strict practices and intellectual study of Buddhism. Shinran Shonin, however, lived the life of an ordinary person – the same as that of the farmers and fishermen. Shinran Shonin had a wife and children. He ate meat and fish. Shinran Shonin lived a nembutsu life with his family and opened up the path to Buddhism to the common people. If Shinran Shonin had not clarified the teachings of the Primal Vow, our temple and Sangha would not be in existence today. For this, we praise the virtues of our founder Shinran Shonin, express our sincere appreciation for having encountered his teachings, and reconfirm our true entrusting minds to listen and live his teachings each day.