Master Honen was then 75 years of age. His place of exile was Tosa Province on the island of Shikoku (other sources say it was to Sanuki Province). He was given the criminal name of Fujii Motohiko.
The Venerable Master Shinran was then 35 years of age. His place of exile was the Province of Echigo, present-day Niigata Prefecture. He was given the criminal name of Fujii Yoshizane. Regarding this incident, the Venerable Master later wrote the following in the Chapter on Transformed Land of his Kyogyoshinsho:
Lords and vassals who opposed the dharma and justice were indignant and resented (the Nembutsu teaching)…
Suppressing the true dharma which teaches that all living things are blessed with the Buddha’s saving grace is an absolutely atrocious act, the Venerable Master said in severely criticizing the authority of the Imperial Court, a practically unheard of thing during that time.
From this I believe you can get a glimpse of how important the Venerable Master considered Master Honen’s teaching which he received only after a long and dedicated search.
Again, as the Venerable Master is quoted as saying in Master Kakunnyo’s Godensho (Notes on the Honorable Life (of the Venerable Master Shinran)):
…if the Great Master Genku (Master Honen) had not been banished (from the capital of Kyoto), I would never have been sent to my place of exile. And if I had not gone to my place of exile, how would I have been able to influence the people of that remote area. All this is due to my Master’s teaching…
The Venerable Master felt that if Master Honen’s group had not been banned, he would not have been exiled to Echigo Province. And if he had not been exiled, how would he have been able to spread the precious teaching of the Nembutsu to the people there? The Venerable Master was actually grateful for being exiled because only then was he able to engage in activity that spread the Nembutsu teaching. From this, I believe we have another glimpse into the Venerable Master’s sacred mind and heart that was always concerned with letting others know about Amida Buddha’s salvation.
After being exiled, the Venerable Master referred to himself as “non-monk, non-layperson” (hiso hizoku). He also called himself “Shinran, the ignorant short-haired one” (gutoku Shinran). (The term Shonin that is associated with his name today means “‘sacred’ or ‘saintly’ person” and is an honorific that later generations assigned to him. The Venerable Master Shinran never used it himself.)
The “non-monk” part of “non-monk, non-layperson,” refers to a monk who is no longer able to maintain the Buddhist precepts, and therefore is no longer officially recognized as a monk. The “nonlayperson” part of that phrase probably refers to the fact that although he was a Buddhist layperson, he did not consider himself to be an ordinary layperson.
The “short-haired” part of the name, “Shinran, the ignorant short-haired one,” refers to a monk who does not maintain the Buddhist precepts. A monk has a clean-shuven head. A person with short hair, however, is a person who, while attempting to be a monk, cannot follow all the precepts that a monk has vowed to follow.
The Venerable Master Shinran’s “personal depth of reflection” (jiko naikan) can be considered to have deepened greatly after being sent to Echigo Province and living the life of an exile. (Since the introspection after shinjin has been established is a function of “‘Buddha-centered power’ shinjin” (tariki shinjin), I have used a different term (“personal depth of reflection”) to refer to the contents of Shinran Shonin spiritual life after that fundamental experience.) –
The Venerable Master’s marriage to Eshinni-ko took place while he was exiled in Echigo Province. During that time, marriage was considered to be breaking one of the precepts that monks had to follow. The Venerable Master’s determination to marry can be considered to have been made on the“evening of the 5th day of the 4th month during the 3rd year of Kennin.” The “3rd year of Kennin” is 1203 AD, when he was 31 years of age. According to the Godensho, that was when the Venerable Master had a dream in which Kannon Bosatsu told him:
Oh “doer (of the Nembutsu)” (gyoja), if the conditions arise for you to be bound with a woman, I will transform myself into a woman as beautiful as a jewel and be your bride. I will serve you for your entire life and lead you to birth in the Pure Land when your life in this world comes to an end.
This passage is referred to as Nyobon-no-mukoku (Revelation of a Monk’s Clandestine Romance in a Dream).
Some scholars believe this is what the Venerable Master heard from Shotoku Taishi in a dream at the age of 29, and was what caused him to visit Master Honen. The problem that confronted the Venerable Master at the age of 29, however, was how to resolve the problem of life-and-death whether he should abandon the Path of Sages (the way of becoming enlightened solely through his own efforts) and enter the Pure Land Path (the way of becoming enlightened through reliance on Amida Buddha’s Vow). Accordingly, I believe that “revelation” (about visiting Master Honen) was a different text. I also believe that this “revelation” about marrying should be considered to have occurred several years after the Venerable Master became Master Honen’s disciple. That would be when the Venerable Master was about 31 years of age. It was only then that he began considering the problem of marriage for a monk who follows the Pure Land Path.