The Venerable Master said he did not have any disciples because people do not recite the Nembutsu because of him, but because of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. Referring to such people as his disciples is therefore preposterous. Further, since all are disciples of the Buddha, he considered them to be “friends” (ondobo) who “walk the same path” (ondogyo).
There is a well-known story about the Venerable Master’s encounter with an ascetic named Bennen of Mt. Itajiki during this time. Because of the Venerable Master’s dedicated efforts in the Hitachi area, the number of people who devoted themselves to the Nembutsu increased. This caused Bennen to become jealous, and he determined to kill the Venerable Master. Bennen lay in wait on Mt. Itajiki, where he knew the Venerable Master would pass on his missionary travels, but was never able to be there when the Venerable Master walked by. Bennen became increasingly frustrated at being unable to harm the Venerable Master, and finally determined to attack the Venerable Master’s hermitage in Inada. The moment Bennen saw the Venerable Master’s calm and composed face, however, his evil intent disappeared. Bennen wept tears of repentance, and became the Venerable Master’s disciple on the spot. The Venerable Master gave Bennen a new name, Myoho-bo.
In the Godensho, Master Kakunnyo relates this incident in the following way:
Because he could not meet the the Venerable Master (Shinran) as he desired, he went to (the Venerable Master’s) home and was met cordially. The moment he saw (the Venerable Master’s) sacred face, his evil intent disappeared completely and he could only repent. … This person was Myoho-bo, the name given to him by the Venerable Master (Shinran).
Burning with hatred towards the Venerable Master and with the determination to kill him, Bennen attacked the Venerable Master’s hermitage with a sword, and bow and arrow. But the composure with which the Venerable Master met Bennen, even though the Venerable Master had no warning that he would be attacked, caused Bennen to stop in his tracks. The Venerable Master Shinran’s gentle expression caused Bennen to realize what a truly sacred person the Venerable Master was. Bennen deeply repented how mistaken he had been in intending to kill the person standing before him, and immediately became the Venerable Master’s disciple.
The Venerable Master is said to have been 49 years of age then, and Bennen 42.
A poem carved on a rock on Mt. Itajiki that Bennen (Myoho-bo) is said to have composed in later years, expresses the Venerable Master’s sacred character that converted even a person who was intent on killing him:
The mountains remain the same,
As do the trees and streams…
All that has changed
Is my heart.
The Venerable Master is considered to have started work on his major literary work, the Kyogyoshinsho (Teaching, Practice, Shinjin and Attainment) during the 1st year of Gennin (1224 AD) when he was about 52 years of age. The complete title of this work is Ken Jodo Shinjitsu Kyogyosho Monrui(Passages in Which the True Teaching, Practice and Attainment in the Pure Land are Revealed).