Zendo (Shan-tao, Shandao) (善導)

Zendo (Shan-dao) was an eminent monk in Chinese Pure Land Buddhism. The third patriarch of the Five Patriarchs of the Pure Land Sect as well as the fifth patriarch of the Seven Patriarchs of Jodo-shinshu Buddhism. His family name was Shu.
He is also know as "Shunan daishi" as well as "Komyo-ji no Kasho"

16 years before the birth of Zendo the founder of Tendai-shu, Chigi (Zhi-yi), passed away.

Also, 4 years prior to his birth, Doshaku (Tao-cho, Daochuo) became a devout believer in Pure Land Buddhism.

Jizang, the patriarch who revived Sanron-shu, and Xuan Zang, a prominent figure in the history of translation of Buddhist scriptures, are both from the same period as Zendo.


He was born in 613 in Tsu-jou (present day Anhui province), or in Linzi (present-day Shandong province). He became a priest at a young age, and after training himself at various places he entered into priesthood at Mt. Shunan-san Goshin-ji Temple located south of Chang'an.

In 641, at the age of 29, he visited Doshaku in Taiyuan and became his disciple.
Until Doshaku passed away in 645 he learned the teachings including "Kammuryoju-kyo (Kangyo)"
It is said that for more than 30 years he did not have another place to sleep, did not undress unless he was bathing, did not raise his eyes to look at women, and never thought of personal glory or benefit. After Doshaku passed away he returned to Mt. Shunan-san Goshin-ji Temple and underwent an arduous training.

Later, he went to Chang'an, copied Amida Sutra (a hundred thousand volumes) by hand and gave it to people who were related to him, and he focused on edifying the common people using pictorial depictions of the solemn Pure Land. On the other hand, he was involved in a wide range of activities such as the supervising of the construction project in a cave at Fengxian Temple at Longmen Grottoes. In Chang'an, he resided at Komyo-ji Temple, Cien Temple and Jissai-ji Temple.

He passed away at the age of 69 on March 14 (also said to be March 27), 681. A monument honoring his spirit (Zendo Monument) and Xiangjisi Temple were built by his disciples including Eun at the foot of Mt. Shunan-san. It is said that Zendo died by climbing up a willow tree in front of the temple and jumping off from it, however, there is also a divergent view. After the death of Emperor Gaozong (K'ao-tsung) he received a plaque bearing the name of the temple, and the temple was named Komyo.

Zendo had a great influence on Honen and Shinran in Japan.
Honen advocated Senju-nenbutsu based on a verse in 'Sanzengi' from Zendo's "Kangyosho (Kanmuryoju-kyosho)" that says, 'Repeat the name of the Amida Buddha with all of your heart, never forget the Buddha when you are walking, staying still, sitting or sleeping, at any time, then you will have the correct actions, in compliance with the wish of the Buddha for the salvation of all living things.'

Works by Zendo

"Kammuryoju-kyosho (Kangyosho)" (Commentary on the Meditation Sutra), 4 volumes

"Ojo Raisan" (Ojo Raisan Ge), 1 volume

"Tengyo gyodogan ojojodo hojisan" (Hojisan), 2 volumes

"Ekangyotomyo hanjuzanmai gyodo ojosan" (Hanjusan), 1 volume

"Kannen Amida Butsu sokai sanmai kudoku homon" (Kannen homon), 1 volume

Most are written works from the period he spent in Chang'an, and in particular, "Kangyosho" is one of the most important references in interpreting "Kammuryoju-kyo (Kangyo)" in Pure Land Buddhism in Japan.