在第三代門主覺如上人（1270-1351）所著的《御傳鈔》（又名《本願寺聖人親鸞傳繪》）中，寫到了聖人被流放的心情：「大師聖人源空若不處流刑，我何赴配所？若我不赴配所，何以教化邊鄙群類？這都是師教之恩所致。」（そもそもまた大だい師し聖しょう人にん 源空げんくう もし流る刑けいに処しょせられたまはずは､われまた配所はいしょにおもむかんや｡もしわれ配所はいしょにおもむかずんば､なにによりてか辺へん鄙ぴの群類ぐんるいを化けせん｡これなほ師し教きょうの恩おん致ちなり｡）
The Venerable Master’s life from the time he was nine years of age until he was 29, was a life of seeking a way of salvation for himself. After that age, however, his life became one of transmitting the salvation that he experienced to others.
The Venerable Master quickly gained Master Honen’s trust. Only four years after becoming Master Honen’s disciple, during 1205 CE when he was 33 years of age, the Venerable Master was given permission to make a copy of Master Honen’s “Collection of Selected Passages on the Nembutsu of the Primal Vow” (Senjaku Hongan Nembutsu-shu) 選擇本願念佛集. It is said that among Master Honen’s many disciples (over 380 persons), only a select few were granted this privilege.
Because Master Honen’s teaching of the Nembutsu was for those unable to perform difficult religious practices or engage in difficult studies, it attracted followers from many classes of people. They included the nobility, warriors, merchants, and farmers, of course, but they also included thieves and prostitutes.
Master Honen taught that performing difficult religious practices and engaging in profound study were not necessary, and that only the Nembutsu could be relied upon. This made the teaching of Buddha-dharma available to everyone. That was why Master Honen attracted such a large following. Unfortunately, his popularity caused those who followed the “self-centered effort” teachings of Buddha-dharma to become jealous, and they began petitioning the Imperial Court to prohibit Master Honen’s teaching. It was during such a time that the Venerable Master joined Master Honen in Kyoto.
Emperor Gotoba began後鳥羽天皇 (1180－1239，在位期間1183-1198) a pilgrimage to Kumano熊野 on the 9th day of the 12th lunar month of 1206 CE (Ken-ei 1建永元年). During his absence, two of his ladies-in-waiting (traditionally said to be named Matsumushi松虫and Suzumushi鈴虫) were very moved by Dharma Talks given by two of Master Honen’s disciples named Juren-bo住蓮 and Anraku-bo安楽. They determined to quit their positions at the Imperial Court and become nuns. This enraged the Emperor and during the 2nd lunar month of 1207 CE (Jogen 1), he prohibited the Nembutsu teaching.
Juren-bo and Anraku-bo were sentenced to death, and Master Honen and several of his disciples, including the Venerable Master, were exiled. Master Honen was then 75 years of age. His place of exile was Tosa Province土佐國 (約今日的高知縣) on the island of Shikoku 四國島 (though other indications point to Sanuki Province讚岐國 on that island as his place of exile). He was given the criminal name of Fujii Motohiko藤井元彦.
The Venerable Master was 35 years of age when he was exiled. His place of exile was Echigo Province越後國 (modern Niigata Prefecture新潟縣), and he was given the criminal name of Fujii Yoshizane藤井善信.
Although receiving the harsh punishment of exile, the Venerable Master made the best of it. According to the “Honorable Biography” (Godensho御傳鈔; 本願寺聖人親鸞傳繪) written by his great-grandson, Master Kakunyo覺如上人 (1270-1351) 第三任門主, this is how the Venerable Master felt about his exile: “If I had not been banished (from the capital of Kyoto), I would never have been able to (teach the Nembutsu) to the peoples of that remote area. All this was solely due to Master Honen’s teaching.” そもそもまた大だい師し聖しょう人にん 源空げんくう もし流る刑けいに処しょせられたまはずは､われまた配所はいしょにおもむかんや｡もしわれ配所はいしょにおもむかずんば､なにによりてか辺へん鄙ぴの群類ぐんるいを化けせん｡これなほ師し教きょうの恩おん致ちなり｡
In other words, it was only because he was forced into exile that the Venerable Master was able to transmit the Nembutsu teaching to people in Echigo Province. From this, I believe we can see the Venerable Master’s mind and heart that wished nothing other than sharing his understanding of the Nembutsu with as many persons as possible. That was why he was able to accept his exile with such great joy.
After being exiled, the Venerable Master began referring to himself as “neither monk nor layperson” (hiso hizoku非僧非俗). He referred to himself of “not monk” because his ordination as a monk was revoked and he was treated as a criminal. But being stripped of his position as a monk did not mean he could not remain a follower of the Buddhist teaching. Because of his experience in the world of salvation, the Venerable Master could not consider himself to be an ordinary follower. That was why he also referred to himself as “non-layperson.”
The Venerable Master also referred to himself as “Gutoku愚禿.” The gu character of gutoku means “ignorant.” The toku character means “short-haired,” and refers to a hair style that consists of not shaving off all his hair as was the practice for monks, nor growing his hair long as is the practice of laypersons. It also implies that he was considered a criminal. Thus the name “Gutoku” that he took for himself means something like “ignorant short-haired one,” which can be considered to be how, through self-reflection, he came to regard himself.