The portrait of Honen Shoin (13th century) is known in Japanese as "Kagami no Miei" (mirror portrait) and shows the famous Buddhist priest seated on a mat, slightly slumped and holding his nenju (rosary). For the title of another famous 13th-century depiction of a well-known Buddhist priest, Shinran, the same kanji characters are given a slightly different reading. This time the mirror portrait is titled "Kagami no Goei."
It is an exceedingly subtle difference, but one that invokes the mirrorlike refractions and reflections that occur within evolving religions. Like the rays in the "Mandala of Saving and Never Forsaking," which represents the light of the Buddha falling on only those who practiced the nembutsu (invoking Amida Buddha's holy name), enlightenment never follows a straight path
Although the lives of these two venerated holy men overlapped, that isn't reflected in two shows being concurrently exhibited in Japan's ancient capital: "Honen: The Life and Art of the Founder of the Pure Land Buddhist Sect" at the Kyoto National Museum and "Shinran: The Founder of Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism: His Life and Legacy" at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.
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