Updated: Mar 14, 2019
Senkikumaru (the childhood name of Genshin), who was only six or seven, saw a priest washing his lunchbox in the dirty river. When Senkikumaru pointed out what the priest was doing, the priest quoted a difficult Buddhist phrase: "Pure and impure are not distinct." He said to the boy, “Intrinsically, there is no concept of clean and dirty. Drawing a line between clean and dirty is a deluded way of seeing things.” However, Senkikumaru asked back, “If that's so, then why are you washing your lunchbox?” The priest became speechless and was unable to reply, but he couldn't just let him have the last word. Waiting for a chance to respond to Senkikumaru, the priest saw the boy at play, throwing stones with other children. He walked to Senkikumaru and asked, “You seem very smart, but can you count up to ten?” “I can!” said Senkikumaru, so the priest told him to do so. He started to count, saying, “Hitotsu, futatsu (One, two).” When the boy reached ten, the priest suddenly said, “What? You counted in a strange way. As with ‘hitotsu’ and ‘futatsu’, every number ends with ‘tsu’. But why didn’t you put ‘tsu’ at the end of ‘to (ten)’?” To the priest's mean-spirited question, Senkikumaru answered, “Since I used ‘tsu’ twice when I counted ‘itsutsu (five)’, I don’t have a ‘tsu’ for ten.” Defeated again with a single quip! But the priest was deeply impressed with Senkikumaru’s wittiness.
He had an intuition that it would be a waste for such a smart boy to stay in this rural area and that he would become a great priest if he studied hard. And so the priest followed Senkikumaru on his way home and earnestly talked to his mother.
“I’m a priest from Mt. Hiei. I happened to meet this boy, and I was really surprised at how smart he is. If he becomes a priest, he will surely become a great one. Would you please leave him to me?”
Senkikumaru was her only son and she didn’t want to be separated from him. However, seeing how impressed the priest was, she thought about her son's future, which led her to approve the priest’s offer. The priest took Senkikumaru to Mt. Hiei, and he became a priest at the age of nine. Taking on the name Genshin, he started to practice Buddhism intently. He put in a remarkable level of effort, and when he was fifteen, everyone came to know Genshin as one of the greatest priests amongst the 3000 on Mt. Hiei.