Outline of Pure Land Buddhism

Shinran Shonin

  •  Introduction

         During the 12th and 13th centuries, several schools of Buddhism arose in Japan. The schools, combined,
	  are called Kamakura Buddhism. These schools laid the foundation for the major schools in Japan today.

  •  Shinran’s Life

        Born in 1173 at Hino, near Kyoto. Son of Lord Arinori Hino, a high court officer in the services of the 
          Dowager Empress of that time.
     
    At age 9, became a Buddhist monk; went to Mount Hiei, the scholastic center of Buddhist teaching in 
            that era.
     
    At age 29, Shinran was in an uncertain state of mind over the fundamental problems of birth and death.
     
     He left Mount Hiei and made daily trips to Rokkakudo in Kyoto --- seeking a way of deliverance from 
          this world by means of his merit of prayer for 100 successful days. On the 95th day, a vision of Prince
	  Shotoku appeared and instructed him to visit Yoshimizu and study under the teacher Honen.
     
    In 1201, Shinran became a disciple of Honen. During that time, Honen’s new movement of salvation 
          through the Nembutsu extended throughout Japan. Envious of the popularity of the Nembutsu, the 
          priests of the old school began to pressure Honen and his disciples.

       Shinran studied the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism and, especially, of the Pure Land School.
     
    With growing jealousy of the priests of the old schools, Honen, Shinran and other disciples were 
          sentenced to exile in 1207 --- Honen to Tosa Province and Shinran to Echigo Province. While 
          exiled in Echigo, Shinran is believed to have married Eshin-Ni.
 
      In 1214, pardoned from exile, along with Honen, Shinran headed for the Kanto district
	  (present-day Tokyo).
          There he lived and preached the way of the Nembutsu for 20 years, moving from place to place.
    
     In 1224, when Shinran was 52 years old, there was more pressure from Mount Hiei, with Imperial
	  Order, to desist in the teaching of the Nembutsu way. Shinran wrote the “Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho-Monrui”
	  in defense against that new pressure.
      
     Returned to Kyoto around age of 60.  Led very secluded life, and in scholarly pursuits. He passed away
          at the age of 90.

  •  Shinran’s Doctrine 
     
     Turning point in Shinran’s life was receiving the Nembutsu way while studying under master Honen.
 
      Shinran’s way of the Nembutsu has specific characteristics that cannot be considered as mere 
          successions of Honen’s doctrine. a) His interpretation of the relationship between the practice
          of Nembutsu and Faith – placing greater emphasis upon Faith than the practice of Nembutsu.
          b) Shinran’s doctrine was based on the concept of the “Other Power” (Tariki). “Other Power” 
          meant the power of the Vow of Tathagata Amida.
     
     Shinran strove to clarify the necessity of being carried on the power of the Primal Vow (the living 
          force of unconditional love and compassion) as the inner dynamics of recitative nembutsu.The central
          question for the Shin Buddhist becomes, not “How can I attain satori (enlightenment)?”, but, “How 
          can I be carried by the power of the Primal Vow?”


II. HONZAN / Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (World Headquarters of Jodo Shinshu)
   
•  ‘Hongwanji’ is the official name of a temple located at Hanayacho-sagaru Shichijo Horikawa, in Kyoto,
       Japan. The Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha is usually referred to as the Nishi Hongwanji.
   
•  There are four large overseas Missions of the World: the Buddhist Churches of Canada, Buddhist Churches
      of America (North America), South America, and Hawaii. In Hawaii, it is called Honpa Hongwanji Mission of 
      Hawaii. There are also temples in Europe, Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, and Kenya.

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