Jōdo Shinshū (浄土真宗 ,"True Pure Land School"?), also known as Shin Buddhism, is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It was founded by the former Tendai Japanese monk Shinran Shonin. Today, Shin Buddhism is considered the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan.
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The literal translation of Jodo Shin Shu is the True Pure Land Religion. There are ten branches of which the two major ones are commonly called Nishi Hongwanji and Higashi Hongwanji. Their true names are Hompa Hongwanji and Otaniha Hongwanji respectively. There are no marked doctrinal differences between these two branches; the difference is in their historical development. In the rituals there is a slight difference such as in the chanting of the sutras.
All the Buddhist churches in Canada and the majority of the Shin Shu churches in the United States formally belong to the Nishi or Hompa Hongwanji branch but in practice, especially in Canada, no clear cut distinction is made because the membership includes those who originally belonged to the other branches of Shin Shu or other schools of Buddhism such as Zen and Shingon. Though the membership of the first generation Japanese is inter--denominational in these churches, the teachings of Shinran occupy the most important place.
At the heart of the Shin Buddhist teaching lies a vision of true reality as alive with wisdom and compassion, working to bring all beings to the highest fulfillment of human life, the attainment of Buddhahood.
Shinran teaches that this activity manifests itself as Amida Buddha, who resolved to save all beings by bringing into his Pure Land, the realm of enlightenment, all who say his Name, entrusting themselves to his Vow. He thus performed practices for long eons and fulfilled this Vow, so that his Name, Namu Amida Butsu, came to resound throughout the universe, awakening all beings to the reality of great compassion.
Saying the Name results in birth into the Pure Land, not because it is a good act that people perform, but because it is the activity of Amida Buddha himself giving the virtues of his own practice to them. Shinran therefore stresses that genuine nembutsu arises naturally and spontaneously from the Buddha's mind that unfolds itself in us and transforms our minds into wisdom and compassion.
As long as we perform religious practices or say the nembutsu contriving to achieve Buddhahood, our acts are based on attachment to our own goodness. In fact, we constantly cling to imagined selves that we take to be permanent and real, seeking to enhance and protect ourselves by erecting barriers against all that we see as standing apart. Thus arise the feelings that poison ordinary life - desire, envy, anger, fear. Acts rooted in such anxiety and self-attachment can only lead to further pain.
A mind of true sincerity and authentic trust arises when we genuinely hear and are grasped by Amida's Primal Vow, and realize that our own designs are futile and unnecessary. Seeing ourselves with the Buddha's wisdom, we perceive for the first time that all our acts arise from egocentric passions. Nevertheless, this is at the same time to know that Amida's light and life pervade our existence just as we are.
When karmic bonds to this life end with death, people of the nembutsu go to the Pure Land. But with their fulfillment of perfect wisdom-compassion, they return immediately to this world in the dynamic activity of bringing all beings to awakening.
The following passages, although brief, reveal the essential elements of Shinran's religious awakening: the realization of the Buddha's wisdom-compassion working in one's existence in the immediate present, coupled with insight into the actual nature of the bound and ignorant self.
Shinran (1173-1263) lived during the late-Heian early-Kamakura period (1185-1333), a time of turmoil for Japan when the Emperor was stripped of political power by the Shoguns. Shinran's family had a high rank at the Imperial court in Kyoto, but given the times many aristocratic families were sending sons off to be Buddhist monks instead of having them participate in the Imperial government. When Shinran was nine (1181) he was sent by his uncle to Mt. Hiei, where he was ordained as a Tendai monk. Over time Shinran became disillusioned with what Buddhism in Japan had become, foreseeing a decline in the potency and practicality of the teachings espoused.
Shinran left his role as a low-ranking doso ("Practice-Hall Monk") at Mt. Hiei and undertook a 100-day retreat at Rokkakudo temple in Kyoto, where he had a dream on the 95th day. In this dream Prince Shotoku (in Japan he is sometimes regarded as an incarnation of Kannon Bosatsu) appeared to him, espousing a pathway to enlightenment through verse. Following the retreat, in 1201, Shinran left Mt. Hiei to study under Hōnen for the next six years. Hōnen (1133-1212) another ex-Tendai monk, left the tradition in 1175 to found his own sect, Jodo Shu ("Pure Land School"). From that time on, Shinran considered himself, even after exile, a devout disciple of Hōnen rather than a founder establishing his own, distinct Pure Land school.
During this period, Hōnen taught the new nembutsu-only practice to many people in Kyoto society and amassed a substantial following, but also increasingly came under criticism by the Buddhist establishment in Kyoto. Among the strongest critics was the monk, Myoe, and the temples of Enryakuji and Kofukuji. The latter continued to criticize Hōnen and his followers, even after they pledged to behave with good conduct, and to not slander other Buddhists.
In 1207, Hōnen's critics at Kofukuji persuaded Emperor Gotoba to proscribe Hōnen and his teachings after two of his ladies-in-waiting converted to the new faith. Hōnen and his followers, among them Shinran, were forced into exile, and four of Hōnen's disciples were executed. Shinran was given a lay name, Yoshizane Fujii by the authorities but called himself Gutoku ("Stubble-headed One") instead and moved to Echigo province (today Niigata Prefecture)
It was during this exile that Shinran cultivated a deeper understanding of his own beliefs, the Pure Land teachings of Hōnen. In 1210 he married Eshinni, the daughter of an aristocrat of Echigo Province. Shinran and Eshinni had several children. His eldest son, Zenran, was alleged to have started a heretical sect of Pure Land Buddhism through claims that he received special teachings from his father. Zenran demanded control of local monto (lay follower groups), but after writing a stern letter of warning, Shinran disowned him in 1256, effectively ending Zenran's legitimacy.
In 1211 the nembutsu ban was lifted and Shinran was pardoned, but by 1212 Hōnen had died in Kyoto. Shinran never saw Hōnen following their exile. In the year of Hōnen's death, Shinran set out for the Kantō area of Japan, where he established a substantial following and began committing his ideas to writing. In 1224 he wrote his most significant book, the Kyogyoshinsho ("The True Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment of the Pure Land"), which contained excerpts from the Three Pure Land sutras and the Nirvana Sutra along with his own commentaries and the writings of the Jodo Shinshu Patriarchs whom Shinran drew inspiration from.
In 1234, at the age of sixty, Shinran left Kantō for Kyoto (Eshinni stayed in Echigo and she may have outlived Shinran by several years), where he dedicated the rest of his years to writing. It was during this time he wrote the Wasan, a collection of verses summarizing his teachings for his followers to recite. Shinran's daughter, Kakushinni, came to Kyoto with Shinran, and cared for him in his final years and his mausoleum later became Hongwanji ('The Temple of the Original Vow'). Kakushinni was instrumental in preserving Shinran's teachings after his death, and the letters she received and saved from her mother, Eshinni, provide critical biographical information regarding Shinran's earlier life. These letters are currently preserved in the Nishi Hongwanji temple in Kyoto. Shinran died at the age of 90 in 1263.
Revival and Formalization
Following Shinran's death, the lay Shin monto slowly spread through the Kantō and the northeastern seaboard. Shinran's descendents maintained themselves as caretakers of Shinran's gravesite and as Shin teachers, although they continued to be ordained in the Tendai School. Some of Shinran's disciples founded their own schools of Shin Buddhism, such as the Bukko-ji and Kosho-ji, in Kyoto. Early Shin Buddhism did not truly flourish until the time of Rennyo (1415-1499), who was 8th in descent from Shinran Shonin. Through his charisma and proselytizing, Shin Buddhism was able to amass a greater following and grow in strength. In the 16th-century, during Japan's Sengoku Period the political power of Hongwanji led to several conflicts between the Hongwanji and the warlord Oda Nobunaga, culminating in a 10-year conflict over the location of the Osaka Hongwanji, which Oda Nobunaga coveted because of its strategic value. So strong did the sect become that in 1602, through mandate of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the main temple Hongwanji in Kyoto was broken off into two sects to curb the Hongwanji's power. These two sects, the Nishi (Western) Hongwanji, and the Higashi (Eastern) Hongwanji, exist separate to this day.
During the time of Shinran Shonin, followers would gather in informal meeting houses called dojo, and had an informal liturgical structure. However, as time went on, as this lack of cohesion and structure caused Jodo Shinshu to gradually lose its identity as a distinct sect, as people began mixing other Buddhist practices with Shin ritual. One common example was the Mantra of Light popularized by Myoe and Shingon Buddhism. Other Pure Land Buddhist practices, such as the nembutsu odori or "dancing nembutsu" as practiced by the followers of Ippen and the Ji School, may have also been adopted by early Shin Buddhists. Rennyo ended these practices by formalizing much of the Jodo Shinshu ritual and liturgy, and revived the thinning community at the Hongwanji temple while asserting newfound political power. Rennyo also proselytized widely among other Pure Land sects, and consolidated most of the smaller Shin sects. Today, there are still 10 distinct sects of Jodo Shinshu, Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji being the two largest.
Rennyo Shonin is generally credited by Shin Buddhists for reversing the stagnation of the early Jodo Shinshu community, and is considered the "Second Founder" of Jodo Shinshu. His portrait picture, along with Shinran Shonin's, are present on the onaijin (altar area) of most Jodo Shinshu temples. However, Rennyo Shonin has also been criticized by some Shin scholars for his engagement in medieval politics and his alleged divergences from Shinran's original thought.
Following the unification of Japan during the Edo Period, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism adapted, along with the other Japanese Buddhist schools, into providing memorial and funeral services for its registered members (danka seido), which was legally required by the Tokugawa shogunate in order to prevent the spread of Christianity in Japan. The danka seido system continues to exist today, although not as strictly as in the premodern period, causing Japanese Buddhism to also be labeled as "Funeral Buddhism" since it became the primary function of Buddhist temples. The Hongwanji also created an impressive academic tradition, which led to the founding of Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, and formalized many of the Jodo Shinshu traditions which are still followed today. Following the Meiji Restoration and the subsequent persecution of Buddhism (haibutsu kishaku) of the late 1800s due to a revived nationalism and modernization, Jodo Shinshu managed to survive intact due to the devotion of its monto. During World War II, the Hongwanji, as with the other Japanese Buddhist schools, was compelled to support the policies of the military government and the cult of State Shinto. It subsequently apologized for its wartime actions.
In contemporary times, Jodo Shinshu is one of the most widely followed forms of Buddhism in Japan, although like other Japanese Buddhism it faces challenges from many popular New Religious Movements (known in Japan as shin shinkyo religions, which emerged following World War II), and the growing secularization and materialism of Japanese society
All ten schools of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism will commemorate the 750th memorial of their founder, Shinran Shonin, in 2011 in Kyoto, Japan.
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1. Life of Shinran
Shinran Shonin (Shonin means holy man) was born at Hino near Kyoto, Japan, on May 21st, 1173.
He lost his father when he was four and later at the age of nine, he lost his mother. These two tragic experiences had a great influence on the mind of the boy and he decided to enter the priesthood. He entered a monastery and studied under the guidance of Jichin, chief abbot of that monastery. Nearly a year later he went to Hieizan or Mount Hiei, center of Buddhist learning at that time.
For twenty years he studied there. His high moral qualities and excellent scholastic record were so outstanding that he could have easily been appointed to the head of all the temples on Hiei. However, he declined the position for he was not in search of fame or position. He was earnestly searching for spiritual insight.
This he was able to gain after giving up his studies on Mount Hiei and after entering the monastery of Honen, who was teaching a way of salvation through faith in the power of Amida Buddha. Shinran' s life, thereafter, became a calm and peaceful life regardless of his conditions. He constantly recited the Nembutsu -- Namu Amida Butsu -- as an expression of deep gratitude for the Compassionate Heart of Amida.
Shinran Shonin realized that here was a teaching that enabled the ordinary man to lead a true Buddhist life without shutting himself up in a monastery. Acting on the advice of Honen, Shinran married Princess Tamahi.
The Buddhist priesthood was in an uproar. Here was a priest who taught salvation in the power of Amida which was contrary to the recognized religious traditions of the day -- salvation through moral and mental discipline. Furthermore, he had violated the priestly code by taking upon himself a wife.
Both Shinran and Honen were banished from Kyoto.
After many years in exile, Shinran finally settled at Inada, Hitachi Province, in 1217. Here at the age of 45, he wrote his most famous work, "Kyo Gyo Shin Sho" -- Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment. This book considered the most important of Shinran's writing, laid the doctrinal foundation of Jodo Shin Shu.
He spent twenty-five years of his life in the provincial countries. In 1232 when he was 60, he turned his footsteps to Kyoto, arriving there in l235.
Here he remained until his passing on January 16th, 1262, writing and preaching to the countless followers who came to hear the Teachings of the Nembutsu.
Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) was born at the close of the Heian period, when political power was passing from the imperial court into the hands of warrior clans. It was during this era when the old order was crumbling, however, that Japanese Buddhism, which had been declining into formalism for several centuries, underwent intense renewal, giving birth to new paths to enlightenment and spreading to every level of society.
Shinran was born into the aristocratic Hino family, a branch of the Fujiwara clan, and his father, Arinori, at one time served at court. At the age of nine, however, Shinran entered the Tendai temple on Mt. Hiei, where he spent twenty years in monastic life. From the familiarity with Buddhist writings apparent in his later works, it is clear that he exerted great effort in his studies during this period. He probably also performed such practices as continuous recitation of the nembutsu for prolonged periods.
After twenty years, however, he despaired of ever attaining awakening through such discipline and study; he was also discouraged by the deep corruption that pervaded the mountain monastery. Years earlier, Honen Shonin (1133-1212) had descended Mt. Hiei and begun teaching a radically new understanding of religious practice, declaring that all self-generated efforts toward enlightenment were tainted by attachments and therefore meaningless. Instead of such practice, one should simply say the nembutsu, not as a contemplative exercise or means of gaining merit, but by way of wholly entrusting oneself to Amida's Vow to bring all beings to enlightenment.
When he was twenty-nine, Shinran undertook a long retreat at Rokkakudo temple in Kyoto to determine his future course. At dawn on the ninety-fifth day, Prince Shotoku appeared to him in a dream. Shinran took this as a sign that he should seek out Honen, and went to hear his teaching daily for a hundred days. He then abandoned his former Tendai practices and joined Honen's movement.
At this time, however, the established temples were growing jealous of Honen, and in 1207 they succeeded in gaining a government ban on his nembutsu teaching. Several followers were executed, and Honen and others, including Shinran, were banished from the capital.
Shinran was stripped of his priesthood, given a layman's name, and exiled to Echigo (Niigata) on the Japan Sea coast. About this time, he married Eshinni and began raising a family. He declared himself "neither monk nor layman." Though incapable of fulfilling monastic discipline or good works, precisely because of this, he was grasped by Amida's compassionate activity. He therefore chose for himself the name Gutoku, "foolish/shaven," indicating the futility of attachment to one's own intellect and goodness.
He was pardoned after five years, but decided not to return to Kyoto. Instead, in 1214, at the age of forty-two, he made his way into the Kanto region, where he spread the nembutsu teaching for twenty years, building a large movement among the peasants and lower samurai.
Return to Kyoto
Then, in his sixties, Shinran began a new life, returning to Kyoto to devote his final three decades to writing. He did not give sermons or teach disciples, but lived with relatives, supported by gifts from his followers in the Kanto area. After his wife returned to Echigo to oversee property there, he was tended by his youngest daughter, Kakushinni.
It is from this period that most of his writings stem. He completed his major work, popularly known as Kyogyoshinsho, and composed hundreds of hymns in which he rendered the Chinese scriptures accessible to ordinary people. At this time, problems in understanding the teaching arose among his followers in the Kanto area, and he wrote numerous letters and commentaries seeking to resolve them.
There were people who asserted that one should strive to say the nembutsu as often as possible, and others who insisted that true entrusting was manifested in saying the nembutsu only once, leaving all else to Amida. Shinran rejected both sides as human contrivance based on attachment to the nembutsu as one's own good act. Since genuine nembutsu arises from true entrusting that is Amida's working in a person, the number of times it is said is irrelevant.
Further, there were some who claimed that since Amida's Vow was intended to save people incapable of good, one should feel free to commit evil. For Shinran, however, emancipation meant freedom not to do whatever one wished, but freedom from bondage to the claims of egocentric desires and emotions. He therefore wrote that with deep trust in Amida's Vow, one came to genuine awareness of one's own evil.
Near the end of his life, Shinran was forced to disown his eldest son Zenran, who caused disruptions among the Kanto following by claiming to have received a secret teaching from Shinran. Nevertheless, his creative energy continued to his death at ninety, and his works manifest an increasingly rich, mature, and articulate vision of human existence that reveals him to be one of Japan's most profound and original religious thinkers.
Shinran's thought was strongly influenced by the doctrine of Mappō, a largely Mahayana eschatology which claims humanity's ability to listen to and practice the Buddha-Dharma (the Buddhist teachings) deteriorates over time and loses effectiveness in bringing individual practitioners closer to Buddhahood. This belief was particularly widespread in early medieval China, and in Japan at the end of the Heian Period. Shinran, like his mentor Hōnen, saw the age he was living in as being a degenerate one where beings cannot hope to be able to extricate themselves from the cycle of birth and death through their own power, or jiriki (自力). For both Hōnen and Shinran, all conscious efforts towards achieving enlightenment and realizing the Bodhisattva ideal were contrived and rooted in selfish ignorance; for humans of this age are so deeply rooted in karmic evil as to be incapable of developing the truly altruistic compassion that is requisite to becoming a Bodhisattva.
Due to his awareness of human limitations, Shinran advocates reliance on tariki, or other power (他力) -- the power of Amida Buddha's made manifest in Amida Buddha's Primal Vow -- in order to attain liberation. Shin Buddhism can therefore be understood as a "practiceless practice," for there are no specific acts to be performed such as there are in the "Path of Sages" (the other Buddhist schools of the time that advocated 'jiriki' ('self-power'). In Shinran's own words, Shin Buddhism is considered the "Easy Path" because one is not compelled to perform many difficult, and often esoteric, practices in order to attain higher and higher mental states.
The basis for Shinran's thought comes from his mentor, Hōnen, who founded the related Jodo Shu sect, but in some ways Shinran diverged. For example Hōnen, like many medieval Japanese, considered Amida Buddha to be a Samboghakaya Buddha, while Shinran considered Amida to be the Dharmakaya itself, manifested as compassion.
As in other Pure Land Buddhist schools, Amida is a central focus of the Buddhist practice, and Jodo Shinshu expresses this devotion through a chanting practice called the nembutsu, or "Mindfulness of the Buddha [Amida]. The nembutsu is simply reciting the phrase Namu Amida Butsu ("I take refuge in Amida Buddha"). Jodo Shinshu is not the first school of Buddhism to practice the nembutsu but it is interpreted in a new way according to Shinran Shonin. The nembutsu becomes understood as an act that expresses gratitude to Amida Buddha -- furthermore, it is evoked in the practitioner through the power of Amida's unobstructed compassion. Therefore in Shin Buddhism, the nembutsu is not considered a practice, nor does it generate karmic merit. It is simply an affirmation of one's gratitude.
Note that this is in contrast to the related Jodo Shu school which promoted a combination of repetition of the nembutsu and devotion to Amida as a means to birth in the Pure Land. It also contrasts with other Buddhist schools in China and Japan, where the nembutsu was part of a more elaborate ritual.
The Pure Land
In another departure from more traditional Pure Land schools of Buddhism, Shinran Shonin advocated that birth in the Pure Land was settled in the midst of life rather than at death. When one entrusts oneselves to Amida Buddha birth there is settled at that moment. This is equivalent to the stage of non-retrogression along the bodhisattva path, a characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism, or shinjin.
Many Pure Land Buddhist schools in the time of Shinran felt that birth in the Pure Land was a literal rebirth that occurred only upon death, and only after certain preliminary rituals. Elaborate rituals were used to guaranteed rebirth in the Pure Land, including a common practice where one's fingers were tied by strings to a painting or image of Amida Buddha. From the perspective of Jodo Shinshu such rituals actually betrayed a lack of trust in Amida Buddha, and relied on jiriki ("self-power"), rather than the tariki or "other-power" of Amida Buddha. Such rituals also favored those who could afford the time and energy to practice them or possess the necessary ritual objects, which was another obstacle for lower-class individuals. For Shinran Shonin, who closely followed the thought of the Chinese monk T'an-Luan, the Pure Land is synonymous with nirvana.
The goal of the Shin path, or at least the practicer's present life, is the attainment of shinjin (信心) in the Other Power of Amida. Shinjin is sometimes translated as faith but this does not capture the nuances of the term and it is more often simply left untranslated. The receipt of shinjin comes about through the renunciation of self effort in attaining enlightenment; 'taking refuge' in Other Power (Tariki). It should be noted, however, that Shinjin arises from jinen (自然 naturalness, spontaneous working of the Vow) and cannot be achieved solely through conscious effort. One is letting go of conscious effort in a sense, and simply trusting Amida Buddha, and the nembutsu.
For Jodo Shinshu practitioners, shinjin develops over time through "deep hearing" (monpo) of Amida's call of the nembutsu. Jinen also describes the way of naturalness whereby Amida's infinite light illumines and transforms the deeply rooted karmic evil of countless rebirths into good karma. It is of note that such evil karma is not destroyed but rather transformed: Shin stays within the Mahayana tradition's understanding of sunyata, or non-duality / emptiness, and understands that samsara and Nirvana are not separate. Once the practicer's mind is united with Amida and Buddha nature gifted to the practicer through shinjin, the practicer attains the state of non-retrogression, whereupon after his death it is claimed he will achieve instantaneous and effortless enlightenment. He will then return to the world as a Bodhisattva, that he may work towards the salvation of all beings.
The Tannisho is a 13th century book of recorded sayings attributed to Shinran, transcribed with commentary by Yuien-bo. a disciple of Shinran. The word Tannisho is a phrase which means "A record [of the words of Shinran] set down in lamentation over departures from his [Shinran's] teaching". While it is a short text, it is one of the most popular because practitioners see Shinran in a more informal setting.
For centuries, the text was almost unknown to the majority of Shin Buddhists. In the 15th century Rennyo Shonin, Shinran's descendent, wrote of it, "This writing is an important one in our tradition. It should not be indiscriminately shown to anyone who lacks the past karmic good". Rennyo Shonin's personal copy of the Tannisho is the earliest extant copy. Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1903) revitalized interest in the Tannisho, which indirectly helped to spawn the Dobokai Movement of 1962.
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Primal Vow and Nembutsu
The main object of all sentient beings is "Ten mei kai go" which means to turn from illusion and attain Enlightenment. All Buddhist schools of thought embrace this same goal of Enlightenment but differ in their method of attainment. In the schools that emphasize meditation man must meditate and purify his mind until it becomes pure as the Mind of the Buddha. In the school that considers practice and good works to be the primary task, man must accumulate merits through good deeds and bring them to perfection. In both of these methods man must increase his stock of merits by his own power until he reaches Buddhahood.
The Primal Vow of Amida, on the other hand, is primarily concerned not with those who have the capacity to meditate and practice but with those whose abilities are so finite and weak that they can never hope to attain Buddhahood. It was just for such beings that Amida, realizing the sad plight of man, made the forty-eight vows and especially the all compassionate eighteenth or Primal Vow. However, His meditation and practice would have been indeed futile if the goodness, resulting from His compassionate work, did not somehow reach the hearts of all sentient beings. Amida, therefore, put the entire results of His labor of Love into the sacred Name -- Namu Amida Butsu. Thus, this Nembutsu is the embodiment of purity, truth, goodness, beauty, wisdom and peace; in other words it embodies all the highest values and qualities both conceivable and inconceivable, which Amida was able to perfect in His infinitely long period of meditation and practice.
To communicate with all sentient beings He grants this Name as a gift to all sentient beings, freely and equally. Sentient beings in every corner of the universe hear His Name and accept it with a simple, trusting heart -- the heart of Faith. Amida's heart and the hearts of all beings become one and identified. This fact is the true assurance of our salvation and rebirth into the Pure Land or Ojodo.
Why is it that a man who has Faith does not become enlightened in this life? The answer lies in the nature of man. He is still in his earthly body, subject to physical and mental limitations. So long as he is a relative and imperfect being, he can never become an absolute Buddha, perfect in every respect. It is, therefore, that the assurance of Buddhahood is given in this life and the actual attainment of Buddhahood is realized in the Pure Land. In the Creed we read, "We rely upon Amida Buddha with our whole heart for the Enlightenment in the life to come".
The recitation of the Nembutsu -- Namu Amida Butsu (I place my faith in Amida Buddha) is an outward verbal expression of thanksgiving and gratitude for salvation assured. This thanksgiving and gratitude for Amida's Compassion becomes a vital spiritual force in the lives of all who follow the Nembutsu.
5. Jiriki and Tariki
Jiriki means self-power and Tariki means Other Power. While Jiriki is the finite power of man, Tariki is the infinite Power of Amida' s Compassion and Wisdom.
Salvation in Jodo Shinshu is through the grace of Amida Buddha; thus it is known as "salvation through absolute Other Power."
6. Common Chants and Readings used in the Services
(a) Amida Kyo
This is the Smaller Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra, chanted during most memorial services. A common mistaken notion is that the chanting itself and the service bring benefits for the deceased. Jodo Shinshu entertains no such ideas. The Amida Kyo is chanted because it is a sutra extolling the virtues of Jodo and Amida Buddha.
Those who attend or hold these services should gather with the idea to learn about Buddhism and to realize the Infinite Compassion and Wisdom of Amida.
Shoshinge or the Hymn of True Faith was written by Shinran Shonin in which he praises Amida Buddha as well as the Seven Spiritual Fathers who showed us the way of salvation through Faith in Amida.
Junirai or the Twelve Hymns of Worship were written by the first of the Seven Spiritual Fathers, Nagarjuna. It praises Amida Buddha, His Land and the Bodhisattvas.
(d) Sanseige (Juseige)
Sanseige or the Three Sacred Vows is from the "Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra." These vows were made by Amida while he was still a Bodhisattva. They express the deep Compassion of Amida for all men.
Sanbutsuge or The Praises of the Buddha are taken from the "Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra." It is a hymn that was sung by Hozo Bosatsu as he was about to make the 48 vows before the Buddha -- Se ji zai o Butsu.
(f) Psalms of Shinran Shonin
These psalms were written in praise of Amida Buddha, His Ojodo, His Name, Namu Amida Butsu, and urging his fellow beings to place their Faith in Amida.
(g) Dialogues of Rennyo
Shonin Rennyo Shonin, the ninth descendant of Shinran Shonin was a great reformer, who is often spoken of as the master who actually organized the Jodo Shinshu Church. These short sayings are on a variety of subjects and are truly good advice for the ordinary layman.
Epistles or Gobunsho are letters written by Rennyo Shonin to followers living in outlying districts. These letters were written on various occasions to inspire those who were in despair after losing a loved one, instructions to priests, etc., and always urging every one to place their Faith in Amida and recite the Nembutsu with a grateful heart.
Words of Shinran
"Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida's Vow, I shall realize birth in the Pure Land": the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow, so that the mind set upon saying the nembutsu arises within you, you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned.
Know that the Primal Vow of Amida makes no distinction between people young and old, good and evil; only shinjin is essential. For it is the Vow to save the person whose karmic evil is deep and grave and whose blind passions abound. Thus, for those who entrust themselves to the Primal Vow no good acts are required, because no good surpasses the nembutsu. Nor need they despair of the evil they commit, for no evil can obstruct the working of
Amida's Primal Vow.
Even a good person attains birth in the Pure Land, so it goes without saying that an evil person will.
Though it is so, people commonly say, "Even an evil person attains birth, so it goes without saying that a good person will." This statement may seem well-founded at first, but it runs counter to the intent of the Primal Vow, which is Other Power. This is because people who rely on doing good through their self-power fail to entrust themselves wholeheartedly to Other Power and therefore are not in accord with Amida's Primal Vow, but when they overturn the mind of self-power and entrust themselves to Other Power, they will attain birth in the true and real fulfilled land.
It is impossible for us, who are possessed of blind passions, to free ourselves from birth-and-death through any practice whatever. Sorrowing at this, Amida made the Vow, the essential intent of which is the evil person's attainment of Buddhahood. Hence, evil persons who entrust themselves to Other Power are precisely the ones who possess the true cause of birth.
Accordingly he said, "Even the good person is born in the Pure Land, so without question is the person who is evil."
see another source: http://www.shinranworks.com/
Outside of Japan and 'Lineage'
Jodo Shinshu outside Japan
During the 19th century, Japanese immigrants began arriving in Hawaii, the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America (especially in Brazil). Many immigrants to North America came from regions in which Jodo Shinshu was predominant, and maintained their religious identity in their new country. The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i, the Buddhist Churches of America, and the Buddhist Churches of Canada are several of the oldest Buddhist organizations outside of Asia. Jodo Shinshu continues to remain relatively unknown outside the ethnic community because of the history of internment during World War II, which caused many Shin temples to focus on rebuilding the Japanese-American Shin sangha rather than encourage outreach to non-Japanese. Today, many Shinshu temples outside Japan continue to have predominantly ethnic Japanese members, although interest in Buddhism and intermarriage contribute to a more diverse community. There are also active Jodo Shinshu sanghas in the UK, Europe, Australia, and Africa, with members of diverse ethnicities.
The practice of Jodo Shinshu ritual and liturgy may be very different outside of Japan, as many temples, like ones in Hawai'i and the U.S., now use English as the primary language for Dharma talks, and there are attempts to create an English-language chanting liturgy. In the United States, Jodo Shinshu temples have also served as refuges from racial discrimination, and as places to learn about and celebrate Japanese language and culture, in addition to Buddhism.
* Nāgārjuna (150-250)
* Vasubandhu (ca. 4th century)
* Tan-luan (476-542?)
* Tao-cho (562-645)
* Shan-tao (613-681)
* Genshin (942-1017)
* Hōnen (1133-1212)
* Shinran (1173-1263)(see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinran )
Traditional Branch Lineages
* Honganji School (Jodo Shinshu Hompa Hongwanji-ha) a.k.a. 'Nishi Honganji'
* Otani School (Jodo Shinshu Otani-ha) a.k.a. 'Higashi Honganji'
* Takada School
* Bukkoji School
* Kosho School
* Kibe School
* Izumoji School
* Joshoji School
Major Holidays of Observance
The following holidays are typically observed in Jodo Shinshu temples:
Holiday Japanese Name Date
New Year's Day Service Gantan'e January 1
Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin Goshoki Hoonko November 28th, or January 9-16
Spring Equinox Ohigan March 17-23
Birthday of the Buddha Hanamatsuri April 8th
Birthday of Shinran Shonin Gotan'e May 20-21
Ullambana/Obon Urabon'e August 14-15
Autumnal Equinox Ohigan September 20-26
Bodhi Day Enlightenment of the Buddha Rohatsu December 8
New Year's Eve Service Joya'e December 31
(another source: http://www.hongwanji.or.jp/english/calendar.html )
Major Modern Shin Figures
* Kasahara Kenju (1852-1883)
* Nanjo Bunyu (1848-1927)
* Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1901)
* Jokan Chikazumi (1870-1941)
* Akegarasu Haya (1877-1967)
* Soga Ryojin (1875-1971)
* Kaneko Daiei (1881-1976)
* Shuichi Maida (1906-1967)
* Hozen Seki (? - 1991)
* Taitetsu Unno (1935 - present)
* Alfred Bloom (1926 - present)
* Jitsuen Kakehashi (? - present)
OK enuf said, now over and back to our Jodo Shinshu practitioners.....
Namu Amida Butsu!