History of Hongwan-ji Temple (本願寺の歴史)

This article describes the history of Hongwan-ji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect, founded by Shinran.

Entering nirvana of Shinran

On November 28, 1262 (old lunar calendar), Shinran, a founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect, fell ill at Zenpo-bo of Sanjo Tominokoji and entered nirvana at the age of 90.

His funeral was held at 8 p.m. on the next day, the 29th. Kenchi of Takada Shimotsuke Province, Senshin of Ikeda Totomi Province and others came up to Kyoto and participated in the funeral. His body was cremated at Ennin-ji Temple, located in the south of Higashiyama Toribeno.

On the 30th his born was collected. His grave was built at Otani, located in the north of Toribeno, and his born was placed in the grave.


In 1272, the Otani Mausoleum was built in what is now the Rinka-cho, Higashiyama Ward (around Sotaiin, the north of Chion-in Temple's gate), the living place of Kakushinni, Shinran's youngest daughter, and Shinran's portrait was placed there. It is thought that the temple where Shinran's portrait was placed should be called Hongwan-ji Temple, after a transfer of the temple.

Kakusinni was in charge of Rusushiki, who preserved it. After that, her descendants were deemed to be successors, which later became a basis of inheritance by Kechimiyaku (血脈), a bloodline or lineage of succession, of Hongwan-ji Temple. Rusushiki was succeeded by Kakushinni and then to Kakue and Kakunyo.

Emperor Kameyama (who reigned from 1259 to 1274) gave the title of "Kuon Jitsujo Amida Hongwan-ji Temple," but the mausoleum was ultimately destroyed because of infighting.

In 1312 the third Rusushiki Kakunyo rebuilt Mausoleum as a temple, Senju-ji Temple.
(Moreover, there is no direct relationship to Takada Honzan Senju-ji Temple of the same Jodo Shinsu sect.)
However, it changed the name to Hongwan-ji (Otani Hongwan-ji Temple) in accordance with the protest of the Mt. Hiei-zan priests.

Kakunyo tried to integrate all disciples of Shinran under Hongwan-ji Temple.

He wrote "Kuden-sho" and described that the teachings of the Jodo Shinshu sect were transferred by word of mouth from Honen to Shinran, from Shinran to his grandson Nyoshin, and from Nyoshin to Kakunyo. This showed that Kakunyo, a chief priest of Hongwan-ji Temple, succeeded Shinran in the point of dharma as well.

However, in reality it was difficult to establish an independent religious organization in Kyoto as opposed to established temples such as Enryaku-ji Temple, which acquired economic power over the years and in some cases had military forces. Before the Showa era it was oppressed in 1330, 1352 and 1388, and while other schools of Jodo Shinshu sect spread in eastern Japan and elsewhere, only Hongwan-ji Temple declined and was permitted existence on the condition of loyalty to Enryaku-ji Temple and the forbiddance of Buddhism invocation as a subtemple of Shorenin, which was influenced by Enyryaku-ji Temple.

The development of Jodo Shinshu sect and the establishment of Hongwan-ji Temple

At that time, the Jodo Shinshu sect was not integrated into the Hongwan-ji Temple group. Other groups were scattered throughout Japan. The Takada, a lay follower group (門徒) (based in Senshu-ji Temple), the Araki group and the Wada group were lineages of Shinbutsu and Kenchi. The Kashima lay follower group, the Date group and the Yokosone group were influential as well. Particularly, the Takada lay follower group flourished. Also, Ryogen's group developed by using '名帳' and '絵系図' based in Bukko-ji Temple of Kyoto.

The chief priest of Hongwan-ji Temple was succeeded by Zennyo, Shakunyo, Konnyo, and Zonnyo after Kakunyo. During this period, Hongwan-ji Temple gradually became influential, centered in Omi Province and the Hokuriku district.

In 1390, Shakunyo, the fifth chief priest, built Zuisen-ji Temple (Nanto City) in Inami, Ecchu Province (Toyama Prefecture).

Konyo, the sixth chief priest, was also engaged in missionary work at Hokuriku, centered on Zuisen-ji Temple. In the succeeding era of Zonnyo, it became more influential and Hongwan-ji groups were established in Omi Province (Shiga Prefecture), Kaga Province (Ishikawa Prefecture), Noto Province (Ishikawa Prefecture), Echizen Province (Fukui Prefecture), etc.

In Hongwan-ji Temple, 御影堂 and Amida-do were built. However, it is said that these constructions put pressure on the financial condition of Hongwan-ji Temple.

Succession by Rennyo

In 1415, Rennyo was born as the first son of Zonnyo. He became a monk at Shoreiin Temple when he was 17. His posthumous name was Kenji, and his priestly name was Rennyo.

In 1449, at age 35, Rennyo went to Hokuriku with his father Zonnyo. Rennyo scattered the remains of Shinran to far Oshu for worship, and civilized lay follower groups.

On June 18, 1457 (old lunar calendar), Zonnyo entered nirvana at the age of 62. Nyoenni, Zonno's wife, tried to make her son Rensho succeed as the chief priest, but instead Rennyo became the eighth chief priest of Hongwan-ji Temple, supported by Nyojo, Zonnyo's brother. At that time Rennyo was 43.

When Rennyo became the eighth chief priest, Hongwan-ji Temple declined and lost its status as the central temple of the sect, whereupon it became a subtemple of Shorenin Temple.

Around this time, Kyoto was seething from the Tsuchi Ikki (peasant riot). Two years later there occurred a severe famine, and many people starved to death in the region of the Kamogawa River. Many provinces were caught up in war, showing the seriousness of the situation.

Society developed gradually, and the grass roots increased in power. Farmers improved their status through the increase of productivity in villages and the decline of lords of the manor, so that soon they were able to create autonomous villages (惣村). Rennyo responded to this social situation quickly, and he energetically undertook missionary work. Lay follower groups that sympathized with Rennyo's enthusiastic mission work spread from Kinki to the Tokai district. Especially in Omi (Shiga Prefecture), many people believed Rennyo so that 無碍光本尊 was worshiped in many villages. This greatly stimulated Enryaku-ji Temple, of the Tendai sect in Mt. Hieizan.

In 1465, Otani Hongwan-ji Temple was destroyed by priest soldiers of Mt. Hieizan.

In 1471, Rennyo escaped from Kyoto to Omi in order to avoid trouble, and moved to Yoshizaki Gobo in Echizen (Fukui Prefecture).

In 1475, Rennyo withdrew Yoshizaki Gobo in order to calm the unrest, and he undertook aggressive missionary work based in Deguchi of Kawachi (Osaka Prefecture). As a result, many priests and lay people of the Jodo and Shodo sects came to believe in him.

In 1478, Rennyo moved from Deguchi to Yamashina and began to build Hongwan-ji Temple in January of the next year.

In 1483, halls such as 御影堂, Amida-do were completed, along with the main house.
(Yamashina Hongwan-ji Temple)

In 1488, a riot group established a republic, 'a country ruled by farmers,' in Kaga Province.

Jinaimachi, Temple Town, were established by building both a temple and many grass-roots houses around the temple. In this country, many visitors who made pilgrimages to the temple and many people of various occupations gathered, so that it flourished more than Kyoto City.

Hongwan-ji Temple's teachings spread throughout Japan, from Hokkaido Prefecture to Kyusyu. Furthermore, the Khitan came to Japan from the northern part of China in order to learn the teachings. Through the efforts of Rennyo, Hongwan-ji Temple became one of the largest religious organizations in Japan.

In 1489, Rennyo was 75. He passed over Hongwan-ji Temple to Zitunyo.

In 1496, Rennyo was 82. On September, he began to build a vihara in Osaka.

In 1497, Rennyo was 83. Once the vihara in Osaka was complete, he went into retirement there.
(Osaka Gobo)

The place name 'Osaka' first appeared in Chapter 4, Section 15 of Rennyo's "Epistles of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho)" as of November 22, 1498, according to historical sources.

Although I do not know what kind of promise I made in ancient times, it has been three years since I saw this village, Shonai Osaka in the Ikutama Higashinari district of Sesshu, at the end of fall 1496, and built a vihara.
I think this must be a destiny that is closely connected to ancient times.'

In the spring of 1499,
Rennyo got worse.

on February 20 (old lunar calendar), he returned to Yamashina Hongwan-ji Temple.

On March 25th (old lunar calendar), Rennyo entered nirvana.

Hongwan-ji Temple during the Sengoku period (oppression and forbiddance of lay follower groups by Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period))

The 100 years of the ninth Jitsunyo, the tenth Shonyo and the eleventh Kennyo were the chaotic age of civil war. Hongwan-ji Temple supported the freedom movement which the grass roots requested in opposition to rulers, serving as the ideological driving force of social reform.

During that period, Hongwan-ji Temple became more influential and established itself as one of the largest religious sects as well as a strong social group.

In 1500, 照如 entered nirvana at the age of 22.

From 1504 to 1521
Lay follower groups in Kaga (Ishikawa Prefecture) stepped into the internal problems of the Asakura clan in Echizen Province (Fukui Prefecture).

In 1504, the Go-Hojo clan in Sagami Province (Kanagawa Prefecture) prohibited belief in the Jodo Shinsu sect in the province, a prohibition that continued for 50 years.

In 1506, lay follower groups of Hongwan-ji Temple rose in revolt in the Kinki, Hokuriku and Tokai districts, all at roughly the same time.

In 1507, Masamoto HOSOKAWA was murdered as a result of trouble over clan succession. Hongwan-ji Temple, which had had a close friendship with Masamoto since Rennyo, was afraid of becoming involved in that conflict so that Jitsunyo and Shinran's portraits were instead taken to Omi Katada. They stayed there for nearly two years.

In 1516, it became an official temple of Emperor Gokashiwabara.

In 1521, the Nagao clan in Echigo Province (Niigata Prefecture) oppressed the lay follower groups of Hongwan-ji Temple.

In 1521, Ennyo, the second son of Jitsunyo, entered nirvana at the age of 32.

On February 2, 1525 (old lunar calendar), Jitsunyo entered nirvana at the age of 68.

In 1532, it helped Harumoto HOSOKAWA and defeated the Hatakeyama clan with 20,000 troops of lay follower groups in the Kinki district. In August of the same year, a coalition force of the Nichiren sect and Sadayori ROKKAKU of Omi burned down Yamashina Hongwan-ji Temple.
(Hokke Ikki Riot (法華一揆))

It moved to the vihara in Osaka Ishiyama (Osaka Gobo).
(Osaka Ishiyama Hongwan-ji Temple)

In 1541 it had a peace conference with the Asakura clan.

In 1553, Kagetora NAGAO (Kenshin UESUGI) was reconciled with Hongwan-ji Temple in order to maintain a route to Kyoto.

On August 11, 1554 (old lunar calendar), Kennyo became a priest. He was 12 years old.

On August 13, 1554 (old lunar calendar), Shonyo entered nirvana at the age of 39.

In 1556 it concluded a peace treaty with the Asakura clan.

In 1559, Kennyo was ordained as Monzeki, a temple in which resided a member of the nobility or the Imperial Family.

The Shimotsuma clan became 坊官 and Mikawa Honshu-ji Temple, Harima Hontoku-ji Temple, Kawachi Kensho-ji Temple (Yao City) became 院家.

In 1563, Hongwan-ji Temple's lay follower groups of Mikawa Province (Aichi Prefecture) fought against Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, but a year later they made peace. Subsequently, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA oppressed and prohibited Hongwan-ji Temple lay follower groups in the province. It was in 1583, 20 years later, that he ceased forbiddance.

The Shimazu clan in Satsuma (Kagoshima Prefecture) continued to forbid such groups until 1868.

In 1568, Nobunaga ODA went to Kyoto.

In 1569, Kosho-ji Temple, which was founded by Kenson, the second son of Kennyo, was ordained as Waki Monzeki (a subtemple in which resided a member of the nobility or the Imperial Family).

In 1570, Nobunaga ODA, whose goal was the integration of Japan, ordered Hongwan-ji Temple to withdraw from the moated castle city Ishiyama, a the headquarters of the Jodo Shinshu sect's lay follower groups and a strategic point against western Japan, which led to a war (the Ishiyama War). It continued for about 10 years. Sometime after the Ishiyama War, Hongwan-ji Temple came to be called Ishiyama Gobo.

In March 1581, Kennyo made peace with Nobunaga.
He withdraw from Ishiyama and moved the foundation of the temple to Saginomori Kii Province (Kii Saginomori Hongwan-ji Temple.)
The halls and buildings of Ishiyama Hongwan-ji Temple were all burned down.

In 1583, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI built Osaka-jo Castle at the place that included the old site of Ishiyama Hongwan-ji Temple.

In 1583 it moved to a subtemple of Ishiyama Hongwan-ji Temple at Kaizuka, in Izumi Province (later Gansen-ji Temple (Kaizuka City)), along with Shinran's portrait.
(Kaizuka Hongwan-ji Temple)

In May 1585, it moved to Temma in Osaka and obtained a donation of land for a temple from Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. In August of the same year, Amida-do was built first, and the following August 御影堂 of about 18 square meters was built.
(Osaka Temma Hongwan-ji Temple)

In 1591 came another donation of land for a temple from Hideyoshi; 御影堂 and Amida-do of Hongwan-ji Temple were built at the place where Nishi Hongwan-ji Temple now stands.

On November 24, 1592 (old lunar calendar), Kennyo entered nirvana at the age of 50.

Higashi and Nishi Hongwan-ji temples

Kennyo and his first son Kyonyo were opposed to each other over the end of the Ishiyama War. After Kennyo's nirvana, Kyonyo succeeded as the chief priest. Moreover, Kyonyo retired based on an assignment document and Junnyo succeeded as the twelfth chief priest of Hongwan-ji Temple.

In 1602, Ieyasu donated land for a temple to the east of Hongwan-ji Temple.

The next year, Kyonyo built a hall and placed a wooden image of the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect from Myoan-ji Temple in Hitachi Province (Ibaraki Prefecture), which led to the establishment of another Hongwan-ji Temple.

Subsequently, more lay follower groups came to believe in Kyonyo, and through repeated meetings and partings of lay follower groups the Hongwan-ji Temple groups were divided roughly in half as the eastern group and the western group. For more than 400 years since then, both groups have continued their missionary work at the present places.

[Original Japanese]