Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗)

Jodo Shinshu (Shin-Buddhism/True Pure Land Sect) is one of the sects of Japanese Buddhism, and a religious community that Shinran, an apprentice of Honen, succeeded and which developed Honen's doctrine (Jodo Shu/Pure Land Buddhism) in the early Kamakura period.

Due to the historical background of the origin of the sect name, most sects belonging to this religion call themselves Shinshu as a sect name. It used to also be called Ikko Shu and Monto Shu.
By saying a prayer (Shomyo nenbutsu) to the Buddha (Namu Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu by Hongan-ji School), practitioners can believe in the mercy of Amida Nyorai (hereinafter called "Nyorai"), and trust in Tariki (Buddha's power), which makes everyone, including the bad, go to Jodo (Pure Land) after death and become Buddha.

Through this, the doctrine of Shinshu is called "Shinjin Shoin, Shomyo Ho-on" (Faith makes it happen, and praying is for gratitude). Rennyo, the 8th head-priest of Hongan-ji Temple, stated in "Ofumi" as follows.

"First of all, the policy of Kaisan Sho'nin (Shinran) gives faith first priority. What use is faith us, shameless unenlightened men, who do wrong without good deed, to easily go to Jodo of Mida (Amida). Without acquiring this faith, no one could go to paradise and avoid falling to Muken Jigoku (Avici Hell).

Regarding "Shomyo Ho-on," he mentioned "On that basis, we should be aware that Shomyo nenbutsu is Buddhist invocation to appreciate the kindness (Go-on Hojin) that Nyorai decided that we could go to Heaven." (ib. book5, chapter10), which means that Shomyo nenbutsu in Jodo Shinshu are words of gratitude for Nyorai's salvation.

This is based on Forty-eight Vows of "Infinite Life Sutra (Bussetsu Muryojukyo)", especially the Eighteenth Vow (Senjaku Hongan) called "O'Hongan).

The principal image (Honzon) is only Amida Nyorai. However, Takada School and a part of the sect have Amida Nyorai, Kanzeon Bosatsu and Seishi Bosatsu as their principal images, in Zenko-ji Amida Sanson style.

Misunderstanding of nenbutsu

Generally, the idea that "the vow of Amida Nyorai is offered to us even at this moment and we are saved" (Gensho shojoju) was misunderstood by a number of people, and repeatedly corrected.
Rennyo mentioned in "Ofumi (Gobunsho)";

"Not forgetting the kindness of Mida, who decided that we could go to Heaven long time ago, when achieving enlightenment is what faith is about. This is a big misconception. Even though we know the story of Mida Nyorai's achieving enlightenment, it does not mean anything if we do not know the story of faith in Tariki that we can go to Heaven."

He explained here that knowing how Nyorai became Buddha is merely knowledge, and it is important to know the origin of faith in Tariki given by Nyorai (faith in truth). He confirmed Shinjin Shoin here and defined correctly, and never mentioned "Reciting nenbutsu simply takes everyone to paradise". In Jodo Shinshu, faith given by Nyorai helps people. Nenbutsu is definitely recited for gratitude, not the condition of going to Heaven.

Shinran also mentioned "What gets you to Nehan (Nirvana) is only faith" in "Kyogo shinsho", and "Regard that true faith gets you to Anoku bodai (ultimate enlightenment)" in "Songo shinzo meimon".

Manners and Customs

What makes Shinshu greatly different from other Buddhist sects is that monks have no commandments and are allowed to eat meat and to get married (Nikujiki-Saitai). (Shinshu was the only sect that allowed monks to get married until the Meiji period.)
Originally, Shinran learned that helping those who cannot help but stray from the concept of a general monk (who enters the priesthood and practices asceticism, renouncing the world) and the norm of Buddhists (laity) living in the world is Hongan Nenbutsu (praying for the vows) from his master Honen, and became the first monk to openly get married and have a child. Therefore, Shinshu has two lineages, which are Homyaku (master -apprentice relationship) and Kechimyaku (blood relationship). And the given name is called Homyo instead of Kaimyo.

With its doctrine that everyone can go to Heaven (Ojo jobutsu) only by trusting Nyorai's power (in other words, if acquiring true faith), Shinshu, compared to other sects, is free from many religious exercises and customs, and makes much of nenbutsu and Mombo (learning the teachings of Buddha) for Ho-on Shatoku (gratitude for kindness and virtue). It is the only Buddhist sect that doesn't perform Kaji kito (incantation), which is another major feature of Shinshu. Since it values rationality and has simple manners and teachings, it was widely accepted among the public in early modern ages, but on the other hand, it provoked antipathy from other sects and often got ridicule such as "Monto (Shinshu followers) know nothing". Shinshu also encouraged each household to enshrine its Honzon (Myogo Honzon of "Namu Amida Butsu", or a picture or statue of Amida Nyorai). The "rules" on Shogon (decoration) of the Buddhist altar for enshrinement are more strict than other sects. Shogon imitates Honzan (the head temple), which makes each sect of Shinshu have different style and different ritual articles. A Honzon enshrined and decorated in the Buddhist altar is called "Onaibutsu" in Shinshu. Shinshu doesn't use this as a family altar or prayer altar.

The Honzan of each Shinshu sect basically has a Goei-do hall to enshrine a portrait of Shinran, the founder, as well as a main hall (Amida-do hall) to enshrine Amida Nyorai, the Honzon. Additionally, the architecture of Shinshu temples has unique features rarely seen in other sects, such as wider Gejin (nave) compared to Naijin (chancel). Each sect holds a memorial service called "Ho-onko" on the anniversary of the death of the founder Shinran Sho'nin. This memorial service is held to give thanks for the blessing of Gudo and Gukyo (seeking and promoting the teachings), and the blessing of Amida Nyorai acquired through them, and to recognize the teachings. This is the biggest event in a year. However, the day of the memorial service depends on each sect of Shinshu.
(See the schedule of Goshoki Ho-onko by sect for details.)

Major Buddhist Scriptures

The legitimate scriptures are Jodo sanbukyo (Three Pure Land sutras). The works of Shichi Koso (seven high priests) are also highly respected, although they are not scriptures. "Muryojukyo Ubadaisha Ganshoge" by Tenjin was especially esteemed along with Jodo sanbukyo by his master Honen, who called these "Sankyo Ichiron" (three sutras and one book). Shinran especially esteemed "Bussetsu Muryojukyo" and called it "Daimuryojukyo" or "Daikyo".

Jodo Sanbukyo

"Bussetsu Muryojukyo" translated by Kosogai from Cao Wei

"Bussetsu Kanmuryojukyo" translated by Kyoryoyasha from Liu Song

"Bussetsu Amida-kyo" translated by Kumaraju from Later Qin

Works of Shichi Koso

Written by Nagarjuna

"Igyohon Daiku", the 5th book of 17 books of "Juju bibasha ron", translated by Kumaraju from Later Qin.

Written by Tenjin (Vasubandhu Bosatsu)

"Muryojukyo Ubadaisha Ganshoge" (Jodoron, Ojoron) translated by Bodairushi from Later Wei.

Edited by Tan-luan

"Muryojukyo ubadaisha ganshoge-chu (Jodoron-chu, Ojoron-chu)"

"San Amida Butsu Ge"

Edited by Tao-cho


Edited by Shan-tao

"Kanmuryo Jukyosho (Kangyosho, Kangyo Shijosho)"

"Ojo Raisan Ge (Ojo Raisan)"

"Tengyo Gyodogan Ojojodo Hojisan (Hojisan)"

"Ekangyotomyo Hanjuzanmai Gyodo Ojosan (Hanjusan)"

"Kannen Amida Butsu Sokai Sanmai Kudoku Homon (Kannen homon)"

Edited by Genshin


Edited by Genku (Honen)

"Senjaku Hongan Nenbutsu Shu"

Edited by Shinran

"Kenjodo Shinjitsu Kyogyo Shomonrui (Kyogyo Shinsho)"

"Jodo Monruijusho"


"Nyushutsu Nimon Geju (Nyushutsu Nimon Ge)"

"Jodo Sangyo Ojo Monrui (Sangyo Ojo Monrui)"

"Nyorai Nishu Ekomon"

"Songo Shinzo Meimon"

"Ichinen Tanen Mon'i"

"Yuishinsho Mon'i"

"Sanjo Wasan"

"Jodo Wasan"

"Koso Wasan"

"Shozomatsu Wasan"

Though "Ofumi (Gobunsho)" by Rennyo is respected along with the legitimate scriptures by Hongan-ji School and Otani School, it is not used by some sects such as Takada School. (Since Rennyo had Kechimyaku from Hongan-ji Temple, the sects who value Homyaku from the founder Shinran do not use his work.
Hongan-ji School of Rennyo and Takada School have a history of fight and conflict.)

The Name

The founder Shinran took the lineage of Tariki Nenbutsu to Shakamuni and Shichi Koso into consideration, and devoted himself to succeed "the teachings of Jodo Shu as the true religion" and to enhance it, through his life after he regarded Honen (the founder of Jodo Shu) as his master. Different interpretations of Hongan and Nenbutsu by the apprentices after Honen's death made Seizan and other Schools of Jodo Shu criticize Shinran.

Shinran mentioned that "My master Genku (Honen) appeared by Chie ko (the power of Amida Nyorai), started Jodo Shinshu and stated Senjaku Hongan" in "Koso Wasan" written during his life, which shows he thought that Jodo Shinshu consisted of the teachings of Jodo Shinshu started by Honen and carried on by himself.
Whereas, Rennyo's thoughts were;

"Soshi Sho'nin (Shinran) already established Jodo Shinshu - it has superior significance to Jodo Shu and he added the letter Shin (True) and named it Jodo Shinshu."

This shows that the view of the name of Jodo Shinshu, has changed with the times.

Since Shinran (Jogen no Honan), engaged in his missionary work mainly in the Kanto region; after deportation to Echigo, Monto followers who got the teachings of Shinran built up in Kanto region. After Shinran died, it was formed as an independent religion from Jodo Shu. Though the successors of the teachings of Shinran had the feeling that their own doctrine was the true teaching for going to Jodo, they named themselves just Shinshu at that time because naming themselves Jodo Shinshu could be interpreted as denial of Jodo Shu. In fact, Jodo Shu and Ji Shu also called themselves "Jodo Shinshu" or "Shinshu" once, and Kyu Ikko-ha of Ji Shu (the founder: Shunsho IKKO) was called "Ikko Shu" once.

In the early modern era, the Edo Shogunate prohibited them from naming themselves "Jodo Shinshu" under pressure from Jodo Shu, which made them call themselves "Ikko Shu" officially (on the other hand, the lineage of Shunsho Ikko which originally called themselves "Ikko Shu" was forced to be integrated into Ji Shu which was originally unrelated). The conflict between Jodo Shinshu and Jodo Shu over the question whether or not the Shinran lineages could name themselves "Jodo Shinshu" was called Shumei Ronso, which lasted for 15 years from 1774.

In 1872, Dajokan Seiin issued an edict to each prefecture, saying "The name of Ikko Shu can be changed to Shinshu," and finally here in the modern ages, describing it as "(Jodo) Shinshu" was allowed.

The Days of Shinran

Before Rennyo

After Shinran died, his great-grandson Kakunyo (1270-1351) alleged the legitimacy of succession of Shinran's grave on the grounds of Sandai-denji (Tradition of three generation) and so on, and built Hongan-ji Temple (also known as Otani Hongan-ji Temple) and called himself the third head-priest of Hongan-ji Temple. Against his movement, Ryogen (1295-1336), the seventh head-priest of Bukko-ji Temple, who succeeded the lineage of Shinran's disciples in Kanto region, and other Homyaku gradually took an opposing stance against Hongan-ji Temple, having Bukko-ji Temple and Senju-ji Temple as their bases.

Jodo Shinshu in those days had active missionary work in Bukko-ji Temple and Senju-ji Temple and acquired a number of followers, but Hongan-ji Temple just existed as a branch temple of Tendai Shu before the 8th head-priest Rennyo.
From emergence of Rennyo to Ishiyama Hongan-ji War
Rennyo (1415-1499), the 8th head-priest of Hongan-ji Temple, who emerged in the late Muromachi period, established an organization called Kou against the backdrop of the growth of the public at the time, provided the opportunity for people to learn the teachings equally and to come together, and wrote "Ofumi (Gobunsho)" explaining the teachings of Shinran in plain words and disseminated it widely to the public.
By his achievement, Hongan-ji Temple rapidly developed and expanded, and came to be called Ikko Shu. (On the contrary, other sects of Shinshu went into decline.)

The strength of the group of followers in this Kou was directed at politicians (such as Daimyo), despite Rennyo's restraint. Kokujin (village heads) and Dogo (powerful families) converted to Shinshu and joined the village people who were discontent with the system with complicated and multiple lordship in the end of the middle ages, and uprising called "Ikko-Ikki" were staged throughout the nation by united Ikko Shu followers from the whole county or province. This led to frequent rebellions against Daimyo throughout the nation, such as the one in Kaga described below, and numbers of Daimyo, including Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and Kenshin UESUGI, issued the anti-Ikkoshu edicts (Kinkyorei).
The Shimazu clan in Satsuma Province particularly continued the Kinkyorei until the Meiji period, which made Shinshu followers organize Kou and observe their faith secretly in a cave in the mountains. (Kakure Nenbutsu/Secret faith)
Later, when the Onin War (1467-1477) broke out and an internal conflict occurred between East and West squads in Kaga Province, north of Yoshizaki Gobo, as the base of Hongan-ji Temple at that time in Echizen Province, the Monto of Senshu-ji School took the side of Kochiyo TOGASHI who took part in the West squad, while the Monto of Honganji School, through the assistance of Takakage ASAKURA, the Daimyo of Echizen (the 7th chief), took the side of Masachika TOGASHI, Kochiyo's brother and a former Shugo deported from Kaga, who belonged to East squad, and deported Kochiyo in 1474. (In other words, Ikko-Ikki in Kaga was started as a power struggle inside Shinshu)
However, Hongan-ji's Monto and Masachika TOGASHI opposed each other after that, and when Masachika sent a force to subdue Ikko Shu in 1488, they forced Masachika to commit suicide by his sword, and achieved autonomous control (However, Masataka TOGASHI of the Togashi clan showed sympathy for Ikko-Ikki, and he remained Shugo Daimyo symbolically). After that, the Monto aimed to recapture the meeting house (Dojo) in Yoshizaki of which the Asakura clan had deprived, and Monto mustered from all over Hokuriku area fought against the Asakura clan more than once. Meanwhile, in Kinai, the headquarters were Yamashina Hongan-ji Temple, which Rennyo, moving from Yoshizaki, had built in Kyoto in 1482, and Harumoto HOSOKAWA, being afraid of its influence, set fire to Yamashina Hongan-ji Temple in August in 1532 in conspiracy with Nichiren Shu followers (Shinshu calls this "Tenbun no Sakuran," and Nichiren Shu "tenbun Hokke no Ran"). Hongan-ji Temple lost their headquarters by this incident, and moved it to a temple in Ishiyama in Osaka, which Rennyo had built in his final years (1496), and lived in (Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple). Since then, Osaka developed around the monastery of Hongan-ji Temple, comparable to a castle, and a temple town formed around it, and it strength frightened power people of the time. In 1568, when Nobunaga ODA conquered Kinai and came into conflict with Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA who became the Seii Taishogun, Kennyo (1543-1592), the 11th head-priest of Hongan-ji Temple, took the side of Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, and on September 12, 1570, suddenly attacked the camp of Nobunaga, who was attacking the Miyoshi clan. Responding to this, Monto rose in revolt around the nation, and the uprising by Gansho-ji Temple in Nagashima in Ise Province (Nagashima Ikko-Ikki) brought down Kokie Castle in Owari Province. Although Kennyo and Nobunaga concluded agreements a few times after that, Kennyo, upon request from Yoshiaki and others, violated the agreements several times, which caused most Ikko-Ikki other than Ishiyama, such as Nagashima or Echizen, to be ended by mass executions by Nobunaga. In 1580, after they had fought for as long as 10 years in Ishiyama since the war broke out, Nobunaga accepted the agreement proposed by Emperor Ogimachi, and disarmament of Hongan-ji Temple and Kennyo's departure from Ishiyama brought the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War to an end.
(Later, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI constructed Osaka Castle in the area including the site of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple.)
As described above, Ikko-Ikki was one of the biggest forces in Japanese society at the time and ranked with Sengoku Daimyo (warlords), but all the Monto of Shinshu did not go along with this movement. As seen in the case of the battle between Hongan-ji Monto and Senshu-ji School Monto (Takada Monto and Shinshu Sanmonto School) in Echizen Province, some Shinshu sects other than Hongan-ji had a conflicting movement.

Reconstruction in Kyoto
In the days of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, in 1591, Kennyo was given land in the center of Kyoto (Shichijo-Horikawa, Kyoto City) and reconstructed Hongan-ji Temple. In 1602, mainly due to the confrontation in the sect over the difference of views when leaving Ishiyama, and the influence of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's policy on religion, Kyonyo (1558-161), Kennyo's oldest son, was given the nearby land to the east of Hongan-ji Temple (Shichijo-Karasuma, Kyoto City) by Ieyasu, and built Higashi Hongan-ji Temple. By this incident, Hongan-ji Temple, which had the biggest religious influence at the time, was split into West (current Jodo Shinshu Hongan-ji School, Shinshu Kosho School, etc.) with Junnyo (1577-1630), Kennyo's third son, as the 12th head-priest, and East (current Shinshu Otani School, etc.) with Kyonyo, the oldest son, as the 12th head-priest. When religions were restructured after the Meiji Restoration, and on the occasion of official registration as a religious association to Daikyoin, only the current Jodo Shinshu Hongan-ji School applied as Jodo Shinshu and others as Shinshu, which has affected the current names.

Furthermore, there exists a new religion related to Jodo Shinshu, which is connected to folk beliefs over a long period of history.


Currently, it is made up of 10 schools affiliated to Jodo Shinshu sects and other schools, and as a whole sect, it has the most temples (about 22,000 temples) and followers among Japanese Buddhist sects.

Shinshu Jippa (Shinshu Kyodan Rengo)
Shinshu Kyodan Rengo was organized as an association of Shinshu sects to promote cooperation and coordination among the sects in 1923, the 750th anniversary of Shinran Sho'nin's birth and the 700th anniversary of foundation of the religion. The affiliated organizations are the following 10 schools, which are called "Shinshu Jippa".

Jodo Shinshu Honganji School
Nishi Hongan-ji Temple (commonly called Nishi Hongan-ji) (Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City), 10497 branch temples
Shinshu Otani School
Shinshu Honbyo (commonly called Higashi Hongan-ji) (Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City), 9804 branch temples
Shinshu Takada School
Senju-ji Temple (Tsu City, Mie Prefecture), 643 branch temples
Shinshu Kosho School
Kosho-ji Temple (Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City), 486 branch temples
Shinshu Bukko-ji School
Bukko-ji Temple (Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City), 390 branch temples
Shinshu Kibe School
Kinshoku-ji Temple (Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture), 250 branch temples
Shinshu Josho-ji School
Josho-ji Temple (Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture), 80 branch temples
Shinshu Izumo-ji School
Gosho-ji Temple (Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture), 67 branch temples
Shinshu Sanmonto School
Sensho-ji Temple (Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture), 41 branch temples
Shinshu Yamamoto School
Shojo-ji Temple (Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture), 21 branch temples

Other sects
Shinshu Joko-ji School
Joko-ji Temple (Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture), 12 branch temples
The Early Jodo Shinshu
Gannyu-ji Temple (Higashi Ibaraki District, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Jodo Shinshu Bekkaku Honzan (Independent)
Sainen-ji Temple (Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture) - which has Inada Soan, associated with Shinran, as its origin

Gugan Shinshu
Shogen-ji Temple (Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture), 8 branch temples
Makotono Jodo Shinshu Joko-ji School (Jodo Shinshu Joko-ji School)
Joko-ji Temple (Higashi-ku, Fukuoka City), 5 branch temples
Shinshu Kita Hongan-ji School
Kita Hongan-ji Temple (Otaru City, Hokkaido Prefecture), 3 branch temples
Jodo Shinshu Kengoin School
Kengo-in Temple (Kita-ku, Kyoto City)

The Sects that Separated after Ohigashi Sodo
Jodo Shinshu Higashi Hongan-ji School (Former Tokyo Hongan-ji Temple)
Higashi Hongan-ji Temple (Taito-ku, Tokyo) - the oldest son Kosho OTANI, 324 branch and affiliated temples.
The Hongan-ji Foundation
Higashi Hongan-ji Higashiyama Joen (Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City) - the second son Chojun OTANI, the current head-priest is his oldest son Narishige (Korin) OTANI.
Higashiyama Kamikazan Hongan-ji Temple

Otani Hongan-ji Temple (commonly called Otani Hongan-ji)
Otani Hongan-ji Temple (Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City) - the 4th son Chodo (Kodo) OTANI
Founded as a religious corporation in February in 2007.

New religions related to Jodo Shinshu
Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai
Jodo Shinshu Ichi no kai
Butsugen Shu
Shinshu Chosei School
Jodo Shinshu Doho Kyodan
Bukkyo Shinshu
Monto Shu Ichimi School

Followers association
Jodo Shinshu Kekokai

[Original Japanese]