Kakushi Nenbutsu (A General Term for Heretical Sects [and Their Beliefs] Within Buddhism) (隠し念仏)

"Kakushi nenbutsu" is a general term that refers to heretical sects (and their beliefs) within Buddhism, which have various secretive aspects. Among others, the cult kakushi nenbutsu, whose name is derived from "Jodo Shinshu" (True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) is well known, and is said to be "ianjin," which means the heretical sect, by the mainstream of Jodo Shinshu. Kakushi nenbutsu is called "Gonaiho" (the inward law) or "Gonaisho"(the secret law) by its believers, and it is called "Hijihomon" (the secret belief) or "Jagi" (heresy) by Jodo Shinshu. Within believers, it is also called "Zaike Bukkyo" (the lay devotees' Buddhism) or "Naishinjin" (the inward belief).

Kakushi nenbutsu is completely different from "kakure nenbutsu," which was a group of Jodo-shinshu believers in the Satsuma clan and the Hitoyoshi clan who could not help concealing their beliefs because of the suppression on Jodo Shinshu by the clans. Also, kakushi nenbutsu is quite different from "kakure kirishitan" (crypto-Christian), a group who secretly believed in Christianity in Japan during the Edo period. Many of the kakure nenbutsu belonged to - and were authorized by - the very organization of the Hongan-ji school of Jodo Shinshu.

Meanwhile, the kakushi nenbutsu derived from Jodo Shinshu could not help concealing their beliefs even from the organization of the Hongan-ji school of Jodo Shinshu, because it was deemed heresy from the organization itself. "Gobunsho" (a collection of letters written by Jodo Shinshu high priest Rennyo [1415-1499] to his pupils) says the believers of kakushi nenbutsu would go to "mugen jigoku" (the Avici hell, which is believed to be the most painful of the eight hells).

Kakushi nenbutsu is the general term for heretical sects, and their occult rituals differ from region to region, and from school to school. Many of the sects originated from the occultism of the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism in the Heian period. In addition, the sects are exclusive and secretive, so the whole picture of the localized rituals is still covered in a veil, but Hiroyuki ITSUKI says that some of the secretive rituals and others have begun to be made public little by little in recent days.

The kakushi nenbutsu derived from Jodo Shinshu is said to have been believed by Zenran (1217 - 1286), the eldest son of Jodo Shinshu founder Shinran (1173 - 1263), when he was sent to the eastern part of Japan for the missions of Jodo Shinshu. His father broke off relations with Zenran and expelled him for his inclination to - and his propagation of - the heresy.

The leaders of kakushi nenbutsu, including Zenran, are called "zen chishiki" (kalyaana-mitra, a Sanskrit word which means a person who offers spiritual friendship and guidance), and they can read "Gosho" (secret books) and hold the rituals of kakushi nenbutsu. Before they die, zen chishiki select the next zen chishiki (three or fewer) and hand down Gosho. The key books of their doctrines are "Hoyosho" (the book that tried to justify kakushi nenbutsu) and "Osodeshita no Gosho" (the book on secret religious ceremonies that is handed down from one ceremony performer to the next). There exist some books in kakushi nenbutsu, and Hoyosho is its scripture.

"Hoyosho" says kakushi nenbutsu inherits orthodox teachings from Shinran via Rennyo. The point of the teachings is for the believers to gain "Shinjin Ketsujo" (Amitabha Tathagata's salvation) at a specific time and date through meeting with zen chishiki and through implementing the ritual of a single-hearted appeal for salvation to zen chishiki. This means that the believers of kakushi nenbutsu depend on zen chishiki (an earthly savior), not on Amitabha Tathagata, which is the very reason that the organization of the Hongan-ji school of Jodo Shinshu severely excludes kakushi nenbutsu as a heresy. Rennyo severely rejected the teachings of kakushi nenbutsu that the believers have to meet with zen chishiki in order to gain salvation.

In kakushi nenbutsu, "honzon" (principal image of Buddha) is "Kobo Daishi" (a posthumous title of the priest Kukai), "Kogyo Daishi" (a posthumous title of the priest Kakuban), or Shinran, and the influence of the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism is seen in its rituals. Outwardly, kakushi nenbutsu belongs to another sect, such as Soto Zen Sect, and holds a funeral and other rituals at a temple, but after these rituals, there is a secret funeral for the believers only, they say. The believers call the existing teachings of a temple the outward law, and call the teachings of kakushi nenbutsu the inward law (or the inward belief).

The ritual of Shinjin Ketsujo is called Otoriage.

In Otoriage, a believer of kakushi nenbutsu meets with zen chishiki and implements the ritual of an appeal for salvation. A document says that on this occasion the believer has to knock his or her forehead against the floor. And he (or she) has to continue knocking until zen chishiki says, Enough. Occasionally, zen chishiki reflects the shine of the believer's forehead with a mirror and makes him (or her) worship the shine after the ritual. The believer is forbidden to reveal the ritual under the threat that he (or she) will vomit blood and die if he (or she) does so.

The believers say they conceal themselves for fear that the teachings will deteriorate when money chasers come to know and utilize these teachings. Meanwhile, "Hoyosho" says it is difficult for kakushi nenbutsu to attract the rich, because the teachings often stir up the believers' sense of duty to offer money.

The ritual of having a newborn baby get involved in kakushi nenbutsu is called Otomozuke. Afterward, at the age of six or seven, he (or she) undergoes Otoriage.

Exposure of kakushi nenbutsu and its influence
In 1722, the branch temple of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple issued an order that every temple under its control should make kakushi nenbutsu believers convert their beliefs any time they are found. In 1754, the Sendai clan exposed kakushi nenbutsu within its domain and executed the leader, and even after that, there were several similar exposures.

In the later Meiji period around 1900, kakushi nenbutsu existed as a secret society in some places, such as Nagoya, Gifu, Asakusa, and Yokohama, and since its existence was regarded problematic, a muckraking book on the system of its doctrines was published in order to wipe it out. Also around 1931, the police exposed kakushi nenbutsu, regarding it as a secret society having a bad custom. In this case, kakushi nenbutsu asked some people to donate money toward the construction of an asylum for the aged, using a list of donators who occupied high social positions.

Once there was a man named Kakue KIHARA, who was born in Saga Prefecture, later entered the Buddhist priesthood on Mt. Koya, and then founded some Buddhist sects, including Nakayama Shingo Shoshu.
Outwardly, his parents' home was a supporter of a Jodo Shinshu temple, but it had a kind of inward belief (= kakushi nenbutsu) called 'Shingosho.'
Today, some of the teachings are handed down to some Buddhist sects, including Nakayama Shingo Shoshu.

[Original Japanese]