Shakunyo (綽如)

Shakunyo was a monk of Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). His father was Zennyo. He was adopted by Gon Dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state), Tokimitsu HINO. He was the fifth chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple.


The ages here are represented according to the traditional Japanese system. In order to store and maintain the correspondence with the documents, the dates are indicated according to the lunar calendar (the Senmyo Calendar), except for the dates of births and deaths, and the names of eras during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts are expressed according to those designated by the Northern Court (Japan).

Shakunyo was born on April 30, 1350. After entering the priesthood, he was given a position as gon daisozu (the provisional highest grade that can be held by one who has reached the second highest rank in the hierarchy of Buddhist priests).

Soon after he was appointed as the fifth chief priest of 'Hongan-ji Temple' in 1390, he entrusted the practical running of the temple to his second son Gyonyo who was his hoshi (successor to an abbacy) in order to build and live in a soan (a hermitage built with a simple structure with a thatched roof) in Sugitani of Ecchu Province.

Shakunyo moved to Kyoto upon being recommended by Shoren-in Temple as a scholar who excelled at deciphering the difficult sovereign's messages sent from Ming to the Japanese imperial court. Shakunyo translated the contents of the sovereign's messages, and also wrote the drafts of replies on behalf of the court. Emperor Gokomatsu praised his talent and achievements, and gave him the title of 'Shuen shonin' (a circumferential holy priest).

Emperor Gokomatsu also requested him to give lectures on "Muryojukyo Sutra" at the imperial court. As a token of his gratitude, the emperor gave him Namubutukizo (a Buddhist wooden statue) and eight volumes of 'Shotokutaishi-eden' (Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku).

When Emperor Gokomatsu learned that Shakunyo had a dream of erecting a temple, he permitted him to make 'kanjinjo' (a letter of temple solicitation) and gave him 'ryoshi' (special paper for writing). Shakunyo returned to Ecchu Province and completed 'kanjinjo' (now preserved as a National important cultural asset), and with it, he solicited donations in Kaga, Noto, Ecchu, Echigo, Shinano and Hida for erecting the temple. Thanks to the donations, he was able to erect a temple in Inami (in Ecchu Province), which received the temple name of 'Zuisen-ji' from the emperor.
From then on, he pursued his enlightenment campaign which was based in 'the Zuisen-ji Temple.'

On June 12, 1393, Shakunyo entered nirvana (passed away) at the age of 44.

In 1394, Gyonyo, who had been appointed as a temple administrator, inherited 'Hongan-ji Temple.'

[Original Japanese]