The True Pure Land School
The True Pure Land School,
- The True Pure Land School (Jôdo-Shinshû) is one of the schools of Japanese Buddhism belonging to the Greater Vehicle (Mahâyana) and a part of the Pure Land Buddhism Tradition.
Its name is shortened to Shinshû or Shin Buddhism.
Calligraphy of the Name
"Namo Amida Butsu" by Shinran
- It follows the teachings of its founder Shinran (1173-1263) and of his successors.
- Shinran expounded his doctrine in his Kyô-gyô-shin-shô (Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment), considered the most important of all his works.
The canonical scriptures on which Shinran relies are the "Three Pure Land Sûtras" (Jôdo-sambukkyô), preached by the Buddha Shâkyamuni, and in particular the "Sûtra on Infinite-Life" (Muryôju-kyô), which contains the vows of the Buddha Amida.
Shinran's interpretation draws principally upon the works of the following Seven eminent Masters (Shichi-kôsô) :
- the Indians Nâgârjuna (2nd c. AD) and Vasubandhu (4th c. AD),
- the Chinese Tanluan (476-542), Daochuo (562-645) and Shandao (613-681),
- the Japanese Genshin (or Eshin sôzu, 942-1017) and Hônen (or Genkû, 1133-1212), Shinran's own master.
Shinshû teachings aim at the realisation of Buddhahood by birth in the Pure Land (ôjô) of the Buddha Amida. This is achieved through the nembutsu, that is through faith (shinjin) in the Original Vow (hongan) of that Buddha expressed in the recitation of his Name (shômyô): Namo Amida Butsu.
Shinshû is characterised by the faithful giving himself over completely to the Other Power (tariki) of the Buddha Amida.
- By the end of the 19th c., this school, in the widest sense of the word, comprised ten branches, each of which formed a school in the narrowest sense, independent of the others. After the Second World War, their number increased to twenty-two.
Today, the Jodo-Shinshu is represented largely throughout the world.
The Honganji-ha Branch
- The Honganji branch of Jôdo-Shinshû (Jôdo-Shinshû Honganji-ha) is one of the two main branches of the school.
It forms a federation of 10,326 temples, with 30,843 clerics (including 8,935 women), and nearly 7 millions followers. This makes it one of the numerically most important Buddhist institutions in Japan.
This branch owes its name to its main seat, the Hompa-Honganji temple in Kyôto, also known as West Honganji (Nishi-Honganji).
The patriarchs (monshu or shûshu) of the school are the abbots of the temple, descendants of Shinran, the most famous of whom being Rennyo (1415-1499).
The 23rd patriarch, H. E. Shônyo, has since 1954, patronised the founding of European Jôdo-Shinshû communities.
The Hompa-Honganji Temple
The Goeidô (left) and the Hondô
- This temple is the head temple (honzan) of the Honganji branch of Jôdo-Shinshû.
Its full name is Jôdo-Shinshû Honganji-ha Honganji (Honganji of the Honganji branch of Jôdo-Shinshû), shortened to Hompa-Honganji.
It is populary called Nishi-Honganji (West Honganji) to distinguish it from its neighbour, Higashi-Honganji (East Honganji), the seat of the Ôtani branch (Ôtani-ha) of Jôdo-Shinshû.
The name Honganji means Temple of the Original Vow, a reference to the vows of the Buddha Amida.
The main buildings of the Hompa-Honganji, which have miraculously escaped the great fires which devastated Kyôto over the centuries, form a remarkable ensemble of Japanese architecture dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Several of the buildings have been classified as national treasures or as important cultural property.
The site as a whole has been listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
- The origins of the Honganji are to be traced to the mausoleum of Shinran, built in 1272 at Ôtani (east of Kyôto) by his disciples with the help of his youngest daughter, Kakushin-ni, and her husband Zennen-bo.
Forty years later, the mausoleum was transformed into a temple, first called Senjuji (Temple of Exclusive Practice). The
name was changed to Honganji (Temple of the Original Vow) by 1321 at the latest.
Destroyed in 1465 by troops of the Tendai denomination, the Honganji was then moved several times around the province before being established in 1591 at its present site, within the lower district of Kyôto, thanks to Hideyoshi Toyotomi's liberality.
Three years earlier, the mausoleum with Shinran's tomb at Ôtani had been restored.
From then on, the head temple (honzan) was therefore composed of two main sites:
- the temple properly said (honsetsu), which houses the statue of Shinran, and
- the mausoleum at Ôtani (Ôtani-hombyô) with his tomb, populary known as Nishi-Ôtani.
- The abbots of the Honganji temple, the direct descendants of Shinran, pass their title on to the first-born son; their position includes that of patriarch of the Honganji branch of Jôdo-Shinshû.
Photo Credit : Hompa-Honganji
Web Sites about Honganji :
Text : Jérôme Ducor
English Translation : Helen Loveday