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Shinran and His Work, by Arthur Lloyd, [1910], at

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Chapter III.

Shinran, the Founder of Shinshu.

(§§ 18, 19, 20.)

Shinran Shōnin, to give him the name by which he was called during the greater part of his life, and by which he is still mostly known, * was born in the year 1173 A.D., in the third year of Shōan, on the first day of the fourth month, a date not to be confounded with the first of April of our reformed, Western, calendar. Through his father, Hino Arinori, a high official in the court of the Emperor Takakura (A.D. 1169–1180), one of the puppet-rulers whose fate lay in the hands of the all-powerful Taira family, he was connected with the Fujiwara family, being a descendant of the famous Fujiwara Kamatari (A.D. 614–669), better known as Nakatomi no Kamako, the faithful minister of the Emperors Kotoku, Saimei, and Tenchi, who had overthrown the ambitious family of the Soga, had placed his own equally ambitious but more fortunate family in their place at the right

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hand of the reigning sovereigns, and had had a leading part in the so-called Taikwa reforms, (645–701). The founder of the Fujiwara family had brought himself to power by confronting and browbeating the Buddhism which centred in Nara, which was an exotic from India, and which had given many indications of a proneness to intriguing interference in the domestic policy of Japan. He had opposed to it the Confucian doctrines of China, which, under the splendid administrators of the early Tang period, had made the Celestial Empire a model for the world to copy; his successors, keeping their hold on the Imperial policy, had introduced new forms of Buddhism, administered from the new capital of Kyoto, which had been more ready to acknowledge state supremacy than had been the more "High Church" monks of Nara and the South, and which ended by being themselves enervated by the artistic, cultured, but withal, worldly, school which took its inspiration from the great Tendai monasteries of Hieizan and Miidera. By the twelfth century, the Fujiwaras, nay, even their Imperial puppet-masters themselves, were groaning under the tyranny of the Hieizan and Kyoto monks, but the spiritual tyrants seemed lastingly secure in what was at the time, practically, a religious monopoly over Japan.

Through his mother, Shinran was connected with the Minamoto family, the great opponents of the Taira, who were then supreme in the councils of the Empire. Her name was Kikkōjo, she was the daughter of Minamoto Yoshichika, the second son of Yoshiie (1041–1108), better known as Hachiman 

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tarō. Yoshiie had taken part in many of the wars and campaigns of the troubled times in which he lived: Yoshichika had been appointed Governor of Tsukushi (Kyushu), had been recalled for maladministration, but, refusing to accept his recall, had murdered an Imperial envoy and set up a rebellion, which was, after some time, put down with a strong hand by Taira Masanori. After his defeat, he fled to the north, where he became a monk, but, coming back once more as a rebel into the wicked world, was captured and put to death (1187). *

Thus, on both sides, Shinran was connected with traditions hostile to the Taira family, and more so, perhaps, to the predominating Tendai influences in religion. His father died when he was four years old, when he was eight he lost his mother. It is quite possible that the daughter of Yoshichika had her own version of her father's life to pour into the receptive ear of her young son. The orphan was taken up by his relatives. "He was adopted and nourished by his father's elder brother Noritsuna," says a Japanese biographer, " and he learned the Confucian doctrines from his father's younger brother Munenari … From an early age he entertained a desire of leaving the world and seeking the priesthood."

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It would seem that his uncles soon tired of their charge, for the boy entered a monastery at the age of nine, and the Confucian studies, if continued at all, must thenceforward have been pursued under the guidance of clerical tutors. The temple he chose (should we not rather say, chosen for him by his guardians?) was the Shōren-in, one of the numerous priests’ residences on Hiyeizan, the head of which was a certain Hangen, who had at one time been Archbishop of the whole community, and who also held the court office of Shōnagon. Hiyeizan was the central monastery of the Tendai sect, and enjoyed all the spiritual (and worldly) privileges supposed to be attached to an Established Church.

The political unrest of Japan during the eleventh and twelfth centuries found its counterpart in the religious world, and there were already movements afoot against the worldliness, as well as against the complex errors, of the Tendai system. In the miseries of the time, men were looking for a simpler creed, and a more spiritual devotion. Already in 971 Kūya had died, who, Prince of the Blood though he was, had become an itinerant preacher in order that he might win men to trust in, and invocation of Amida's name. Already in 1017, the gentle Genshin, whom the Shinshu revere as one of the great Patriarchs of Amidaism, * had retired from Hieizan to Yokogawa, where he had taught the Faith in the Buddhist Saviour to a select band of disciples. A civil war of monks broke out in 1041, which must have made spiritual or religious

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life a sheer impossibility in any of the great barrack-monasteries (it is the only name for them) on Hieizan, at Mii, at Nara, at Negoro, and which drew from the Emperor Shirakawa (1073–86) the plaintive sigh that he could control the monks of Hieizan no more than he could restrain the turbulent waters of the Kamo river, or regulate the cast of the dice. In 1124, Ryonen Shōnin had his vision of Amida, which told him to clear out of Hieizan as a den of thieves, and found a sect which should have but one ceremony for all men,—the Invocation of Amida's name. * Fifty years later, in 1174, Genkū, better known as Hōnen Shōnin, the Japanese St. Francis, had founded a sect now known as the Jōdo, which was a revolt against the complexity of Tendai doctrine and the unspirituality of the Tendai life. Mongaku Shōnin (1186) can scarcely be reckoned among religious reformers, but the first year of the thirteenth century saw the foundation in Japan of the Zen sects which, like the Jōdo, carne out from Hieizan.  The orphan Shinran fell into the midst of a whirlwind of unrest, and was caught by it.

Shinran's progress, whilst he remained in the Tendai fold, seems to have been fairly satisfactory, for we presently find him, whilst still a young man, Rector of one of the Hieizan temples. His undoubted piety, the organizing and administrative powers which he afterwards so strikingly displayed

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in the direction of the great religious movement of which he was the originator, perhaps also the family influence which he could command for the benefit of the clergy, all marked him out as a man destined for promotion, just as a few years previously the self-same qualities had directed the favourable attention of the authorities to the saintly Genkū.

But, like Genkū, Shinran found himself bewildered by the extraordinary comprehensiveness and multiplicity of the Tendai system. The Tendai may de described as a brave attempt, but one hopeless of success, to unite into one comprehensive system all the various religious influences and streams of teachings which had come into China since the first introduction of Buddhism and other Indian and Central Asian beliefs, and, in Japan, particularly, to harmonize all these with the native tenets of the ancient Shinto, in such a way as to assure the supremacy of the Crown over all causes within the bounds of the Empire. But the Tendai had conspired with the Fujiwara and other ambitious Houses, and the Crown was no longer a free agent. Shinran, we are told, "studied widely and deeply," and found that all the doctrines he met with in the various branches of the Tendai philosophy were "holy and pure," but that they did not satisfy his soul. The unrest of the times had seized him, and his whole nature clamoured for light. Study and books had failed to give him what he wanted, and he betook himself to prayer, going from shrine to shrine, and from idol to idol, to proffer his petitions.

At last, in the Rokkakudō, or "Hexagonal Temple," before an image of Kwannon, he gained the

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light he wanted. Let us pause for a moment to enquire what this Kwannon implied to Shinran, in his then state of Faith. Amida (and the Tendai also worship Amida, though not with the exclusive devotion of the Jōdo sects), the ideal Buddha, the Father of all, who desires that all men should be saved, has two special qualities—Mercy and Wisdom. These two qualities take visible forms and show themselves to men, the one in Avalokites’vara or Kwannon * (his son), who is the Embodiment of his Compassion, capable of manifestation in many forms and shapes for purposes of practical succour, the other in Seishi (Skt. Mahāsthātnaprāpta), of whom I have never read that he was ever manifested in fleshly form,  but who is considered to be the spiritual manifestation of the Wisdom of God. The Three, therefore, are at once distinct in Person, and one in Essence, and bear a striking resemblance to the Unity of Three Persons in our Christian Trinity. There is an Amidaist school even in Tendai, and Shinran must have known of it, when, praying for guidance, he knelt before the Kwannon of the Hexagon Temple.

To him came the answer in the shape of a vision of Kwannon, the Lord of Mercy after whom he was feeling, and the Vision said, "Go to Genkū,

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the Holy Hermit of Kurodani, and he shall teach you." So Shinran went to Genkū, and became his most distinguished disciple.

Genkū was then living at Kurodani, near Kyoto, in a humble cottage on the site of the present pretentious monastery of Chion-in. He had retired to this spot to escape from the persecutions of his Tendai brethren, who looked upon him much as a starchy English rector of the eighteenth century may have looked upon one of Mr. Wesley's itinerant preachers, and there he had gathered a few disciples around him,—the nucleus of the present Jōdo sect. Genkū based his teachings on the so-called "Three Books," spoke of Amida as the Divine Being whom it had been S’akyamuni's special mission to declare to the world, and exhorted his followers to constant faith in Amida's Mercy as declared in his Vow, and to an equally constant devotion to the faithful and devout recital of the Holy Name. He himself would seem to have desired even more drastic reforms for the purpose of carrying the message of salvation through Faith more effectively home to the people, but his disciples as a body were not, perhaps, ready to follow him. He retained therefore all the ancient rules of the Vinaya discipline, and all the ancient ceremonies, as far as was possible under the changed circumstances in which he found himself. I have always thought of Genkū as of some cautious, spiritually-minded, Anglican reformer, steering his way carefully between the extremes of Popery and Puritanism, and losing something of his power from his very caution. When I add that, to my mind, Genkū is one of the most attractive

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personages in the whole history of the Japanese Mahāyāna, it will be seen that I have here set down nothing by way of disparagement.

Shinran became Genkū's favourite disciple, and it was the affection which the master had for the disciple, that enabled the latter to carry the principles of Salvation by Faith to their logical conclusion.

One day, a distinguished member of the Fujiwara family, Kanezane, came to Genkū with a request. ''I want to find," he said, "amongst your disciples a husband for my daughter. I wish my daughter's husband to be a priest as well as a householder, to retain his sacred character whilst yet living the life of the ordinary layman and mixing with the world. I desire him, by means of a concrete example, to demonstrate that the religion of Salvation by Faith in Amida is one which concerns the layman as well as the monk. It will be for the good of the country if we can show that the family and not the monastery is the true focus of religion." Fujiwara Kanezane is one of the great men of Japan, and I am glad to have called attention to his action in this matter. It must have required courage, in a Buddhist country, with religion at a low ebb, (a time when people will often cling with desperate tenacity to the externals of religion), to propose to sweep away an ecclesiastical discipline that has held its ground undisputed for two thousand years or more, and Kanezane deserves credit for the courage of his convictions.

Genkū accepted Kanezane's proposition, and his choice fell on Shinran. Shinran (always a retiring man) was at first most unwilling to undertake the

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responsibility. But Kanezane and Genkū repeated their request with great insistence, and at last, after more than a year of hesitation, Shinran gave his consent. He became the son-in-law of Kanezane, by so doing became also the Founder of a sect of Buddhism, which, while proclaiming Salvation by Faith in Amida, also proclaimed that if a man be saved by Faith only, and not by works at all, he must let no man judge him in the matter of meats and drinks, of marriage or celibacy, because these things fall at once into insignificance when compared with the far greater principles now at stake. *

But before Shinran's Sect came into definite existence, he was called upon to suffer.

Kanezane died in 1207, and by his death Genkū and Shinran lost their firm protector. The monks of the older schools, whether at Kyoto or at Nara, alarmed by the radical character of the changes advocated by the two friends, lost no time in trying to compass their ruin. Kyoto and Nara represented, as a rule, two hostile camps of Buddhism; but their common hatred for Genkū's doctrines united them against his person, and a few weeks only remained for Kanezane to live when the intriguing monks procured Genkū's degradation and banishment, first to Tosa, and then to Sanuki. Shinran shared his

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teacher's fate, being banished to Echigo, and for the moment it seemed that the Jōdo movement had been entirely suppressed. *

In 1211, on the accession of Juntoku, Shinran was recalled and pardoned. Genkū was also recalled, but he was an old man now and worn out by his sufferings, and he returned only to die the following year. Shinran remained the most prominent person connected with the Salvation-by-Faith School.

After Genkū's death, his older disciples, who had been first shocked by Shinran's marriage and his setting aside of the rules of discipline, even with Genkū's sanction, and were then scared by the ill-feeling and persecution which had arisen out of this action, determined to refrain from these drastic changes, and constituted themselves a sect of Jōdo priests retaining the Discipline. Shinran could not draw back, nor did he wish so to do. Separating himself from his brethren of the Jōdo, he resolved on the formation of a fresh body of disciples. Genkū's original followers had called themselves the Jōdo Shū, or sect of the Pure Land: the name which Shinran gave to his own disciples was that of the Jōdo Shinshū, or True Sect of Jōdo, claiming thereby to be true successor and representative of Genkū's doctrine. The sect is called Shinshū, "true sect", for short. Other names in frequent use are the Monto and lkkōshū.

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For the next few years we find him constantly itinerating for the propagation of his doctrines. Thus, in 1212, after a short visit to Kyoto, to return thanks to the Court for his recal from exile, we find him at Yamashina, a village hard by the capital, founding the Kōshōji Temple.

Some time afterwards (1227) we find him at Inada in Hitachi, writing and preaching: the next year he is laying the foundations of his faith in the modern prefectures of Nagano and Niigata, still the great strong-holds of his followers. * We next find him at Takata in Shimotsuke, founding a Temple for which the Emperor Go-Horikawa gives him an autograph inscription on a wooden tablet. In 1232, he is at Kamakura examining a newly made edition of the voluminous library of the Mahāyāna Scriptures. Three years later, he is at Kibe in Ōmi, founding a temple which is still of considerable importance. About 1240, he returns to Kyoto, residing first in one place and then in another, and gathering round him an ever-increasing number of devoted adherents. In November 1262, he is taken ill, and after short sufferings falls gently asleep, at the age of ninety, on November 28 of the same year. His character can best be estimated by the examination of his teachings.


15:* Shinran's name was originally Zenshin. When about 28 years of age he changed his name to Shakhū, but after a year or two went back to his original name. His name of Shinran was assumed when he formally began his Apostolate. He sometimes wrote under the pen-name of Gutoku. In 1876, an Imperial Decree conferred on him the posthumous title of Kenshin Daishi (the Great Teacher who had the Vision of Truth), and this is still his official designation.

17:* There is another account which says that Kikkōjo, who was married at the age of fifteen, was the daughter of Michichika Minamoto, the Rokujō Kurando, 1149–1202, an active minister under seven consecutive Emperors, whose daughter was the wife of the Emperor of Go-Toba and mother of the Emperor Tsuchimikado.

17:† Bukkyō Kakuha Kōyō, vol. v.

18:* See my translation of Shōshinge in chapter V.

19:* This is the Yūzūnembutsu sect, still extant.

19:† I have taken these dates from Haas, Annalen d. japanischen Buddhism's, vol. xi. p. 3. of Transactions of German As. Society of Japan.

21:* It is a mistake to speak of Kwannon as a female deity. Kwannon is the son of Amitābha, capable of appearing in many forms, male or female, human or animal, according to circumstances. But he is never manifested except as a means of practically demonstrating the Divine compassion for a suffering creation.

21:† Certain apparent exceptions to this statement will be considered later.

24:* We can also see the grounds on which the Shinshu theologians take their stand, when they say that they, and not the Jōdo, are the true followers of Genkū. For, apparently, in overthrowing the compulsory celibacy of priests and the disciplinary laws against meat-eating, Shinran was acting in perfect conformity with the instructions of his teacher. Genkū, at Kanezane's instigation, set forth his doctrines in a book entitled Senjakushu.

25:* Kanezane had by this time himself entered the Order of monks. He joined the Zen sect, with the introduction of which he had a great deal to do. (Others say he joined the Tendai.)

26:* In one Dr. Murakami's magazines I have seen a series of articles horn his pen, describing his childhood in a "parsonage" in one of the Shinshu villages in Echigo. Allowing for the differences in the surroundings, these papers reveal an atmosphere not unlike that of country parsonages in remote parts of England or Germany, where social life is simple and where the parson is not above working with his own hands at the cultivation of the glebe.

Next: Chapter IV. The Shinshu after Shinran's death.