Shinran Shonin (Kumagawa portrait)

Shinran Shonin in one of only two portraits painted while he was still alive. This one is entitled Kumagawa no go-ei (Bearskin Portrait).

Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji, “the True Essence of Pure Land Buddhist Teaching,” is based on the insights of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263). Shinran was born near Kyoto, Japan and spent 20 years studying at Mount Hiei before entering the monastery of Honen Shonin. Honen taught a path to salvation through the power of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of infinite wisdom and compassion.

Fundamental to Jodo Shinshu is Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow to embrace all beings without discrimination, to leave no one behind on the path to the Pure Land and enlightenment. Jodo Shinshu followers entrust in the Other Power of Amida, abandoning all need to rely on self-power.

Placing hands together in gassho, Jodo Shinshu followers recite the nembutsu (Nam Amida Butsu, meaning “I take refuge in Amida Buddha”). Hands together symbolize oneness, humility, and gratitude. Reciting the nembutsu is not a practice for gaining virtue but is instead an affirmation of gratitude and a universal echo of the call that originated with Amida’s Primal Vow.

Jodo Shinshu Scriptures

The Three Pure Land Sutras

  1. The Larger Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha) tells the sangha about Amida Buddha.
  2. The Sutra of Contemplation of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. The nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu) is proclaimed as the avenue to liberation.
  3. The Smaller Sutra on Amida Buddha. Describes the beauty of the Pure Land and extols the virtues of Amida Buddha.

Major Writings of Shinran

  1. Shoshin Nembutsuge (Hymns of True Entrusting Heart and the Nembutsu; an excerpt from the “Chapter on Practice” of Kyogyoshinsho)
  2. Jodo Wasan (Hymns of the Pure Land)
  3. Koso Wasan (Hymns of the Pure Land Masters)
  4. Shozomatsu Wasan (Hymns of the Dharma-Ages)

Jodo Shinhu followers are joined together in revering the teaching of Shinran Shonin and saying the nembutsu. We seek to share with others the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha. By doing so, we shall work toward the realization of a society in which everyone is able to live a life of spiritual fulfillment.