Meaning of SHINRAN in English

SHINRAN

born 1173, near Kyoto died Jan. 9, 1263, Kyoto original name Matsuwaka-Maru, also called Han'en, Shakku, Zenshin, or Gutoku Shinran, posthumous name Kenshin Daishi Buddhist philosopher and religious reformer whose concern for the salvation of the masses apart from those endowed with self-enlightenment led him to establish (1224) the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land sect), the largest school of Buddhism in modern Japan. His monumental anthology Kyogyoshinsho (1224; Teaching-Action-Faith-Attainment) made an original contribution to Buddhist philosophy with its interpolation of faith between action and attainment. Orphaned at an early age, Shinran entered the Tendai priesthood when he was nine and was given the name Han'en in 1182 by the priest Jichin (Jien), the head of Shoren-in. For 20 years Shinran studied Buddhism on Mt. Hiei, where an eminent Buddhist monk, Saicho (Dengyo Daishi), had established the centre of the Tendai school, which taught that the Buddha uses skillful means to enlighten men. Despite the most rigorous asceticism, Shinran failed to find the assurance of salvation. A long spiritual struggle in quest of salvation had occupied his early years as a monk of the Tendai school, which had been weakened by its political affiliation with the aristocracy. Moreover, at the beginning of the Kamakura period (11921333), the decline of the aristocratic class and its fierce struggles with the military class for political supremacy brought so much confusion and distress that the people began to accept a pessimistic view of history, according to which, with the passage of time after the Buddha's death, the world would gradually become degenerate and the Buddha's teaching would become decadent. Shinran then came down from Mt. Hiei for 100 days to continue his quest for salvation in the Rokkaku-do (Hexagonal Temple), in Kyoto. It was at this time that he met the Buddhist saint Honen, founder of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect, who had been preaching to the masses the message: Anyone who only calls Amida's Name shall be saved without fail, for the Name-Call is not a human contrivance, but the select way given in Amida's Original Vow. This practice of calling the name of the Amida Buddha (or Amitabha) is known as nembutsu. In his 29th year, Shinran abandoned ascetic practices and took refuge in the Original Vow. In his 33rd year, Shinran was allowed to copy Honen's main work, the Senchaku hongan nembutsu-shu (Collection on the Choice of the Nembutsu of the Original Vow), or Senchaku-shu, and drew a portrait of Honen. The Senchaku-shu was a great source of inspiration to Shinran, for copies of the document were entrusted only to a few close disciples. Shinran's study under Honen came to an end in 1207, when the government issued an edict against Honen's nembutsu movement (focussed on the invocation of the Buddha's name). The oppression had its centre in Kofuku-ji at Nara and at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei. As a result, Honen was exiled to Tosa Province and Shinran to Echigo Province, and two other nembutsu teachers were beheaded. Soon after his arrival in Echigo, Shinran married Eshinni, in violation of the Buddhist precept of celibacy for the priesthood. Shinran's biography Denne, written by Kakunyo in 1295, ascribes a strong evangelistic impulse to his move to the Kanto region in east central Japan, where, between 1212 and 1235 or 1236, he lived an academic and missionary life. During this period he compiled the six volumes of the Kyogyoshinsho. His ministry also had great success. Leaving behind a body of devoted believers, he had sown seeds that were later to bear fruit when ecclesiastical institutions were set up. After 20 years he left Kanto for Kyoto, where his fellow believers were in a miserable plight from constant oppression after Honen's death. Moreover, in 1256 Shinran had to disown Zenran, his oldest son, who tried to control the community with a heretical interpretation of the faith. This was the most tragic experience in Shinran's long life. Despite spiritual depressions and economic difficulties, he was able to compile a number of derivative works designed to make his teachings accessible to the masses. Works that are regarded as important include Jodo wasan, Koso wasan, and Shozomatsu wasan, three volumes of Buddhist poems and hymns (wasan) that were later compiled by the patriarch Rennyo in the Sanjo wasan; Jinen honi sho (Treatise on the Ultimate Truth of Things); and Yuishinsho mon'i (Notes on The Essentials of Faith Alone' ). Shinran died quietly in January 1263 in Kyoto, where he had been born 90 years before. Shinran's teaching of justification by faith alone, and especially his teaching concerning the spiritual priesthood of all devotees, contained democratic implications that the mass of the people were later to apply in the service of a social and religious reformation. Genjun H. Sasaki Additional reading For further information on Shinran, see Alfred Bloom, The Life of Shinran Shonin: The Journey to Self-Acceptance (1968); Kakunyo, The Life of Shonin Shinran (Eng. trans. 1911); Chojun Otani, Pages de Shinran (1969); Shunjo, Honen, the Buddhist Saint: His Life and Teaching, trans. with historical introduction and explanatory and critical notes by Harper H. Coates and Ryugaku Ishizuka (1925); Yoshifumi Ueda (ed.; Letters of Shinran, 1978); Shinran Shonin, Buddhist Psalms, trans. by Shugaku Yamabe and L.A. Beck (1921); Gessho Sasaki, A Study of Shin Buddhism (1925).

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