The life of Shinran Shonin
Shinran Shonin was born on 21st May 1173 (1st day of 4th month, 3rd year of Joan) in the village of Hino on the outskirts
When he was four years old, he lost his father and at the age of nine his mother. Thus, orphaned at a young
age he entered the priesthood at Mount Hiei, which was then the main center of Buddhist learning.
Here he was to stay
for twenty years, practicing the most arduous of physical and mental disciplines. The principal teaching of the monasteries
emphasized the purification of the self for the attainment of Enlightenment. Never did a young priest apply himself so wholeheartedly
to all the disciplines. He soon became renowned for his scholarship and could have easily become head of one of the larger
monasteries, but he was neither interested in position nor in the pursuit of knowledge. His main concern was Enlightenment.
After two decades on Mt. Hiei, Shinran Shonin came to the sober realization that Enlightenment was impossible for the common
man. The disciplines of Mt. Hiei made him acutely conscious of his own human weakness. His life was finite; his knowledge
incomplete and his capacity for perfect goodness limited. Upon meditation he discovered that in all his activities the Three
Poisons of greed, hatred and anger essentially motivated him.
In this state of mental anguish, Shinran Shonin renounced
the life on Mt. Hiei. His descent form the mountain was the turning point in his religious pursuit. Shortly thereafter, he
met a kindly priest, Honen shonin, who taught a single faith in Amida Buddha and the recitation of the Nembutsu as the very
way of religious fulfillment. Honen shonin brought Shinran Shonin face-to-face with Amida Buddhas infinity Wisdom and Compassion.
For the first time in his life Shinran Shonin found inner peace in the faith that Amida Buddha was primarily concerned with
such as person as him. The Buddhist life he realized he could be lived by the man in the street without confinement to a monastery.
The gate of lifes meaning was now open to all and thousands of people flocked to hear and accept the hopeful message of the
The powerful monastic orders, however, feared a weakening of their long established tradition and prestige and
convinced the Imperial Court to banish Honen shonin and Shinran Shonin, but the spiritual energy of the Nembutsu had been
unleashed. The teaching soon gathered momentum as it spread from person to person and from village to village. Especially,
during his years in exile, Shinran Shonin personally met with countless persons to awaken their faith in Amida Buddha.
Shonin finally settled in Inada and there completed the first draft of the Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment in 1224.
In 1232 when he was fifty-nine, he retired to Kyoto. During the intervening years until his death, he wrote many books,
which are read and studied even today. He died on 16th January 1263 (28th day of 11th month, 2nd year of Kocho).
Works of Shinran Shonin
(1) The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way (Ken Jodo Shinjitsu Kyogyosho Monrui)
(2) Hymns of
the Pure Land (Jodo Wasan)
(3) Hymns of the Pure Land Masters (Koso Wasan)
(4) Hymns of the Dharma Ages (Shozomatsu
(5) Passages on the Pure Land Way (Jodo Monrui Jusho)
(6) Notes on the Inscriptions On Sacred Scrolls (Songo
(7) Notes on Essentials of Faith Alone (Yuishinsho Mon-i)
(8) Notes on Once Calling and Many Calling
(Ichinen Tanen Mon-i)
(9) Gutoku's Notes (Gutoku Sho)
(10) Gatha on the Two Gates of Entering and Leaving (Nyushutsu
(11) Passanges from the Three Sutras on Birth in the Pure Land (Jodo Sangyo Ojon Mon-rui)
(12) Notes on the
Two Kinds of Merit Transference (Nyorai Nishu Ekomon)
(13) The Virtue of the Name of Amida Tathagata (Mida Nyorai Myogo
(14) On the Forty-eight Vows (Shiju-hachi Daigan)
(15) A Torchlight to the Latter Age (Mattosho)
of Shinran (Goshosokushu)
(17) Sayings of Zendo (Zendo Kasho Gon)
(18) Notes Lamenting Differences (Tannisho) - A
collection of Shinran's Teaching by Yuien
LIFE OF SHINRAN SHONIN
Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha Official English website