One resounding name that would forever echo in the hearts of most Buddhist worshipers is the name Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. His unique attributes, teachings, works and beliefs have endeared him to the hearts of millions of Buddhist worshipers. Although Shinran Shonin was not a highly recognized figure during his lifetime, his teachings and influence grew beyond measures after his death. Today, Shinran Shonin is known as an eminent and sophisticated religious thinker in the whole of Asia. Read on to learn more about this philosopher.
Shinran Shonin was born on May 21, 1173, at Hino, southeast of Kyoto. His father and mother were known as Lord and Lady Arinori, from the Fujiwara clan. Unfortunately for young Shinran, he lost his father at the age of four while his mother died at the age of 9. Following his parent’s demise, he was inducted into Buddhist priesthood at Shoren-in temple in 1181. There he remained and learned the teachings of Buddhism for the next 20 years of his life.
Details regarding the adult life of Shiran Shonen are a bit sketchy. However, facts emerging from letters between Shinran and his wife indicates that Shinran took a retreat at the temple of Rokkaku-dō after his failure as a monk and his inability to attain enlightenment at Shoren-in temple. At Rokkaku-dō, he engaged in intense practices and meditations that led to series of visions. In one of such visions, Avalokitesvara appeared to him and instructed him to sign up to the teachings of a Tendai monk named Hōnen.
Reports state that at 29, Shinran Shonin met Hōnen and immediately became his disciple. In his very first year under the tutelage of Hōnen, Shinran attained the enlightenment he had always sought after. During his time as a disciple of Hōnen, Shinran caused a big controversy among other disciples by publicly getting married. This was seen as a grave disobedience to Buddhist beliefs as monks were not allowed to marry. Sadly, Shinran died a proud father of 7 at the age of 90.
One of the cardinal beliefs of Shinran is the fact that through constant meditation and practice, ordinary men can attain enlightenment. Shinran talked about the concept of “other power” which can be attained after taking Amida’s compassionate Vow. According to him, only this Vow can lead to the awakening of faith and enlightenment.
Most of Shinran’s significant achievements were recorded after his death. All through his life, Shinran wrote many religious books, which are today contained in the Canonical Books of the Shin Sect. Here are his other achievements:
- Religion: This is perhaps one of the major areas Shinran contributed immensely to. This is not surprising, giving his position as a devoted monk. He established Jodo Shinshu which is today regarded as the most practiced sect of Buddhism in Japan.
- Morals: Shinran was considered a man of high moral standing. As a result, many of his followers subscribed to his moral beliefs.
Shinran will forever remain one of the most influential Buddhist philosophers of all time. His teachings, volumes of works and beliefs have today earned him millions of devoted Buddhist followers even outside Japan.
Photo Credit: Chadkohalyk