Rennyo and the Roots of Modern Japanese Buddhism

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0195132750

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499) is considered the "second founder" of Shin Buddhism. Under his leadership, the Honganji branch grew in size and power, becoming a national organization with great wealth and influence. Rennyo's success lay in conveying an attractive spiritual message while exerting effective administrative control. A savvy politician as well as religious leader, ennyo played a significant role in political, economic, and institutional developments. Though he is undeniably one of the most influential persons in the history of Japanese religion, his legacy remains enigmatic and largely overlooked by the West. This volume offers an assessment of Rennyo's contribution to Buddhist thought and the Honganji religious organization. A collection of 16 previously unpublished essays by both Japanese and non-Japanese scholars in the areas of historical studies, Shinshu studies, and comparative religion, it is the first book to confront many of the major questions surrounding the phenomenal growth of Honganji under Rennyo's leadership. The authors examine such topics as the source of Rennyo's charisma, the soteriological implications of his thought against the background of other movements in Pure Land Buddhism, and the relationship between his ideas and the growth of his church. This collection is an important first step in bringing this important figure to an audience outside Japan. It will be of significant interest to scholars in the fields of Japanese religion, Japanese social history, comparative religion, and the sociology of religion.

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as a method of teaching in combination with direct oral propagation. As is known from the popularity of a style manual for letter writing, the teikin o¯rai, written during the Nambokucho¯ (1336–1392) and early Muromachi periods, many people were learning to read and write at this time. The Letters thus became a most fitting media for propagation. Rennyo’s restoration of the Jo¯doshin school tradition greatly depended on his letter writing. Shinran’s letters provided the model, and the master’s

but his thought lacked the elements necessary to operate on a more practical, societal level. Rennyo’s qualities of foresight in reading the developments of the age in which he lived are also clearly evident in his concept of buppo¯ryo¯ (佛法領), or Realm of the Buddha Dharma. Let us now examine this key concept. The Realm of the Buddha Dharma in the Present Age At the close of one of his Letters, dated the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month of Bunmei (1475), Rennyo writes: Our tradition is the

situations, the comic element is from an ignorant husband paired with a wife of superior upbringing and abilities who is praised for these qualities even by the husband. Rennyo and the Salvation of Women 63 There are also plays, such as Mizukake muko, that depict a husband who is extremely conscious of his status as son-in-law having a water fight with a father-inlaw who cultivated the field next to his.20 The wife comes across her husband and her father fighting and is caught between the two.

placed in influential positions for future benefits, the situation was somewhat different. Beginning with arranging for his eldest son, Junnyo (1442–1483), and his ultimate successor, Jitsunyo (1458–1525), to be taken in by the Great Minister of the Left, Hino Katsumitsu, Rennyo established various relationships with aristocratic families such as the Hino for his other sons. He even went as far as to place his fourth daughter, Myo¯shu¯ (1459–1537), in the household of the Sho¯gun Yoshimasa as a

“Shinshu¯ kyo¯dan no honzon,” 449. 132 Historical Studies 17 Coates and Ishizuka, Ho¯nen the Buddhist Saint (Kyoto: Chinon’in, 1925), 781; Ikawa Jo¯kyo¯, ed., Ho¯nen Sho¯nin-den zenshu¯ (Osaka: Ho¯nen Sho¯nin-den zenshu¯ Kanko¯kai, 1961), 315. 18 SSZ 2.723. Cited in Miyazaki Enjun, Shinshu¯shi no kenkyu¯ (jo¯) (Kyoto: Nagata Bunshodo¯, 1987), 384–385. 19 All modern Shinshu¯ dictionaries state the anachronistic nature of this view and have entries on these phrases, called songo¯ or myo¯go¯,

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