An Illustrated Biography of Shinran, Honganji's Shonin
(Honganji Shonin Shinran Denne)
Compiled by Kakunyo
Introduction, translation and notes
by Zuio H. Inagaki
Go to Index to Shinran denne;Sukhavati-Index; General Index
1. Shinran's genealogy presented here may be summarized as follows:
Amatsu Koyane - (20 generations) - Fujiwahara no Kamatari - (4 generations) - Uchimaro [grandson of Fusazaki] - (5 generations) - Arikuni - (4 generations) - Hino Arinori - Shinran.
In the earlier text, Shinran's genealogy was much simpler.
2. Hino Arinori: Dates unknown; the father of Shinran and his four younger brothers. He is said to have died when Shinran was four years old, but it is more likely that after he retired from his post at the Empress Dowager's office, he lived in seclusion until an older age.
3. Fujiwara no Uchimaro: 756-812; a grandson of Fusazaki and a son of Matate; ever since he was appointed Vice-Minister in 806, he held an important government position.
4. Fujiwara no Matate: 715-766; he was granted the first grade of the third court rank in 764, and appointed chief state counselor in 766. Eight of his poems are found in the Man'yoshu (A Collection of Ten Thousand Poems).
5. Fujiwara no Fusazaki: 681-737; a grandson of Kamatari; the founder of the northern family of the Fujiwara clan. Appointed Inspector General, he traveled about the whole country; later he assumed the helm of military power of the state as General of Imperial Guards.
6. Fujiwara no Kamako (Kamatari): 614-669; the grand ancestor of the Fujiwara clan. He sided with Prince Naka no Ohe, who later became Emperor Tenchi (624-671), to kill Soga no Iruka ( -645), and successfully carried out the Taika Renovation, thereby centralizing the government so that it had the imperial household as its center. In 669, he was given the title 'Holder of the Grand Crown' (taishokkan).
7. Amatsu Koyane: The ancestral kami of the Fujiwara clan. When Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, hid herself in a cave behind a huge rock, he played music to appease her mind. At the time of the descent from heaven of August One Ninigi, he followed him. His descendants were successively in charge of ritual affairs at the imperial court.
8. Noritsuna: Hino Noritsuna; a court official attending Ex-emperor Goshirakawa; the elder brother of Shinran's father who became his foster father after his father left him when he was very young. When, in 1177, the anti-Heike faction led by close attendants of Ex-Emperor Goshirakawa plotted to overthrow the Heike power but failed in their attempt, the leaders were either executed or exiled. At that time, Noritsuna was tortured on suspicion of his part in the plot, and was exiled to Harima Province (present-day Hyogo Prefecture). When Ex-Emperor Goshirakawa died in 1192, he renounced the world to become a Buddhist recluse. He reputedly accompanied Shinran to the Shoren-in when Shinran was 9 years old.
9. Jien's residence is now known as Shoren-in; in those days Shoren-in was on Mt. Hiei, and Jien was living in his residence, called Shirakawa-bo, which was near where Shoren-in now is.
10. Jien: 1155-1225; also Jichin; a younger brother of Kujo Kanezane; while serving as the abbot of Shoren-in, he was in charge of Hosshoji and Mudoji; he was appointed zasu (head priest) of the Tendai school as many as four times. He acted as the precept master when Shinran was ordained. Reputed to be the author of theGukansho (A Foolish Man's Narrow View)(1220), 7 fascicles, a book describing the history of Japan from the viewpoint of mappo (age of the decadent Dharma).
11. Lord Hosshoji: The popular name of Fujiwara Tadamichi, 1097-1164
12. Lord Tsukinowa: Kujo Kanezane, 1149-1207; the third son of Fujiwara Tadamichi and the founder of the Kujo family. Under the patronage of Minamoto Yoritomo, he became Regent in 1186 and Chancellor in 1186. He was a patron of Honen; at his suggestion, Honen wrote the Senjakushu. His diaries during the period 1164-1200 were compiled into theGyokuyo (Leaves of Gem), 66 fascicles; it is a rich source of information about the political situation and court ceremonies of the late Heian and the Kamakura period.
13. Nan-yueh: Refers to Hui-ssu, 515-577, the second patriarch of the Chinese Tendai school. Because he lived on Mt. Nan-yueh, he was popularly called 'Master Nan-yueh.'
14. T'ien-t'ai: Refers to Chih-i, 538-597, the third patriarch of the Chinese Tendai school; he laid a firm doctrinal foundation by writing many works, including Meanings of the Lotus Sutra, Essentials of the Lotus Sutra, and Mahayana Method of Cessation and Contemplation. He is commonly regarded as the founder of the Tendai school.
15. The Tendai method of contemplation on the triple truth: contemplation on voidness of all existence, contemplation on the temporariness of all existence, and contemplation on the truth of the middle.
16. Genshin: The sixth of the seven patriarchs of Jodo Shinshu, 942-1017; a great Tendai master and exponent of Pure Land thought; popularly called 'Master Eshin' because he lived in the Eshin-in at Yokawa on Mt. Hiei. His Ojoyoshu (A Collection of Essential Passages Concerning Birth in the Pure Land) was a great epoch-making work discussing fully the Pure Land teaching by quoting more than 160 sutras and discourses. This work won him great renown not only in Japan but also in China.
17. In the Tendai doctrine, two kinds of four teachings are distinguished. First, the four teachings distinguished according to different methods of presentation: 1. the teaching for abrupt enlightenment, 2. the teaching for gradual enlightenment, 3. the teaching for different understandings which the pupils attain without their knowledge, and 4. the teaching for different understandings which the pupils attain while fully aware of this. Second, the four distinct teachings which the Buddha expounded: 1. the Hinayana teaching, 2. the teaching applicable to both Hinayanists and Mahayanists, 3. the Mahayana teaching, and 4. the ultimate and perfect teaching. All the teachings of the Buddha distinguished as above are perfectly fused in the Lotus Sutra.
Section 1 At the gate of Shoren-in
On the 15th day of the 3rd month of the 1st year of Yowa (1181), Matsuwakamaro (Shinran's child name), aged 9, accompanied by his uncle, Lord Hino Arinori, came to Shoren-in in order to receive ordination from the Abbot Jien.
1. The ox-cart in which Matsuwakamaro came to Shorenin and the attendant who was overcome with sadness to part with him.
2. The ox-driver and the ox that drew the cart.
3. The temple warrior who brought the message of Matsuwakamaro's ordination.
4. The horse for the temple warrior.
5. His attendants waiting inside and outside the gate.
6. A cherry tree outside the gate.
Section 2 Shoren-in
<Left> The drawing room of Shoren-in.
1. The Abbot Jien, aged 27.
2. Matsuwakamaro received in audience by the Abbot.
3. Lord Noritsuna.
4. An attendant monk.
5. A novice in charge of meals, etc.
<Right> The Buddha hall of Shoren-in.
1. The Abbot Jien conferring ordination to Matsuwakamaro.
3. Lord Noritsuna.
4. Gonchi-bo Shohan shaved Matsuwakamaro's head.
5. Monks holding lamps.
6. An attendant monk.
7. A novice.
1. Genku: Refers to Honen-bo Genku (1133-1212); the founder of the Jodo school, Shinran's teacher, and the author of the Senjakushu (A Collection of Passages Concerning the Nembutsu of the Best-Selected Primal Vow).
2. Yoshimizu is on the eastern side of Kyoto, in the area where Maruyama Park is now. In An'yoji temple, located to the east of Maruyama Park, is the place believed to be where Honen's hermitage was; wooden statues of Honen and Shinran are enshrined beside the main object of worship.
3. The Great Path of Easy Practice: The Nembutsu practice based on the Other-Power.
Section 3 Shinran's visit to Honen at his hermitage in Yoshimizu.
1. Shinran entering the hermitage at Yoshimizu.
2. Honen, aged 69.
3. The cart used by Shonin.
4. Gonchi-bo Shohan who was sent by the Abbot Jien to escort Shonin.
5. Shozen-bo, an attendant of Shonin (when he was on Mt. Hiei; he left the mountain with Shonin).
6. Jokan-bo, aged 45, who left the mountain with Shonin and became Honen's disciple, named Saibutsu-bo.
7. An attendant monk.
8. A novice.
9. Zenne-bo Shoku or Seikan-bo Genchi.
1. The Third year of Kennin should be corrected to the first year of Kennin (1201) when Shinran was 29. The year of metal/cock(kanoto-no-tori ) corresponds to the first year of Kennin,
2. The hour of the tiger corresponds to 4 o'clock in the morning.
3. The record here may refer to Shinran muki (A Record of Shinran's Dream) preserved at Senjuji temple of the Takada school.
4. In Rokkakudo temple, originally built by Prince Shotoku, a statue of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is enshrined.
5. Zenshin: The name Shinran used after he became Honen's disciple.
6. The Prince of Jogu Palace: Refers to Prince Shotoku, 574-621 or 622. He made an alliance with Minister Soga Umako to eliminate the anti-Buddhist minister Mononobe Moriya, thereby establishing Buddhism on a firm basis. He became the Prince Regent in 593, and assisted his aunt, Empress Suiko. He promoted Buddhism in various ways, such as writing commentaries on three Mahayana sutras, sending students to China, and founding many temples, including the Shitennoji, Horyuji, Chuguji and Rokkakudo.
7. Buddhism was first brought to Japan from Korea during the reign of Emperor Kinmei; according to tradition, the year of transmission was 552 A.D., but it should be corrected to 538.
8. When the Nembutsu teaching was persecuted, two of Honen's disciples were executed and Honen himself was banished to Shikoku in 1207.
9. Shinran was exiled to Kokubu in Echigo Province (present-day Niigata Prefecture) in 1207, where he married Eshin-ni (according to other tradition, they were already married in Kyoto); he was pardoned in 1211, but having heard of the death of Honen, he stayed on until 1214.
Section 4 Inspiration received from Kannon of the Rokkakudo Temple.
In the first year of Kennin (1201), Shonin received an inspiration from Avalokiteshvara of the Rokkakudo Temple. According to his instruction, Shonin proclaimed Avalokiteshvara's message to the multitude of men and women who gathered in Higashiyama.
1. One of the three people resting in the hall is Shonin, who was attempting a 100-day confinement.
2. Shonin worshiped Avalokiteshvara with his palms joined together.
3. White-robed World-Saving Avalokiteshvara seated on a white lotus seat.
4. Shonin proclaimed Avalokiteshvara's message to the multitude.
5. The multitude of people who gathered in Higashiyama.
1. At that time, Shinran was 84.
2. About 4 o'clock in the morning.
3. Ren'i-bo was a native of Hitachi Province (present-day Ibaragi Prefecture); he came to Kyoto and lived with Shinran, attending him in his last years.
4. The five defilements: The defilements that mark the degeneration of living beings and their environment; they become intense in the period of Decadent Dharma. They are: 1. defilement of the age, in which famines, plagues and wars abound, 2. defilement of views, 3. defilement by evil passions, 4. degeneration of people both physically and mentally, and 5. the shortening of man's lifespan.
Section 5 Ren'i's dream.
In the eighth year of Kencho (1256), Ren'i-bo, who constantly attended Shonin, had a dream in the hermitage at Nishinotoin, Gojo, Kyoto that Prince Shotoku worshiped Shonin as Amida's incarnation.
1. Shonin in a black robe, aged 84.
2. Prince Shotoku worshiped Shonin with his palms joined together.
3. Ren'i-bo was lying in bed dreaming.
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