The Life of Master Shinran

It is difficult to find a historical figure who has led a stormier life than Master Shinran — and we should keep in mind that through all those life events, Master Shinran eternally teaches us people of the Latter Ages, what true Buddhism is. A little-known scholar of Shin Buddhism of medieval Japan named Hojin, chronicled Master Shinran’s whole life in the form of lyrics. We introduce to you an amplified translation of it in a series of articles.

With humility, I have put into song the 90 years of toil of Master Shinran, who established the True Pure Land Buddhist sect. Let us rejoice in gratitude to him.

Master Shinran, the founder of the True Pure Land sect, was born in Kyoto in the year 1173. After losing his father at the age of 4 and then his mother at the age of 8, Master Shinran thought, “Next it is my turn to die. What will happen to me when I die? I need to ascertain what awaits me in the afterlife.” With that, he entered the priesthood at the age of 9 and became a disciple of the Tendai master Jichin.

During his 20 years on Mount Hiei, he devoted himself to the ascetic practices of the Lotus Sutra, and he was able to carry out the harsh practices of Daiman. However, failing to resolve his dark mind towards the afterlife and realising that we foolish beings could not be saved on this path, Master Shinran finally left the mountain in the spring of his 29th year.

Seeking only the resolution to his afterlife, Master Shinran spent 100 days devoted to prayer before Guze Kannon Bodhisattva in Rokkakudo, a temple in Kyoto. Through a dream, Kannon addressed four lines of revelatory verse to Master Shinran and directed him to Master Honen of Yoshimizu in Kyoto.

Master Honen was putting all of his strength into teaching the other-power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. When Master Shinran was 29, he was granted true Faith through Amida’s Vow; in an ichinen, he was saved and embraced into a state of being certain to be born into the Pure Land.

At the age of 31, following Master Honen’s recommendation, Master Shinran married the daughter of Lord Kanezane, Princess Tamahi, and became a layman. This was done in order to convey Amida’s Vow, which is the one and only path on which all people will be saved as they are.

(To be continued...)

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #39 | 2014, The Life of Master Shinran

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