Jyotoku-Ji Temple / Ragora:News Letter / What is Buddism?@/ Temple Story


About Buddism

English Version

2000.02.15


1. When and where was the Buddha born?


According@to one tradition, the Buddha was born in India in 463B.C.and
died at the age of eighty.

Whatever the details, it can be said that the Buddha was active some 2,400years ago,
approximatery 400 years before Christ.

In the region where present-day Tarai in Nepal borders on India,
there was at that time a state ruled by the Sakya Tribe.

The Buddha was the son of the tribal chief and was therefore a prince.

The Chinese called this tribe Shaka  in Chinese characters,
and that custom has been followed by the Japanese people.

He was the  only son of Kings Suddhodana and Queen Maya.
Since he was named Siddhartha and his father's surname was Gautama,
he was called Gautama Siddharha.




2. What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is the teachings of the Buddha,
just as Christianity is the teachings of Jesus Christ and
Islam is the teachings of mohammed.


Yet there is one major characteristic that is unique to Buddhism,
and this is htat those who embrace Buddhism can also become Buddhas.

In Christianity, Judaism and Islam,
believers are encouraged to learn the teachings of the founder
and to devote themselves to a unique,
absolute deity, but human beings cannot become a deity.

However, in Buddhism, by learning the truth concerning the universe and human beings,
anyone is said to be able to become a buddha.

Hence it can be said that ultimately Buddhism is everyone's attempting to become such a buddha.




3. What kaid of person was Shinran  (1173-1262)?


A disciple of Honen, Shinran developed his teacher's ideas and founded
the Jodo Shin sect of Pure Land Buddhism.

He was born in a family of the nobility in 1173.
But his family was poor and noble in a name only,
so when he was nine, hi was sent to in a temple.

Later he was sent to serve wa a menial monk at one of the temples on Mt.HIei.

It appears that Shinran's personality led him to stare attachments.
Neither the monks nor the doctrines on Mt.Hiei were able to save Shinran from this aoguish.
It was then that he heard regular rumors about Honen propagating in the city.

Bearing this unresolvable anguish,
Shinran decided to carry out a hundred-day retreat at Rokkaku-do,
which had been constructed by Prince Shotoku.

On the ninety-fifth day, Kannnon Bosastu appeared in Shinran's dream and
proclaimed an affirmtion of his sufferings.

Shinran left the hall, his anguish intact, and
visited Honen who was preaching his belief in Amida Buddha.
This encounter changed Shinran's life.
Upon hearing Honen's teachings,
he was deeply maved and he immediately became a follwer.

As Honen's disciple,
Shinran was able to delve into the depths of the teachings of the Jodo sect,
but when Honen was banished to Shikoku, Shinran too was implicated and
sent to what is now Niigata Prefecture. He was then thirty-five.

Pardoned four years later, Shinan set out for present-day Ibaraki prefecture
where he spread the teacings of the nembustu.

The preaching of the absolute power of the other,
that one need only trust enfirely in Amida Buddha,
captured the hearts of the people in that region.
It is also said that it was there that he wrote Teaching, Practice, Faith, Attainment.

After continuing propagation in the Kanto area for a while,
Shinran moved to Kyoto where he a large number of works.

He left this world at the age of ninety.



4. What is the Jodo Shin sect?

Honen's disciple Shinran founded the Jodo Shin sect.
In the present day the sect is divided into the Jodo Shinshu Honganji branch,
with Nishi Honganji as its main temple, and the Shinshu Otani branch,
with Higashi Honganji as its  main temple.

When Honen was banished to Shikoku, Shinran was sent to presento-day NIigata.
Afterwards when he was pardoned,
Shinran
moved with Eshin whom he had married in Echigo province to the Kanto area,
and it seems that around this time he had formed his own way of thinking.

In the Buddha of Infinite Life Sutra is the story of
Amida Buddha before he became a buddha andwas still known as
Hozo Bosatsu(Dharmakara).

It was   while Amida was this bodhisattva that he made forty-eight vows and
pledged not to become  a buddha until he had fulfilled them.
The eighteenth and if he could not bring about with
ten prayers then he would not become a buddha.

Shinran foused on this vow. Amida had alredy become a buddha,
which meant that the vow was already fulfilled. I
n other words, if we but have faith in Amida, we have already been saved.
Taking the nembutsu as an invocation of gratitude to the Buddha,
he categorically denied practices of "one's own power"as superfluous.

He preached absolute reliance on "power of the other(=Amida),
"such that one is saved when one achieves correct faith.

The teaching of Shinran were transmitted to posterity at Honganji,
and with the appearance of Rennyo,
the eighth head abbot, the Jodo Shin sect witnessed dramatic growth.

Its influence touched off uprisings of the common people against the authorities,
but under the eleventh abbot Kennyo the sect was suppressed by Oda Nobunaga.

During the subsequent period of warring states
the Jodo Shin sect split into the East and West Honganji factions
which have remained to the present time. 



More information, please refer
Nishi Hongan-ji English HomePage.


Jyotoku-Ji Temple / Ragora:News Letter / What is Buddism?@/ Temple Story