Jodo Shu Masters

Ryochu (1199-1287)

Ryochu was a disciple of Shoko and denied Chosai's shogyo hongan doctrine that practices other than the nembutsu correspond to Amida's original vow. However, he also opposed the position of Shoku, who held that practices other than the nembutsu are utterly useless for attaining birth in the Pure Land. While denying that practices other than the nembutsu correspond to Amida's original vow, Ryochu nonetheless held them to be efficacious in achieving the Pure Land. In 1237, Ryochu, then thirty-nine years old, declared himself to be the Third Patriarch of Jodo Shu and then devoted himself to legitimizing Shoko's teaching, the Chinzei doctrine, as Jodo Shu orthodoxy. He established Komyo-ji in Kamakura in the Kanto area, one of the main temples (dai-honzan) of Jodo Shu.

Shogei (1341-1420) & Shoso (1366-1440)

These two monks were the 7th and 8th Patriarchs of Jodo Shu respectively and established it as an independent institution. They worked to legitimize Jodo Shu's dharma transmission; established an institute for Pure Land studies; devised the Fivefold Transmission (goju-soden) which was a systematic presentation of Jodo Shu teachings; and went about correcting errors in understanding about Pure Land teaching, and enforcing greater discipline and obedience by younger monks. Through the success of these efforts, Shogei with the aid of Shoso was able to institutionalize and legitimize Jodo Shu, gaining its official recognition by the government.

Zonno (1544-1620) & Sonsho (1562-1620)

Zonno was the abbot of one of Jodo Shu's main temples (dai-honzan) Zojo-ji in the capital of Edo (modern day Tokyo). In 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Zonno entered into a special relationship which resulted in Zojo-ji becoming the administrative center of Jodo Shu gaining authority over the whole sect. Sonsho, the abbot of Jodo Shu's head temple (so-honzan) Chion-in who in 1603, also negotiated a special relationship with Tokugawa Ieyasu and firmly established Chion-in as the highest ceremonial temple of Jodo Shu.

Tanzei (1551-1613) & Tokuhon (1758-1818)

These two monks created and developed the Renunciation Movement (shasei-ha) during the Edo Era (1600-1868) which renounced worldly pleasures and emphasized continuous recitation of the nembutsu. This movement had its roots in the preceding Azuchi-Momoyama period under the monk Shonen. The monks of Shasei-ha abandoned their temples and lived the itinerant life of wanderers (nembutsu hijiri) eschewing fame and power to preach Honen's exclusive nembutsu throughout Japan. Their legacies can be found in the numerous stone stupas inscribed with the nembutsu which still exist all over Japan.

Reitan (1676-1734), Fujaku (1707-1781) & Kyoju (1683-1748)

These monks led the Precepts Movement (koritsu-ha) during the Edo era which sought to re-establish the centrality of the precepts in the face of increasing priestly corruption.

Yamazaki Bennei (1859-1920)

Yamazaki Bennei founded the Komyokai movement which stressed that nembutsu practice is enveloped in and protected by the spiritual light of Amida Buddha. This movement encouraged special services for chanting the nembutsu in Jodo Shu temples and at the homes of believers throughout the country.

Shiio Benkyo1876-1971)

Shiio Benkyo founded the Kyoseikai movement which centered on applying Honen's teachings to daily life for the betterment of society. Benkyo, the seventy-eighth abbot of the Zojo-ji, insisted that one should realize the salvation of Amida in social and daily life. He based his teaching on a fundamental doctrine of Buddhism, pratitya samutpada (engi), the dependent co-origination and interrelatedness of all things, which he interpreted in terms of the matrix of human society. This movement inspired many priests to establish day-care centers and kindergartens within or near their temple grounds or to engage in other forms of social service. Benkyo himself put into practice his teaching concerning the betterment of life and society by serving as a member of the Japanese Parliament.


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