The following description is paraphrased from “A Brief Introduction to Jodo Shinshu”, written by Kenryu T. Tsuji and publsihed by the BCA Bureau of Buddhist Education. Permission to use this material was neither sought nor granted.
Founded in 1224 A.D., Jodo Shin Shu (True Land Pure Religion) was started by Shinran Shonin with the completion of the first draft of his most important work “Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment” (Kyo Gyo Shin Sho).
Shinran Shonin’s purpose was to awaken mankind to the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha. The seven patriarchs had carried the words and teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha over the centuries and Shinran Shonin was continuing the legacy with his works.
The seven patriarchs are:
- Nagarjuna – India
- Vasubanshu – India
- Donran – China
- Doshaku – China
- Zendo – China
- Genshin – Japan
- Honen – Japan
Shinran Shonin focused his teaching by selecting three specific sutras from the voluminous Buddhist Tripitaka.
1. The Larger Sutra on the Eternal Life: Shakyamuni Buddha tells the Sangha about Amida Buddha.
2. The Meditation Sutra on the Eternal Buddha: A woman finds salvation through Amida Buddha
3. The Smaller Sutra on Amida Buddha: The beauty of the Pure Land and the virtues of Amida Buddha.
Amida Buddha communicates to us through his Name. The Name is Namo Amidha Buddha, meaning “I place my faith in Amidha Buddha”. When we truly hear the Name, Faith is awakened in our hearts. The recitation of the Name is the Nembutsu of gratitude to Amida Buddha for salvation that is assured.
Absolute enlightenment is attained in the Pure Land after death when all the finite, limited qualities of the physical being are extinct. While the human weaknesses of greed, anger, and ignorance are still functioning the perfection of personality is an impossibility.
While the ultimate objective of life in Jodo Shinshu lies in the achievement of Buddhahood, life’s immediate purpose is realized in the awakening of faith. In this religious experience we know that we now live in Amida’s Light. This is the spiritual state Shinran Shonin called the “ranks of the truly assured.” The recitation of the Nembutsu – Namo Amida Butsu – flows naturally and clearly as waters from a mountain spring.