Shin Buddhism was informally introduced to the West at the 1893 Chicago World’s Parliament of Religion when a few copies of a small book were passed out to the audience. The book was called Skeleton of a Philosophy of Religion and it was written by Kiyozawa Manshi (1863–1903). Though he had yet to make a name for himself, Kiyozawa is now regarded as one of the leading religious philosophers of the Meiji period.

Kiyozawa was also an ordained Buddhist priest of our denomination, the Shinshū Ōtani-ha (Higashi Honganji), and later became the founding president of their new Shin Buddhist college in Tokyo, called Shinshū Daigaku. The present Shinshu Center of America series takes up his spirit of introducing Shin Buddhism to the West.

With roots that go back to twelfth century Japan, Shin Buddhism grew out of the spiritual search of Shinran (1173–1263). Shinran was a brilliant student of Buddhism yet he could not find any way to save himself. He was fortunate to meet with an equally brilliant teacher named Hōnen who showed him the way. Simply recite the Buddha Name, Namu Amida Butsu. Through faith a person who realizes they have no especially redeeming side to them can still find a way to peace and happiness within.

Even though Shinran experienced long periods of hardships, he accepted them as part of his destiny to spread Buddhism among the ordinary people. Even today his philosophy of religious faith has the power to move people caught in the turmoil of the modern world. Anyone interested in learning more about his life and thought will surely find something for them in the books in our series.

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