A Portrait of Shinran: As Presented in Kakunyo’s Three Classical Collections, Vol. 3



  • Author: Kakunyo
  • Kindle Price: US$2.99
  • Published: June 29, 2014

The Gaijashō, the last of three collections in A Portrait of Shinran, was composed in either 1336 or 1337. In 1336, the Honganji in Kyoto where Kakunyo resided was burnt down by invading armies. In that year, Ashikaga Takauji established himself as first shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate in Kyoto. Kakunyo was forced to remove to the Kuonji in Nishiyama, southwest of Kyoto. In light of these circumstances, some scholars doubt whether it was possible for him to compose the Gaijashō at this time.

In the same year 1336, Bukkōji Ryōgen also died at the hands of bandits as he made his way home to Kyoto. Ryōgen’s death upset the status of all Shinshū temples belonging to the Bukkōji branch then the largest of all Shinshū temple systems.

By contrast, the Honganji branch was a minor one under the umbrella of the Tendai school. All the same, Kakunyo’s Gaijashō opens with criticism directed at the practices of the dominant Bukkōji branch. By such documents, Kakunyo played an important role by laying down the guidelines of Shinran’s teaching that helped to ensure the steady growth of the Honganji branch in the future.

One hundred some years later, under the leadership of Rennyo, eighth leader of the Honganji, a shift in the political situation would force almost all Bukkōji temples in Kyoto to recapitulate and switch allegiance to the Honganji. While Rennyo is unilaterally praised for making the Honganji a huge institution in Japan, it is Kakunyo who took the helm to deftly guide the still fragile Honganji branch through a treacherous period of Japanese politics to produce early works that helped to define the Honganji tradition.

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