Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499) is considered the “second founder” of Shin Buddhism. Under his leadership, the Honganji branch grew in size and power, becoming a national organization with great wealth and influence. Rennyo’s success lay in conveying an attractive spiritual message while exerting effective administrative control. A savvy politician as well as religious leader, ennyo played a significant role in political, economic, and institutional developments. Though he is undeniably one of the most influential persons in the history of Japanese religion, his legacy remains enigmatic and largely overlooked by the West. This volume offers an assessment of Rennyo’s contribution to Buddhist thought and the Honganji religious organization. A collection of 16 previously unpublished essays by both Japanese and non-Japanese scholars in the areas of historical studies, Shinshu studies, and comparative religion, it is the first book to confront many of the major questions surrounding the phenomenal growth of Honganji under Rennyo’s leadership. Was a Charismatic leader, and the implications of his thought against the background of other movements in Pure Land Buddhism, and the relationship between his ideas and the growth of his church. This collection is an important first step in bringing this important figure to an audience outside Japan. It will be of significant interest to scholars in the fields of Japanese religion, Japanese social history, comparative religion, and the sociology of religion.
The exact timing of Rennyo’s marriage is not known. In view of the fact that his first son Junnyo was born in 1442, Rennyo is believed to have married a woman called Nyoryo when he was 28. This is rather a late marriage in the 15th century of Japan. Rennyo’s first son Junnyo was born in the same year as Rennyo’s first marriage. Nyoryo died, leaving seven children, when Rennyo was 41 years old.
When Zonnyo died, Rennyo succeeded to the position of the head priest of the Hongwanji at the age of 43 in 1457 based on the strong recommendations from Nyojo, the brother of Zonnyo (Rennyo’s uncle). There was a struggle on the succession of the head priest of the Hongwanji after Zonnyo as Ogen, the son of Rennyo’s stepmother, was believed to have assumed the position of the head priest of the Hongwanji. Out of fury over the defeat in this struggle, Rennyo’s stepmother and her son Ogen took away from the Hongwanji all the assets that could be sold when they left. As a result, Rennyo had to start from scratch his
work as the eighth head priest of the Hongwanji.
Rennyo also has a sad life. He had five wives, four whom died, fourteen children, in which half had died. He lost Daughters at various age wakening to women’s suffering also. He noted in the 35 Vow of the Larger Sukhavati Sutra that Even women can obtain Enlightenment.
” If, when I attain Buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who, having heard my Name, rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood, should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
Rennyo’s history is seminal in the establishment of Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism taking Shinran’s luminous vision of the all embracing and entrusting to Amida Buddha from the local level of villages to the national recognition and establishment of temples whose sanctity made Shin Buddhism the national Japanese religion. This, along with Shinto as Japan’s spiritual heart. Rennyo’s contribution: Jodo-Shishu: Rennyo: The Second Founder of Shin Buddhism (Nanzan Studies in Asian Religions) Rennyo original innovator and second father of a wider national view of Buddhism Mahayana’s all-embracing, entrusting to Amida Buddha.
There is no reliable information on the woman who gave birth to Rennyo. The birth mother of Rennyo, who is said to have been a maid servant to the mother of Zonnyo, left the Hongwanji for an unknown destination when Rennyo was six years old. This is because Zonnyo, the father of Rennyo, officially married a woman called Nyoen, so that Rennyo’s mother could no longer stay with the Hongwanji. According to the records of Rennyo’s life called “Itokuki,” the mother spoke to her six-year-old child, revealing what was in her heart: “It is my wish that during the life of this child, he will restore the tradition of Master
Shinran.” With such words, she departed for an unknown destination on the 28th day of December 1420. Obviously, Rennyo took his mother’s wish as his lifetime goal to achieve. It was indeed a big tragedy for Rennyo to have been separated from his birth mother at such an early stage of his life. Rennyo continued looking for his mother throughout the rest of his life, but he gained no success in these desperate efforts.
Rennyo was ordained as a Shin Buddhist priest at Shoren-in, a branch temple of the Tendai sect in Kyoto, at the age of 17. There is no record of Rennyo’s having studied the Buddha Dharma at Mount Hiei as Shinran did. Thus, Rennyo must have studied almost by himself the scriptures of Jodo Shinshu by making hand-written copies of Shinran’s writings, such as, “Passages on the Pure Land Way,” “Three Volumes of Japanese Hymns,” “Gutoku’s Notes,”
“Lamp for the Latter Ages,” and many other Shin Buddhist texts, including those written by Kakunyo (1270-1351) and his son Zonkaku (1290-1373), under the direction of his father Zonnyo, in order to understand the teaching of Jodo Shinshu correctly and yet deeply. It is Rennyo who thoroughly studied the “Kyogyoshinsho” (the complete title of which is “A Collection of Passages Revealing the True Teaching, Practice, and Realization of the Pure
Land Way”), a major work by Shinran, as he copied this magnum opus at least six or seven times in his life. Also, it is Rennyo who discovered “Tannisho” (“A Record in Lament of Divergences”).