Luckily, with better translations, Japanese and Jodo shin Shu history is coming to light. Rennyo lived in very Historic if not storied times. The 8th Monshu, not only had to restore the Honganji, but need to appease political forces. Rennyo is as incredible as Honen and Shinran.
Emergence of the ikki in Kaga
Rise of the Ikkō-ikki:
Throughout the 15th century in Japan, peasant revolts, known as ikki, increased in frequency. With the breakout of the Ōnin War in 1467 and resultant chaos, they became even more commonplace. Many of the rebels embraced a militant offshoot of Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism known as Ikkō-shū. The religious leader Rennyo, eighth Monshu of the Hongan-ji school of Shinshū, tried to distance himself from Ikkō-shū, but attracted many converts from the sect, to the point where Ikkō-shū became synonymous with Jōdo Shinshū. Due to the violent tendencies of the Ikkō-shū adherents, they became known as Ikkō-ikki, literally “Ikkō-shū riots” or “Ikkō-shū league”. In 1471, Rennyo relocated from Kyoto to Yoshizaki in Echizen Province. Rennyo had attracted his largest following in Echizen and the bordering Kaga Province, a following which included not only peasants but ji-samurai, or kokujin, the lesser nobility.
Togashi civil war:
In Kaga, a civil war had broken out between Togashi Masachika and Kochiyo Masachika for control of the position of shugo over the province. Kochiyo was victorious against his brother and drove him out of Kaga. When the Ōnin War began in 1467, Masachika sided with the Hosokawa clan, while Kochiyo sided with the Yamana. Kochiyo also patronized Takada school of Jōdo Shinshū, a fierce rival of the Hongan-ji school of which Rennyo was head. Masachika, seeking to reclaim his land, reached out to the Ikkō-ikki and asked for their support. In exchange, he promised to end their religious persecution and lift them out of poverty.The priests in Yoshizaki agreed to aid Masachika, and Rennyo, though alarmed by the rebellious attitude of the rebels, tacitly rendered his support as well. Asakura Toshikage, the ruler of Echizen and ally of the Hosokawa, also lent his support. Kochiyo was defeated, and Masachika restored to power.
Despite having aided Togashi Masachika in his return to power, within a year the Ikkō-ikki of Kaga fell into conflict with him. Claiming that he failed to adequately deliver on his promises of economic reward, the Ikkō-ikki of Kaga revolted in 1474. Rennyo refused to support these rebellions, and the Ikkō-ikki were quickly defeated and forced to take refuge in neighboring Etchū. Shimotsuma “Aki” Rensu, a ji-samurai from Echizen and an advisor to Rennyo, led another revolt, falsely claiming that Rennyo authorized his actions. This revolt also failed, and Rennyo excommunicated Aki Rensu.
Kaga civil war
In 1531, the ikki control of Kaga was of such dominance that a conflict for leadership within the Hongan-ji embroiled the province in a civil war, often called the Daishō-Ikki, or Big League-Little League, war. A faction led by Renjun, a son of Rennyo, came to power in the Hongan-ji, and was hostile to the three main Kaga temples. In the resultant war, the three Kaga temples were backed by the Togashi clan, other powerful vassals, local Hongan-ji priests, and the ikki based in Echizen. Renjun was backed by many of the smaller temples and emerged victorious from the conflict when he brought in an Ikkō-Ikki army from Mikawa Province. Togashi Taneyasu was exiled, as were the other opposition leaders, and the position of shugo abolished.
In 1531, Renjun, a son of Rennyo, emerged victorious in the Kaga civil war and established a much tighter Hongan-ji hegemony over the province. The leaders of the opposition, including Togashi Taneyasu, where expelled from Kaga, though those who supported them were allowed to return. Without any central governing body, Kaga was consumed by political instability. The Asakura clan to the south and Uesugi to the north posed threats of invasion for Kaga, so the ji-samurai established a centralized authority at the Kanazawa Midō in Oyama Gobo.] The Midō oversaw four district organizations of hatamoto – prominent local warlords. Each hatamoto commanded a group, kumi, of which there were roughly twenty in total. These kumi in turn ruled over regional groups of local warriors, priests, and the heads of village communes. The highest political organization of the ikki in Kaga was a committee of hatamoto.
“The annual pledge of the Sixth-of-the-Month Ko has been duly received. Many
thanks. Now Faith should be firmly established. All members should be
informed that without exception those who cast off irrelevant practices and appeal
to Amida with all their hear will surely be help by him and will be reborn in
prardise; and they should be led to recite Nembutsu.” Rennyo