Shinran and Shin Buddhism: Historical Background

Shinran (1173-1262): Founder of Shin Buddhism, contemporary of Dōgen (1200-1253)

Shin Buddhism, Jōdo Shinshū, largest sect of Japanese Buddhism

Shin Buddhism is also the largest sect of Pure Land Buddhism

Pure Land Buddhism: Indian Mahayana Buddhism

Originates in India with some of the earliest Mahayana Sutras:

Larger Sukhāvatiī-vyūha Sūtra (Larger Sutra of Eternal Life)

Smaller Sukhāvatiī-vyūha Sūtra (Amida Sutra)

Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (Visualization Sutra)

According to Shinran:

There are Seven Masters of Pure Land Buddhism:

India: Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu

China: Tanluan, Daochuo, Shandao

Japan: Genshin, Hōnen

From within Shinran’s perspective, practices develop from those focused on visualization and meditation to chanting or saying the name of Amida Buddha (Amitābha Buddha, Amitāyus Buddha).

Apart from the above, there are many sutras that include or present aspects of Amitābha/Amitāyus.

There are also other masters of Pure Land Buddhism, such as Huiyuan (334-416) who is known for asserting the independence of Buddhist monastics in relation to the Chinese state, as found in his work, On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down before Kings (404).