Introducing Shinran

Status: MODERATED

Grade Level: 7, 8, High School

Keywords: Shinran Shonin

Objective:

  • Introduce the topic of Shinran Shonin. Afterwards the students will know one myth about Shinran Shonin.

Materials:

  • Paper to write on
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Markers
  • Large paper (butcher sheet)
  • Copies of "Shinran Shonin Questionnaire" and "Myths about Shinran"

Preparation:

  • Prepare a list of historical events during years 1000 to 1300.


Method:

  1. Intro
  2. Ask "What kind of Person do you think was Shinran Shonin?"
  3. Have students fill out the Shinran Shonin questionnaire
    1. Tell the students that we will try to answer these questions this year.
  4. Hand out and read the "Myths about Shinran Shonin"
  5. Activity: Ask the class to underline parts that they think is false.
  6. Following is the correct story. The underlined section is false. Have the students make corrections
  7. Discussion: Discuss parts that the students earlier thought are false.
  8. What else do you want to know about Shinran this year.
  9. Shinran timeline & what was going on in the world
  10. Using the large pieces of paper (butcher paper) create a timeline of world events during when Shinran Shonin was alive. Point out that US does not exist and most Europeans know nothing about Japan. Also point out that there are no cars. Even sailing ships were much more primitive w/ Europeans not having compasses yet.
  11. Review

Evaluation:

  • Review what occurred today.

Note:

  • Designed to be shorter than a usual 45 minutes class for the First day of Dharma School. Can be extended by giving students a World history timeline which they can use to fill in other world events into their Shinran Timeline.
  • You may create a form to record what the students wants to learn.

Author:

Mas Nishimura, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 2011

Shinran Shonin Questionaire
Myths about Shinran Shonin

Shinran Shonin's Life (Corrections to the Myths about Shinran)

Please note that this is based on the latest knowledge (2016) at the Hongwanji.

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Shinran Shonin was born in 1173. His first name was Shinran, and he was from the Shonin family. (His name was Matsuwakamaro and he was from the Hino Family) Both his mother and father passed away soon after his birth. (This is probably not true. His father might have been murdered; most likely his mother went back to her family and re-married). He was taken care of by his uncle. He was an beautiful, obedient child and a brilliant student.

At the age of 8, he decided to became a monk in order to calm the sadness that he felt for his mother's death. (It is likely that he was told that his mother died.) When the abbot of a local temple suggested that they wait till the next day to do the ceremony, he gave his response in a poem so wonderful that the abbot was moved to ordain him by candlelight. (Some historians think this is a myth and that an eight year old child is incapable of doing this) He was an excellent student at the Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei and he became one of the youngest assistant abbots. One day however, going on rounds with his abbot, he met Tamahime, a imperial princess. (there is no record of a Tamahime; not unheard of. But "Tamahime" is an unusual name for a imperial princess esp. during the early Kamakura Period.) He fell in love with her despite his vows. This caused great confusion in him. (Some historians think that he met Eshinni in Kyoto and married her before going to Echigo)

Seeking answers he spent 100 days at the Rokkakudo in meditation. On the 99th day, he was visited by Kannon Boddhisatva who promises to come to him as his wife and that he is to seek Honen Shonin who had founded the Jodo tradition. Hearing Honen's teachings, he decided to become Honen's disciple and quickly became the leading disciple (although he was highly thought of by Honen, Shinran was never the leading disciple). As allowed by Jodo shu, he married Tamahime. (Again, no Tamahime) This angered the Emperor of Japan so much that he exiles Shinran to Echigo, a northern frontier of Japan and Honen to Shikoku. (The Emperor was angry at other monks for ordaining several of his courtesans; 2 followers of Honen was executed for this.) Shinran was to never meet Tamahime or Honen again.

However, even in Echigo, many people were moved by Shinran and many converted to the Jodo tradition(although this happens afterwards, during this time Shinran does not proslytize.) Shinran eventually married Eshinni who was a daughter of one of the farmers in Echigo (her father was clearly a large land-owner; some historian think it was the overseer of the area). Although he was pardoned in 1211, upon hearing of Honen's passing, he decides to go to the Kanto area. Along the way, he calms a flooding stream and and brings rain to a drought stricken area.(Both are clearly myth).

In Kanto, he gather many followers and writes many texts including his Kyo Gyo Shin Sho. The converts call themselves Jodo Shinshu and venerate Shinran (Jodo Shinshu does not exist until over 30 years after Shinran's death). There are many miracles attributed to Shinran during this time including a water springing from a dry well and a tree growing to maturity overnight.(There is little historical basis for these miracles. And many appear many years after Shinran's passing.)

In 1234, he returns to Kyoto to continue his research and Eshinni goes back to Echigo due to the fact that they are very poor. His daughter, Eshinni, (Kakushinni is his daughter that takes care of Shinran; Eshinni is his wife) takes care of Shinran until he passes peacefully in 1262. Lights are said to be seen coming from his face and all animals stop what they are doing for a moment in honor of Shinran. (False, in fact, Kakushinni writes a letter to Eshinni that she saw no lights).