In May, a special service commemorates the birthday of Shinran Shonin, revered as the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. For Shinran, the Buddhist path requires a true and honest introspection of one’s own limitations and ignorance, which is an essential step towards spiritual liberation and awakening, and is a path that anyone can follow.
Born during Japan’s samurai warring era, Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) entered a monastery at age nine, where he spent 20 years. However that experience had not made him a better person, nor led to spiritual enlightenment, and left him frustrated. He subsequently left the monastery and eventually met a teacher Honen Shonin, who taught him about the Nembutsu path, characterized by the words “Namu Amida Butsu.”
In Honen, Shinran realized that Buddhism was truly universal and open to anyone who could honestly reflect on one’s true nature, and how that self is controlled by ego. He awakened to the truth that he was a “bombu,” a person clouded by ignorance and filled with self-centeredness.
In the words “Namu Amida Butsu,” he saw the vehicle that enabled him to see the truth about himself and to transcend that ignorance and fully appreciate life.
Everyone is welcome to attend Shinran Shonin’s Birthday service, which is called “Tanjo-e” in Japanese. In addition at the service, commonly there is a “hatsumairi” ceremony, commemorating a baby’s first temple visit. Please check the websites of your local temple for dates and times.