Jodo Shinshu Buddhism

The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).

The literal translation of Jodo Shinshu is the True Pure Land Religion. There are ten branches of which the two major ones are commonly called Nishi Hongwanji and Higashi Hongwanji. All the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada and the majority of the Shinshu churches in the United States formally belong to the Nishi or Hompa Hongwanji branch.

Sacred Scriptures

Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra — (Sutra of Infinite Life) (Daimuryoju kyo) 2 volumes.
In this sutra is recorded the discourses delivered by Shakyamuni at the Mount of Holy Vulture in Rajagriha. Shakyamuni speaks of Hozo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Dharmakara) who makes 48 vows, all of them for the benefit of all sentient beings. For a countless number of years, Hozo Bosatsu meditates and works for a realization of a Buddha Land perfect in every sense, where all beings can be reborn. He becomes Amida Buddha — the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life.

Amitayur Dhyana Sutra (Kanmuryoju kyo) 1 volume
The Buddha teaches to Queen Vaidehi, who is thrown in jail by her own son. Shakyamuni teaches that for those in the depths of suffering and sorrow, only Trust in the Compassion of Amida can save her. While the Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra teaches the ideal of rebirth into the Pure Land through Trust, the Amitayur Dhyana Sutra shows a practical application of that ideal by an individual, Queen Vaidehi, who finds liberation through Trust.

Smaller Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra (Amida Kyo) 1 volume
This sutra is a summary of the larger sutra. It speaks of the indescribable beauty of the Pure Land and
extols the virtues of Amida.

The Religious Significance of Hozo Bosatsu and the Forty-Eight Vows

As stated above the Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra tells the story of Hozo Bosatsu who made 48 vows and meditated and worked for countless years to fulfill all the vows. Of the 48 vows, the eighteenth vow is most important for it is in this vow that Hozo Bosatsu aspires for the universal liberation of beings. It reads, “Upon my attainment of Buddhahood, if sentient beings in the ten quarters, who have sincerity of heart, entrust, and wish to be born in my land, repeating My Name perhaps up to ten times, would not be born therein, then may I not obtain the Great Enlightenment.” Upon the fulfillment of all the 48 vows, Hozo Bosatsu became Amida Buddha.

Amida Buddha is a manifestation of the Truth of Universe in human form while the vows, especially the eighteenth, are an active and loving expression of Great Compassion.