Buddhists Sects

Shin

Shin Buddhism originated in Japan and is a Pureland sect of Buddhism. Many of the Pureland sects believe that it is next to impossible to reach enlightenment in this world, but that if one may be reborn in the Pureland where there are no distractions on the path to enlightenment. The Pureland is the land of Amida Buddha, Buddha of wisdom and compassion. Amida Buddha is not an historical buddha.

Shinran (1173-1262) founded Shin Buddhism. Shinran was trained as a monk in the Tendai sect and also studied under Honen. He lived at a time of turmoil in Japan when many Buddhist reformers were persecuted and exiled. Shinran broke with the tradition of Buddhist leaders having a monastic life - he married and had children. He thus set the precedence for non-monastic lay practice in Shin, though Shinran considered himself to be neither monk nor lay.

Shinran taught that one can be reborn in the Pureland by uttering "Namu Amida Butsu" with a true heart. "Namu Amida Butsu" is called nembutsu and is an invocation of the name of Amida Buddha. Shinran was not the first to teach nembutsu, but he put primary emphasis on nembutsu making it the primary practice of Shin Buddhism. Shinran also taught that Nembutsu is a manifestation of Shinjin - a state free of the world's dichotomy. He believed that one should not chant nembutsu simply to gain enlightenment for oneself.

Many Shin Buddhist have a small altar called an O-Butsudan in their homes. This usually has an image of Amida Buddha, a scroll with the Chinese characters of Namu Amida Butsu. Often offerings of food are placed on this altar and incense is burned. Shin Buddhists also celebrate O-bon in the summer. This is a celebration of commemorating one's ancestors. During religious services, Shin Buddhist wear a bracelet of prayer beads called O-jizu which are similar to mala beads.

Shin is a lay oriented Buddhist sect and as such is family oriented. Families attend services together. Shin temples sometimes maintain schools for children. Shin is the largest Buddhist sect in Japan, in Hawaii and possibly the United States. Some Shin temples in the US offer Sunday services with prayers, song, sermons and of course Nembutsu. They may also offer Dharma school for children (like Christian Sunday school.)
 

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