In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Kyōgyōshinshō (Shinran)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Early Commentaries
  • Multivolume Reference Works
  • The Text in Japanese
  • English Translations
  • Historical Background
  • Date of Composition
  • Shinran’s Purpose in Composing the Text
  • Style of the Text
  • Structure of the Text
  • Philosophical and Theological Studies
  • Kyōgyōshinshō and Shin Spirituality

Buddhism Kyōgyōshinshō (Shinran)
David Matsumoto
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0247


Kyōgyōshinshō is the title customarily used to refer to the principal work of Shinran (b. 1173–d. 1263), a Pure Land Buddhist in Kamakura era Japan. The actual title of the text is Ken Jōdo shinjitsu kyōgyōshō monrui (A collection of passages revealing the true teaching, practice and realization of the Pure Land [path]). Shinran is considered to be the founder of the school of Shin Buddhism. Written entirely in Chinese, Kyōgyōshinshō is his magnum opus, a systematic discourse on Jōdo Shinshū (true Pure Land path). Shinran likely composed the text as a defense and clarification of the teaching of the exclusive practice of the nembutsu of his teacher Hōnen, the founder of the Jōdoshū (Pure Land school). Hōnen’s critics attacked him for his apparent disregard of key elements of the Buddhist path of practice, such as the aspiration for enlightenment or merit transference. In addition, interpretations of Hōnen’s thought led to doctrinal conflicts within his Pure Land movement. Shinran’s text responds to both challenges by setting out the Mahayana foundations of Hōnen’s Pure Land Buddhism and clarifying the practical implications of his nembutsu practice. Additionally, Shinran’s own words indicate that he was also moved to author the text out of a deep sense of gratitude for the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha and the Pure Land masters, and for Amida Buddha’s salvific benevolence. Stylistically, Kyōgyōshinshō is a monrui (collection of passages). Shinran cites a wide variety of passages from Chinese versions of sutras, treatises, and commentaries, quoting in particular from the three Pure Land sutras and works of the seven Pure Land masters, while frequently altering passages or displaying his unique readings of them. His own comments, while relatively few, are of great significance. Kyōgyōshinshō consists of six chapters, with two prefaces and a postscript. The first five chapters reveal the true teaching, practice, shinjin (entrusting or faith), and realization of the Pure Land path, as well as the true Buddha and land. The final chapter details provisional teachings and practices, and takes up the significance of transformed buddhas and lands. In a broad sense, Kyōgyōshinshō recontextualizes Pure Land Buddhism within the framework of Mahayana thought and practice. Conversely, it also offers a reexamination of conventional approaches to teaching, practice, faith, and realization from the perspective of the vow mind of Amida Buddha.

General Overviews

Precise English-language overviews of Kyōgyōshinshō are presented in Inagaki 2007 and Ishida 1966. A more comprehensive overview of the text is in Hirota 1997, while Ueda and Hirota 1989 discusses this and other texts by Shinran in a broader context of Mahayana and Pure Land Buddhist thought. Among Japanese-language overviews, Kaneko 1985 and Kakehashi 2001 introduce the manner in which Kyōgyōshinshō addresses a number of religious themes, while Kaneko 1984 and Shigaraki 2013 take up the text within the context of Pure Land Buddhist history, thought, and practice.

  • Hirota, Dennis. “Introduction to True Teaching, Practice and Realization.” In The Collected Works of Shinran. Vol. 2. Translated by Dennis Hirota, et al., 11–74. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 1997.

    An introduction to the translation of Shinran’s text in the Collected Works of Shinran, produced by the Jōdo Shinshū Hongwanji-ha (Nishi Hongwanji) branch of Shin Buddhism. It summarizes the historical background of Shinran’s authorship and the text’s structure, style, and content. This volume also contains lists of passages in Shinran’s work, titles and authors of texts cited therein, and a detailed examination of Shinran’s readings.

  • Inagaki, Hisao. “Some Reflections on the Kyōgyōshinshō: A Reading Guide.” The Pure Land: Journal of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, n.s., 23 (December 2007): 37–51.

    In a brief introduction, a discussion about the text’s authorship, his motives for composing it, and a synopsis of Kyōgyōshinshō, including sutra passages cited by Shinran, provided by the translator of Shinran’s Kyōgyōshinshō: On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment (see Shinran 2003, cited under English Translations).

  • Ishida Mitsuyuki. “Introduction.” In Kyōgyōshinshō. Translated and annotated by the Ryūkoku Translation Center, 3–12. Kyoto: Ryūkoku University, 1966.

    An overall introduction to the English translation of Kyōgyōshinshō by Ryūkoku University. Extant manuscript versions, issues concerning the date of and motives for composition, and an overview of the text are discussed. Of note is the listing of studies of the text in Nishi Hongwanji and Higashi Honganji sectarian studies in the Edo Period and modern era.

  • Kakehashi Jitsuen. Kyōgyōshinshō no shūkyokōzō: Shinshū kyōgi taikei. Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2001.

    A study in Japanese by a noted Nishi Hongwanji scholar of the manner in which the structure of Shinran’s text and its doctrinal content address broad religious themes, such as the meaning of teaching, practice, and reason; the transcendent nature of religious experience; the implications of faith and salvation; the question of evil; and the meaning of religious attainment.

  • Kaneko Daiei. “Kyōgyōshinshō no kenkyū, Kyōgyōshinshō no shomondai.” In Kaneko Daiei chosakushū. Vol. 9. Edited by Terada Masakatsu, et al. Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1984.

    Two works in Japanese by a noted Higashi Honganji scholar. The first provides a study of the core dharma and doctrinal interpretations of Shinran’s text. The second identifies a range of issues raised in Kyōgyōshinshō, including merit transference, buddhas, beings, wisdom and compassion, and community.

  • Kaneko Daiei. “Kyōgyōshinshō sōsetsu.” In Kaneko Daiei chosakushū. Vol. 10. Edited by Terada Masakatsu, et al. Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1985.

    A compilation of lectures in Japanese by a noted modern Shin Buddhist scholar, which sets out to introduce Shin Buddhism through a survey of Kyōgyōshinshō and consideration of the way in which it considers the human condition and the nature of practice, faith, and attainment.

  • Shigaraki Takamaro. Shinshū seitengaku 3: Kyōgyōshōmonrui. Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2013.

    A comprehensive study in Japanese of Shinran’s text by a noted Shin Buddhist scholar. The author addresses the dynamics of the Shin Buddhist path of teaching, practice and realization, bringing particular clarity to the many dimensions of shinjin, the working of enlightenment, and the implications of skillful means in Shinran’s thought.

  • Ueda, Yoshifumi, and Dennis Hirota. Shinran: An Introduction to His Thought. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 1989.

    A careful study that seeks to position Shinran’s thought within the framework of Pure Land Buddhism and the broader sphere of Mahayana thought and practice. Selections from Shinran’s writings, including Teaching, Practice, and Realization, are organized around themes of the Primal Vow, the Pure Land Path, transformation, the person of shinjin, and dynamic reality.

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