Temples Of Japan

Higashi Honganji Temple

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Higashi Honganji Temple Goeido Mon
Goeido Mon (Founder's Hall Gate) - Higashi Honganji Temple

Higashi Honganji Temple is located in downtown Kyoto city, a few minutes walk from the JR Kyoto Station.  Higashi Honganji Temple, officially known as Shishu Honbyo, is the mother temple of the Shinshu Otani-ha branch of Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism), whose founder is Shiran Shonin (1173-1262) during the Kamakura period.  Please visit Nishi Honganji Temple also, which is dedicated to Shin Buddhism (also known as Pure Land Buddhism).

The doctrine of Jodo Shinshu is based on the teaching of Shinran Shonin, though it's essence is universal.  This universal aspect derives from Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived some 2500 years ago in India, and basically taught a path to self-awakening.  Through this, one is able to become aware of the futility and suffering caused by one's action and eventually come to truly appreciate life as it is.

According to Buddhism, that "I", that "self" we think we know is actually nothing but a dream created by ourselves out of our own desires.  In order to realize this, the Buddha gave numerous discourses relating to timeless universal truths, which we call the Dharma.  Shinran drew his greatest inspiration from The Larger Sutra of Eternal Life, which discusses the existence of Amida Buddha and the Pure Land. 

Aerial View of the Higashi Honganji Temple Precincts

The temple precincts contain two main Halls;  The Founder's Hall (Goei-Do) and Amida Hall (Amida-Do).  The Founder's Hall is one of the largest wooden constructions in the world, was rebuilt in 1895.  An image of the founder, Shinran, is enshrined on it's alter.  The Amida Hall has an image of Amida Buddha enshrined on the alter in this hall, which was rebuilt in the same year as the Founder's Hall.

One structure about this temple, visitors to Kyoto always notice  is the Founder's Hall Gate (Goei-do Mon).  This immense gate, built in 1911, is one of the Kyoto's largest.  There is a plaque at the top of the second story, on which the words "Shinshu Honbyo" are written.  There is a stairway on either side leading up to the upper floor, where three figures can be seen: Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical Buddha), Ananda (his principal disciple), and Bodhisattva Maitreya (the future Buddha).  This is a scene of the Buddha's preaching in one of the sacred texts of Shin Buddhism "The Larger Sutra of Eternal Life".

There is a beautiful garden called Shosei-en Garden, detached from the temple precincts and was designated as a place of National Scenic Beauty in 1936.

Here is a video of the Higashi Honganji Temple:

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