What? And Why Do We Do That?
  1. What is the official name of our tradition?
    Officially, our denomination is called "Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha". It is commonly referred to as "Nishi Hongwanji" or "Honpa Hongwanji". The term "Nishi" means the direction "west" and our headquarters temple received that name because it is located west of the "other" Hongwanji called "Otani-ha" or "Higashi (east) Honganji". Note that the Nishi Hongwanji spells "Hongwanji" with a "w" while the Higashi Honganji does not. At the turn of the 20th century, the "w" sound was included in the pronunciation of the word "Hon-gwan-ji" but the pronunciation is now "Hon-gan-ji" (Hone-gone-gee).
  2. Are there other sub-sects within Jodo Shinshu?
    Yes, besides Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji sub-sects, there are eight other officially recognized sub-sects of Jodo Shinshu. They are: Takada-subsect; Bukkoji-subsect; Kosho-subsect; Kibe-subsect; Izumoji-subsect; Joshoji-subsect; Sammonto-subsect and Yamamoto-subsect. Each of these subsects had their beginnings in the early history of the Shin Buddhist movement.
  3. Everyone knows the Dalai Lama, but who is the head of our sect?
    The current Monshu (Moan-shoe) of our Nishi Hongwanji sect is His Eminence Monshu Koshin Ohtani, who is a blood descendant of Shinran Shonin.
  4. Why is it that the year of Shinran Shonin's death is sometimes listed as 1262 and at other times is listed as 1263?
    Shinran Shonin is said to have died on the 16th day of the eleventh month of the year. According to the lunar (Chinese) calendar, the 16th day of the eleventh month is approximately January 16th on the solar (western) calendar. Here in the BCA, we observe Hoonko (Shinran Shonin's memorial) on January 16th. Higashi Honganji and some of our BCA temples observe Hoonko in November, according to the Western calendar dates. However, why the difference in years? The year depends on which calendar you use - if you use the lunar calendar and he died in the eleventh month of the year, then he died in 1262. However, if you convert the date to the western calendar, the death date becomes January 16th and the year is 1263.
  5. How do we formally become a part of the Shin Buddhist sangha?
    Anyone can become a member of our Shin Buddhist sangha. There are no restrictions or social barriers prohibiting a person from becoming a follower of the Nembutsu Path. Many members choose to receive a "Buddhist Name" or Homyo (Hoe-myoe) as a way of showing their commitment to live their lives as Shin Buddhists, however, this is not mandatory. If one does not receive a Buddhist name during their lifetime, they may receive a Buddhist name at their funeral or memorial rites if it is done according to the Shin tradition. But the Buddhist name itself is not mandatory for a person to receive and follow the Nembutsu teaching. more …