Who was Eshinni and Kakushinni, and why do we have a service for them? No doubt our BWA (Buddhist Women’s Association) members could answer these questions, because they have held services for them for many years, but to some others these names may not be so familiar. This year is the first time we will have a Temple-wide service for them. This article is intended to provide a brief background.
The founder of our Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism is Shinran Shonin. In a nutshell, Eshinni was Shinran’s wife and Kakushinni, a daughter, was the youngest of their six children.
Eshinni was born in Niigata Prefecture in 1182 and married Shinran about 1210. Little is known about her except through ten letters she wrote to Kakushinni during the waning years of her life. These letters were discovered in Hongwanji (mother temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect in Kyoto, Japan) archives in 1921. They cast light on many “holes” not only on our knowledge about her life but Shinran’s as well. Eshinni died at about age 89 in Niigata prefecture.
Eshinni, from The Life of Eshinni by Yoshiko Ohtani
As Eshinni is revered for her dedication to Shinran during his productive years, Kakushinni is known for being her father’s caregiver in his final years. She was about 30 years old when Shinran died at the age of 90. And after Shinran’s death, Kakushinni is revered for planting the seeds that were to grow into today’s Hongwanji.
Ten years after Shinran’s passing, Kakushinni built a Memorial Hall for his remains, and established the means for insuring the Hall and the property it was built on would belong to the Jodo Shinshu Sangha in all future generations. This was the beginning of Ohtani Mausoleum and of the Hongwanji.
A monument stands in front of the Butsuden (Hondo) at the Ohtani Mausoleum to pay tribute to Kakushinni’s contributions.
In 1978, at its convention in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the World BWA (comprised of BWA organizations of Japan, mainland U.S.A., Hawaii, Canada, and Brazil) passed a resolution to conduct annual services in memory of Eshinni. Then in 2002, the World BWA passed a resolution to similarly honor Kakushinni. At WLA, the BWA honors both at the same service.