The birthday of Shinran Shonin is commemorated on May 21 by followers of Jodo Shinshu throughout the world. This occasion is called Gotan-e or Shinran Shonin Day at some temples, or Fujimatsuri (“wisteria festival”) at other temples.
For followers of the Jodo Shinshu teaching, this day is very important, as it was Shinran who systematically developed the Nembutsu teaching by compiling the commentaries of the seven teachers whom he chose to call the Seven Patriarchs. The essence of the Jodo Shinshu teaching is contained in Shinran’s Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Shu, compiled and written during his last years in the Kanto area, before his return to Kyoto.
Shinran Shonin teaches that we are able to attain salvation or Birth into the Pure Land. Even though Shinran (1173-1263) was born some 800 years ago, the Nembutsu teaching that he developed is still applicable to us in this modern Age of Technology.
What distinguishes his teaching is that it was meant primarily for householders, rather than those who left their homes to enter priesthood and attempt to follow the difficult path of discipline in search of Enlightenment. Without distinguishing between the priesthood and laity, he pointed out that everyone, without distinction of rank or class, would be saved by reciting the Nembutsu with Faith in Amida Buddha. In Shinran’s teaching, there is no distinction between good and evil. Everyone is equal before the Buddha, and all can be equally saved by Amida’s Compassion. This is Shinran Shonin’s Faith in the Original Vow of Amida Buddha.