Taa (他阿)

Taa (1237 - February 18, 1319) was a Ji Sect Buddhist monk who lived during the latter part of the Kamakura period. He was the direct disciple of Yugyo Shonin. His full name is Ta Amidabutsu but this is abbreviated to Taa. His priest name was Shinkyo (although this does not appear in contemporary sources and its first recorded usage is in "Honcho Kosoden" (biography of high ranking monks by Mangen Shiban). Books signed "Shinkyo" are kept at the Toshin Bunko Library, and some theories identify this individual as Taa. It is said that he was born into the Koga family of the Minamoto clan but there is a possibility that this is a false claim that was made after his death.

After becoming the disciple of Ji Sect founder Ippen in 1277 in Kyushu, he accompanied him on his travels around Japan. He reformed the Ji Sect which had temporarily disbanded following Ippen's death in 1289, and continued his journey around the Hokuriku and Kanto regions. In 1304, he passed the role of travelling to the third generation Ji Sect disciple Ryoa (also known as Chitoku. Later inherited the name Taa), and constructed a thatched hut (which went on to become the Muryoko-ji sub-temple of Konko-in Temple Toma dojo-seminary) in Sagami Province where he lived alone until his death. The precinct of this temple contains a Hokyoin-to pagoda (Japanese stupa) under which Taa is buried alongside Ippen. In addition to Ryoa, other important disciples included Yua (also known as Eei or Eiko. Later became Taa Donkai who opened the Fujisawa-dojo seminary), and Joa (Shinkan) of the Kyoto Shijo-dojo seminary.

As well as extensive information about him being later compiled in volume 8 of "Taa Jonin Hogo" (Buddhist sermon of Taa Jonin), he mixed with eminent members of Kyoto Society as a poet, and published his work in a compilation entitled "Daikyo-shu." His biography is detailed in "Ippen Shonin Eshiden" (Yugyo Shonin Engi-e) volumes 5-10. Well known images of Taa include the painting at Nagasaki Shonen-ji Temple (Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture), the wooden seated statue at Higashiyama Choraku-ji Temple (Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City), and the wooden seated statues at Kurokoma Shogan-ji Temple (Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture) and Kozu Rentai-ji Temple (Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture), all of which have been designated Important Cultural Properties. These images are unique among such works as a stroke suffered in his final years left the shape of his mouth distorted.

Ippen named Jokai, who is also said to have been a blood relative, as his successor but after he passed away, the Ji Sect disappeared throughout Japan. Taa revived the sect, established the 'Jishu Seikai' (religious commandments of the Ji Sect) and 'Dojo Seibun' (rules for priests) which advocated Chishiki Kimyo (a unique belief of the Ji Sect of giving absolute devotion of mind and body to the absolute view of knowledge), and sources state that there were over 100 subordinate temples. The modern Ji Sect was established in early modern times when the Fujisawa-dojo seminary Shojoko-ji Temple, which followed this Taa system, absorbed other nenbutsu denominations. Successive high priests of the Ji Sect have been named Taa. However, only Taa Shinkyo can be considered an actual founder of the Ji sect. He is commonly called 'Niso Shonin' (lit. Second Founder) in relation to the sect founder Ippen, and his statue stands alongside that of Ippen at many Ji Sect temples.