The Ji Sect (時宗)
The Ji sect is a sect of the Jodo sect which was established at the end of the Kamakura period. The founder of sect was Ippen. Sohonzan (the head temple of a Buddhist sect) is Shojoko-ji Temple (commonly called Yugyo-ji Temple) in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
時衆 (Ji shu) and 時宗 (Ji shu)
It began to use the letter '宗' (sect) for '衆' (people) after the Edo period like other sects. Ippen, who is regarded as the founder, in fact, did not intend to establish a new sect and his religious community and members had been called just 'Ji shu時衆' (the people [衆] who worried about the time [時] of death). As the literatures added in the end of this article clearly show, researchers had used the name of 時衆 for the events until the Muromachi period. The term 'jishu時衆' originated from the sentence that '道俗時衆等、各發無上心 (all priests and all people who live within the times could have the superior mind)' in 'Kammuryoju-kyosho' (Commentary on the Meditation Sutra) by Shandao. It refered to the group (or member) who divided a day into six parts and kept practicing nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), and they usually used kenmitsu-jiin (exoteric temples of Esoteric Buddhism) since the group had been formed. Jishu, which had been written as '時衆' for a long time, was written as '時宗' for the first time in "Jishu Fujisawa Yugyo Matsuji-cho" (Note of Branch Temples of Fujisawa Yugyo-ji Temple of the Ji Sect) in 1633.
The faith of Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) is the center of the Jodo sect's teaching. Yuzu Nenbutsu (reciting the name of Amida Buddha) taught that nenbutsu of one person would be fused with everybody's nenbutsu. The Jodo sect emphasized the effort to recite nenbutsu as an indication of faith and taught that reciting more nenbutsu made Ojo (birth in the Pure Land) more possible. In addition, the Jodo-shin sect emphasized only faith and taught that if a person believed it, his Ojo would be promised and that nenbutsu was the practice of the gratitude for butsuon (the graces of Buddha).
Unlike the Jodo-shin sect, the Ji sect did not mention the faith in Amida Buddha, they just taught that only reciting nenbutsu made Ojo possible. They read the sutras and thought that Buddha's power to save people was absolute enough to save people who did not believe in Buddha.
In the Kamakura Period and the Muromachi Period
After the death of Ippen, Jishu (時衆) which he had led naturally disappeared. However, Ippen's energetic disciple Taa reorganized it. After him, many Yugyo-shonin (traveling priests) followed the thought and traveled around provinces implementing fusan (distributing tablets with the inscription 'Namu Amidabutsu') and Odori Nenbutsu (dancing and reciting nenbutsu).
However, the group was split into Toma dojo (seminary) Muryoko-ji Temple (Sagamihara City) and Fujisawa dojo Shojokoin (later Shojoko-ji Temple) over the succession of the 4th head priest, and soon Fujisawa dojo became to get an advantage. After retiring as Yugyo-shonin, the priests entered Fujisawa dojo and called themselves Fujisawa-shonin.
In the middle of the Muromachi period, there were some famous persons who had homyo (name as a priest) originated from the Ji sect including Sarugaku performers Kana (Kanami) and Sea (Seami); it was the golden age of the Ji sect and some members practically developed the culture as Doboshu (the shogun's attendants in charge of entertainment) or as sculptors of Buddhist statues or as gardeners. However, continuing yugyo (traveling for the mission) with leading many nenbutsu practitioners accompanied various difficulties. While the Ji sect was developing as a religious community, they gradually approached authorities in order to do yugyo without difficulty. However, once they began to do a large scale of yugyo by the supports of bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), they lost the passion to teach the common people. Then the influence of the Ji sect diminished as the believers were taken by the Jodo-shin sect and the Soto sect.
In the Edo Period
By the order of Edo bakufu, various Nenbutsu Kanjin Hijiri (groups of priests raising fund by reciting nenbutsu) were integrated into a single sect 'the Ji sect' and they were newly categorized into twelve schools ('Jishu Juni-ha [12 schools of the Ji sect]'). The main school was 'Yugyo school' which set the base at Fujisawa dojo Shojoko-ji Temple and at Shichijo dojo Konko-ji Temple (Kyoto City). Although it declined to some extent compared to the situation in a certain period, under the feudal system characteristic of the Shogunate, the official Yugyo supported by Tenma Shuinjo(Shogunate license) of bakufu was implemented and Yugyo-shonin traveled around provinces all over the country including the areas where there was no temple of the Ji sect. It seems that the direct reason of the Ji sect's decline was Haibutsu-kishaku (a movement to abolish Buddhism) in the Meiji period.
After the Meiji Era
In 1871 Jiryo Agechi-rei (Decree Confiscating Temples' Estates) and Shidokin Haishi-rei (Decree Abolishing Offerings) were issued and the temples of the Ji sect experienced the biggest difficulties. In addition, Haibutsu-kishaku resulted in the destruction of the Ji sect's temples in Shimazu domain and Sado which had been the impregnable strongholds. In the Showa era, Ippen Shonin (Priest Ippen) was given the title 'Shojo Daishi' in 1940. Because of that, during the Pacific War the Ji sect cooperated with the government through various activities including organizing Jishu Hokokukai (Patriot Association of the Ji Sect) and establishing a branch temple of yugyo temple at Fengtian, Manchuria. In 1943 which was during the war, the Ikko school separated from the Ji sect and belonged to the Jodo sect. In 2004, Taa Ichiun Shonin resigned from his post as the 73rd Yugyo-shonin and the 56th Fujisawa-shonin on the grounds of ill health. He was the first priest who resigned as Fujisawa-shonin in the history of the Ji sect.
In the Ji sect, Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) is called 'Homyo,' and men are given the title including 'Amida Butsu (阿弥陀仏)' and women are given the title including 'Ichi (一)' or 'Butsu (仏).'
At present men are usually given the title including 'A (阿)' and women are usually given the title including 'Ichi (弌).'
The Ikko school gives the title including 'A (阿)' to any men and women; the Toma school gives the title including 'Ami (阿弥).'