Ninsho (忍性)

Ninsho (1217 August 19 - August 25, 1303) is a Ritsu sect (Shingon Ritsu sect) monk in the Kamakura period. Title is Ryokan. His father is Sadayuki TOMONO.

Brief Personal History

He was born in Byobunosato, Shikino Shimono Kori, Yamato Province (present Miyake-cho, Shiki-gun, Nara Prefecture).

Due to the entreaty from his mother on her deathbed in 1232, he entered a priesthood at Kakuan-ji Temple, Yamato Province when he was 16, and received Jukai (handing down the precepts) at Todai-ji Temple the following year. Then he learned the Monju belief and conducted ascetic practices at Gyogi associated Chikurin-ji Temple (Kochi City), but from what Ninsho has told his master, Eison, since he did not choose to become a priest himself, he was not so passionate with activities as a Buddhist monk ("Kongo Butsushi Eison Kanjingakushoki").

Ninsho participated as Kanjin Hijiri (fund-raising priests) in the reconstruction of Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City) which was lead by Eison in 1239, where he came to admire Eison, and received Jukai once again from Eison to become his disciple, and in the following year, March 1240, he conducted the ceremony to enter into priesthood once again. Ninsho learned the religious doctorines once again, built Jose-in Temple in 1240 and practiced charities like relief of Hansen's disease patients, and participated in social work such as helping the Hinin (one group comprising the lowest rank of Japan's Edo-period caste system, often ex-convicts or vagrants) by repairing the Hidenin Temple, and while doing so, he took part in propagation of Ritsu sect. In 1243, he headed to Kanto for the first time and conducted the research of circumstances of the Buddhism in the area.

In 1252, in order to conduct full-dress missionary work, he headed to Kanto and lived in Hitachi Province. He gained the trust from shogunal retainer of Kamakura, Shigetoki HOJO and Sanetoki HOJO from the Hojo clan, and in 1262 he headed to Kamakura. He held Shigetoki HOJO's funeral and in 1267 he practiced his activities centered around Gokuraku-ji Temple (Kamakura City). He invited his master Eison to Kamakura, which enabled him to hold the right to levy Seki-mai (Seki rice) from Iijima, and the right for Kanrei (shogunal deputy) for the Daibutsu-den (the Great Buddha hall). Ninsho was criticized by Nichiren and opposed against him.

In 1303, he died at the age of 87 at Gokuraku-ji Temple. It is said that some of his cremains were dispersed in Chikurin-ji Temple.

Although master Eison advocated the propagation to the people, he knew he was not good with it and focused on the relief on "Hinin" who was thought to be the most unrelieved presence for Buddhism at that time, handing off that role to Ninsho. Ninsho felt that relief of "Hinin" would only promote the discrimination, so he gave his best effort in the relief of all hierarchy including the Hinin. It led to a contradiction between Eison and Ninsho, and Eison gave a bitter comment about Ninsho putting too much effort into the propagation which made him ignore his studies ('Ryokan-bo wa jihi ga sugita' "Chobun-shu"). It is said that Ninsho played a big role in having the Shingon Ritsu sect to draw the line at both Shingon sect and Ristsu sect.