Bukko-ji Temple (佛光寺)
Bukko-ji Temple is a Jodo shin shu (True Pure Land Sect Buddhism) temple located in Shimogyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. Its honorific mountain prefix is Shibutanisan (Shirutanisan). It is the head temple of the Bukko-ji school of Shinshu sect. During the time in which the temple was situated in Kyoto Shibutani (from the latter half of the 1300s to the first half of the 1400s), it was far more powerful than Hongan-ji Temple of the same sect, Jodo shin shu (True Pure Land Sect). The first character the of temple's name is ordinarily written using the simplified character for 'Buddha' (仏) but the correct character to be used for both the temple and school name is in fact the traditional character (佛).
In 1205, the practice of exclusive nenbutsu was forbidden and the sect founder Shinran was exiled to Echigo Province.
According to temple legend, Shinran returned to Kyoto in 1212, the year after he was pardoned, and established a temple in Yamashina-go, Yamashiro Province, which was named 'Kosho-ji' (興正寺) (or Koryu Shobo-ji (興隆正法寺)) after 'Koryu Shobo' (興隆正法, lit. Spreading the noble and correct Dharma) of Emperor Juntoku's order, which was associated with Prince Shotoku. This temple was to become Bukko-ji Temple, which Shinran left in the charge of his disciple Shinbutsu before setting off to Kanto to disseminate the teaching of Amida Buddha's original vow.
However, there is little basis for the assumption that Shinran founded Kosho-ji Temple in Yamashina and the likely theory claims that Shinran travelled directly to Kanto from Echigo. The direct predecessors of the Bukko-ji religious group were the Araki follower (third head priest Genkai) and Azabu follower (fourth head priest Ryokai). It appears that in reality Kosho-ji Temple was founded around 1321 by the supposed seventh head priest Ryogen and was moved its bases to western Japan. Along with Hongan-ji Temple of enlarged Shinran mausoleum, Bukko-ji Temple became a center for the dissemination of Shinshu nenbutsu to the Kinki region and western parts of Japan.
Around 1328, Ryogen relocated the temple as a basis of the preaching activities to Shirutani (or Shibutani), in the area where Kyoto National Museum now stands, of Kyoto Higashiyamathe of former Buddhism-oriented place. The temple's name was derived from a dream that Emperor Godaigo had in which he saw a beam of light shining from the southeast where the wooden statue of Amitabha stolen from Kosho-ji Temple later appeared. The temple was therefore given the name 'Amida Bukko-ji' (lit. Amida Buddha's Light) and this miraculous event is also said to have been connected to the decision to relocate the temple to Shibutani in Kyoto from Yamashina.
With the cooperation of Zonkaku and under the influence of the Jishu Sect, Ryogen put his efforts into promulgating the teachings throughout western Japan using a sacred light inscription with the name of the Amida Buddha, a pictorial genealogy and Kyomyo-cho (a document with many names listed). Kakunyo, the head priest of Hongan-ji Temple, felt threatened by this and criticized in "Gaijasho" (Notes on Correcting Heresies) that things such as the pictorial genealogy were not things of the Shinshu sect. It is described in "Honpuku-ji Atogaki" (a record book of Honpuku-ji) that Bukko-ji grew increasingly prosperous, with many people visiting to worship at the temple, while Hongan-ji Temple fell into ruin. And with this, the oppression from Enryaku-ji Temple the Tendai sect became stricter. The temple buildings were burned down by embroiled in the Onin War during the time of the thirteenth head priest, Kokyo. Kyogo (later renamed Renkyo), who was to succeed as the fourteenth head priest, became devoted to Rennyo of Hongan-ji Temple in 1481 and established a new 'Kosho-ji Temple' in Nishino of Yamashina before returning to Hongan-ji Temple along with 42 of the 48 influential branch temples. Bukko-ji Temple rapidly went into decline and Hongan-ji Temple rose to prominence instead. The remaining six influential branch temples recalled Kyoyo, Kogo's younger brother, back from Chion-in Temple to serve as the fourteenth chief priest of Bukko-ji Temple.
In 1586, the temple was relocated to Ryuga-jo Castle (Villa of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) at Gojobomon (current location) by the earnest request of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI.
There is even a street named 'Bukko-ji-dori Street.'
After the Muromachi period, there was a custom that the chief priest was adopted into the Nijo family and entered the Buddhist priesthood under the head priest of Myoho-in Temple. The chief priest of Bukko-ji Temple would eventually become ranked as associate chief priests and successively receive Sojo-rank (any of three grades of the highest rank in the hierarchy of priests in Buddhist sects). When it became obligatory to declare family names during the Meiji period, they took the surname 'Shibutani'. On June 9, 1896, Chief Abbot Ryukyo SHIBUTANI was granted the title of Baron and made a member of the nobility.
The current head priest is Gyoshin SHIBUTANI.
Bukko-ji Temple in its heyday and Takada Senju-ji Temple were far more powerful than Hongan-ji Temple at the time. It is said that the number of branch temples originally numbered over 3,000 when including followings four schools; the present Bukko-ji school, the Kosho school of Shinshu sect which derived from Renkyo, the branch temples that did not join the Kosho school but remained Hongan-ji school of Jodo Shin Shu sect during the Meiji period, and the branch temples in eastern and western Japan that separated from the Bukko-ji religious group to join the Hongan-ji religious group.
Important Cultural Properties
Wooden standing statue of Price Shotoku, created by Tanko in 1320
Color painting on paper, Ichiryu Sosho keizu (genealogical tree of a single-lineage) (owned by Bukko-ji Temple and Chosei-in Temple)
Wooden standing statue of Amitabha (owned by Koen-in Temple)
Wooden standing statue of Amitabha, created by Kaikei (owned by Daigyo-ji Temple)