BUDDHA-DHARMA IS THE TEACHING left for us by Shakyamuni Buddha (Gautama Siddhartha, 463 BC – 383 BC, though there are other dates) approximately 2,500 years ago.

After Shakyamuni Buddha passed into parinirvana—after he left this world—his followers divided into those who followed the form of his teaching (called the joza-bu) and those who followed the spirit of his teaching (called the daishu-bu). These two groups later divided into the Theravada Tradition of Buddha-dharma (also referred to as the Southern School) and the Mahayana Tradition of Buddhadharma (also referred to as the Northern School).

The teaching of Buddha-dharma that entered Japan from China by way of Korea, followed the Mahayana tradition. The basic principles of this teaching are:

  • “All living things have ‘Buddha-nature’ (can become Buddhas)” (issai shujo shitsu-u bussho) and
  • “Not attaining enlightenment only for myself, but leading others to that same enlightenment” (jiri-rita).

Buddha-dharma was transmitted to Japan during 538 AD, the 7th year of the reign of Emperor Kimmei. From that time on, during the Asuka (587 – 710 AD), Nara (710 – 794 AD), and Heian Periods (794 – 1192 AD) of Japanese history, the teaching of Buddha-dharma continued to develop, and by the time of the Venerable Master Shinran, the two major divisions in this Mahayana tradition were: