Bukkō-ji (佛光寺 Bukkō-ji ), also known as the Temple of the Buddha Light, was originally named Kosho-ji, a Jodo Shinshu temple in Yamashina-ku, Kyoto, which later moved to the heart of Kyoto. The temple was founded and officially opened by Ryōgen in 1324. The name Kosho-ji was given to Ryōgen for the temple by Kakunyo, Hongan-ji's first head priest. While Bukkō-ji is technically an independent Jodo Shinshu branch it has had close links to the Hongan-ji lineage since the time of Rennyo.
Kakunyo instructed his son Zonkaku to administer to Ryōgen religious training and Hongan-ji textual documents. Zonkaku and Ryōgen became good friends during this period, but by 1324 there was tension between Zonkaku and Kakunyo. Kakunyo disinherited his son and disassociated himself with Ryōgen due to differences in understanding Hōnen and Shinran's teachings. So when Kosho-ji was established in 1324, it was not done so under the blessing of Hongan-ji. Zonkaku was a priest along with Ryōgen in the formative years of the temple.
In 1329 the following at Kosho-ji outgrew the building's capacity, and the building was relocated to Kyoto very close to Hongan-ji. Zonkaku renamed the temple Bukkō-ji, so as to disassociate it further from Kukanyo.
In the coming decade Bukkō-ji became more successful than Hongan-ji, and Ryōgen was travelling into new provinces teaching Hōnen and Shinran's message. In 1336, while out in the provinces, Ryōgen was murdered by a group of bandits. Genran (1318-1347), Ryōgen's son, took over the temple but died shortly after.
There were several differences between the way Jodo Shinshu was practiced at Bukkō-ji. To start, the temple head usually was married and the wife retained almost as much stature as her husband in the organization. Also, the temple administered teachings to men and women (mostly peasants). It also had followers in several outlying areas, indicating there were affiliated temples in those areas.
From the time of the temple's founding until Rennyo unified many of these splinter cells, Bukkō-ji spread its' teachings to the provinces of Tōtōmi, Iga, Ise, Owari and Mikawa. But when Rennyo took control of Hongan-ji, the Bukkō-ji lost many members to him. Kyogo (d.1490), who was set to take over Bukkō-ji during this time, left Bukkō-ji to train under Rennyo at Hongan-ji. Kyogo went on to found his own temple in affiliation with Hongan-ji he called Kosho-ji, the original name intended for Bukkō-ji. This move attracted yet more Bukkō-ji adherents away.
- For an explanation of terms concerning Japanese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhist art, and Japanese Buddhist temple architecture, see the Glossary of Japanese Buddhism.
- Dobbins, James C. Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Indiana University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-253-33186-2.
- Ducor, Jerome : La vie de Zonkaku, religieux bouddhiste japonais du XIVe siècle. Avec une traduction de ses mémoires (Ichigoki) et une introduction à son oeuvre. Collège de France, Bibliothèque de l'Institut des Hautes Études Japonaises. Paris, Maisonneuve & Larose, 1993; ISBN 2706810939