The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism
Also known as Ninsho. A priest of the True Word Precepts (Shingon-Ritsu) school in Japan. Born in Yamato Province, he began to study at Gakuan-ji temple in 1232 and in the following year received the precepts to become a priest at Todai-ji temple in Nara. In 1240 he became a disciple of Eizon, who was revered as a restorer of the Precepts (Ritsu) school. Eizon advocated the practice of both the precepts and the True Word (Shingon) esoteric teaching. This later led to the establishment of the True Word Precepts school, which regards Eizon as its founder. In 1252 Ryokan traveled east to the Kanto region, which included the city of Kamakura, where the shogunate was headquartered, and propagated the Precepts teaching there. In 1261 he settled in Kamakura, and his activities in the Kanto region fostered a connection with the ruling Hojoclan. HojoTokiyori, the former regent who still held the reins of government, built Kosen-ji temple and named Ryokan its first chief priest. In 1262, at the request of HojoTokiyori and other government officials, Ryokan's teacher, Eizon, came from Saidai-ji temple in Nara to Kamakura, where he stayed for half a year. Eizon and Ryokan together promoted the teaching of the precepts and administered the precepts to priests and lay believers. In 1267 Ryokan became chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple, which had been established by HojoShige-toki, a high official of the Kamakura shogunate. Gokuraku-ji thus became Ryokan's permanent abode. He undertook a number of social welfare projects, building hospitals, roads, etc. The people of Kamakura revered him, and he enjoyed great influence. The ruling Hojofamily recommended him for a post as superintendent of great temples; it also bestowed manors on him and invested him with the authority to collect tolls on ports and barrier stations. At the command of the shogunate, Ryokan often conducted esoteric prayer rituals to bring about rain and to ward off invasion by the Mongols. During the great drought of 1271, Ryokan vied with Nichiren in praying for rain and failed. After that he contrived to have accusations brought against Nichiren, which eventually led to the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, in which Nichiren came near to being executed, and Nichiren's subsequent exile to the island of Sado. For many years Ryokan harassed Nichiren and his disciples, both openly and covertly.