Agonshu

Doctrines Agonshu teachings focus on the role of the religion's charismatic leader, Kiriyama Seiyu (formerly Tsutsumi Masuo) (1921 - ) who is believed to act as an intermediary between followers and the spiritual world with a mission to save all mankind. Misfortunes that happen to people are interpreted as the result of bad karma - the effects of bad deeds in the past or more commonly the influence of unhappy or neglected ancestors. The earliest and therefore most authoritative texts of Buddhism (Pali: Agama, Japanese: Agon) are interpreted by Kiriyama in the light of esoteric (Japanese: Mikkyo) teachings. At the grand 'Hoshi Matsuri' (Star festival) held each Founding of the Nation Day (February 11th) in Kyoto and attended by more than half a million people, two huge fires representing the two esoteric Buddhist mandalas are ignited in a massive goma ceremony. Prayers written on millions of wooden sticks are consigned to the flames. The two fires are interpreted in Agonshu as having different functions. One fire is for the liberation of the souls of the dead which might otherwise cause spiritual hindrances; the other is for transforming peoples' inner wishes into reality. This spectacular public rite thus reflects Agonshu's twin preoccupations with the removal of karmic hindrances and the realisation of wishes through positive thinking. Revealing that an apocalypse is due in 1999, Kiriyama has indicated that by virtue of the spread of Agonshu and through his own role as the succcessor of the Buddha, the world will be saved from disaster.

History Kiriyama's early life was one of poverty, hardship, crime (illicit alcohol production) and business failure. According to Kiriyama's own account his religious search began when he read by chance a copy of a text in praise of the bodhisattva Kannon and formed a group for the worship of Kannon. In 1955 he took lay ordination in the esoteric Shingon sect and underwent various austerities. In 1970 Kannon appeared to him in a dream and told him to focus on goma rites and become a leader of others. Subsequently Kiriyama became a prolific writer of best-selling religious treatises highly critical of established Buddhism. He became a charismatic teacher, regarded by his followers as a being who has 'cut' his karma and become enlightened. He popularised Mikkyo Buddhism in the 1970's and in 1978 changed the name of his Kannon worship group to Agonshu to emphasise that the legitimacy of the teachings was founded on the most ancient Buddhist scriptures. Agonshu grew rapidly in the 1980's and Kiriyama has become an international religious figure.

Symbols The central symbolic rite of Agonshu is the 'Star Festival' goma ceremony, described in the section on Doctrine. In 1986, President Jayewardene of Sri Lanka gave the movement a relic of the Buddha. A miniature representation of this relic or busshari is kept by members as the focus for their religious prayers and rituals at home. It is credited with a power to transform ancestors into Buddhas equivalent to the senzagyo (thousand days' of chanting to Kannon) previously considered necessary. The ritual site at Yamashina also plays an important symbolic role as the sacred centre from which the teachings of Agonshu will spread to the whole world.

Adherents 300,000 in 1988 and increasing. (Source: I Reader 'The Rise of a Japanese "New New Religion"' Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 15:4 (1988).

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 Yamashina, Kyoto