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Brotherhood of Shinsei
The monks of the Brotherhood of Shinsei strive to understand the wisdom of his words and to purify themselves, body and soul, as they seek toward enlightenment. The monks of the Brotherhood of Shinsei also govern and administer the Empire’s foremost religion, and take it on themselves to teach the ways of Shinsei to all Rokugani and to care for countless temples and shrines all across the land. Almost every town and village, even the smallest, has one or two monks caring for the local shrines and tending to the spiritual needs of the peasants. Mendicant monks travel across the Empire, survivingon donations while spreading the teachings of Shinsei to all who will listen.
Monks come from all walks of life. Some are retired samurai, while many others are recruited from the peasantry —orphans in particular are often collected and raised by the Brotherhood, allowing them to live and pursue enlightenment instead of perishing from starvation. Once a samurai shaves his head and becomes a monk, he is treated no differently from any other member of the Brotherhood, and is expected to join his new brothers in contemplation, the pursuit of enlightenment, and the forswearing of worldly gains and pleasures. Of course, not all samurai can let go of their past lives so easily, and during times of crisis or war it is not uncommon for retired samurai to don their armor and return to the service of their clan. Similarly, while all monks are brothers together in the pursuit of enlightenment, their former lives can still affect their relations toward one another — a retired samurai may find it difficult to let go of a certain sense of pride and self-importance, in sharp contrast to those who have been raised to the Brotherhood’s ways from childhood.
The Shrine of the Seven Thunders: There are several major temples within the Brotherhood of Shinsei that focus on studying the words of the Little Teacher, but the Shrine of the Seven Thunders, probably the largest sect in the Brotherhood, is the most wholeheartedly devoted to the Tao. The monks of this order primarily study the sacred text, leaving the worship of the Fortunes to other orders, such as the Temple of Osano-Wo and the Temple of the Thousand Fortunes. Monks of the Seven Thunders value Shinsei’s teachings above all else, and strongly believe that the mortal soul is a force that can alter the course of the universe—one of Shinsei’s sayings that has become a popular dictum among them. They tend to remain withdrawn from the affairs of the Empire’s samurai and are known for their reclusiveness and lack of conventional etiquette.
The Temples of the Thousand Fortunes: By contrast, those monks who belong to the Temples of the Thousand Fortunes seek reconciliation between the words of the Little Teacher and the wisdom of the Fortunes, although the traditional worship of the Fortunes remains their primary focus. They tend to be both ascetic and highly educated, believing that only the refinement and perfection of the mind can lead to true enlightenment.
The Temple of Osano-Wo: The devotees of the Temple of Osano-Wo, also known as the Temple of Thunder, likewise follow both the ways of the Tao and the worship of the Fortunes, but focus their studies and worship specifi cally on the Fortune Osano-Wo, the first mortal ever to ascend to the position of Fortune. These monks tend to be of the worldly persuasion, believing the body is essential in order to interact with the physical world, and although they view the study of the spirit and the ability to communicate with the kami as admirable disciplines and qualities, they prefer to explore the mortal world while they are themselves incarnated in mortal flesh. They are among the most martial students of the Brotherhood of Shinsei and their ranks tend to attract those who embrace the way of the sohei.
The Temple of Kaimetsu-Uo: The monks of the Temple of Kaimetsu-Uo believe defensive action and non-violence are the best paths to enlightenment (somewhat in contrast to the rough-and-ready Mantis founder for whom their order is named). They include both ascetic monks who remain cloistered for study and worldly monks who travel the Empire promoting reconciliation and compromise among all Rokugani.
The Four Temples: The name of the Four Temples order refers originally to the cluster of temples and monasteries near Kyuden Seppun, outside the first Imperial capital Otosan Uchi. Of course, in the centuries since its founding this branch of the Brotherhood has opened temples all over the Empire, and after the destruction of Otosan Uchi it constructs a major new temple within Toshi Ranbo. The monks of this order tend to be of the worldly view, and believe enlightenment can only be found by going forth and living among others. These monks are the most at home in normal society and are also the ones most likely to be found serving as advisors to generals, daimyo, and other powerful figures within the samurai caste.
In addition to these major sects there are many smaller temples and local monastic orders which have their own followers, such as the Order of Heroes. New sects of this sort are constantly arising, growing, shrinking, or disappearing within the Brotherhood’s ranks. One of the stranger but more persistent groups are the Shinmaki monks, followers of an obscure text called the Diamond Sutra written by a monk named Basso.