A Japanese Buddhist reformer and educator of the Meiji period (1868–1912). A member of the Jōdo Shinshū Higashi-Honganji school (see Honganji), he was ordained at an early age and educated at the school's expense. A brilliant student, he specialized in philosophy and concentrated his own thought on elucidating the relationship between the contingent and the absolute. He credited three sources as having decisive influence in the formation of his thought: Shinran (1173–1262), Epictetus, and the early Buddhist Āgamas. Based on this combination of influences, he followed Shinshū teaching in entrusting himself entirely to the compassion (karuṇā) and the vows of the Buddha Amitābha.but still led a rigorously ascetic life of reflection and study.
In the early 1890s, he established a reform movement within the Higashi-Honganji school sometimes referred to as the Shirakawa Party, which tried to turn the school's administration away from its focus on financial matters to those of more spiritual import. For this, he and his companions were expelled from the school, although they were later reinstated. Despite contracting tuberculosis, he accepted an invitation to act as the founding dean of a new Shinshū University in Tokyo, but was forced to resign because of conflicts with the authorities. His highly intellectual approach often created misunderstanding among Shinshū authorities and was not appreciated by the average believer, but it gave a new respectability to sectarian doctrine and practice among the educated classes and the younger generation of Shinshū priests. One of his works, the Skeletal Outline of a Philosophy of Religion, was presented in English translation at the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. In these ways, he was an important contributor to the modernization and globalization of Shinshū teachings.