Shinran was born in 1173 in the village of Hino, near Uji, Kyoto as the first son of Fujiwara (Hino) Arinori. It was the time when the aristocratic Heian period (794-1185) was coming to an end and the age of the warrior was just beginning, as the Genji and Heike clans were fighting each other.
At the age of nine, Shinran received ordination at Shōren-in (a temple of the Tendai denomination) at Awataguchi (Higashiyama, Kyoto), with the name of Hannen and entered upon the Buddhist path. Later, he went to Mt. Hiei, the center of the Tendai denomination and single-mindedly devoted himself to Buddhist studies. In spite of twenty years of such endeavors however, Shinran could not find the way to overcome suffering and anxiety. In his turmoil, he secluded himself in Rokkaku-dō temple (Kyoto) and while there, had a profound spiritual experience. As a result, he was able to meet Hōnen (1133-1212) who was then living in Yoshimizu at Higashiyama. There, Shinran encountered the teaching, "Just say the Nenbutsu, and be saved by Amida," and began to walk along the Nenbutsu Path of the Primal Vow. He was twenty-nine years old at that time.