Fascicle One | Fascicle Two | Fascicle Three | Fascicle Four | Fascicle Five | Letters of Summer | Gozoku Sho - Biographical Letter of Shinran Shonin
Gobunsho - The Epistles
Fascicle One

Fascicle One, Letter 1

(Chapter on Lay Followers and Disciples)

Someone has said, There are those who say that there is a basic attitude in our Jodo Shinshu Sect whereby a priest can consider without question the lay members of his temple as his own disciples. Still others say that lay members should all be called disciples of Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin. I do not understand this difference.
Further, there are those who say that it is best to conceal this scattered formation of small local informal groups of followers from the resident priest of that particular jurisdictional area; the existence of such groups should be kept a secret. Still, others say that this is not the way it should be. This, too, is extremely confusing to me. I, respectfully, wish to inquire on those points.

In answer, I reply:
Please understand that these points in question are very important. I shall relate accurately what I remember being told long, long ago. Please listen carefully.
In the quotations of the late Shonin, he has said, Shinran does not even have one disciple. The reason for this is that when I explain and urge the Tathagatas Teachings to sentient beings in the Ten Directions, I only act as His representative. Shinran does not propagate any new teachings that is particularly his own. Having Faith in the Tathagatas Teachings myself, I but communicate them to others. What do I teach other than the Tathagatas Teachings that would give me reason to call those who listen to me my own disciples?
Therefore, we should all posses the same Faith and tread the same path. Because of this, the Shonin, with deep reverence, said we are all brethren of the same Faith and fellow-travellers.
However, recently there have been chief priests of temples of our sect who are not truly aware of the meaning of Faith and who have severely rebuked members within their temples for occasionally attending discussion groups on the subject of Faith held elsewhere. This has created dissension between them, and therefore, the priests cannot carefully study the true meaning of Faith. The members cannot study either when their attendance at such discussions is hindered in this manner. The priests do not gain Faith, the members do not gain Faith, the lives of both pass utterly in vain. Indeed the mutual loss to both is great, and therefore, it is most difficult to refrain from commenting. It is indeed a regrettable matter.
An old poem states:
Long ago, I had happiness wrapped in my sleeves,
Now, it is more than my being can contain.
The meaning of Long ago, I had happiness wrapped in my sleeves is that formerly, a person not distinguishing between Self-power and Other-Power, thought that rebirth was gained by reciting the Nenbutsu. Now, it is more than my being can contain, means that after one gains a thorough understanding of the difference between Self-power and Other-Power and obtains Faith through a singleness of heart, there will be an exceptional difference in the heart that recites the Nenbutsu for the purpose of expressing gratitude for the Grace of Amida Buddha. Hence, this happens (so powerful that it could even cause one to dance with complete abandon) means that the joy that is more than one can contain within himself.

With reverence, I remain

15th day, 7th month, 3rd year of Bunmei (1471)

Fascicle One, Letter 2

(Chapter on Renouncing the World to seek Bodhi)

The basic principle in the Teachings of Shinran Shonin of our sect is centered neither on the importance of specifically becoming a monk to seek Bodhi, nor in that aspect of having to renounce the world and overcome craving desires to seek Enlightenment. Rather, it is founded on the premise that there is not the slightest distinction as to whether one is male of female, young or old; when one obtains the steadfast Faith of the Other-Power, that (moment) is instantaneous with complete reliance on Amida. Thus, the condition of having attained this Faith is taught in the Larger Sutra as instantaneous rebirth residing in the State on Non-retrogression.
It is stated in the commentaries by Donran, the awakening of Faith entering the ranks of the Truly-assured. In other words, this is the principle of acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land, as described in the commentary of non-receival.
It is written in the Wasan:
Those who rely on Amidas Land of Recompense,
Varied tho the outward forms of life may be,
Believe in the Sacred Name of the Primal Vow
and forget Him not, not even for one moment.
outward forms of life means that there is not the slightest differentiation as to whether one is a layman, monk, male, or female. Believe in the Sacred Name of the Primal Vow and forget Him not, not even for one moment means that no matter what ones external form may be (be he with the corruption of the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins, be he an abuser of the Dharma, or be he unsavable), should this person change his heart and repent after believing with deep conviction that it is the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata that delivers all hopeless beings of weak capacity, and places his reliance on the Tathagata without doubt (awake or asleep) and ever mindfully, then this person is called a true follower who has attained the Faith and relies completely on the Primal Vow.
Furthermore, wherever and whenever one recites the Nenbutsu, he believes that it is his way of showing deep appreciation to Amida Tathagata. Such a person is called a devotee who has attained True Faith with assured rebirth in the Pure Land.

With reverence, I remain

PS The perspiration that flows on this hot day may well be tears of embarrassment because that which I have just written is so poor.

18th day, 7th month, 3rd year of Bunmei (1471)

Fascicle One, Letter 3

(Chapter on Hunting and Fishing)

The fundamental point in the Teachings of Jodo Shinshu is not the necessity to eliminate ones evil thoughts or the attempt to stop the rise of evil thoughts and attachments. If it be your lot, engage in commerce, in base servitude, and in hunting and fishing. Believe firmly in Amidas Vow, which promises deliverance for evil beings such as we who are perplexed day and night by our shamefully evil karmas. Rely single-heartedly on the compassionate Vow of only Amida Buddha; we shall be delivered by the Tathagata without fail if our Faith at the very moment we believe in His deliverance is pure.
What, then, should we believe as we repeat the Nenbutsu? We should believe that we repeat the Nenbutsu while we have life for the purpose of expressing our gratitude and thankfulness because birth for us hopeless beings is through this Power of Faith. Such a person is called a devotee of faith who has received that Decided-Faith of our Teaching.

With reverence, I remain

18th day, 12th month, 3rd year of Bunmei (1471)

Fascicle One, Letter 4

(Chapter on Self-questions and Self-answers)

I have heard it said that in the Doctrines of Shinran Shonin it teaches the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pre Land and it does not attach importance in Buddhas receiving a man at the instance of death. What does this mean? I do not know the meanings of acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land or Buddha not receiving one at the point of death. I wish to hear of these in more detail.

In answer, I reply:
Verily, I believe these questions to be of prime importance in our Teachings. Assuredly our way does teach the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land at the very instant of the awakening of Faith. After realizing in everyday life that Faith in our deliverance through the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata is the ripening of past karmas, ones belief that the reasons the Primal Vow could be understood is the result of the blessings of the Other-Power of Buddhas Wisdom and not through ones own efforts. This is the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land. Therefore, acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land is the status of having received Faith and of believing that one has entered into the ranks of those whose rebirth has been unalterably decided. This is known as residing within the ranks of the truly assured at the very moment of the awakening of Faith or acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land or instantaneous rebirth and residing in the ranks of those who enjoy Non-retrogression.

In question, I ask:
The meaning of rebirth at the very moment of the awakening of Faith has been understood clearly. However, I cannot clearly understand, yet, the meaning of Buddha not receiving one at the point of death. Please explain this phrase explicitly.

In answer, I reply:
Buddha not receiving one at the point of death means that when one is aware of residing within the ranks of the Truly-assured at the very moment of the awakening of Faith, there is no necessity to expect Buddhas welcome. The reason being, the desire for Buddhas reception is the concern of those who practice the various austerities. The follower of the way of True Faith comes to know that there is no reception needed when one is assured of the Grace of being embraced and not forsaken by the Light of Amida at the very moment of the awakening of Faith. Therefore, the Shonin has said reception exists in the path of those whose rebirth is attained practice of the various austerities. A devotee of True Faith (because of being embraced and not forsaken) resides within the ranks of the Truly-assured, and because of this, will attain Enlightenment without fail. Therefore, it is not necessary to await the moment of death and there is no need to ask for the Buddhas reception.
This matter of Buddha not receiving one at the point of death should be understood through the words of Shinran Shonin.

In question, I ask:
Are we to understand Truly-assured and Enlightenment as one Grace or two Graces?
In answer, I reply:
Those who are in that very moment of the Awakening of Faith are already in the ranks of the Truly-assured. This is the Grace received while on earth. Believe that Enlightenment is the Grace received in the Pure Land. Thus, know that these are two Graces.

In question, I ask:
When we understand the foregoing, we know that our rebirth is decided. I would also like to ask how we should then understand why it is further said, Have Faith?

In answer, I reply:
This is indeed an important question. He who realizes this in his heart is one who has Determined-Faith.
In question, I ask:
I have clearly understood that the meaning of Determined-Faith includes the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pre Land, non-receival, and entering the ranks of the Truly-assured. I have yet to understand whether or not the Nenbutsu (after having received Decided Faith) is to be recited for the purpose of ones rebirth in the Land of Bliss or whether it is for the purpose of thanksgiving for the Grace of Buddha?

In answer, I reply:
This question is also of great importance. After the moment of awakened Faith in rebirth, never believe that the recitation of the Nenbutsu is the karma for ones rebirth, but believe that it is only the expression of thanksgiving for the Grace of Buddha. The venerable Zendo has said,it is anything from a lifelong homage to the simplicity of a single moment The phrase to the simplicity of a single moment expresses the heart of a Determined-Faith. By lifelong homage is meant the Nenbutsu of Thanksgiving for the Grace of Buddha. Truly you should understand the above through these words.

With reverence, I remain

27th day, 11th month, 4th year of Bunmei (1472)

Fascicle One, Letter 5

(Chapter on Travelling through the Snow)

I am apprehensive as to what might be in the minds of the priests and lay followers, both male and female, who will come on pilgrimage in large numbers into the mountains here of Yoshizaki from the three provinces of Kashu, Noto, and Etchu starting this year. This apprehension relative to pilgrimages is caused by the central thought of this sect which is that our rebirth into the Land of Bliss is due primarily to acquiring the Faith of the Other-Power.
However, there are some followers of this sect who have not firmly grasped the state of this Faith. How can such people attain rebirth into the Land of Bliss without complication? This is the question that is of paramount importance.
I am extremely uneasy as to the motives that these people might have in their innermost thoughts as they endure the long travel of 12 to 14 miles through this heavy snow to safely make their pilgrimage to this temple. Since it is quite useless to speculate here what their motives might have been in the past, I shall state here precisely, the condition of the understanding they must harbor in their deepest thoughts from this day forward. Bend your ears and listen very, very carefully.
You should whole-heartedly and fully be aware that if you keep the Faith of the Other-Power firmly in your hearts, and also understand that you need only to recite the Nenbutsu for the purpose of expressing gratitude to Amida Buddha without respect to time or place, your rebirth (this time) is assured without fail. In the overflow of this happiness, you should visit the teacher-priest of your temples, bearing expressive tokens of your happiness.
In other words, these people are the devotees of Faith who will understand the Doctrine of this sect.

In reverence, I remain

8th day, 2nd month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 6

(Chapter on Drowsiness)

On thinking with concern this summer as to why lately I have come to be afflicted with an exceptional case of drowsiness and constant desire to sleep, I conclude (without question) the time of my death for rebirth is near at hand. In all truthfulness, I feel wretchedly unreconciled. However, I have carefully prepared myself from the past in the thought that the occurrence of my death for rebirth might come in the very next moment.
Be that as it may, the sole, heartfelt wish that I harbor continuously day and night is that following my death, there will not be a change of heart among those of this temple who will acquire Faith. Personally, though I should have no worries even if I was to experience rebirth at this very moment, I am concerned about your rebirth, of which many of you appear to be totally and sadly unconcerned. While you have life, you tend to think that life will continue as usual and this is what I must caution you against.
Because our life, in particular, is one where even a tomorrow is uncertain, all the more (if this matter of life and death is not resolved) whatever is said becomes useless after that life is ended. Unless all doubts in the Primal Vow are completely dispelled while alive, (in all probability) there will only be remorse later. It behooves you all to understand this well.

With reverence, I remain

PS I entrust this letter to the people on the other side of these shoji panels who have been taking care of me. After my death, bring it forth and read it.

25th day, 4th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 7

(Chapter on the Middle of the Month of Yayoi)

As I recall, it may have been around the middle of the Third Month of Yayoi, in the Fourth Year of Bunmei when one or two women, accompanied by male attendants and obviously refined, were discussing things pertaining to this mountain. During their converstation, they stated:
It is said that they have built a temple on the summit of this Yoshikazi, and the religious atmosphere there is reputed to be indescribable. The story is known to all that the followers of the Chief Priest there, particularly those priests and laymen, both male and female, from the seven provinces of Kaga, Etchu, Noto, Echigo, Shinano, Dewa, and Oshu, make pilgrimages to this mountain in great masses. This is a very extraordinary occurrence is this Degenerate Third Era and cannot be passed off as just a common thing of no significance. However, in what manner are the Teachings of the Nenbutsu presented to these many followers? In particular, what is this point that seems to be taught that the primary things is what is called Faith, that people are talking about?
They commented to a resident of this mountain that, inasmuch as they possessed the bodies of gravely sinful and utterly hopeless females, they also would like to understand this point called Faith and place reliance on rebirth in the Pure Land after hearing about it in all its details. The gist of what this mountain resident pointed out to them was that they need not resort to any of the forms of self-effort, but need only to realize that they were hopeless beings enmeshed in the Ten Major Evils, the Five Cardinal Sins, the Five Obstacles, and the Three Reliances, that they need only to thoroughly believe that Amida Tathagata is the One that will deliver them from these encumbrances. He explained to them further that by the placement of trust in Amida without doubt (thus gaining Faith instantaneous with the complete reliance placed on Him), Amida will emit 84,000 rays of light and graciously embrace them. He showed them that this was what was meant by Amida Tathagata embracing the followers of the Nenbutsu and that by Sesshu Fusha was meant to embrace and never cast aside. He told them that the significance of this was termed a person who had acquired Faith.
When this man politely explained further that the Nenbutsu of Namu Amida Butsu recited awake or asleep, standing or sitting, should be understood to be the Nenbutsu recited as Namu Amida Butsu to express gratitude for the gracious deliverance by Amida, then these ladies and others said in response, Truly, there is no way to express the shamefulness of not having believed until this day, that the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata is the answer to the capacity of sentient beings who receive the Dharma. From this day, by placing complete trust in Amida with singleness of thought and believing without doubt that with the Faith that comes instantaneous with complete reliance in Amida that our rebirth is through the deliverance of the Tathagata, we should understand that the Nenbutsu, henceforth, is the recitation of Buddhas Name for the expression of gratitude to Amida.
We know that it would be impossible to express the gratefulness and sacredness of having here experienced a fruition of incomprehensible past karma and conditions whereby we were able to encounter this wonderful Doctrine. For the present, we bid you farewell.
So saying, the ladies departed with tears brimming in their eyes.

With reverence, I remain

12th day, 8th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 8

(Chapter on the Construction at Yoshikazi)

Around the early part of the Fourth Month in the Third Year of Bunmei, I slipped out quietly (on the spur of the moment and without design) from the area around the Southern Detached Quarters of the Mii Temple at Otsu in the Shiga District of Goshu and visited throughout the provinces of Echizen and Kaga. Based on this trip, I levelled a site in these mountains (the former habitat of wolves) at a place called Yoshikazi within the District of Hosorogi of this Echizen Province because of its exceptional picturesqueness, and started to construct the temple complex as it exists today on the 27th day of the seventh month of that year.
As time has flown by, already the spring and fall of three years have passed. During this period, priests and laymen, male and female have gathered here in massive pilgrimages. However, since these pilgrimages appeared to be of no benefit, meaning, or purpose whatever, I have closed this temple to them starting this year.
The reason (for my having done this) is this: The basic motive for my being in this particular place is that having received this life into the world of man and being able to listen at this very moment to Buddhas Dharma (which is difficult to even come by), is it not truly a pitiful thing to sensely disregard this opportunity and sink in vain into Hell? Therefore, I made this decision on the basis that there were no reason to allow these people to gather here who do not care to obtain rebirth in the Pure Land after acquiring the Faith of the Nenbutsu.
The basic purpose of my closure of this temple is definitely not for the sake of my reputation or gain, but only to place emphasis on the need for devotion towards Enlightenment in the life to come.
Therefore, those who have seen or who have heard about this closure must not misinterpret this action from a stilted viewpoint.

In reverence, I remain

9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 9

(Chapter on Abstinence and Taboo)

People have said from long ago that our Jodo Shinshu Sect is a laughably defiled sect. In truth, they are pointing to a condition with justification; there are people in this sect who (without due understanding) explain points in the Teachings of our school to those of other sects without due circumspection. This is a great mistake. The adherence to the manner of conduct as set forth by this Jodo Shinshu Sect means that a person well understands the matter of keeping the traditional Teachings of our school firmly in his heart and refrains from showing a hint of it outwardly. However, since recently, some have thoughtlessly expounded the Teachings of our sect to those of other sects without due consideration, people have labelled our sect as being without depth. Due to the existence of such persons with poor understanding among us, people look upon our sect as defiled and hateful.
You should understand that the core of trouble lies not in the people of other sects being bad, but in the poor judgement of the people within our own sect.
Now, with respect to abstinences and taboos, we can say that (relative to the Dharma) we do not observe abstinences or taboos in our sect. Should there not be avoidances pertinent to our association with those of other sects and to those in governmental circles? It goes without saying that in our contacts with those of the other sects, certain refrainments as mentioned above must be observed; and too, there must not be slander on our part because others observe abstinences and taboos. However, it must be remembered that those who wish to pursue Buddhas Dharma are not limited, by any means, to only the followers of the Nenbutsu.
It is clearly written in many Sutras that there are to be no abstinences or taboos. For instance, in the Nehan Gyo (Nirvana Sutra) it states, Passage is given in the Japanese calligraphic form of the Sutra. The meaning of this passage is, Within the Teachings of the Tathagata, there are no such things as the selection of appropriate sign-filled days for luck or favourable times. Again, in the Hanjyu Kyo, it states, A lay man/woman who seeks the Truth after having heard this teaching and desires to learn it, should place his/her reliance on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He/she must not aspire to some other Path, pray to heavens, worship demons and deities, and select lucky days and favourable times. Although there are other passages from the Sutras that state the same thing, the above passages will suffice here.
It appears to me that the followers of the Nenbutsu especially ought not to have any anxieties over abstinences and taboos. You should understand this very clearly.

With reverence, I remain

9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 10

(Chapter on the Wives of Resident Priests who dwell here at Yoshizaki)

The wives of the resident priests who dwell here on the temple grounds of Yoshizaki must think truly that they are wives of priests because of deep-rooted past conditions. However, this is hindsight accorded to wives who have placed prime importance in the life to come and have attained Faith. Therefore, all wives should obtain Faith with feelings of deep concern.
To begin with, differing generally from the other school within the family of the Pure Land tradition and in result of a particularly excellent cause, what our sect calls Faith is the Great Faith of Other-Power. Thus, you should believe that those who attain Faith are assured rebirth in the Pure Land in the next life without fail; ten out of ten, one hundred for one hundred.
To the question, How should one understand this that is called Faith? I would like to know this in detail.

In answer, I reply:
This question is of the utmost importance. In general, the primary reason for accepting this Faith of our sect is because as women you are pitifully ensnared in deep burdensome evils of the Five Cardinal Sins and the Three Reliances. As such, the Buddhas of the Ten Quarters and the Buddhas of the past, present and future have long since abandoned you as unsavable. Yet, thankfully, Amida Tathagata alone vowed that he would deliver beings such as these and has already initiated forty-eight vows. Within these Vows, beyond His deliverance of all evil men and women in accordance with the 18th Vow, and further, because women are deeply sinful with hearts full of doubts, He has established in His 35th Vow (yet again), the Vow that He would deliver women. You should feel a deep thankfulness with the sense of the debt of gratitude owed this Amida Tathagata for His great endeavours.

In question, I ask:
Now, relative to the understanding of gratitude to Amida Tathagata for establishing in such manner Vows reiterating the deliverance of beings such as us, in what manner should we who believe in Amida place our reliance on Him? I would like to have this explained clearly.

In answer, I reply:
If there is a wish to obtain Faith and to place reliance on Amida, first believe that human life is only for the duration of a dream or a momentary illusion, while rebirth in the Pure Land results in eternal happiness. Believe that the enjoyment of human life is for 50 or 100 years while rebirth, in particular, is of primary importance. Abandon the heart that desires the sundry practices and discard (should it harbour them) the heart that thinks in terms of abstinences or taboos. Then, placing reliance on Amida with a singleness of heart and by not trusting in any of the various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or deities, and if one believes that by placing Faith unshakeably in Amida Buddha, the coming rebirth in the Pure Land will have been determined, repeat the Nenbutsu in the overflow of gratitude for this welcomed determination. This Nenbutsu expresses the gratitude owed to Amida Tathagata for His deliverance of you.
After having attained Faith, this is what the wives (who dwell here) of the resident priests of this temple should be.

With reverence, I remain

11th day, 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 11

(Chapter on the Flash of Lightning and the Morning Dew)

We find upon deep consideration that the happiness of man (like a flash of lightning and the morning dew) lasts for as long as a dream or a momentary illusion. Although one may flourish in wealth, rank, splendour and glory, and do whatever his heart may desire, this can only last for a period of 50 or 100 years. Should the winds of transiency waft upon him at this very moment and beckon him, he shall die in vain, suffering pains of some illness.
Truly, when it comes to die, not one thing, neither wife, child, nor wealth that he had so counted before can come along with him. Thus, passing through the portal of death and trotting along a mountain path all by himself, he will come to the Great River of the Three Rapids.
Therefore, all that one should earnestly seek is rebirth. Further, what one ought to rely upon is Amida Tathagata. One should believe that with the receipt of Faith, he is destined to go to the Pure Land of Bliss.
Relative to this, some priests in our group of Nenbutsu followers in this area are making grave mistakes in their understanding of the Dharma. That is to say, some priests are saying that those who give things to the priests are the devout lay members and that they are the ones who really possess Faith. This is a grave mistake! On the other hand, there are lay members who think that through their own abilities are far from sufficient for their salvation, the more that they give to the priests now, the more they will be assured of deliverance through the intercession of these priests when the time comes. This too is a great mistake! Priests and lay members who think in this manner have no understanding of what is meant by Faith in our sect! It is truly a pitiful thing. In this situation there is absolutely no doubt that both the priests and laymen will never be reborn in the Land of Bliss but will fall into Hell in vain. One may bemoan this but there is no end to this lament; one may fell an abject sadness, but he must feel a far deeper sadness than this.
Therefore, priests must seek those who know well the details of the Great Faith of the Other-Power; and after obtaining Faith themselves, must teach the meaning of this Faith to the lay members and together unalterably gain rebirth which is the utmost importance in the life to come.

With reverence, I remain,

Middle of the 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 12

(Chapter on a Condition existing for many years at the Choshoji Temple)

For many years now the lay members of the Choshoji Temple have been inexcusably at variance with the principles of the Dharma. Let me explain. There is a chairman of an organised religio-social group there. Deep in his mind he thinks that the fact of his being the chairman of this group and being served the likes of food, sake, etc. ahead of the others in deference to his position, and being regarded highly by members and workers in and out of this social group is truly the essential point of the Dharma. This has nothing to do with the purpose of being reborn in the Land of Bliss, but appears to be something that is only for the sake of worldly honour and fame.
When we examine the original purpose of the monthly meetings by our school, it was to assemble the ordinary people (ignorant beings that live in senseless fashion by day and night, who pass a lifetime of vain and are destined at the end to sink into the Three Rapids) in the temple hall to discuss one anothers problems and views on Faith. Meetings were held once a month for just an exclusive gathering of fellow followers of the Nenbutsu. That in recent years, there has never been a discussion on the pros and cons on the subject of Faith at these gatherings is a condition that is expressibly shameful.
Henceforth, a conscientious discussion on Faith should always be held at these meetings without exception. The reason for his is that these discussions will be the cause for the realisation of True Rebirth in the Land of Bliss.

With reverence, I remain

Latter part, 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 13

(Chapter on the Erroneous Tenet of the Ten Kalpas in this Area)

Presently, there are some among the followers of the Nenbutsu in this area (Echizen) who have been using a strange and peculiar tenet and saying that this concept is really the true state of having attained Faith. Moreover, their conviction is that they firmly believe that they understand what our sect calls Faith. What these people are saying is that Faith is the not-forgetting of the sense of gratitude owed Amida from the very moment He took the Great Enlightenment ten kalpas ago to grant us the assurance of our rebirth. This is a great mistake! Knowing the reason for Amida Tathagata entering the Great Enlightenment is, in fact, pointless if one does not know the cause for his own rebirth called the Faith of the Other Power.
Therefore, one must know first what the True Faith of out sect is. This Faith, is expressed in the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra as the Three Faiths, in the Amitayur Dhyana Sutra as the Three Hearts, and in the Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra as One Heart. In each of the Three Sacred Scriptures, Faith is expressed through different terms, but the meaning of each is only to express the essence of the One Heart of the Other Power.
Thus, to describe the state or condition of what is called Faith, firstly it would be that: When one rejects all the sundry practices and relies unshakeably on Amida Tathagata, when one ceases to rely upon any of the various deities or other Buddhas and places complete reliance exclusively on Amida Tathagata with a singleness of heart, the Tathagata will embrace this person in His Light and never discard him. This is the condition at the very instant of our Determined Faith.
Consequent to understanding things as above, believe the Nenbutsu to be the expression of gratitude to Amida Tathagata for having given us the Faith in the Other Power. Because of this understanding and belief in particular, one is to be called at last a follower of the Nenbutsu who has that Determined Faith.

With reverence, I remain

PS. This is written in the latter part, 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473).

Fascicle One, Letter 14

(Chapter on the Prohibition of Slander)

Among the Nenbutsu followers of this sect there must not be slander of any of the other teachings. This applies to the followers associated with the Tateyama, Shirayama, and other Temples in the area of Etchu and Kaga. This also applies to the District of Echizen to members of the Heisan, Toyohara etc., Temples. It has already been cautioned in the Sutra excepted are those who have committed the Five Cardinal Sins and who have abused the Right Law Accordingly, followers of the Nenbutsu especially must not abuse or slander the various other sects. Also, it would appear to me that the scholars of the various schools of practice should not slander the followers of the Path of the Nenbutsu either. The reason is that among the many Sutras and commentaries which exist today, there is the Chi Ron by Bodhisattva Nagarjuna (a patriarch of eight different religious sects) in which he stringently cautioned against the slander of other beliefs.
It is written in this discourse, Because of favouring the teachings that he himself accepts should one slander and protest the beliefs of others, he will not be exempt from the sufferings of Hell even though he may be one that can accomplish all the practices of austerities. As indicated here, if the situation is this clear (with no doubt), it is as authentic as the instructions of the Buddha. There should never be slander of the other schools even to the slightest degree. Each of the various sects will vary a little in approach from one another. All that remains for us to consider is not to place reliance in what these other schools teach.
In particular, where we establish no distinctions of any kind within our own sect, it is most irreverent of us to be slandering the approach and views of some other sect. It is clearly indicated that the temple priests or whoever assumes similar roles, must make this decision without any reservations.

With reverence, I remain

Latter part, 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Fascicle One, Letter 15

(Chapter on the Name of this Sect)

In question, I ask:
It is not clear to me under what circumstances our sect has come to be called the Ikko-Shu (One-Mind Sect) by the general public.

In answer, I reply:
It has been established with certainty that our Founder did not particularly name our school the Ikko-Shu. On the whole, the reason the people call us this is that we place our complete reliance, exclusively, on Amida Buddha. However, since it is explained in the Sutra as with One Mind, place reliance on the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life, to be called the One-Mind Sect is of no importance when there is the meaning that we should place reliance with one mind on the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life.
However, the Founder has specifically named this sect Jodo Shinshu. Therefore, you must understand that we of our sect did not originate in any manner of form the name of One-Mind Sect. The other Pure Land Sects presumably permit the practices of the various austerities, but our Shonin eliminated these practices. This is why rebirth in the True Land of Recompense is realised by us. For this reason, the word Shin (True) was inserted by our Founder.

In question, I ask:
That this sect was named Jodo Shinshu is clearly understood. However, in this denomination it teaches that regardless of being a layman with the depravities of the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins, one will reborn in the Land of Recompense without difficulty by simply placing his reliance on the Power of the Original Vow of Amida Buddha. I would like to have this explained in detail.

In answer, I reply:
The purport of our school is that those who attain Determined-Faith will realise rebirth in the True Land of Recompense without fail. Therefore, if one were to explain what this Faith is, it would be: to place Faith only in Amida with one-mind and without doubt; and to disregard any of the other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc.; and to place reliance with a singleness of heart without doubt in Amida Tathagata. This, in particular, is called Determined-Faith. The two characters for Shinjin may also be read as Heart of Truth. By Heart of Truth it is meant that inasmuch as deliverance for us is not attainable as devotees who practice the austerities of those in the path of self-power because of our impure and bigoted hearts, our deliverance is dependent upon the pure heart of the Other-Power of Tathagata. For this reason, this is called Heart of Truth.
Further, there can be no deliverance by just the recitation of the Sacred Name without the due understanding of it. Thus, it is explained in the Sutra, hear this Name and rejoice in Faith. By hear this Name it is not meant that one should hear the Sacred Name of the six characters of Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu in a senseless and aimless manner but it means that one should come in contact with a person who teaches and discourses in the Dharma, and should be taught by him in the principle of the deliverance by Amida Buddha without fail if one places reliance in the Sacred Name of Namu Amida Butsu as Namu. This is explained in the Sutra as rejoice in Faith. In accordance with this, it should be understood that the substance of Namu Amida Butsu is the condition for our deliverance.
After understanding the preceding in the manner as explained, believe that the recitation of the Sacred Name while at work or at rest, sitting or reclining, is nothing more that the Nenbutsu for the expression of gratitude towards Amida Tathagata for our deliverance. In other words, such a person is called a devotee of the Nenbutsu of the Other-Power who has Determined-Faith and who is to be reborn in the Land of Bliss.

With Reverence, I remain

This passage, completed at the Yamanaka spa, Kaga Province, at 10.00am on the second day of the latter part of the 9th month of the 5th year of Bunmei (1473).

End of Fascicle One

The above translations of the Gobunsho are from the Buddhist Churches of America Seiten, published in 1978.