Fascicle Three, Letter 1
SONO NA BAKARI NO SHO
(Chapter on Those who are Followers in Name Only)
From today, those individuals who are members of our sect in name only and those who are members only because their fathers and forefathers were followers before them should seriously start to inquire into the meaning of the Great Faith of the Other-Power and obtain the determination of rebirth into the Land of Recompense. To receive this Faith of our sect, nothing need to be done but simply place deep reliance on Amida Tathagata single-heartedly.
What sort of Buddha is this called Amid Buddha and what type of sentient beings is this Buddha to deliver? Amida Buddha is the Buddha that formulated the Great Vow that He, alone, would deliver all the pitiable unenlightened beings like ourselves that have been abandoned by the multitudes of other Buddhas of the Three Worlds. He is the Buddha that thoughtfully meditated over this Vow for a period of five kalpas and performed the virtuous practices for innumerable kalpas to its fulfillment. He then vowed that relative to the evils of sentient beings, I shall deliver all of them without regret to their abuse of the Dharma and being Icchantikas or the extent of their commissions of the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins He is the Buddha that consummated His Vows which far surpassed (in excellence) the compassionate vows of all the various Buddhas, and then became Amida Tathagata.
Therefore, in what manner and with what understanding should we seek deliverance of this Amida Buddha so that our deliverance will be assured? By completely disregarding the depths of our own evils and by simply placing single-hearted reliance on Amida Buddha, our deliverance is assured without fail; if there is no doubt in any form that Faith at the very moment we place reliance in Him. Further, Amida Tathagata possesses two functions Embracement and Light with which He delivers all sentient beings. Thus, should we be bathed in this Light through a culmination of related past conditions, all the evils that had been piled high as obstructions to our rebirth dispelled. Then what is meant by to embrace? Since all the evil hindrances no longer remain as factors when we encounter the capital effects of the Light of Amida, the point of sentient beings being enveloped within this Light is called to embrace. I have been made to understand that this is the reason why, relative to Amida Buddha, these two factors of Enlightenment and Light are considered most essential.
Therefore, when Faith is determined at that very instant of complete reliance on Amida Buddha, the simultaneous moment when one is embraced by the Light of Amida is said to be the very instant that Faith is determined.
Thus, when we come to know thoroughly for the first time that the state of Power and Practice called Namu Amida Butsu is actually the manifestation of the causal reason for our rebirth in the Pure Land that is represented through the six characters; we must, at long last, realize a sense of gratitude and sacredness.
Subsequent to this determination of Faith, thinking only of the singular joy of having received the bountiful Grace more numerous than the drops of falling rain and far exceeding the height of mountains, we should recite the Nenbutsu awake or asleep as an expression of the debt of gratitude owed to Amida Tathagata. The practice of the Nenbutsu is indeed the worthiest practice as our expression of our heartfelt gratitude.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 14th day, 7th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474)
Fascicle Three, Letter 2
NYOSETSU SHUGYO NO SHO
(Chapter on the Perfect Practice of the Dharma)
Although the beliefs of the various schools of Buddhism differ individually, each is in truth a commendable teaching because, in the final analysis, they all have derived from the sermons of Sakyamuni during his lifetime. Therefore, it is absolutely no doubt that those who practice the Teachings without deviation shall gain the Way and attain Enlightenment.
However, we are in a period where very, very few can accomplish the perfect practice of the Teachings because sentient beings of the Closing Third Era are most inferior in their capacities. At this juncture, by the Primal Vow of the Other-Power of Amida Tathagata is meant the concern to deliver primarily all sentient beings of this Present Era. Towards this goal Amida thoughtfully meditated for five kalpas and performed the perfect practices over innumerable kalpas to fulfill His Vow. He then promised that He would not take the Great Enlightenment unless He delivered all the evil-prone and virtueless sentient beings. He is the Buddha that completely fulfilled His Vow and then became Amida Buddha. For sentient beings of this present Third Era there is no hope of receiving Buddhahood unless they depend exclusively upon the Primal Vow of this Buddha and place reliance on Amida.
In what manner should we trust in Amida Tathagatas Primal Vow of the Other-Power, and again, what should be the attitude of the heart of sentient beings in order that they may be delivered?
Trust in Amida, simply means that those who thoroughly understand the essence of the Faith of the Other-Power will all (ten out of ten) be reborn in the Land of Bliss. To explain what this Faith of the Other-Power is, it is simply Namu Amida Butsu! In other words, in the clear understanding of the essence of the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu is found the representation of the Faith of the Other-Power. Therefore, you must thoroughly understand the essence of these six characters, Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu.
Firstly, the explanation of the essence of the two characters Na and Mu. The essence of the heart that places single-hearted reliance upon Amida and trusts, without doubt, in the rebirth to be received is termed Namu.
Secondly, the explanation of the essence of the remaining characters A-Mi-Da and Butsu. When a sentient being places single-hearted trust in Amida (as explained previously), Amida radiates His Light and envelops him eternally with this Light without fail. The essence of the heart that delivers him to the Pure Land of Bliss at the end of his life is termed Amida Butsu.
However, the Nenbutsu that is generally referred to in public is the kind where it is thought that the mere recitation of Namu Amida Butsu assures ones deliverance. This is a most dubious concept! However, since there are some sects that teach this very concept within the Pure Land School itself, do not criticise it openly.
What I have just stated is the meaning of Faith in our sect as taught by our Founding Shonin. Those whose karma have ripened to listen to this and hasten to obtain assurance for rebirth in the Land of Bliss. Those who have understood well what I have just written should recite the Sacred Name as an expression of gratitude for the Grace of Amida Tathagata, bountiful as the drops of falling rain and as great as the mountains, through which they are assured of their easy deliverance.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 5th day, 8th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474)
Fascicle Three, Letter 3
SHOKO MONTO NO SHO
(Chapter on the Followers of the Priest Shoko)
I truly have grave misgivings as to how the followers of the priest Shoko of Kawashiri Village in our district understand Faith as expressed in the Dharma. Be that as it may, I shall clearly explain the meaning of the basic principles of our sect here. Each and everyone of you should listen most attentively and enter the ranks of those whose coming rebirth into the Land of Bliss is established upon the principle of our sect.
The Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata that vows rebirth through the Nenbutsu means that the ignorant lay people as well as those enmeshed in the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins shall all, without exception, be reborn in the Land of Bliss if they simply receive the singular determination of what is called the Faith of the Other-Power. To explain what difficulties are involved in receiving this Faith, I say that those who, without any form of anxiety, place whole-hearted reliance upon Amida Tathagata without doubt and steadfastly refrain from being swayed by any other Buddha who will all be reborn, if there be ten, then ten, as Buddhas. To retain this Faith exclusively is an easy manner. Those who think that the mere vocal recitation of the Nenbutsu becomes the mean of deliverance are shallow in thought. These people will not reborn in the Land of Bliss. Those who truly understand the essence of the Nenbutsu (for a certainty) shall be reborn as Buddhas. As long as there is a singular determination of the heart to place reliance in Amida without any complication, one shall easily be reborn in the Pure Land. Outside of this, it should be believed that those who do not worship Amida in gassho because of some disquieting secret doctrine are foolish.
Therefore, Amida Tathagatas Primal Vow of Other-Power is the Universal Vow of the Other-Power that has already been established with the prime purpose of delivering the deeply evil sentient beings of this present Third Era, and which is most suited to those like ourselves not treading the path of sages. Oh, how welcome this Vow of Amida Tathagata is! Oh, how wonderful are the golden words of Sakyamuni the Tathagata! Revere them! Believe them!
Those who thoroughly understand what I have just written are representative of the followers of the Nenbutsu that truly possess that Determined-Faith of our sect. Moreover, it should be understood that the meaning of the Nenbutsu that we recite while we have life is to express the feeling of gratitude owed for the Grace of Amida Tathagata, bountiful as the drops of falling rain and as great as mountains through which we receive our easy deliverance.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 6th day, 8th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474).
Fascicle Three, Letter 4
DAISHO SESON NO SHO
(Chapter on the August Shakamuni Buddha)
When with deep concern, one earnestly contemplates the fleetingly impermanent state of human beings, it becomes clearly established that those who are born must eventually meet with death; that those in their prime of vigour must finally decline. Thus, our lives are lived actually as series of mornings and nights, over months and years, in utter vain and for naught. Though lamentable, this is truly a pitiful plight. Thus, no one (from the illustrious Shakamuni at the top to the infamous evildoer Daiba at the bottom) is excluded from this impermanency of life.
However, it is difficult to be born in the human form and even more difficult to hear the Dharma. Though one may receive the Dharma through favourable circumstances (the present being the period of the Closing Third Era where the practices of the self-power path of sages are of no avail to us in our deliverance from this cycle of birth and death), all will be in vain unless we place reliance on the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata. Now, fortunately, we are in receipt already of the ultimate Teaching of the Universal Vow. Thus, our innermost wish should simply be for rebirth in the Pure Land of Bliss; our reliance should only be in Amida Tathagata. Accordingly, through this manner, we should emerge with a determination of Faith and recite the Nenbutsu. However, the general understanding of the people is that the mere recitation of only Namu Amida Butsu to be the cause for rebirth in the Land of Bliss. This is a very great erroneous belief!
To explain the essence behind the form of the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu, it should be understood that the figurative expression of Amida Tathagata (being cognisant of us sentient beings that place single-hearted reliance in Him and then delivering us) is established through these six characters of Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu.
In what manner, then, should we place faith in this Amida Tathagata to be delivered in that most important life to come? When we place complete, whole-hearted reliance on Amida Tathagata without doubt, after a total abandonment of the varied and other practices and concepts of virtues, and without any anxiety, Amida emits His Bright Light and embraces us within this Light. In other words, this is called the receiving of the Grace of Enlightenment within the Light of Amida Tathagata, or again, the functioning of the Promise of the Vow that does not forsake.
Following the Embracement within the Bright Light of Amida, one should have no doubt that he shall be reborn immediately in the Pure Land of Compensation when this present period of life is ended. After this, what need is there to rely upon some other Buddha or the accumulation of merits through the practice of the various austerities? Oh, how sacredly and how gratefully we receive this Amida Tathagata! How is one to ever repay the debt of gratitude felt owed for this Grace of Amida Tathagata, which is as bountiful as the drops of falling rain and is great as mountains? One should understand that it is simply through the vocal recitation of the Nenbutsu only that the sincere requital of Amidas Benevolence is expressed.
With reverence, I remain
18th day, 8th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474)
Fascicle Three, Letter 5
SHOBUTSU HIGAN NO SHO
(Chapter on the Compassionate Vows of the Various Buddhas)
When we examine carefully the reasons why Amidas Primal Vow far surpasses the compassionate vows of all the other Buddhas, we find that it is because the various other Buddhas of the Ten Directions will not deliver sentient beings deeply embroiled in evil and women who are encumbered with the Five Obstacles and Three Reliances. For this reason it is said that Amida Buddhas Primal Vow is far superior to the vows of all the many other Buddhas. If one were to ask what sort of sentient beings Amida Tathagatas unobstructable Great Vow delivers, it is the Great Vow that will deliver in their entirety, all the evil-ridden beings who are encumbered with the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins as well as women with the Five Obstacles and the Three Reliances, without omitting even one. Therefore, it is the functioning of the power of the Great Original Vow of the Other-Power working to deliver to the Pure Land of Bliss, without fail, all sentient beings; if there are ten, then ten, who place total single-hearted reliance upon Amida.
Relative to the above, in question I ask:
In what frame of mind and in what manner should pitifully unenlightened beings like ourselves view this Primal Vow of Amida Buddha and how should we place reliance on this Amida? Please explain the reasons for this thoroughly because we should understand why we: should receive Faith; rely on Amida; wish to be reborn in the Land of Bliss; and recite the Nenbutsu.
In answer, I reply:
To begin with, generally, the popular concept now prevalent in public with respect to the Nenbutsu is that the recitation of Namu Amida Butsu by itself without any analytical thought assures all of deliverance. This is a great and dubious assumption. In Kyoto and its immediate surrounding area, the Teachings of the Jodo Sect differ greatly. However, it is not my intention here to be critical of the many differences. I wish only to elaborate on the meaning of the teachings of our Jodo Shinshu Sect as was established by our Founding Shonin. Hear this most carefully and experience the great joy of Faith! Listen with that ear that allows you to hear the Dharma and be led to deliverance! Hear this and gain happiness that will bow your hearts in gratitude as you listen with that warm, affectionate, compulsive need for the Dharma and free the sufferings of your heart!
All lay people as well as those individuals enmeshed in evil ways throughout their lives should not feel utterly despondent when they realise the depths of their evilness. Believe deeply that the incomprehensible power that is directed expressly towards the deliverance of such hopelessly pitiful evil-ridden beings as us, is that which is called the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata. We should place complete reliance on Amida Tathagata and thoroughly understand this one thing: Faith of the Other-Power.
By the conditions involved in what is called the Faith of Other-Power is meant that state to which one arrives when he clearly discerns in his heart that the sacred name Namu Amida Butsu (written in six characters) is actually the aspect of Amida Buddhas deliverance of ourselves. This is expressed through the visible form of this Sacred Name. He who understands this is one who has received that Faith of the Other-Power. The word Namu written in two characters expresses the singleness of the heart and mind of sentient beings who place complete reliance on Amida Buddha. This very same essence of sentient beings seeking deliverance through the single-hearted on only Amida Buddha and the abandonment of all other practices and teachings is known as Kimyo.
Then, the four remaining characters of the Sacred Name that reads Amida Butsu signifies the essence of Amida Buddhas deliverance of all sentient beings without exception who place total reliance in Him through the word Namu. The essence of Amida Tathagatas deliverance of all sentient beings without exception is called Sesshu Fusha or forever embraced and never to be forsaken. The essence of Sesshu Fusha is that the devotee of the Nenbutsu shall forever be enveloped in the Light of Amida Tathagata, never to be cast aside.
Therefore, I believe that this state of Namu Amida Butsu is the vehicle whereby the Sacred Name is presented in the six characters of Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu in evidence of our deliverance by Amida Buddha.
After we have carefully and thoroughly discerned the foregoing, we feel the sacredness, the gratefulness, that our rebirth into the Land of Bliss is decided through that one singular act of complete reliance on Amida Tathagata for our deliverance. If the Nenbutsu recited is that of the joy of having received deliverance, this Nenbutsu, especially, is that recitation of the Sacred Name in the expression of the deep debt of gratitude felt owed to Amida Buddha. Also, it is designated as the recitation of the Sacred Name following the receipt of Faith.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 6th day, 9th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474).
Fascicle Three, Letter 6
YUI NO JO SHO NO SHO
(Chapter on the Simple Recitation of only the Name of Amida Buddha)
In explaining the true meaning of Namu Amida Butsu, firstly, the two characters Na and Mu have the double meaning of complete reliance and, also, the transference of merits from the Primal Vow. Thus, by Namu is meant the Vow and Amida Butsu the practice.
Therefore, instantaneous with that moment when one discards the concepts of the various practices and their accompanying merits, and disregards the various other Buddhas and their practices to place complete reliance on Amida Tathagata for deliverance, the devotee is, thankfully, enveloped within that Bright Universal Light emanating from Amida Tathagata. In other words, this essence is the meaning of the four characters A-Mi-Da and Butsu. Also, this is the transference of merit in the Primal Vow. Thus, the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu is the Sacred Name through which the Faith of the Other-Power that assures our rebirth is earnestly made known to us.
Thus, in the section of the consummation of the 18th Vow in the Larger Sutra, it is stated,
hearing the Sacred Name of the incomparable Buddha, one experiences the great joy of Faith
The meaning of this passage is that one hears this Sacred Name and receives the great joy of Faith. By hearing the Sacred Name does not refer to the ordinary, unmeaningful, physiological hearing. Rather, it means to understand that when one meets a Good Teacher of the Way and learns well from him the true meaning of the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu, he learns of the principle of rebirth in the Land of Recompense through the Faith of the Other-Power. Therefore, by great joy of Faith is meant the great joy one experiences when ones Faith becomes established and there is no thought of doubt as to his assured rebirth in the Pure Land.
Thus, when we feel deeply the magnitude of the effort by Amida Tathagata over five and innumerable other kalpas to fulfil His Vow, and by comparison think with gratitude of the concern of the case of our own deliverance, the attempt to adequately express this feeling becomes rather foolish and totally inadequate. This feeling is expressed in the Wasan as, The Benevolence of the Merit-Transference of Namu Amida Butsu being far beyond conceptual understanding or conceivability; the Grace of the Merit-Transference for being born in the Pure Land (Oso) becomes and is the Merit-Transference for the return to this world to deliver others (Genso).
Since in the Shoshinge it is already stated simply recite the Name of Amida Buddha to express that feeling of gratitude felt for the Great Compassionate Universal Vow, finally it becomes abundantly clear that for the purpose of expressing gratitude for the Grace of Amida Buddha, we should simply recite the Nenbutsu while walking, resting, sitting or lying down regardless of place, time or surroundings.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 20th day, 10th month, 6th year of Bunmei (1474).
Fascicle Three, Letter 7
HISHI SANGO NO SHO
(Chapter on the Three Actions of Amida Buddha and Sentient Beings)
The essence of the principle taught by Shinran Shonin is centred exclusively on the Teachings of the Faith of the Other-Power through which all laymen of this Closing Third Era (beclouded with defilements and unaware of Truth) can easily and quickly obtain rebirth in the Pure Land without any anxiety. Thus, it is generally well known that Amida Tathagata shall deliver all the ignorant men encumbered by the Ten Major Evils and the Five Cardinal Sins, and women with Five Obstacles and Three Reliances.
How should we unenlightened beings have Faith in Amida Buddha and in what manner should we place reliance that we shall be reborn in Amidas World of Bliss? With complete faith in Amida Tathagata and by discarding all else by single-minded reliance on Amida and a single-hearted Faith in the Original Vow and, if there is no doubt whatever with respect to Amida Tathagata, we shall be reborn without fail in the Land of Bliss. In other words, these elements constitute the true nature of the devotee who has received the Faith of the Other-Power.
It has been said already that Faith is the thorough comprehension of the essence of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha and the placement of single-hearted reliance on Him. He who does this is said to have received the Determined-Faith of the Other-Power. Therefore, the thorough understanding of the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu is the substance of Determined Faith.
Thus, the two characters Na and Mu are the manifestation of their self-awareness in placing Faith in Amida Buddha by sentient beings. Then, the meaning of the four remaining words A-Mi-Da and Butsu is the Dharma of Amida Tathagata that delivers sentient beings. For this reason the term Namu Amida Butsu of the unification of sentient beings and the Dharma is used to designate this essence.
Based on this, Zendo Daishi has pointed out the melding of the Three Actions of sentient beings and the Three Actions of Amida Buddha into one as:
The Three Actions of Amida and the Three Actions of sentient beings; inseparable, indistinguishable
Thus, there should be no doubt that those with the Determined-Faith at that simultaneous instant of complete reliance upon Amida will be reborn in the Land of Compensation without fail. Those who cast aside all inclination of any devotions to self-centred efforts with a strong conscious awareness and who believe deeply with a singleness of heart in Amida that the factor of deliverance for them lies solely in the Power of the Vow that is beyond conceptual understanding (be there ten, then all ten) shall be reborn in the True Land of Compensation.
Following this, realising only the depth of the gratitude owed to Amida Tathagata, we should repeat the Nenbutsu of Thanksgiving.
With reverence, I remain
23rd day, 2nd month, 7th year of Bunmei (1475)
Fascicle Three, Letter 8
TOKOKU TAKOKU JIKKO JAGI NO SHO
(Chapter on the Erroneous Tenet of the Ten Kalpas in This and Neighbouring Provinces)
There are many people in this and neighbouring districts who are in extreme variance with the essence of Faith of our sec, who believe that they have a sound understanding of it. These people (divergent to the Teachings of our sect) do not have the will to even enquire of this problem to obtain the True Faith. This is truly a deplorable misconception. If they do not regret their present convictions, fell penitent, and live within the True Faith of our sect and obtain a determination of their rebirth in the Land of Recompense in this life, it would truly be like going into a mountain of treasures but coming out empty-handed.
In the words of these people, who at variance with the concept of Faith in this belief: Our rebirth to the Pure Land was absolutely determined in that moment Amida Tathagata took the Great Enlightenment. Our remembering this and not harbouring any doubts about it is what is called Faith.
Since no concept is there in their belief of complete reliance upon Amida Buddha, these people will never be reborn in the Land of Recompense! Thus, this is not a true and genuine teaching but an erroneously evil belief.
Relative to this, the representative condition of what our sect calls Faith (I would say) is that he who thoroughly understands the essence of Namu Amida Butsu is one who has received the Faith of Other-Power. Zendo explained the six characters Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu in the following manner: By Namu is meant complete reliance which is, in itself, a function of the transference of merits from the Primal Vow. The heart of this thought is that during that time while Amida Tathagata was in His causal state establishing his practices for the deliverance of us passion-ridden being, He passed through a long period of great endeavour to consummate the transference of His merits to us. This was because the Merit-Transference from acts by us is singularly self-centred and cannot be truly accomplished. Thus, at that very moment when we place complete reliance on Amida through the term Namu, this transference of Amidas merits to us unenlightened individuals is effected. Therefore, since the transference of merits is not originated by us passion-ridden beings (from the standpoint of the devotee recognising that the transference of merits is actually a benevolent function of Amida Buddha), the term Fu Eko or Non-Transference of Merits (by man himself) is used to describe this status. Due to these reasons, the two characters Na and Mu are the core of that complete reliance upon Amida Buddha. It is again the essence of the transference of merits of the Primal Vow.
Therefore, those sentient beings who express their complete reliance in Amida Buddha through the term Namu are enveloped, without fail, in Amidas Grace and will never be discarded. This is what is known as Namu Amida Butsu.
It should be understood that the foregoing describes the devotees of the Nenbutsu who have obtained the Faith of the Other-Power at that very instant of complete reliance on Amida Tathagata and who acquired the cause for rebirth into the Pure Land in their common everyday life.
Those individuals who understand the foregoing thoroughly will at long last, know truly the depth and breadth of the Benevolence of Amida Tathagata and should repeat the Nenbutsu irrespective of time and unconcerned as to place.
In other words, the essence of all the foregoing is expressed in similar fashion in the passage from the Shoshin Nenbutsu Ge, which says:
Instantaneous with the awakening of Faith in Buddhas Primal Vow,
the spontaneous working of the Vow places one within the ranks of the Truly Assured.
Through the simple constant recitation of Amida Buddhas Name,
one should express ones gratitude for the Great Compassionate Vow
With reverence, I remain
25th day, 2nd month, 7th year of Bunmei (1475)
Fascicle Three, Letter 9
GOMEINICHI NO SHO
(Chapter on Shinran Shonins Memorial Day)
Today is the Memorial Day of Shinran Shonin and, to be sure, there are exceedingly few who do not come here without harbouring intentions to express their gratitude owed to him. However, there is an important point that these many people must understand. If they are attending these services for the firs, and perhaps, the only time today, without having received the True Faith from the Other-Power of the Universal Vow, and think only that by their attendance and occupying space to fill the service hall that they are fulfilling a very essential function of our Jodo Shinshu sect; how can this be conceived to coincide with the heart and mind of our Shinran Shonin.
However, it may be will for those of this village to attend these services even though they are not necessarily inclined to express their thanksgiving and gratitude to the Shonin.
Those that never fail to attend the monthly memorial services that fall on the 28th and who, as yet, have not had the determination of heart to receive Faith, must quickly receive the Faith of the Other-Power from the Truth of the Universal Vow and gain their determination of rebirth into the Land of Recompense in the life to come. This, in truth, is the best manner of devoting oneself as an expression of gratitude to Shinran Shonin. This also becomes identical to the eternal principle that teaches the exclusive and sole manner through which ones rebirth in the Land of Bliss is determined without fail. Further, it corresponds exactly with the meaning of Zendos verse wen he wrote, For one to have received Faith himself and to teach this Faith to others so that they may also receive it (among difficult tasks), this is especially difficult. To carry forth and guide everyone everywhere to the message of the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha, this truly is an expression of gratitude felt owed Amida Buddha.
Over a hundred years have passed since Shinran Shonin entered Nirvana but fortunately, we are able to see his portrait before our very eyes. To be sure, his benevolent voice has been blown away from us by the winds of impermanency, but his words of truth have infused within our very being for a certainty that they rest in the very bottom of our ears and the Faith of Truth of the Other-Power of our sect continues very much today.
Therefore, if there are none to receive Faith from the Truth of the Universal Vow during this auspicious period of the memorial service, truly, it must be because we are outside the sphere of the maturation of related past conditions which enables one to become aware of the Dharma. If it s that we are not involved in this culmination of related past conditions, the abysmal regrets that our rebirth to come has not been established is the singular sadness that we must bear in vain. It is hard to even meet with this singular path of the Original Vow, yet, we have been able to receive the Faith of the unsurpassed Universal Vow! This is indeed a rare occurrence and it is truly the happiest of all happiness. There is nothing that surpasses this! Oh, how sacred it is! Accept Faith!
Thus, those who completely discard and reverse all the erroneous concepts that they had held throughout their lives until today (in order to accept the Faith of the Other-Power of the singular Truth of the Primal Vow) are those who are in exact coincidence with the prime essence of Shinran Shonins Teachings.
Furthermore, this revival of Faith becomes synonymous with the expression of gratitude owed to Shinran Shonin during todays memorial service honouring him.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 28th day, 5th month, 7th year of Bunmei (1475).
Fascicle Three, Letter 10
SHINMEI ROKKAJO NO SHO
(Chapter on the Guardian Deities and the Six Articles)
Members of our sect must understand well the meaning of the provisions in the following Six Articles, and while believing deeply in the Dharma within their hearts, must be very careful of their deportment not to show even a hint of this belief in their outward behaviour. Recently, however, there have been Nenbutsu followers of our school who purposely flaunt the teachings of our sect before members of other schools. This is a most deplorable and highly regrettable thing!
What has already been transpired cannot be undone, but henceforth, the provisions of those articles must be observed as one practices the Buddhas Teachings. Should there be any who persist in refusing to adhere to the meaning of these articles, they should be stricken from membership of our denomination.
1. Do not deride shrines erected to guardian deities.
2. Do not slander the various other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or temples of the other schools.
3. Do not slander any of the other schools or any of the teachings.
4. Do not be disobedient to district and local government officials.
5. The Dharma as taught in this district of Echizen is erroneous and the True Dharma must be pursued.
6. The Faith of the Other-Power as taught by our Jodo Shinshu School must be firmly established with your hearts.
Relative to Article 1:
All guardian deities are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in different forms. However, when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas looked upon the sentient beings of this world, they believed it would be most difficult to establish a closeness with them as they were. Thus, they used the expedient to temporarily appear as kami and guardian deities in order that they might establish a causal condition in sentient beings that would finally bear fruit whereby sentient beings would be led within the fold of the Dharma. The essence of this tenet has been formally expressed as, To mellow the intensity of light and, to blend with the dust is the initial act to establish the causal conditions; the Eight Phases of Buddhas Earthly Life is the conclusion of their abounding grace.
Thus, these guardian deities will observe the sentient beings of this world who believe in the Dharma and recite the Nenbutsu and know, especially that this is in accordance with the Dharma. Therefore, when one places complete reliance on the Compassionate Vow of Amida Buddha exclusively, and initially does not particularly worship or believe in the guardian deities, a feeling to believe in both equally will grow in ones heart eventually.
Relative to Article 2:
The guardian deities have their origins from within the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When sentient beings of this era rely on Amida Tathagata and recite the Nenbutsu, all of these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas know their fundamental wishes to be for sentient beings to place reliance on Amida Tathagata, their own Buddha of Prime-Source and Master. Thus, even though one does not particularly believe in these various Buddhas, wen one relies completely on Amida Buddha alone, all these various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become included. One should understand the reason that when one places single-hearted reliance in Amida Tathagata only, the wisdom and merits of all these various Buddhas are completely inclusive in Amida Buddha.
Relative to Article 3:
It is a great mistake to disparage the other schools or their teachings. This has already been shown in the Triple Sutra of the Pure Land School. The scholars of the other schools must also not slander the followers of the Nenbutsu. The reason that this is an offence by our own school as well as by other schools, which cannot be absolved easily goes without saying.
Relative to Article 4:
Where the officials of the district and local governments are concerned, submit your taxes and assessments without undue reluctance and follow a path of conduct that does not harm others.
Relative to Article 5:
The Dharma of this district is not the True Dharma as taught by our school. It is some erroneous view. Hereafter, you must listen to the correct and True Teachings of our sect, completely change the erroneous views, and adhere to the True Teachings.
Relative to Article 6
The true follower of the Nenbutsu of our sect is one who thoroughly understands that the essence of our Teaching is the rebirth into the Land of Bliss by us who are only capable of committing evils forever and who have no capacity for truly virtuous deeds.
By the true meaning of Faith in our sect is meant the very simple reliance upon Amida Tathagata with a complete singleness of heart. It is the realisation of the incomprehensible thought that I am an utterly hopeless being of shameful evil karma, and yet, because of this, I am the primary concern and target for deliverance by the powerful causal condition of Amidas Vow. Also, it is the realisation that Faith at the very moment we place complete reliance on Amida Buddha and that heart that is completely free from any doubt is the action of the Wisdom of Amida Buddha and is, therefore, firm and forever unshakeable. At that simultaneous instant that bright, dazzling, unobstructable Light will issue without fail from Amida Buddha and envelop us. All those who receive the determination of Faith in this manner (ten out of ten) will be reborn in the Land of Bliss. In other words (in essence), this describes a person who has received the Faith of the Other-Power. What one must understand further is that as the realisation of the magnitude of this truly, appreciated Benevolence of Amida Tathagata arises, one would simply recite Namu Amida Butsu while asleep or awake to express gratitude to this debt felt owed to Amida Buddha.
Thus, contrary to the foregoing and acting as though they find something lacking in our Teaching relative to Faith and the life to come, why is it that some without any formal studies under a teacher-priest are spreading a false doctrine that does not exist in the Founders Teachings? They are confusing and leading people astray while further doing damage to our Teachings. This is a truly deplorable thing. You should reflect upon this very, very seriously.
With reverence, I remain
15th day, 7th month, 7th year of Bunmei (1475)
Fascicle Three, Letter 11
MAINEN FUKETSU NO SHO
(Chapter on the Uninterrupted Observance of the Annual Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin)
The 28th of this month is the Memorial Day for the Founding Shonin, and relative to the unbroken annual observance of the Hoonko, many people from the various provinces and districts (including the humble and lowly) will attend the services. However, all those who attend and who are not aware of the gratitude owed to the Benevolence of Amida through the Shonin are like stumps of a log and blocks of stone. I have been residing at Yoshizaki in Echizen for the past four or five years and find it a wonder that I am still alive. That I am able to participate in this years Hoonko Memorial Service for the Shonin for the first time since coming to this province of Kawachi is, truly, the inconceivable culmination of related past circumstances, and is, to me, a joy beyond all limits.
Be that as it may, for those of you who have gathered here from this and other provinces, it is, firstly, imperative that you understand well the aims of the manner of conduct as has been established by the founding Shonin. Relative to this, the Shonin has kindly said, Even if we were to be called rustlers of cattle, our personal conduct must not show to others that we are followers of the Dharma or adherents of the Teaching of the life to come. He has also said, Outwardly observe the five articles of personal conduct and uphold the laws of the land, inwardly, in the very depths of your hearts, hold fast to the essence of Faith of the Other-Power that stems from the Original Vow.
However, upon close scrutiny of those who in this area who presently claim to understand the Dharma, we find that some show outward appearances of being followers of the Dharma when, in truth, they inwardly have not yet had that exclusive determination of Faith in our school. Furthermore, they have not studied the teachings under a qualified teacher, but have read the Sutra in their own self-taught manner; they have erroneously taught the teachings among the followers; they have told lies; they have deceived and have taken things from people under the guise that they were acting in accordance with orders from the main temple; and they have defiled and have damaged the image of the Teachings of our school. This is indeed a most deplorable state of affairs.
Accordingly, unless these people repent their errant hearts and return to the true meaning of Shinrans Memorial Hoonko Service during these seven days (to the 28th of this month), it will be totally meaningless even thought they may attend and claim to be expressing gratitude owed Amida Buddha by merely following the actions of the other people in attendance during these seven days.
Therefore, it is exclusive to only those who have received Faith from the power of Amidas Original Vow that can say that they express their gratitude to Amida for His Grace and Benevolence and to the masters for their guidance.
Those who understand well the foregoing reasons and attend the services to pay respect to the Shonin are the ones who understand the essence of truly holding Amida in their hearts. They are also the ones who are in perfect alignment with the meaning of the expression of gratitude during this months memorial services to Shinran Shonin.
With reverence, I remain
PS. I have written this on the 21st day, 11th month, 7th year of Bunmei.
Fascicle Three, Letter 12
SHUKUZEN UMU NO SHO
(Chapter on the Existence or Non-existence of Related Past Conditions)
Currently (as it was in the past), among the many, many persons in the various provinces, districts, and villages who claim to be followers of the Buddha-Dharma and who praise and preach the Law, there are those who still do not possess the accurate grasp of the True Teaching of our school. When we examine the reasons for this, what first occurs to me is that these people presume they have a solid foundation in the Buddha-Dharma when, in fact, they have never even studied formally under any teacher. It may be likened to one having learned his Buddha-Dharma by himself while hiding crouched under the supports beneath the veranda, or by eavesdropping on a teachers discourse on Buddhism through closed shoji door-panels. It appears to me that they assume the attitude that no one has a better understanding of the Buddha-Dharma than themselves when, in truth, their personal commitment to the Dharma is very, very shallow. Due to their conceitedness, they have obstinately attached as erroneous, those who were in actuality preaching the correct Doctrine of our sect. In other words, is not the attitude that I am the best informed above anyone else indicative (in the first place) of a heart of extreme conceit?
These people circulate among the devoted members of our school with this erroneous attitude, reading from our sacred books, and further, fawning upon the genuine nature of our members; and while adhering to their personal interpretations, profess they are sent from the main temple, deviating from the Dharma and taking things under fraudulent conditions. How can we call these people good followers of the Dharma or even Good Teachers of the Way? This is a pitifully deplorable situation. In lamentation, this situation is, by far, the most painful of laments. Accordingly, those who teach and preach the Doctrine of our school must understand first the inherent conditions that accompany the act of preaching.
In order to thoroughly teach the Faith of the Other-Power of our school, it must first be determined who among the listeners have or have not the maturation of favourable past conditions. Thus, those who been registered members of our school for all these many, many years would find it most difficult to receive Faith if the related past conditions have not matured for them. On the other hand, for those whose past conditions have blossomed, their receipt of Faith will evolve naturally without any difficulty. Thus, if one were to point out the True Teachings against false teachings (for the benefit of those who do not have the maturation of related past conditions), this act can lead to slander against the Law. Preaching the tenets of our school without discretion to the general public and without the thorough differentiation according to the principle of the existence or non-existence of the maturation of related past conditions, becomes a deplorable act contrary to the rules of conduct as established by our school.
In the Larger Sutra it states, If there is not the prime condition of related past conditions, it will be most difficult to even hear this Teaching and again, Upon hearing this Teaching, to rejoice in Faith, to receive and to hold it (fast) deep in ones heart, is the most difficult of difficulties. There is nothing that can surpass this difficulty Further, Zendo in his Jozen Gi has taught that, Already in former worlds one had become part and parcel of this Teaching, thus, establishing the necessary past conditions such that, when one meets the Teachings again, one is ready to accept and rejoice in the receipt of Faith In examining the Sutras and Commentaries, it is clearly taught that there is nothing without the maturation of the related past conditions. Because of this, I believe that one must always teach the Doctrines of our school, and be fully cognisant of the importance of the principle of the culmination of related past conditions.
It is best to understand the situation as mentioned above before you preach and influence people towards the Teachings of our school. Specifically, conduct yourselves in the following manner: Adhere explicitly to the laws of the land; exercise the ideals of compassion and act for the good of all beings; observe all the usual public customs and traditions; and hold the Faith of our sect in your hearts inwardly, while outwardly, restraining yourself from openly flaunting the Teachings of our school before those who belong o some other sects or schools.
Those who understand well the essence of the foregoing are the people within our sect who truly possess the comprehension of the True Teachings of our school.
With reverence, I remain
27th day, 1st month, 8th year of Bunmei
Fascicle Three, Letter 13
SORE TORYU MONTO NO SHO
(Chapter on all Members of Our Sect)
There are some points that all members of our sect must always keep in mind. This applies to those members who have already received that Decided-Faith and to those who are still in search of it.
Firstly, all must abide by the laws of the land. We must not belittle the various guardian deities nor the various other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Further, we must not slander the other schools or teachings.
We must be respectful to our district and local governmental leaders and meet, without fail, all our assessed taxes. Furthermore, our actions must be based upon compassion and a dedication for the good of all.
With respect to the concern for our eternal future life, if we place single-hearted reliance upon Amida Tathagata in the very depths of our hearts, completely disregard the various disciplines and those sundry practices for the gain of virtuous merits and if there is not even a trace of doubt at that very moment we place complete reliance on Amida, there shall be rebirth for us, with absolute certainty, in the True Pure Land of Bliss.
Those who understand the essence of this (in other words) represent the composite figure of the follower of the Nenbutsu that have received the Faith of the Other-Power of Amida Tathagata.
Now, what we must think after having received the Faith of the Nenbutsu (as just mentioned) is, How grateful we are for that all-powerful and indescribable Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata that is far beyond the scope of this world. It is by virtue of this Primal Vow that we are delivered so very simply at that very moment once we place our complete reliance on Amida, though we are pitiful beings that can only commit evils throughout our lives. Having thought thus, the only way for us to requite the gratitude owed for the Grace of Amida Tathagata is to recite the Nenbutsu while awake or asleep.
Although aside from the Primal Vow there is nothing that can be known to us which would be contributive towards our rebirth, recently there have been people who have not learned the Dharma through formal studies under a teacher-priest that for some reason of discontent are perplexing and deceiving people through their preaching of a malicious teaching. Their defilement of the flow of the unsurpassed Dharma is truly a most deplorable thing. We should consider this matter very seriously.
With reverence, I remain
18th day, 7th month, 8th year of Bunmei
End of Fascicle Three