Lamp for the Latter Ages

1 ^[ Concerning Thought and No-thought ]

^The idea of Amida’s coming at the moment of death is for those who seek to gain birth in the Pure Land by doing various practices, for they are practicers of self-power. The moment of death is of central concern to such people, for they have not yet attained true shinjin. We may also speak of Amida’s coming at the moment of death in the case of those who, though they have committed the ten transgressions and the five grave offenses throughout their lives, encounter a teacher in the hour of death and are led at the very end to utter the nembutsu.

 ^The practicer of true shinjin, however, abides in the stage of the truly settled, for he or she has already been grasped, never to be abandoned. There is no need to wait in anticipation for the moment of death, no need to rely on Amida’s coming. At the time shinjin becomes settled, birth too becomes settled; there is no need for the deathbed rites that prepare one for Amida’s coming.

 ^“Right-mindedness,” then, is the settling of the shinjin of the universal Primal Vow. Because of the realization of this shinjin, a person necessarily attains the supreme nirvana. Shinjin is the mind that is single; the mind that is singe is the diamondlike mind; the diamondlike mind is the mind aspiring for great enlightenment; and this is Other Power that is true Other Power.

 ^There are, in addition, two other types of right-mindedness: that achieved through meditative and that through nonmeditative practices. These are right-mindedness of self-power within Other Power. The terms “meditative good” and “nonmeditative good” are used with reference to birth through various practices and indicate the good practices of self-power within Other Power. Without awaiting Amida’s coming, the practicer of self-power will not attain birth even into the borderland, or the womblike birth, of the realm of indolence. For this reason Amida created the Nineteenth Vow, vowing to appear at the moment of death to welcome people who wish to attain birth by directing the merit of their accumulated good toward the Pure Land. Thus, it is the person endeavoring in meditative or nonmeditative practices who must be concerned about awaiting the moment of death and attaining birth through Amida’s coming.

 ^The shinjin of the selected Primal Vow has nothing to do with either “thought” or “no-thought.” Thought” refers to meditation on the color and form of an object; “no-thought” means that no form is conceived and no color visualized, so that there is no thought whatever. These are both teachings of the Path of Sages. The Path of Sages comprises teachings that people who have already attained Buddhahood preach in order to encourage us; it includes such schools as the Busshin, Shingon, Tendai, Kegon, and Sanron, which are said to be the ultimate developments of the Mahayana. The Busshin school is the presently growing Zen school. There are also the accommodated Mahayana and the Hinayana teachings, such as the Hossō, Jōjitsu, and Kusha. These are all teachings of the Path of Sages. “Accommodated teachings” are those that Buddhas and bodhisattvas, who have already attained Buddhahood, promote by temporarily manifesting themselves in various forms; this is the meaning of the word “accommodated.”

 ^The Pure Land teaching also includes doctrines of “thought” and “no-thought,” although here “thought” refers to nonmeditative and “no-thought” to meditative good. “No-thought” in the Pure Land school, then, is quite different from that of the Path of Sages. “No-thought” of the Path of Sages also includes a doctrine of “thought” as visualization. Please ask someone about the full implications of this.

 ^In the Pure Land teaching there are the true and the provisional. The true is the selected Primal Vow. The provisional teaches the good of meditative and nonmeditative practices. The selected Primal Vow is the true essence of the Pure Land way; good practices, whether meditative or nonmeditative, are provisional ways. The true essence of the Pure Land way is the consummation of Mahayana Buddhism; the provisional gateways of expedience include the other Mahayana and the Hinayana teachings, accommodated and real.

 ^The teachers of Śākyamuni numbered one hundred and ten; this is stated in the Garland Sutra.

 Namu-amida-butsu

Kenchō 3 [ 1251 ], Intercalary ninth month, 20th day

GUTOKU SHINRAN
Age 79

2 ^Response to an Inquiry from the Nembutsu People of Kasama

^According to Shin Buddhism, there are two kinds of people who seek birth in the Pure Land: those of Other Power and those of self-power. This has been taught by the Indian masters and Pure Land teachers.

 ^Self-power is the effort to attain birth, whether by invoking the names of Buddhas other than Amida and practicing good acts other than the nembutsu, in accordance with your particular circumstances and opportunities; or by endeavoring to make yourself worthy through mending the confusion in your acts, words, and thoughts, confident of your own powers and guided by your own calculation.

 ^Other Power is the entrusting of yourself to the Eighteenth among Amida Tathagata’s Vows, the Primal Vow of birth through the nembutsu, which Amida selected and adopted from among all other practices. Since this is the Vow of Tathagata, Hōnen said: “In Other Power, no working is true working.” “Working” [that is negated] is a term connoting calculation. Since the calculation of the person seeking birth is self-power, it is “working.” Other Power is entrusting ourselves to the Primal Vow and our birth becoming firmly settled; hence it is altogether without one’s own working. ^Thus, on the one hand, you should not be anxious that Tathagata will not receive you because you do wrong. A foolish being is by nature possessed of blind passions, so you must recognize yourself as a being of karmic evil. On the other hand, you should not think that you deserve to attain birth because you are good. You cannot be born into the true and real fulfilled land through such self-power calculation. I have been taught that with shinjin of self-power a person can attain birth only in the realm of indolence, the borderland, the womb-palace, or the city of doubt.

 ^Through the fulfillment of the Eighteenth Primal Vow, Bodhisattva Dharmākara has become Amida Tathagata, and the benefit that surpasses conceptual understanding has come to transcend all bounds; to express this, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu uses the words, “Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters.” Truly know, therefore, that without any differentiation between people good and bad, and regardless of one’s having a heart of blind passions, all beings are certain to attain birth. Describing the manner of entrustingin the nembutsu of the Primal Vow, Genshin, Master of Eshin-in, states in his Essentials for Attaining Birth: “It makes no difference whether you are walking, standing still, sitting, or reclining, nor is there a choice to be made among times, places, or other circumstances.” He affirms beyond question that the person who has attained true shinjin has been grasped by the compassionate light. And so, as Śākyamuni has taught, at the very moment that we, possessed of ignorance and blind passions, are born into the Pure Land of peace, we attain the supreme fruit of Buddhahood.

 ^Yet, it is very rare that people of this corrupt world of the five defilements embrace the teaching of the one Buddha, Śākyamuni, alone, and for this reason all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, have become witnesses to the attainment of birth through the nembutsu that embodies Amida’s Primal Vow; this Master Shan-tao has written in his commentary. He explains that Śākyamuni, Amida, and the Buddhas in the ten quarters, all with the same mind, are no more apart from sentient beings of the nembutsu than shadows from things. Hence it is that Śākyamuni rejoices in persons of shinjin, saying, “They are my true companions.” Persons of shinjin are the true disciples of the Buddha; they are the ones who abide in right-mindedness. Since they have been grasped never to be abandoned, they are said to have attained the diamondlike mind. They are called “the best among the best,” “excellent persons,” “wondrous, excellent person,” “the very finest persons,” “rare persons.” Such people have become established in the stage of the truly settled and are declared, therefore, to be the equal of Maitreya Buddha. This means that since they have realized true shinjin, they will necessarily be born in the true and real fulfilled land. ^You should know that this shinjin is bestowed through the compassionate means of Śākyamuni, Amida, and all the Buddhas in the ten quarters. Therefore you should not disparage the teachings of other Buddhas or the people who perform good acts other than nembutsu. Neither should you despise those who scorn and slander people of nembutsu; rather, you should have compassion and care for them. this was Hōnen’s teaching.

 Respectfully.

 

^The depth of the Buddha’s benevolence is such that even with birth in the realm of indolence and pride, the borderland, the city of doubt or the womb-palace, which is brought about only through the compassion revealed in Amida’s Nineteenth and Twentieth Vows, we meet with a happiness that surpasses understanding. Thus the depth of the Buddha’s benevolence is without bound. But how much more should we realize the benevolence of the Buddha with birth into the true and real fulfilled land and attainment of the enlightenment of the supreme nirvana. This is not a matter that Shōshin-bō or I have decided ourselves. Not in any way at all.

Kenchō 7 [ 1255 ], Tenth month, 3rd day

GUTOKU SHINRAN
Written at age 83

 

[ It is said that this letter was copied from Shinran Shōnin’s own draft,
found among the remains of the venerable Shōshin-bō
and circulated among the followers. ]

3

^Since those who have realized shinjin necessarily abide in the stage of the truly settled, they are in the stage equal to the perfect enlightenment. In the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life those who have been grasped, never to be abandoned, are said to be in the stage of the truly settled, and in the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life they are said to have attained the stage equal to perfect enlightenment. Although they differ, the terms “truly settled” and “equal to enlightenment” have the same meaning and indicate the same stage. Equal to the perfect enlightenment is the same stage as that of Maitreya, who is in the rank of succession to Buddhahood. Since persons of shinjin will definitely attain the supreme enlightenment, they are said to be the same as Maitreya.

 ^Now, the Larger Sutra speaks of “[the stage] next [to enlightenment], like Maitreya.” Since Maitreya is already close to Buddhahood, it is the custom in various schools to speak of him as Maitreya Buddha. Since those counted among the truly settled are of the same stage as Maitreya, they are also said to be equal to the Tathagatas. Know that persons of true shinjin can be called the equal of Tathagatas because, even though they themselves are always impure and creating karmic evil, their hearts and minds are already equal to Tathagatas.

 ^Since it is already established that Maitreya will attain the supreme enlightenment, we speak of the “Dawn of the Three Assemblies” when he will preach as a Buddha. The person who lives the truth and reality of the Pure Land should understand this. ^In the Hymns [on the Samadhi] of All Buddhas’ Presence Shan-tao, the Master of Kuang-ming temple, explains that the heart of the person of shinjin already and always resides in the Pure Land. “Resides” means that the heart of the person of shinjin constantly dwells there. This is to say that such a person is the same as Maitreya. Since being of the stage equal to enlightenment is being the same as Maitreya, the person of shinjin is equal to the Tathagatas.

Shōka 1 [ 1257 ]

SHINRAN

To Shōshin-bō

4

^What you inquire about in your letter is a passage from a sutra that states: “Those who attain shinjin and joy are equal to Tathagatas.” This is from the Garland Sutra and means that the person who rejoices in shinjin is the equal of all the Tathagatas. This is also indicated in Śākyamuni’s statement about those who realize shinjin and greatly rejoice: “The one who sees, reveres, and attains [the dharma] and greatly rejoices―that person is my excellent, close companion.”

 ^Further, Amida’s Seventeenth Vow declares that the Buddha will not enter into perfect enlightenment if those who say the Name are not praised by all the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters. The passage declaring the fulfillment of the Vow states: “Such people are praised by all the Buddhas and rejoice.”

 ^You should have no doubts whatever concerning this matter. Here I have recorded the passages on being equal to the Tathagatas.

Shōka 1 [ 1257 ], Tenth month, 10th day

SHINRAN

To Shinbutsu-bō

5 ^[ On Jinen-Hōni ]

^Concerning jinen [in the phrase jinen hōni]:

Ji means “of itself”―not through the practicer’s calculation. It signifies being made so.

 Nen means “to be made so”―it is not through the practicer’s calculation; it is through the working of the Tathagata’s Vow.

^Concerning hōni:

Hōni signifies being made so through the working of the Tathagata’s Wow. It is the working of the Vow where there is no room for calculation on the part of the practicer. Know, therefore, that in Other Power, no working is true working.

 ^Jinen signifies being made so from the very beginning. ^Amida’s Vow is, from the very beginning, designed to bring each of us to entrust ourselves to it―saying “Namu-amida-butsu”―and to receive us into the Pure Land; none of this is through our calculation. Thus, there is no room for the practicer to be concerned about being good or bad. This is the meaning of jinen as I have been taught.

 ^As the essential purport of the Vow, [Amida] vowed to bring us all to become supreme Buddha. Supreme Buddha is formless, and because of being formless is called jinen. Buddha, when appearing with form, is not called supreme nirvana. In order to make it known that supreme Buddha is formless, the name Amida Buddha is expressly used; so I have been taught. Amida Buddha fulfills the purpose of making us know the significance of jinen.

 ^After we have realized this, we should not be forever talking about jinen. If we continuously discuss jinen, that no working is true working will again become a problem of working. It is a matter of inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

[ Shōka 2 { 1258 }, Twelfth month, 14th day ]

GUTOKU SHINRAN
Written at age 86

6

^It is saddening that so many people, both young and old, men and women, have died this year and last. But the Tathagata taught the truth of life’s impermanence for us fully, so you must not be distressed by it.

 ^I, for my own part, attach no significance to the condition, good or bad, of persons in their final moments. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason their end also―even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom―is a happy one.

 ^You have been explaining to people that one attains birth through the Tathagata’s working; it is no way otherwise. What I have been saying to all of you from many years past has not changed. Simply achieve your birth, firmly avoiding all scholarly debate. ^I recall hearing the late Master Hōnen say, “Persons of the Pure Land tradition attain birth in the Pure Land by becoming their foolish selves.” Moreover, I remember him smile and say, as he watched humble people of no intellectual pretensions coming to visit him, “Without doubt their birth is settled.” And I heard him say after a visit by a man brilliant in letters and debating, “I really wonder about his birth.” To this day these things come to mind.

 ^Each of you should attain your birth without being misled by people and without faltering in shinjin. However, the practicer in whom shinjin has not become settled will continue to drift, even without being misled by anyone, for he does not abide among the truly settled.

 ^Please relay what I have written here to the others.

 Respectfully.

Bun’ō 1 [ 1260 ], Eleventh month, 13th day

ZENSHIN
Written at age 88

To Jōshin-bō

7 [ A Letter by Jōshin ]

^As we say the Name, we become settled in the stage of nonretrogression, for we are grasped by the unhindered light of Tathagata’s compassionate mind. Since this is the case, I feel no personal need to inquire anew about “being grasped, never to be abandoned.” In addition, the Garland Sutra states, “The person who hears this dharma, rejoices in shinjin, and is free of doubt, swiftly attains the supreme enlightenment; such a person is equal to the Tathagatas.” Moreover, the Seventeenth Vow declares that the Name shall be said in praise by the countless Buddhas in the ten quarters. I understand the reference to “the Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges” in the passage on the fulfillment of this Vow to be the people of shinjin. I believe that such people are equal to Tathagatas from this present life. Beyond this, I do not rely on my calculation as a foolish being. I would like to have your detailed views on this matter.

 Respectfully.

JOSHIN

Second month, 12th day

 

 [ Shinran’s Reply: On Being Equal to Buddhas ]

^You should understand that the moment of settling of those who entrust themselves to Tathagata’s Vow is none other than the settling into the stage of nonretrogression, because they receive the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned. Whether we speak of the settling of true shinjin or the settling of the diamondlike shinjin, both come about through being grasped, never to be abandoned. Thus is awakened the heart and mind that will attain the supreme enlightenment. This is called the stage of nonretrogression, the stage of the truly settled, and the stage equal to the perfect enlightenment.

 ^The Buddhas in the ten quarters rejoice in the settling of this mind and praise it as being equal to the hearts and minds of all Buddhas. Thus, the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. he is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya, who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood.

 ^Since persons of true shinjin are guarded in this world, the Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life speaks of “the protection of the countless Buddhas in the ten quarters.” This does not mean that they guard such persons after birth into the Pure Land of peace, but rather they watch over them with protecting thoughts while such persons are still in this Sahā world. The Tathagatas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, praise the minds and hearts of persons of true shinjin; it is taught that they are equal to Buddhas.

 ^Further, Other Power means that no working is true working. “Working” [that is negated] is the practicer’s calculating and designing. Tathagata’s Primal Vow surpasses conceptual understanding; it is a design of the wisdom of Buddhas. It is not the design of foolish beings. No one can fathom the wisdom of Buddhas, which surpasses conceptual understanding. Thin includes Maitreya Bodhisattva, who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood. Thus, the great teacher Hōnen said, “No working is true working.” My understanding has been that nothing apart from this realization is necessary for the attainment of birth into the Pure Land; therefore, what others may say is of no concern to me.

[ Second month, 25 day ]

[ SHINRAN ]

[ Reply to Jōshin-bō ]

8

^Further, in the expounding of al the various scriptures, there are not more than five kinds of exposition: first, the Buddha’s exposition; second, the exposition of holy disciples; third, the exposition of heavenly beings and hermit-sages; fourth, the exposition of demigods; fifth, the exposition of miraculous spirits. Among these five, take up the Buddha’s exposition and do not rely on the four other kinds. It should be known that the threefold Pure Land sutra is the true exposition of Śākyamuni Tathagata.

 ^The four lands are: first, the land of the dharma-body; second, the land of the fulfilled body; third, the land of the accommodated body; fourth, the land of the miraculous body. The present “Pure Land of peace” is a fulfilled land.

 ^The three bodies are: first, the dharma-body; second, the fulfilled body; third, the accommodated body. The present “Amida Tathagata” is a Tathagata of fulfilled body.

 ^The three treasures are: first, the Buddha-treasure; second, the dharma-treasure; third, the sangha-treasure. The present “Pure Land school” belongs to the Buddha-treasure.

 ^The four vehicles are: first, the Buddha vehicle; second, the bodhisattva vehicle; third, the pratyekabuddha vehicle; fourth, the sravaka vehicle. The Pure Land school belongs to the bodhisattva vehicle.

 ^The two teachings are: first, sudden attainment; second, gradual attainment. The present teaching belongs to the sudden.

 ^The two collections of scripture are: first, the bodhisattva-pitaka; second, the sravaka-pitaka. The present teaching belongs to the bodhisattva-pitaka.

 ^The two paths are: first, the path of difficult practice; second, the path of easy practice. The present Pure Land school is the path of easy practice.

 ^The two practices are: first, the right practices;1 second, the sundry practices. The present Pure Land school is based on the right practices.

1 The practices leading to birth as defined by Shan-tao: 1) reciting the sutras; 2) contemplating Amida; 3) worshiping Amida; 4) pronouncing Amida’s Name; 5) revering and giving offerings to Amida.

 ^The two modes of transcending are: first, transcending lengthwise; second, transcending crosswise. The present Pure Land school is transcending crosswise. Transcending lengthwise is self-power in the Path of Sages.

 ^The two forms of relevance2 are: first, limited relevance; second, universal relevance. The Pure Land is the teaching of universal relevance.

2 The capacity of relating people to the teaching.

 ^The two ways concerning abiding are: first, to remain abiding; second, nonabiding. It is taught that the present Pure Land teaching will abide for one hundred years after the age when the dharma has become extinct and benefit sentient beings. The nonabiding are the various good practices of the Path of Sages. The various goods have all entered and remained hidden in the naga’s palace.

 ^Of the conceivable and the inconceivable dharma, the conceivable comprises the 84,000 kinds of good of the Path of Sages. The Pure Land teaching is the inconceivable dharma-teaching.

 ^Thus I record these categories. Please ask about them of any knowledgeable person; it is not possible to present them in detail in this letter. My eyes fail me, and besides being utterly forgetful about everything, whatever it may be, I am hardly the person to clarify these matters for others. Please inquire fully of the Pure Land scholars about them.

 Respectfully.

Intercalary third month, 2nd day

SHINRAN

9 ^[ The Vow and the Name are One ]

^I have read your letter very carefully.

 ^I fail to understand why your question should arise, for although we speak of Vow and of Name, these are not two different things. There is no Name separate from the Vow; there is no Vow separate from the Name. Even to say this, however, is to impose one’s own calculation. Once you simply realize that the Vow surpasses conceptual understanding and with singleness of heart realize that the Name surpasses conceptual understanding and pronounce it, why should you labor in your own calculation?

 ^It seems to me that with all your attempts to understand by reasoning and by learning you have fallen into confusion. It is completely in error. Once you have simply come to realize that Vow and Name surpass conceptual understanding, you should not calculate in this way or that. There must be nothing of your calculation in the act that leads to birth.

 Respectfully.

 ^You must simply entrust yourself to Tathagata.

 Respectfully.

Fifth month, 5th day

SHUNRAN

To Kyōmyō-bō

 

^Please show this letter to the others also. We say that in Other Power, no working is true working.

10 ^[ You Must Realize that the Wisdom of Buddhas Surpass Conceptual Understanding ]

^I have read your letter very carefully.

 In your question about the teaching, you state that at the point of the awakening of the moment of shinjin we are grasped and protected by the heart of unhindered light, and hence the karmic cause for birth in the Pure Land is established in ordinary times. This is truly splendid. Yet, though what you state is splendid, I am afraid that it has become nothing but your own calculation. Once you have come simply to believe that is surpasses conceptual understanding, there should be no struggle to reason it out.

 ^You also write that there are people who say, “My aspiration to transcend this world is great, but slight is the karmic cause for my birth in the Pure Land.” This is impossible to accept. The aspiration to transcend this world and the karmic cause for birth in the Pure Land are one and the same. I consider these words to be, in their entirety, needless calculation. If you realize that the wisdom of the Buddhas surpasses conceptual understanding, there should not, in addition, be any calculating. You simply should not fall into doubts over the different things that people say. Simply give yourself up to Tathagata’s Vow; avoid calculating in any way.

 Respectfully.

Fifth month, 5th day

SHINRAN

To Jōshin-bō:

^Other Power means to be free of any form of calculation.

11

^I have received your letter of the fourth month, 7th day, on the 26th of the fifth month and have read it carefully. As to the matter you raise, although the one moment of shinjin and the one moment of nembutsu are two, there is no nembutsu separate from shinjin, nor is the one moment of shinjin separate from the one moment of nembutsu. The reason is that the practice of nembutsu is to say it perhaps once, perhaps ten times, on hearing and realizing that birth into the Pure Land is attained by saying the Name fulfilled in the Primal Vow. To hear this Vow and be completely without doubt is the one moment of shinjin. Thus, although shinjin and nembutsu are two, since shinjin is to hear and not doubt that you are saved by only a single pronouncing, which is the fulfillment of practice, there is no shinjin separate from nembutsu; this is the teaching I have received. You should know further that there can be no nembutsu separate from shinjin. ^Both should be understood to be Amida’s Vow. Nembutsu and shinjin on our part are themselves the manifestations of the Vow.

 Respectfully.

 

 ^If you are well, by all means please come to visit me in Kyoto.

Fifth month, 28th day

SHINRAN

Reply to Kakushin-bō

^I am heartened to learn that Senshin-bō is now staying near Kyoto. Also, I wish to acknowledge your kind gift of 300 mon, which I humbly accept.

 

[ Shinran Shōnin’s Reply, Kenchō 8 { 1256 },
Fifth Month, 28th Day ]

12

^In answer to your question about the nembutsu: it is completely mistaken to look down upon people who believe in birth through the nembutsu, saying that they are destined for birth in the borderland. For Amida vowed to take into the land of bliss those who say the Name, and thus to entrust oneself deeply and say the Name is to be in perfect accord with the Primal Vow. Though a person may have shinjin, if he or she does not say the Name it is of no avail. And conversely, even though a person fervently say the Name, if that person’s shinjin is shallow he cannot attain birth. Thus, it is the person who both deeply entrusts himself to birth through the nembutsu and undertakes to say the Name who is certain to be born in the true fulfilled land.

 ^In short, although persons say the Name, if they do not entrust themselves to the Primal Vow that is Other Power, they will surely be born in the borderland. But how can it be that those who deeply entrust themselves to the power of the Primal Vow are also born there? Please say the nembutsu fully understanding what I have explained above.

 ^My life has now reached the fullness of its years. It is certain that I will go to birth in the Pure Land before you, so without fail I will await you there.

 Respectfully.

Seventh month, 13th day

SHINRAN

Reply to Yūamidabutsu

13 [ On Being Grasped, Never To Be Abandoned ]

^You ask about “being grasped never to be abandoned.” Shan-tao’s Hymns [on the Samadhi] of All Buddhas’ Presence states that Śākyamuni and Amida are our parents of great compassion; using many and various compassionate means, they awaken the supreme shinjin in us. Thus the settling of true shinjin is the working of Śākyamuni and Amida. Persons become free of doubt about their birth because they have been grasped. Once grasped, there should be no calculation at all. Since they dwell in the stage of nonretrogression until being born into the Pure Land, they are said to be in the stage of the truly settled.

 ^Since true shinjin is awakened through the working of the two honored ones, Śākyamuni and Amida, it is when one is grasped that the settling of shinjin occurs. Thereafter the person abides in the stage of the truly settled until born into the Pure Land. Other Power means above all that there must not be the slightest calculating on our part.

 Respectfully.

Tenth month, 6th day

SHINRAN

Reply to Shinobu-bō

14 [ A Letter by Kyōshin ]

^I respectfully submit the following letter. ^{The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life}3 records the phrase, “the person realizes shinjin and joy,” and {one of the Hymns on the Pure Land based on the Garland Sutra}4 states:

3 Bracketed portions indicate places where Shinran has made slight corrections to the wording of the letter. Originally the text here read: “sutra.”
4 Originally: “your hymn.”

The person who attains shinjin and joy

Is taught to be equal to the Tathagatas.

Great shinjin is itself Buddha-nature;

Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata.

Nevertheless, among the people of single-hearted practice there seem to be some who misunderstand, saying that the statement by fellow-practicers that the person who rejoices in shinjin is equal to Tathagatas reflects an attitude of self-power and inclines toward the Shingon teaching. I do not wish to pass judgment on others, but for my own clarification I write you of this matter.

 ^There is another hymn:

Those who attain true and real shinjin

Immediately join the truly settled;

Thus having entered the stage of nonretrogression,

They necessarily attain nirvana.

The statement, “they attain nirvana,” means that when the heart of the persons of true and real shinjin attain the fulfilled land at the end of his or her present life, that person becomes one with the light that is the heart of Tathagata, for his reality is immeasurable life and his activity is inseparable from immeasurable light. This seems to be the reason for saying: “Great shinjin is itself Buddha-nature; Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata.” In my understanding, this corresponds to the Eleventh, Twelfth, and thirteenth Vows. The joy of knowing the wonder and benevolence of the Vow of great compassion that Amida established for us, beings of karmic evil, is boundless and can never be fully expressed, for it surpasses all thought and all words. Starting long kalpas ago―far, far in the beginningless past―we have awakened the mind aspiring for great enlightenment under infinite numbers of Buddhas who have appeared in this world, but {our self-power has failed}5. Now, however, guided by the compassionate means of the two honored ones, we have no intention of performing sundry practices and disciplines or any thought of self-power and doubt. All due to the compassion of the Tathagata of unhindered light, grasping never to abandon us, we rejoice completely free of doubt and our attainment of birth is settled {in the nembutsu down to one utterance}6. Now that I have realized this to be the inconceivable working of the Vow, I see that everything is for myself alone―the sacred Pure Land scriptures, which I never tire of reading and listening to, the constant desire to meet true teachers, grasping never to abandon, shinjin, nembutsu. ^By inquiring into your thoughts, according to your teaching and free of subjective views, I have come to know the intent of the Vow and to walk the direct path, and will ultimately attain the true and real fulfilled land. All this is accomplished now {in nembutsu down to one utterance and in truly hearing the Name}7. How joyful and how grateful I feel. I find the Selected Writings on the Teaching of Amida generally revealing in this matter also. Nevertheless, distracted by the business of everyday life, I tend to be negligent for hours at a time. Still, whether day or night it never slips from my mind, and there is only the act of rejoicing in Amida’s compassion; there is solely the diamondlike shinjin whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, without any thought of the propriety of time or place; there is only the saying of the Name out of gratitude for the Buddha’s profound benevolence and for the joy imparted by {the benevolence of the masters}8. The nembutsu is not a daily routine for me. I wonder if this is wrong. As the matter of ultimate importance for my life, nothing surpasses this. Wishing to receive, if possible, your full and detailed instruction, I have written down something of what I have thought. ^Although I stayed in Kyoto for quite a while, I was continually rushed without a moment’s peace; I regret this now and desire above all to return with no other business but to be with you for at least five days. That I am moved to say this is all due to your benevolence.

5 Originally: “we have not attained enlightenment.”
6 Originally: “by saying the nembutsu once.”
7 Originally: “in saying the nembutsu.”
8 Originally: “the virtue of my master.”

 

 Humbly addressed to the Shōnin

 

Ren’i-bō: please transmit this letter.

Tenth month, 10th day

KYŌSHIN

 

^Postscript

Some of the people who say the nembutsu add the words mugekō nyorai [Tathagata of unhindered light] between utterance of Namu-amida-butsu. This is criticized by a person who claims that to say kimyō jinjippō mugekō nyorai [I take refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters] in addition to Namu-amida-butsu is presumptuous and, in addition, pretentious. How should this matter be understood?

 

 ^[ Shinran’s Reply ]

It is the greatest of errors to say that one must not say mugekō butsu [Buddha of unhindered light] in addition to Namu-amida-butsu. Kimyō corresponds to Namu. Mugekō butsu is light; it is wisdom. This wisdom is itself Amida Buddha. Since people do not know the form of Amida Buddha, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, exhausting all his resources, created this expression in order that we might know Amida’s form with perfect certainty.

 In addition, I have made a small number of corrections in the wording of your letter.

 

 ^[ Ren’i’s Reply ]

I conveyed the contents of your letter in detail to the Shōnin, and he stated that it was altogether free from error. However, concerning the statement, “Our attainment of birth is settled by saying the nembutsu once; I realize this to be the inconceivable working of the Vow,” he commented that though this appears to be correct, the nembutsu should not be limited to one utterance, and in the margin of your letter he noted with his own hand that this passage was faulty. He instructed me to do this, but I thought that you would find his own writing to be compelling verification and urged him, although he happened to be suffering from a cough at the time, to write it in himself.

 ^Also, people who have come to Kyoto report that there are debates going on in the countryside, mentioning, for example, that some are discussing the matter of being equal to Maitreya. I record here a passage that the Shōnin has written about it; I hope you will read it:

^Further, concerning being equal to Maitreya: Maitreya is of the stage equal to enlightenment; this is the causal stage of attainment. The moon becomes perfectly full on the fourteenth or fifteenth day, and this stage of Maitreya corresponds to the still half-formed moon on the eighth or ninth day. This is like the practice of self-power. As for us, although we are foolish beings, shinjin has been established and our stage is that of the truly settled. This is the causal stage of attainment, the stage equal to enlightenment. Maitreya’s way is self-power; ours is Other Power. Although there is this difference between self-power and Other Power, the causal stage of attainment is equal. Further, Maitreya’s attainment of the perfect enlightenment will be long in coming, but we shall reach nirvana quickly. He awaits the dawn 5,670,000,000 years hence, but we are as though separated by only a film of bamboo. Among gradual and sudden teachings, his is the sudden and ours is the sudden within the sudden.

 ^Nirvana is the perfect enlightenment. Tan-luan’s Commentary tells of a tree called “great firmness.” This tree lies buried underground for one hundred years, but when it sends forth shoots, it grows one hundred yards a day. Just as the tree spends one hundred years underground, we abide in this Sahā world in the stage of the truly settled. And just as it grows one hundred yards in a single day, such is our attainment of nirvana. This is a metaphor, revealing to us the form of Other Power. The growth of the pine, which does not exceed several inches each year, is very slow, showing us the form of self-power.

 ^Further, concerning being equal to Tathagatas: illuminated by the light of the Buddha, foolish beings possessed of blind passions attain shinjin and rejoice. Because they attain shinjin and rejoice, they abide in the stage of the truly settled. Shinjin is wisdom. This wisdom is the wisdom attained because we are grasped by the light of Other Power. The Buddha’s light is also wisdom. Thus, we can say that the person of shinjin and the Tathagata are the same. “Same” means that, in shinjin, they are equals. The stage of joy signifies the stage in which people rejoice in shinjin. Since a person rejoices in shinjin, he or she is said to be the same as the Tathagata.

^I have copied here what the Shōnin has written in detail.

 ^Also, concerning your question about pronouncing mugekō nyorai along with Namu-amida-butsu, the Shōnin made a detailed comment in the margin of your letter, so I am returning it to you. Although the words are different, whether we say Amida or mugekō, the meaning is one. “Amida” is Sanskrit and has been translated as muryōju (immeasurable life) and mugekō (unhindered light). The Sanskrit and Chinese words differ, but their meaning is the same.

 ^Now then, concerning Kakushin-bō, I was deeply saddened by his death, but also felt great esteem for him, for he never deviated from shinjin. I asked him many times how his realization of shinjin was. Each time he answered that he had not digressed from shinjin and that his realization became stronger and stronger. On his way to Kyoto after he left his own province, he became ill at a place called Hitoichi, and although his companions advised him to return, he replied, “If it is a fatal illness, I will die whether I return or not. If I am to be sick, I will be sick whether I return or whether I stay. If it is all the same, I wish to die at the side of the Shōnin.” His shinjin was truly splendid―so splendid and enviable that it reminds me of Shan-tao’s parable of the two rivers. At the point of death he uttered Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-mugekō-nyorai, Namu-fukashigikō-nyorai (Tathagata of light that surpasses understanding), and putting his hands together, quietly met his end.

 ^Whether one is left behind or goes before, it is surely a sorrowful thing to be parted by death. But the one who first attains nirvana vows without fail to save those who were close to him first and leads those with whom he has been karmically bound, his relatives, and his friends. It should be so, and since I have entered the same path of the teaching as Kakushin, I feel strongly reassured. Since it is said that being parent and child is a bound from a previous life, you too must feel reassured. It is impossible to express how moving and impressive it all was, so I will stop here. How can I speak of it further? I hope to say much more later.

 ^I read this letter to the Shōnin in order to see if there were any errors; he told me that there was nothing to be added, and that it was fine. He was especially moved and wept when I came to the part about Kakushin, for he is deeply grieved by his death.

Tenth month, 29th day

REN’I

To Kyōshin-bō

15

^What you have written in inquiry is truly to the point. The Garland Sutra states that those who have attained true shinjin are already certain to become Buddhas and therefore are equal to the Tathagatas. Although Maitreya has not yet attained Buddhahood, it is certain that he will, so he is already known as Maitreya Buddha. In this manner, the person who has attained true shinjin is taught to be equal to Tathagatas.

 ^Jyōshin-bō’s statement that this person is equal to Maitreya is not in itself wrong. I sense that he has not attained a deep understanding, though, when he criticizes as self-power the view that that mind rejoicing in the attainment of shinjin through Other Power is equal to Tathagatas. Please reflect on this very carefully.

 ^To think in self-power that one is equal to the Tathagatas is a great error. But it is because of the shinjin of Other Power that you rejoice; how can self-power enter into it? Please consider this fully.

 ^I have spoken of this matter in detail to the bearers of this letter. It would be well for Jyōshin-bō to ask them about it.

 Respectfully.

Tenth month, 21st day

SHINRAN

Reply to Jōshin-bō

16

^I have heard that, knowing nothing of the scriptures or of the true foundation of the Pure Land teaching, you are telling people who are appallingly self-indulgent and lacking in shame that a person should do evil just as he or she desires. This is absolutely wrong. Were you not aware that I finally broke off relations with Zenjō-bō, who lived in the northern district?

 ^If a person, justifying himself by saying he is a foolish being, can do anything he wants, then is he also to steal or to murder? Even that person who has been inclined to steal will naturally undergo a change of heart if he comes to say the nembutsu aspiring for the land of bliss. Yet people who show no such sign are being told that it is permissible to do wrong; this should never occur under any circumstances.

 ^Maddened beyond control by blind passions, we do things we should not and say things we should not and think things we should not. But if a person is deceitful in his relations with others, doing what he should not and saying what he should not because he thinks it will not hinder his birth, then it is not an instance of being maddened by passion. Since he purposely does these things, they are simply misdeeds that should never have been done.

 ^If you say something to stop the wrongdoing of the people of Kashima and Namekata and correct the distorted views of the people in that area, it will be the sign that you are representing me.

 ^It is deplorable that you have told people to abandon themselves to their hearts’ desires and to do anything they want. One must seek to cast off the evil of this world and to cease doing wretched deeds; this is what it means to reject the world and to live the nembutsu. When people who may have said the nembutsu for many years abuse others in word or deed, there is no indication of rejecting this world. ^Thus Shan-tao teaches in the passage on sincere mind that we should be careful to keep our distance from those people who are given to evil. When has it ever been said that one should act in accordance with one’s mind and heart, which are evil? You, who ate totally ignorant of the sutras and commentaries and ignorant of the Tathagata’s words, must never instruct others in this way.

 Respectfully.

 

Birth into the Pure Land has nothing at all to do with the calculation of foolish beings. Since it is completely entrusted to the Primal Vow of the Buddha, it is indeed Other Power. It is ridiculous to try to calculate it in various ways.

Eleventh month, 24th day

SHINRAN

17

^I have been taught that within Other Power there is self-power. I have never heard of an other-power within Other Power. That there is self-power within Other Power means that there are people who seek to attain birth through sundry practices and disciplines and through meditative and nonmeditative nembutsu; such people are people of self-power within Other Power. It was not taught that there is an other-power within Other Power. Since Senshin-bō plans to stay in the area for a while, I will speak of all this when he comes.

 Respectfully.

^I gratefully acknowledge your gift of 20 kan.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 25th day

SHINRAN

[ Reply to Shinbutsu-bō ]

18

^In answer to your question: at the moment persons encounter Amida’s Vow―which is Other Power giving itself to us―and the heart that receives true shinjin and rejoices becomes settled in them, they are grasped, never to be abandoned. Hence, the moment they realize the diamondlike mind, they are said to abide in the stage of the truly settled and to attain the same stage as Bodhisattva Maitreya.

 ^Since persons of true and real shinjin are of the same stage as Maitreya, they are equal to Buddhas. ^Moreover, all Buddhas feel great joy when such a person rejoices n the realization of true shinjin, and they proclaim, “This person is our equal.” Śākyamuni’s words of rejoicing are found in the Larger Sutra: “The one who sees, reveres, and attains [the dharma] and greatly rejoices―that person is my excellent, close companion”; thus he teaches that the person who has attained shinjin is equal to Buddhas.

 ^Further, since Maitreya has already become one who is certain to attain Buddhahood, he is called Maitreya Buddha. By this we know that the person who has already realized shinjin that is Other Power can be said to be equal to Buddhas. You should have no doubts about this.

 ^There is nothing I can do about your fellow-practicers, who say that they await the moment of death. Those whose shinjin has become true and real―this being the benefit of the Vow―have been grasped, never to be abandoned; hence they do not depend on Amida’s coming at the moment of death. The person whose shinjin has not yet become settled awaits the moment of death in anticipation of Amida’s coming.

 ^I will be very happy if you take the name Zuishin-bō. What you have written in your letter is splendid. I cannot accept what your fellow-practicers are saying, but there is nothing to be done about it.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 26th day

SHINRAN

To Zuishin-bō

19

^I have written you often, but I wonder if you have seen my letters.

 ^The fulfillment of Myōhō-bō’s cherished desire to be born in the Pure Land is surely celebrated by those in Hitachi province who share the same aspiration. In no way is birth accomplished through the calculating of foolish beings; neither can it be the object of the calculation of the eminently wise. Even holy masters of the Mahayana and the Hinayana entrust themselves utterly to the power of the Vow to attain birth, without calculating in any way. But it is an especially rare and splendid result of good karma that ordinary people like yourselves should hear of the Vow and encounter Namu-amida-butsu. Under no circumstances should you have designs concerning it. Regarding this, please read the copies of Seikaku’s Essentials of Faith Alone, Ryūkan’s On Self-power and Other Power, and the other tracts I sent earlier. Such men are the best teachers for our times. Since they have already been born in the Pure Land, nothing can surpass what is written in their tracts.

 ^They understood Master Hōnen’s teaching fully and for this reason attained perfect birth. ^Even among groups that had been saying the nembutsu for many years, there were always some who spoke of the teaching only from their limited viewpoints, and this still seems to be the case. Even Myōhō-bō’s birth came about only after he underwent a complete change of heart, for he originally had thoughts of unimaginable wrongdoing.

 ^You must not do what should not be done, think what should not be thought, or say what should not be said, thinking that you can be born in the Pure Land regardless of it. Human beings are such that, maddened by the passions of greed, we desire to possess; maddened by the passions of anger, we hate that which should not be hated, seeking to go against the law of cause and effect; led astray by the passion of ignorance, we do what should not even be thought. But the person who purposely thinks and does what he or she should not, saying that it is permissible because of the Buddha’s wondrous Vow to save the foolish being, does not truly desire to reject the world, nor does such a one consciously feel himself a being of karmic evil. Hence such people have no aspiration for the nembutsu nor for the Buddha’s Vow; thus, however diligently they engage in nembutsu with such a attitude, it is difficult for them to attain birth in the next life. Please transmit this point fully to the people. There is no need for me to say these things to you, but I write them frankly because you have always shown care and concern for me.

 ^In recent years the teaching of nembutsu has undergone so many alterations, it is hardly necessary for me to comment on them; nevertheless, for people who have carefully received the teaching of the late Master it is still as it originally was, undergoing no change at all. This is well known, so I am sure you have heard about it. Although people who teach variant views of the Pure Land teaching are all disciples of the Master, they rephrase the teaching in their own ways, confusing themselves and misleading others. This is truly deplorable. Even in the capital there are many who are going astray; how much more this is so in the provinces I have little desire to know. It is impossible to say everything in this letter; I will write again.

 ^Myōkyō-bō’s trip to Kyoto is truly welcome, and I was happy to hear at first hand of Myōhō-bō’s attainment of birth. I am also grateful for the kind gifts from the people there. In any case, their visit comes as a great surprise.

 ^Please be sure to read this letter to everyone. All the nembutsu practicers in the remote districts should without exception see this letter.

 Respectfully.

[ SHINRAN ]

^Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers; this is the sign of rejecting the world. You should understand this fully.

 ^People who look down on teachers and who speak ill of the masters commit slander of the dharma. Those who speak ill of their parents are guilty of the five grave offenses. We should keep our distance from them. Thus, since Zenjō-bō, who lived in the northern district, abused his parents and slandered me in various ways, I had no close feelings for him and did not encourage him to come to see me. Those who belittle the example of Myhōhō-bō even though they hear of his birth are certainly not his fellow-practicers.

 ^I hear that you urge people who are drunk with the wine of ignorance to greater and greater drunkenness and allow people who have long preferred to dine on the three poisons to partake more and more poison, telling them that they should enjoy it; how painful it is! There is such sorrow in being drunk on the wine of ignorance, yet they partake with pleasure of the three poisons while the poisons have not yet abated. They have not yet awakened from the drunkenness of ignorance. Please understand this fully.

20

^I have received all the gifts from the various people as listed, and Myōkyō-bō’s visit to Kyoto is truly welcome. Words cannot express my appreciation. Although scarcely unexpected, Myōhō-bō’s attainment of birth still makes me deeply happy. Surely it is celebrated by all the people in Kashima, Namekata, and remote districts who desire birth in the Pure Land. I have also learned that the ordained layman Hiratsuka attained birth, and I feel something that surpasses all words. I cannot express how wonderful it is. Each of you should realize that you are also certain to attain birth in the Pure Land.

 ^In the past, however, some of those desiring birth failed to understand certain things. It seems that this is still the case. Even in Kyoto there are people who do not understand and who stray in confusion, and I hear of many such people in the various provinces. And even among Hōnen’s disciples those who take themselves to be remarkable scholars make various changes in expressing the teaching, confusing others as well as themselves so that all suffer together.

 ^It has not been uncommon for people like yourselves, who do not read or know the scriptures, to distort the teaching, having heard that no evil interferes with the attainment of birth. It seems that this is still the case. To hear that you are all falling deeper and deeper into error, following the words of Shinken-bō and others who know nothing of the Pure Land teaching, is truly lamentable.

 ^There was a time for each of you when you knew nothing of Amida’s Vow and did not say the Name of Amida Buddha, but now, guided by the compassionate means of Śākyamuni and Amida, you have begun to hear the Vow. Formerly you were drunk with the wine of ignorance and had a liking only for the three poisons of greed, anger, and folly, but since you have begun to hear the Buddha’s Vow you have gradually awakened from the drunkenness of ignorance, gradually rejected the three poisons, and come to prefer at all times the medicine of Amida Buddha.

 ^In contrast, how lamentable that people who have not fully awakened from drunkenness are urged to more drunkenness and those still in the grips of poison encouraged to take yet more poison. It is indeed sorrowful to give way to impulses with the excuse that one is by nature possessed of blind passions―excusing acts that should not be committed, words that should not be said, and thoughts that should not be harbored―and to say that one may follow one’s desires in any way whatever. It is like offering more wine before the person has become sober or urging him to take even more poison before the poison has abated. “Here’s some medicine, so drink all the poison you like”―words like these should never be said.

 ^In people who have long heard the Buddha’s Name and said the nembutsu, surely there are signs of rejecting the evil of this world and signs of their desire to cast off the evil in themselves. ^When people first begin to hear the Buddha’s Vow, they wonder, having become thoroughly aware of the karmic evil in their hearts and minds, how they will ever attain birth as they are. To such people we teach that since we are possessed of blind passions, the Buddha receives us without judging whether our hearts are good or bad.

 ^When, upon hearing this, a person’s trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he or she comes to abhor such a self and to lament continued existence in birth-and-death; and such a person then joyfully says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting himself to the Vow. That people seek to stop doing wrong as the heart moves them, although earlier they gave thought to such things and committed them as their minds dictated, is surely a sign of having rejected this world.

 ^Moreover, since shinjin that aspires for attainment of birth arises through the encouragement of Śākyamuni and Amida, once the true and real mind is made to arise in us, how can we remain as we were, possessed of blind passions?

 ^There are reports of wrongdoing even of some among you. I have heard of their slandering the master, holding their true teachers in contempt, and belittling their fellow-practicers―all of which is deeply saddening. They are already guilty of slandering the dharma and committing the five grave offenses. Do not associate with them. The Treatise on the Pure Land states that such thoughts arise because they fail to entrust themselves to the Buddha dharma. Moreover, in explaining the sincere mind it teachers that one should keep a respectful distance and not become familiar with those who give themselves to such wrongdoing. It teaches us rather to draw close to and become companions of our teachers and fellow-practicers. ^As for becoming friends with those who are given to wrongdoing, it is only after we go to the Pure Land and return to benefit sentient beings that we can become close to and friendly with them. That, however, is not our own design; only by being saved by Amida’s Vow can we act as we want. But at this moment, as we are, what can we possibly do? Please consider this very carefully. ^Since the diamondlike mind that aspires for birth is awakened through the Buddha’s working, persons who realize the diamondlike mind will surely not slander their master or be contemptuous of their true teachers.

 ^Please read this letter to all the people who share our aspiration in Kashima, Namekata, Minami-no-shō, and any other area.

 Respectfully.

Kenchō 4 [ 1252 ], Eighth month, 19th day

[ SHINRAN ]

21

^When a person has entered completely into the Pure Land of happiness, he or she immediately realizes the supreme nirvana; he realizes the supreme enlightenment. Although the terms differ, they both mean to realize the enlightenment of the Buddha who is dharma-body. As the true cause for this realization, Bodhisattva Dharmākara gave us the Vow of Amida Buddha; this is known as directing virtue for the sake of our going forth in birth. This Vow of directing virtue is the Vow of birth through the nembutsu. To entrust oneself wholeheartedly to the Vow of birth through the nembutsu and be single-hearted is called wholehearted single practice. In terms of the Tathagata’s two forms of giving, true shinjin is to entrust oneself to the Vow of giving and be single-hearted; this shinjin arises from the working of the honored ones, Śākyamuni and Amida.

 Respectfully.

[ Second month, 25th day ]

[ SHINRAN ]

[ Reply to Jōshin-bō ]

22

^The Sutra of the Treasure Name states: “The nembutsu of Amida’s Primal Vow is not our practice, it is not our good; it is simply keeping the Name of the Buddha.” It is the Name that is good, the Name that is the practice. When we speak of practice, we mean doing good. The Primal Vow is clearly the Buddha’s promise. When we have understood this, we see that the Vow is not our good, nor is it our practice. Hence we speak of Other Power.

 ^The Name fulfilled in the Primal Vow is the direct cause of our birth; in other words, it is our father. The radiant light of great compassion is the indirect cause of our birth; it is our mother.

 

A Collection of Letters

1

^That the Tathagata’s Primal Vow is spreading is indeed splendid and gladdening above all else. In this, however, there must never be any arguing, person with person in each locality, while adhering to one’s own view. In the capital also there seems to be much arguing over such matters as “once-calling” and “many-calling”; this should never take place at all.

 ^Ultimately, you should read carefully and constantly such writings as Essentials of Faith Alone, On the Afterlife, and Self-power and Other Power, and not diverge from their message. Please tell this to all people, wherever they may be. Further, if there are matters that are unclear, since I am still alive today, please take the trouble of coming to see me. Or you may ask someone to deliver a message. Please be sure to relate all of this to the people of Kashima, Namekata, and the neighboring areas also. In such disputation over once-calling and many-calling, merely futile and argumentative words are voiced. You should by all means avoid it.

 Respectfully.

 

^People who do not understand these matters discuss things of little significance. You should avoid such arguments by all means.

Second month, 3rd day

SHINRAN

2

^I have carefully read your letter dated the first of the sixth month.

 ^I had heard in general about the litigation involving you in Kamakura. Since I had not heard differently from what you write in your letter, I assumed that nothing beyond that had occurred; I am glad to hear of your return.

 ^Generally speaking, this litigation is not a problem involving yourself alone; it concerns all people of Pure Land nembutsu. Regarding this matter, when the late Master was alive, I was among those subjected to various accusations, so it is not a particularly new litigation. It is not something that you have to manage by yourself. All those who say the nembutsu should, in concordance, deal with it together. There is no reason that you should be singled out for ridicule. It is truly absurd that people of the nembutsu who lack discretion should blame you. People of the nembutsu should join you as your allies. Even your mother, sisters, and so on grumble in various ways, as is often the case. Nevertheless, since the prohibition of the nembutsu [in the past] led to the arising of disturbances in society, on this occasion I hope that everyone will, deeply entrusting themselves to the nembutsu and firmly embracing prayers [for peace in the world] in their hearts, together say the nembutsu.

 ^Your general defense, as you have written of it in your letter, has been well thought out. I am very pleased. In the final analysis, it would be splendid if all people who say the nembutsu, not just yourself, do so not with thoughts of themselves, but for the sake of the imperial court and for the sake of the people of the country. Those who feel uncertain of birth should say the nembutsu aspiring first for their own birth. Those who feel that their own birth is completely settled should, mindful of the Buddha’s benevolence, hold the nembutsu in their hearts and say it to respond in gratitude to that benevolence, with the wish, “May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!” Please consider this carefully. I do not think you need to deliberate about any matters beyond this.

 ^Again, I am very happy to hear of your speedy return home. If, holding [the nembutsu] well in your heart, you are certain that your birth is completely settled, then in expressing your appreciation of the Buddha’s benevolence, nothing else is necessary; you should say the nembutsu, being always mindful of it. You should say the nembutsu, being always mindful of it.

 Respectfully.

Seventh month, 9th day

To: Shōshin-bō

SHINRAN

3

^I have gratefully received, from Gonen-bō, your gift of two hundred mon. I wish also to acknowledge receiving some time ago, from some of the people there, offerings made at the nembutsu meetings. Please convey my gratitude to the people. With this reply, please give my thanks to them also.

 ^Now then, what you ask is indeed an excellent question. To begin, you state that with one utterance of the nembutsu the cause of birth is fulfilled. It is truly so. Even so, however, it does not mean that a person should not say the nembutsu beyond the one utterance. This matter is explained fully in Essentials of Faith Alone. Please read this work carefully. That the nembutsu said beyond one utterance should be directed to the sentient beings of the ten quarters is also correct. Since one is directing the nembutsu to the sentient beings of the ten quarters, it is an error to think that saying it twice or three times is bad for one’s attainment of birth. I have been taught that, since it is the Primal Vow of birth through the nembutsu, whether one says the nembutsu many times or whether one says it only once, one will be born. It must never be taught that one will certainly attain birth with only one utterance but will not attain birth if one says it many times. Please carefully read Essentials of Faith Alone.

 ^Next, concerning “thought” and “no-thought,” these terms do not occur in the teachings of Other Power. They are spoken of in the Path of Sages. They occur only in the teachings of the Path of Sages, which is based on self-power. The nembutsu selected in the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata has nothing to do either with “thought” or with “no-thought.” Whoever may say these terms, you must never employ them. They seem to have incorrectly heard and applied to the Pure Land path what is spoken of in the Path of Sages. Never under any circumstances use these terms. Further, “joy” means to rejoice that, since one has realized the shinjin that is Other Power, one’s birth is definitely settled. I have heard that nembutsu of “thought” and “no-thought” is being discussed among people of the nembutsu throughout the province of Hitachi, and I have already stated that this is an error. In short, the meaning of Other Power is that the practicer’s calculation is not involved; hence, it is neither a matter of “thought” nor of “no-thought.” It appears, however, that hearing this incorrectly, some have been speaking of “thought” and “no-thought.” Since the selected Primal Vow of Amida has no room for the practicer’s calculation, it is wholly Other Power. It should never be said that once-calling alone is right, or that many-calling alone is right. You say that one directs the nembutsu said beyond the one utterance to the sentient beings throughout the world. It is not wrong to direct [the nembutsu] to the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters in order to respond to the benevolence of the Tathagatas Śākyamuni and Amida. But though it is so, those attaining birth through saying the nembutsu two or three times must not be said to be in error. Please read Essentials of Faith Alone carefully. It should be understood that since it is the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, birth through just one or ten utterances is not in error.

 Respectfully.

Twelfth month, 26th day

Reply to: Kyōnin-bō

SHINEAN

4

^To begin with, it should never happen under any circumstances that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas be thought of lightly or that the gods and deities be despised and neglected. In the course of countless lives in many states of existence, through the benefit of innumerable, incalculable Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we have practiced all the various good acts, but we were unable to gain freedom from birth-and-death through such self-power practice. Accordingly, through the encouragement of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for countless kalpas and innumerable lives, we now encounter Amida’s Vow, which is difficult to encounter. To speak slightingly of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas out of ignorance of our indebtedness to them is to be totally lacking in gratitude for their profound benevolence.

 ^Those who deeply entrust themselves to the Buddha’s teaching are protected by all the gods of the heavens and earth, who accompany them just as shadows do things; hence, people who have entrusted themselves to the nembutsu should never think of neglecting the gods of the heavens and earth. Even the gods and deities do no abandon us; hence, as for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, how could we speak disparagingly or think slightingly of them? If one speaks slightingly of the Buddhas, then one is surely a person who does not entrust oneself to the nembutsu and who does not say Amida’s Name.

 ^In short, it is surely not without reason that manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners engage in designs to put an end to the nembutsu, speaking falsehoods and imputing any wrongdoing to people of the nembutsu. For in the teachings of Śākyamuni Tathagata, it is stated that those who slander people of the nembutsu are “people lacking eyes” and “people lacking ears.” Master Shan-tao states decisively: “At the time when the five defilements increase, those who doubt and revile [Amida’s Vow] are numerous. Both monks and lay people despise and refuse to listen to each other. When they see those who practice the path, the poison of anger arises in them; they seek to harm them in various ways and vie in enmity.” As is often the case, the people who are trying to obstruct the nembutsu are the manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners in the local areas; there are reasons for this. We should not criticize them in one way or another. Teachers of the past have stated that practicers of the nembutsu should act with compassion for those who commit such obstruction, feel pity for them, and earnestly say the nembutsu, thereby helping those who seek to hinder them. You should carefully ponder this.

 ^Next, concerning the people who say the nembutsu, it is splendid that they entrust themselves to Amida’s Vow realizing it is for the sake of those possessed of blind passions. However, it is not stated in the Pure Land teachings that, because it is for the evil person, one should purposely think what is wrong in one’s mind, act it bodily, or speak it verbally; hence, I have never said such things to people. You should understand that, while your existence is one possessed of blind passions and it is difficult for you to still your mind, you will unfailingly attain birth; it is this that, in general, the masters and true teachers have taught. It is not at all taught that you should perform acts that become hindrances to people of the nembutsu and bring censure on the masters and true teachers, intentionally preferring wrong because the self is so evil. Having encountered Amida’s Vow, which is rare to encounter, one should seek to respond in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence. It is utterly incomprehensible that, in spite of this, there are those who with their talk and deeds cause the suppression of the nembutsu. This is deplorable. Since people have erroneous understandings, I hear of things that should never take place at all. It is unspeakable.

 ^However, if a person of the nembutsu speaks in error, he or she alone falls into hell or becomes a heavenly demon (mara). I do not think it will become a fault of all people of the nembutsu. Please carefully ponder these points. Further, the people who say the nembutsu should carefully read this letter and explain it to others.

 Respectfully.

Ninth month, 11th day

SHINRAN

To: The People of the Nembutsu

5

^I am writing you a letter. Please read this letter to the people so that all may hear it. ^It appears that the nun from Tōtōmi has carefully dealt with the matter. This is splendid; I am greatly pleased. Please fully convey how great my joy is here in the capital.

 ^What Shingan-bō is saying is extremely saddening. To favor wrong intentionally, with the excuse that one’s self is evil, not realizing that it will cause accusations of wrongdoing against the masters and the true teachers, and bring blame to all people of the nembutsu, is to be ignorant of the Buddha’s benevolence. You should reflect on this deeply.

 ^Further, you should not pass judgment on Shingan-bō regarding his remarks about those who have died in a state of possession. Concerning the circumstances of the deaths of people of the nembutsu, for those who are sick in body, nothing can be deduced regarding their birth in the Pure Land. People who are ill in mind may become heavenly demons or fall into hell. Since there is a difference between sickness of the mind and sickness of the body, you should carefully consider those who die having become ill in mind.

 ^You say that Shingan-bō is saying that one should favor what should not be thought, perform what should not be done physically, and say what should not be said with the lips, reasoning that, since it is the habit of foolish beings, evil is our nature. This does not appear to be his remarks. I have not said that, since it is not a hindrance to birth, one should favor wrongdoing. It is altogether incomprehensible.

 ^In short, those who speak falsehood will themselves end up as they may. I do not think such falsehood becomes an obstruction for all people of the nembutsu.

 ^Further, concerning those who seek to suppress the nembutsu, they will themselves end up as they may. It will not become the fault of all the people of the nembutsu. The teaching of Shan-tao is clearly before us:

The time has come when the five defilements increase and those who doubt and revile [Amida’s Vow] are numerous.

Both monks and lay people despise [the nembutsu] and refuse to listen [to the teaching].

When they see those who practice it, the poison of anger arises in them;

Hindering others in every way, they vie in causing harm.

And has not Śākyamuni Tathagata taught such people to be “people lacking eyes” and “people lacking ears”? Those people, described here as such, perform deeds that will bring about the suppression of the nembutsu and act out of malice toward people of the nembutsu. In this regard, without bearing any ill will toward such persons, you should keep in mind the thought that, saying the nembutsu, you are to help them.

 Respectfully.

Ninth month, 2nd day

Reply to: Jishin-bō

SHINRAN

 

^Please read this letter to Nyūshin-bō, Shinjō-bō, and Hōshin-bō also. This matter is indeed distressing. When Shōshin-bō came to visit in the spring, I spoke to him in detail. Also, please convey my joy to Kuge.

 ^The right teaching must not be lost sight of just because those people are speaking falsehoods. This is also the case with worldly matters. Even though manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners are involved in wrongdoing, people should not be confused. No one can destroy the Buddhist teaching. As a metaphor for those affiliated with the Buddhist teaching who act to destroy it, it is said [in a sutra] that they are like the worms within the body of the lion that injure the lion. Thus, there are people affiliated with the Buddhist teaching who attack and obstruct people of the nembutsu. You should have a clear understanding of this.

 ^I cannot write all that I wish to say in this letter.

6

^I have carefully read your letter of the ninth month, 27th day. On the 9th day of the eleventh month, I received your gift of money in the amount of five kanmon.

 ^I find it indeed deplorable that people in the various areas are saying in different ways that it is meaningless for people of the countryside to have all been saying the nembutsu for years. Although they have copied and possessed various writings, how have they been reading them? It makes me feel extremely apprehensive.

 ^I have heard that about ninety of the people who had gathered around Chūtarō of Ōbu have all followed you and abandoned the lay-monk Chūtarō, because you, having traveled there from Kyoto, declared that only the teaching you have heard here is true and that all their saying of the nembutsu for years is meaningless. How has such a thing come about? It appears to me that, in short, their shinjin had not been settled. How is it that so many people could have been shaken? I find it lamentable. Since there are rumors of this kind, there must also be many false statements. Further, since I have heard that I am being accused of favoritism, I made great efforts to write down the meaning of Essentials of Faith Alone, On the Afterlife, and Self-power and Other Power, and also the Parable of the Two Rivers, and to distribute them to people. But I hear that they have all become useless. How have you been teaching the people? I hear you are saying incomprehensible things and am troubled by it. Please explain matters to me in detail.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 9th day

SHINRAN

To: Jishin-bō

 

^I have duly received your reports concerning Shinbutsu-bō, Shōshin-bō, and Nyūshin-bō. Although I find it deeply lamentable, there is nothing I can do about it. It is also beyond my powers to correct others who do not have the same mind. Since people are not of the same mind, it is useless to say one thing or another. At this point, you should not speak about others. Please take this fully to heart.

SHINRAN

To: Jishin-bō

7

^I understand from your letter that you have undergone great difficulties stemming from matters related to the nembutsu. I deeply sympathize with you. In the final analysis, it appears that the conditions [for teaching the nembutsu] in that area have been exhausted. You must not lament about one thing or another regarding the obstruction of the nembutsu. Whatever may become of those who seek to suppress the nembutsu, for persons who say it, what hardship should they feel? You must not in any way design to spread the nembutsu by utilizing outside people for support. The spread of the nembutsu in that area must come about through the working of the revered Buddha.

 ^I have been informed that, following the various things that Jishin-bō has said, the minds of the people have been shaken in different ways. This is deeply distressing. You should entrust all things to the working of the revered Buddha. If conditions [for teaching the nembutsu] in that area have been exhausted, you should think about moving to another place. If you accept what Jishin-bō is saying―that I have instructed people to spread the nembutsu by relying on outside people as powerful supporters, which I have never said―it will be an unmitigated error. The Buddha has taught beforehand that, as the custom of the secular world, there would be attempts to obstruct the nembutsu; hence, you should not be taken aback by it. You should never, under any circumstances, take the various things Jishin-bō is saying as coming from me. Concerning the teachings, he is making groundless remarks. You should not give him your ear. I hear of incredibly erroneous views; it is deplorable.

 ^I am sorry to hear about Nyūshin-bō and the others. That they have been long detained in Kamakura is regrettable. Some complication must have arisen now, causing their delay. There is nothing I can do about it.

 ^It is inexpressibly lamentable and saddening that the people of the remote districts (Ōgun), deceived by Jishin-bō, have all been shaken in shinjin. Further, to hear it being said that I have been deceiving people is deeply discouraging. I take these things as manifesting the fact that from before, for those people, shinjin has not been settled. It is deeply saddening.

 ^The shinjin the people held from before was shaken by what Jishin-bō is saying; in short, the fact that their shinjin was not genuine has become manifest. This is good. It is deplorable that people believed those statements to be what I said.

 ^It appears to have been of no value whatever that they have for a long time copied and possessed various writings. I think that Essentials of Faith Alone and the various other writings have now become useless to them. The teachings that they carefully copied out and kept are now all worthless to them. I have heard that all the people, following Jishin-bō, have discarded those splendid writings. I lament this deeply.

 ^You should read such writings as Essentials of Faith Alone and On the Afterlife carefully. It appears that the remarks of those people who had long been saying that they had shinjin were all empty. It is deplorable, truly deplorable. Concerning all those matters, I will write another time.

First month, 9th day

SHINRAN

To: Venerable Shinjō-bō

8

^Have you been well since your return? I met Gen Tōshirō unexpectedly. Glad at being able to entrust him with a letter for you, I am writing now. Has there been any change?

 ^I am extremely happy to hear from various people that matters involving the lawsuit over the nembutsu have eased. I rejoice that now the nembutsu will surely spread more and more widely.

 ^In relation to this, your understanding of the nembutsu has now been confirmed. While holding the nembutsu in your heart and saying it always, please pray for the present life and also the next life of those who slander it. With the understanding of the people there, what more is necessary now regarding the nembutsu? But if you simply pray for the people in society who are in error and desire to lead them into Amida’s Vow, it will be a response out of gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence. You should hold the nembutsu deeply in your hearts and say it together. Since the nembutsu practice held on Master Hōnen’s memorial day, the twenty-fifth of each month, is also in the end for the sake of saving such people of wrong views, you should say the nembutsu together, earnestly desiring to save those who slander the nembutsu.

 ^All these matters are as I have written you many times. I am very happy to be able to send a letter with Gen Tōshirō.

 Respectfully.

 

^I want to write to Nyūsai-bō also, but since the content is the same, please communicate these matters to him.

 Respectfully.

To: Shōshin-bō

SHINRAN

9

^I have written out and sent to you an explanation of “the Buddha of the twelve kinds of light,” which people are speaking of. It was not possible to write in detail. I have set it forth only roughly.

 ^In brief, you should take that which is called Buddha of unhindered light as fundamental. You should understand that Buddha of unhindered light is spoken of thus in order to indicate that [this Buddha] seeks to save all beings, unhindered by their being wretched and evil.

 Respectfully.

Tenth month, 21st day

SHINRAN

Reply to Yuishin-bō

10

^I understand that that which is called “the Vow that all Buddhas say the Name” and “the Vow that all Buddhas praise the Name” is for the purpose of encouraging the sentient beings of the ten quarters [to entrust themselves to Amida’s Vow]. Further, I have been taught that it fulfills the purpose of bringing to an end the doubting thought of the sentient beings of the ten quarters. This is understood to be the witness of the Buddhas of the ten quarters taught in the Amida Sutra. In short, I take this Vow as the Vow of compassionate means.

 ^I understand that the Vow of birth through the nembutsu is the right act and right cause that is the Tathagata’s directing of virtue for our going forth. Since persons of true shinjin are the equal of Maitreya, who has attained the stage equal to perfect enlightenment, I have been taught that the Buddhas praise them as being equal to Tathagata. Further, once one has entrust oneself to Amida’s Primal Vow, as the great teacher Master [Hōnen] has said, no working is true working. Thus, it is taught that as long as one’s own working remains, it is not Other Power, but self-power.

 ^Further, with regard to Other Power, since it is inconceivable Buddha-wisdom, the attainment of supreme enlightenment by foolish beings possessed of blind passions comes about through the working shared only by Buddhas; it is not in any way the design of the practicer. Thus, no working is true working. “Working” [that is negated] refers to the calculation of the person of self-power. Concerning Other Power, then, no working is true working. I know nothing at all about what these people are saying, so I should not comment on it in any way.

 ^Further, the character rai ( “to come”) means [Buddhas] “having come” in order to benefit sentient beings; it refers to compassionate means. When enlightenment has been attained, it means “to return.” I understand that, depending on the context, it means either “having come” or “to return.”

 ^I will write you again more fully.

Second month, 9th day

SHINRAN

Reply to Kyōsai-bō

 

A Collection of Letters
( Zenshō Text )

1 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 14 ]

2 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 7, 21 ]

3 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 14 ]

4 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 13 ]

5 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 3 ]

6 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 4 ]

7 [ Letter to Shinran from Senshin ]

^A person said: At the point of the awakening of the one moment of shinjin, we come to be grasped and protected by the unhindered light of Amida’s compassion; hence, the cause of birth in the Pure Land is one and the same [for all]. Thus, there should be no doubt about this. Therefore, there is no need whatsoever to inquire into whether one has firm faith or not. Hence we say “Other Power”; this is why it is said that there is true working in no-working. We are completely possessed of ignorance and our minds are wholly covered over by blind passions.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 1st day

From Senshin

 

 [ Shinran’s Response to Senshin ]

^To respond to your question concerning the cause of birth, at the moment we realize true and real shinjin, we receive [the benefit of] Amida’s grasping, never to abandon us; hence, we unfailingly come to dwell in the Tathagata’s Vow. We find this in the compassionate Vow, which states: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, the human beings and devas in my land do not dwell among the settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.” If it is understood that the person of shinjin dwells in the stage of the truly settled, there is no calculation on the part of the practicer; hence, we speak of Other Power, inn which no working is true working. Since practicers have become free of calculation as to whether they are good or evil, pure or defiled, it is said that no working is true working.

 ^It is stated in the Seventeenth Vow, “If [the Buddhas] do not praise and say my Name,” and in the Eighteenth Vow, “If [beings] truly realize shinjin and yet are not born, may I not attain Buddhahood.” Since both the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Vow are true, how can the Vow of the stage of the truly settled be meaningless? Because persons of shinjin dwell in the same stage as Maitreya, who will attain Buddhahood after one lifetime, it is certain that they are grasped, never to be abandoned. Hence, what we call Other Power means that there is no room for the slightest particle of calculation on the part of the practicer. For this reason, it is said that no working is true working. The great master [Hōnen] said, “Beyond this, nothing need be said. Simply entrust yourself to the Buddha.”

Eleventh month, 18th day

Message to Senshin-bō

SHINRAN

 

Letters of the Tradition

1 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 2 ]

2

^I have carefully read your letters.

 ^I have heard that because of Jishin’s statements concerning the teaching, people of Hitachi and Shimotsuke have, in their saying of the nembutsu, changed utterly from what I had for long years been given to understand. This deeply saddens me. People who had been saying for many years that their birth was firmly settled have, in the same manner as Jishin, all spoken falsehoods; having deeply trusted them for many years, I am profoundly shocked by it. ^For shinjin that is the cause of birth is to be wholly free of any doubt, and it is this that is the complete settlement of birth. Concerning the nature of shinjin, I have learned from the Master of Kuang-ming temple that after true shinjin has become settled in us, even if Buddhas like Amida or like Śākyamuni should fill the skies and proclaim that Śākyamuni’s teaching and Amida’s Primal Vow are false, we will not have even one moment of doubt. Thus I have spoken for long years. In spite of this, at the words of a person like Jishin, the nembutsu practicers of Hitachi and Shimotsuke all were shaken at heart and went so far as to cast away all those wholly dependable, authoritative writings which I exhausted my strength in copying out in great numbers to send to them. Hearing of this, I know it is useless to speak about details.

 ^To begin, I have never heard such statements as Jishin’s or even the terminology he uses, much less learned them; hence, what he says cannot be something I taught him privately. Further, I have not instructed Jishin alone, whether day or night, in a special teaching, concealing it from other people. If, while having told Jishin these things, I now lie and conceal it, or if I have taught him without letting others know, then may the punishment, first, of the Three Treasures, and of all the devas and benevolent gods in the three realms of existence, of the naga-gods and the rest of the eight kinds of transmundane beings in the four quarters, and of the deities of the realm of Yama, the ruler of the world of death―all be visited to me, Shinran.

 ^From this moment on, I cease to regard Jishin as my son. He is spreading incomprehensible lies and absurd statements about secular matters as well; hence, not only regarding religious matters, but regarding secular matters also, there are a countless number of appalling statements. Among them, these statements concerning the teaching are particularly incomprehensible to hear. I have never heard or learned such things. It is utterly astounding and saddening. In abandoning Amida’s Primal Vow, people have followed [Jishin], and they have asserted me to be a person who tells lies. It is lamentable and deplorable.

 ^It is deplorable to say that many nembutsu practicers, even while reading Essentials of Faith Alone, Self-power and Other Power, On the Afterlife, Once-calling and Many-calling, Notes on ‘Essentials of Faith Alone’, and Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling, should have abandoned Amida’s Primal Vow because of Jishin’s statements on the teaching. Such letters as you have sent need not be discussed from now on.

 ^However, Words on the True Essence of the Pure Land Way, which you have written, does not in the least depart from what I have said, so I am very pleased. I accept this writing and will keep it with me.

 ^Further, I have never met a person named Aimin-bō. I have never written a letter to him nor have I received one from him. It is alarming that he is saying he possesses a letter of mine.

 ^His claim that I have written and sent him Essentials of Faith Alone is appalling; such a letter should be burned. It is altogether lamentable.

 ^Please show this letter to the others.

 Respectfully.

Fifth month, 29th day

SHINRAN

^Reply to Shōshin-bō

 

[ Postscript ]

Further, the profession of the people of nembutsu that their shinjin was completely settled was indeed all empty. It was foolish of me to have trusted for many years the words of people who are thus abandoning the Eighteenth Vow. Since this letter need not be concealed, please do not fail to show it to the others.

3 [ see A Collection of Letters 10 ]

4

^A man known as the lay-monk Shimu, and another named Shōnen-bō have come to Kyoto from Musashi province to serve as court guards. I met with them. Since they said they were devoted to the nembutsu, I thought it was an especially happy and splendid thing. I understand that you gave them guidance. I am indeed deeply happy. By all means please further encourage the people and speak to them there so that their shinjin does not undergo any change. In addition to the Vow of Amida Tathagata, we have Śākyamuni’s admonition. Further, we have the witness of all the Buddhas, countless as the sands of the Ganges throughout the ten quarters. Although I thought that [their] shinjin would not change, it has changed in various ways; this is especially lamentable. Please make efforts to encourage the people.

 Respectfully.

Ninth month, 7th day

SHINRAN

To: Venerable Shōshin-bō

 

^I had heard various things concerning the lawsuit involving the nembutsu, but no receiving the account of these men [who have come to Kyoto] that you are relieved with the resolution of your problem, I am particularly gladdened and happy. It is impossible to express myself in detail. As long as I am alive, I will continue to write to you.

5 [ Biographical notes ]

6 [ see Lamp for the Latter Ages 3 ]

 

Uncollected Letters

1

^You have written a letter to me concerning Iya, the serving woman. There is still no place for her to live, and she is undergoing much hardship; it is indeed a pity. I cannot manage to find a solution, and do not know what to do.

 Respectfully.

Third month, 28th day

To: Ōgozen

SHINRAN

2

^I have carefully read your letter of the first day of the intercalary tenth month. I am truly sad to hear about Kakunen-bō. I had expected that I would go first [to the Pure Land], but I have been left behind; it is unutterably saddening. Kakushin-bō, who left us last year, has certainly gone [to the Pure Land] and is awaiting us there. Needless to say, I will surely meet them there; it is beyond words. Kakunen-bō’s words did not differ at all from what I have said, so we will certainly go to the same place[, the Pure Land]. If I am still alive in the tenth month of next year, it will undoubtedly be possible to meet again in this world. Since your mind of entrusting also does not differ at all from my own, even if I go first, I will await you in the Pure Land.

 ^I wish to acknowledge the gifts from the people there. As long as I am alive, I will continue to write to you about everything, and hope to hear from you. It is especially moving to receive this letter of yours. I express this poorly; my words are inadequate. I shall write again without fail.

 Respectfully.

Intercalary tenth month, 29th day [ 1259 ]

SHINRAN

Reply to the Lay-monk of Takada

3

^Please show this letter to the people of Hitachi. There has been no change. Since nothing would be more effective than this letter, if you show it to the people there, they will come to share the same feelings.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 11th day

To: The Mother of Imagozen

4

^The mother of Imagozen has no one to depend on; if I had property, I would bequeath it to her. I am sure that after my death the people there will deeply sympathize with her. Since I rely on the people of Hitachi to whom I write, I am asking you all to treat her with compassion. Please heed this letter. Concerning Sokushō-bō also, since he has no means of livelihood, I cannot ask him to take care of her. Regarding this matter, I feel equally powerless and distressed about both of them. I am not asking Sokushō-bō to help her. It is the people of Hitachi who must show compassion for these two. With sympathy, the people there should feel concern for them. On reading this letter, the people should share the same feelings.

 Respectfully.

Eleventh month, 12th day

To: The People of Hitachi

ZENSHIN

 To: The People of Hitachi

5

^Enbutsu-bō is returning from Kyoto. Because of his deep aspiration, he came here without informing his master. Bearing this in mind, please speak to his master. On the night of the tenth, there was a fire. Enbutsu-bō did well in managing to come and visit. His aspiration is wonderful. He will certainly speak of these events; please hear about them from him. I am extremely busy, and cannot write fully of all the various matters.

 Respectfully.

Twelfth month, 15thday

To: Shinbutsu-bō

6

^I have heard in detail what you have been saying. It is above all incomprehensible that someone called Aimin-bō has been saying that he has received a letter from [me in] Kyoto. To say that he has gotten a letter from me, although I have never met such a person, never received a letter from him, and never communicated with him, is appalling.

 ^Further, I have never heard and do not know such statements concerning the teaching as you are making or even the terminology you use. Nevertheless, you have been telling others that I taught them to you privately one night, and so, concerning me also, the people of Hitachi and Shimotsuke are all saying that I have lied to them. Therefore, there shall no longer exist parental relations with you.

 ^Further, it is inexpressibly shocking that you are making groundless accusations about your mother, the lay-nun. The woman of Mibu came bringing a letter that she said she received from you; she left the letter here. I have this letter of yours. In this letter as it stands, it is written that you have been deceived by your “stepmother”; it is indeed deplorable. It is a shocking falsehood to say, while she is still alive, that your mother―whom you call “stepmother”―has been deceiving you.

 ^Further, in the letter to the woman of Mibu you make statements about your birth without knowing anything about it; these are utterly incomprehensible falsehoods. I lament this deplorable matter.

 ^It is distressing that you have spoken such lies and that you have petitioned the Rokuhara and Kamakura magistrates concerning them. Falsehoods of this kind are worldly matters and thus may be dismissed as such. Even so, telling lies is wretched, and how much more grievous is it to mislead others regarding the great concern of birth in the land of bliss, casting the people of the nembutsu in Hitachi and Shimotsuke into confusion, and to make groundless accusations about your father.

 ^I have heard that you likened the Eighteenth Primal Vow to a withered flower, so that all the people have abandoned it. This is truly the offense of slandering the dharma. Further, to favor the five grave offenses and to harm people by misleading them is lamentable.

 ^The offense here of disrupting the sangha is one of the five grave offenses. To make groundless accusations about me is to murder your father; it is among the five grave offenses. I cannot fully express my grief at hearing these things. Hence, from now on there shall no longer exist parental relations with you; I cease to consider you my son. I declare this resolutely to the three treasures and the gods. It is a sorrowful thing. It rends my heart to hear that you have devoted yourself to misleading all the people of the nembutsu in Hitachi, saying that [what they have been taught] is not my true teaching. Rumors have reached as far as Kamakura that I have instructed you to denounce the people in Hitachi who say the nembutsu. It is deeply deplorable.

Fifth month, 29th day

Reply to Jishin-bō

Arrived: Sixth month, 27th day
Copied for reference: Kenchō 8 [ 1256 ], sixth month, 27th day
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