Letters of Rennyo

 

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2 [ Renouncing the World and Awakening the Bodhi-mind ]

 ^The basic teaching of Shinran Shonin in our tradition is not primarily that you should renounce the world and awaken the Bodhi-mind or leave home and abandon worldly desires, but simply that, in settling the entrusting heart of Other Power through taking refuge in Amida in a single thought-moment, there is no distinction between men and women, old and young.

 ^Attaining the entrusting heart is described in the [Larger] Sutra as “immediately attaining the state in which one’s birth is assured and thus dwelling in the stage of non-retrogression,” and is referred to in a commentary as “Upon awakening a single thought of entrusting, one joins those who are in the stage of the truly settled.”

 ^This is the teaching of “not expecting to see Amida come to welcome one at the time of death” and “settling the cause for birth in everyday life.”

 ^It is said in a hymn:

We who aspire for Amida’s fulfilled land,

Though we differ in outward condition and conduct,

Should truly receive the Name of the Primal Vow

And never forget it, whether waking or sleeping.

 ^Concerning “outward condition and conduct,” no discrimination is made between laypeople and monks, men and women.

 ^Next, “should truly receive the Name of the Primal Vow and never forget it, whether waking or sleeping” means that it does not matter whatever your outward appearance may be and even if you have committed the ten evil acts and the five grave offenses and have slandered the Dharma or are lacking the seed of Buddhahood; if you have a change of heart and feel repentant, and deeply realize that the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata saves such worthless people like us - single-heartedly entrusting yourselves to the Tathagata and always being mindful of this whether awake or asleep - then you are called the practicers with the entrusting heart who have attained the definitely settled mind through reliance on the Primal Vow.

 ^Beyond this, whenever you say the nembutsu, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, you should remember that this is the nembutsu to express your gratitude for the benevolence of Amida Tathagata. Then you are called practicers who have attained the true entrusting heart and whose birth has been settled.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

The sweat streaming down my face
On this hot day is indeed tears;

The smudged brush-work -
How strange this must look!

18th day of the 7th month, 3rd year of Bunmei [1471]

 

3 [ Hunting and Fishing ]

 ^The important point of the settle mind in our tradition does not lie particularly in refraining from evil thoughts or keeping delusory thoughts and attachments from arising.

 ^We may just carry on trading, working as servants, hunting or fishing. If we deeply realize that the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata promises to save such worthless people like us, who are absorbed, morning and evening, inn our daily engagements, deluded under the influence of our evil karma, and if we single-heartedly entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha’s compassionate Vow without any doubt, while having firm assurance of our emancipation - since such a single thought of entrusting is sincere, we will certainly be saved by the Tathagata.

 ^Beyond this, in what state of mind should we say the nembutsu? We should say the nembutsu as long as we live, acknowledging our deep indebtedness to the benevolence of Amida who saves us by settling our birth through the endowment of the power of entrusting which we thus receive.

 ^Such people are called practicers with the entrusting heart who have attained the settled mind of our tradition.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

18th day of the 12th month, 3rd year of Bunmei [1471]

 

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5 [ Journey in the Snow ]

 ^From the beginning of this year a large number of people, both monks and laypeople, men and women, from the three provinces of Kaga1, Noto2 and Etchu3, have been flocking to this mountain at Yoshizaki4; I feel uneasy about the state of mind of each one of them.

1 Southern half of present Ishikawa Prefecture.
2 Northern half of present Ishikawa Prefecture.
3 Present Toyama Prefecture.
4 An area on the northern border of Echizen (present Fukui Prefecture).

 ^The reason I feel so is, to begin with, that in the teaching of our tradition the cause for birth in the land of bliss is attainment of the entrusting heart of Other Power, but there is hardly anyone in this school who has definitely attained it. How then could these people ever expect to be born with ease in the fulfilled land? This is the matter of the greatest importance.

 ^In what state of mind have these people come here in spite of this snow after having managed to complete the long journey of five or ten ri? I am most concerned about this.

 ^Whatever your frame of mind may have been in the past, I will explain in detail what you should bear in mind from now on. Listen with utmost attention.

 ^You should firmly keep in mind the entrusting heart of Other Power, and then say the nembutsu, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, to express your gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence. With such an understanding, you are assured of the birth that is to come. With overflowing joy, you may go to the temples of the priests who are your teachers and perhaps make offerings to them.

 ^Those who do this are called practicers with the entrusting heart who have thoroughly understood the teaching of our tradition.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

8th day of the 2nd month, 5th year of Bunmei [1473]

 

6 [ Drowsiness ]

 ^I wonder why I am so drowsy and sleepy especially this summer. I feel that the time of departure from this world is definitely drawing near. I am indeed disheartened to think about it and sad to part. But I have carefully prepared myself until now for the moment of my passing.

 ^The only wish I always have in connection with this, day and night, is that even after I am gone those who have settled the entrusting heart will continue to appear in the assemblage at this place.

 ^As things now stand, I see no problem even after my passing. However, I feel that I must warn you against becoming lax in your thinking. As long as I am alive, you will be just as you are now, but in many ways I am not satisfied with the state of your minds.

 ^Since life may end before tomorrow, anything you say will be in vain when you die. Unless you quickly clear your doubts while alive, you will certainly have nothing but regret. This you should bear in mind.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 ^This letter is intended for those who are on the other side of the sliding door. I would like them to take it out and read it sometime in the future.

Written on the 25th day of the 4th month, 5th year of Bunmei [1473]

 

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8 [ Construction at Yoshizaki ]

 ^About the beginning of the fourth month in the third year of Bunmei, I just happened to go away from a place near the southern branch temple of Mii-dera1 at Otsu2 in the Shiga3 district of Omi4 province, and traveled around in Echizen5 and Kaga provinces.

1 One of the main temples of the Tendai Sect in Shiga Prefecture.
2 A main port town on the southernmost part of Lake Biwa.
3 Southwest area in Omi Province.
4 Present Shiga Prefecture.
5 Northern half of present Fukui Prefecture.

 ^Then, I took quite a fancy to this place called Yoshizaki in the Hosorogi6 district of Echizen province, and opened up the mountain, which had so far been inhabited by tigers and wolves. Having constructed a temple of sorts on the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month, I have passed time, day after day, until three years of springs and autumns have come and gone.

6 A district in the northern part of Echizen.

 ^Since monks and laypeople, men and women, who have flocked here appear to have no special purpose, I have prohibited their visit from this year. For when I consider the primary reason for living in this place, wouldn’t it be a shame that anyone who has received life in the human world and had the rare opportunity to encounter the Buddha Dharma should vainly fall into hell?

 ^I wonder for what purpose have they come here. So I have laid down the rule prohibiting the visit here of those who have no intention of settling the entrusting heart, manifested as the nembutsu, to attain birth in the land of bliss. This is solely because it is not central to seek fame or profit, but the realization of Bodhi in the afterlife is essential.

 ^Let those who see or hear about this not entertain their arbitrary views.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

9th month, 5th year of Bunmei [1473]

 

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13 [ A Wrong View Concerning “Ten Kalpas Ago” ]

 ^These days, there are some among the nembutsu practicers in this region who use strange words, saying that these express how one has attained the entrusting heart, with a pretentious air that they know very well about the entrusting heart of our tradition.

 ^According to them, “The entrusting heart is not to forget our indebtedness to Amida, who settled our birth in the Pure Land at the time of his enlightenment ten kalpas ago.” This is a great mistake. For, even though they know all about Amida Tathagata’s attainment of enlightenment, it would be futile if they failed to realize the significance of the entrusting heart of Other Power that ensures our birth.

 ^Therefore, from now on, you all should first thoroughly understand what the true entrusting heart of our tradition means. The entrusting heart is explained as “threefold mind” in the Larger Sutra and as “three minds” in the Contemplation Sutra, and is shown as “single mind” in the Amida Sutra.

 ^Although the terms are different in the three sutras, they are simply meant to express the single mind of Other Power.

 ^How, then, should we understand the entrusting heart? To begin with, discard various practices and unwaveringly rely on Amida Tathagata. Give no thought to any deities or other Buddhas and single-heartedly take refuge in Amida, and then the Tathagata will embrace you within his light and never forsake you. This is how the single thought of entrusting is decisively settled.

 ^After you have understood thus, you should remember that your nembutsu is to express your gratitude for the benevolence of Amida Tathagata who bestows you the entrusting heart of Other Power.

 ^Those who have this understanding are to be called nembutsu practicers in whom the entrusting heart has been decisively settle.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

Written in the latter part of the 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei [1473]

 

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Fascicle 2

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4 [ Severing Crosswise the Five Evil Courses ]

 ^Question: I understand that the reason why we speak of the all-surpassing Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata is that it is the supreme Vow made for foolish beings like us in the latter age of the five defilements, who commit evil and do not do any good act.

 ^But we have no clear understanding as to in what state of mind we should be and how we should entrust ourselves to Amida in order to attain birth in the Pure Land. Please teach us about this in detail.

 ^Answer: Out of great love and great compassion the Buddha vowed to save us, the beings of the present latter age, however deep our karmic evils may be, who wholly entrust ourselves to Amida Tathagata, taking refuge only in Amida Buddha single-mindedly and unwaveringly, without regard to other Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Since Amida sends forth great light and enfolds us in it, the [Contemplation] Sutra states: “The light shines everywhere throughout the worlds of the ten quarters, embracing and not forsaking sentient beings of the nembutsu.”

 ^As the result, Amida Tathagata, exercising the inconceivable Vow-Power, blocks the path to the five or six evil courses to which we are destined.

 ^The [Larger] Sutra says to the same effect, “One cuts off crosswise the five evil courses and the evil courses close naturally.”

 ^When we entrust ourselves to the Tathagata’s Vow without a single thought of doubt, even though we feel we are to fall into hell, we will be taken in the embracing light of Amida Tathagata, for we are now destined to the land of bliss, despite worries about falling into hell.

 ^It follows then that, since we receive, day and night, morning and evening, the Tathagata’s benevolence of great compassion, which is like the vast sky and lofty mountains, we cannot help but recite the nembutsu out of gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence, continuously saying “Namo Amida Butsu.”

 ^This is how it is to have attained the true entrusting heart.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

On the night of the 15th day of the 2nd month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474], reflecting on the bygone days when the Great Sage, the World-honored One, passed into Nirvana. I have written this with a brush under a lamp-stand while rubbing my eyes which are weakened by age.

At the age of 60

 

5 [ Juzu ]

 ^As I reflect, having observed the ways of the nembutsu followers in this temple community over the past few years, I find that they totally lack the settled mind of Other Power.

 ^The reason I say this is that there is none among them who carries a juzu. Not carrying any juzu amounts to grasping the Buddha with bare hands. Shinran Shonin never told us to worship the Buddha without a juzu. Nevertheless, in order to attain birth in the Pure Land, only the entrusting heart of Other Power is required. Not carrying any juzu creates no hindrance to that end.

 ^In the first place, priests of big temples are expected to wear robes and carry juzu. In this connection we notice that those who have attained the true entrusting heart never fail to express it in their voice and manifest it in their manner. From this we can conjecture that nowadays those who have admirably attained the true entrusting heart are extremely rare.

 ^To explain this further, it appears that these priests, failing to appreciate that the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata is befitting to us, always assume the air of understanding all about the entrusting heart and, whenever they hear the Dharma, they dismiss it as nothing new, thereby unable to take it seriously in their minds; and so they are merely imitating others.

 ^Such being the case, their own birth in the land of bliss seems doubtful; it is even more doubtful whether they can teach their followers and members. In such a state of mind, their birth that is to come in the fulfilled land will be impossible.

 ^How shameful and sad it is! You should simply calm your minds and deeply reflect. Indeed impermanence of human life is such that one may die at any time, when the breath that goes out is not followed by the breath that comes in. Be very careful in keeping in mind the Buddha Dharma, and seek to settle the entrusting heart.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

Early in the morning on the 16th day of the 2nd month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474], I suddenly took a brush and wrote this.

 

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7 [ Going Is Easy, but No One Is Born There ]

 ^When I reflect quietly, I realize that one receives life in the human world due solely to the merit of observing the five precepts in one’s past life. This is indeed a rare thing to happen. Life in the human world, however, is but momentary and ephemeral; the life in the Pure Land is the eternal, blissful fruit.

 ^Even if we boast of pomp and glory and revel in prosperity, we cannot enjoy such a state for long, because “those who prosper will necessarily decline, and those who meet must definitely part” is the way of the world. Life lasts only fifty or hundred years. In addition, since it is not certain whether death comes to the old first and then to the young, human life is hardly reliable.

 ^For this reason, people of today should seek the entrusting heart of Other Power and aspire to be born in the Pure Land.

 ^In order to attain the entrusting heart, you do not need wisdom or learning; it is not a question of whether you are rich and noble or poor and destitute, whether you are good or evil, male or female. The essential point is to give up various practices and take refuge in the right practice, that is, the nembutsu.

 ^To take refuge in the right practice means simply to entrust yourselves to Amida Tathagata single-mindedly and unwaveringly.

 ^Those beings who thus entrust themselves to Amida will all be embraced in his light and not be forsaken; when their lives come to an end, they will unfailingly be brought to the Pure Land. Your birth in the Pure Land is attainable only through the single thought of the settled mind. How easy it is to attain the settled mind which is free of calculations! This is why the two-character word, “an-jin,” also means “easily attained mind.”

 ^You will be born in the land of bliss only through having the entrusting heart - a single-minded and unwavering reliance on the Tathagata without any calculations.

 ^How easy it is to realize the settle mind! How easy it is to go to the Pure Land!

 ^Hence, it is stated in the Larger Sutra, “To go is easy and yet no one is born there.”

 ^This passage means that it is easy to go to the Pure Land if you attain the settled mind and entrust yourselves unwaveringly to Amida, but those who attain the entrusting heart are rare. For this reason, the sutra states that the Pure Land is easy to go to but there is no one who is born there.

 ^Calling the Name day and night, morning and evening, after you have reached this understanding, is simply to express your gratitude for the benevolence of the universal Vow of great compassion.

 ^You should, by all means, keep in mind the Buddha Dharma and seek to know the essentials of the entrusting heart which is easy to gain, and never fail to attain birth in the fulfilled land, the matter of the greatest importance.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

I made a fair copy on the 3rd day of the 3rd month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474]

 

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11 [ The Fivefold Doctrine ]

 ^In these days, the teaching of our tradition set forth by Shinran Shonin is presented in different ways in different provinces. This is most deplorable.

 ^For, although in our tradition the entrusting heart of Other Power comes first as the cause for birth of ordinary beings, some disregard and neglect the entrusting heart. They claim that the significance of the entrusting heart is not to forget that Amida Tathagata has settled our birth since he realized enlightenment ten kalpas ago. In such an assertion we find that taking refuge in Amida and attaining the entrusting heart of Other Power is totally lacking.

 ^Even if we know that our birth has been settled since Amida’s enlightenment ten kalpas ago, unless we fully realize the entrusting heart of Other Power, through which we are to attain birth, we will not be born in the land of bliss.

 ^Again, some other people say, “Even if you take refuge in Amida, without a good spiritual teacher, it is useless. Therefore, you should solely rely on a good spiritual teacher.”

 ^These, too, are the words of people who have not admirably attained the entrusting heart of our tradition.

 ^The function of a good spiritual teacher is simply to urge people to entrust themselves to Amida single-mindedly and unwaveringly. Accordingly, a fivefold doctrine has been established: first, stored good from the past; second, a good spiritual teacher; third, Amida’s light; fourth, the entrusting heart; fifth, the Name. It is stated that unless these five conditions are met, birth is unattainable.

 ^Therefore, a good spiritual teacher is the messenger who urges us to take refuge in Amida. Unless we meet a good spiritual teacher through the ripening of stored good from the past, our birth is impossible. It is, however, a grave mistake to disregard Amida on whom we must rely and take only the good spiritual teacher as our refuge. This we should bear in mind.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

20th day of the 5th month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474]

 

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Fascicle 3

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4 [ The Great Sage, the World-honored One ]

 ^When we carefully consider the transiency of human life, we realize that the living will certainly end in death and that the prosperous will eventually decline. This is how life is in the human world. Even so, we vainly live days and nights, spending months and years to no purpose. Indeed, we may lament about it, but I feel that we could never really comprehend the true extent of this pitifully sad situation.

 ^How true it is that impermanence is difficult to escape for all, from the Great Sage, the World-honored One, at the highest level, to Devadatta, who committed evil acts and grave offenses, at the lowest.

 ^Moreover, to receive life as a human being is indeed rare and difficult, and even more so is it the opportunity to encounter the Buddha Dharma, the way of emancipation from birth-and-death through practices of self-power is difficult to follow at the present time in the latter days. Therefore, our lives would be spent in vain unless we encountered the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata.

 ^Fortunately, however, we have now been able to meet this unique teaching of the universal Vow. So the only thing we should aspire to is the Pure Land of bliss; the only one we should rely on is Amida Tathagata. For this reason, we should settle our entrusting heart and say the nembutsu.

 ^On the other hand, what people in the world generally conceive in their minds is that if only they recite “Namo Amida Butsu” aloud, they will be born in the land of bliss. But this idea is completely groundless.

 ^What then is the meaning of the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu”? We should understand that when we entrust ourselves unwaveringly to Amida Tathagata, the Buddha fully recognizes this and saves us; this is manifested as the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

 ^How then should we entrust ourselves to Amida Tathagata in order to resolve the matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife? We should rely single-mindedly and unwaveringly on Amida Tathagata, entrusting ourselves to Amida without any qualms and discarding the inclination to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts of virtue. Amida recognizes this, sends forth rays of light and embraces with them the sentient beings who rely on the Buddha.

 ^This is expressed as “receiving the benefit of Amida Tathagata’s embracing light.” It is also referred to as “receiving the benefit of the Vow that never forsakes us.”

 ^Once we have thus been received within Amida Tathagata’s light, we will be born in the true fulfilled land immediately after our life comes to an end. There should not be any doubt about this.

 ^Beyond this, what is the use of relying on other Buddhas or practicing other meritorious good acts? How deeply happy and grateful I feel for the benevolence of Amida Tathagata! How could we express our gratitude for Amida’s benevolence, which is like the vast sky and lofty mountains?

 ^We should bear in mind that we simply say aloud “Namo Amida Butsu, …” to express our deep gratitude for Amida’s benevolence.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

18th day of the 8th month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474]

 

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6 [ Solely Saying the Name Constantly ]

 ^What is the meaning of “Namo Amida Butsu”? To begin with, the two-character word, “na-mo,” means “taking refuge in” and “Amida’s aspiring and directing virtue.” Also “Namo” implies the Vow, and “Amida Butsu” implies Amida’s saving activity.

 ^When you abandon various practices and miscellaneous acts of virtue and awaken a single thought of entrusting for your emancipation through exclusive and single-minded reliance on Amida Tathagata, Amida compassionately sends forth the universally illuminating light and enfolds you in it. This is the meaning of the four-character word, “a-mi-da-butsu,” and of “aspiring and directing virtue.”

 ^Now, then, you can see that the six-character word, “na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” is the Name which precisely indicates the significance of the entrusting heart of Other Power through which you are to attain birth.

 ^In regard to this point, the passage of fulfillment of the Vow reads, “Hearing the Name, one attains the entrusting and joyful heart.” The meaning of this passage is that having heard the Name, one attains the entrusting heart and rejoices in it.

 ^“Hearing the Name” is not simply hearing it in the ordinary sense of the term. It should be remembered that, when you meet a good spiritual teacher and hear with deep understanding the significance of the six-character word, “na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu, this is the entrusting heart of Other Power, through which you attain birth in the fulfilled land. It follows then that “the entrusting and joyful heart” is the heart that rejoices, free of any doubt about birth in the Pure Land, when the entrusting heart is settle.

 ^And so, reflecting upon Amida Tathagata’s painstaking efforts in contemplating for five kalpas and in practicing for innumerable and uncountable kalpas, we cannot express enough our gratitude for his benevolence of saving us so readily.

 ^We read in a hymn to this effect:

The directing of virtue embodied in Namo Amida Butsu

Is, in its benevolent working, vast and inconceivable;

Through the benefit of the directing of virtue for going forth,

We enter the directing of virtue for returning to this world.

 ^There are in the Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu the following lines:

Solely saying the Tathagata’s Name constantly,

One should respond with gratitude to the universal Vow of great compassion.

 ^This teaches us that we should simply recite the nembutsu, or call the Name, as an expression of gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence, whether walking, stopping, sitting or lying down, irrespective of time, place or circumstance.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

Written on the 20th day of the 10th month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474]

 

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Fascicle 4

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10 [ This Present Age ]

 ^All women of this present age should deeply rely on Amida Tathagata with singleness of heart. Even if you believe in any other teaching, you ought to realize that you will never be saved in the afterlife.

 ^How then should you rely on Amida and aspire for emancipation in the afterlife? Those of you who entrust yourselves single-heartedly to Amida without any qualms and deeply accept his saving power for your emancipation is the afterlife will certainly be saved. There should not be the slightest doubt about this.

 ^Beyond this, being grateful to Amida for saving you with certainty, you should solely recite the nembutsu to express your gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

At the age of 83

 

11 [ The Unity of Beings and the Dharma ]

 ^What is the meaning of “Namo Amida Butsu”? Further, how should we entrust ourselves to Amida to attain birth in the fulfilled land?

 ^First of all, you should entrust yourselves to Amida by carefully discerning the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

 ^The essence of “Namo Amida Butsu” is this: when sentient beings entrust themselves to Amida with the assurance of emancipation in the afterlife, Amida Tathagata fully recognizes this and endows them with the merit of unsurpassed, great benefit. This is what is meant by directing of virtue to sentient beings.

 ^Because it is through Amida’s Dharma that the sentient beings who rely on the Buddha are liberated, we say that “Namo Amida Butsu” represents “the unity of beings and the Dharma.” You should bear in mind that this itself the entrusting heart of Other Power that assures our birth.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

I wrote this on the 25th day of the 5th month, 6th year of Meio [1497]

 

12 [ The Meetings Twice Every Month ]

 ^What is the purpose of having the meetings that are held twice every month? It should be nothing other than to attain the entrusting heart for our birth in the land of bliss.

 ^From the past up to the present, monthly meetings have been held everywhere, but the issue of the entrusting heart has not even once been discussed at such meetings. Especially in recent years, whenever meetings are held, people just enjoy a meal with sake and tea, and then disperse. This is contrary to the primal intent of the Buddha Dharma.

 ^Those without the entrusting heart are by all means expected to raise questions and discuss whether the entrusting heart is lacking or not; it seems unreasonable to disperse without coming to any conclusion. You should carefully reflect on this matter.

 ^After all, it is essential that, from now on, those who are yet to attain the entrusting heart should discuss this issue with each other.

 ^Settle mind of our tradition lies in discarding the inclination toward various practices and entrusting yourselves single-heartedly to Amida Tathagata, without having to worry about your deep karmic evils and hindrances. You should not have the slightest doubt that the sentient beings who seriously rely on Amida for resolving the matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife will all be saved. Those who have gained a thorough understanding in this way will certainly be born, a hundred out of a hundred.

 ^With this in mind, when you attend the monthly meetings, you should take them as an opportunity to express your appreciation for Amida’s benevolence. Those with such understanding can indeed be called practicers who have attained the true entrusting heart.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

Written on the 25th day of the 2nd month, 7th year of Meio [1498]
To the members of the congregations that meet twice every month

At the age of 84

 

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14 [ The Settled Mind of Our Tradition ]

 ^Concerning the essentials of the settled mind of our tradition:

 ^You should know that they are revealed by the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

 ^Master Shan-tao explains these six characters as follows: “‘Na-mo’ means ‘taking refuge’ and also implies ‘aspiring and directing virtue.’ ‘A-mi-da-butsu’ is ‘the practice.’ For this reason, one can surely be born in the Pure Land.”

 ^To begin with, the first two characters, “na-mo,” mean “to take refuge”; “to take refuge” means that sentient beings entrust themselves to Amida Buddha for emancipation in the afterlife. “Aspiring and directing virtue” implies that Amida embraces and saves the sentient beings who entrust themselves to the Buddha. This is precisely the meaning of the four characters, “a-mi-da-butsu.”

 ^What state of mind should we, ignorant and foolish beings, have and how should we entrust ourselves to Amida? If you discard various practices and single-mindedly and unwaveringly rely on Amida for your emancipation in the afterlife, you will definitely attain birth in the land of bliss. You should not have the slightest doubt about this.

 ^Hence, the two characters, “na-mo,” imply the act of sentient beings to entrust themselves to Amida; the four characters, “a-mi-da-butsu,” indicate the working of the Dharma that saves the beings who rely on Amida. This is exactly what we mean by “the unity of beings and the Dharma” in Namo Amida Butsu.

 ^For this reason, what is essential for birth of all sentient beings is Namo Amida Butsu.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

4th month, 7th year of Meio [1498]

 

15 [ Construction at Ozaka ]

 ^The place called Ozaka1 in the Ikutama area, Higashinari district, Settsu2 province, must have had some connection with me from the distant past. After it took my fancy by chance in the latter part of autumn in the fifth year of Meio, I had a temple of sorts built here. Now three years have passed. I feel that I have some close karmic relationship with this place from the past.

1 A name of a location (in the Ikutama area), which is the origin for the present Osaka.
2 Northern part of present Osaka Prefecture.

 ^In regard to this, the fundamental reason for living in this place is not to spend a relaxed life here or enjoy a life of luxury and glory or a life of seclusion appreciating flowers, birds, breezes and the moon. My sincere hope is only to see an increase in number of the practicers who have attained the entrusting heart and of those who recite the nembutsu - all for the sake of attaining the supreme enlightenment. It could happen that some people in the secular world harbor prejudice and come to me with difficult problems. In such a case, I would give up my attachment to this place and immediately withdraw.

 ^In this connection, I hope more people, regardless of whether they are noble or base, priests or lay, will attain the entrusting heart which is indestructible as diamond; this will indeed be in accord with the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata and, in particular, conform to Shinran Shonin’s true intention.

 ^Incidentally, as of this year, this foolish old man has lived to the age of eighty-four; this is extraordinary. Since I feel I have been living in accord with the teaching of our tradition, I have nothing more to desire.

 ^But I have not been well since the summer of this year and even now there is no sign of recovery. It seems certain that my long-cherished desire to attain birth will be finally realized this coming winter.

 ^Morning and evening, I fervently wish that all will come to the attainment of the entrusting heart while I am still alive. Although I am aware that all of this depends on the good accumulated from the past, my worries never cease.

 ^Or I should perhaps consider that my living here for three years has been worthwhile. Please be doubly sure that you attain the entrusting heart during this seven-day period of Hoonko services, so that you and others together may realize the sincere wish to attain birth in the land of bliss.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

This letter was first read on the 21st day of the 11th month, 7th year of Meio [1498]. It should be read so that people may attain the entrusting heart.

Shaku Shounyo1

1 The tenth monshu of Hongwanji (1516-1554).

 

Fascicle 5

1 [ Those Lacking Wisdom in the Latter Age ]

 ^Laymen and laywomen in the latter age who lack wisdom should deeply rely on Amida Buddha with singleness of heart, entrusting themselves to the Buddha single-mindedly and unwaveringly for their emancipation, without turning their thoughts to other matters. However deep and heavy their evil karma may be, Amida Tathagata unfailingly saves them.

 ^This is the essence of the Eighteenth Vow that assures our birth in the Pure Land through the nembutsu.

 ^Once our heart is thus settled, we should say the nembutsu, whether awake or asleep, for as long as we live.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

2 [ Eighty Thousand Dharma-teachings ]

 ^Those who are not concerned about their afterlife are considered to be ignorant persons, even though they may be well-versed in eighty thousand Dharma-teachings; those who have resolved the matter of the afterlife are described as wise persons, even if they are illiterate laymen or laywomen. So it is said.

 ^Therefore, in our tradition we should know that for those who study various scriptures and are knowledgeable about Buddhism, all is in vain if they are ignorant of the single thought of entrusting.

 ^Hence, in the words of Shinran Shonin we find, “No one, male or female, will ever be saved without entrusting oneself to Amida’s Primal Vow.”

 ^For this reason, all women who abandon various practices and deeply rely on Amida Buddha with a single thought of entrusting, while convinced of their emancipation in the afterlife, will be born in Amida’s fulfilled land, then out of ten and a hundred out of a hundred. There should not be any doubt about this.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

3 [ Women Remaining in Lay Life ]

 ^Women who remain in lay life should realize and never entertain the slightest doubt that those who, without any calculation, deeply rely on Amida Buddha single-mindedly and unwaveringly, entrusting themselves to the Buddha for their emancipation in the afterlife, will all be saved.

 ^This is the intent of the Primal Vow of Other Power, the vow of Amida Tathagata.

 ^Beyond this, whenever they feel joy and gratitude for their emancipation in the afterlife, they should simply say “Namo Amida Butsu, …”

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

4 [ Whether Men or Women ]

 ^Men and women possessed of deep karmic evil, even if they rely on the compassionate vows of other Buddhas, cannot possibly be saved by their power, because this is the evil world of the latter age. Thereupon, the Buddha we revere as Amida Tathagata, surpassing all those Buddhas, made the great Vow of saving those who commit the ten evil acts and the five grave offenses, and became Amida Buddha.

 ^Since Amida vowed “If I could not save those who deeply rely on me with a single thought of entrusting, I would not attain perfect enlightenment,” so we shall no doubt be born in the land of bliss.

 ^For this reason, those who, without doubting, deeply entrust themselves to Amida Tathagata single-mindedly and unwaveringly, and disregarding their own deep karmic evil and leaving it to Amida’s care, and who have their heart settled in a single thought of entrusting, will no doubt, ten out of ten and a hundred out of a hundred, attain birth in the Pure Land.

 ^Beyond this, when we remember Amida’s benevolence more and more with gratitude, we should recite the nembutsu, saying “Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu, …” regardless of time or place. This is called the nembutsu as an expression of gratitude for the Buddha’s benevolence.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

5 [ Attaining the Entrusting Heart ]

 ^Attaining the entrusting heart lies in understanding the Eighteenth Vow. To understand this Vow means to understand what “Namo Amida Butsu” is. And so, when one takes refuge, that is, “namo,” in Amida in one thought-moment, “making aspiration and directing virtue” is implied. This means that Amida Tathagata directs virtue to us, foolish beings.

 ^This is taught in the Larger Sutra as “bringing all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues.” So it follows that all the karmic evil and blind passions which we have given rise to since the beginningless past are completely extinguished by the inconceivable Vow-Power. Hence, we dwell in the stage of nonretrogression, or the stage of the truly settled.

 ^This is the meaning of the statement “we attain nirvana without severing blind passions.” This teaching is unique to our tradition, and so should not be discussed with followers of other schools. This we should carefully bear in mind.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

6 [ Singleness of Heart, Great of this hymn is as follows]Benefit ]

 ^To the practicers who entrust themselves to Amida with singleness of heart, Amida bestows the virtues for attaining the unsurpassed, great benefit. Concerning this, Shinran Shonin says in a hymn:

When sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements

Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow,

Virtues indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable

Fill those practicers.

 ^The meaning of this hymn is as follows: “sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements” refers to all evil beings like us, both men and women.

 ^Even though we are such helpless, foolish beings, committing evil all our lives, Amida Tathagata never fails to save us if we entrust ourselves single-mindedly and unwaveringly to Amida for our emancipation in the afterlife. There should not be any doubt about this.

 ^To those who thus rely on Amida, the indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable great virtues are bestowed. “Virtues indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable” means infinite, great virtues.

 ^Since such great virtues are directed to us who entrust ourselves to Amida with singleness of heart, all our karmic hindrances and evils committed in the three periods - will be eliminated at once, and thus we dwell in the stage of the truly settled, or the stage equal to perfect enlightenment.

 ^This is also described in a hymn as:

Entrust yourself to Amida’s Primal Vow;

Through the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned,

All who entrust themselves to the Primal Vow

Attain the supreme enlightenment.

 ^“Being grasped, never to be abandoned” means that the sentient beings who entrust themselves to Amida with singleness of thought are embraced in Amida’s light and, since their entrusting heart does not change, they will not be abandoned.

 ^Although there are other aspects of the teaching in Jodo Shinshu, there should never be any doubt that those who entrust themselves to Amida with singleness of thought will all attain birth in the fulfilled land.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

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9 [ All the Sacred Scriptures ]

 ^The essential point of the settled mind in our tradition lies simply in the meaning of the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu” (literally, paying homage to Amida Buddha).

 ^This means that when we pay homage - “namo” - to Amida Buddha, we are immediately saved by the Buddha. So the two-character word, “na-mo,” means to take refuge.

 ^“To take refuge” means that we, sentient beings, setting aside various practices, entrust ourselves unwaveringly to Amida Buddha for our emancipation in the afterlife Accordingly, Amida Tathagata, knowing this fully, saves all of us, without exception.

 ^Thereupon, since Amida Buddha saves the sentient beings who entrust themselves - “namo” - to the Buddha, the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” manifests how we, sentient beings, are all saved without discrimination.

 ^For this reason, when we speak of attaining the entrusting heart of Other Power, we find that it is exactly what the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” means. We should, therefore, realize that all the sacred scriptures indeed are solely meant to make us entrust ourselves to the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

10 [ The Tradition of Shinran Shonin ]

 ^What is taught in the tradition of Shinran Shonin is that the entrusting heart is essential. For when we abandon various practices and take refuge in Amida with singleness of heart, our birth in the Pure Land is settle by the Buddha through the inconceivable Vow-Power.

 ^The state we thus attain is described as “with awakening of a single thought of entrusting, we join those who are in the stage of the truly settled.” Recitation of the nembutsu thereafter should be understood to be the nembutsu as an expression of gratitude for the Tathagata’s benevolence for settling our birth in the Pure Land.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

11 [ The Annual Memorial Observance for Shinran Shonin ]

 ^Among those of you who have come during the annual memorial observance for Shinran Shonin to attend and pay reverence to him with sincere wishes to express your appreciation for his benevolence, some have already attained the entrusting heart while others have not. This is a matter of the greatest importance.

 ^For, if you have not attained the entrusting heart, your birth in the fulfilled land after this life is uncertain. So those of you who lack the entrusting heart should strive to settle your mind quickly.

 ^The human world is a realm of uncertainty, while the land of bliss is the realm of eternity. Hence, you should aspire for the eternal land of bliss instead of desiring to continue to inhabit this human world of uncertainty. If you do not know why, in our tradition, the entrusting heart is placed before anything else, all is in vain. In quickly attaining the settled mind, you should aspire for birth in the Pure Land.

 ^The popular belief held by the people of the world is that if they simply recite the nembutsu, they will be born in the land of bliss. But this idea is completely groundless.

 ^Attaining the entrusting heart of Other Power is nothing other than understanding fully the significance of the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.” This is what is meant by attaining the entrusting heart.

 ^As to the essentials of the entrusting heart, the [Larger] Sutra states, “Hearing the Name, one attains the entrusting and joyful heart.”

 ^Shan-tao says, “‘Namo’ means to take refuge. It further signifies aspiring and directing virtue. ‘Amida Butsu’ implies the practice.”

 ^The first two characters, “na-mo,” signify the mind to abandon various practices and entrust oneself single-mindedly and unwaveringly to Amida Buddha.

 ^Next, the implication of the four characters, “a-mi-da-butsu,” is that Amida readily saves those sentient beings who entrust themselves to him with singleness of heart. This is what “a-mi-da-butsu” means.

 ^Understanding “Namo Amida Butsu” in this way is what I mean by attaining the entrusting heart. Those who have this understanding are the nembutsu practicers who have truly realized the entrusting heart of Other Power.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

12 [ Holding on to Amida’s Sleeves ]

 ^Those who wish to know in detail the essentials of the settled mind in our tradition do not necessarily require wisdom and learning. While aware of their deep karmic evil and helplessness, they should realize that Amida Tathagata is the only Buddha capable of saving such beings; putting aside all calculations, they should single-mindedly entrust themselves to the Buddha for their emancipation in the afterlife, as if holding fast to Amida’s sleeves. Then, Amida Tathagata will greatly rejoice and send forth from his body eighty-four thousand magnificent rays of light, embracing those beings in this light.

 ^We should remember that this is described in the [Contemplation] Sutra as: “The light shines everywhere throughout the ten quarters, embracing and not forsaking sentient beings of the nembutsu.” Therefore, there is no problem about our becoming Buddhas.

 ^How wonderful is the all-surpassing Primal Vow! How benevolent is Amida Tathagata’s light! Unless we had a chance to encounter this light, we could not possibly be cured of the dreadful illness of ignorance and karmic hindrances we have had since beginningless past.

 ^Prompted by the working of this light, those endowed with past karmic good have come to attain the entrusting heart of Other Power. Thus, it has now become clear that the entrusting heart is bestowed by Amida Tathagata.

 ^Accordingly, we now clearly know that this is not the mind created by the followers but the great entrusting heart of Other Power given to us by Amida Tathagata.

 ^Hence, those who have ever had the fortune to attain the entrusting heart of Other Power should remember their indebtedness to Amida’s benevolence and always say the nembutsu as an expression of gratitude for it.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

13 [ The Unsurpassed, Profound Virtues ]

 ^The Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” consists of only six characters, and so it may not appear to have much merit. Yet, the greatness of the unsurpassed, profound virtues and benefits contained in this six-character Name is truly beyond measure.

 ^We should then know that the significance of attaining the entrusting heart is contained in these six characters. There is no entrusting heart apart from the six-character Name.

 ^Shan-tao explains the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” as follows:

 “Na-mo” means “taking refuge” and also implies “aspiring and directing virtue.” “A-mi-da-butsu” is “the practice.” For this reason, one can surely be born in the Pure Land.

 ^How should we understand this explanation? Even though we are full of evil karma and blind passions, at the moment we take refuge in Amida Buddha with a single thought of entrusting, the Buddha recognizes this and saves us.

 ^“Taking refuge” means entrusting oneself to Amida’s saving power. “Aspiring and directing virtue” means Amida’s bestowing of the unsurpassed, great virtues to those who entrust themselves to the Buddha with singleness of thought.

 ^Since the great good and great virtue realized through “aspiring and directing virtue” are bestowed to us, our evil karma and blind passions that we have had since the beginningless past are eliminated all at once. With complete elimination of our blind passions and evil karma, we are made to dwell in the stage of the truly settled, or the stage of non-retrogression.

 ^For this reason, we know even more clearly that the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” manifests how we attain birth in the land of bliss. Then, concerning the settled mind, or the entrusting heart, those who thoroughly understand the significance of the six-character Name are called persons who have attained the great entrusting heart of Other Power.

 ^Such being the profound meaning of the Name, we should deeply accept it.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

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16 [ White Ashes ]

 ^When I deeply contemplate the transient nature of human existence, I realize that, form beginning to end, life is impermanent lie an illusion. We have not yet heard of anyone who lived ten thousand years. How fleeting is a lifetime!

 ^Who in this world today can maintain a human form for even a hundred years? There is no knowing whether I will die first or others, whether death will occur today or tomorrow. We depart one after another more quickly than the dewdrops on the roots or the tips of the blades of grasses. So it is said. Hence, we may have radiant faces in the morning, but by evening we may turn into white ashes.

 ^Once the winds of impermanence have blown, our eyes are instantly closed and our breath stops forever. Then, our radiant face changes its color, and the attractive countenance like peach and plum blossoms is lost. Family and relatives will gather and grieve, but all to no avail.

 ^Since there is nothing else that can be done, they carry the deceased out to the fields, and then what is left after the body has been cremated and turned into midnight smoke is just white ashes. Words fail to describe the sadness of it all.

 ^Thus the ephemeral nature of human existence is such that death comes to young and old alike without discrimination. So we should all quickly take to heart the matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife, entrust ourselves deeply to Amida Buddha, and recite the nembutsu.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

17 [ All Women ]

 ^All women, if you seriously care about the afterlife and turn to the Buddha Dharma with sincere devotion, you should just entrust yourselves deeply to Amida Tathagata and, casting aside various practices, single-heartedly rely on Amida with the firm assurance of your emancipation in the afterlife. Then you will be unfailingly born in the land of bliss. There should never be any doubt about this.

 ^After having attained this understanding, you should simply say “Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu, …” whether awake or asleep, with gratitude and appreciation, accepting deep in your mind Amida Tathagata’s readiness to save you. You will then be called nembutsu practicers who have attained the entrusting heart.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

18 [ The Master of Our Tradition ]

 ^In attaining the settle mind recommended by Shinran, the Master of our tradition, we should simply disregard the fact that we are helpless beings of deep karmic evils, give up the inclination to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts, and deeply entrust ourselves to Amida Tathagata with singleness of thought and wholehearted assurance of our emancipation in the afterlife. Amida then saves us without exception, the out of ten and a hundred out of a hundred.

 ^You should not have the slightest doubt about this. If you fully understand this, you are called practicers with the entrusting heart.

 ^Beyond this, whenever you joyfully call to mind your emancipation in the afterlife, you should say “Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu, …” whether awake or asleep.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

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21 [ Clear Statements in the Scriptures ]

 ^In attaining the settled mind recommended in our tradition, we should simply cast aside the inclination to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts and leave our evil karma to the Buddha, however deep it may be; if we deeply and solely rely on Amida Tathagata with a single thought of entrusting and wholehearted assurance of emancipation, we will all be saved, ten out of ten and a hundred out of a hundred. There should not be the slightest doubt about this, not even as small as a dew-drop.

 ^We call those who entrust themselves in this way “people who have firmly attained the settled mind.” In the scriptures there are clear statements about this: “with the awakening of a single thought of entrusting, we join those who are in the stage of the truly settled” and “the practicers who have settle the cause for birth in everyday life.”

 ^We should, therefore, bear in mind that the essential point is solely to rely deeply on Amida Buddha with a single thought of entrusting. Apart from this, remembering that we are profoundly indebted to Amida Tathagata for readily saving us, we should say the nembutsu always, whether waling, standing, sitting, or lying down.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.

 

22 [ The Teaching of Our Tradition ]

 ^If you wish to know thoroughly the essentials of the teaching recommended in our tradition and attain birth in the land of bliss, you should, first of all, know about the entrusting heart of Other Power.

 ^What is the entrusting heart of Other Power for? It is the provision by which helpless beings like us can easily be born in the Pure Land.

 ^How is it to have the entrusting heart of Other Power? It is simply to awaken a single thought of entrusting with single-minded and unwavering reliance on Amida Tathagata without any qualms; then the Buddha unfailingly sends forth the embracing light and keeps you within it while you are in this Sahā world. This is precisely how your birth is settled.

 ^Thus, “Namo Amida Butsu” itself is how the entrusting heart of Other Power has been established in you. You should understand that this entrusting heart reveals how “Namo Amida Butsu” has been fulfilled. So you should not have even a trace of doubt that only by attaining this entrusting heart of Other Power, you are to be easily born in the land of bliss.

 ^How wonderful is Amida’s Primal Vow! How could you express your deep gratitude for Amida’s benevolence? You should express your gratitude for the benevolence of Amida Tathagata by simply reciting “Namo Amida Butsu” always, whether awake or asleep.

 ^What should be your motivation for saying “Namo Amida Butsu”? Remember that it is to express your joyful gratitude and appreciation to the benevolence of Amida Tathagata for saving you.

 ^Humbly and respectfully.