List of Readings
New to Shin Buddhism
by Paul Roberts
Dharma Friends -
This is my suggested list of readings
from the Collected Works of
Shinran (CWS) before tackling the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho (KGSS). I've put
them in the order I would recommend them.
Essentials of Faith Alone - This
is a short, easy to
understand tract by a Tendai monk named Seikaku, who was a fellow
student of Shinran's teacher, Master Honen. Master Shinran
personally recommended this tract, because it provides an excellent
summary of the basics of the Dharma of True Shin Buddhism.
A Record In Lament of Divergences
(Japanese title: TANNISHO) - This tract was written by
Master Shinran's personal student, a lay person named Yuien-Bo, after
Shinran's death. In it, Yuien-Bo recalls many things that Master
Shinran taught him personally, so it is like hearing Master Shinran
speaking directly to a local Sangha. Once again, it is written
for a lay audience, so it is very accessible. And it makes a
critical point that cannot be overstated: For the Shin Sangha to
thrive, and for people to come to settled SHINJIN, there must be no
divergences from the original teaching based on personal views.
Hymns of the Dharma Ages - These
short, easy to understand
hymns by Master Shinran drive home the essential point that we are
living in the Age of Dharma Decline, when none of the many Dharma gates
of self-power can deliver us from birth and death anymore.
Hymns of the Dharma Masters - One
of the keys to understanding
True Shin Buddhism is to recognize that it unfolded over centuries,
across three separate countries. It originated in The Larger
Sutra on Amida Buddha delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha on Vulture
Peak in India,
and then was carried through time and space by Seven Pure Land Masters
(as well as many other teachers). In these short, easy to
understand hymns, Master Shinran discusses the contributions of these
seven Pure Land Masters in honing and clarifying the teaching.
Hymns of the Pure Land - These
short, easy to understand
hymns, along with Shakyamuni's words in The Larger Sutra, present us
with a vision of Amida's Pure Land. This is essential reading in
an age where false Shin teachers are telling people that the Pure Land
doesn't really exist, but is only a metaphor for a state of enlightened
Lamp for the Latter Ages - This
is the most important
collection of some of Master Shinran's pastoral letters. Once
again, they are, short, very accessible and stress the basics of True
Passages on the Pure Land Way -
This is a wonderful tract that
is often overlooked by many seekers who are trying to make sense of
Master Shinran's Dharma message. It is is an abbreviated
discussion that closely mirrors the much longer KGSS. Anyone who
wants to eventually read the KGSS would be greatly helped by reading
this tract first.
After you have read all these works,
the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho will sound
and feel very
familiar to you when you read it. You won't feel overwhelmed by
it's length, or it's voluminous quotations. (The KGSS is 90%
quotes, with 10% being Master Shinran's own comments).
Please remember that the singular
goal of Shin Buddhism is to come to
settled SHINJIN in this life - not to be the smartest person in the
room. So we want to be able to understand and evaluate Master
Shinran's Dharma propositions bit by bit in the process of listening
deeply - the only practice in True Shin Buddhism.
If you can afford only one purchase
of a book, I would recommend the
hardbound version of the
Collected Works of Shinran
available for $50 from the BCA Bookstore in San Francisco, with free
shipping. It's a 2 volume set, with the
first being the text, and the second being commentary. I don't
trust the commentary myself. I think you'll do much better simply
reading Master Shinran's words, hearing his thoughts again and again in
his various works.
But DON'T bother with the BCA
course, if they suggest it to you. It's worse than useless,
because their teachers are not teaching the pristine Dharma of Master
Shinran, but instead are presenting modernist divergences.