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by Paul Roberts
Following up his first book for Westerners, Understanding Jodo Shinshu, Professor Eiken Kobai has written a companion followup, Misunderstandings of Master Rennyo.
As the Shin Sangha in the West loses members, and seeks for both meaning and mission, this volume has much to offer thoughtful people who care about the future of Jodo-Shinshu.
The “secret” of reviving the Shin Sangha, and restoring it to a viable vehicle for transmission of the True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way lies within its pages. By blowing away the dust of history, and finding once again the truth about Master Rennyo, we can see clearly what needs to be done today.
Rennyo became the eighth leader of the Sangha at a time when it was moribund, and practically extinct. Because he had such a clear vision of the ESSENTIALS of Shin Buddhism, and worked to teach and preach the simple Dharma in temple after temple, the Sangha exploded with new life.
People who were karmically ready to listen to teaching about how to end their suffering, once and for all, listened deeply to Rennyo, a true teacher. Because Rennyo preached the Dharma clearly, thousands of people came to the same SHINJIN – the same True Entrusting – as him, and Master Shinran before him.
Today, the Western Shin Sangha is beset with so much adulterated teaching, and so much manifestly false teaching, that it is moribund once again. For example: leading Shin Buddhist teachers declare that Amida Buddha is a fictive character – a character like Santa Claus – rather than being a True Buddha of Reward Body, as Shinran so clearly states.
Too many modern Shin Buddhist teachers know about process theology and post-modernism, without knowing the reality of entrusting themselves utterly to the salvation freely offered by Amida Buddha. As Kobai boldly points out, their unfortunate comments and commentary make their lack of SHINJIN clear.
Too many modern Shin Buddhist teachers concentrate on teaching the dharma of the Path of the Sages – dharma about impermanence, about various meditative disciplines, about morality – while Shinran taught none of those.
It was not that Shinran didn’t know these teachings. Of course, as a great scholar, he did…and so did Rennyo. But Shinran knew he was entirely incapable of using these teachings to further himself on the path of liberation – and so did Rennyo.
Shinran knew that he was helplessly strapped to the wheel of birth and death – and so did Rennyo.
Shinran knew that his intellectual ability to understand the various paths in the Buddha-dharma didn’t translate into freedom from the anguish of our endless cravings and aversions – our blind passions, many below the level of our own awareness. And Rennyo knew the same.