Four Letters - One Goal

This blog is my personal legacy work. If I die tonight (no plans to do so) it is here for my daughter to read, so that she may find her way to the True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way.

Of course, it’s not JUST for my daughter. It’s for her, her friends, Jessie’s friends, my friends - and anyone who is tired of suffering in life after life.

And it’s also for those who already have a deep and true aspiration to be able to help other people in a real and profound way.

Only when we are free of the chains and fetters of our endless delusions and obscurations can we REALLY help those we love - and those we don’t even know in this life - though (as Shinran teaches) we knew ALL of them from countless lives before.

The Shin Ugly blog exists to serve as a TEACHING vehicle for simple Shin Buddhism - Shin Ugly, as I call it - plain teaching for plain people about suffering and the end of suffering.

My singular goal is to make Shinran’s teaching more available to a western audience - whether the readers are Buddhists, or not.

In service of that goal, I’m working on a project to disseminate the writings of Professor Eiken Kobai - a TRUE teacher of Shin Buddhism.

Below are four letters (with minor editing) that provide some details of what we’re doing - and why.


Paul R.


Letter 1: From Prof. Kobai’s friend in LA who has given away 2000 copies of Kobai’s books already (at Kobai’s expense), and will print more for us to provide at cost to anyone who wants one.

It was nice talking to you yesterday. I am taking the first steps to have Kobai’s books reprinted, but because work on my PC isn’t complete yet, it might take a little more time. They will, however, be reprinted.

Mr. K


Letter 2: My response to Mr. K. In this letter I detail the issues at stake for the Shin Buddhist sangha in the west, which we both agree upon.

Dear Mr K -

I much appreciated the time we spent together talking , and am grateful for your commitment to Shinran’s dharma and your willingness to make efforts with me to more widely distribute Kobai’s work.

Please do let me know if I can do anything to assist you. As I said, this work is very meaningful to me personally, in light of the experiences I have had - and my desire to leave a true legacy for others (beginning with my daughter) after I am gone.

I had mentioned to you (as an example of great divergence from Shinran’s plain teaching) that Prof. Nobuo Haneda teaches that Amida Buddha is a fictive character, like Hamlet - and that his teaching is getting disseminated on the web through various Jodo Shinshu temples websites, and other Pure Land sites. Here are examples: (The article is reprinted from his magazine “The Dharma Breeze”).

  • Website of West Covina Buddhist Temple: link HERE.
  • Website of Seattle Betsuin: link HERE.
  • The Pure Land section of a Buddhist Information Portal Website: link HERE.

Speaking plainly: what bothers me is NOT that Haneda is writing this. People can write whatever they want. This is America - if people want to say that Amida Buddha is Santa Claus they surely can!

But where are the Jodo Shinshu leaders - the ones with the pulpits and the platforms - standing up as true teachers - and speaking on behalf of Shinran, as Yuien did?

Edmund Burke, the English statesman said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Of course, in Shin we understand that we are all evil beings beset by blind passion - but nonetheless Burke’s quote fits the case EXACTLY: We must honestly admit, “All that is necessary for the evil of false Shin Buddhist teaching to prevail is that true teachers of Shin Buddhist say and do nothing”.

That is what motivated Yuien and Rennyo both to SPEAK UP. And when they spoke, they spoke as BLUNT men.

And that’s what is motivating me, as well. I am BLUNT, just like they were.

My basic conclusion - to be blunt, once again - that the reason people don’t stand up and speak out DIRECTLY and PUBLICLY with the intensity of Shinran on this most important issue is this: they are slaves of BONNO - blind passion.

They may be afraid of “offending others”. They may fear disapproval, or mockery. They may be worried about being marginalized in their local Shin temple. They may be afraid of losing a job as a minister, or a title as a “reverend”. They may fear it is a bad career move if they want success and respect as a Shin Buddhist scholar when the modernist Shin teaching (rather than Shin Ugly - Shinran’s plain teaching) dominates Western Shin Buddhism.

All this fear about standing up for Shinran’s truth is BONNO - blind passion - pure and simple.

If we will only be HONEST about it - as a Sangha - and all together proclaim our intention to return to the simple truth of Shinran Shonin - AUTHENTIC Shin Dharma - THEN there is a possibility for a radical renewal of the moribund Shin Buddhist community here in the US.

With such renewal, there can be great opportunity to help MANY people find their way to SHINJIN - to the same TRUE ENTRUSTING Shinran knew, Honen knew, Kobai knows, you know and I know. And we know that ONLY by experiencing one thought-moment of such true entrusting, can someone find their way off the karmic wheel, and end their suffering once and for all.

When it comes to the local Shin Buddhist community, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • I’m looking for a local Shin Buddhist community where the leaders teach what Kobai teaches, and what I teach too: Amida is a person who becomes a Buddha - not a fictive character.
  • I’m looking for a local Shin Buddhist community that is true to Shinran’s vision of not mixing up the true teaching with anything and everything else, from the Path of the Sages (like Zen mediation), to other non-Buddhist teachings (like the Yoga lessons being given in the a major Shin Temple - as was recently reported to me by someone who was there) or any other fads of the day.

Those self-power practices are well and good - and so is jogging and a nice piece of chocolate. But not a one of them can end our suffering in a full and final way. Not one of them is a substitute, nor a supplement, to Shin Ugly in this age of Dharma Decline.

That’s exactly why Shinran said such mixing up of his teaching and everything else should NEVER happen among gatherings of his fellow students of The True Pure Land Way.

To proclaim and to teach Shin Ugly - Shinran’s plain teaching for plain people about suffering and the end of suffering - is the reason - and the ONLY reason - for the Shin Buddhist community to exist and to thrive in the western world.

So I am glad we are working together to make Kobai’s work available once again. He is a true teacher of Shinran’s teaching - speaking plainly - quoting voluminously - for the purpose of saying exactly what Shinran said to us - for those who are ready to listen.

We know there is truly NO OTHER WAY to end our own suffering, our own endless rounds of rebirth. Of all the 84,000 paths within the teaching of Buddha - only this one can help plain people like us - living with paper bags over our heads, more ignorant, more endarkened, than we can even see or comprehend.

Along with Kobai, I am committed to seeing that this SHIN UGLY teaching of Shinran gets stated clearly and accurately in the marketplace - the public space we all share, on the internet and off.

It’s not my business, nor yours, nor Kobai’s to convince anyone of anything. That’s AMIDA’s business - pure and simple.

But it IS my business, and yours, and Kobai’s to proclaim clearly and boldly this final teaching of our Buddha - Buddha Shakyamuni - to a world that is simply enveloped in the darkness of this age of Dharma Decline.

It’s our business - as laypeople (as you said) - because no one is able to step off the terrible wheel - where our common egotism rules - even though we may have profound yearnings and aspirations for Buddhahood - even for “mature” Buddhists with many years of sincere practice.

So I look forward to hearing from you as soon as you have the logistics in place at your end - and then I will begin doing the work of letting others know where they can purchase the newly printed English translation copies of Kobai’s books.

My hope is that the books will be READ by enough Shin Buddhists so that a movement begins to start - a bottom up movement of plain people of SHINJIN - of TRUE ENTRUSTING - the same SHINJIN as Shinran and Honen and Rennyo.

My hope is that plain people - just like me - will begin to push the leadership of the Shin Sangha here and abroad to acknowledge and lament the terrible divergences from Shinran’s teaching, just as Yuien did - and to require of the leadership that they return to teaching the BASICS of Shin Buddhism to the local Shin Buddhist communitities in our day - just as Rennyo required it in his day.

Already there are people opposing my initial efforts here. Already I’m being labelled as an “Amida Thumper” in a derogatory way - like being called a Bible Thumper. No doubt Professor Kobai catches the same kind of flack (said more politely perhaps) in Japan.

If I’m an Amida Thumper I’m in pretty good company.

We can start with Shakyamuni Buddha, who Amida-thumped well enough to Ananda and countless thousands that day on Vulture Peak, as described in the Larger Pure Land Sutra.

We can skip the earlier Pure Land Masters Shinran talks about - Amida Thumpers all - and talk about that other Shinran’s Amida-Thumping teacher Honen, and his Shinran himself - and of course their companions who were executed for their Amida Thumping.

Really, that I am called names means nothing to me - one way or another. Human foolishness persists. Attachment to wrong views persists. It has been a problem for the Shin community since the days of Shinran. It will remain a problem in this samsaric world long after we have both gone to the Pure Land.

Once again, it’s not my job to argue with those folks, nor convince them that bold proclamation is both good and necessary. That’s Amida’s work. My job is simply to proclaim and to teach this simple dharma for plain people - wherever there is a willing ear and an open heart - as best as I can.

Along with you, my dharma friend, I take refuge entirely in Amida Buddha - in his Primal Vow to bring me at last to the Pure Land where my own suffering will be over, where I will complete my journey to Buddhahood, where I will be empowered finally to do the kind of work that only a Buddha can do to bring others from endless darkness to full and final enlightenment.

NamuAmidaButsu -



Letter 3: From Professor Kobai to me:

I got mail from mr.Yokogawa about my book today.(Japanese time.early morning on March 2).

Thank you very much for your kindness, noble spirit and intrducing my teaching all over the world.


Eiken Kobai


Letter 4: My response to Professor Kobai.

Dear Professor Kobai -

Thanks for this correspondence.

I am happy to share your teaching precisely because it is not yours.

You are H.O.W. - Honest, Open and Willing to teach what Shinran actually taught - without trying to change it, dilute it or improve it with your own self-power calculated thinking.

That is what all TRUE teachers of Shin Buddhism have always done - and will always do.

I recognize you as a good teacher of Shinran in an age when true teachers are hard to find. That’s why I am happy to make the English speaking Shin Buddhist community more aware of your books - they are simple to read, simple to understand and textually faithful to the message of Shinran himself.

I also recognize that you are BRAVE - as a true teacher of Shin Buddhism must be - like Honen, like Shinran, like Yuien, like Rennyo. You aren’t afraid to call out false teaching AS false. You stand up like these men, our dharma heroes and dharma examples stood up, to speak clearly - without trying to be overly polite at the expense of TRUTH.

So I bow to you, with deep respect, across the miles - and am glad to help in whatever way I can to make the True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way more clear to those who really want to hear Shinran, and not their own egotism.

Paul R

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