Blunt Man

To complete the three part discussion on The Easy Path to Buddhahood (see the menu for links to parts one and two), there are so many passages that I could quote from.

I’ve decided to choose a passage from an authentic Shin teacher from the 15th century named Rennyo. His writings have a lot to say to the Shin Buddhist community today.

Rennyo is “the third leg of the stool” - the third of the Big Three teachers of True Pure Land Buddhism, the Buddhism of Faith Alone - beginning with Honen (Shinran’s teacher), then Shinran - the primary teacher and expositor of this simple and all powerful way, and finally Rennyo.

Rennyo is called “The Restorer” because he reconnected the Shin Sangha with the Shin Ugly teaching of Shinran several hundred years after Shinran’s death. He dug up all the weeds and re-planted the good seed of Shinran’s original teaching.

Why did he do it? Because, the Shin Ugly truth is that the Shin community had grown in numbers, but decayed badly.

Like all religious endeavors in this endarkened world, it was subject to spiritual entropy - to increasing decay and disorder - fueled by what Buddha calls our “three poisons” of stupidity, greed and anger.

As an amateur student of religions and religous history for many years, I could show you current and historical examples of this spiritual entropy - this spiritual decay - in any and every spiritual movement and major religion on the planet.

That’s just what happens, all the time, and everywhere. Why? Because in this age of Dharma Decline all of us are subject to blind passion - whether we’re willing to admit it, or not.

Rennyo’s gift was his focus. He concentrated, once again, on the ESSENTIALS. He recognized that focusing on the fine print - the scholarly details - was NOT what the Shin Buddhist community needed in order to recover it’s singular mission.

What is that mission? It is to teach this guaranteed path to complete freedom that Shakyamuni Buddha had provided in his sermon recorded in the Larger Pure Land Sutra.

Rennyo knew that what the community needed was SHIN UGLY - the plain teaching of Shakyamuni and Shinran for plain people who are suffering, and need a guaranteed path to END their suffering once and for all.

So Rennyo’s letters are simple, and direct. Rennyo gets straight to the point. Rennyo is BLUNT.

His teaching is often corrective - directed against ignorant (and egotistical) nonsense being passed off as good Shin teaching. He’s bluntly critical of the selfish actions of those whose hidden agenda is power, prestige and profit as they do their “religious” work.

Why? Because he is thinking about the benefit - the opportunity for the end of suffering at last - GAINED by countless beings when the teaching is presented clearly and sincerely - or LOST, once again for countless beings, when the teaching is muddled and confused.

He’s my kind of guy. Maybe it’s because I’m a native New Yorker - and we’re all about blunt talking when that’s what’s needed. But he’s also his teacher’s student. Shinran is VERY blunt, especially in his letters, about the difference between REAL Shin teaching, and everything else that people want to call Shin.

So I’ll be blunt as well: Rennyo’s attitude, his directness, his willingness to speak out with needed correction to a confused Shin Buddhist community is exactly what what we need today to restore alignment with Shakyamuni and Shinran once again in the modern Shin Sangha. Sadly, so much of the material that’s published on the net is NOT aligned with our teachers, that I have to WARN people to avoid it, until they’ve read Shakyamuni and Shinran enough to get the ability to distinguish between a good dharma meal and Shin junk food.

True Teaching from true teachers is what restores alignment with Shakyamuni and Shinran. True Teaching provides the opportunity for others to do the True Practice of simply listening deeply. When people do the True Practice of simply listening deeply - they become people of True Realization - people of SHINJIN - of true entrusting.

And that SHINJIN - that true entrusting - is what puts people into Shinran’s “rightly established group” of those who will be reborn in Amida’s Pure Land as True Buddhas at the end of this lifetime. Why? Because we are embraced, never to be forsaken, by Amida Buddha.

Along with countless others, I am indebted to Rennyo - both for his teaching, and for his example. He stood up for Shin Ugly teaching - directly and correctly. He held up a bright and shining light in a time when the Shin Sangha had grown dark with nonsensical ideas and activities that made it hard for people to simply hear clearly and listen deeply. He made the Easy Path EASY once again - so plain people could understand, and entrust themselves entirely to Amida Buddha.

Next up - that passage from Rennyo the Restorer I mentioned at the beginning of this discussion. I will use it to complete the cycle - to close the circle - as we look at Part 3 of the Easy Path to Buddhahood, the end of suffering at last.


With Honen, Shinran and Rennyo - with my daughter Jessie and my mother - with the few I have come to know, and the countless others I will know when I arrive in the Pure Land - I too take refuge in Amida Buddha.

With the same simple faith, I too rely on Him entirely to bring me to his Pure Land at the end of this lifetime, where I too will attain Buddhahood at last.



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