The Shin Ugly Bottom Line: Buddhahood Without Fail

Rennyo the Restorer was ALL about the bottom line of Jodo-Shinshu - Shin Buddhism.

He is my own model for what I call SHIN UGLY - because he avoided Shinran’s deep scholarship while being faithful to his TRUE teaching as he talked to the common people in common language about this ultimate teaching of Shakyamuni - the the one we call the Buddha.

Rennyo’s letters are RICH with simple-to-understand meaning and instruction for sincere seekers - plain people in our day who are earnestly searching for TRUE and FINAL enlightenment - the end of suffering at last - by whatever name they call it - whether they are Buddhists, or not.

His words were like water in the desert for plain folks dying of thirst for TRUE TEACHING. Not being of the same SHINJIN (true entrusting) as our teacher Shinran, few of the clerics and scholars had water to give them

Rennyo saw that a mere 200 years after Shinran’s death, their divergent ideas had come to dominate the Shin Buddhist community. He saw that false teachers were making a LIVING off of Shin Buddhism, without receiving the LIFE of Shin Buddhism - Amida Buddh’s gift of SHINJIN - for themselves.

That’s why he wrote his letters - to restore the Shin Buddhist community to the TRUE Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way.

Here’s a part of one of his letters, On the Name of this Buddhist School. It was written in 1473. It’s truly SHIN UGLY - plain talk for plain people about suffering and the end of suffering.

For someone who is H.O.W. - honest, open and willing to listen deeply - Rennyo’s words are just as clear - just as fresh - just as TRUE today as they were 600 years ago.

Same as it ever was.


Renyo writes:

The purport (core meaning, significance, bottom-line) of our school is that those who attain Determined-Faith will realise rebirth in the True Land of Recompense (The Pure Land) without fail.

Therefore, if one were to explain what this Faith is, it would be:

  • to place Faith only in Amida with one-mind and without doubt;
  • and to disregard any of the other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc.;
  • and to place reliance with a singleness of heart without doubt in Amida Tathagata.

This, in particular, is called Determined-Faith.


Renyo writes:

The two (Japanese) characters for SHINJIN may also be read as Heart of Truth.

By Heart of Truth it is meant that inasmuch as deliverance for us is not attainable as devotees who practice the austerities of those in the path of self-power because of our impure and bigoted hearts, our deliverance is dependent upon the pure heart of the Other-Power of Tathagata (Amida Buddha).

For this reason, this is called Heart of Truth.


Renyo writes:

Further, there can be no deliverance by just the recitation of the Sacred Name without the due understanding of it.

Thus, it is explained in the (Larger Pure Land) Sutra, “hear this Name and rejoice in Faith”.

By “hear this Name” it is not meant that one should hear the Sacred Name of the six characters of Na-Mu-A-Mi-Da and Butsu in a senseless and aimless manner.

Rather it means that a person should

  • come in contact with a person who teaches and discourses in the Dharma,
  • be taught by him in the principle of the deliverance by Amida Buddha without fail if one places reliance in the Sacred Name of Namu Amida Butsu as Namu (a finite, limited being - a non-Buddha).

This is explained in the Sutra as “rejoice in Faith”.

In accordance with this, it should be understood that the substance (ie the TEACHING not the SOUND) of Namu-Amida-Butsu is the condition for our deliverance.

After understanding the preceding in the manner as explained, believe that the recitation of the Sacred Name while at work or at rest, sitting or reclining, is nothing more that the Nembutsu for the expression of gratitude towards Amida Tathagata for our deliverance.

In other words, such a person is called a devotee of the Nembutsu of the Other-Power

  1. who has Determined-Faith
  2. and who WILL be reborn in the Land of Bliss.

I am grateful for this TRUE teacher of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching - of Shinran’s teaching - given to deliver a plain person like me, beset by unknowable blind passion, endless cravings and aversions, ineradicable egotism - and from all the suffering such a state naturally entails - into TRUE Buddhahood at last - after countless lives lived in ignorance and endarkenment.

I know this is the only way to become a Buddha at last - to end, finally, my ICEBERG US life - the life of being an evil person, just as Shinran taught.

Namu-Amida-Butsu. Thank you Amida Buddha for your Vows, and your work in creating the Pure Land, for my benefit - an infinite benefit beyond anything I can imagine right now as a non-Buddha.

Paul R.

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