Thus were his words.
Thus were his words
Thus were his words.
Thus were his words.
Thus were his words.7
Thus were his words.
Thus were his words.
Thus were his words.
Thus the Master stated.
[On Departures from the Teaching of Shinran]
Shakyamuni taught that there would be both people who entrust themselves to this teaching and people who abuse it. By the fact that I have entrusted myself fully to it and there are others who abuse it, I realize that the Buddha's words are indeed true. Hence, I realize all the more clearly that my birth is indeed firmly settled. If there were none who abused the teaching, then surely we would wonder why there are those who entrust but none who abuse it. This is not to say the nembutsu necessarily must be slandered; I merely speak of the fact that the Buddha, knowing beforehand that there would be both those who trust and those who slander, taught this so people would have no doubts.Thus were his words.
This is a statement of one who doubts the Primal Vow and fails to understand the influence of good and evil karma of past lives.
Good thoughts arise in us through the prompting of good karma from the past, and evil comes to be thought and performed through the working of evil karma. The late Master said, "Knowing that every evil act done- even as slight as a particle on the tip of a strand of rabbit's fur or sheep's wool- has its cause in past karma."
Further, the Master once asked, "Yuien-bo, do you accept all that I say?"
"Yes I do," I answered.
"Then will you not deviate from whatever I tell you?" he repeated.
I humbly affirmed this. Thereupon he said, "Now, I want you to kill a thousand people. If you do, you will definitely attain birth."
I responded, "Though you instruct me thus, I'm afraid it is not in my power to kill even one person."
"Then why did you say that you would follow whatever I told you?"
He continued, "By this you
should realize that if we could always
as we wished, then when I told you to kill a thousand people in order
to attain birth, you should have immediately done so. But since you
lack the karmic cause inducing you to kill even a single person, you do
not kill. It is not that you do not kill because your heart is good. In
the same way, a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up
killing a hundred or a thousand people."
Thus he spoke of how we believe that if our hearts are good, then it is good for birth, and if our hearts are evil, it is bad for birth, failing to realize that it is by the inconceivable working of the Vow that we are saved.
There was, in those days, a
person who had fallen into wrong views.
asserted that since the Vow was made to serve the person who had
committed evil, one should purposely do evil as an act for attaining
birth. As rumors of misdeeds gradually spread, Shinran wrote in a
letter, "Do not take a liking to poison just because there is an
antidote." This was in order to put an end to that wrong understanding.
It by no means implies that evil can obstruct one's attainment of birth.
He also said, "If it were only by observing precepts and upholding rules that we should entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow, how could we ever gain freedom from birth-and-death?" Even such wretched beings as ourselves, on encountering the Primal Vow, come indeed to "presume" upon it. But even so, how could we commit evil acts without any karmic cause in ourselves?
The Master further stated:
For those who make their living drawing nets or fishing in the seas and rivers, and those who sustain their lives hunting beasts or taking fowl in the fields and mountains, and those who pass their lives conducting trade or cultivating fields and paddies, it is all the same. If the karmic cause so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.
These days, however, one finds people making a show of themselves as "seekers for the afterlife," posting notices at nembutsu practice halls saying that those who have committed such and such acts may not enter, as though only good persons should say the nembutsu. Are not people who do this indeed "outwardly expressing signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence, while inwardly embracing falsity"?
Even the evil we commit while "presuming" upon the Vow occurs through the prompting of past karma. Thus, Other Power lies in entrusting ourselves wholly to the Primal Vow while leaving both good and evil to karmic recompense. The Essentials of Faith Alone states:
Do you know the power Amida possesses, when you say that because you are a being of karmic evil you cannot be saved?
Since you have a heart that
presumes upon the Primal
Vow, the mind of entrusting yourself to Other Power becomes all the
more firmly settled.
If you entrusted yourself to the Primal Vow only after completely ridding yourself of karmic evil and blind passions, then there would be no presuming upon the Vow. But to rid yourself of blind passions is to become a Buddha, and for one who is already a Buddha, the Vow that arose from the five kalpas of profound thought would be to no purpose.
People who admonish others against presuming upon the Primal Vow themselves appear to be possessed of blind passions and defilements. Does not this condition itself imply presuming upon the Vow? What kind of evil is meant by "presuming upon the Vow" and what kind is not? Rather, is not this entire line of argument the product of immature thinking?
It is asserted [based on the
Contemplation Sutra] that
there are persons of the ten transgressions and five grave offences
who, although they have passed their lives without saying the nembutsu,
at the time of death, urged by the instruction of a good teacher, come
to say it for the first time. In one utterance eight billion kalpas of
karmic evil are eradicated, or in ten utterances, ten times eight
billion kalpas of grave karmic evil are eradicated, and thus they
attain birth. It appears that one utterance and ten utterances are
taught in order to make us know the gravity of the ten transgressions
and five grave offences.
Those who assert the above, however, speak only of the benefit of eradicating evil. This falls far short of the teaching that we have accepted. For by virtue of being shone upon by Amida's light, we receive diamondlike shinjin when the one thought-moment of entrusting arises within us; hence, already in that instant Amida takes us into the stage of the truly settled, and when our lives end, all our blind passions and obstructions of evil being transformed, we are brought to realize insight into the nonorigination of all existence. Thus the nembutsu that we say throughout a lifetime with the thought, "If it were not for this compassionate Vow, how could such wretched evildoers as ourselves gain emancipation from birth-and-death?" should be recognized as entirely the expression of our gratitude for the benevolence and our thankfulness for the virtuous working of the Tathagata's great compassion.
To believe that each time you say the Name your karmic evil is eradicated is nothing but to strive to attain birth by eliminating your karmic evil through your own efforts. In that case, you can attain birth only by being diligent in the nembutsu to the very point of death, for every single thought you have throughout the course of you life is a fetter binding you to birth-and-death. But since our karmic recompense restricts us, we may, meeting with various unforeseen accidents or being tormented by the pain of sickness, reach the end of our lives without dwelling in rightmindedness; in such circumstances, saying the Name is difficult. How then is the karmic evil committed in that final interval to be eradicated? If it is not eliminated, is not birth unattainable?
If we entrust ourselves to Amida's Vow that grasps and never abandons us, then even though unforeseen circumstances, we commit an evil act and die without saying the nembutsu at the very end, we will immediately realize birth in the Pure Land.
Moreover, even if we do say the Name at the point of death, it will be nothing other than our expression of gratitude for Amida's benevolence, entrusting ourselves to the Buddha more and more as the very time of enlightenment draws near.
The desire to eradicate one's karmic evil through saying the Name arises from the heart of self-power; it is the basic intent of people who pray to be in a state of rightmindedness when their lives end. It therefore reveals an absence of shinjin that is Other Power.
This statement is completely absurd. The attainment of Buddhahood with this very body is the essence of the Shingon esoteric teaching; it is the realization achieved through the three kinds of mystic acts. The purification of the six sense organs is the One Vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra; it is the virtue acquired through the four practices of repose. These are both ways of difficult practice to be followed by those of superior capacity; they lead to the enlightenment realized through fulfilling contemplative practice.
Attaining enlightenment in the
coming life is the essence of the
Land teaching of Other Power; it is the principle actualized through
the settlement of shinjin. This is the way of easy practice to be
followed by those of inferior capacity; it is the teaching that makes
no distinction between the good and the evil.
Since it is extremely difficult to free oneself from blind passions and the hindrances of karmic evil in this life; even the virtuous monks who practice the Shingon and Tendai teachings pray for enlightenment in the next life. In our case, what more need be said?
We lack both the observance of precepts and the comprehension of wisdom, but when, by allowing ourselves to be carried on the ship of Amida's Vow, we have crossed this ocean of suffering that is birth-and-death and attain the shore of the Pure Land, the dark clouds of blind passions will swiftly clear and the moon of enlightenment, true reality, will immediately appear. Becoming one with the unhindered light filling the ten quarters, we will benefit all sentient beings. It is at that moment that we attain enlightenment.
Do those who speak of realizing enlightenment while in this bodily existence manifest various accommodated bodies, possess the Buddha's thirty-two features and eighty marks, and preach the dharma to benefit beings like Shakyamuni? It is this that is meant by realizing enlightenment in this life. It is stated in a hymn:
When the time comes
For shinjin, indestructible as diamond, to become settled,
Amida grasps and protects us with compassion and light,
So that we may part forever from birth-and-death.
This means that at the moment shinjin becomes settled, we are grasped, never to be abandoned, and therefore we will not transmigrate further in the six courses. Only then do we part forever from birth-and-death. Should such awareness be confusedly termed "attaining enlightenment"? It is regrettable that such misunderstanding should arise.
The late Master said,
According to the true essence of the Pure Land way, one entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow in this life and realizes enlightenment in the Pure Land; this is the teaching I received.
This appears to reflect an attitude of seeking to attain birth by desisting from evil and performing good, for the person of wholehearted single practice of the nembutsu, change of heart occurs only once. People who have in ordinary life been ignorant of the true essence of the Primal Vow, which is Other Power, come to realize, through receiving Amida's wisdom, that they cannot attain birth with the thoughts and feelings they have harbored up to then, so they abandon their former heart and mind and entrust themselves to the Primal Vow. This is what is meant by "change of heart."
Suppose that attainment of birth were possible only by going through changes of heart day and night with every incident that occurred. In that case- human life being such that it is ends even before breath exhaled can be drawn in again- if we were to die without going through a change of heart and without abiding in a state of gentleness and forbearance, would not Amida's Vow that grasps and never abandons us be rendered meaningless?
Some claim with their lips that they entrust themselves to the power of the Vow and yet harbor in their hearts the thought that, even the though the Vow to save the evil is said to be beyond conceptual understanding, after all it saves the good person in particular; thus, doubting the power of the Vow, they lack the mind of entrusting themselves to Other Power, and are destined for birth in the borderland. How lamentable this is!
If shinjin has become settled, birth will be brought about by Amida's design, so there must be no calculating on our part. Even when we are evil, if we revere the power of the Vow all the more deeply, gentleheartedness and forbearance will surely arise in us through its spontaneous working (jinen). With everything we do, as far as birth is concerned, we should constantly and fervently call to mind Amida's immense benevolence without any thought of being wise. Then the nembutsu will indeed emerge; this is jinen. Our not calculating is called jinen. It is itself Other Power.
It seems, however, that there
are people who knowingly declare that
jinen has a different meaning. This is deplorable.
In what authoritative passage do we find such a statement? It is deplorable that this is being maintained by people who pretend to be scholars. How are they reading the sutras, treaties, and other sacred writings? I was taught that practicers who lack shinjin are born in the borderland because of their doubt concerning the Primal Vow, and that, after the evil of doubt has been expiated, they realize enlightenment in the fulfilled land.
Since practicers of shinjin are few, many are guided to the transformed land. To declare, despite this, that birth there will ultimately end in vain would be to accuse Shakyamuni of lying.
This is totally absurd and
nonsensical. To begin with,
is it not impossible to determine the size of a Buddha? Although the
height of Amida, the Master of the teaching in the Pure Land of peace,
is stated [in sutras], this refers to a form of the fulfilled body of
compassionate means. A Buddha, having been awakened to the
enlightenment of dharma-nature, has no form, long or short, square or
round, and no color, blue, white, or black; how then can the size be
It is stated [in sutras] that in saying the nembutsu, one upholds a transformed Buddha. Concerning this, it is written [in scriptures] that with a great nembutsu one sees a great Buddha and with a small nembutsu one sees a small Buddha. Perhaps the above assertion has been wrongly linked to this idea.
Further, it may be possible to say that making offerings is the practice of the paramita of charity. But however precious a treasure one may offer before the Buddha or give to a teacher, it is meaningless if one lacks shinjin. And even though one may not make a donation of even a single sheet of paper or half a penny to the sangha, if one yields one's heart to Other Power and one's shinjin is deep, one is in accord with the essential intent of the Vow.
Is it not after all that those
people seek to intimidate their
practicers, using the Buddha's teaching as a pretext and being moved by
Every one of the assertions discussed above appears to arise out of divergences from shinjin. As the late Master once related, in Master Honen's day, among his many disciples there were few who were of the same shinjin as Honen, and because of this, Shinran became involved in a debate with some fellow practicers. It happened in this way.
Shinran remarked, "My shinjin and the Master's are one."
Seikan-bo, Nembutsu-bo, and others among his fellow practicers strongly argued, "How can your shinjin and be the same as the Master's?"
Shinran responded, "The Master possesses vast wisdom and learning, so I would be mistaken if I claimed to be the same in those respects, but in shinjin that is the cause of birth, there is no difference whatever. The Master's shinjin and mine are one and the same."
The others remained skeptical, however, asking how that could be. So finally they all decided that the argument should be brought before Honen to determine which side was right.
When they presented the details of the matter, Master Honen said, "My shinjin has been given by Amida; so has that of Zenshin-bo [Shinran]. Therefore they are one and the same. A person with a different shinjin will surely not go to the Pure Land to which I will go."
Thus, it seems likely that among people of the wholehearted, single practice now also, there are those not one in shinjin with Shinran.
Although all of the above are repetitions of the same words, I record them here. While the dew of life life barely clings to this withered leaf of grass that I am, I can lend an ear to the uncertainties of the people who accompany me along the way and relate to them what Master Shinran said. But I lament that after my eyes close, there will almost certainly be confusion concerning the teaching. When you are confused by people who discuss such views as those noted above, carefully read the sacred writings that accord with the late Master's thought and that he himself used to read. In the scriptures in general, the true and real and the accommodated and provisional are mixed. That we abandon the accommodated and take up the real, set aside the provisional and adopt the true is the Master's fundamental intent. You must under no circumstances misread the sacred writings. I have selected several important authoritative passages and appended them to this volume as a standard.
The Master would often say,
When I consider deeply the Vow of Amida, which arose from five kalpas of profound thought, I realize that it was entirely for the sake of myself alone! Then how I am filled with gratitude for the Primal Vow, in which Amida resolved to save me, though I am burdened with such heavy karma.
Reflecting once more on this expression of Shinran's inmost thoughts, I find that is does not differ in the least from those precious words of Shan-tao:
Know yourself to be a foolish being of karmic evil caught in birth-and-death, ever sinking and ever wandering in transmigration from innumerable kalpas in the past, with never a condition that would lead to emancipation.
Thus how grateful I feel for Shinran's words, in which he gives himself as an example in order to make us realize we are in delusion, knowing nothing at all of the depths of our karmic evil or the vastness of Amida's benevolence.
In truth, myself and others discuss only good and evil, leaving Amida's benevolence out of consideration. Among Master Shinran's words were:
I know nothing at all of good or evil. For if I could know thoroughly, as Amida Tathagata knows, that an act was good, then I would know good. If I could know thoroughly, as the Tathagata knows, that an act was evil, then I would know evil. But with a foolish being full of blind passions, in this fleeting world- this burning house- all matters without exception are empty and false, totally without truth and sincerity. The nembutsu alone is true and real.
Indeed, I myself and others speak only falsehoods to each other. In this, there is a truly regrettable thing. When, regarding our saying of the nembutsu, we discuss the nature of shinjin or explain it to people, we ascribe to Shinran even words he never spoke in order to silence others and to settle controversies with our own opinions. This is indeed saddening and deplorable. This matter should be carefully pondered and understood.
These are by no means my own words, but since I do not know the lines of discourse in the sutras and commentaries and cannot understand or discern the profundity of the scriptural writings, undoubtedly they seem foolish. Nevertheless, recalling a hundredth part- only a fragment- of what the late Shinran said, I write it down. How sad it would be to abide in the borderland instead of being born directly into the fulfilled land, even though one has the fortune of saying the nembutsu. That there be no differing of shinjin among the fellow practicers, I take my brush with tear in my eyes and record this. Let the title be Tannisho- A Record in Lament of divergences [from True Shinjin].
It should not be shown about
It was while the former
emperor Gotoba was in power
that Master Honen established and spread the nembutsu school based on
the Primal Vow of Other Power. Then monks of Kofuku-ji, accusing Honen
of being an enemy of the dharma, presented a petition to the court to
the effect that there was lawless conduct among his disciples. Because
of these groundless rumors, the following persons were found guilty of
Master Honen and seven of his
disciples were exiled,
and four other disciples were executed.
The Master was banished to a
place called Hata in Tosa
province and, stripped of ordination, given a secular name: the male
Fujii no Motohiko; he was seventy-six years old.
Shinran was exiled to Echigo
province. His secular
name was Fujii no Yoshizane, he was thirty-five.
[Among the others exiled:] Jomon-bo, to Bingo province; Chosai Zenko-bo, to Hoki province; Kokaku-bo, to Izu province; Gyoku Hohon-bo, to Sado province.
It was also determined that
Kosai Jokaku-bo and Zenne-bo both
banishment, but the former abbot of Mudo-ji temple took them under his
The persons sentenced to banishment were the eight listed above.
Those sentenced to death:
|1. Saii Zenshaku-bo;||2. Shogan-bo;|
|3. Juren-bo;||4. Anraku-bo.|
Those were sentences passed down by Dharma-seal Soncho of the second court rank.
Shinran was deprived of his status as a priest and given a secular name. Hence he was neither monk nor layman. Because of this, he took as his own surname the work Toku (stubble-haired). For this, he applied to the court and obtained permission. This petition is still preserved in the Office of Records.
After his exile, he signed his name Gutoku Shinran.
This sacred writing is an important scripture in our tradition. It should not be indiscriminately shown to any who lack past karmic good.