Translated by Elson Snow
(1) NEMBUTSU RECITATION
Dotoku, from the village of Kanjuji, visited Rennyo on New Year's Day in the second year of Meio. "How many years have you reached, Dotoku?" Rennyo asked. "I urge you to recite the nembutsu. When it is recited in self-power, it is meant that the number of times it is repeated so much merit is accumulated toward deliverance by the Buddha. When it is recited in other-power, it is meant that at the instant moment of total reliance one is received by the Buddha. The nembutsu following this recitation is always, namuamidabutsu, namuamidabutsu, expressing heartfelt joy in gratitude for release by the Buddha's strength, the other-power. The one moment by which we rely totally on Amida continues unbroken throughout our lives and certain birth in the Pure Land is assured.
(2) "UNOBSTRUCTED LIGHT" IN THE WASANS
Rennyo based his talk during the morning service on the six wasans beginning with the five inexplicabilities and concluding with the following lines:Penetrating light unobstructed
pierces the darkness of ignorance,
and with one thought of joyousness
attainment of nirvana is finalized.
He compared the gist of the six wasans
with a passage describing Amida's light penetrating darkness throughout
directions, and a poem of Honen Shonin:
There is no place lacking moonlight,
but seen by watchers at night
wherever they may be.
The occasion was impressive for those who heard the discourse given by Rennyo on the previous evening, and again in the morning. Jitsunyo expressed deep gratitude and praise which he could not fully describe in words.
(3) A MISCALCULATION IN CHANTING
While chanting wasans during service, Rennyo completely missed his turn at the crucial point in the text. Returning to his southern residential quarters, he said, "I was so absorbed in Shinran's stanzas, that I'd forgotten to take the lead. There are so few who follow the teaching and attain birth in the Pure Land; I rejoice for those who do."
(4) THOUGHT AND VOICE ARE ONE
Someone told Rennyo that he did not understand Honen Shonin's words, Thought and Voice are One. Rennyo answered, "Whatever is mental will cast an external form: If one believes that shinjin's essence is namuamidabutsu, we have an example of the singularity of thought and voice."
(5) BOOKS AND SCROLLS
Rennyo often repeated the couplet:
A tattered scroll worn by hanging,
A tattered book torn by reading.
(6) TOTAL RELIANCE
Rennyo said, "Namu is kimyo, the mind relying exclusively on Amida Buddha. Hotsugan Eko is 'transference' of virtues and merit from Amida Buddha at the moment of total reliance. The expressive form is namuamidabutsu."
(7) THE LOWER DEPTHS OF SHINJIN
Rennyo Shonin one day talked about shinjin to Gansho and Kakuzen, (Matashiro) from Raga province: "Shinjin is assurance of rebirth. It is single-mindfulness in relying entirely on Amida Buddha for favorable birth in the one-moment calling, namuamidabutsu. In spite of many evils they are all eradicated and dispersed by the power of shinjin at the very moment of absolute reliance." Rennyo cited a text and then explained, "Illusory seeds of karma accumulated from beginningless beginning through endless round of births on the six paths are obliterated by the wondrous vow-power of Amida's wisdom at the single-minded reliance in namuamidabutsu. This is the first flowering of the true cause of ultimate nirvana." Rennyo, after having spoken, then summarized this thought on a scroll and gave it to Gansho.
Rennyo Shonin was discussing matters with two visitors, Kyoken from Mikawa, and Kuken from Ise. "The meaning of namu is kimyo, an anticipation of future rebirth. Kimyo is awareness of the fundamental vow-power's transference of merits."
(9) UNDERSTANDING FROM A MIND OF FAITH
Someone complained to Rennyo of his inability to understand that, "we have repeated the birth and death cycle many times; and during those lengthy times there were already ways and means given to us in the practice of the vow of the other-power." Rennyo replied, "It is apparent that this response is from a man who has heard, and is knowledgeable - but, has no awakening mind of faith."
(10) FULFILLMENT OF COMPASSION
Fukudenji said he did not understand that Amida's great compassion fills the heart of foundering sentient beings. Rennyo answered, ''The lotus of the buddha-mind blossoms internally in the mind and heart, and not in any other bodily organ. It is said that Amida's benevolence fills the heart and mind of sentient beings throughout the universe, which refers only to those acquiring shinjin." Fukudenji was grateful for the reply.
(11) WHY ARE WE RECITING WASANS?
At a late evening service in October, Rennyo told his listeners it was deplorable to think that by reciting wasans and the Shoshinge they were actually making an offering to Amida Buddha and Shinran, "In other traditions merit transference is accomplished by this oral practice. In our school, Shinran intended to share with others the mind of faith in the other-power, and the wasans were composed to better understand this teaching of the seven patriarchs. Nembutsu is recited in recognition of gratitude for what he has done on our behalf, and an expressive outpouring of thankfulness to Amida Buddha, which we observe in the presence of Shinran Shonin."
(12) SCHOLARLY WAYS
We may be well learned in the bulk of our religious literature, but lacking a settled peaceful mind of the other-power this study is useless. Our rebirth, determined by Amida, is the faith of one-mind lasting to the end of life and in the certainty of rebirth.
(13) A VISION DURING HO-ONKO
Kuzen tells of his experience during Ho-onko festivities: "I went to the altar of Shinran Shonin about two o'clock in the morning, and dozed off. I was sitting in a 'gassho posture' half asleep, half awake, when I saw the appearance of Rennyo Shonin through a cotton-like fleecy cloud walking toward me from behind the shrine. Thinking this was peculiar, I looked inside the altar-place and saw it was empty! I almost spoke out in the conviction that Shinran had taken the form of Rennyo in order to restore Jodo Shinshu teachings. I then recalled the praises Kyomonbo quoted from the Ho-onko Shiki, the teachings of Shinran are like waiting for the effect of fire after striking stick and stone together. It is like using a file on tile and pebbles creating jewels. Since that dream I have been convinced Rennyo is truly the manifestation of Shinran Shonin."
(14) TEACHING AND ACQUIRING SHINJIN
Those who teach the way of the Dharma should first acquire shinjin. Following this determination, when the sutras are read or explained those who listen will be certain of favorable rebirth.
(15) THE PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE
It was said by Rennyo, "One whose reliance on Amida is determined, will have a joyous mind in nembutsu practice of gratitude for the Buddha's compassion."
(16) TRANSMISSION OF SHINJIN
Rennyo Shonin's message to his son, Chikamatsu, was that he first establish shinjin for himself, and then firmly transmit it to others.
(17) POPULARITY AND AUTHENTIC CELEBRATIONS
On a December evening before Rennyo was to leave for Kyogyoji, his residence at Tonda, a crowd of people showed up. He asked Junsei why there were so many people. "Perhaps they have come to celebrate the passing of the old year before you leave tomorrow, and they want to show appreciation for your sermons." Rennyo replied, "What a useless celebration! It would be better to observe the occasion of acquiring shinjin"
(18) INDOLENCE AND JOYFULNESS
"There are times when some of us are neglectful and overwhelmed by doubting a favorable rebirth. However, our trust in the Tathagata Amitabha establishing once this determination, we would have no regret concerning negligence but rejoice in its certainty. It is a joyous mind, regardless of neglect, that followers experience in the great practice of other-power.
(19) GRATEFULNESS FOR ASSURANCE
It was asked of Rennyo whether the nembutsu is gratitude for final release in the future, or does the nembutsu express gratitude for already having received the way of deliverance in the present? "Both are good," said Rennyo. ''Those established in the assembly of assured birth are grateful for their certitude in the present. And for entering nirvana their gratefulness is expressed for their future birth and enlightenment. Either way, there is the moment of joyfulness in becoming a Buddha."
(20) SHINJIN FOR ONESELF AND FOR OTHERS
On the 23rd day of the first month of the fifth year of Meio, Rennyo arrived from Tonda, and sternly declared that, "this year I see no one having shinjin." He spoke fervently and at great lengths on anjin, and then sponsored a Noh performance. In the second month he returned to Tonda. On the 27th day of the third month he returned to Yamashina from Sakai. The following day he remarked, "I have traveled extensively, back and forth, urging people to acquire shinjin and impart it to others. Wherever I have gone, I am told of those joyfully attaining shinjin experience. I am pleased to hear this upon my return."
(21) DISCUSSING ANJIN WITH OTHERS
In a declaration to Kuzen on April 9 of this year Rennyo said, " In acquiring anjin one may have something to say. There is nothing to be gained about useless things. To be discussed, carefully, is the essential mind."
Rennyo left for Sakai on the 20th of the fourth month.
(23) FROM THE WASANS
Rennyo arrived in Yamashina and quoted from the wasans:
In the age of Five Corruptions,
Only by diamond-mind faith,
we escape samsaric birth-and-death,
and arrive in the Pure Land of naturalness
He then cited the next wasan, and said, "I came here explicitly to talk about these two verses. We will reach the Pure Land of naturalness! No longer in the cycle of birth and death. How marvelous!" repeated Rennyo several times.
(24) SHINRAN'S CALLIGRAPHIC STYLE
Rennyo wrote the phrase, namuamidabutsu with gold-powdered ink and hung it in his room. According to Rennyo, namu is written in Shinran's style. He said, 'The Buddha of Inconceivable Light and Buddha of Unobstructed Light is the nembutsu in praises of the virtuous name. Namuamidabutsu is fundamental."
(25) FORM AND ONE-MIND
Innumerable Buddhas of the ten quarters
offer protection to those recognizing
failure of self-power Enlightenment
Junsei asked Rennyo for the meaning of this wasan and was told, ''The skill of all the Buddhas are directed to the refuge of Amida:
The feminine heart of the nun
to be discarded in this world,
And the cow's horn
to remain as-it-is.
This verse of Shinran refers to the insignificance of form, and the importance of one-mind. In this world the head is shaven, but the heart is not.
(26) ON THE CREMATORIA GROUNDS
When thinking of Toribeno
It is with saddened heart;
It is these grounds that
separated us from intimacy.
- a verse written by Shinran
(27) SHINRAN'S PORTRAIT
Kuzen, on the 20th of the ninth month of the 5th year of Meio, was presented the portrait of Shinran Shonin. There are no words for me to express the profound gratitude I feel.
(28) AT OUR FOUNDER'S MEMORIAL
In the same year during Ho-onko at the original shrine, Rennyo Shonin read the biography of Shinran. He also touched several topics. For me, the depth of gratitude is inexpressible.
(29) RELATED CONDITIONS OF THE PAST
Rennyo arrived from Yamashina on the 4th month of the sixth year of Meio. He carried with him the original portrait of Shinran, Anjono-Miei, and after unwrapping the bundle explained that the calligraphy was the writing of Shinran, himself. After homage was given to the founder, Rennyo said that without previous circumstances of related conditions presentation of this portrait would not be possible.
(30) THE THREE ACTIVITIES
Rennyo quoted the wasan:
All Buddhas of the three actions
in full equity,
cures the scourge of
mind, body, and speech.
Its significance is that there is an accord of all Buddhas with Amida Buddha for releasing all living beings.
(31) RENNYO: ON CONTINUITY OF SHINJIN
Continuity of faith following the one-thought of shinjin is nothing out of the ordinary. Anjin, the mind of tranquility is first awakened and singularity of thought is established and always present in grateful response, "Be mindful at all times" and "Respond to Buddha's compassion." Total reliance with this single-mindfulness is an essential requirement.
(32) SEEDS OF REBIRTH
Rennyo posed the problem: "On the question of recitation of the nembutsu, chanting of Shoshin-ge, and repetition of hymns - morning and evening - is that sufficient for favorable rebirth?" ''Yes'' was one answer, and "No" was another. Both answers are not satisfactory. The wasans and the gatha are expressions of one-thought reliance of sentient beings on Tathagata Amitabha for future birth. This understanding of faith is gratitude and thankfulness, and joyful acceptance in the presence of Shinran Shonin."
(33) THE SIX SYLLABLES
Rennyo Shonin declared that the six syllables, namuamidabutsu, are practiced orally in other traditions in expectation of transferring merit and great benefits to the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings, assuming oneself in possession of these virtues. It is not in accord with our tradition. If the six syllables belonged to us, then we would offer it to the Buddha and bodhisattvas. It is the one-thought and one mind, towards favorable birth, in gratitude for our releasement that the name is repeated.
(34) THE SPONTANEOUS RECITATION
Lady Asai of Mikawa briefly met with Rennyo as he was preparing to leave for Tonda. Before departing he told her that just repeating the name is not sufficient, but at the moment of entrusting we are then assured by Amida Buddha. "With deep conviction we spontaneously repeat, namuamidabutsu. Our gratitude, namuamidabutsu, namuamidabutsu, is an expression of obligation for the Buddha's compassion."
(35) SHINJIN AND CONTRADICTION
Junsei, referring to the gobunsho, asked Rennyo about an apparent contradiction in his explanations: "In one of your letters it is said, At the moment of awakening shinjin all evil is eradicated, and one enters the assembly of no-returners. You have also said that evil will remain with us during our entire life-time. This is not consistent." Rennyo then explained to Junsei of eradicating evil at the very moment of acquiring shinjin, the power of shinjin assures birth in the Pure Land and evil is no longer an obstacle; it is as if there were never these bad effects. While we live in this world evil is never exhausted. Junsei, are you presently enlightened having no evil whatever? The text says, At the moment of awakening shinjin, evils disappear ... Rather than discussing whether evil remains, it is better to question our mind of faith, constantly - With or without evil, it is left entirely to Amida Buddha. Our important concern is only shinjin. "
(36) THE AUTHENTIC SHINJIN
From the wasans: Authentic shinjin of pronouncing the name is Dharma transference of Amida; self-power recitation is non transferred and unacceptable. From Amida this is given as we respond internally with gratitude and certitude by nembutsu repetition. Reciting the nembutsu with calculation is self-power practice and to be avoided.
The life of birthlessness is never known in the three worlds where life migrates through many existences. It is in the land of bliss that life is referred to as birthlessness.
"Eko," says Rennyo Shonin, "is merit transference of Amida Buddha's deliverance of all sentient beings."
(39) CERTAINTY OF REBIRTH
The principle of rebirth determined by awakening of one-thought does not depend on whether we are evil or not. - Our releasement is up to Amitabha Tathagata; it is useless thinking about our sins. It is fundamental that sentient beings are released by total reliance.
We are sitting together in equality. Shinran had declared that those possessing shinjin are all fraternally united. Likewise, I sit with you in the same setting, and desiring that faith is to be attained, and clarification of these issues be made whenever necessary.
(41) BONNO ACTIVITY (THE KLESAS)
I am drowning in the sea of lust and passion, and my illusion of ambition is greater than a mountain; I am ashamed, having no joy entering the assembly of assured birth and approaching authentic Enlightenment.
Discussing this passage of Shinran, doubt was expressed concerning favorable rebirth. Overhearing these remarks from the next room, Rennyo said, "Lust is the activity of the klesas and the quieting of them are miscellaneous practice. Faith only, and nothing else is required."
(42) ROUGH SPEECH
One evening there was an impromptu gathering. – "Out of the way!" Kyomombo angrily shouted. Rennyo, hearing this forceful language said, "Before they leave, tell them in the same voice about the true practice of one-thought. This is what we are trying to do from one end of the country to the other!" Kyomombo, immediately and apologetically regretted his words. In praising Rennyo, Kyomombo tearfully related this incident to an audience overwhelmed with emotion.
(43) HO-ONKO SERVICES
In the eleventh month of the sixth year of Meio, Rennyo did not show up for Ho-onko. Hokyobo was dispatched to ask about arrangements for services. Rennyo composed a letter stating that only watchmen should remain at the temple from six p.m. to six a.m. in the morning. He conducted services at Tonda for three days of the week before arriving in Osaka on the 24th.
(44) RENNYO'S INDISPOSITION
Since the summer of the seventh year of Meio, Rennyo suffered a recurring ailment, and hoped to visit the enshrined Shinran Shonin at Yamashina. He declared, "I have no inclination to see anyone lacking shinjin. I would invite and warmly receive any visitor who has acquired shinjin."
(45) WORDS OF CONTINUlTY
People in the present should learn from the past, and the older generation commit to writing what has gone before. Words that are spoken are easily lost, but written ones are retained for the future.
Doshu of Akao declared that "We should never fail to use the home obutsudan every morning, and at least once a month attend the local temple, and every year visit the head temple." Ennyo Shonin hearing this, voiced his approval.
(47) THE CLOGGED MIND
Do not leave things to your own mind. Exercise some control. The Buddhadharma flows freely, and whatever obstructions, acquiring shinjin would be beneficial to our practice.
(48) OLD AGE
Hokyobo at the age of ninety declared that he never tired of hearing the teachings, "Never have I felt of listening too much."
(49) WRONG HEADEDNESS
At Yamashina after a Dharma talk, it was generally agreed that it contained memorable advice and should be remembered. However, immediately departing from Rennyo a small part of the audience began a discussion and soon became aware of disagreement in reporting what was actually said. At least four of them missed the point all together, and each of the six had a different version. We often do not hear things correctly.
(50) ACQUIRING SHINJIN
When Rennyo was very popular and had a large audience, he would ask, "How many of you have acquired shinjin? One? Two?" This would always admonish his listeners.
(51) TO THE POINT!
Hokyo once declared, "Do not listen indiscriminately; Get the gist of the meaning!" This comment emphasizes the importance of grasping the main idea.
(52) NEMBUTSU WITH ENERGY
The recitation of mindfulness is energetic, and reciting the nembutsu is the energy of joyous faith.
(53) THE READING OF THE LETTERS
Concerning The Letters, ''The sutras and commentaries are not always read correctly and are sometimes misunderstood. As for The Letters, however, they are readily understood and written out of compassion. Hearing them and not having comprehension reveals a lack of a fruitful relationship with past conditions."
(54) HABITUAL ACCEPTANCE
"I have listened, and with understanding have agreed with our tradition," said Hokyo, ''but the heart has never grasped it."
(55) THE OTHER POWER
It was often said by Jitsunyo Shonin that "we were taught to never leave the buddhadharma to the working of our own minds. It is essential, mindfulness is awareness of not allowing the mind to assert its control. This is the mind of the Other Power."
(56) TO HEAR
In our tradition there are those who will listen with comprehension, but few of them will actually ''hear.'' This simply means that faith is seldom received.
(57) THE WORLD OF SECULARITY
Rennyo Shonin observed, "We see there are persons engrossed in worldly discussion, when involvement in the Buddhadharma should be made their main concern. The focus of attention should be turned once again to the Buddhadharma."
(58) A CHANGE OF ATTITUDE
No one thinks of himself as evil. In effect, this opinion rejected by Shinran earns his well-deserved admonishment; everyone should make amends and change their attitudes, otherwise, lengthy containment in the Naraka regions is a certainty all due to not plumbing the depths of the buddhadharma.
(59) THE AIR OF COMPREHENSION
each and every person
in relation to authentic faith,
comprehends with a mind
doggedly in self-assurance.
Before leaving for Sakai, Chikamatsu had this waka posted, and left word that one should think about this verse; the point was raised by Kooji. The poem is a reference to the mind of a ''know-it-all person."
(60) DIRECT MEANING OF ANJIN
Hokyobo always spoke on anjin and invariably cited the explanatory phrase of, "the meaning of namu ... " Rennyo's comment was that he should have talked about the quotation, itself, and tersely uncover the significance of anjin.
(61) THE SPIRIT OF OFFERING
Zenshu admitted of feeling shamed in the way he presented things to Rennyo Shonin as his own. When asked what was meant, he said, "All things belong to the Tathagata and Shinran, and are not my possessions in transmitting them. I always believe that these things are coming from me."
(62) NEMBUTSU OF CONTINUITY
Kazue, a man from Gunke in the province of Settsu, constantly recited the nembutsu, and every day while shaving and absorbed in recitation, he would be nicked by the razor. "A pity that it's never possible to say the nembutsu without moving the lips."
(63) OLD AGE AND THE DHARMA
A follower said, "One should hear the buddhadharma in his youth. When he becomes older he slows down and besets with drowsiness. It is best to be attentive when one is younger."
(64) MENTALLY, AS-IT-IS
All sentient beings, just as they are. There is no expectation of any transformation or alteration. Indiscriminately, beings are reached by the Buddha's wisdom.
(65) THE FAMILY
It is most pitiful when concerned with our own children and wives, and they cannot be reached. Without the accumulation of ripened past conditions, it cannot be done. But there is, at least, oneself to be cultivated.
(66) LIFESPAN FROM DAY TO DAY
Hokyobo said, "If one has no faith and days pass one after another, the hellish realm quickly approaches. Whether there is faith or there is not, one cannot easily discern it. We cannot determine the full span of life; then, reflect on your lifespan terminating on this very day, as said by a man of faith long ago."
(67) THE LIFE-PERMANENT VOW
The single vow once made is a vow for a life-time, at its single inception the vow is for the duration of one's life. The reason is that when the last moment of life suddenly arrives, the vow summarily includes one's entire life-span.
(68) THE DAY OF YOUR LIFE
is the only day in your life,
Otherwise incessant strivings are endless.
- a lyric of Kakunyo
(69) THE NAMUAMIDABUTSU SCROLL
In other traditions the portrait is favored over the scroll, and the image considered before the portrait. In our lineage the portrait is favored over the image, and the scroll is of primary importance.
(70) LITERARY STYLE AND RHETORIC
At the Head Temple of the Northern District, Rennyo was telling Hokyobo, "I am conscious always of my audience, and merge many thoughts into a single notion for simplicity and clarity, although my listeners may not be aware of it. Even the Gobunsho in recent years is written in this concise manner. I am easily bored of what I hear, and will misunderstand what I'm told," Rennyo said. "I emphasize what is most essential for immediate understanding."
(71) MYOGO SCROLLS
In his younger days when Ken-en resided at Futamata he was requested to supply a number of small myogo scrolls. "Have all of you acquired shinjin?" he questioned. ''The name is the substance of shinjin."
(72) WEALTH AND BUDDHA ATTAINMENT
I was told by Rennyo Shonin, ''The head of the Hyuga firm in Sakai was worth 300,000 kan when he died, but he is now unlikely a Buddha. Ryomyo of Yamato can hardly afford summer-wear, but she will certainly become a Buddha."
Hossho of Kyuhoji asked Rennyo, "Is it correct to say that at the very moment of total reliance in Tathagata Amitabha birth is assured?" The conversation was interrupted, "Why are you asking this trite question rather than inquiring about things that are not commonly known?" Rennyo admonished him, ''This is not good, seeking novelty, when our questioning should derive from our immediate and habitual concerns."
(74) AUTHENTICITY OF FAITH
''That faith is at times unacceptable for some is understandable. It is sorry to see that those in accord with anjin only in words and behavior, will eventually have nothing left but their deceit."
Shinran's words are not different than the Tathagata's instruction, and that's why the Gobunsho often introduces a topic with, "Amitabha Tathagata said ... "
(76) THE TRUE TEACHER
Rennyo asked Hokyo, "Do you know who is teaching you this trust in the Tathagata Amitabha?" Junsei spoke up replying that he did not know, and Rennyo said, ''The craftsmen will pay for instructions they receive. Now, pay me for the information!" Junsei without hesitating declared he would pay anything demanded of him. "Why, it is Amida Nyorai that is telling you of this entrusting."
(77) THE FIERY BUDDHAS
Hokyobo said that the Myogo he was given by Rennyo was burnt and had been transformed into six Buddhas, which was incredible. Rennyo replied, ''That is not so unbelievable that a Buddha becomes Buddha; it is incomprehensible that the ignorant man trusting Amida at a single moment becomes a Buddha."
(78) DEPTH OF GRATITUDE
Rennyo often said, "Day and night we live by the gifts of Amida and Shinran, and this protective source should be reflected upon."
(79) CHEWING AND SWALLOWING
It has been said that, one may know about chewing but not swallowing. ''This means," said Rennyo, "we have wives and children, and we eat fish and fowl. Though filled with evil, this is not an excuse for our behavior."
(80) TEACHING OF NON-EGO
Rennyo had emphasized that selflessness is the teaching of the buddhadharma, and thought of self should not occur; there is no one believing himself to be evil. This is a dictate of Shinran Shonin. In the other-power there is no thought of self. Rennyo's son also repeated this maxim.
(81) ACQUIRING SPIRITUALITY
Meeting a zenchishiki and asking about things already known by you is beneficial. How more wonderful to inquire about matters that not so well known by you.
(82) FALSE PRETENSIONS
In listening to the dharma few persons consider that it pertains to themselves, and satisfied with picking up a line or two for impressing others.
(83) KNOWN BY THE TATHAGATA
Rennyo declared that one-mindedness is known by the tathagata, and inwardly we should feel and react to this certainty of divine protection expressed by Amida.
I was not handed down anything extraordinary from my predecessor, Rennyo Shonin; only the principle of one-thought of Amida, and I am aware of nothing more. I can testify to this inheritance.
(85) ELABORATION ON ONE-THOUGHT
Rennyo had also said that ordinary beings are born in the Pure Land with reliance on the one-thought of the Buddha. This is verified by namuamidabutsu and witnessed by the Buddhas of the Ten Quarters.
(86) SPEAKING OUT
"Speak up! Whatever is on the mind, speak out! Remaining silent is terrible." Rennyo admonished his audience, "If you have faith or do not, speak out. Whatever is revealed, others would be able to make corrections. Whatever is thought should be expressed."
(87) LIMITATION IN PRACTICE
"Chanting and not knowing the rules is an accomplishment." Kyomonbo was always taken to task by Rennyo for his failure of not respecting the regulation of chanting. "If the rules are unknown, it is never a question of being wrong or committing a mistake. If the dharma is understood without flaws and delivered incorrectly according to regulation it is a wrong."
(88) A BASKET FULL OF WATER
Speaking quite frankly, a man confessed that his mind was like filling a basket with water. "I am profoundly gratified in hearing the teachings during our dharma gatherings. Afterward, however, I retain nothing of this reverence." Rennyo offered the advice, 'Throw the basket of yours into the water; likewise, immerse yourself in the dharma. Not having faith is what is wrong. The zenchishiki will say it is bad to lack faith."
(89) THE STUDY OF OUR LITERATURE
There is no point in haphazardly studying our literary tradition. Rennyo Shonin advised us, "Read the texts over and over. It is said that a reading of one hundred times results in clear understanding. If we acquire this inner principle, it would be easy to receive orally expert guidance and not rely totally on our own bad judgment."
(90) SHINJIN OF THE OTHER-POWER
If in reading our traditional literature, we take it as faith-mind of the other-power, we will not fall into error.
To think that I, myself, have a mind of enlightenment is regrettable. For the one of faith within the fold of Buddha's compassion there is no self-awakening. In the vow of the light of tenderness, the mind softens. Self-enlightenment does not assure attainment of a Buddha.
Even a single phrase is ego-centric. Within faith there is a sense of evilness, and one speaks from a feeling of gratitude and with thankfulness in the communication with others.
(93) TRANSMITTING FAITH
To instill faith in others and he, himself, lacks faith, is offering something that one does not really have. There is nothing to accept. This was the word of Rennyo and finally passed on to Junsei. "Faith for oneself, then faith for others." Acquisition of shinjin, and then teaching others as the gift coming from the Buddha. Anjin for oneself and imparting it to others is in accord with great compassion and its vast dissemination.
(94) THE COMPETENT READER
''There are those who read the classics but do no reading, and those that do not read but the classics are being read," declared Rennyo. "Illiterate persons that listen to words spoken on their behalf and acquiring faith are those who do not read, but the classics are being read. The classics not being read by those who read, lack principles for authentic understanding."
(95) SHINJIN AND TEACHING
Dharma transmission has never been done by being well versed in our literature. Persons in the audience of a woman of piety gratefully extolling the dharma will receive faith. By extensive power of the Buddha those listening to an unlettered woman of religious enthusiasm will acquire faith. Oral readers of our literary classics lacking the dharma in their minds cannot awaken faith in others.
(96) THE SECULAR INFLUENCE
Rennyo Shonin said that affairs governed by worldly concerns are not emphasized in our tradition, but determined from the standpoint of the buddhadharma.
(97) THE MAN OF THE WORLD
From the worldly standpoint the astute man is respected; lacking faith he is suspect. A handicapped person of sight and limb, on the other hand, is reliable if he is a man who has acquired shinjin.
To follow one's master, it is said, is to think of self. To obey the zenchishiki and acquire faith results in favorable birth.
The Buddha who has lived for long eternal kalpas is Amida. After reaching buddhahood he provisionally established vows, resulting from the strategy of upaya.
(100) THE EMBRACEMENT
Rennyo said that in trusting Amida, the body is entirely enwrapped within namuamidabutsu, and this should warrant our gratitude for that protection.
(101) THE STUFFED TATAMI MAT
Hogen Renji of Tango, appearing before Rennyo and suitably well dressed, was patted on the collar and told, ''This is namuamidabutsu." Jitsunyo also responded in the same way when he patted the tatami mat and said, "In this way I'm supported by the namuamidabutsu." This is stated in accord with, "Embraced and enwrapped by namuamidabutsu."
(102) THERE IS No TOMORROW
To be awestricken without the least exception is seeing all things from the viewpoint of the buddhadharma. Also, Rennyo would say, "According to the dharma there is no tomorrow ... hurry, hurry!"
"Believe there is not this very day!" Rennyo had said that we must accomplish things at once and he deplored procrastination. He would, in accordance with the buddha dharma, be pleased with getting things done without putting them off for the following day.
(104) ACCEPTANCE OF THE SCROLL
"It is a fortuitous occasion for us to request and receive a portrait scroll of Shinran. Formerly, we had only the central scroll. Our lack of faith is contradictory, and its results deserve any infliction imposed upon us."
(105) OPPORTUNE TIMING
"The time has arrived," is a declaration following a considered matter that has finally taken place. We cannot say, "The time has arrived," if we have experienced no prior consideration. We can speak of having or not having past related conditions, and accordingly by listening to the dharma, shinjin is finally acquired.
(106) THE BAD SEED
"Do you grasp the meaning of makitate," Rennyo asked Hokyo. "It is seed that has been sown but never further cultivated," he replied. Rennyo agreed and pointed out that it resembles the obstinate mental attitude which, if not corrected by others, remains a fallowed mind; "there is no faith without cultivation."
Always have an open mind, and be prepared in such a way that others of our following can correct your attitude. It is shameful to evade opinion of others whom we consider less worthy, and become angry at their advice. Keep a mind that is easily corrected.
(108) THE LACK OF RESPECT
"I have a determined single-thought, but lack respect for the words of a zenchishiki," someone complained to Rennyo. "At acquiring faith respectfulness should be shown. Nevertheless, we are still in a lowly condition and this attitude will often prevail. Whenever this persists we should toss the attitude aside as improper feelings."
(109) ONE-THOUGHT AND JOYFULNESS
In talking to Ken-en, Rennyo declared that, "Even if we are crudely clothed in tree-bark material, we should feel no sorrow but have singleminded joyfulness in Amida."
(110) FUTURE LIFE
Whatever our social status, whatever our age, favorable rebirth is never a certainty for we miss the way through negligence.
(111) LACKING FAITH
It was often that during moments of pain, Rennyo with closed eyes would groan, "ahhh ... " He said, "In thinking about those lacking faith, I groan this way with the pain of torn limbs."
(112) IMPARTING THE TEACHlNGS
Rennyo admitted that he talked with others in a suitable way and in accordance with the person's interest and understanding. In this way the buddhadharma could be inserted in his conversation. His approach was congenial to his listeners, and he was able to elaborate the teachings in this manner. He had several methods in explaining the dharma to others.
(113) MERITOUS ACCEPTANCE OF SHINJIN
Rennyo Shonin said there are those who think it pleases me to hear that they hold belief in the buddhadharma. It is those people possessing shinjin, however, who enjoy benevolence of greater merit. My sense of gratitude would arise after hearing of anyone attaining shinjin. It would be tolerable to listen to anything at all from those persons earnestly receiving shinjin for themselves.
(114) SUCCESSFUL EFFORT
If there is simply just one single person determined to acquire faith, throw yourself into the effort. Although at great risk to oneself, total commitment will not be wasting away your life.
(115) ACQUIRING FAITH
On hearing that a layman was invigorated by spiritual experience, Rennyo Shonin declared, "It is as if the wrinkles of old age have been eradicated from me!"
(116) MENTAL REFORMATION
"Are you not pleased with the reformed mind of your religious leader?" Rennyo received the reply from the layman that he was, indeed, satisfied and happy with this attitude and difference toward the dharma principles. "I am even more pleased," said Rennyo Shonin.
Rennyo provided dramatic farces between sessions of doctrinal instruction to alleviate boredom among the listeners. This method of Dharma-teaching was appreciated for his concern and practical relationship with his listeners.
(118) PRACTICE OF BECOMING A BUDDHA
Rennyo observing celebrants at the Dotoe Festival at Tennoji, expressed great pity for them, "Such a great number falling into the Inferno! Followers of our tradition will unfailingly become Buddhas." These words were a comfort to us.
(119) GROUP DISCUSSION
Following a dharma talk Rennyo told his sons that an audience should break into smaller gatherings of "four or five to discuss matters they have heard. It is often that each will hear things differently according to their own understanding. Group discussion is to be encouraged."
(120) HASTY CONCLUSIONS
Although it may be untrue, it is best to accept a statement in the beginning. Confrontation would inhibit conversation. Careful consideration of what is said by others is important. An example of this would be an exchange of personal criticism, and a person denying an assertion, however, will admit that because it was "alleged, it is likely true." This rejoinder is bad, and it would be best to hold a response in abeyance.
(121) THE TEACHING FLOURISHES
The success of our tradition has nothing to do with the number of followers. A single man of faith is testament to doctrinal transmission of selective correct practice, and it is from this power of those following it that our tradition flourishes.
(122) ANTICIPATING A PLEASANT REBIRTH
There are many of those who believe assiduously in listening to religious discussions and not having faith, but desirous of favorable rebirth for anticipated pleasures to be enjoyed; they cannot become Buddhas. Reliance on Amida is the only assurance of becoming a Buddha.
(123) THE LITERARY HERITAGE
The inheritance of our literature and doctrinal texts which have been saved and handed down to succeeding generations is likely to produce an affection for the buddhadharma. Perhaps these persons have flippant appearances, yet suddenly may be transformed spiritually.
(124) GOBUNSHO, EXPRESSIONS OF AMIDA
"The Letters" of Rennyo should be considered words coming from the Tathagata. The form is considered to be Honen Shonin, himself, and the words are the direct speech of Amida.
(125) THE BEAUTY OF THE LETTERS
During an illness Rennyo asked Kyomonbo to read. "How about the Ofumi?" It was agreed, and three letters were selected and read twice. "Although I composed them they are delightful to hear," responded Rennyo.
It has been said that Junsei had given this advice, "generally speaking, persons are angered on learning that they were talked about behind their back. I don't think this way. If you can't say a nasty thing to me face to face, say it out of my presence. I will eventually hear about it and will be able to make amends."
(127) HARDSHIPS IN THE BUDDHADHARMA
"In working for the advantage of the buddhadharma, difficulties are not considerable," Rennyo declared. He was consistent and handled all affairs with energy and conscientiously.
(128) ATTENTION TO DETAILS
The dharma to be treated loosely, and secular affairs attended to in detail is objectionable. The buddhadharma should be thoroughly investigated with full awareness and in detail.
(129) THE SHADOWS OF OUR EXPERIENCE
It is said, Far is near, Near is far; and that Next to the Lighthouse it is Dark. Listening to the dharma persons enjoying proximity are self satisfied, reaping benefits they consider commonplace and ordinary. Those at a remote distance of the capital, on the other hand, would hear the buddhadharma with greater reverence, and be more deeply motivated in listening.
(130) EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH
We are accustomed to the same expressions concerning faith, but we should respond always as heard for the very first time. Usually, we are attracted by newer interpretations; but no matter how many times we have heard it, our attitude should be to listen carefully and consider everything said as if it was uttered for the first time.
(131) HEARD FOR THE FIRST TIME
Doshu said, "I have heard it often, but always with gratitude in the sense of hearing it for the first time."
(132) NEMBUTSU AUTHENTICITY
It was reported of a person saying, "It is disturbing that in reciting the nembutsu publicly I am distracted, as it may appear to others it is done only for acquiring a reputation of piety. This is burdensome." This response is not common.
(133) "UNSEEN" BEHAVIOR
In the eyes of our companions in we are ashamed, but undismayed by the protection of divine presence; we should care for that which is not visible to us.
One should not complicate matters even if there is an accord with doctrine, secular affairs are not to be intermingled. Shinjin must be our primary concern.
Rennyo pointed out that "the buddhadharma instructs us that the mind which is calculated to make offerings for appeasement is not good. In the dharma our consideration is an unconditional response of gratitude in everything we do.
(136) THIEVERY OF THE SIX SENSES
Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thought are man's six bandits that plunder the mind. This scheme refers to mixed practices whereas within the nembutsu there is the mind of Buddha which simultaneously overwhelms Greed, Anger, and Hatred. In the midst of bonno pure desire for favorable birth is raised. Lines from the Shoshinge compares light and darkness, "although lying beneath heavy clouds there is sunlight and no obscurity."
(137) SUBJECTIVE HEARING
A word, or a phrase, is heard indiscriminately in a personal way. Discussion with others of the same practice is a good habit to cultivate.
Rennyo said, "In establishing close relations with the Sacred and the Buddhas we would use our feet instead of the appropriate activity of our hands. There is the firmness of familiarity with the Tathagata, Shinran, and Zenchishiki, in which stronger feelings of respect and adoration should be greatly increased."
(139) THE ROOT OF OUR ACTIONS
What is said and what is done are alike; mental reformation is no easy task, and our thoughts should be attended carefully.
(140) RESPECTING ONE'S GARMENTS
To be possessive of clothing and sloppy in dress is undesirable, for they are in Shinran's service. Rennyo would reverently raise his garments after they have carelessly fallen under foot.
The country's laws to the brow and the dharma held deeply within, a maxim of Rennyo. The principles of humanity should be faithfully observed.
(142) HARDSHIPS OF EXPANSION
Rennyo Shonin suffered many difficulties in spreading the teachings which he did with life-long determination. The expansion and flourishing of the dharma is attributed to his early persistent efforts.
(143) ACCOMPLISHMENT OF RESTORATION
During recuperation he made the comment about himself, "It had been my intent to reestablish the buddhadharma during my lifetime, and I was able to accomplish this difficult task and retire to a comfortable position, all accomplished through hard work and unseen influence."
Rennyo wistfully testified that previously he had worn the common quilted robe and was seldom able to afford the white silk apparel. This contrast should remind us of the hidden forces and we should be eternally grateful for today's accommodations.
(145) BAD TIMES
I have learned that Rennyo, at one time, lacked oil, was forced to accumulate the smallest bundles of kindling, and studied in semidarkness, sometimes by the light of the moon. He would wash his feet in cold water and miss several meals in succession.
(146) MENIAL TASKS
Not having service, Rennyo had stated that he, himself, had to wash out baby diapers and clothes.
(147) EMPLOYED HELP
Rennyo enlisted help from the staff of his father, Zennyo Shonin, who had five working members in the household. When he retired Rennyo had only five helpers, not exceeding the number employed by his father. The size of the staff is extraordinary and awesome considering the work he accomplished in his times, and the number of people working today.
(148) ECONOMIC CRISIS
There were times in the past when facing the Buddha we appeared in dress patched together with cheap cloth; now we use pure white silk, and even an extra wardrobe set aside for use. During the depression the Imperial Court was not exempted in acquiring mortgaged loans.
Rennyo Shonin told of his past when he had little funds and would buy cheap cotton in Kyoto for clothes padding, and wore stitched robes. He used a silk substitute for his one-layered shirokosode. These difficult times are not well known, and it is generally believed that we will continue today's living standard. Our enjoyment is due to divine circumstances and we should be concerned with that presence for receiving these beneficial results.
(150) SPIRITUAL INTIMACY
Those following the same path with the zenchishiki ought to be intimately involved with each other. "It is an error of mixed practice," cites the Ojoraisan, "to stay apart from them." To mingle with bad influences will not always have an immediate effect, but sooner or later evil results are inevitable; to be with Buddhists is an advantage. There are literary references, good and evil are acquired by association and learning. And, there is the adage, To know someone, know his friends. It is also said, "one may oppose a righteous person, but do not side with the wicked."
(151) SLICING AND TESTING
There is a saying, toughness is discovered by cutting, sublimity is known by adoration. We find ''hardness'' when slicing through material, and believing in the vow we discover its greatness. As shinjin rises, gratitude and sacredness are felt and our joys are intensified.
(152) DIFFICULTIES OF A FAVORABLE BIRTH
It is thought that rebirth is easily achieved for those of us who are ignorant beings. Favorable birth, however, is difficult of all difficulties. Faith is not easily accomplished although receiving it from the Buddha's wisdom attainment is done without effort and favorable birth is assured. Jitsunyo Shonin was in accord with those who regarded our future life of utmost importance.
(153) SLANDER AND CERTAINTY
The Buddha said that there would be persons who slander, and those who believe. If there were no slanderous persons, and there were all believers this word would be in doubt. There are, in fact, those who slander, and with certainty of faith rebirth is firmly established.
(154) ENJOYMENT OF FAITH
Joyousness of faith is expressed in the monto: this is seeking fame. Faith is experienced in solitariness: this is according to the dharma.
(155) FLAMES OF GREAT-THOUSAND WORLDS
Listen to the buddhadharma intently as if there were no secular affairs; it is deplorable to use your spare time to attend the dharma. There is no tomorrow. In words of the wasan: Great-Thousand Worlds set afire! Pass through them. Hearing the Buddha's name there is no returning.
(156) KEPT PROMISES
Hokyo once told the story of a gathering of people engaged in small talk, when one of them suddenly stood up preparing to leave. "Why?" asked Rennyo. "I have just remembered something important," was the reply. Later when asked about this abrupt leavetaking he said that he had recalled a promise to speak on the buddhadharma and it was necessary to break away for an engagement. This thoughtful consideration is a laudable principle to apply.
(157) HOSTS AND GUESTS
There is the saying, Buddhadharma the host, secularity the guest. Seeing things from the dharmic point of view, worldly affairs should be taken care of as they arise.
(158) THE MASTER HAND
Ken-en brought Zonkaku's commentary to Rennyo who was staying in the south quarter of Yamashina, and questioned a doubtful passage in the work. In answering the request for clarity, Rennyo told him that a masterpiece of an accomplished person should be deeply respected by allowing the text to remain unchanged.
(159) RECREATING THE PAST
Someone asked about the circumstances involving a certain incident in Shinran's life. "I do not know," replied Rennyo, "whenever I am stumped, I simply attend those things he left us to follow."
Our tendency is to excel over others and it is in this way of thinking that worldly matters are handled. The buddhadharma teaches "nonself' and subordinate relations. Acquiring faith, recognizing reason, and breaking emotional ties are the accomplishment of the Buddha's compassion.
As for One-Mind, reliance on Amida is actually unification of the buddha-mind of the tathagata into a single mind of man and Buddha.
(162) THE WELL OF BENEVOLENCE
It was remarked that drinking from the well is traced to the buddhadharma, a single mouthful comes from the blessings of Shinran and the tathagata.
(163) LOSS OF CONVERSION
Rennyo, during recuperation, declared that he had accomplished his aims, although realizing that things are dependent upon circumstances. He regretted that there were persons still lacking faith.
(164) RENNYO SHONIN'S ACCOMPLISHMENT
I have succeeded in everything put before me, the reestablishment of Shinran's teachings, the building of the Temple and Founder's Hall, successfully taken my turn as the head of our tradition, and after construction of the residence quarters at Osaka, I have retired. It can be said that fortunately, I am in accord with the way of heaven.
(165) UNMISTAKABLE SIGNS TOWARD FAITH
A bonfire in the enemy camp is unmistakable; by speaking and reading what is learned there will be no mistake in acquiring faith.
It was often said by Rennyo, "Ask about the Buddhadharma; ask others about various matters." The response was to seek the likely person for this direction. They were told to direct their concerns to a person immersed in the buddhadharma, without thought to their social status. ''The unassuming person may have the best and perfect answers in accord with the buddhadharma."
(167) PROPERLY DRESSED
Rennyo disapproved of wearing the pretentious undesigned robes, and would not don black robes either. A priest in black approaching him would elicit the response, "Now, here is a priest in proper dress! I am not attracted to piety, Amida's vow is the only elegance!"
(168) THE BROCADED APPAREL
At the temple in Osaka Rennyo had a designed robe displayed on his personal rack.
(169) AN ACT OF GRATITUDE
At meals Rennyo sat in the posture of gassho, "In gratitude to the Tathagata and Shinran, food and clothing are received."
(170) THE UPWARD SPIRAL
Always on the move upward and not knowing the pitfalls below. It is best to express humility in facing all things.
(171) PURE LAND BIRTH
Favorable rebirth is the concern of each individual alone, and no one else. In the buddhadharma faith will determine one's future life. Rennyo said that those who think this is a principle for others to follow have gained no insight into themselves.
(172) INFIRMITIES AND THE WAY OF EASE
At the Osaka temple Rennyo was told of an old man who attended the services held at dawn and expressed amazement of the effort he made. Rennyo commented that there is no wonder of the ease one feels with practicing faith, for it is activity of gratitude toward the Buddha in which infirmity is not experienced. The elder was probably Ryoshu from Togami.
(173) CERTAINTY AND SIMPLICITY
At a meeting various spiritual matters were being discussed. Rennyo interrupted, "What are you saying? Drop insignificant things. With single-mind, without doubting, rely on Amitabha, and favorable rebirth is certain. As for attainment there is namuamidabutsu. What else is there?" Rennyo was often quick to answer, and in a single expression eliminated doubts and negative attitudes.
Rennyo was fond of citing the verse, "It is no use to frighten the village sparrows with sound of clappers, when they use the scarecrow for their perches." He sometimes complained of people becoming like a flock of sparrows whose ears no longer heed the warning sound of clappers!
(175) MIND AND FAITH
''Tending the mind will be done," Rennyo has said, "faith, however, is rarely acquired."
(176) EXPEDIENCY: UPAYA
Do not condemn the use of Hoben, for authenticity is gained by the use of skillful strategy and should be considered carefully. Authentic faith is reached by hoben activity of Amitabha, Sakyamuni, and the zenchishiki. This was cited by Rennyo Shonin.
(177) A MIRROR FOR THE COMMON MAN
The Letters are a mirror for ordinary people to seek favorable birth. To believe that there are more than this for entering the dharma would be making a grave mistake.
(178) GRATITUDE DIRECTED TO THE BUDDHA
In having faith there is the uninterrupted obligation of name-recitation for the Buddha's activity. The mind that senses gratitude and practices nembutsu only by habit is in grave error and not sufficient, for the spontaneous nembutsu is Buddha's wisdom and the reaction of pronouncing the name is our proper act of gratitude.
(179) THE BUDDHA'S BLESSING
Rennyo declared that when there is faith, "the nembutsu is practiced for the obligation felt toward the Buddha. In other traditions the nembutsu is applied for the sake of our parents and other considerations. In Shinran's lineage nembutsu practice is reliance on Amitabha. Following that realization there is calling of the name, an obligatory response to the Buddha."
(180) THE SPONTANEOUS NEMBUTSU
There was a story of Rennyo during a stop-over at Southern Quarters; a resident, killing a bee, involuntarily recited namuamidabutsu! "Why," he was asked, "did you pronounce the nembutsu?" In explaining to Rennyo that it was a matter of compassion he was told that "under all circumstances of faith, the nembutsu is an act of gratitude in obligation to the Buddha."
At the Southern Quarters, and just as he was stepping out from the raised screen, Rennyo Shonin voiced the nembutsu. "Ah, Hokyo! Do you know what was going on within me right now?" And he explained, "I had a sudden thought of joyful gratitude for the saving power of the Buddha."
(182) DESCRIBING ANJIN
Anjin was briefly described for Rennyo by a person from the western provinces, and it was verified, "If that is, indeed, what you have in mind, then you have the gist of it."
(183) TALKING ABOUT ANJIN, AUTHENTICALLY
In our times there are those whose speech is consistent with anjin. They are looked upon as having settled faith, and yet regretfully lack attainment for favorable birth.
(184) BLISSFUL BIRTH AND WRONGDOING
After receiving faith one should no longer persist in wrong-doing. Nor external influences be persuasive in one's behavior. Birth being assured in this life time with blissful result, evil activity should not continue.
(185) How TO BECOME A BUDDHA
The buddhadharma is to be explained in simple terms; Hokyo was told that his listeners could be unlettered and might apply other things to anjin and shinjin. Offer the explanation that ordinary mortals will become Buddhas. Trust Amida! He who hears this will acquire faith. In our tradition there is no other dharma entry. The Anjinketsujosho states that the gate to the Pure Land teachings is no other than the profundity of the eighteenth vow. It is stated in The Letters, "Amida Nyorai has declared that he will unfailingly save those of single-hearted reliance, however deeply evil." This is from the nembutsu, the promise of assured birth by the eighteenth vow.
(186) THE ZENJISHIKI'S ADMONISHMENT
One is bad in not attaining faith, be diligent in acquiring it. The zenchishiki's word is that lacking faith is bad. After admonishing a person for lacking faith, the man complained, "I have followed your word explicitly." Rennyo retorted, ''You are exceedingly bad. Is it not a bad thing that faith is lacking?"
(187) A MAN WHO HAS ACQUlRED FAITH
"I'm not happy with anything I hear," complained Rennyo. "A single person possessing faith is pleasant to my ears." This innermost thought expressed by the Shonin was often the motivation of his spiritual efforts.
(188) THE GIST OF SHINRAN'S TEACHING
Shinran's teaching contains the essential direction to take in placing wholehearted singleness of mind in reliance, and in our tradition our teachers have emphasized the point. Followers, however, were at loss to know just what was needed in carrying out this dictum, and for that reason Rennyo left his Letters with the direction to cast aside all mixed practices and totally leave our future life to Amida. In this way the tradition of Shinran was fully restored.
(189) GOOD AND EVIL
Rennyo Shonin has issued the warning that evil things can be brought about from good activity, and excellent things attained from bad motivations. From the dharma point of view, an act assumed to be good recognizes the presence of ego and this has harmful effects. An evil act can be mentally turned around and within the vow's activity produces an effective experience. The self-willed person, according to Rennyo, reveals the mind of negativity.
(190) BRIBERY OR GIFT?
Should there be a presentation made unexpectedly, we would naturally harbor a suspicion as this is usually a prelude for a request. We are easily flattered by this attention of an unexplained gift.
(191) A MISTAKEN STEP
Looking ahead and not watching our step will lead to a tumble, looking in the direction of others and not at oneself is a disaster!
Even the word of a zenchishiki, I can't believe that! This is not a good response. Even in a hopeless situation the word of a zenchishiki is reliable. An ordinary person filled with klesas becomes a Buddha, what other is there that's impossible? Dosu said that if told by a zenchishiki to fill Lake Biwa, he will do it!
(193) STONE AND WATER
Hard is Stone, Soft is Water. Water will wear away stone. If one has plumbed the mind, the Enlightenment of Bodhi is certain. - An old saying. If faith is at a distance intensive listening to the buddhadharma ends in faith by compassionate activity.
(194) FIXED IN FAITH
To imitate a person whose faith is determined is a good model, but to admire this accomplished person and forswear the results for oneself is not desirable. In the buddhadharma the self-effort is rejected and faith acquired.
(195) FAULT-FINDING AND PERSONAL REFORM
Faults of others are easily seen, our own faults are obscure. If we see them in ourselves their magnitude is obvious. We must understand this and make amends. We often overlook our own weakness.
(196) DISCUSSION OF FAITH
In meetings during which secular affairs are the topic, there are times when the buddhadharma is brought up and quiet decorum is observed - one is careful. At other times when lectures are given, or there are services, there should not be silence. Open discussion, and heedfulness whether there is accordance with faith or not, should follow.
(197) BOREDOM AND THE SACRED
Zenju from Kanegamori was asked about a life of boredom. "Not at all, in all of my eighty years has this been a problem. I have this indebted feeling of gratitude to Amida. The wasans and our traditional texts fill me with sacred joy. I have never become bored."
(198) URGENCY IN DHARMA TRANSMISSION
Jitsunyo cited a story of Zenju, "A visitor made a house visit, but before the footgear was removed at the entry, Zenju broke into a dharma monologue, Why, can't you wait until I have properly entered the house before breaking into a spiritual discourse? The host replied, This saha world is a place where there is no gap between inhaling and exhaling. Life and death do not honor time in removing footwear." We should not procrastinate talking about the Buddhadharma.
(199) THE POWER OF PREDICTABILITY
Rennyo told about Zenju for telling the selected site for the temple at Nomura. On his return from the capital city the party stopped at Kanegamori and Zenju pointed in the direction of Nomura, and said, "the buddhadharma will flourish in this area." This was taken as just talk of an- old man, but eventually the Yamashina temple was built, and the area became a lively place for expansion. It was an impressive forecast, and people referred to Zenju as a reappearance of Honen Shonin. He passed away on the 25th day of the eighth month.
(200) EXPANSIVE GROWTH OF THE TEACHING
One day Rennyo left the Higashiyama temple and his whereabouts became unknown. Zenju looked everywhere, and finally found him in an out-of-the-way place. Rennyo had a distressed appearance and not wishing to embarrass him, Zenju cried out, "Aha! Here, we will see the Buddhadharma at its peak." This is what actually happened. Zenju is a wonder, declared Rennyo.
(201) PRAISE AND DISCUSSION
Years ago, in the 3rd year of Daiei at the time of Rennyo's 25th memorial, Jitsunyo had a dream that the shonin was donning a purple kosode robe in the south wing of the temple and was saying, "the ultimate of our teaching consists in praising and discussion. We should be praising." Jitsunyo commented on the dream stressing its emphasis, "One enjoys the buddhadharma in solitude, and if this spirituality is individually experienced, how much more is the enjoyment when shared with others! Frequent discussion of the dharma should consistently increase among us."
(202) THE REFORMED MIND
It was asked of Rennyo about the primacy of inner reformation. By all means, was the reply, tend to all those things that are bad. Investigation of ourselves should be carefully made. Rennyo said, "Whatever you have heard of others making improvements should help in realizing that self-reformation is quite possible. The exposure of personal faults are beneficial for self-correction. Openly admit the presence of these faults, otherwise there is no reformation."
(203) THE CALCULATING MIND
At buddhadharma meetings holding back in silence means faith is surely missing. It is thought that some preconceived notion must be held before speaking out. This is like seeking answers from unlikely sources. If one is joyous it will be expressed, whatever is in the mind it will be pronounced; if it is cold, say it! If it is hot, say it! In our dharma discussion group if there is no expression, that silence indicates faith within is lacking. Even with faith we are not always prepared, but we are more consistent through mutual practice and frequent contact with each other.
Rennyo Shonin had said that once we have reached singlemindedness it is not acceptable to declare that we are already enlightened by Amida, as this is a statement from the standpoint of attainment. It is better to say that assurance is granted: "At the moment of faith there is no-returning; this no-returning position although nondiscernable is an equivalent to nirvana."
Yuirenbo from Tokudaiji pondered on the meaning of embracement and while directing his energies toward Amida in the temple, Ungoji, had a dream that Amida tightly grabbed his sleeves and would not let go. Sesshu has the meaning of "to grasp" in which there is no escaping. Here is the sense of sesshufusha. Rennyo delighted in relating this incident.
(206) SIGNIFICANCE OF MYOGA
At a time when Rennyo was confined by illness he received a visit from Ken-yo and Ken-en who asked about the term, myoga. They were told that to be in accord with myoga of powerful effects is truly entrusting oneself to Amida.
(207) JOYFUL APPRECIATION
In discussing the buddhadharma and imparting it to others resulting in a pleasant response, we should all the more feel the joyfulness of conveying buddha-wisdom. Our appreciation of gratitude is forcefully engendered by participating in this concern for the wisdom of the Buddha.
(208) REACTION OF GRATITUDE FOR THE LETTERS
Carefully reading The Letters to others is an act of gratitude. Each phrase and every word rendered in faith will also be received in faith. There will be a grateful response.
(209) ENERGY OF OTHER-POWER
Rennyo explained: ''The illumination of Amida can be compared with drying out things that are soaking wet. It is the sun's energy absorbing the surface before the bottom layer is dried. The mind of determination arises from the other-power; hindrances and evil are finally eradicated by Amida."
(210) WISDOM OF THE BUDDHA
Whenever we see someone with shinjin we feel in that moment a sacredness, although it is not the person possessing spirituality that is impressive, rather we are moved by the experience of acquiring Buddha's wisdom. We have gratitude for this wisdom.
(211) OBSTACLES TO OJO
During a prolonged illness Rennyo admitted he had no regrets in his life other than observing lack of faith in his sons and others. "There is the adage, we face obstacles in leaving this world. My future life is not threatened this way. It is only deplorable that faith is not widely established."
(212) GIFTS AND GRATITUDE
On occasion Rennyo would serve sake or present gifts attracting people in the spirit of gratefulness to the buddhadharma. Presentation such as this encourages faith, and an attitude of gratitude is acquired.
(213) AUTHENTIC RELIANCE
Rennyo had stated that If you think there's understanding, there is not; If you think there's no understanding, there is. To believe, spirituality, of Amida's deliverance there is understanding. We can never possess an attitude of certainty based on the assumption of ''knowing.'' It is quoted from the Kudensho, "How is favorable birth acquired by ordinary beings other than total reliance on the buddha-wisdom of Amida Buddha?"
(214) SPIRIT OF RECITATION AND TEACHING
Gansho from the province of Kaga in Sugao complained, "The chanting of this priest does not match the beauty of the texts, and reveals a faith that is faulty; it is uninspired." Rennyo, hearing that it was Renchi, made arrangements for him to be personally instructed in reading as well as interpreting the traditional literature. Rennyo then addressed Gansho, "I have trained Renchi in reading and delivering talks in the buddhadharma." He was then released and returned home. Gansho, appreciating the recitation and instructions, was then gratified by what he was hearing and expressed spiritual satisfaction.
(215) YOUTH AND RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS
"Read!" Rennyo declared to his youthful audience. "Over and over again, read; without repetition there is no benefit. At an older age good recitation cannot possibly substitute significant context and meaning which is vital. It is superficial to be acquainted with our traditional literature if it is without depth and there is no presence of faith."
(216) ALERT AND RESPONSIVE
Someone complained to Hokyobo, "I accept things just as they are presented but regret that I am inattentive and neglectful." He was then admonished for the shameful admission, "You do not accept the teaching as it is taught! It tells us to be attentive; show responsibility!"
(217) ACQUIRING FAITH
A complaint against Hokyobo was made. "How is it that a man in the buddhadharma like yourself has a widowed mother totally lacking faith?" Hokyobo readily admitted the inconsistency, "Quite right! Yet, if one is hearing every morning and every evening the reading of the Gobunsho and there is no faith, how is it that my persuasion would have any lasting effect?"
(218) CORRECTING ERRORS
"I am in a sweat in fear of making serious errors whenever I deliver dharma talks in place of Rennyo," Junsei declared. "When I slip and make an error in his presence it can be corrected easily, and I am at ease. In this way I am able to impart the buddhadharma."
(219) UNCERTAINTY AND IGNORANCE
There is a difference of being uncertain and not knowing.
If one does not know it is senseless to say that he is uncertain. If we say doubtfully, "what is that?," or may ask, puzzlingly, "what could that possibly be?" uncertainty is expressed. Rennyo's clarification of being uncertain was further illustrated by his saying that people will usually pass off things as uncertain without really knowing anything at all about their details.
(220) OBLIGATION OF A CARETAKER
At a mealtime discussion Rennyo said, "The Hongwanji at Yamashina and temple constructions at Osaka are fashioned to reproduce Shinran Shonin's life and times. I am constantly grateful of my obligation as a caretaker, never forgetting this obligation even during meals."
(221) SAFEGUARDING PRECIOUS OBJECTS
Jitsunyo Shonin said, "In the times of Zennyo Shonin and Shakunyo Shonin, previous predecessors of Rennyo, formalities were strictly observed. Their scroll portraits were revealing, kasayas and robes were yellow colored. In those days various objects inconsistent with tradition were burned whenever there was a cleansing. Rennyo marked these scrolls for destruction, but he hesitated and classified certain objects with labels on the cover marked, good and bad." After careful reflection, it is obvious different evaluations were made in Rennyo's time, and with us, too, there are wide variations - we must be quite careful in preserving tradition." In this way past decisions were remembered. "It is not sufficient to carelessly label things good and bad of the past. In Rennyo's times people close to him were sometimes out of line. Regarding the buddhadharma, its importance should gravely remind us to consider things seriously and seek details from others." This was related by Jitsunyo.
(222) THE ERRONEOUS MIND
Whenever we see a person who has an affinity with the buddhadharma make serious errors, it appears to us that even a man like that can go astray. This is a reminder of our own shortcomings. In comparison our mistakes must even be larger. The undisciplined mind that strays in this way is certainly regrettable.
(223) MINDFULNESS OF OUR OBLIGATION
Rennyo said we should be mindful of our obligation to the Buddha; in the vernacular, "to keep things in mind," is not the same as mindfulness. A life of faith is joyful and spiritual gratitude interspersed with indolence, but we return to the Buddha-wisdom in remembrance of our backsliding attitude and accept the gift of the nembutsu. This ''keeping in mind" is what is meant by mindfulness.
(224) PERPETUITY OF THE BUDDHAHARMA
When hearing is inexhaustible, the buddha dharma is inexpressible, so it has been said. Jitsunyo gave the example from our everyday experience, "We always want to expand that which is firmly planted in the mind, always seeking more detail to that which we have lovingly acquired. Neither is it tiring to hear more of the Buddhadharma. We must not fail to make inquiries concerning the teachings."
(225) OFFERINGS TO THE BUDDHA
Taking things of the Buddha and then turn them over to worldly concerns, is a terrible waste. Using expenditures for the buddhadharma is another matter, which we willingly use as an offering arising out of the sense of full gratitude.
(226) GREATEST MERIT
Our greatest achievement in the world is total reliance on Amida, and ourselves become buddhas - there is nothing that can go beyond this.
(227) HUMAN PRIORITY
To be engaged whole heartedly in secular and spiritual affairs should not be thought of as one's own doing, thereby forgetting our sacred obligation. The priority given oneself will lose protection of the Buddha in the world of dharma and men, and evil will prevail. This matter is of utmost importance.
(228) REQUESTING A FAVOR
While at Sakai Rennyo's son, Ken-en, asked his father for a "Letter" for him, especially. "This is not good," answered Rennyo. "I am an old man. If, however, having acquired faith in the buddhadharma I'll fulfill any request you make."
(229) THE GIFT OF MYOGO
At the Sakai temple Rennyo was working late at night preparing a nembutsu scroll, "I am old and feeble with failing eyesight, but my informant tells me that tomorrow they will be on their way to Echigo, so I forget my present difficulties in producing this myogo." He always served his followers in this manner. Rennyo would say, "Without complications, I hope all will acquire faith."
(230) RARE TIDBITS
Gourmet food may be prepared and served, but if there is no one to taste it the endeavor is wasted. The buddhadharma may be extolled and praised, but if there is no one with shinjin it is like throwing out gourmet food.
(231) A FIREPROOF TREASURE
One may become bored and weary of many things, but it is not so with the buddhadharma. Enjoying the results of Amida's activity-gratitude never wears out. The rare treasure that is set aflame but is never consumed is namuamidabutsu. Amida's beneficial results are supreme. A man of shinjin is spiritually impressive: this is the work of compassion.
(232) WEIGHING THE BUDDHADHARMA
Established in faith, a man's relation to the buddhadharma is seriously considered: an expressive gratitude is always given.
(233) SEEDS OF THE PAST
Rennyo has said that feeling of gratitude for the past should not be based on our good conditions previously established, rather, we are taught to be grateful for whatever conditions prevailed that are now benefiting us in this life-time.
(234) SHUKUZEN AND SHINJIN
In other traditions conditional relations were attributed to favorable contact in this life-time with the dharma. In our tradition good conditions of the past result in faith. For us shinjin is essential. The teaching of Amida excludes no one, and is characterized as "Expansive Instruction."
(235) THE GIST OF SHINSHU
By entering the dharma gate of our tradition we first encounter its primary principle: shinjin.
(236) SHINJIN GENERATED BY DHARMIC ENERGY
Rennyo have said, "A man of the buddhadharma is the result of great dharmic-power; without it there is no potential. The buddhadharma is not imparted by scholarly means, rather an illiterate man of faith can convey the experience by his means of wisdom-strength from the Buddha. Pride in self-study of the texts has never made faith possible. A man who has acquired shinjin will speak out from Amida's teaching and contribute a greater dimension of faith to others.
(237) TOTAL RELIANCE
Relying on Amida one becomes, namuamidabutsu: this means one has acquired shinjin. Also, Rennyo has said, "namuamidabutsu is the treasury of our tradition. This singularity of thought is shinjin."
(238) SLANDERING THE DHARMA
Within our own tradition there is slander. As far as other schools are concerned we have nothing to say for their insults, as we also have our share of revilers; and fortunately, we have among us those having faith in the dharma, and for this effective realization we should be grateful for our accumulative past conditions.
(239) CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
Rennyo had always shown concern for all kind of men. He was saddened by capital offenses and the punishment ordered by the authorities. "I believe," he said, "should these men be spared, reform would be a far easier solution." Rennyo was quick to issue a pardon whenever there were obvious signs of repentance for bad behavior.
(240) RENSHU'S APOLOGY
Renshu of Aki province was involved in the upheaval in his region. For his participation, he was severed from the monto. When seeking forgiveness from Rennyo, who was recovering from an illness, the attendants ignored his request for visitation. Rennyo was saying, "I'd like to see Renshu return to the fold." This was resisted by his aides and sons who protested, "What will happen to the buddhadharma ridiculed in this manner, if behavior like this is condoned?" ''That's the point," replied Rennyo, "nothing could be worse; however, when it is regretted and there is an attitude change, a man should not be set aside." Renshu was given a pardon and tearfully reunited with the monto. He passed away at the same temple, during the same days that Rennyo, himself, was mourned.
(241) ERRONEOUS DOCTRINE
It was brought to Rennyo's attention that Joyu from Oshu was teaching erroneous doctrine and in agitation was confronted by Shonin, "How despicable! To disgrace Shinran's tradition in this deplorable manner - To be sliced in thousand of pieces for such a deed! It is deplorable that the buddhadharma should be corrupted in this way!"
(242) FIVE KALPAS OF MEDITATION
The highest principle is the vow arising from Amida's meditation for five kalpas. One is a Buddha after being in accord with this meditative process. To be in accord is dharmic unity with this mind and body.
(243) LIFE-TIME OCCUPATION
"I have," declared Rennyo, "spent a lifetime in imparting the buddha dharma to others as expedient ways and means for acquiring faith."
(244) GOLDEN WORDS
When Rennyo was indisposed he declared that his present words were to be heard as words of gold: "Concerning my 31 syllable waka, they are actually talks on the buddha dharma, and not just an anthology of poetry.
(245) A WISE MAN
Three fools are worth one sage, Rennyo told his successor. Whatever is said and done this is a good maxim to follow and should be adopted in our deliberations as a "golden word" by those absorbed in the buddha dharma.
Rennyo Shonin told Junsei, "Hokyo and I are brothers!" This statement was protested by Hokyo by saying that it was not reasonable to make that claim. Rennyo replied, "In acquiring faith it is a matter of receiving it earlier or later, an older or younger brother. Sharing the experience of shinjin and its universal accomplishment serves everyone in a fraternity."
(247) A JOYFUL BIRTH
In the scenic Southern Quarter Rennyo made the observation that we often exceed our fondest hopes, "Birth in the Land of Bliss is an example; although we may believe we are well off in this world, our favorable birth is joyfully beyond any comparison we know of bliss in this life-time."
"A good number of people refrain from falsehood, but there are few who do not harbor deceit. If there is no disposition for doing worthwhile things, there should at least be an inclination for acceptable social behavior and a concern for the buddhadharma"
(249) NUGGETS OF GOLD
"I have read the Anjinketsujosho for over forty years and was never bored; from the text gold nuggets can be mined."
(250) THE ANJINKETSUJOSHO
At the temple in Osaka, Rennyo was telling his listeners, "The other day I merely touched upon the Anjinketsujosho. The essentials of our tradition are expounded in this text."
(251) THE SANCTITY OF GRATITUDE
Hokyo said, "The saintly person is one who feels sanctity, and not a person who resembles saintliness." Rennyo replied, "How interesting! There is nothing sacred in looking saintly, nor is there saintliness without the feeling of total gratitude - you have expressed it nicely."
(252) EVERYDAY ADVICE TO STUDY
Ken-en reported a dream he had of Rennyo on the 15th of the first month of the 3rd year of Bunki: Following a series of questions Rennyo emphatically declared, "What a waste of time! You should get together every day for reading our literature." Ken-en's comment was that the shonin decried the consuming of time in useless pursuits.
(253) THE OFUMI COLLECTION
On the twenty-eighth of the twelfth month Rennyo, garbed in his okesa and robes, opened the shoji in a dream of Ken-en who thought he was going to hear a Dharma Talk. He was reading lines on the sliding partition and Rennyo asked, "What is that?" He replied, "It is one of your letters." Rennyo declared that it was very important to hear and treat the ofumi faithfully.
(254) A STRONG HOUSE
In another dream it is recorded that Rennyo said, "Build a firm structure, establish yourself in shinjin, and recite the nembutsu!"
(255) MIXED PRACTICES
In a more recent dream Rennyo appeared and randomly talked about miscellaneous affairs of the buddha dharma. He then spoke about the mixed and sundry practices throughout the countryside: "It should be emphatically declared, these various disciplines must be given up!"
(256) THE TIME IS NOW!
In another dream Rennyo Shonin was saying, ''The time is now ripe! It is of utmost importance to act now." I readily agreed with the Shonin but he retorted, "It is not enough to nod agreement and confess understanding; greatest concern must be given to this principle." In a dream the following night Rensei appeared and said, "At Yoshisaki Rennyo imparted the essential teachings, and I was told that there is an extensive literature used in interpreting and distorting our tradition. The gist of our teachings, however, are preserved." Concerning precious words in dreams, the maxims pronounced by Rennyo is his true word which I have recorded. It is the case that dreams are, at times, illusory, but there are dreams of transformation like these that are authentic visions.
(257) GRATITUDE OWED TO AMIDA
The expression, with sanctified gratitude to Amida has the ring of little sincerity. That's pompous. It is better, according to Rennyo, to say, it is our obligation to Amida that we are grateful. It is also a curt response to cite The Letters as "it says," when it is far better to refer to them with respect of gratitude during their recitation. There can never be an excessive veneration for literature of the buddhadharma.
(258) SHOWING RESPECT
In our congregation when the dharma is praised it is rude to refer to members of the assembly as "followers," they should be respectfully addressed as fellow-members.
(259) SUFFICIENCY AND DHARMA ENTHUSIASM
In building a house construct it any way you like, as long as it keeps your head dry. This maxim expressed Rennyo's attitude toward ostentatious behavior. He disliked excessive possession, and even frowned on the meticulous hoarding of clothes, "appreciation, rather, should not be spared for the buddhadharma and its unseen related circumstances."
(260) TRANSMISSION OF THE BUDDHADHARMA
Although one has entered the home where the buddha dharma is practiced and only recently arrived from another tradition - no matter what has previously transpired - he is now engaged. Even business affairs transacted here are looked upon as serving the dharma.
(261) COMPASSIONATE REGARD FOR OTHERS
Rennyo was fond of saying, if the weather is excessively hot, or wet, the dharma services should be cut short. This was said out of deep concern and thoughtfulness towards others. He often declared that his talks on the buddhadharma always accommodated his particular audience; he was saddened whenever there was discord according to a stated principle.
(262) THE RAGA UPRISING
The shogunate, Yoshihisa, issued an edict that any of our followers in the Kaga province who participated in the recent uprising must be officially disavowed. Rennyo's sons and others in the area were recalled to Kyoto. This was distressful and particularly sad in contemplating the plight of our women members. "The disassembly of our congregation is a hardship, and a personal blow and painful experience for me." For the Zenchishiki, the proscription was unbearable.
(263) SHARING THE HARVEST
"It is not wise for members of the monto to give the first harvesting away without consideration of the offering for themselves before sharing it with others," according to Rennyo who knew very well the significance of matters like these; and in the buddhadharma we ought to realize its importance and our noble obligations toward it - a most amazing insight!
(264) A PREDICTION
Hokyobo visited Rennyo at the Osaka temple, and was told that his life span "will be an extra ten years after I have gone." During the conversation the shonin repeated the assertion, and a year after after his ojo an acquaintance of Hokyobo reminded him of the prediction: 'This one-year grace was granted to you by the shonin , himself!" In gassho the verbal response was, "Quite true!" He did live for another ten years under the powerful protection of unrecognized past, as fulfilled by Rennyo's amazing prophecy.
(265) THE HIDDEN PROTECTION
"To engage in useless things is to ignore the powerful protection of past relation," was a precept often cited by Rennyo.
(266) OBLIGATORY REMEMBRANCE
Rennyo always thought of Shinran and the Tathagata at mealtimes, "a remembrance at every morsel!"
(267) AT MEALTIMES
Whatever was served, Rennyo would first spiritually reflect on gratitude, and would say that whatever food is offered should be accepted gracefully.
(268) SOUR PLUMS
Ken-en had a dream of Rennyo in the second year of Kyoraku, in which he was given an ofumi written especially for him. There, the Shonin had written a proverb, "sight of the umeboshi will pucker the lips, likewise, one taste of anjin will elicit the nembutsu." There is no separate pathway for those with this mindfulness.
(269) DISTASTE FOR THE BUDDHADHARMA
Kuzen complained, "I have no liking or care for the buddhadharma." Rennyo replied, Is this not the same as hating it?
(270) THE CONTAGIOUS DHARMA
Outwardly, the buddhadharma is perceived as a sickness, "fidgeting during services for its tediousness is a sure symptom of illness."
(271) RENNYO BECKONS JITSUNYO
On the 24th of the first month, Jitsunyo was bedridden and had suddenly exclaimed, "Rennyo has just summoned me - How grateful! How grateful!" He then intoned the nembutsu. Those with him thought that his incessant murmuring was a delirious outpouring, however he quickly explained that he had dozed off and that the shonin had signaled him in this marvelous dream thereby relieving his attendants.
(272) DETERMINING ACTIVTY OF TARIKI-SHINJIN
On the 25th of the first month Jitsunyo was telling Kenyo and Ken-en of incidents concerning Rennyo during his retirement, talked about his own experience of anjin, and cited the shonin. "Favorable birth is spontaneously determined by my steadfastness of the one-thought of Amida - it is due to Rennyo that up to this very day I have had no thought of self." This was pleasant to hear. Shinjin of the other-power, indeed, is the determined action of utmost importance in our lives.
(273) DISRESPECTFUL REFERENCES
Referring to Shinran Shonin as given in the Tandoku Mon is crude and should be understood as the Founder, Shonin. The reference of Originating Shonin (Kaisan Shonin) is also to be avoided.
(274) HONORIFIC TITLE
Referring to Shinran as the Shonin is disrespectful, and perhaps "Kaisan Shonin" is a more acceptable abbreviation, as one who founded our tradition.
(275) MOTTE GUZEI NI TAKUSU
The text of Tandoku Mon reads, "It is with the vow ... " We must not omit the "with" in this line.
(276) READING OF THE LETTERS
During Rennyo Shonin's stay at Sakai, Ken-yo paid him a visit and was surprised to see an open copy of the Gobunsho prominently placed in the chapel. It was read to any number of persons drifting in during the day. That evening during a conversation Rennyo explained, "I've just recently had a good idea. If a letter was read to temple visitors, whether singly or in a small group, a person among them having good related-circumstances in the past would acquire faith. An interesting and worthwhile idea, I thought." In this way Rennyo became more and more convinced of the importance of the Collection of Letters.
(277) AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD AND THE DHARMA
There was a statement made that, "interest in the buddhadharma should have the same intensity as shown in secular affairs." Rennyo reacted to this comparison by saying that, "It is better to dwell on the supreme happiness of pursuing the buddhadharma." Another person made the point that ''the Buddhadharma should be appreciated day by day, otherwise a devotional lifespan would be a bothersome ordeal." Rennyo thought otherwise by saying that it does not matter ''how long life lasts, feelings toward the buddhadharma should be constant and consistent."
''Terrible! Our priests seeking to transform others without themselves making a change."
(279) LOSING SHINJIN?
Doshu requested one of The Letters from Rennyo who told him, ''That can be lost easily, but faith embedded in the mind is secured and you never lose it." The following year a letter for him was written by Rennyo.
Hokyo declared that he was at ease and felt strong in front of a Buddhist-minded audience.
(281) A SWORD CUTS BOTH WAYS
Without faith our great body of literature is a sword in the hands of a young boy - useful but dangerous for the child; for the skilled it is a treasure.
(282) ULTIMATE DECISION OF FAITH
Upon request there'd be no hesitation in a death-decision; but no response to a command for acquiring faith!
(283) THE SECRET DOCTRINE
Speaking at the Osaka Temple Rennyo said, "Is it the secret transmission of the ignorant, that it is with one-thought that favorable birth is acquired?"
Following the fund raising and during early construction, Hokyo exclaimed, "How miraculous, the building and grounds!" Rennyo responded that the inexplicability of "common people becoming Buddhas is even more impressive."
(285) THE KAKEMONO, "PUT AWAY"
Rennyo Shonin prepared a script for Zenju, "And, what have you done with the writing, "he was later asked by the Shonin. He was told by Zenju that it had been mounted and put away for safe-keeping. "It is senseless," Rennyo declared. "We should display it as intended, and be kept in accord with it."
(286) HEARING AND BECOMING BUDDHAS
"Those in attendance will never become Buddhas by defective listening," Rennyo commented.
(287) THE DENIAL
"The priests are the worst!" There was loud objection to this assertion by Rennyo. "It is for the depth of evil that we bear that Tathagata Amitabha releases us," he responded.
(288) THE GOLDEN "RESERVOIR
By careful attention to the words of gold from The Letters every day, we draw treasures.
(289) WELL-MEANING COUNSEL
Once Shinran Shonin was visited by Kenchi, head of the Senju Temple, and he was told that his journey almost met total disaster because of a violent storm at sea. "In that case take no more ships," Shinran replied. He never again traveled by sea. One day his appointment with Shinran was late, "I was ill, after a meal of mushrooms," Kenchi complained. Advised to give them up, he never touched them again. Rennyo Shonin commented that Kenchi set a good example by relying good-naturedly on advice and benefited from it.
(290) WELL AT EASE
When it is warm and comfortable we become drowsy; we should avoid comfort that keeps us from being alert to religious and secular affairs. It is important we do not become lax and indolent.
(291) SOFTNESS IN MENTAL ATTITUDE
On acquiring faith harsh words toward others on the same path are not to be used; calmness should follow: according to the 33rd vow, " ... within my light, mind and body will become soft and tranquil." Lacking faith there is ego-centricity, there is no harmony and there is no tranquility. A situation to reflect upon.
(292) AN UNWARRANTED SCOLDING
Rennyo inquired about one of the monto members from the north whom he had not seen for sometime. He was told by an aide that this member was strongly chastised for some infraction. This irritated Rennyo, "A severe admonishment, in my estimation, should never be permitted to take place among followers of Shinran Shonin. Relay the order at once, that I want to see that man whose indiscriminate behavior is not acceptable!"
(293) THE FRIENDLY CIRCLE
There should never be an occasion for tongue-lashing another monto member. Shinran Shonin always addressed the followers as "companion" or "fellow-wayfarer." It is not justified to put anyone down.
(294) GUESTS OF SHINRAN
For Shinran Shonin his greatest visitors were those of the monto.
(295) ACCOMMODATING TEMPLE VISITORS
On cold days Rennyo would be sure that warm sake was provided. On warm days it was chilled sake. Whenever anyone was kept waiting to see him, Rennyo would complain loudly, "This delay is unreasonable. We should not procrastinate in greeting our visitors to the temple." Rennyo did not like to keep late appointments.
(296) ACQUIRING GOOD AND ABANDONING EVIL
As for our acquiring the inclination to do good we are obligated to Amida, and also gratified for having renounced all evil activity. For acquiring good and abandoning evil, we should be grateful to the Buddha.
(297) IN GRATITUDE FOR RECEIVING
Rennyo would always be in a gassho-position whenever presented with a donation from monto members. He considered articles of clothing coming from the Buddha, and whenever anything trailed on the ground he would reverently lift it to his brow. We have been told that Rennyo looked upon all things passed on to him as coming directly from the hands of Shinran Shonin.
(298) THE JOY OF INFINITY
As we are committed in the buddhadharma myriad of things assail us, and we do not make smooth progress - and yet there is this joyfulness for future life granted by the Buddha.
There is no loss in coming in contact with fellow buddhists. An entertaining word or two, playfully passed on is from the mind-depths of the buddhadharma, itself; and there is much to be gained!
(300) THE LEGACY
We have already reported our belief that Rennyo Shonin, according to various examples, was indeed an actual manifestation. He left us this waka,
name is what I am
leaving behind me."
Obviously, a sign of the transformed body of Amitabha.
(301) THE WEARY-WAYWORN TRAVELER
Rennyo would often show his sons the scarred feet chewed up by his thongs from journeying on foot in the capital environs and throughout the provinces - all for spreading the buddhadharma.
(302) EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOR
Follow not the evil-doer; the man of shinjin should ideally be the model.
(303) TRANSMISSION OF ANJIN
Following recuperation at Osaka, Rennyo was making his way back to the capital on the 18th of the second month of the eighth year of Meo when he met Jitsunyo in the Kawachi district. He told him, "I have written the Essentials of our tradition in The Letters, and I assume there will be no confusion. Take note and pass on this vital information." It is said that this is one of the final acts of the Shonin, and that Jitsunyo, himself, followed this bequest of anjin as given in the Gobunsho, and for the benefit of those throughout the provinces affixed his seal attesting to this transmission.
(304) DIFFICULTIES IN COMPREHENSION
Zonkaku, the son of Kakunyo, has the reputation of an emanation from the bodhisattva, Daiseishi, yet in the Rokuyosho he states that he had difficulty in following various passages, particularly on the doctrine of Three Minds, and that Shinran's work merits our respect. This is a revelation of the spiritual intent and harmony of abandoning self power and accepting other-power, a worthy task.
(305) ZONKAKU'S COMMENTARY
This work was not composed from conceited motives, but to praise and express reverence for the original composition.
(306) A TESTIMONIAL POEM
Zonkaku's final poem,
a single night, a dream -
no more passageways!
Rennyo's comment on this poem was that Zonkaku was surely "an emanation of the Sakyamuni: a mind that comes and goes from this world and the next. From our point of view, we have traversed the six realms repeatedly without awareness until arriving on the threshold of this life."
(307) THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE
There is brightness - and there is the shadowy. Flowers quickly ripen in the sunshine, in the shade blooms appear later. In our own many excursions there is early attainment, and later awakening; struck with light rays of Amitabha there is immediate birth, and there is the delayed birth. Acquired faith or not, one should be attentive to the buddhadharma. Rennyo spoke this way on the passage of time, "Some persons yesterday, and some people today."
(308) ODDS AND ENDS
Passing through a corridor Rennyo suddenly stopped, picked up a scrap of paper from the floor, and made a reverent gesture with folded palms and bowed head. ''This is wasting the Buddha's gift." Common objects were always seen in this way. Rennyo was never careless in thought or deed.
(309) REMEMBERING THE MAxIMS
"During my recent illness, those were words of gold I related for you to think about."
(310) A PREMONITION
During his recovery from sickness, Rennyo told Kyomon-bo, "Although still not feeling well, I'm anxious to tell you of an indescribable feeling, I have."
(311) SPEAK OUT!
Rennyo said, "In secular affairs or in the dharma even-mindedness is preferred. It is never good to remain silent." He did not like anyone to be inhibited, nor could he easily tolerate whispering in front of others.
(312) PINES AND THE BUDDHADHARMA
Care is taken in the ways of the world, Care is taken in the ways of the dharma - A couplet cited by Rennyo. He also said, Cultivate the buddhadharma, tend to the culture of the garden trees.
(313) GIFTS OF THE TATHAGATA
While Rennyo was staying in Sakai, Ken-en bought some blue striped material, "We already have that material - what waste!" In spite of the protest that it was paid out of Ken-en's own pocket, Rennyo admonished him, ''Yours? All things are the possession of the Tathagata, and all things come from the Buddha and Shinran Shonin."
(314) A GIFT FOR KEN-EN
Ken-en once refused a gift from Rennyo, "Take it! Just as faith is given. If there is no faith can it be that a thing of the Buddha is not to be taken? Is it believed that it is mine to give? There is nothing for me to give; all comes from the Buddha without any exception whatever."
"I have," declared Rennyo, "spent a lifetime in imparting the buddhadharma to others as expedient ways and means for acquiring faith."
Translation by Elson Snow. First published in Pacific World, New Series, No. 10, 1994