translation with notes by Zuio Hisao Inagaki
(31) Continuation of shinjin after attaining it:
The continuation of shinjin after attaining it is nothing special. The continuation of the settled mind after attaining it along with continuation of the single thought of appreciative entrusting heart is called ‘being constantly mindful of Amida’ or ‘always eager to repay one’s indebtedness to the Buddha.’ To awaken the single thought of entrusting is all the more important. So says the Shonin.
(32) Chanting the Shoshinge and Wasan accompanied by the Nembutsu in the morning and in the evening:
The Shonin said, “In the morning and in the evening, you chant the Shoshinge and Wasan with the Nembutsu. Does this constitute the cause of birth or not?” He asked every priest.
Some of them said, “Certainly it does,” while others said, “It does not.”
The Shonin said, “Both answers are wrong. The Shoshinge and Wasan teach us to entrust ourselves singlemindedly to Amida Tathagata and secure salvation in the afterlife. After you have attained faith through careful hearing, you express the joy of your gratitude to Shinran Shonin [in the morning and evening services].” This was his considerate remark.
(33) The six-character Name, Namo Amida Butsu:
“The six-character Name, Namo Amida Butsu, being possessed of great good and great merit, followers of other schools are eager to recite it and turn the merit of it towards Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities – as if it were their own. Such a thing is unheard of in our school. If the six-character Name were one’s own, one could transfer the merit of reciting it to Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Being assured of our salvation in the afterlife at the moment we entrust ourselves to Amida with singleness of heart and mind, we simply repeat the Nembutsu with gratitude.” So said the Shonin.
(34) The nembutsu to repay our indebtedness for the Buddha’s benevolence:
The widow of the Asai family of Mikawa Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture) came to see the Shonin (at the Yamashina Honganji)to bid farewell before leaving this world. Though the Shonin was busy that morning with preparations for going to (the Kyogyoji Temple at) Tonda, he met her and gave her an instruction, saying, “We ought not intend to offer the merit of nembutsu recitations to the Buddha. If we entrust ourselves firmly to Amida, we can assuredly partake of his salvation. This is what ‘Namo Amida Butsu’ means. Remembering gratefulness for his salvation in mind, we express it with mouth, repeating ‘Namo Amida Butsu.’ This is how we repay our indebtedness for the Buddha’s benevolence.”
(35) Transgressions do not create hindrance to birth:
Junsei said to the Shonin, “It is stated in the Letters that at the time of awakening the single thought of shinjin, one’s karmic evils are all destroyed and one attains the Rightly Established State, or the State of Non-retrogression. However, you have just said that as long as one lives, one is bound to commit evils. Your remark sounds different from what is stated in the Letters.”
The Shonin replied, “When it is stated that one’s karmic evils are all canceled at the moment of awakening a single thought of shinjin, it means that one’s birth is settled by the power of the single thought of shinjin and that one’s transgressions do not create hindrance to birth; therefore, they are as good as non-existent. As long as we live in the Saha world, our karmic evils are not exhausted. Are you, Junsei, already enlightened and so are you free of transgressions? It is stated in the scriptures that one’s karmic evils are canceled at the moment of awakening a single thought of shinjin. You should ask yourself over and over again whether you have attained shinjin or not, instead of questioning whether you still have karmic evils or not. It is up to Amida to save you after he has destroyed your karmic evils or to save you while leaving them as they stand. You should not inquire into this problem. Remember that shinjin is of paramount importance.” Thus the Shonin emphatically stated.
(35) Transgressions do not create a hindrance to birth:
It is stated in the scriptures that one’s karmic evils are canceled at the moment of awakening a single thought of shinjin. You should ask yourself over and over again whether you have attained shinjin or not, instead of questioning whether you still have karmic evils or not. It is up to Amida to save you after he has destroyed your karmic evils or to save you while leaving them as they stand. You should not inquire into this problem. Remember that shinjin is of paramount importance.” Thus the Shonin emphatically said this.
(36) Nembutsu recitation with Faith:
The Shonin said, “A wasan (from the Hymns on the Three Dharma Ages)says:
‘Recitation of the nembutsu arising from True Faith
Is something that has been transferred by Amida Buddha;
Hence, it is called (the act of) non-merit-transference;
It follows then that Nembutsu recitation with self-power is abhorred.’
This means that to entrust oneself to Amida and recite the nembutsu with reverence and gratitude is entirely Amida’s gift; and so, to recite the Nembutsu with one’s calculation, wondering what one should do, is abhored because it is an act of self-power.”
(37) Birthless birth:
‘Birthless birth’ means that birth into the Land of Utmost Bliss is called ‘birthless birth’ because it is not a transmigratory birth in the Three Realms.
[Note] ‘Birthless birth': The term used by T’an-luan (Donran) to describe the mode of birth in the Pure Land.
‘Three Realms': The three major divisions of the world of Samsara: 1) the realm of desire, 2) the realm of form, and 3) the realm of non-form.
“Merit-transference means Amida Tathagata’s salvation of sentient beings,” so said the Shonin.
(39) Useless to discuss our karmic evil:
The Shonin said, “When a single thought of Faith is awakened in us, our birth in the Pure Land is definitely settled. It is left up to Amida Tathagata whether he saves us after destroying our karmic evil or not. It is useless for us to discuss matters concerning our karmic evil. What concerns us is that Amida saves those who entrust themselves to him.”
(40) Guiding those around us:
The Shonin said, “To get together, sit around, and talk to each other regardless of different ranks and social status is consistent with (Shinran) Shonin’s remark that the people of the world who share the same Faith are all brothers. My sole wish is that if we are sitting together, those who have questions may ask us about the teaching and acquire Faith.”
(41) Calculations about ourselves:
“How sad it is that I [Gutoku Shinran] sunk in the vast sea of attachments and desires and lost in the great mountain of fame and profit, do not rejoice at joining the group of the Rightly Established Stage, nor do I enjoy coming nearer the realization of true Enlightenment.” (Kyogyoshinsho, chapter on “True Faith”) Concerning this statement, a discussion arose giving rise to skepticism as to whether such persons could attain birth in the Pure Land or not. Having overheard this, the Shonin said, “Attachments and desires, fame and profit are all evil passions. To make calculations about ourselves is a mixed practice.” He continued, “There is nothing left for us but to simply entrust ourselves to Amida.”
(42) Teach in a mild tone:
One evening, many people came rushing in without an announcement. Lord Mino [Kyomon-bo] scolded them in a raised voice, saying, “Get out of here.”
Hearing this, the Shonin said, “Save your imprudent remarks. Instead, you should teach them ‘the single thought of entrusting.’ Even if running about in all directions, I want to teach this to my fellow beings.”
Kyomon-bo, hearing this, tearfully apologized and spoke to them in praise of this teaching. Those who were in the audience all shed profuse tears of gratitude.
(43) The Hoonko service in the 6th year of Meio:
In the 11th month of the 6th year of Meio (1497), the Shonin was absent from the Hoonko service at Yamashina. Hokyo-bo was sent [to the Shonin by Jitsunyo Shonin] to ask the Shonin, “I understand you are staying home [at Osaka during the Hoonko week] this year. How should we hold the service [at Yamashina]?”
In reply, the Shonin wrote an instruction forbidding visitors staying overnight from the 6th period of the evening [about 6 o’clock in the evening] to the 6th period of the next morning [about 6 o’clock]. The night guards of the hall should be reduced to the one who happens to be on duty that night.
The Shonin spent the first three days of the Hoonko week at the Kyogyoji in Tonda and then went to his temple-lodge in Osaka to perform the rest of his Hoonko duties.
(44) Farewell visit to Shinran’s image:
From the summer of the 7th year of Meio , the Shonin became ill. On the 7th day of the 5th month, he went to Yamashina to bid farewell to Shinran’s image. At that time, he said that he would not see anyone lacking shinjin but would like to see people have shinjin even it it meant sending an invitation. Thus was his word.
(45) Learn from the ancient, transmit the ancient:
People of today should learn from the ancient; people of old should transmit the ancient. Spoken words will be lost; written words will not.
(46) Doshu of Akao:
Doshu of Akao said, “The duty for the day should be to hold the morning service without fail. The duty for the month should be to visit the nearby temple where an image of the Founder is enshrined. The duty of the year should be to make a pilgrimage to the Head Temple.”
Hearing this, Reverend Ennyo commented, “It was very well said.”
[Note] Doshu of Akao (d. 1516) was a villager of Akao in the present-day Toyama Prefecture. Being a devoted disciple of Rennyo Shonin, he was given the Buddhist name ‘Doshu’ (Essential of the Way). He founded the Gyotokuji Temple. His twenty-one articles of self-discipline (Doshu nijuichikajo) are well-known.
Ennyo (1489-1521) was Jitsunyo’s son; his given name was Koyu. He compiled Rennyo’s eighty letters in five fascicles.
(47) Blame your mind:
“Don’t let the mind run its course unbridled; check the mind. The Buddha-Dharma appears boring but, actually, I am comforted and enlivened by shinjin.” So says the Shonin.
(48) Never getting tired of hearing the Dharma:
Hokyo-bo lived to the age of ninety. “I have been hearing the Dharma until this age but I have never felt that I have heard enough or that I have been tired of hearing.”
[Note] Hokyo-bo; see note to the passage 43.
(49) Everyone heard the Dharma differently:
One day, when the Shonin delivered a sermon at Yamashina, it was such an extremely inspiring Dharma-talk that the audience felt that it should not be forgotten. Six of them left the drawing room and met at the Dharma-hall to discuss what they had heard. They discovered that they had heard the Dharma in different ways. Four of them had heard it incorrectly. This shows how important hearing is. It is possible that one may not hear the Dharma properly.
(50) One or two:
At the time of Rennyo Shonin, there were many devoted followers in his presence. The Shonin said, “How many of you have acquired shinjin? Perhaps one or two, I presume.”
Every one present said, “I was mortified!”
(51) Hear the essential point:
Hokyo said, “When you hear the Dharma being praised, be careful not to hear it nonchalantly. Hear the essential point.” He meant to tell us to hear the important point.
(52) Joyful nembutsu:
“Thinking of Amida and calling the Name joyfully” (Hoonko-shiki) means that calling the Name is joyful recitation of the nembutsu. After receiving shinjin, one recites the nembutsu with joy and enthusiasm.
[Note] Hoonko-shiki (Liturgy of the Ceremony for Acknowledging the Founder’s Benevolence) is a work by Kakunyo, the third chief abbot of Jodoshinshu, 1270-1351), composed in 1294 to commemorate the thirty-third year of Shinran’s passing.
(53) Rennyo’s Letters:
Concerning the Letters, the Shonin remarked, “Scriptures could be misread; they contain passages that are hard to understand. My Letters cannot possibly be misread.”
It was out of deep compassion that the Shonin wrote the Letters. Those who hear them recited, and yet, are unable to understand the meaning, are people lacking the stock of merit from the past.
(54) The mind does not obey the words:
“I have listened to the teaching of this tradition until this year and received many sacred words; ” confessed Hokyo. “However, my mind does not obey what I’ve heard.”
(55) Control of one’s mind comes from the Other-Power:
Jitsunyo Shonin often says, “Concerning the Buddha-Dharma, Rennyo Shonin admonishes us to be careful not to let the mind run its course unbridled but be sure to control it. It is wrong to allow the mind to take its course unchecked. We are enabled to control the mind due to the Other-Power.”
[Note] Jitsunyo Shonin: 1458-1525; Rennyo Shonin’s fifth son and his successor. He consolidated the teaching of Jodoshinshu by compiling the Letters and reorganized the Honganji institution.
(56) Those who hear the teaching in deapth are rare:
It is said that there are people who hear and discern the teaching of this tradition but those who hear the teaching in depth are rare. This means that those who acquire shinjin are rare indeed.
(57) Turn the topic to the Buddha-Dharma:
Rennyo Shinin admonishes, “Speaking about the Buddha-Dharma, people only engage in secular talk. Instead of getting bored by it, you should turn the topic to the Buddha-Dharma.”
(58) Nobody thinks he is wrong:
Nobody – even one person – thinks he is wrong. This, however, is what Shinran Shonin admonished us about. Unless each one of us reflects and converts our way of thinking, we shall sink deep into hell for a long time. The reason why I say this is that we are truly ignorant of the depth of the Buddha-Dharma.
[Note] This is believed to be the saying of Rennyo Shonin as he is quoted as saying to the same effect in the passage 80.
(59) Pretending to have acquired shinjin:
“All lack the true shinjin; they simply pretend to have it.”
Lord Chikamatsu put this poem up on the piece of timber outside the hall before his departure for Sakai, leaving behind the order that the followers should think about the meaning of the poem, for the Lord of Kooji Temple himself was not clear about its meaning. “To pretend to have it” means “to presume that I know all about shinjin.”
[Note] This poem was presumably composed by Rennyo.
Lord Chikamatsu: Renjun 蓮淳 by name; he was Rennyo’s thirteenth son. See the note to (16).
Lord of Kooji Temple: After Jitsunyo Shonin’s death, Renjun retired and was called by this name.
(60) Speak in terse and easy terms:
Hokyobo was the one who only speaks highly of the settled mind. He never failed to quote (Shan-tao’s) explanation of “Namo….” Even to him, Rennyo Shonin admonished that he should talk about the settled mind in fewer words.
[Note] (Shan-tao’s) explanation: Refers to his explanation of “Namo Amida butsu” in his Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra: “Namo” means “to take refuge”; it also has the significance of “making aspiration and transferring [merits].” “Amida butsu” is the practice. For this reason, one can definitely attain birth.