The radiant light, unhindered and inconceivable, eradicates suffering and brings realization of joy; the excellent Name, perfectly embodying all practices, eliminates obstacles and dispels doubt. This is the teaching and practice for our latter age; devote yourself solely to it. It is eye and limb in this defiled world; do not fail to endeavor in it. Accepting and living the supreme, universal Vow, then, abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure. Reverently embracing the Tathagata's teaching, respond in gratitude to his benevolence and be thankful for his compassion.

~ Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rennyo's Summer Letters


The following letter is the second of four written by Rennyo Shonin in his 83rd summer, one year before his birth in the Pure Land in 1499. Collectively titled "Summer Letters" (Natsu no Gobunsho), these epistles were originally composed in preparation for the annual thanksgiving services. Together with the Gobunsho and the Gozokusho, they form the complete canon of Rennyo's correspondence related to propagating the teachings of the Founder Shinran. Since these letters are not typically included in English translations, and since they are very important for showing how Rennyo's mature teaching differed not the slightest from his initial efforts, they are of the utmost importance to serious students of Jodo Shinshu. I may share some thoughts about it in a subsequent post; but in any case, since such commentary is tiresome and probably unnecessary, I am posting it first as it appears in the English-language Shinshu Seiten published by the Buddhist Churches of America. Please read it carefully, reflect deeply on its meaning, and follow its instructions. Gassho _/\_
 
ALL WHO HAVE come here today to the shrine of Shinran Shonin are here for the purpose of listening to the reading of the Triple Sutra. However, it appears to me that to attend these gatherings without the slightest desire to understand the meaning of the Sutras, but only for the sake of appearances, is totally pointless.
 
The readings of the Sutras are for the purpose of receiving the Shinjin-Faith of the Other-Power and, through an understanding of the Dharma, to recognize the shallowness of one's own faith and attempt to correct it. This is the true teaching of the Buddha-Dharma. To gather at the daily readings of the Sutras without understanding them is truly futile.
 
From today, you must seriously understand the meaning of the teachings and ask others about the erroneous concepts of Shinjin-Faith that you formerly held and correct them into True Shinjin. If you should understand this well and listen carefully, it will be beneficial to both you and others. I shall now explain the reason for this. Listen very carefully!
 
By Anjin-Faith is meant that no matter how deeply evil a person may be, by discarding all the sundry practices, by single-heartedly placing reliance on Amida Tathagata, and by placing total reliance for the life to come in this Amida, such a person becomes a follower of the Nembutsu who has received "Determined Anjin." Only after a thorough understanding of this can one express the Nembutsu of gratitude to Amida Buddha. Thus, in the Shonin's Wasan, this is expressed as follows:
 
To receive the Nembutsu from the wisdom of Amida
Is the actualization of the Vow-Power of Dharmakara.
Without this Shinjin-Faith from the wisdom of Amida,
How can one receive enlightenment?

Unless one has received the determination of this Shinjin-Faith, there can be no expression of gratitude to the grace of Amida Buddha. I am curious as to how you have felt about this point up to this time.
 
You should all be fully aware of the essence of what I have just written. Should you carry it back home with you and, by discussing Shinjin-Faith among yourselves, obtain the determination of this Shinjin-Faith, you will have gained the unalterable determination of the coming birth in the Land of Bliss.
 
With reverence, I remain.
 
Latter part; 5th month, 7th year of Meio (1498)