The TANNISHO: Chapters I to X

I
When the thought of saying the nembutsu erupts from deep within, having entrusted ourselves to the inconceivable power of Amida's vow which saves us, enabling us to be born in the Pure Land, we receive at that very moment the ultimate benefit of being grasped never to be abandoned.

Amida's Primal Vow does not discriminate between the young and old, good and evil - true entrusting alone is essential. The reason is that the Vow is directed to the person burdened with the weight of karmic evil and burning with the flames of blind passion.

Thus, in entrusting ourselves to the Primal Vow, no other form of good is necessary, for there is no good that surpasses the nembutsu. And evil need not be feared, for there is no evil which can obstruct the working of Amida's Primal Vow.

 

II
I believe that the reason you have come here, crossing over more than ten provinces at the risk of your lives, is solely to ascertain the path that leads to birth in the Pure Land. But if you suspect that I know ways other than the nembutsu to attain birth, or that I am versed in the scriptures connected with them, you are greatly mistaken. If that be the case, there are many eminent scholars in the monasteries of Nara and Mt. Hiei, so you should go see them and ask them in detail about the way to attain birth in the Pure Land.

As for myself, Shinran, I simply take to heart the words of my dear teacher, Honen, "Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida," and entrust myself to the Primal Vow. Besides this, there is nothing else.

I really do not know whether the nembutsu may be the cause for my birth in the Pure Land, or the act that shall condemn me to hell. But I have nothing to regret, even if I should have been deceived by my teacher, and, saying the nembutsu, fall into hell. The reason is that if I were capable of realizing buddhahood by other religious practices and yet fell into hell for saying the nembutsu I might have dire regrets for having been deceived. But since I am absolutely incapable of any religious practice, hell is my only home.

If Amida's Primal Vow is true, Sakyamuni's teaching cannot be false. If the Buddha's teaching is true, Shantao's commentaries cannot be false. If Shantao's commentaries are true, how can Honen's words be empty of meaning? If Honen's words are true, what I, Shinran, say cannot be meaningless. In brief, such is the true entrusting of this foolish one. Now, whether you accept the nembutsu, entrusting yourself to it, or reject it, that is your own decision.

 

III
Even the good person attains birth in the Pure Land, how much more so the evil person.

But the people of the world constantly say, even the evil person attains birth, how much more so the good person. Although this appears to be sound at first glance, it goes against the intention of the Primal Vow of Other Power. The reason is that since the person of selfpower, being conscious of doing good, lacks the thought of entrusting the self completely to Other Power, he or she is not the focus of the Primal Vow of Amida. But when self-power is turned over and entrusting to Other Power occurs, the person attains birth in the land of True Fulfillment.

The Primal Vow was established out of deep compassion for us who cannot become freed from the bondage of birth-and-death through any religious practice, due to the abundance of blind passion. Since its basic intention is to effect the enlightenment of such an evil one, the evil person who is led to true entrusting by Other Power is the person who attains birth in the Pure Land. Thus, even the good person attains birth, how much more so the evil person!

 

IV
There is a difference in compassion between the Path of Sages and the Path of Pure Land. The compassion in the Path of Sages is expressed through pity, sympathy, and care for all beings, but rare is it that one can help another as completely as one desires.

The compassion in the Path of Pure Land is to quickly attain Buddhahood, saying the nembutsu, and with the true heart of compassion and love save all beings completely as we desire.

In this life no matter how much pity and sympathy we may feel for others, it is impossible to help another as we truly wish; thus our compassion is inconsistent and limited. Only the saying of nembutsu manifests the complete and never ending compassion which is true, real, and sincere.

 

V
I, Shinran, have never even once uttered the nembutsu for the sake of my father and mother. The reason is that all beings have been fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, in the timeless process of birth-and-death. When I attain buddhahood in the next birth, each and everyone will be saved.

If it were a good accomplished by my own powers, then I could transfer the accumulated merits of nembutsu to save my father and mother. But since such is not the case, when we become free from self-power and quickly attain the enlightenment of the Pure Land, we will save those bound closest to us through transcendental powers, no matter how deeply they are immersed in the karmic sufferings of the six realms and four modes of birth.

 

VI
It is utterly unthinkable that among the followers of single-hearted nembutsu practice there are arguments about "my disciples" and "other's disciples."

As for myself, Shinran, I do not have a single disciple. If I could make others say the nembutsu through my own devices, they would be my disciples. But how arrogant it is to claim as disciples those who live the nembutsu through the sole working of Amida's compassion.

If the karmic condition for us is to come together, we shall be together; but if the karmic condition for us is to be separated, we shall be separated. How absurd it is that some people assert that if one goes against a teacher and says the nembutsu under another, that person cannot attain birth in the Pure Land. Are they saying that they will take back the entrusting which is a gift from Amida as if it belonged to them? Impossible is it that such a thing should happen.

When we live according to the truth of "made to become so by itself," we shall know gratitude to the Buddha and to our teachers.

 

VII
In the person of nembutsu opens up the great path of unobstructed freedom. The reason is that the gods of heaven and earth bow before the practicer of true entrusting, and those of the world of demons and rival ways cannot obstruct such a person. The consequences of karmic evil cannot bear fruit, nor does any form of good equal the nembutsu. Thus, it is called the great path of unobstructed freedom.

 

VIII
The saying of nembutsu is neither a religious practice nor a good act. Since it is practiced without any calculation, it is "non-practice." Since it is also not a good created by my calculation, it is "non-good." Since it is nothing but Other Power, completely free of selfpower, it is neither a religious practice nor a good act on the part of the practicer.

 

IX
"Although I say the nembutsu, I rarely experience joyful happiness nor do I have the desire to immediately go to the Pure Land. What should be done about this?" I asked. Then he responded, "I, Shinran, have been having the same question also, and now you, Yui-en, have the same thought."

"When I carefully consider the matter, my birth in the Pure land is settled without doubt for the very reason that I do not rejoice about that which I should be bursting with joy. It is the working of blind passion which suppresses the heart that would rejoice and prevents its fullest expression. All this the Buddha already knew and called us foolish beings filled with blind passion. Thus, when we realize that the compassionate Vow of Other Power is for beings like ourselves, the Vow becomes even more reliable and dependable."

"The working of blind passion also causes us not to want to go to the Pure land and makes us feel uneasy worrying about death when we become even slightly ill. Impossible it seems to leave this old house of agitation where we have wandered aimlessly since the beginning of time, nor can we long for the Pure Land of peace which we have yet to know. This is due to blind passion so truly powerful and overwhelming. But no matter how reluctant we may be, when our life in this world comes to an end, beyond our control, then for the first time we go to the land of Fulfillment. Those who do not want to go immediately are the special concern of true compassion. For this very reason the Vow of true compassion is completely dependable, and our birth in the Pure Land is absolutely certain."

"If our hearts were filled with joyful happiness and we desired to go swiftly to the Pure Land, we might be misled to think that perhaps we are free of blind passion."

 

X
The Master Shinran said, "In the nembutsu no selfworking is true-working; it is beyond description, explanation, and conception."

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