Volume 1 Letter No.4
JIMON JITO NO SHO
(CHAPTER ON SELF-QUESTIONS AND SELF-ANSWERS)
I have heard it said that in the doctrines of Shonin Shinran it teaches, the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land, and does not attach importance in “Buddha’s receival
of a man at his instant of death.” What does this mean? I do not know the meanings of, “Acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land,” nor, “non-receival
.” I wish to hear of these in more detail.
In answer, I say:
Verily, I believe these questions to be of prime importance in our Teachings. Our Way, assuredly, does teach “the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the pure land at the very instant of the awakening of Faith
,” because after realizing in everyday life that Faith in our deliverance through the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata
is the ripening of past karmas, one’s belief that the reasons why the primal Vow could be understood is through the result of the blessings of the Other-Power of Buddha’s Wisdom and not through one’s own efforts, is the “acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land.” Therefore, “acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land,” is the status of having received Faith
and that of believing in having entered into the ranks of those whose rebirth has been unalterably decided. This is known as “residing within the ranks of the truly assured at the very moment of the awakening of Faith
,” or “acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land,” or, “instantaneous rebirth and non-retrogression.”
In question, I say:
The meaning of rebirth at the very moment of the awakening of Faith has been understood clearly. However, I cannot clearly understand, yet, the meaning of “non-receival
.” Please explain this phrase explicitly.
In answer, I say:
“Non-receival” means that when one is aware of residing within the ranks of the Truly-Assured at the very moment of the awakening of Faith, there is no necessity to expect Buddha’s “receival.” The reason is that the desire for Buddha’s receival is the lot of those who practice the various austerities. The follower of True Faith comes to know that there is no “receival” needed when one is assured of the Grace
of being embraced and not-forsakened by the Light of Amida at the very moment of the awakening of Faith. Therefore, the Shonin has said,
…’receival’ exists in the path of those whose rebirth is attained through the practice of the various austerities. A devotee of True Faith, because of being embraced and not forsakened, resides within the ranks of the Truly-Assured, and because of this will attain Enlightenment without fail. Therefore, it is not necessary to await the moment of death and there is no need to ask for ‘receival.’
Understand this term, “non-receival,” through the honored of Shonin Shinran.
In question I say,
Are we to understand “Truly-Assured” and “Enlightenment” as one Grace
or two Graces
In answer I say:
Those who are in that very moment of the Awakening of Faith are already in the ranks of the “Truly-Assured.” This is the Grace received while on Earth. Believe that Enlightenment is the Grace received in the Pure Land. Thus, know that these are two separate Graces
In question, I say:
When we understand the foregoing, we know that our rebirth is decided. I would also like to ask how we should then understand why it is further said, “Have Faith
In answer, I say:
This is, indeed, an important question. He who realizes this in his Heart is one who had Determined-Faith.
In question, I say:
I have clearly understood that the meaning of Determined-Faith includes “the acquisition in everyday life of the cause for rebirth in the Pure Land,” “non-receival,” and “entering the ranks of the Truly-Assured.” I have yet to understand whether or not the Nembutsu, after having received Decided-Faith, is to be recited for the purpose of one’s rebirth in the Land of Bliss or whether it is for the purpose of thanksgiving for the Grace of Buddha.
In answer, I say:
This question is also of great importance. After the moment of awakened Faith in rebirth, never believe that the recitation of the Nembutsu is the karma for one’s rebirth, but believe that it is only the expression of thanksgiving for the Grace of Buddha. The venerable Zendo
has said, “…It is anything from a lifelong homage to the simplicity of a single moment
.” The phrase, “to the simplicity of a single moment” expresses the heart of a Determined-Faith. By “lifelong homage” is meant the Nembutsu of thanksgiving for the Grace
of Buddha. Truly, you should understand the above through these words.
With reverence, I remain
27th day, 11th month, 4th year of Bunmei (1472)
Group Study Notes:
Ichi-nen, thought-moment of faith, is a critical concept in Jodo Shinshu. It is that moment in time when you receive the heart of Buddha and you are no longer limited to self. It is at this moment that you utter the Nembutsu.
If it is true that in everyday life Faith in our deliverance through the Primal Vow is the ripening of past karmas, then having heard this truth and believing that you are of the same rank as of someone who will decidedly be born into the Pure Land, this belief can even be called giving rise to the one thought-moment, and you are residing in the ranks of the truly settled. The karma is fulfilled in this life, thus achieving birth into the Pure Land and residing in the state of non-retrogression.
When we become aware that the Primal Vow promises we will be saved, thus giving rise to good acts in the past, then we know it is not due to our power, but due to the fact it was given to us through the working of other-power. Because we have the heart that gained this thing we have attained the heart of someone who understands that I am someone who understands past workings of the Primal Vow.
What were the past conditions that led to this result? You become someone who becomes aware of the history of the Vow. Rennyo is trying to explain what he means by the history of the Primal Vow. If you come to understand this, you have the heart. The way we become aware of the history is the way we become awakened to the Primal Vow.
This seems to be deliberately vague to show both sides of the coin, i.e. having faith and saying the Nembutsu is being inclusive. Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow saves us in the present life, but it is the opening of previous good acts. But it is also true that we are not saved through our calculations or previous good acts, but through the Amida Buddha’s Prima Vow. The Pure Land is an ideal that provides guidance for our movement. It is a finger pointing at the moon. Once you see the moon you no longer see the finger.
Interesting notes that I can’t quite place:
The heart that understands the cause of birth into the Pure Land understands what it means to be indebted. Saying the Nembutsu is exhausting the debt of gratitude to the Buddha. Grace is in the sense of a teacher imparting knowledge to a student. With Buddha’s grace a debt is implied, and we are thankful for the gift.
On the “one thought moment of faith:
The idea is based largely on the following two passages. Note: what is the cite?
Contemplating true and real shinjin, I find there is the one thought-moment. One thought-moment expresses the ultimate brevity of the instant of the realization of shinjin and manifests the vast, inconceivable mind of joyfulness. (Pp. 110-111)
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
The “faith” (of “one thought-moment of”) has the meaning of no doubt and the three hearts of shinjin refers to the faith of joy. The word “one” has the meaning of the very beginning and is used in contrast to “continuation.” The word “thought-moment” has the meaning of time. Because of this, “one thought-moment of faith” has the meaning of the very first moment when doubts were eradicated. In other words, it refers to the very first thought-moment.
The expression “even one thought-moment,” the term “even” refers to the continuation of faith throughout one’s entire lifetime, and “one thought-moment” refers to the very beginning of the opening of faith. Being determined as the person who will gain the birth of going immediately at the moment of the one thought-moment of faith is referred to as “thus attaining birth and dwelling in the stage of nonretrogression.” Thus, the “one thought-moment” found in the fulfillment clause (of the Primal Vow) is the first moment of accepting the Dharma as “hear the Name, and have the shinjin of joy” if you were to look up. Looking down, it would be the moment one receives the benefit of “then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression.” It is the revelation of the idea of simultaneously accepting the Dharma and receiving benefit. If the acceptance of the Dharma and receiving of benefit is simultaneous within the one thought-moment, then there is no space for the entering of the grime of the creation of the three karmic acts by sentient beings. Even if you refer to the very first voice utterance of repeating the name, this too would have to be after the one thought-moment of faith, and is the karmic act following the settling of the causes for birth in the Pure Land. Thus, there are no causes outside of the hearing-faith of the Name; this is the ultimate development of the idea of just faith in the true cause.
Because the term “one thought-moment” found in the fulfillment clause of the primal vow is the thought-moment that crowns the “even” (part), even though the interpretation of time as expressed above plays the major part, Shinran Shonin also interprets it in terms of the condition of the heart. The statement “One thought-moment: because shinjin is free of double-mindedness, one thought-moment is used. It is the mind that is single.” (p. 112)
In this instance “one” has the meaning of not two, “nen (thought)” has the meaning of heart, and “ichi-nen (one thought)” has the meaning of having no doubts as expressed in not having two hearts. This expresses the main interpretation, and when one is of the one thought (the moment of accepting the Dharma), this can be nothing other than having a heart without doubt.
In conclusion, the “ichi-nen (one thought) found in the fulfillment clause of the Primal Vow points to the time when faith first arises, and expresses the simultaneousness of receiving the Dharma and obtaining benefits; with this it ultimately expresses the idea of faith as the true cause of birth in the Pure Land.