Volume 1 Letter No. 5
SECCHU NO SHO
(CHAPTER ON TRAVELING THROUGH THE SNOW)
I was apprehensive as to what might be in the minds of the priests and lay followers, both male and female, who will come on large numbers from the three provinces of Kashu, Noto, and Ecchu starting this year. The reason for this apprehension relative to pilgrimages is that the central thought of this Sect is that the reasons for our rebirth into the Land of Bliss is due, primarily, to acquiring the Faith of the Other-Power.
However, there are some followers of this Sect that have not firmly grasped the state of this Faith. How can such people attain rebirth into the Land of Bliss without complication? This is the question that is of paramount importance.
I am extremely uneasy wondering about the motives that these people might have in their innermost thoughts as they endure the long travel of 12 to 14 miles through this heavy snow to safely make their pilgrimage to this temple. It being quite useless to speculate here what their true motives might have been in the past, I shall state here, precisely, the condition of the understanding that they must harbor in their deepest thoughts from this day forward. Bend your ears and listen
very, very carefully.
You should hold dear to your heart that, if you are fully aware to keep the Faith of the Other-Power firmly in your hearts, and also understand that you need only to recite the Nembutsu for the purpose of expressing gratitude to Amida without respect to time or place, your rebirth, this time, is assured without fail. In the overflow of this happiness, you should visit the teacher-priest of your own temples bearing expressive tokens of your happiness.
In other words, these people are the devotees of Faith who well understand the doctrine of this Sect.
With reverence, I remain
8th day, 2nd month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)
Group Study Notes:
Shonin Rennyo cannot understand why all of a sudden large numbers of people went on pilgrimages to the Honganji. He did not understand their motives, and this was a matter of concern for him.
He was concerned because the first the intent of this stream (of Buddhism) is achieving the birth in the (land of) utmost bliss due to the shinjin of other-power. However, within this stream (of Buddhism) there are none who have even received the form of having received this shinjin. How can these friends and family members easily gain this birth of going to the land fulfilled? This is what is called the single great thing. Happily, they were able to endure the long road of 5 li and 10 li; what was the goal of this pilgrimage in the snow, how did they gain this frame of mind (of this) understanding?
In other words, Rennyo was concerned because just coming to the Honganji will not get these people into the Pure Land. Rather, they achieve birth into the Pure Land through shinjin of other-power and this is what they should be thinking.
For purposes of repaying the debt of gratitude they need to say the Nembutsu whether walking, standing or seated to the side. It does not matter what condition they are in, they just needed to say it. If their heart is in this place (shinjin) their birth into the Pure Land is settled.
Once their hearts are in the right place, they should walk to where their teachers are and let them know how happy they are. They should show their heart to the person who well understands the meaning of this stream, rather than pilgrimage to the Honganji to achieve merit.