Rennyo Letter 08

Volume I Letter No. 8



Around the early part of the 4th month in the 3rd year of Bunmei, I slipped out quietly on the spur of the moment and without design, from the area around the Southern Detached, Quarters

of the Mii Temple at Otsu in the Shiga district of Goshu, and visited extensively throughout the provinces of Echizen and Kaga.  Based on this trip, I leveled a site in these mountains, the former habitat of wolves, at a place called Yoshizaki within the district of Hosorogi of this Echizen Province because of its exceptional picturesque ness, and started to construct the temple complex as it exists today on the 27th day of the 7th month of that year.

As time has flown by, already the spring and fall of three years have passed.  During this period, priests and laymen, male and female, have gathered here in massive pilgrimages.  However, since these pilgrimages appeared to be of no benefit, meaning, or purpose whatever, I have closed this temple to them starting this year.

The reason for my having done this is this:  The basic motive for my being in this particular place is that having received life into the world of man, and being able to listen at this very moment to Buddha’s Dharma

which is difficult to even come by, is it not truly a pitiful thing to senselessly disregard this opportunity and sink, in vain, into Hell

?  Therefore, I reached this conclusion on the basis that there were no reasons to allow these people to gather here who do not care

to obtain rebirth in the Pure Land after acquiring the Faith of the Nembutsu.

The basic purpose of the closure of this temple is, definitely, not for the sake of my reputation or gain, but only to place emphasis on the need for devotion towards Enlightenment in the life to come.

Therefore, those who have seen or who have heard about this closure must not misinterpret this action from a stilted viewpoint.

With reverence, I remain

9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Translator’s Note:  See Volume I, Chapter 5, page 9: SECCHU NO SHO (CHAPTER ON TRAVELING THROUGH THE SNOW), for the related nature of the subject matter of this letter.

Group Study Notes:

While other schools encouraged pilgrimages, the Hongwanji does not promote the notion of gaining merit through pilgrimage.  One can infer from this letter that Rennyo is saying pilgrimage is useless, and he was worried that the pilgrims were not relying on other-power, but were trying to gain merit simply through pilgrimage.

If the followers had no idea of being born into the Pure Land through shinjin, then why were they coming to the Hongwanji?  How can anything be sadder than observing people falling into hell?  Rennyo was so upset about this wrong-mindedness of trying to gain merit through pilgrimage rather than through the shinjin of the Nembutsu, he closed the temple.  He had concluded that by keeping the temple open he was allowing the followers to regress.  In a sense, he was feeling guilty for playing a part in their descent into hell.

This radical act (of closing the temple) was designed to change the temple-goers’ focus from coming to temple to focusing on shinjin.  He wanted to break people’s tendency to use the temple as a crutch, a way to demonstrate spirituality.  Rennyo made it quite clear he did not close the temple for personal gain, but for the enlightenment of the temple-goers.  He was giving the message that if they come to temple not knowing what it means, they may as well not come at all.


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