Rennyo Letter 10

Volume I Letter No. 10



The wives of the resident priests of this temple who dwell here on the grounds of Yoshizaki must think, truly, that they are wives of priests because of deep-rooted past conditions.  However, this is hindsight accorded to wives who have placed prime importance in the life to come and have attained Faith.  Therefore, all wives should obtain Faith without fail with feelings of deep concern.

To begin with, differing generally from the other schools within the family of the Pure Land tradition, and in result of a particularly excellent cause, what our Sect calls “Faith” is that great Faith of the Other-Power.  Thus, you should believe that those who attain Faith are assured rebirth in the Pure Land in the next life without fail:  ten out of ten, 100 for 100.

To the question, “how should one understand this that is called ‘Faith”?  I would like to know this in detail.

In answer I say:

This question is of the utmost importance.  In general, the reason for accepting this “Faith” of our Sect is, firstly, because as women you are pitifully ensnared in deep burdensome evils of the Five Cardinal Sins

and the Three Reliances

.  As such, you have long since been abandoned as “unsavable” by the Buddhas of the Ten Quarters and the Buddhas of the past, present and future.  Yet, thankfully, Amida Tathagata alone vowed that He would deliver beings such as these and has already initiated forty-eight vows.  Within these Vows, beyond His deliverance of all evil men and women in accordance with the 18th Vow, and further, because women are deeply sinful with hearts full of doubts, He has established in His 35th Vow yet again, the Vow that He would, furthermore, deliver women, you should feel a deep thankfulness with a sense of the debt of gratitude owed this Amida Tathagata for His great endeavors.

In question, I say:

Now, relative to the understanding of gratitude to Amida Tathagata for establishing, in such manner, Vows reiterating the deliverance of such beings as us, in what manner should the followers of Amida place reliance on Him?  I would like to have this explained clearly.

In answer, I say:

If there is a wish to obtain Faith and to place reliance on Amida, first, believe that human life is only for the duration of a dream or a momentary illusion, while rebirth in the Pure Land results in eternal happiness.  Believe that the enjoyment of human life is for 50 or 100 years while rebirth, in particular, is of primary importance.  Abandon the heart that desires the sundry practices and discard, should they harbor them, the heart that thinks in terms of abstinences and taboos.  Then, placing reliance on Amida with a singleness of heart, and by not trusting in any of the various Buddhas

, Bodhisattvas or deities, if one believes that by placing Faith unshakably in Amida Buddha, the coming rebirth in the Pure Land will have been determined, repeat the Nembutsu in the overflow of gratitude for this welcomed determination.  This Nembutsu expresses the gratitude owed Amida Tathagata for His deliverance of you.

This is called the person of wives of the resident priests of this temple who dwell here that have received Faith.

With reverence, I remain

11th day, 9th month, 5th year of Bunmei (1473)

Letter 10 begins by talking about some of the different circumstances we can find in our lives that we should recognize as having contributed to our ability to meet with the Nembutsu teaching, and ultimately to our having faith (shinjin).  This is followed by a discussion that clarifies what this faith is in Jodo Shinshu.  First, after introducing the universal aspect of faith in Jodo Shinshu, Rennyo Shonin continues with the self-asked question of, “What is the nature of this faith?”  As part of his answer, because the letter is directed towards women – in particular to wives of priests – he focuses on the salvation of women especially as seen within the context of Goshou-Shanshou or the five hindrances and the three conformances.  In seeing how women were oppressed by society in both custom and philosophy, however, Rennyo Shonin states that because women can find themselves under these circumstances that Amida Buddha has also given rise to the 35th Vow, or the vow explicitly made to save women.

This is followed by a second question or how one should rely upon this Vow of Universal Salvation.  In answering this question, however, Rennyo Shonin shifts his focus from women to a discussion of humans in general and how life as a human being is very short.  Because of this, he says, one should single-heartedly rely upon Amida Buddha who has vowed to save all sentient beings, regardless of the circumstances they may find themselves in.  He goes on to say that, in appreciation and gratitude to all the work that has been done on our behalf, we should repeat the Nembutsu as the expression of our overflowing joy.  This expression, Rennyo Shonin continues, is our way to repay the debt of gratitude owed the Buddha.  He concludes the letter by stating that this expression of uttering the Nembutsu is the expression of Shinjin even for and especially for the specific case of those wives of resident priests.


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