Rennyo Letter 03

Volume 1 Letter No. 3



The fundamental point in the Teachings of Jodo Shinshu is not the necessity to eliminate one’s evil thoughts or the attempt to stop the rise of evil thoughts and attachments.  If it be your lot, engage in commerce; in base servitudes; and in hunting and fishing.  Believe firmly in Amida’s Vow, which promises deliverance for evil beings such as us who are perplexed day and night, by our shamefully evil karmas.  By relying single heartedly on the compassionate Vow of only Amida Buddha, we shall be delivered by Tathagata without fail if our faith

is pure at the very moment we believe in His deliverance.

What should we, then, believe

as we repeat the Nembutsu?

We should believe that we repeat the Nembutsu while we have life for the purpose of expressing our gratitude and thankfulness

because rebirth for us hopeless beings is through this Power of Faith.  Such a person is called a devotee

of Faith

who has received that Decided-FAITH

of our Teaching.

With reverence, I remain

18th day, 12th month, 3rd year of Bunmei (1471)

Group Study Notes:

This letter is basically saying we are the practicers of gratitude.  While we have life we should believe it is for the purpose of expressing thankfulness, and that is how we should repeat the Nembutsu.  This type of situation is what we would call the heart of assurance for the practice of shinjin, or the Faith of joy.

What is our sect is trying to say when we say it is not necessary “to eliminate one’s evil thoughts or the attempt to stop the rise of evil thoughts and attachments?”  We are suggesting that these things are in our nature, and it is next to impossible to stop them from arising.  This notion can become twisted by logic when it is extended to say it is all right to do bad things.  This elevates the concept to saying “I understand our teachings, and I’m not limited to not doing evil things.”  This thinking is not in the right spirit of the teachings.  Pure Land ideas of righteousness guard against such twisted logic.  As one hears the teachings of the wise master, one expresses his heart.  A Master knows he has inner wisdom, even though his outer appearance might seem foolish.  One needs to guard against internal foolishness while the outer appearance looks wise.  Faith is powerful and dangerous at the same time.

Why do we have to “believe” in something when we repeat the Nembutsu?  When we are motivated by the wisdom behind the Nembutsu, it is thus that we are allowed access into how the Buddha sees the world, and that is the cause of our rejoicing.  Saying and thinking you have to believe is a reflection of self-power.  Someone coming from self-power would say, “I have faith in Amida Buddha.”  Other power, on the other hand, implies being embraced by the power.  That is, “Amida Buddha has faith in me.”  An analogy can be found in the parent/child relationship.  If the parent has faith in the child, the child is allowed to have faith in the parent.  Having the heart of Buddha means there is no room for doubt and one is completely safe.  An analogous image is that of a sleeping baby in the arms of the mother (Amida Buddha) wherein the baby has no thought of being dropped.  We have shinjin only because we are all part of Amida Buddha.  We are all equal.  It does not matter what form you take; all life is precious.

When we are motivated by the wisdom behind the Nembutsu, we are compelled to express our gratitude and thankfulness.  When we are overwhelmingly driven to do this, it is due to this power of faith that allows us to be born into the Pure Land.  The desire to express gratitude is so overwhelming we want to burst out of our seams just to express it.  We are going to be born due to the power of the Primal Vow, and we say Nembutsu because we are expressing our gratitude.

Why should we say the Nembutsu?  Because we are going to be born into the Pure Land and we want to express our gratitude.  Because this is the case we have our life.  We should say Nembutsu to repay the debt of gratitude.  This is what we call the practice of shinjin of the determined heart of assurance of our sect.

Shinjin is of ultimate importance.  What do not matter are things we assume would get in the way.  Nothing could obstruct shinjin if you know it.


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