I have gratefully received, from Gonen-bo, your gift of two hundred mon. I wish also to acknowledge receiving some time ago, from some of the people there, offerings made at the nembutsu meetings. Please convey my gratitude to the people. With this reply, please give my thanks to them also.
Now then, what you ask is indeed an excellent question. To begin, you state that with one utterance of the nembutsu the cause of birth is fulfilled. It is truly so. Even so, however, it does not mean that a person should not say the nembutsu beyond the one utterance. This matter is explained fully in Essentials of Faith Alone. Please read this work carefully. That the nembutsu said beyond one utterance should be directed to the sentient beings of the ten quarters is also correct. Since one is directing the nembutsu to the sentient beings of the ten quarters, it is an error to think that saying it twice or three times is bad for one’s attainment of birth. I have been taught that, since it is the Primal Vow of birth through the nembutsu, whether one says the nembutsu many times or whether one says it only once, one will be born. It must never be taught that one will certainly attain birth with only one utterance but will not attain birth if one says it many times. Please carefully read Essentials of Faith Alone.
Next, concerning “thought” and “no-thought,” these terms do not occur in the teachings of Other Power. They are spoken of in the Path of Sages. They occur only in the teachings of the Path of Sages, which is based on self-power. The nembutsu selected in the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata has nothing to do either with “thought” or with “no-thought.” Whoever may say these terms, you must never employ them. They seem to have incorrectly heard and applied to the Pure Land path what is spoken of in the Path of Sages. Never under any circumstances use these terms. Further, “joy” means to rejoice that, since one has realized the shinjin that is Other Power, one’s birth is definitely settled. I have heard that nembutsu of “thought” and “no-thought” is being discussed among people of the nembutsu throughout the province of Hitachi, and I have already stated that this is an error. In short, the meaning of Other Power is that the practicer’s calculation is not involved; hence, it is neither a matter of “thought” nor of “no-thought.” It appears, however, that hearing this incorrectly, some have been speaking of “thought” and “no-thought.” Since the selected Primal Vow of Amida has no room for the practicer’s calculation, it is wholly Other Power. It should never be said that once-calling alone is right. You say that one directs the nembutsu said beyond the one utterance to the sentient beings throughout the world. It is not wrong to direct [the nembutsu] to the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters in order to respond to the benevolence of the Tathagatas Sakyamuni and Amida. But though it is so, those attaining birth through saying the nembutsu two or three times must not be said to be in error. Please read Essentials of Faith Alone carefully. It should be understood that since it is the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, birth through just one or ten utterances is not in error.
Twelfth month, 26th day
Reply to: Kyonin-bo