19

I have written you often, but I wonder if you have seen my letters.

The fulfillment of Myoho-bo’s cherished desire to be born in the Pure Land is surely celebrated by those in Hitachi province who share the same aspiration. In no way is birth accomplished through the calculating of foolish beings; neither can it be the object of the calculation of the eminently wise. Even holy masters of the Mahayana and the Hinayana entrust themselves utterly to the power of the Vow to attain birth, without calculating in any way. But it is an especially rare and splendid result of good karma that ordinary people like yourselves should hear of the Vow and encounter Namu-amida-butsu. Under no circumstances should you have designs concerning it. Regarding this, please read the copies of Seikaku’s Essentials of Faith Alone, Ryukan’s On Self-power and Other Power, and the other tracts I sent earlier. Such men are the best teachers for our times. Since they have already been born in the Pure Land, nothing can surpass what is written in their tracts.

They understood Master Honen’s teaching fully and for this reason attained perfect faith. Even among groups that had been saying the nembutsu for many years, there were always some who spoke of the teaching only from their limited viewpoints, and this still seems to be the case. Even Myoho-bo’s birth came about only after he underwent a complete change of heart, for he originally had thoughts of unimaginable wrongdoing.

You must not do what should not be done, think what should not be thought, or say what should not be said, thinking that you can be born in the Pure Land regardless of it. Human beings are such that, maddened by the passions of greed, we desire to possess; maddened by the passions of anger, we hate that which should not be hated, seeking to go against the law of cause and effect; led astray by the passions of ignorance, we do what should not even be thought. But the person who purposely thinks and does what he or she should not, saying that it is permissible because of the Buddha’s wondrous Vow to save the foolish being, does not truly desire to reject the world, nor does such a one consciously feel himself a being of karmic evil. Hence such people have no aspiration for the nembutsu nor for the Buddha’s Vow; thus, however they engage in nembutsu with such an attitude, it is difficult for them to attain birth in the next life. Please transmit this point fully to the people. There is no need for me to say these things to you, but I write them frankly because you have always shown care and concern for me.

In recent years the teaching of nembutsu has undergone so many alterations, it is hardly necessary for me to comment on them; nevertheless, for people who have carefully received the teaching of the late Master it is still as it originally was, undergoing no change at all. This is well known, so I am sure you have heard about it. Although people who teach variant views of the Pure Land teaching are all disciples of the Master, they rephrase the teaching in their own ways, confusing themselves and misleading others. This is truly deplorable. Even in the capital there are many who are going astray; how much more this is so in the provinces I have little desire to know. It is impossible to say everything in this letter; I will write again.

Myokyo-bo’s trip to Kyoto is truly welcome, and I was happy to hear at first hand of Myoho-bo’s attainment of birth. I am also grateful for the kind gifts from the people there. In any case, their visit comes as a great surprise.

Please be sure to read this letter to everyone. All the nembutsu practicers in the remote districts should without exception see this letter.

Respectfully.

[Shinran]

Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers; this is the sign of rejecting the world. You should understand this fully.

People who look down on teachers and who speak ill of the masters commit slander of the dharma. Those who speak ill of their parents are guilty of the five grave offenses. We should keep our distance from them. Thus, since Zenjo-bo, who lived in the northern district, abused his parents and slandered me in various ways, I had no close feelings for him and did not encourage him to come to see me. Those who belittle the example of Myoho-bo even though they hear of his birth are certainly not his fellow-practicers.

I hear that you urge people who are drunk with the wine of ignorance to greater and greater drunkenness and allow people who have long preferred to dine on the three poisons to partake more and more poison, telling them that they should enjoy it; how painful it is! There is such sorrow in being drunk on the wine of ignorance, yet they partake with pleasure of the three poisons while the poisons have not yet abated. They have not yet awakened from the drunkenness of ignorance. Please understand this fully.