7 – A Letter by Joshin

As we say the Name, we become settled in the stage of nonretrogression, for we are grasped by the unhindered light of Tathagata’s compassionate mind. Since this is the case, I feel no personal need to inquire anew about “being grasped, never to be abandoned.” In addition, the Garland Sutra states, “The person who hears this dharma, rejoices in shinjin, and is free of doubt, swiftly attains the supreme enlightenment; such a person is equal to the Tathagatas.” Moreover, the Seventeenth Vow declares that the Name shall be said in praise by the countless Buddhas in the ten quarters. I understand the reference to “the Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges” in the passage on the fulfillment of this Vow to be the people of shinjin. I believe that such people are equal to Tathagatas from this present life. Beyond this, I do not rely on my calculation as a foolish being. I would like to have your detailed views on this matter.

Respectfully.

Joshin

Seventh month, 12th day

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[Shinran’s Reply: On Being Equal to Buddhas]

You should understand that the moment of settling of those who entrust themselves to Tathagata’s Vow is none other than the settling into the stage of nonretrogression, because they receive the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned. Whether we speak of the settling of true shinjin or the settling of the diamondlike shinjin, both come about through being grasped, never to be abandoned. Thus is awakened the heart and mind that will attain the supreme enlightenment. This is called the stage of nonretrogression, the stage of the truly settled, and the stage equal to the perfect enlightenment.

The Buddhas in the ten quarters rejoice in the settling of this mind and praise it as being equal to the hearts and minds of all Buddhas. Thus, the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya, who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood.

Since persons of true shinjin are guarded in this world, the Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life speaks of “the protection of the countless Buddhas in the ten quarters.” This does not mean that they guard such persons after birth into the Pure Land of peace, but rather that they watch over them with protecting thoughts while such persons are still in this Saha world. The Tathagatas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, praise the minds and hearts of persons of true shinjin; it is taught that they are equal to Buddhas.

Further, Other Power means that no working is true working.

“Working” [that is negated] is the practicer’s calculating and designing. Tathagata’s Primal Vow surpasses conceptual understanding; it is a design of the wisdom of Buddhas. It is not the design of foolish beings. No one can fathom the wisdom of Buddhas, which surpasses conceptual understanding. This includes Maitreya Bodhisattva, who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood. Thus, the great teacher Honen said, “No working is true working.” My understanding has been that nothing apart from this realization is necessary for the attainment of birth into the Pure Land; therefore, what others may say is of no concern to me.

[Second month, 25th day]

[Shinran]

[Reply to Joshin-bo]