Collected Works of Shinran

4 To the People of the Nembutsu

To begin with, it should never happen under any circumstances that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas be thought of lightly or that the gods and deities be despised and neglected. In the course of countless lives in many states of existence, through the benefit of innumerable, incalculable Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we have practiced all the various good acts, but we were unable to gain freedom from birth-and-death through such self-power practice. Accordingly, through the encouragement of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for countless kalpas and innumerable lives, we now encounter Amida’s Vow, which is difficult to encounter. To speak slightingly of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas out of ignorance of our indebtedness to them is to be totally lacking in gratitude for their profound benevolence.

Those who deeply entrust themselves to the Buddha’s teaching are protected by all the gods of the heavens and earth, who accompany them just as shadows do things; hence, people who have entrusted themselves to the nembutsu should never think of neglecting the gods of the heavens and the earth. Even the gods and deities do not abandon us; hence, as for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, how could we speak disparagingly or think slightingly of them? If one speaks slightingly of the Buddhas, then one is surely a person who does not entrust oneself to the nembutsu and who does not say Amida’s Name.

In short, it is surely not without reason that manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners engage in designs to put an end to the nembutsu, speaking falsehoods and imputing any wrongdoing to people of the nembutsu. For in the teachings of Sakyamuni Tathagata, it is stated that those who slander people of the nembutsu are “people lacking eyes” and “people lacking ears.” Master Shan-tao states decisively: “At the time when the five defilements increase, those who doubt and revile [Amida’s Vow] are numerous. Both monks and lay people despise and refuse to listen to each other. When they see those who practice the truth, the poison of anger arises in them; they seek to harm them in various ways and vie in enmity.” As is often the case, the people who are trying to obstruct the nembutsu are the manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners in the local areas; there are reasons for this. We should not criticize them in one way or another. Teachers of the past have stated that practicers of the nembutsu should act with compassion for those who commit such obstruction, feel pity for them, and earnestly say the nembutsu, thereby helping those who seek to hinder them. You should carefully ponder this.

Next, concerning the people who say the nembutsu, it is splendid that they entrust themselves to Amida’s Vow realizing it is for the sake of those possessed of blind passions. However, it is not stated in the Pure Land teachings that, because it is for the evil person, one should purposely think what is wrong in one’s mind, act it bodily, or speak it verbally; hence, I have never said such things to people. You should understand that, while your existence is one possessed of blind passions and it is difficult for you to still your mind, you will unfailingly attain birth; it is this that, in general, the masters and true teachers have taught. It is not at all taught that you should perform acts that become hindrances to people of the nembutsu and bring censure on the masters and true teachers, intentionally preferring wrong because the self is so evil. Having encountered Amida’s Vow, which is rare to encounter, one should seek to respond in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence. It is utterly incomprehensible that, in spite of this, there are those who with their talk and deeds cause the suppression of the nembutsu. This is deplorable. Since people have erroneous understandings, I hear of things that should never take place at all. It is unspeakable.

However, if a person of the nembutsu speaks in error, he or she alone falls into hell or becomes a heavenly demon (mara). I do not think it will become a fault of all people of the nembutsu. Please carefully ponder these points. Further, the people who say the nembutsu should carefully read this letter and explain it to others.


Ninth month, 11th day


To: The People of the Nembutsu