Collected Works of Shinran

Words like these should never be said

I have received all the gifts from the various people as listed, and Myokyo-bo’s visit to Kyoto is truly welcome. Words cannot express my appreciation. Although scarcely unexpected, Myoho-bo’s attainment of birth still makes me deeply happy. Surely it is celebrated by all the people in Kashima, Namekata, and the remote districts who desire birth in the Pure Land. I have also learned that the ordained layman Hiratsuka attained birth, and I feel something that surpasses all words. I cannot express how wonderful it is. Each of you should realize that you are also certain to attain birth in the Pure Land.

In the past, however, some of those desiring birth failed to understand certain things. It seems that this is still the case. Even in Kyoto there are people who do not understand and who stray in confusion, and I hear of many such people in the various provinces. And even among Honen’s disciples those who take themselves to be remarkable scholars make various changes in expressing the teaching, confusing others as well as themselves so that all suffer together.

It has not been uncommon for people like yourselves, who do not read or know the scriptures, to distort the teaching, having heard that no evil interferes with the attainment of birth. It seems that this is still the case. To hear that you are all falling deeper and deeper into error, following the words of Shinken-bo and others who know nothing of the Pure Land teaching, is truly lamentable.

There was a time for each of you when you knew nothing of Amida’s Vow and did not say the Name of Amida Buddha, but now, guided by the compassionate means of Sakyamuni and Amida, you have begun to hear the Vow. Formerly you were drunk with the wine of ignorance and had a liking only for the three poisons of greed, anger, and folly, but since you have begun to hear the Buddha’s Vow you have gradually awakened from the drunkenness of ignorance, gradually rejected the three poisons, and come to prefer at all times the medicine of Amida Buddha.

In contrast, how lamentable that people who have not fully awakened from drunkenness are urged to more drunkenness and those still in the grips of poison encouraged to take yet more poison. It is indeed sorrowful to give way to impulses with the excuse that one is by nature possessed of blind passions – excusing acts that should not be committed, words that should not be said, and thoughts that should not be harbored – and to say that one may follow one’s desires in any way whatever. It is like offering more wine before the person has become sober or urging him to take even more poison before the poison has abated. “Here’s some medicine, so drink all the poison you like” – words like these should never be said.

In people who have long heard the Buddha’s Name and said the nembutsu, surely there are signs of rejecting the evil of this world and signs of their desire to cast off the evil in themselves. When people first begin to hear the Buddha’s Vow, they wonder, having become thoroughly aware of the karmic evil in their hearts and minds, how they will ever attain birth as they are. To such people we teach that since we are possessed of blind passions, the Buddha receives us without judging whether our hearts are good or bad.

When, upon hearing this, a person’s trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he or she comes to abhor such a self and to lament continued existence in birth-and-death; and such a person then joyfully says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting himself to the Vow. That people seek to stop doing wrong as the heart moves them, although earlier they gave thought to such things and committed them as their minds dictated, is surely a sign of having rejected this world.

Moreover, since shinjin that aspires for attainment of birth arises through the encouragement of Sakyamuni and Amida, once the true and real mind is made to arise in us, how can we remain as we were, possessed of blind passions?

There are reports of wrongdoing even of some among you. I have heard of their slandering the master, holding their true teachers in contempt, and belittling their fellow-practicers – all of which is deeply saddening. They are already guilty of slandering the dharma and committing the five grave offenses. Do not associate with them. The Treatise on the Pure Land states that such thoughts arise because they fail to entrust themselves to the Buddha dharma. Moreover, in explaining the sincere mind it teaches that one should keep a respectful distance and not become familiar with those who give themselves to such wrongdoing. It teaches us rather to draw close to and become companions of our teachers and fellow-practicers. As for becoming friends with those who are given to wrongdoing, it is only after we go to the Pure Land and return to benefit sentient beings that we can become close to and friendly with them. That, however, is not our own design; only by being saved by Amida’s Vow can we act as we want. But at this moment, as we are, what can we possibly do? Please consider this very carefully. Since the diamondlike mind that aspires for birth is awakened through the Buddha’s working, persons who realize the diamondlike mind will surely not slander their master or be contemptuous of their true teachers.

Please read this letter to all the people who share our aspiration in Kashima, Namekata, Minami-no-sho, and any other area.


Kencho 4 [1252], Eight month, 19th day