Unlocking Tannisho, Part 1

The next topic on Buddhism I thought I could explore on this website is about the Tannisho.

First of all, what is Tannisho? Who wrote it? More importantly, why is it so significant in pure land Buddhism?

Well, in summary, the Tannisho is like a labyrinth. It is a maze of passages that some are to be taken at face value, whereas others have to have their meaning deciphered. I have been reading the Tannisho for quite a while now, and have read it both in English and Japanese, as well as many books and interpretations on it so it is my pleasure to go through it with you here on the site.

They say that one of Shinran’s disciples, Yuien-Bo, wrote the Tannisho, and it is divided into 2 parts. Part one (about half the volume) describes the words of the master (Shinran Shonin) as recorded by Yuien-Bo. Part 2 is about heresies that existed at the time of writing, and the rebuttals to those heresies that existed. The reason why Yuien-Bo wrote the Tannisho was because he heard many at the time slandering the name of his master, and also misconstruing his teachings and spreading false ones. He wrote it to clear up the name of Shinran, to clear up Buddhism, and to clear up ideas that have been lost just years prior.

However, the Tannisho is also a double edged sword. Yes, it can clear up Buddhism for you quite a bit and get you to where you need to be on the one hand, however, on the other hand it could also lead you to some off-beaten path from which never to return. It all depends on whether you understand the passages in their correct connotation or not. Again, do not take anything for face value when reading this, some passages are meant to be taken in that context, however others not. So it is my goal to bring you the correct interpretation of the work according to my study and research.

The Tannisho is dangerous, do not underestimate it. It is so dangerous that Rennyo Shonin sealed it up and forbade it to be read except by those who had strong bonds with Buddhism. This writing could, in effect, make or break your salvation in this lifetime. After it was sealed by Rennyo, it became popular again during the second world war in Japan where many Kamikaze pilots and soldiers used to read and memorize it since they faced death every day, and thought this was the only way to bring about their salvation. Since that time, the work flourished throughout the world where there have been many interpretations and translations, and of course, the one featured on this website today.

That answers all except for why the Tannisho is so significant in pure land Buddhism. Well, because Rennyo said so! Yes, and actually, because it presents the core of pure land teachings within the volume, the nature of salvation and how to attain it. There are many core concepts within it that Shinran taught which are essential for one to progress on the white path towards salvation. That is why this text is sacred and important in the pure land tradition. It probably ranks up there with the Amida Sutra and the Shoshinge.

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