Unlocking Tannisho, Part 6

III

Even the good person attains birth in the Pure Land, how much more so the evil person.

I mentioned in part 2 of this Tannisho commentary that one of the main reasons why Tannisho is so controversial is because of the thought that ‘evil’ people can have just as much chance of attaining birth in the pure land as a good person. However, in our previous discussion we mentioned also that good and evil were relative terms and that from the viewpoint of Buddhism, everyone starts out as evil and then turns to good upon having received the benefit of Amida’s Vow.

But the people of the world constantly say, even the evil person attains birth, how much more so the good person. Although this appears to be sound at first glance, it goes against the intention of the Primal Vow of Other Power. The reason is that since the person of selfpower, being conscious of doing good, lacks the thought of entrusting the self completely to Other Power, he or she is not the focus of the Primal Vow of Amida. But when self-power is turned over and entrusting to Other Power occurs, the person attains birth in the land of True Fulfillment.

Even in this world an evil person has the same chance of being born as a good person, meaning they are equal. We see countless murderers and rapists out there on the news daily, and we also see lots of good people doing good deeds and leading normal lives. However, in the end, everyone is evil.

Likewise, a person who entrusts themselves to and relies upon self power is only aware of the good deeds they perform. Since this is the case, that person will fail to realize the true nature of the self and never trust and receive other power faith. Think about this, a person who is an upstanding citizen would never think twice about himself or consider himself evil. However, a mass murderer who is punished in jail is much more likely to reflect internally and consider himself evil, which is the first step towards receiving other power faith; the second being to encounter the Vow of Amida Buddha. This is why you hear so many stories of those sitting in jail claiming to have ‘found’ religion. It is proof positive this internal reflection is taking place and they seek a higher power to grant them salvation in the afterlife.

Once one has received other power faith, the gateway to the pure land starts.

The Primal Vow was established out of deep compassion for us who cannot become freed from the bondage of birth-and-death through any religious practice, due to the abundance of blind passion. Since its basic intention is to effect the enlightenment of such an evil one, the evil person who is led to true entrusting by Other Power is the person who attains birth in the Pure Land. Thus, even the good person attains birth, how much more so the evil person!

The whole point of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha is to be free of the painful cycle of birth and death. It was established because Amida Buddha has unlimited compassion for defiled beings such as ourselves who are simply incapable of doing religious practices. Therefore, Shinran confirms that the whole reason the primal vow exists is to save evil beings, and that subsequently means that everyone is evil, and in the same pool, no matter what they do. The evil one is led to serious internal reflection, and the evil one is the one who is led to other power faith in the end. It is the evil one who achieves the vow of Amida Buddha and is granted salvation. We all are evil beings until we realize the truth through the vow of Amida Buddha, which is the only truth that exists in this universe.

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