Unlocking Tannisho, Part 9


It is utterly unthinkable that among the followers of single-hearted nembutsu practice there are arguments about “my disciples” and “other’s disciples.”

As for myself, Shinran, I do not have a single disciple. If I could make others say the nembutsu through my own devices, they would be my disciples. But how arrogant it is to claim as disciples those who live the nembutsu through the sole working of Amida’s compassion.

If the karmic condition for us is to come together, we shall be together; but if the karmic condition for us is to be separated, we shall be separated. How absurd it is that some people assert that if one goes against a teacher and says the nembutsu under another, that person cannot attain birth in the Pure Land. Are they saying that they will take back the entrusting which is a gift from Amida as if it belonged to them? Impossible is it that such a thing should happen.

When we live according to the truth of “made to become so by itself,” we shall know gratitude to the Buddha and to our teachers.

This chapter in Tannisho is an important chapter that actually goes in accordance with a previous post I made entitled Does a Real ‘Zenjishiki’ Exist?. By the way, that is the most popular article on this website, and it is good that it is because it is a very important topic, mabe more important than learning about sutras or scriptures.

In this chapter of Tannisho, Shinran Shonin argues that there is no such thing as ‘disciples’. In summary, he is right. Just because someone uses the teachings of Buddhism to gain a following, that does not mean those who follow that person do so because of his merits. The reason people follow a teacher is because they teach Buddhism, and without Buddhism, there would be no followers of that teacher. Therefore, it is erroneous to claim that one has ‘followers’ when in fact they are just spreading the dharma which already existed and is in propagation. We all follow Sakyamuni Buddha and head towards Amida Buddha’s light in the end, and so the one who guides us there (the zenjishiki, or true teacher) is merely responsible for showing us the path to enlightenment. However, it is us and our karma which determine whether we are able to achieve it or not. It is just like a college professor who lectures on a subject. The teacher can do all they can to explain the material to you, but in the end it is you who has to pass the exam, and there is no way the teacher can force you to learn anything. This depends on the individual.

Shinran also further states that “If I could make others say the nembutsu through my own devices, they would be my disciples. But how arrogant it is to claim as disciples those who live the nembutsu through the sole working of Amida’s compassion.” Here, he means more of the same as stated in my example above. Again, Shinran (and all other teachers of Buddhism) can only show us the pathway, it is up to us to walk the path. In the end, we are only beings of Buddhism, and of the Nembutsu. There is no distinction between who belongs to Shinrankai, or who belongs to Honganji, or who belongs to Nichiren. Such kinds of arguments and conjectures are meaningless. In the end, all teachers from all sects must draw something from the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, so therefore, we are all following Sakyamuni who leads us to the vow of Amida Buddha.

In the 1980’s, there were a lot of fights and violence in Japan among Honganji members, and the Shinrankai. I am not sure why these fights existed, and under what circumstances, but the fighting should have never happened in the first place. This was the apex in a long standing ‘hidden agenda’ Rev. Kentetsu Takamori, the chairman and founder of the Shinrankai, seems to have against the Honganji. Takamori has also written a book entitled ‘Honganji, Naze Kotaenu’ which means “Honganji, why don’t you answer?” The book poses a series of questions about Buddhist doctrine to the Honganji, and urges them to respond as to why they do not teach those specific points of doctrine to their ‘followers’. Furthermore, he urges them to ‘return to the true teachings’ or else.

I am not sure how or why Rev. Takamori has a ‘hidden agenda’ against Honganji, however, research shows that Takamori and his family themselves used to belong to the Honganji, and another organization called Jodo Shinshu Kekoukai (華光会) which he basically has renounced, and commanded that anyone who utters the connection between him and this organization will be banned permanently.

According to Shinran’s words, these actions stated above by both organizations do not belong in the realm of Buddhism. Shinrankai should not criticize the Honganji for what they teach, and Honganji should not omit doctrine to suit their needs. These actions, committed by the above organizations, are against the dharma and against Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism is not a toy, and Buddhism is not a tool to make money and control people. Buddhism is taught to those who want to be free from suffering and achieve ultimate happiness. To achieve the purpose of one’s life without having to burden the realm of Samsara ever again.

Shinran further states that there is no such thing as a person who goes against one teacher, and can thus never attain birth in the pure land. This is absurd how many organizations can say that. Other power faith is a gift from Amida Buddha to you, not from one person to another like birthday presents. You receive the gift of salvation and unlimited happiness from Amida Buddha, and this can never be taken away from you no matter ‘who you follow’.

Finally, if you achieve other power faith and live in gratitude of Amida Buddha, you will know both respect to the masters of Buddhism and Amida Buddha for having saved you from the realm of endless suffering and granting you unlimited happiness.


4 Responses

  1. Out of interest what specific points of doctrine does Takamori accuse the Honganji of failing to teach?

    • Some of the points include (from the Japanese website):

      – Three vows turning in (三願転入)
      – Shukuzen
      – Clarification of the 19th vow
      – Kousouwasan
      – Clarification of Tannisho
      and many more….

      There are something like 96 chapters (points) in the book and some of them range from clarification or meanings of certain points, misinterpreting/ taking Shinran’s words out of context to omission. Actually, from my knowledge, some of the criticisms were valid and deserve explanation, but unfortunately no explanation has come now for over 20 years.

  2. Hey Pramod, Thanks for the reply. Hard to know what to make of it without more detail I guess and I can’t read Japanese. Thank goodness for the simplicity of the nembutsu itself. We don’t have to untangle these doctrinal knots in order to receive shinjin. Namuamidabutsu.

    • No problem,

      There is actually a lot of debate that goes on in serious Buddhism schools and internal discussions among denomination leaders. Just imagine serious discussions among historians as to who fired the first shot at Bunker Hill!

      Sometimes, in the discussions, there are arguments over a single word in the doctrine and how that word has influence of meaning over entire works or passages.

      However, no matter how many scriptures or works you read, it all comes back to one thing: the Nembutsu. Honen Shonin himself read all the sutras about 3 or 4 times over and came to the very same conclusion. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to have some basic grounding in doctrine, and that’s primarily why I have created this website here. To break down complex, core works of Buddhism in simple words so that its easier for people to understand the central, core ideas of Buddhism.

      The best practice of course is the “easy practice” which is the Nembutsu.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

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