Unlocking Tannisho, Part 14

Here begins the second part of the 18 chapter Tannisho, which includes chapters 11-18. Just to recap, in part 1 the words of Shinran Shonin were written, as transcribed by Yuien who was one of Shinran’s disciples. In part 2, we hear Yuien’s words now, responding to allegations and misunderstandings concerning Shinran Shonin.

Some of these ‘heresies’ as they are called, do not really have any place in today’s world, and today’s society, however, some of them do apply to our world in the present. Let us begin with chapter 11:

XI

In meeting unlettered people who say the nembutsu some people disturb them with such questions as, “Do you say the nembutsu by entrusting yourself to the inconceivable power of the Vow or to the inconceivable power of the Name?” They fail to clarify the two forms of inconceivable powers and their respective significance. Thus, they confuse the people. We must turn our attention to this matter and carefully consider the connection between the two.

By virtue of the inconceivable power of the Vow, Amida Buddha devised the Name easy to uphold and pronounce and, thereby, promised to take in all who say the Name. Thus, when we entrust ourselves to the inconceivable power of Amida’s compassionate vow which saves us to deliver us from birth-and-death and when we realize that the saying of nembutsu occurs because of Tathagata’s working, we are in accord with the Primal Vow and will be born in the land of Fulfillment, since our own calculation is not involved.

When we entrust ourselves completely to the inconceivable power of the Primal Vow as the heart of the matter, then the inconceivable power of the Name is also naturally found together with it. The inconceivable powers of the Vow and of the Name are therefore one, the slightest difference between the two being nonexistent.

Next, the person who inserts his or her own calculations into the consideration of good and evil, believing that the former helps and the latter hinders birth in the Pure Land, fails to entrust the self to the inconceivable power of the Vow. Rather, such a person strives with effort to achieve birth, claiming the nembutsu uttered as one’s own practice. The person also fails to entrust the self to the inconceivable power of the Name.

However, even though the person fails to entrust the self, he or she will be born in the borderland, the realm of indolence, the castle of doubt, or the palace of womb to be eventually born in the land of Fulfillment by virtue of the Vow which vowed that unless all beings are saved, Amida will not have attained Buddhahood. All this is due to the inconceivable power of the Name. Since this is also due to the inconceivable power of the Vow, the Vow and the Name are one and the same.

Explanation:

I am not sure if this happens today, but it most likely does. The problem that this section is referring to is the fact that some people say the Nembutsu (or, Namu Amida Butsu) either believing in Amida’s Vow or Amida’s Name. To those who say the Nembutsu believing in Amida’s Vow, they seem to think that the Name has no power, and that the vow is ultimate power. To those who say the Name of Amida think that the Name is the one with utmost power. The fact is that Amida’s Vow and the Name of Amida are one in the same, and should not be treated as separate entities or likenesses. You say the Nembutsu because you wish to be born in the pure land. It is Amida which grants this through the working of his primal vow, and so by that case they are one in the same.

I believe that this does happen today. There are many out there who say ‘Namu Amida Butsu’ without knowing the true value or virtue that it holds, or even what it means. To those who do this, they believe that the Name has power, though they have never really encountered the vow of Amida Buddha. Again I state, achieving enlightenment of the highest level has nothing to do with believing in any deities, Buddhas, Gods or any other higher spiritual being. Achieving enlightenment of the highest measure requires taking refuge in the vow of Amida Buddha, and upon attainment, you will be granted other power faith. In the end, we must all go towards the vow, for this is the only thing that is true in this universe, and the only way by which we defiled beings can be granted salvation from Samsara.

Yet, despite this, many perform religious acts in emptyness. Why? Why do people perform religious acts? The reason they perform the acts is either of two reasons: one, moral consciousness/ to be born in a ‘heaven’ after death, and two, to be granted ‘good fortune’ in this lifetime. I have thought about this many times and came to the same two conclusions. Any other conclusions drawn are subclassifications of the two. I have personally never seen anyone practice religion because they ‘felt like it’. There is a motivation and cause for every act performed, and so by that logic, this scenario seems false. As humans, we are thus incapable of performing any religious practice, so says Shinran. Hell is our only home and where we are destined to go. Dharmakara also realized this after his 5 kalpas of contemplation. However, the primal vow of Amida Buddha, should we take refuge in it, grants us salvation and unlimited happiness in the present lifetime, liberates us from Samsara, and causes our rebirth in the pure land. It is all in accordance with the vow Amida Buddha realized.

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