On the Designation of Our Tradition

The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 1, Letter 15

Question: How has it come about that there is such a widespread practice of referring to our tradition as the “Ikkōshū”? I am puzzled about this.

Answer: Our tradition’s designation as the “Ikkōshū” was certainly not determined by our founder. Generally speaking, the reason everyone says [this] is because we “steadfastly” (ikkō ni) rely on Amida Buddha. However, since a passage in the [Larger] Sutra teaches “steadfast and exclusive mindfulness of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life” (Daimuryōjukyō, T.12:272b), referring to us as the “Ikkōshū” presents no problem when the implication is “be steadfastly mindful of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life.” Our founder, however, did indeed designate this sect as the “Jōdo Shinshū.” Hence we now that the term “Ikkōshū” did not come from within our sect. Further, others within the Jōdoshū allow the sundry practices. Our Master rejected the sundry practices, and it is on this basis that we attain birth in the true and real (shinjitsu) fulfilled land. For this reason, he specifically inserted the character shin (true).

A further question: I understand clearly that, long ago, [the founder] designated our tradition as the “Jōdo Shinshū.” However, I would like to hear in detail how it is that in the teaching of our sect, although we are laypeople of deep evil karma, burdened with evil acts and grave offenses, we are to be born readily in the Land of Utmost Bliss through reliance on the working of Amida’s Vow.

Answer: The import of our tradition is that when faith is decisively settled,
we will unfailingly attain birth in the true and real fulfilled land. And so if you
ask what this faith is, [the answer is that] it is just [a matter of] relying single-
heartedly and without any worry on Amida Tathāgata, giving no thought to
other buddhas and bodhisattvas and entrusting ourselves steadfastly and withoutany double-mindedness to Amida. This we call “settlement of faith.” The twocharacters shin-jin are [literally] read “true mind.” We say “true mind” because the practitioner is not saved by his mistaken mind of self-power (jiriki no kokoro) but by the right mind of other-power given by the Tathāgata.
Further, we are not saved simply by repeating the Name without any understanding of it. Hence the [Larger] Sutra teaches that we “hear the Name
and realize faith and joy” (Daimuryōjukyō, T.12:272b; Kyōgyōshinshō,
T.83:601a, 605a). “Hearing the Name” is not hearing the six-character Name
na-mu-a-mi-da-butsu unreflectively; it means that when we meet a good
teacher, receive his teaching, and entrust ourselves (namu) to the Name
(namu-amida-butsu), Amida Buddha unfailingly saves us. This is explained
in the [Larger] Sutra as “realizing faith and joy.” Consequently, we should
understand that namu-amida-butsu shows how he saves us.

After we have come to this realization, we must bear in mind that the
Name we say walking, standing, sitting, and lying down is simply an expres-
sion of gratitude for Amida Tathāgata’s benevolence in saving us. With this,
we are to be declared other-power nenbutsu practitioners who have attained
faith and will be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss.


The compilation and writing of this letter were completed between 9:00 and 11:00 A.M. on the second day of the latter part of the ninth month, Bunmei
5 (1473), at the hot springs at Yamanaka, Kaga province.
Shōnyo, disciple of Śākyamuni
(written seal)