On the Point of Departure

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 2, Letter 2

In the school founded by the Master, faith is placed before all else. If we ask the purpose of that faith, [the answer is that] it is the point of departure enabling wretched ordinary beings like ourselves, who lack good and do evil, to go readily to Amida’s Pure Land. Without attaining faith, we will not be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss but will fall into the hell of incessant pain (avīci). If we then ask how to attain that faith, [the answer is that], relying deeply on the single buddha, Amida Tathāgata, we give no thought to any of the various good deeds and myriad practices, and, dismissing the inclination to make petitions to the various buddhas and bodhisattvas just for this life, and discarding false, erroneous thoughts such as those of self-power, we entrust ourselves singleheartedly and steadfastly, without double-mindedness, to Amida; without fail, Amida embraces such people with his all-pervading light and will not abandon them.

Once we have attained faith (shin) in this way, we should bear in mind that the nenbutsu we say at all times, sleeping or waking, expresses our gratitude for the benevolence of Amida who saves us. Those who understand as explained above are indeed exemplary of what it is to have attained faith fully according to our tradition. If there are people who say that there is something else over and above this called “faith,” they are greatly mistaken. We can never accept [such a claim].

Respectfully.

What has been set down in this letter is the right meaning of faith, taught by Master Shinran of our tradition. Those who thoroughly understand these points must never discuss anything to do with this faith in the presence of those of other sects and others [not of our tradition]. Furthermore, we simply do not rely on any of the other buddhas and bodhisattvas or on the various kami; we must never belittle them. We must recognize that each and every one of the various kami is indeed included within the virtue of Amida, the one buddha. Without exception, do not disparage any of the various teachings. By [adhering to] these points, one will be known as a person who carefully observes our tradition’s rules of conduct. Hence the Master said, “Even if you are called a ‘cow thief,’ do not act in such a way that you are seen as an aspirant for [buddhahood in] the afterlife, or as a ‘good’ person, or as a follower of the Buddha-Dharma; these were his very words. We must practice the nenbutsu, keeping these points very carefully in mind.

Written on the evening of the twelfth day, the twelfth month, of Bunmei 5 (1473).