The Great Sage, the World-honored One

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 3, Letter 4

When we carefully consider the transiency of human life, we realize that the living will certainly end in death and that the prosperous will eventually decline. This is how life is in the human world. Even so, we vainly live days and nights, spending months and years to no purpose. Indeed, we may lament about it, but I feel that we could never really comprehend the true extent of this pitifully sad situation.

How true it is that impermanence is difficult to escape for all, from the Great Sage, the World-honored One, at the highest level, to Devadatta, who committed evil acts and grave offenses, at the lowest.

Moreover, to receive life as a human being is indeed rare and difficult, and even more so is it the opportunity to encounter the Buddha Dharma, the way of emancipation from birth-and-death through practices of self-power is difficult to follow at the present time in the latter days. Therefore, our lives would be spent in vain unless we encountered the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata.

Continue reading “The Great Sage, the World-honored One”

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.


Respectfully.


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)

A Mind Like Pouring Water Into a Basket (April 7)

This week, Rev. Adams will appreciate for the following wise saying of Rennyo Shonin, which reminds us that the important matter is to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings in all aspects of our daily lives.

A man spoke his mind, saying, “My mind is like pouring water into a basket. When I listen to the Buddha-Dharma* in the [temple] hall, I am filled with a grateful and reverential feeling. When I leave there, however, I revert to my old mind”
This was Rennyo Shonin’s admonition, “Put your basket in to the water. Keep you body soaked in the water of Dharma.”

*Dharma the truth taught by the Buddha

(Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki-kikigaki translated by Z. H. Inagaki, p. 61) 

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service (Hondo)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

The Sacred Items are Meant to Be Used (March 31)

Rennyo Shonin teaches that our sacred items, such as images of the Buddha, sutra chanting books, the writings of Shinran Shonin, and nenju mindfulness beads should be used regularly in our daily routines, not stowed away like museum pieces for fear of wearing them out. This teaching speaks to the problems of hoarding and clinging to material possessions by reminding us that our material possessions are there to support us on our path to awakening.

From Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin (Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki no Kikigaki), No. 5, Trans. Rev. Hisao Inagaki

The scroll of the sacred object of reverence should be kept hanging until it wears away; the sacred scriptures should be read over and over again until they become thread-bare. 

(Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki-kikigaki translated by Z. H. Inagaki, p. 27) 

(307)

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Japanese Language Service 日本語法要 (Hondo 本堂)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Cured of the Dreadful Illness of Ignorance (March 10)

Inspired by topic of “The Medicine of Compassion” presented by Dr. James Gentry for the March 9 Nembutsu Seminar, Rev. Adams will offer some reflections on how living with deep gratitude in the nembutsu can alleviate the most fundamental aspects of suffering in our minds.

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 5, Letter 12:

How benevolent is Amida Tathagata’s light! Unless we had a chance to encounter this light, we could not possibly be cured of the dreadful illness of ignorance and karmic hindrances we have had since beginningless past. Prompted by the working of this light, those endowed with past karmic good have come to attain the entrusting heart of Other Power. . . . those who have ever had the fortune to attain the entrusting heart of Other Power should remember their indebtedness to Amida’s benevolence and always say the nembutsu as an expression of gratitude for it.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

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.

Continue reading “On the Point of Departure”

On Practicing as Prescribed

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 3, Letter 2

The teachings of the various sects differ, but since they were all [expounded] during Śākya[muni]’s lifetime, they are indeed the incomparable Dharma. For this reason, there is absolutely no doubt that people who practice them as prescribed will attain enlightenment and become buddhas. However, sentient beings of this last [Dharma] age are of the lowest capacity; this is a time when those who practice as prescribed are rare.

Here [we realize that] Amida Tathāgata’s Primal Vow of other-power was made to save sentient beings in such times as these. To this end, [Amida] meditated for five kalpas and, performing practices for numberless kalpas, vowed that he would not attain perfect enlightenment unless sentient beings who commit evil and lack good reach buddhahood. Completely fulfilling that Vow, he became the Buddha Amida. Sentient beings of this last [Dharma] age can never become buddhas unless they deeply entrust themselves to Amida, relying on this buddha’s Primal Vow.

Continue reading “On Practicing as Prescribed”

On Drowsiness

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 1, Letter 6

I don’t know why, but recently (this summer), I have been particularly subject to drowsiness, and when I consider why I should be [so] lethargic, I feel without a doubt that the moment of death leading to birth [in the Pure Land] may be close at hand. This thought makes me sad, and I feel in particular the sorrow of parting. And yet, to this very day I have prepared myself with no lack of care, thinking that the time of birth might be imminent. All I continually long for in regard to this, day and night, is that, after [my death], there will be no regression in those among the visitors to this temple whose faith is decisively settled. As things now stand, there should be no difficulties if I die, but each of you is particularly lax in your thinking in regard to birth. As long as you live, you should be as I have described. I am altogether dissatisfied with what each of you has understood. In this life, even tomorrow is uncertain, and no matter what we say, nothing is to any avail when life ends. If our doubts are not clearly dispelled during this life, we will surely [be filled with] regret. I hope that you will bear this in mind.

Respectfully.

This is entrusted to those [assembled] on the other side of the sliding doors. In the years to come, please take it out and read it.

Written on the twenty-fifth day of the fourth month, Bunmei 5 (1473).

Nirvana Day 涅槃会 (February 11)

Nirvana Day is our observance of Sakyamuni Buddha’s departure from this world and entrance into the lasting tranquility of parinirvana. It is also a precious opportunity to reflect the truth that the impermanence of human life applies to all those who are born into this world.

2024年2月11日の9時30分から涅槃会をお勤めします。涅槃会は釈迦牟尼仏陀がこの世で最後の息を吸い入滅寂静を遂げられたことを記念する法要です。.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Nirvana Day Service
10:30 a.m. Japanese Language Dharma Talk 日本語法話 (Hondo)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Social Hall)

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 3, Letter 4

How true it is that impermanence is difficult to escape for all, from the Great Sage, the World-honored One, at the highest level, to Devadatta, who committed evil acts and grave offenses, at the lowest.

Moreover, to receive life as a human being is indeed rare and difficult, and even more so is it the opportunity to encounter the Buddha Dharma, the way of emancipation from birth-and-death through practices of self-power is difficult to follow at the present time in the latter days. Therefore, our lives would be spent in vain unless we encountered the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Namo Amida Butsu All Day Long (February 4)

This Sunday, Rev. Adams will share appreciations for Yazaemon, a marvelous person (myōkōnin) who found such joy in the Buddha’s wisdom that nothing could stop him from reciting the Name of Amida Buddha.

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

. . . we must bear in mind that the Name we say walking, standing, sitting, and lying down is simply an expression of gratitude for Amida Tathāgata’s benevolence in saving us.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service (Hondo)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.