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.

Fortunately, however, we have now been able to meet this unique teaching of the universal Vow. So the only thing we should aspire to is the Pure Land of bliss; the only one we should rely on is Amida Tathagata. For this reason, we should settle our entrusting heart and say the nembutsu.

On the other hand, what people in the world generally conceive in their minds is that if only they recite “Namo Amida Butsu” aloud, they will be born in the land of bliss. But this idea is completely groundless.

What then is the meaning of the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu”? We should understand that when we entrust ourselves unwaveringly to Amida Tathagata, the Buddha fully recognizes this and saves us; this is manifested as the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

How then should we entrust ourselves to Amida Tathagata in order to resolve the matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife? We should rely single-mindedly and unwaveringly on Amida Tathagata, entrusting ourselves to Amida without any qualms and discarding the inclination to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts of virtue. Amida recognizes this, sends forth rays of light and embraces with them the sentient beings who rely on the Buddha.

This is expressed as “receiving the benefit of Amida Tathagata’s embracing light.” It is also referred to as “receiving the benefit of the Vow that never forsakes us.”

Once we have thus been received within Amida Tathagata’s light, we will be born in the true fulfilled land immediately after our life comes to an end. There should not be any doubt about this.

Beyond this, what is the use of relying on other Buddhas or practicing other meritorious good acts? How deeply happy and grateful I feel for the benevolence of Amida Tathagata! How could we express our gratitude for Amida’s benevolence, which is like the vast sky and lofty mountains?

We should bear in mind that we simply say aloud “Namo Amida Butsu, …” to express our deep gratitude for Amida’s benevolence.

Humbly and respectfully.

18th day of the 8th month, 6th year of Bunmei [1474]