I feel that the preceding views all arise due to differences in the understanding of true entrusting. According to our late master Shinran, it was the same at the time of his teacher, Honen. Among his disciples, there were only a few people who truly entrusted themselves to Amida. This was once a cause of debate between Shinran and fellow disciples. When he claimed, "Shinran's entrusting and Honen's entrusting are identical," Seikan, Nenbutsu, and others strongly refuted this, saying, "How can you claim that our master's entrusting and your entrusting are identical!" To this Shinran replied, "Our master's wisdom and knowledge are truly profound and to say that our entrusting to Amida are identical is preposterous. But as far as true entrusting, leading to birth in the Pure Land is concerned, no difference exists at all. Both are the same." Still they continued to press Shinran, challenging him by saying, "How can that be possible?"
They finally decided to settle the argument once and for all by going to Honen, relating the details. When Honen listened to their respective views, he said, "The true entrusting of Honen is a gift granted by the Tathagata, and the true entrusting of Shinran is also a gift from the Tathagata. Thus, they are the same. People whose entrusting is different will probably not go to the same Pure Land as I"
Such was the case in earlier times, and today it seems that among the followers of single-hearted nembutsu there are some who do not share the same entrusting as that of Shinran. Although I may sound repetitious, I want to put all this down in writing.
Since my life, like a dew drop, still hangs onto this body which may be likened to withered grass, I am able to hear the doubts of my fellow practicers and tell them what I have learned from my teacher. But I fear and lament that after my eyes close and life comes to an end, there may arise chaos because of divergent interpretations.
When you are confused by different views, such as the above, you should carefully read the scriptures approved and used by our late master. Among scriptures generally you will find a mixture of teachings which are true and real and which are accommodating and tentative. The master's basic instruction was for us to choose the real, abandoning those accommodating the desires of the people, and select the real, rejecting the tentatively presented. Be very careful to see such differences among the scriptures. I have listed a few statements that attest to true entrusting, including them here for easy reference.
The master constantly said, "When I ponder on the compassionate Vow of Amida, established through five kalpas of profound thought, it was for myself, Shinran, alone. Because I am a being burdened so heavily with karma, I feel even more deeply grateful to the Primal Vow which is made to decisively save me."
As I now reflect upon these words, they are no different from the saying of Shan-tao: "Truly know that this self is a foolish being of karmic evil, repeating birth-and-death since beginningless aeons ago, forever drowning and wandering without ever knowing the path of liberation." How grateful I am that Shinran expressed this in his own person to make us deeply realize that we do not know the depth of karmic evil and that we do not know the height of Tathagata's benevolence, both of which cause us to live in utter confusion.
In reality, all of us, including myself, talk only about what is good and evil without thinking of the Tathagata's compassion. Our master once said, "I do not know what the two, good and evil, really mean. I could say that I know what good is, if I knew good as thoroughly and completely as the Tathagata. And I could say I know what evil is, if I knew evil as thoroughly and completely as the Tathagata. But in this impermanent world, like a burning house, all things are empty and vain, therefore, untrue. Only the nembutsu is true, real, and sincere.
Among the lies we say to each other, one is truly to be lamented. This occurs when some people who, in talking about the nembutsu, discuss true entrusting among themselves or try to explain it to others, and in order to silence people or stop further inquiry they even ascribe words to Shinran which were never spoken by him. How deplorable and regrettable this is! You should carefully think about this and reflect on it.
Although the above are not all my own words, they may at times sound a bit strange, because I am not too well versed in the sutras and commentaries. Also, I have yet to clearly perceive the depth of the teaching. But I have tried my best to recall some fragments, perhaps one one-hundredth, of what the late Shinran taught and have put them down in writing. How sad it is, if those who are fortunate enough to say the nembutsu are not immediately born in the land of Fulfillment but must continue residing in the borderland.
In tears I have dipped my brush in ink and have written this in the hope that conflicting views of true entrusting will not prevail among fellow practicers of nembutsu gathered together in a single room. Thus, I have called this Tannisho: Lamenting the Deviations. It should not be shown to outsiders.
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