A Record in Lament of Divergences
[On Departures from the Teaching of Shinran]
In the past when our Master Shinran was alive, fellow practicers-
having endeavored in the journey to the distant capital
with the same aspiration and having set their hearts on
birth in the fulfilled land to come with one and the same
shinjin- listened to his understanding together at the same
time. Nevertheless, I have heard that among the people,
young and old, in numbers past knowing, who say the nembutsu
following those practicers, there are at present many who
set forth divergent views not taught by the Master. These
groundless assertions will be fully clarified below.
On the matter of confusing practicers of the nembutsu
who are ignorant of even a single letter by challenging them,
"To which do you entrust yourself in saying the nembutsu
- the in conceivable working of the Vow or that of the Name?"
without clarifying fully these two kinds of inconceivable
We must carefully consider this matter and reach a correct
understanding of it.
Through the inconceivable working of the Vow, Amida Buddha
devised the Name. To
begin with, then, it is through Amida's design that we come
to say the nembutsu with the
belief that, saved by the inconceivable working of the Tathagata's
great Vow of great Compassion, we will part from birth-and-death.
This being realized, our calculation is not in the least involved,
and so, in accord with the Primal Vow, we will be born in
the true fulfilled land.
That is, when we entrust ourselves to the inconceivable working
of the Vow, taking it as essential, the inconceivable working
of the Name is also included; the inconceivable working of
the Vow and that of the Name are one, with no distinction
Next, people who discriminate good and evil acts and consider
them aids or hindrances to birth, interposing their own calculation,
do not entrust themselves to the inconceivable working of
the Vow and, striving to do acts that result in birth with
their own designs, they make the nembutsu they say their own
practice. People with such an attitude do not entrust themselves
to the inconceivable working of the Name either. Even though
they lack the mind of entrusting, they will be born in the
borderland, and land of sloth, the castle of doubt, or the
womb palace, and in the end will attain birth in the fulfilled
land by virtue of the "Vow that beings ultimately attain
birth." This is the inconceivable power of the Name.
Since it is also none other than the inconceivable working
of the Vow, the two are wholly one.
On the assertion that for practicers who do not read the
sutras and commentaries and engage in study, birth is not
This statement must be declared hardly worth mentioning.
All the sacred writings that clarify the significance of the
truth and reality of Other Power state that one who entrusts
oneself to the Primal Vow and says the nembutsu attains Buddhahood.
Apart from this, what learning is essential for birth?
Indeed, the person confused about this should by all means
engage in study and understand the significance of the Primal
Vow. But nothing is more to be pitied than failure to understand
the fundamental intent of the sacred teachings even though
one reads and studies the sutras and commentaries.
The Name is meant to be easy to say for the person unfamiliar
with even a single character and ignorant of the lines of
discourse in the sutras and commentaries; hence it is called
It is the Path of Sages that takes learning to be essential;
it is called "difficult practice." As for those
who engage in study with wrong intentions, dwelling in thoughts
of fame and profit, is there not the authoritative passage:
"I wonder if their birth in the next life is really settled"?
At present, people of the sole practice of the nembutsu and
those of the Path of Sages initiate disputes over the teaching,
each claiming their own way to be superior and those of others
inferior; as they do so, enemies of the dharma emerge and
slander of the dharma is committed. Does this not finally
result in abusing and bringing destruction to the teaching
they themselves follow?
Suppose that all other schools joined together in declaring,
"The nembutsu is for the sake of worthless people; that
teaching is shallow and vulgar." Even then, without the
slightest argument, one should reply "When foolish beings
of inferior capacity like ourselves, persons ignorant of even
a single letter, entrust themselves to the Vow, they are saved.
Since we accept and entrust ourselves to this teaching, for
us it is the supreme dharma, though for those of superior
capacity it might seem utterly base. Even though other teachings
may be excellent, since they are beyond our capacity they
are difficult for us to put into practice. The fundamental
intent of the Buddhas is nothing but freedom from birth-and-death
for all, ourselves and others included, so you should not
obstruct our practice of the nembutsu." If one responds
without rancor thus, what person will do one harm? Moreover,
there is an authoritative passage that states, "Where
disputation takes place, blind passions arise. The wise keep
Further, the late master said:
Shakyamuni taught that there would be both people who entrust
themselves to this teaching and people who abuse it. By
the fact that I have entrusted myself fully to it and there
are others who abuse it, I realize that the Buddha's words
are indeed true. Hence, I realize all the more clearly that
my birth is indeed firmly settled. If there were none who
abused the teaching, then surely we would wonder why there
are those who entrust but none who abuse it. This is not
to say the nembutsu necessarily must be slandered; I merely
speak of the fact that the Buddha, knowing beforehand that
there would be both those who trust and those who slander,
taught this so people would have no doubts.
Thus were his words
These days however, people seem to engage in learning to
put a stop to criticism by others, making ready to devote
themselves wholly to debate and argument. If one studies,
more and more one realizes Amida's fundamental intent and
grows in awareness of the immensity of the compassionate Vow,
so that one can explain, to those who anxiously wonder how
birth is possible for the wretched people like themselves,
that the Primal Vow does not discriminate as to whether one's
mind is good or evil, pure or defiled. Only then is there
meaning in being a scholar. But to intimidate a person who
happens to say the nembutsu in accordance with the Primal
Vow without any forethought- insisting that one must have
learning- is the act of a demon obstructing the dharma, of
a foe of the Buddha. Not only do such people themselves lack
shinjin of Other Power, but further they confuse others with
One should cautiously fear that one may be going against the
late Master's intent. Further, one should grieve if one is
not in accord with Amida's Primal Vow.
On the assertion: People who are unafraid of committing
evil because of the inconceivable working of the Primal Vow
are in fact impudently presuming upon the Vow and therefore
will not attain birth.
This is a statement of one who doubts the Primal Vow and
fails to understand the influence of good and evil karma of
Good thoughts arise in us through the prompting of good karma
from the past, and evil comes to be thought and performed
through the working of evil karma. The late Master said, "Knowing
that every evil act done- even as slight as a particle on
the tip of a strand of rabbit's fur or sheep's wool- has its
cause in past karma."
Further, the Master once asked, "Yuien-bo, do you accept
all that I say?"
"Yes I do," I answered.
"Then will you not deviate from whatever I tell you?"
I humbly affirmed this. Thereupon he said, "Now, I want
you to kill a thousand people. If you do, you will definitely
I responded, "Though you instruct me thus, I'm afraid
it is not in my power to kill even one person."
"Then why did you say that you would follow whatever
I told you?"
He continued, "By this you should realize that if we
could always act as we wished, then when I told you to kill
a thousand people in order to attain birth, you should have
immediately done so. But since you lack the karmic cause inducing
you to kill even a single person, you do not kill. It is not
that you do not kill because your heart is good. In the same
way, a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing
a hundred or a thousand people."
Thus he spoke of how we believe that if our hearts are good,
then it is good for birth, and if our hearts are evil, it
is bad for birth, failing to realize that it is by the inconceivable
working of the Vow that we are saved.
There was, in those days, a person who had fallen into wrong
views. He asserted that since the Vow was made to serve the
person who had committed evil, one should purposely do evil
as an act for attaining birth. As rumors of misdeeds gradually
spread, Shinran wrote in a letter, "Do not take a liking
to poison just because there is an antidote." This was
in order to put an end to that wrong understanding. It by
no means implies that evil can obstruct one's attainment of
He also said, "If it were only by observing precepts
and upholding rules that we should entrust ourselves to the
Primal Vow, how could we ever gain freedom from birth-and-death?"
Even such wretched beings as ourselves, on encountering the
Primal Vow, come indeed to "presume" upon it. But
even so, how could we commit evil acts without any karmic
cause in ourselves?
The Master further stated:
For those who make their living drawing nets or fishing
in the seas and rivers, and those who sustain their lives
hunting beasts or taking fowl in the fields and mountains,
and those who pass their lives conducting trade or cultivating
fields and paddies, it is all the same. If the karmic cause
so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.
These days, however, one finds people making a show of themselves
as "seekers for the afterlife," posting notices
at nembutsu practice halls saying that those who have committed
such and such acts may not enter, as though only good persons
should say the nembutsu. Are not people who do this indeed
"outwardly expressing signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence,
while inwardly embracing falsity"?
Even the evil we commit while "presuming" upon the
Vow occurs through the prompting of past karma. Thus, Other
Power lies in entrusting ourselves wholly to the Primal Vow
while leaving both good and evil to karmic recompense. The
Essentials of Faith Alone states:
Do you know the power Amida possesses, when you say that
because you are a being of karmic evil you cannot be saved?
Since you have a heart that presumes upon the Primal Vow,
the mind of entrusting yourself to Other Power becomes all
the more firmly settled.
If you entrusted yourself to the Primal Vow only after completely
ridding yourself of karmic evil and blind passions, then there
would be no presuming upon the Vow. But to rid yourself of
blind passions is to become a Buddha, and for one who is already
a Buddha, the Vow that arose from the five kalpas of profound
thought would be to no purpose.
People who admonish others against presuming upon the Primal
Vow themselves appear to be possessed of blind passions and
defilements. Does not this condition itself imply presuming
upon the Vow? What kind of evil is meant by "presuming
upon the Vow" and what kind is not? Rather, is not this
entire line of argument the product of immature thinking?
On the assertion: You should believe that the grave karmic
evil binding you to birth-and-death for eight billion kalpas
is eradicated through a single utterance of the Name.
It is asserted [based on the Contemplation Sutra] that there
are persons of the ten transgressions and five grave offences
who, although they have passed their lives without saying
the nembutsu, at the time of death, urged by the instruction
of a good teacher, come to say it for the first time. In one
utterance eight billion kalpas of karmic evil are eradicated,
or in ten utterances, ten times eight billion kalpas of grave
karmic evil are eradicated, and thus they attain birth. It
appears that one utterance and ten utterances are taught in
order to make us know the gravity of the ten transgressions
and five grave offences. Those who assert the above, however
speak only of the benefit of eradicating evil. This falls
far short of the teaching that we have accepted. For by virtue
of being shone upon by Amida's light, we receive diamondlike
shinjin when the one thought-moment of entrusting arises within
us; hence, already in that instant Amida takes us into the
stage of the truly settled, and when our lives end, all our
blind passions and obstructions of evil being transformed,
we are brought to realize insight into the nonorigination
of all existence. Thus the nembutsu that we say throughout
a lifetime with the thought, "If it were not for this
compassionate Vow, how could such wretched evildoers as ourselves
gain emancipation from birth-and-death?" should be recognized
as entirely the expression of our gratitude for the benevolence
and our thankfulness for the virtuous working of the Tathagata's
To believe that each time you say the Name your karmic evil
is eradicated is nothing but to strive to attain birth by
eliminating your karmic evil through your own efforts. In
that case, you can attain birth only by being diligent in
the nembutsu to the very point of death, for every single
thought you have throughout the course of you life is a fetter
binding you to birth-and-death. But since our karmic recompense
restricts us, we may, meeting with various unforeseen accidents
or being tormented by the pain of sickness, reach the end
of our lives without dwelling in rightmindedness; in such
circumstances, saying the Name is difficult. How then is the
karmic evil committed in that final interval to be eradicated?
If it is not eliminated, is not birth unattainable?
If we entrust ourselves to Amida's Vow that grasps and never
abandons us, then even though unforeseen circumstances, we
commit an evil act and die without saying the nembutsu at
the very end, we will immediately realize birth in the Pure
Moreover, even if we do say the Name at the point of death,
it will be nothing other than our expression of gratitude
for Amida's benevolence, entrusting ourselves to the Buddha
more and more as the very time of enlightenment draws near.
The desire to eradicate one's karmic evil through saying the
Name arises from the heart of self-power; it is the basic
intent of people who pray to be in a state of rightmindedness
when their lives end. It therefore reveals an absence of shinjin
that is Other Power.
On the assertion that one attains enlightenment even while
maintaining this bodily existence full of blind passions.
This statement is completely absurd. The attainment of Buddhahood
with this very body is the essence of the Shingon esoteric
teaching; it is the realization achieved through the three
kinds of mystic acts. The purification of the six sense organs
is the One Vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra; it is the
virtue acquired through the four practices of repose. These
are both ways of difficult practice to be followed by those
of superior capacity; they lead to the enlightenment realized
through fulfilling contemplative practice.
Attaining enlightenment in the coming life is the essence
of the Pure Land teaching of Other Power; it is the principle
actualized through the settlement of shinjin. This is the
way of easy practice to be followed by those of inferior capacity;
it is the teaching that makes no distinction between the good
and the evil.
Since it is extremely difficult to free oneself from blind
passions and the hindrances of karmic evil in this life; even
the virtuous monks who practice the Shingon and Tendai teachings
pray for enlightenment in the next life. In our case, what
more need be said?
We lack both the observance of precepts and the comprehension
of wisdom, but when, by allowing ourselves to be carried on
the ship of Amida's Vow, we have crossed this ocean of suffering
that is birth-and-death and attain the shore of the Pure Land,
the dark clouds of blind passions will swiftly clear and the
moon of enlightenment, true reality, will immediately appear.
Becoming one with the unhindered light filling the ten quarters,
we will benefit all sentient beings. It is at that moment
that we attain enlightenment.
Do those who speak of realizing enlightenment while in this
bodily existence manifest various accommodated bodies, possess
the Buddha's thirty-two features and eighty marks, and preach
the dharma to benefit beings like Shakyamuni? It is this that
is meant by realizing enlightenment in this life. It is stated
in a hymn:
When the time comes
For shinjin, indestructible as diamond, to become settled,
Amida grasps and protects us with compassion and light,
So that we may part forever from birth-and-death.
This means that at the moment shinjin becomes settled, we
are grasped, never to be abandoned, and therefore we will
not transmigrate further in the six courses. Only then do
we part forever from birth-and-death. Should such awareness
be confusedly termed "attaining enlightenment"?
It is regrettable that such misunderstanding should arise.
The late Master said,
According to the true essence of the Pure Land way, one
entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow in this life and realizes
enlightenment in the Pure Land; this is the teaching I received.
On the assertion that whenever practicers of shinjin happen
to become angry, or commit some misdeed, or dispute with fellow
practicers, they must without fail go through a change of
This appears to reflect an attitude of seeking to attain
birth by desisting from evil and performing good,
Foe the person or wholehearted single practice of the nembutsu,
change of heart occurs only once. People who have in ordinary
life been ignorant of the true essence of the Primal Vow,
which is Other Power, come to realize, through receiving Amida's
wisdom, that they cannot attain birth with the thoughts and
feelings they have harbored up to then, so they abandon their
former heart and mind and entrust themselves to the Primal
Vow. This is what is meant by "change of heart."
Suppose that attainment of birth were possible only by going
through changes of heart day and night with every incident
that occurred. In that case- human life being such that it
is ends even before breath exhaled can be drawn in again-
if we were to die without going through a change of heart
and without abiding in a state of gentleness and forbearance,
would not Amida's Vow that grasps and never abandons us be
Some claim with their lips that they entrust themselves to
the power of the Vow and yet harbor in their hearts the thought
that, even the though the Vow to save the evil is said to
be beyond conceptual understanding, after all it saves the
good person in particular; thus, doubting the power of the
Vow, they lack the mind of entrusting themselves to Other
Power, and are destined for birth in the borderland. How lamentable
If shinjin has become settled, birth will be brought about
by Amida's design, so there must be no calculating on our
part. Even when we are evil, if we revere the power of the
Vow all the more deeply, gentleheartedness and forbearance
will surely arise in us through its spontaneous working (jinen).
With everything we do, as far as birth is concerned, we should
constantly and fervently call to mind Amida's immense benevolence
without any thought of being wise. Then the nembutsu will
indeed emerge; this is jinen. Our not calculating is called
jinen. It is itself Other Power.
It seems, however, that there are people who knowingly declare
that jinen has a different meaning. This is deplorable.
On the assertion that a person born in the borderland
will in the end fall into hell.
In what authoritative passage do we find such a statement?
It is deplorable that this is being maintained by people who
pretend to be scholars. How are they reading the sutras, treaties,
and other sacred writings? I was taught that practicers who
lack shinjin are born in the borderland because of their doubt
concerning the Primal Vow, and that, after the evil of doubt
has been expiated, they realize enlightenment in the fulfilled
Since practicers of shinjin are few, many are guided to the
transformed land. To declare, despite this, that birth there
will ultimately end in vain would be to accuse Shakyamuni
On the assertion that the size of we become as Buddhas
depends on the amount of our donations to the sangha.
This is totally absurd and nonsensical. To begin with, is
it not impossible to determine the size of a Buddha? Although
the height of Amida, the Master of the teaching in the Pure
Land of peace, is stated [in sutras], this refers to a form
of the fulfilled body of compassionate means. A Buddha, having
been awakened to the enlightenment of dharma-nature, has no
form, long or short, square or round, and no color, blue,
white, or black; how then can the size be determined?
It is stated [in sutras] that in saying the nembutsu, one
upholds a transformed Buddha. Concerning this, it is written
[in scriptures] that with a great nembutsu one sees a great
Buddha and with a small nembutsu one sees a small Buddha.
Perhaps the above assertion has been wrongly linked to this
Further, it may be possible to say that making offerings is
the practice of the paramita of charity. But however precious
a treasure one may offer before the Buddha or give to a teacher,
it is meaningless if one lacks shinjin. And even though one
may not make a donation of even a single sheet of paper or
half a penny to the sangha, if one yields one's heart to Other
Power and one's shinjin is deep, one is in accord with the
essential intent of the Vow.
Is it not after all that those people seek to intimidate their
fellow practicers, using the Buddha's teaching as a pretext
and being moved by mundane desires?