A Collection of Letters

Letter 1

That the Tathagata's Primal Vow is spreading is indeed splendid and gladdening above all else. In this, however, there must never be any arguing, person with person in each locality, while adhering to one's own view. In the capital also there seems to be much arguing over such matters as "once-calling" and "many-calling"; this should never take place at all.

Ultimately, you should read carefully and constantly such writings as Essentials of Faith Alone, On the Afterlife, and Self-power and Other Power, and not diverge from their message. Please tell this to all people, wherever they may be. Further, if there are matters that are unclear, since I am still alive today, please take the trouble of coming to see me. Or you may ask someone to deliver a message. Please be sure to relate all of this to the people of Kashima, Namekata, and the neighboring areas also. In such disputation over once-calling and many-calling, merely futile and argumentative words are voiced. You should by all means avoid it.


People who do not understand these matters discuss things of little significance. You should avoid such arguments by all means.

Second month, 3rd day


Letter 2

I have carefully read your letter dated the first of the sixth month.

I had heard in general about the litigation involving you in Kamakura. Since I had not heard differently from what you write in your letter, I assumed that nothing beyond that had occurred; I am glad to hear of your return.

Generally speaking, this litigation is not a problem involving yourself alone; it concerns all people of Pure Land nembutsu. Regarding this matter, when the late Master was alive, I was among those subjected to various accusations, so it is not a particularly new litigation. It is not something that you have to manage by yourself. All those who say the nembutsu should, in concordance, deal with it together. There is no reason that you should be singled out for ridicule. It is truly absurd that people of the nembutsu who lack discretion should blame you. People of the nembutsu should join you as your allies. Even your mother, sisters, and so on grumble in various ways, as is often the case. Nevertheless, since the prohibition of the nembutsu [in the past] led to the arising of disturbances in society, on this occasion I hope that everyone will, deeply entrusting themselves to the nembutsu and firmly embracing prayers [for peace in the world] in their hearts, together say the nembutsu.

Your general defense, as you have written of it in your letter, has been well thought out. I am very pleased. In the final analysis, it would be splendid if all people who say the nembutsu, not just yourself, do so not with thoughts of themselves, but for the sake of the imperial court and for the sake of the people of the country. Those who feel uncertain of birth should say the nembutsu aspiring first for their own birth. Those who feel that their own birth is completely settled should, mindful of the Buddha's benevolence, hold the nembutsu in their hearts and say it to respond in gratitude to that benevolence, with the wish, "May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha's teaching spread!" Please consider this carefully. I do not think you need to deliberate about any matters beyond this.

Again, I am very happy to hear of your speedy return home. If, holding [the nembutsu] well in your heart, you are certain that your birth is completely settled, then in expressing your appreciation of the Buddha's benevolence, nothing else is necessary; you should say the nembutsu, being always mindful of it.


Seventh month, 9th day

To: Shoshin-bo


Letter 3

I have gratefully received, from Gonen-bo, your gift of two hundred mon. I wish also to acknowledge receiving some time ago, from some of the people there, offerings made at the nembutsu meetings. Please convey my gratitude to the people. With this reply, please give my thanks to them also.

Now then, what you ask is indeed an excellent question. To begin, you state that with one utterance of the nembutsu the cause of birth is fulfilled. It is truly so. Even so, however, it does not mean that a person should not say the nembutsu beyond the one utterance. This matter is explained fully in Essentials of Faith Alone. Please read this work carefully. That the nembutsu said beyond one utterance should be directed to the sentient beings of the ten quarters is also correct. Since one is directing the nembutsu to the sentient beings of the ten quarters, it is an error to think that saying it twice or three times is bad for one's attainment of birth. I have been taught that since it is the Primal Vow of birth through the nembutsu, whether one says the nembutsu many times or whether one says it only once, one will be born. It must never be taught that one will certainly attain birth with only one utterance but will not attain birth if one says it many times. Please carefully read Essentials of Faith Alone.

Next, concerning "thought" and "no-thought," these terms do not occur in the teachings of Other Power. They are spoken of in the Path of Sages. They occur only in the teachings of the Path of Sages, which is based on self-power. The nembutsu selected in the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata has nothing to do either with "thought" or with "no-thought." Whoever may say these terms, you must never employ them. They seem to have incorrectly heard and applied to the Pure Land path what is spoken of in the Path of Sages. Never under any circumstances use these terms. Further, "joy" means to rejoice that since one has realized the shinjin that is Other Power, one's birth is definitely settled. I have heard that nembutsu of "thought" and "no-thought" is being discussed among people of the nembutsu throughout the province of Hitachi, and I have already stated that this is an error. In short, the meaning of Other Power is that the practicer's calculation is not involved; hence, it is neither a matter of "thought" nor of "no-thought." It appears, however, that hearing this incorrectly, some have been speaking of "thought" and "no-thought." Since the selected Primal Vow of Amida has no room for the practicer's calculation, it is wholly Other Power. It should never be said that once-calling alone is right. You say that one directs the nembutsu said beyond the one utterance to the sentient beings throughout the world. It is not wrong to direct [the nembutsu] to the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters in order to respond to the benevolence of the Tathagatas Sakyamuni and Amida. But though it is so, those attaining birth through saying the nembutsu two or three times must not be said to be in error. Please read Essentials of Faith Alone carefully. It should be understood that since it is the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, birth through just one or ten utterances is not in error.


Twelfth month, 26th day

Reply to: Kyonin-bo


Letter 4

To begin with, it should never happen under any circumstances that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas be thought of lightly or that the gods and deities be despised and neglected. In the course of countless lives in many states of existence, through the benefit of innumerable, incalculable Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we have practiced all the various good acts, but we were unable to gain freedom from birth-and-death through such self-power practice. Accordingly, through the encouragement of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for countless kalpas and innumerable lives, we now encounter Amida's Vow, which is difficult to encounter. To speak slightingly of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas out of ignorance of our indebtedness to them is to be totally lacking in gratitude for their profound benevolence.

Those who deeply entrust themselves to the Buddha's teaching are protected by all the gods of the heavens and earth, who accompany them just as shadows do things; hence, people who have entrusted themselves to the nembutsu should never think of neglecting the gods of the heavens and the earth. Even the gods and deities do not abandon us; hence, as for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, how could we speak disparagingly or think slightingly of them? If one speaks slightingly of the Buddhas, then one is surely a person who does not entrust oneself to the nembutsu and who does not say Amida's Name.

In short, it is surely not without reason that manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners engage in designs to put an end to the nembutsu, speaking falsehoods and imputing any wrongdoing to people of the nembutsu. For in the teachings of Sakyamuni Tathagata, it is stated that those who slander people of the nembutsu are "people lacking eyes" and "people lacking ears." Master Shan-tao states decisively: "At the time when the five defilements increase, those who doubt and revile [Amida's Vow] are numerous. Both monks and lay people despise and refuse to listen to each other. When they see those who practice the truth, the poison of anger arises in them; they seek to harm them in various ways and vie in enmity." As is often the case, the people who are trying to obstruct the nembutsu are the manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners in the local areas; there are reasons for this. We should not criticize them in one way or another. Teachers of the past have stated that practicers of the nembutsu should act with compassion for those who commit such obstruction, feel pity for them, and earnestly say the nembutsu, thereby helping those who seek to hinder them. You should carefully ponder this.

Next, concerning the people who say the nembutsu, it is splendid that they entrust themselves to Amida's Vow realizing it is for the sake of those possessed of blind passions. However, it is not stated in the Pure Land teachings that, because it is for the evil person, one should purposely think what is wrong in one's mind, act it bodily, or speak it verbally; hence, I have never said such things to people. You should understand that, while your existence is one possessed of blind passions and it is difficult for you to still your mind, you will unfailingly attain birth; it is this that, in general, the masters and true teachers have taught. It is not at all taught that you should perform acts that become hindrances to people of the nembutsu and bring censure on the masters and true teachers, intentionally preferring wrong because the self is so evil. Having encountered Amida's Vow, which is rare to encounter, one should seek to respond in gratitude to the Buddha's benevolence. It is utterly incomprehensible that, in spite of this, there are those who with their talk and deeds cause the suppression of the nembutsu. This is deplorable. Since people have erroneous understandings, I hear of things that should never take place at all. It is unspeakable.

However, if a person of the nembutsu speaks in error, he or she alone falls into hell or becomes a heavenly demon (mara). I do not think it will become a fault of all people of the nembutsu. Please carefully ponder these points. Further, the people who say the nembutsu should carefully read this letter and explain it to others.


Ninth month, 11th day


To: The People of the Nembutsu

Letter 5

I am writing you a letter. Please read this letter to the people so that all may hear it. It appears that the nun from Totomi has carefully dealt with the matter. This is splendid; I am greatly pleased. Please fully convey how great my joy is here in the capital.

What Shingan-bo is saying is extremely saddening. To favor wrong intentionally, with the excuse that one's self is evil, not realizing that it will cause accusations of wrongdoing against the masters and the true teachers, and bring blame to all people of nembutsu, is to be ignorant of the Buddha's benevolence. You should reflect on this deeply.

Further, you should not pass judgment on Shingan-bo regarding his remarks about those who have died in a state of possession. Concerning the circumstances of the deaths of people of the nembutsu, for those who are sick in body, nothing can be deduced regarding their birth in the Pure Land. People who are ill in mind may become heavenly demons or fall into hell. Since there is a difference between sickness of the mind and sickness of the body, you should carefully consider those who die having become ill in mind.

You say that Shingan-bo is saying that one should favor what should not be thought, perform what should not be done physically, and say what should not be said with the lips, reasoning that, since it is the habit of foolish beings, evil is our nature. This does not appear to be his remarks. I have not said that, since it is not a hindrance to birth, one should favor wrongdoing. It is altogether incomprehensible.

In short, those who speak falsehood will themselves end up as they may. I do not think such falsehood becomes an obstruction for all people of the nembutsu.

Further, concerning those who seek to suppress the nembutsu, they will themselves end up as they may. It will not become the fault of all the people of the nembutsu. The teaching of Shan-tao is clearly before us:

The time has come when the five defilements increase and those who doubt and revile [Amida's Vow] are numerous.
Both monks and lay people despise [the nembutsu] and refuse to listen [to the teaching].
When they see those who practice it, the poison of anger arises in them;
Hindering others in every way, they vie in causing harm.

And has not Sakyamuni Tathagata taught such people to be "people lacking eyes" and "people lacking ears"? Those people, described here as such, perform deeds that will bring about the suppression of the nembutsu and act out of malice toward people of the nembutsu. In this regard, without bearing any ill will toward such persons, you should keep in mind the thought that, saying the nembutsu, you are to help them.


Ninth month, 2nd day

Reply to: Jishin-bo


Please read this letter to Nyushin-bo, Shinjo-bo, and Hoshin-bo also. This matter is indeed distressing. When Shoshin-bo came to visit in the spring, I spoke to him in detail. Also, please convey my joy to Kuge.

The right teaching must not be lost sight of just because those people are speaking falsehoods. This is also the case with worldly matters. Even though manor lords, bailiffs, and landowners are involved in wrongdoing, people should not be confused. No one can destroy the Buddhist teaching. As a metaphor for those affiliated with the Buddhist teaching who act to destroy it, it is said [in a sutra] that they are like the worms within the body of the lion that injure the lion. Thus, there are people affiliated with the Buddhist teaching who attack and obstruct people of the nembutsu. You should have a clear understanding of this.

I cannot write all that I wish to say in this letter.

Letter 6

I have carefully read your letter of the ninth month, 27th day. On the 9th day of the eleventh month, I received your gift of money in the amount of five kanmon.

I find it indeed deplorable that people in the various areas are saying in different ways that it is meaningless for people of the countryside to have all been saying the nembutsu for years. Although they have copied and possessed various writings, how have they been reading them? It makes me feel extremely apprehensive.

I have heard that about ninety of the people who had gathered around Chutaro of Obu have all followed you and abandoned the lay-monk Chutaro, because you, having traveled there from Kyoto, declared that only the teaching you have heard here is true and that all their saying of the nembutsu for years is meaningless. How has such a thing come about? It appears to me that, in short, their shinjin had not been settled. How is it that so many people could have been shaken? I find it lamentable. Since there are rumors of this kind, there must also be many false statements. Further, since I have heard that I am being accused of favoritism, I made great efforts to write down the meaning of Essentials of Faith Alone, On the Afterlife, and Self-power and Other Power, and also the Parable of the Two Rivers, and to distribute them to people. But I hear that they have all become useless. How have you been teaching the people? I hear you are saying incomprehensible things and am troubled by it. Please explain matters to me in detail.


Eleventh month, 9th day


To: Jishin-bo

I have duly received your reports concerning Shinbutsu-bo, Shoshin-bo, and Nyushin-bo. Although I find it deeply lamentable, there is nothing I can do about it. It is also beyond my powers to correct others who do not have the same mind. Since people are not of the same mind, it is useless to say one thing or another. At this point, you should not speak about others. Please take this fully to heart.


To: Jishin-bo

Letter 7

I understand from your letter that you have undergone great difficulties stemming from matters related to the nembutsu. I deeply sympathize with you. In the final analysis, it appears that the conditions [for teaching the nembutsu] in that area have been exhausted. You must not lament about one thing or another regarding the obstruction of the nembutsu. Whatever may become of those who seek to suppress the nembutsu, for persons who say it, what hardship should they feel? You must not in any way design to spread the nembutsu by utilizing outside people for support. The spread of the nembutsu in that area must come about through the working of the revered Buddha.

I have been informed that, following the various things that Jishin-bo has said, the minds of the people have been shaken in different ways. This is deeply distressing. You should entrust all things to the working of the revered Buddha. If conditions [for teaching the nembutsu] in that area have been exhausted, you should think about moving to another place. If you accept what Jishin-bo is saying - that I have instructed people to spread the nembutsu by relying on outside people as powerful supporters, which I have never said - it will be an unmitigated error. The Buddha has taught beforehand that, as the custom of the secular world, there would be attempts to obstruct the nembutsu; hence, you should not be taken aback by it. You should never, under any circumstances, take the various things Jishin-bo is saying as coming from me. Concerning the teachings, he is making groundless remarks. You should not give him your ear. I hear of incredibly erroneous views; it is deplorable.

I am sorry to hear about Nyushin-bo and the others. That they have been long detained in Kamakura is regrettable. Some complication must have arisen now, causing their delay. There is nothing I can do about it.

It is inexpressibly lamentable and saddening that the people of the remote districts (Ogun), deceived by Jishin-bo, have all been shaken in shinjin. Further, to hear it being said that I have been deceiving people is deeply discouraging. I take these things as manifesting the fact that from before, for those people, shinjin has not been settled. It is deeply saddening.

The shinjin the people held from before was shaken by what Jishin-bo is saying; in short, the fact that their shinjin was not genuine has become manifest. This is good. It is deplorable that people believed those statements to be what I said.

It appears to have been of no value whatever that they have for a long time copied and possessed various writings. I think that Essentials for Faith Alone and the various other writings have now become useless to them. The teachings that they carefully copied out and kept are now all worthless to them. I have heard that all the people, following Jishin-bo, have discarded those splendid writings. I lament this deeply.

You should read such writings as Essential of Faith Alone and On the Afterlife carefully. It appears that the remarks of those people who had long been saying that they had shinjin were all empty. It is deplorable, truly deplorable. Concerning all those matters, I will write another time.

First month, 9th day


To: Venerable Shinjo-bo

Letter 8

Have you been well since your return? I met Gen Toshiro unexpectedly. Glad at being able to entrust him with a letter for you, I am writing now. Has there been any change?

I am extremely happy to hear from various people that matters involving the lawsuit over the nembutsu have eased. I rejoiced that now the nembutsu will surely spread more and more widely.

In relation to this, your understanding of the nembutsu has now been confirmed. While holding the nembutsu in your heart and saying it always, please pray for the present life and also the next life of those who slander it. With the understanding of the people there, what more is necessary now regarding the nembutsu? But if you simply pray for the people in society who are in error and desire to lead them into Amida's Vow, it will be a response out of gratitude for the Buddha's benevolence. You should hold the nembutsu deeply in your hearts and say it together. Since the nembutsu practice held on Master Honen's memorial day, the twenty-fifth of each month, is also in the end for the sake of saving such people of wrong views, you should say the nembutsu together, earnestly desiring to save those who slander the nembutsu.

All these matters are as I have written you many times. I am very happy to be able to send a letter with Gen Toshiro.


I want to write to Nyusai-bo also, but since the content is the same, please communicate these matters to him.


To: Shoshin-bo


Letter 9

I have written out and sent to you an explanation of "the Buddha of the twelve kinds of light," which people are speaking of. It was not possible to write in detail. I have set it forth only roughly.

In brief, you should take that which is called Buddha of unhindered light as fundamental. You should understand that Buddha of unhindered light is spoken of thus in order to indicate that [this Buddha] seeks to save all beings, unhindered by their being wretched and evil.


Tenth month, 21st day


Reply to Yuishin-bo

Letter 10

I understand that that which is called "the Vow that all Buddhas say the Name" and "the Vow that all Buddhas praise the Name" is for the purpose of encouraging the sentient beings of the ten quarters [to entrust themselves to Amida's Vow]. Further, I have been taught that it fulfills the purpose of bringing to an end the doubting thought of the sentient beings of the ten quarters. This is understood to be the witness of the Buddhas of the ten quarters taught in the Amida Sutra. In short, I take this Vow as the Vow of compassionate means.

I understand that the Vow of birth through the nembutsu is the right act and right cause that is the Tathagata's directing of virtue for our going forth. Since persons of true shinjin are the equal of Maitreya, who has attained the stage equal to perfect enlightenment, I have been taught that the Buddhas praise them as being equal to Tathagata. Further, once one has entrusted oneself to Amida's Primal Vow, as the great teacher Master [Honen] has said, no working is true working. Thus, it is taught that as long as one's own working remains, it is not Other Power, but self-power.

Further, with regard to Other Power, since it is inconceivable Buddha-wisdom, the attainment of supreme enlightenment by foolish beings possessed of blind passions comes about through the working shared only by Buddhas; it is not in any way the design of the practicer. Thus, no working is true working. "Working" [that is negated] refers to the calculation of the person of self-power. Concerning Other Power, then, no working is true working. I know nothing at all about what these people are saying, so I should not comment on it in any way.

Further, the character rai ("to come") means [Buddhas] "having come" in order to benefit sentient beings; it refers to compassionate means. When enlightenment has been attained, it means "to return." I understand that, depending on the context, it means either "having come" or "to return."

I will write you again more fully.

Second month, 9th day


Reply to Kyosai-bo