There is a very important story in the Tannisho, which is one of most famous writings of Jodo Shinshu written by Shinran Shonin’s disciple Yuienbo. I hope you have read the Tannisho. The Tannisho was written to clear up many misunderstandings of Shinran Shonin’s teaching after he passed away. This story is about a conversation between Shinran Shonin and Yuienbo.
This is a part of Tannisho, chapter 13:
The master once asked, “Yuien-bō, so you accept all that I say?”
“Yes, I do,” Yuienbo answered.
“Then will you not deviate from whatever I tell you?” Shinran Shonin repeated.
“Yes, I humbly affirm this,” Replied Yuienbo.
Thereupon Shinran Shonin said, “Now, I want you to kill a thousand people. If you do, you will definitely attain birth.”
Yuienbo responded, “Though you instruct me to kill a thousand people, 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?” asked Shinran Shonin.
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 rebirth in the Pure Land, you should have immediately done so. But since you lack the karmic cause to make you 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 wish not to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or a thousand people.”
We all are just like Yuienbo and share the same existences which are hard to understand. We do not know what to do in crisis. We do not know what will happen in the next few seconds. Actually this logic seems quite easy to understand and you may think that this is only natural. But when faced with these same kind of situation, most of us won’t have realized this truth. To realize means to experience as your own actual life. We can imagine the truth, but it is impossible to realize the truth with your own experience.
Shinran Shonin explains about this reality when he describes himself as “I am inwardly foolish, outwardly wise.” Additionally, he looked deep into himself and realized: “My self is false and insincere.” “I completely lack a pure mind,” “My mind is full of malice and cunning,” and he even called himself “Gutoku” which means “foolish, bald-headed one.” That is, he expressed his true human nature.
However, at the same time, Shinran Shonin realized that he could live with a smile and heart filled with gratitude while reflecting on his true existence through Amida’s workings. Through his life with the Nembutsu, Shinran Shonin showed us what we can only realize our true human nature through Amida Buddha’s workings. This is what we have to learn from the teachings of Shinran Shonin.
All content published on the Site (documents, images, voices and audio tracks, programs, etc.) is protected by copyright laws, related agreements and other laws. Making copies or using this content without consent of the copyright holder(s) is prohibited by law except for personal use or other purposes explicitly permitted by law. You are required to contact the Company and obtain permission before reprinting or publishing any of the content published on the Site in magazines or other publications.
浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。