The Tannisho is a manuscript attributed to Yuien-bo who is thought to have been a student of Shinran. After Shinran’s death misunderstandings began to arise. Students could no longer ask Shinran for clarification. The Tannisho was compiled by Yuien, many years after Shinran’s death, in an attempt to address some of these misunderstandings. The title, Tannisho, has been translated as: “A Record in Lament of Divergences”.
In the first ten chapters, Yuien, recalls the words of Shinran. Probably collected from notes and memories of conversations with Shinran. From chapter 11 Yuien addresses specific concerns that were current in the Shinshu sangha.
Chapter 12 begins:
“On the assertion that for practicers who do not read the sutras and commentaries and engage in study, birth is not settled.
“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?” Tannisho, Chap 12, CWS p 668
I often think our sangha exists simply to feed me. Amida’s assurance does not depend upon the temple or its priest. It does not depend on the existence of the Hongwanji or the Buddhist Churches of America or the Jodo Shinshu Center or the Institute of Buddhist studies or any of the programs we have created. Over the centuries we have created mountains of writings, eminent scholars, wonderful priests and lay people. Jodo Shinshu has affected art and literature. It has influence culture. Yet the assurance of Amida is not dependent upon any of this.
The resolution of difficulties is completely the result of Amida. Whether I acknowledge this or not does not affect the outcome. Nothing I do or not do affects the intent of Amida. If there were no temple, no priest, the intent Amida’s vow is still fulfilled.
Although the temples and scholars and priests and lay people are not necessary for the fulfillment of Amida’s vow, my understanding of Amida results from their work. The above quote comes from a translation that came from the work that accumulated over many years. Work that could not have taken place if not for the institutions that supported that work. Institutions like schools and temples that nurtured and cultivated individuals whose understanding and appreciation of the nembutsu flourished in a supportive environment. Places where the appreciation of the nembutsu was cultivated and passed on, shared with a feeling of gratitude and appreciation. Because of these places where the nembutsu has been enjoyed and shared over centuries, I am able to hear and enjoy the nembutsu. Their work makes it possible for me to know that I too will be able to experience the resolution of difficulties.
A scholar priest once said that perhaps it would be ok if the BCA simply disappeared. For those who are concerned about the cost of programs and assessments this could be a good idea. Rennyo expressed a similar thought when he wrote, “So I have laid down the rule prohibiting the visit here of those who have no intention of settling the entrusting heart, manifested as the nembutsu, to attain birth in the land of bliss.” Letters of Rennyo, Shin Buddhist Translation Series, letter 6, p 25
While we do not bar people from coming to the temple we should look for ways to deepen and our appreciation of Amida. We should always remember that it is the Vow of Amida that assures each of us of the resolution of difficulties. Our efforts and resources support the appreciation of this core experience.