Some people say that studying Buddhist doctrine interferes with Amida’s salvation, so it’s better not to engage in Buddhist studies. Is it true that we should not study the Buddhist teachings?
Many Pure Land Shin Buddhists believe that Buddhist learning and faith are completely separate, and that studying Buddhism leads one to neglect the search for truth. Such people rest comfortably in their state of ignorance, confident that salvation is possible even for Buddhist illiterates. Nowadays there is even a tendency to think that when listening to Buddhism, it’s better to forget what you have heard than to remember. Some people brag about how good they are at forgetting. Such people live in idleness, knowing nothing of true Buddhist learning or of what it means to be a Buddhist follower, resting on the plea to be “saved just as I am” and refusing to budge; but they are terribly mistaken. Naturally, depending on who is doing the educating, some learning is wasted effort and doesn’t serve the purpose of listening to Buddhism and searching for truth. That is why you must choose your teacher and make sure of the content of what you are learning. True Buddhist education deepens the flavor of faith after salvation and provides a precious bond to Amida Buddha before salvation. We must by all means study the teachings of Master Shinran. What matters is the attitude with which you undertake to learn. You mustn’t learn for learning’s sake or for the purpose of achieving fame and riches. That would certainly interfere with the search for truth, so strictest caution must be observed. But there is no reason whatever to reject Buddhist learning outright. Master Honen was a brilliant scholar looked up to as the wisest man of his day. Master Shinran likewise was a scholar whose masterwork Teaching Practice Faith Enlightenment is based on his reading of 84,000 scriptures. Not one of our wise predecessors rejected learning Buddhist doctrine as useless. The more one studies true Buddhist doctrine, the more one is made aware of the profundity of its truth, and one becomes unable to help but stake one’s life on Amida’s salvation. And unless your studies lead to this result, it cannot be called true Buddhist study. The study of Buddhism is not mere theory, but practical application of the teachings in daily life, which leads to a deeper understanding of the truth of Buddhism. It combines discipline and learning. In any case, learning that takes no mind of the grand purpose of resolving the crucial matter of the afterlife is meaningless. True Buddhist learning is the same as listening directly to the teachings of Master Shinran and Master Rennyo, so it must be undertaken in earnest. Let one and all—whether young or old, male or female—deepen their study of true Buddhist doctrine in a real sense by all means.
(Petals of Shinran Wisteria Volume 56)