For us Pure Land Shin followers, chanting every morning and evening is a very important part of our daily lives. That is because chanting is a precious practice for forming bonds with Amida Buddha and achieving true happiness. This month, let us explore The Letters by Master Rennyo, which we read during the chanting.
We talked about The Hymn of True Faith by Master Shinran in the previous issue. This time, we will cover The Letters by Master Rennyo. The Letters is a compilation of letters written by Master Rennyo to followers in the Muromachi era, 200 years after Master Shinran passed away. Eighty letters out of over 200 letters were chosen and compiled into 5 fascicles. We call this The Letters today.
In history, Master Rennyo is second to none in transmitting Master Shinran’s teaching faithfully and promptly to a vast number of people. The Letters played a considerable role. In these letters, what Master Rennyo wrote was exactly what Master Shinran taught, and nothing else. Master Shinran’s teaching is profound, and so it is difficult to understand it properly. Therefore, in The Letters, Master Rennyo expressed the essence of the teaching in plain words so that anybody could understand. Throughout this work, we find words such as these:
“All his life, the Master (Shinran) taught...” (Fascicle 5, Letter 10)
“The essence of Master Shinran’s lifelong teaching is...” (Fascicle 2, Letter 3)
What Master Rennyo clarified was nothing but the teachings of Master Shinran. He passed them on unmodified, as if pouring water from one container into another. In his whole life of 85 years, Master Rennyo consistently maintained this approach towards conveying the teachings.
This is why Master Rennyo is referred to as a role model for Shinran Gakuto. In his letters, he clarified Master Shinran's teaching of salvation through faith alone.
This "faith" refers to the “other-power faith” bestowed by Amida Buddha. Master Shinran clarified this in Hymn of True Faith. Through the writings we read during the chanting, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo keep conveying the true teaching to us. Chanting is a great opportunity to listen to the teachings of both masters directly. It is a precious chance for us to form bonds with Amida Buddha, so let us be sure to chant every single day.
The Letters is a compilation of letters by Master Rennyo. We read out The Letters every morning and evening.
The other-power faith bestowed by Amida Buddha is clearly taught in both Hymn of True Faith and The Letters.