Dharmacakra   The Teaching of Zuiken

Zuiken Saizo Inagaki

Zuiken Inagaki (1885-1981)


Introduction to the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho

  1. Foreword
  2. The Purpose of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  3. The Outline of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  4. The Seven Patriarchs in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  5. The True Teaching and the Temporary Teaching
  6. Relation between Gyo (Practice) and Shin (Faith)

The Seven Patriarchs in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho

The Pure Land School in Japan was firmly established for the first time by Honen-Shonin. And it was Shinran-Shonin who revealed the spirit of the Pure Land School even more clearly. His doctrine is completely described in his principal work, Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho.

The doctrine of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho is established on the Three Sutras (Sambu-kyo) of Pure Land School, and through the discourses (Ron) and commentaries (Shaku) of the Seven Patriarchs (Shichi-Koso).

Shinran-Shonin declared the unprecedented grand doctrine of Amida's Free Gift (parinamana Eko)(1) as the foundation of True Pure Land Sect (Jodo-Shinshu). As regards Gifts there are two kinds:

  1. The Gift of Entering into the Pure Land (Ohso-Eko), and
  2. The Gift of Returning from the Pure Land (Genso-Eko).

Then Shinran-Shonin, for the first time, published the new way of reaching Nirvana through the Four Laws (Shiho) - Kyo (Teaching), Gyo (Practice, or Work, or the Sacred Name), Shin (Faith), and Sho (Attainment, Enlightenment or Supreme Wisdom). He also clearly distinguished the true Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho from the untrue or temporary Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho

He clarified the characteristic or attributes of Buddha Amitabha and of men who are to be saved. He explained how our karmic evil is destroyed and how we can realise the Maha-Nirvana (Daihatsu-Nehan) - the highest, perfect wisdom.

Now let us consider historically the doctrine of the True Pure Land Sect. In the Introduction (Sojo) to the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho by Shinran-Shonin, he expressed his joy and gratitude for his having been able to see the commentaries and discourses of the great teachers of India, China and Japan.

In the Shoshinge at the end of the Book of True Practice (Gyo-kan), he describes the history of the True Pure Land Sect, mentioning the doctrinal succession of the Seven Patriarchs - Ryuju (Nagarjuna, 100-200) and Tenjin (Vasubandhu, 420-500) in India, Donran (Tan-luan, 476-542), Doshaku (Tao-ch'ao, 562-645), and Zendo (Shan-tao, 613-681) in China and Genshin (942-1017) and Genku (or Honen, 1133-1212) in Japan. And in the Book of Temporary Pure Land (Keshindo-kan), he also expresses his thankfulness to these Seven Great Teachers. This shows that Shinran-Shonin never preached a new religion. He was neither a protestant nor a heretical reformer, but he was a faithful successor of the Pure Land School. He systematized the doctrine of Pure Land School through strict critical studies.

At the end of the sixth book of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, he adds the same conclusive passage, professing that he personally succeeded Genku (Honen-Shonin). He rejoices at the flourishing of the Pure Land Teaching, and definitely states that Genku is the great Master of the Revival of Pure Land School. He mentions the Senja-ku-Hongan-Nembutsu-shu by Honen-Shonin, saying: The essence of Shinshu and the mystery of Nembutsu are completely described in this book. So saying, he expresses his exceeding joy for having acquired his Master's sanction to copy that precious book. He composed the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho in order to glorify Amitabha and repay his Master for his instructions. Therefore it is presumed that the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho was composed on the thoughts of the Senjaku-shu by Honen-Shonin; but he developed it, and revealed more clearly the deep meaning of the Nembutsu of Pure Land Sect, especially according to the doctrine and faith of Vasubandhu - The Discourse on the Pure Land.

Shinran-Shonin always respected and revered his teacher Honen-Shonin as an incarnation (Gonke) of Buddha Amitabha or Bodhisattva Seishi (Mahasthamaprapta). So he says in his Wasan (Songs, Verses). In the Tannisho (The Lamentation for the Heretic Views), he says:-

As for me, Shinran, simply obey my good Master (Honen-Shonin) and believe that it is by the Power of Amitabha alone that whosoever practices the Nembutsu is saved. (Chapter 2)

It should therefore be said that Shinran-Shonin had no other intention but to preach and expound the teaching of Nembutsu handed down by Honen-Shonin, his Master.

Honen-Shonin succeeded the Nembutsu of Zendo-Daishi (Shan-tao), a great teacher in China. Zendo-Daishi wrote a Commentary on the Meditation on Amitayus Sutra (Kangyo-sho) and he came to the conclusion that the Kangyo is none other that the manifestation of the Nembutsu.

Zendo-Daishi says this Sutra has a dual purpose: one is to teach how to Meditate on Amitayus (Kambutsu-Zammai), Budda of Infinite Life, and the other object is to teach the power of Nembutsu (Nembutsu-Zanmai, or Recitation of the Sacred Name). In the Meditation there are 16 kinds or grades, and these grades of Meditation can be divided into two kinds of Good: one is the Good of Meditation (Jozen), and the other is the Good of Morality and Religious Observances (Sanzen). These two kinds of Good are explicitly the cause of entering into the Pure Land. But, exploring the deep meaning of the two kinds of Good, he decided that the Nembutsu with the Deep Mind (Jinshin, that is, the deep Faith) is the true cause of rebirth in the Pure Land, and he put stress upon the Deep Mind .

Zendo-Daishi put preponderance upon the Recitation of the Sacred Name or Nembutsu. This Practice is specially called the Shojogo or the Principle Right Karma (Cause), and the others are called Jogo or the Auxiliary Karma (Cause). So dividing, he declared the Nembutsu is the chief of all the practices described in the Sutra Meditation on Amitayus. Moreover he said the Nembutsu is the most important of all the Buddhist Practices taught by Buddha Sakyamuni.

Why is the Nembutsu so important and so powerful a key to open the door of the Pure Land? Zendo-Daishi thought it was because the Nembutsu accords with Amida's Vow, and other practices do not.

In the 18th Vow of the Larger Sutra Buddha Amitabha says: Whosoever recites the Sacred Name ten times, nay, even once, can enter my (Amitabha's) Buddha Country. In the Ojo-Raisan (Liturgy of Pure Land), Zendo-Daishi speaks of the Senju or the Exclusive Practice (Reciting the Nembutsu exclusively) and the Zasshu or the Miscellaneous Practices (the Practices of many sorts), and he argues that the former is more important and more powerful than the latter. So reasoning, he encourages the people to practice the Nembutsu exclusively.

Honen-Shonin, succeeding the doctrine of Zendo, composed the Senjaku-shu, and he quoted in it Zendo's argument, while Shinran-Shonin, notwithstanding the two precedented great teachers, revealed the mystery of Nembutsu standing on the Larger Sutra (Larger Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra). Zendo and Honen relied chiefly upon the Meditation on Amitayus Sutra (Amitayus Dhyana-sutra), while Shinran-Shonin thought the Larger Sutra was the most fundamental teaching, for Amida's Vows are most perfectly denoted therein. Consequently Zendo and Honen encouraged the followers to practice the Nembutsu without distinguishing Practice from Faith. But Shinran-Shonin, according to the true meaning of Nembutsu, distinguished the Recitation of the Sacred Name from the true Faith in the Power of the Vow.

At the outset of the Book of True Teaching , Shinran-Shonin mentions the title of the Larger Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra and says: The Larger Sutra is the True Teaching. In every other book of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, he places the name of the Vow. For instance, in the second book he places the name of the 17th Vow, The Vow of His Name Being Recited by All Buddhas ; in the third book he places the name of the 18th Vow, The Vow of Believing with Sincerity-an-Joy, and so forth. In the last and sixth book, he places the names of Meditation on Amitayus Sutra and of Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra (Amida-kyo). This shows the True Pure Land Sect was founded on the one hand through the Sutra, and on the other hand through Amida's Vows.

The Meditation on Amitayus Sutra corresponds to the 19th Vow in the explicit sense (Ken-no-Gi), and the Smaller Sutra corresponds to the 20th Vow, also in the same sense. These two Vows the 19th and the 20th, are not the True Vows, but they are Preparatory (or preliminary) Vows (Ken-no-Gan), while the 18th is the true Vow (Shinjitsu-no-Gan). Shinran-Shonin also discriminates the true Sutra (the Larger Sutra) from the temporary Sutras (Meditation on Amitayus Sutra and the Smaller Sutra).

The first five books of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho are of the True Vows; and the last book is of the Preparatory or Temporary Vows. Shinran-Shonin says: As for the Vows, there are true Practice and true Faith, and temporary Practice and Temporary Faith.

The Sutra tells that Buddha Amitabha, when He was yet a Bodhisattva Dharmakara, made 48 Vows and practised all the necessary Works, i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path and Sixfold Paramitas, and at last He attained the Final Enlightenment (Shogaku). It also teaches that the Adornments in the Pure Land are nothing but the manifestation of His Supreme Enlightenment and Infinite Love (Daihi). The cause for the rebirth of all beings in the Pure Land is made Possible through the power of Amitabha or His Sacred Name. Why is this so? It is because of the special characteristic of the Power of Amitabha's Vow. He vowed to save all beings by virtue of the Power of His Vow or His Name. This is the doctrine of Shin Buddhism.

After Nagarjuna (Ryuju), Vasubandhu (Tenjin) appeared in the northern part of India. He composed the Discourse on the Pure Land (Jodo-ron) according to the Three Sutras of Pure Land School, but especially on the Larger Sutra. The third Patriarch Donran in China, taking up Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land, made a commentary on it, which was entitled the Commentary on the Discourse on the Pure Land (Jodo-Ronchu or Ronchu). He also, following after the pattern of Vasubandhu, tried to reveal the spirit of the Larger Sutra. He wrote another book Buddhist Verses Glorifying Amitabha (San-Amidabutsu-ge) in accordance with the Larger Sutra. At the head of the Commentary on the Discourse on Pure Land, Donran mentioned Nagarjuna's Division of Buddhism the Path of Difficult Practice (Nangyo-do, through which men are to be Enlightened in the present life), and the Path of Easy Practice (Igyo-do, through which men are to be Enlightened in the Pure Land in the next life). Nagarjuna's Division is to show the Power of Amida's Vow. Donran says in his Ronchu:

The path of Easy Practice (Igyo-do) is that if anyone aspires to be born in Amitabha's Pure Land through faith in Him, he shall be born in His Land of Purity through the Power of His Vow (Gan-riki), and that he shall be counted among the Number of Congregation in the Pure Land through the power of Amitabha. Those who are predestined to be born in the Pure Land are in the Rank of No-Retrogression (Shojoju; Futaiten). (2)

Bodhisattva Vasubandhu classified the adornments of the Pure Land into three kinds, that is,

  1. the Adornments of the Land (Kokudo-Shogon) , which are composed of 17 kinds of adornments,
  2. the Adornments of Buddha Amitabha (Butsu-Shogon) , which are composed of 8 kinds of adornments, and
  3. the Adornments of Accompanying Bodhisattvas (Bosatsu-Shogon) , which consist of 4 kinds of adornments.

So there are 29 kinds of adornments in the Pure Land in all. Donran-Daishi says:

These Three Kinds of Adornments are caused by Amitabha's pure merciful mind, i.e. by the power of His 48 Devine Vows. The Supreme Vows are of Amida's pure mind; therefore the fruits of His pure mind, i.e. the adornments of His Land of Bliss are also pure. Without cause no one can enjoy the adornments of the Pure Land. Amida's cause for His own Enlightenment is identical with the cause of our entering the Pure Land. Such is the characteristic of His Enlightenment and His Vows. (3)

To expound Donran's meaning more in detail, the Pure Land of Amitabha is the natural outcome or fruit or realisation of His Vows. There is no absurdity or illogicality therein. If the mind is pure, then the Buddha's Land is also pure. The phenomena are but the appearances created by the mind. This is the Law of the universe, spiritual and natural.

On the other hand, all sentient beings, sinful and wicked, cannot create the Pure Buddha Country, because their minds are defiled with passions, covetousness and darkness. Such being the undeniable fact of the sinful world, we must resort to His Compassionate Vow and take refuge in His wisdom and power for our final Enlightenment. We must be born in His Pure Land to be Enlightened therein. Some people would say that the salvation by Amitabha is unreasonable because it is against the Law of Cause and Effect taught by the Buddha. Or, they would say that Buddha Sakyamuni is the Teacher or the Leader, and not the Emancipator, and therefore we must enlighten ourselves by our own effort according to the Law of Karma; that is the teaching of the Buddha; that is the truth of Buddhism.

Of course, we know the Law of Karma and the truth of Self Enlightenment. But Amitabha's deliverance is different from that of Christianity. It is not against the Law of Karma or the Law of Causation. Because it is Amitabha's Law of Karma that we are saved by the Power of His Vow; our Karma is made identical with that of Buddha Amitabha. His power is embodied in His Enlightenment-His Sacred Name. That is the principle of deliverance in Shin Buddhism. Donran laid much stress upon the law of deliverance by Amitabha.

The deliverance consists of the principles of Other-Power (Tariki) and Turning His Merit towards Beings to Be Freed (Eko). In that case His Vow plays the principal role. Shinran-Shonin says: Other-Power (Tariki) means the power of Vow of the Tathagata Amitabha. (4) The doctrine of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho owes much to Donran's Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land. Therefore his Commentary helps us greatly to appreciate the doctrine of Pure Land. His book serves as the link between the Buddhism of Self-Effort and the Buddhism of Other-Power.

Zendo-Daishi is one of the greatest scholars of Pure Land School in China. His exposition of the Three Minds (Sanshin) in the Amitayus-dhyana Sutra (Meditation on Amitayus Sutra); is excellent and unique. The Three Minds have but subordinate sense apparently when compared with the Good of Meditation (Jozen) and the Good of Religious Observances (Sanzen) in the Kangyo, whereas Zendo revealed the deep meaning of the Sutra and laid preponderance upon the Three Minds as its principle thought. After studying the Kangyo carefully, he at last disregarded the Meditation and the Religious Observances, thinking that these two kinds Goods are not in accordance with the original purpose of Amida's Vow. And he taught the people to take refuge in the Nembutsu.

The Larger Sutra is taught explicitly, but the Amitayus-dhyana Sutra (Kangyo) has a dual meaning:

  1. literal, superficial and explicit meaning (Ken-no-Gi) and
  2. deep, implicit, reserved meaning (On-no-Gi).

So said Zendo-Daishi. It is inferred from the Amitayus-dhyana Sutra that the Smaller Amitayus Sutra has also a dual meaning, explicit (Ken) and implicit (On).

Shinran-Shonin says: The Three Minds of the Two Sutras, Kangyo and Daikyo, are different in the explicit sense, but in the implicit sense, (if we reveal the Hard-to-Believe Law the Truth of His ineffable Vow), the two are one and the same. (5) He discriminated most distinctly between the temporary and true as regards the Practice and Faith in the Vows. He quoted Zendo's commentaries many time in his Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. For instance, he explained after Zendo the Sacred Name Namu Amida-Butsu , the relation between Practice and Faith, the value of reciting the Sacred Name, the Three Minds in the Amitayus-dhyana-sutra and the Three Minds of the Larger Sutra, and so forth.

The Three Minds of the Amitayus-dhyana-Sutra are

  1. the True Sincere Mind (Shijoshin; Amida's sincerity in the implicit sense),
  2. the Deep Mind (Jinshin; implicitly, the true faith), and
  3. the Aspiration for Entering into Pure Land, Turning Merit towards Amitabha (Eko-Hotsugan-shin); implicitly, Amida's divine will of Calling).

The Three Minds of the Larger Sutra are

  1. the Sincere Mind (Shishin, truthfulness),
  2. Belief-with-joy (Shingyo, the true faith), and
  3. Aspiration for Rebirth in His Country (Yokusho).

Shinran-Shonin received instruction personally from Genku (Honen), but especially is he indebted to Donran and Zendo for the exposition of the True Faith in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho.

1) In the Anraku-shu by Doshaku there are six kinds of 'Eko', and in the Kegon-gyo ten kinds of 'Eko' are described.

2) The Ronchu, Vol. I leaf 1

3) The Ronchu, Vol II, leaf 25

4) The Book of Gyo, leaf 41.

5) The Book of Keshindo, Part I, leaf 18.

  1. Foreword
  2. The Purpose of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  3. The Outline of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  4. The Seven Patriarchs in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho
  5. The True Teaching and the Temporary Teaching
  6. Relation between Gyo (Practice) and Shin (Faith)