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 Purpose of the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho

The rise of a great religion such as Mahayana Buddhism has its sufficient reason. Shinran-Shonin (Kenshin-Daishi) appeared in Japan for the sake of the sinful and the wicked. He founded the Sect of Jodo-Shinshu as a new method in Buddhism by which the Great Nirvana could be attained. In other words, Shinran-Shonin, surveying all the fields of both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, propagated the Dharma (Ho) of Buddha Amitabha in the form of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. His compassion for the people led him to write this noble book. He experienced for himself the Buddhism of Self-Power, (Jiriki), profound and philosophical, and found that it was beyond the power of ordinary people, especially in the Age of Depravity.

In the days of Shinran-Shonin, the great sects of Buddhism such as Kegon, Tendai, Shingon, and Zen flourished. They were regarded to be the highest authentic doctrines or the trunk of Buddhism.

Kegon is a grand and sublime religion. It is the direct manifestation of the Buddha's transcendental wisdom, by which the Reality of the whole universe is revealed and developed to the fullest extent. But it is extremely difficult, almost beyond the power of human comprehension.

The philosophy of Tendai says that even a moment's thought contains all the truth and all the elements of the worlds, from Buddha countries to Evil Worlds (Akushu), and that all things are systematically blended together by virtue of the The Laws of Reality , or the ten Real Categories (Ju-Nyoze), such as Phenomenon (so), Quality (sho), Substance (tai), Power (riki), Motion or Action (sa), Cause (in), Conditions (en), Result (ka), Comprehension (ho), and the law of Inter-blending (honmatsu-kukyo-to). And in the state of perfect calmness of the mind through Meditation or through Spiritual Intuition in Meditation, one can grasp simultaneously the Truth of Void (ku), Phenomenon (ke), and the Middle way (chu or chudo).

Shingon teaches the organic unity of the Six Elements (roku-dai) - Earth (chi), Water (sui), Fire (ka), Wind (tu), Void (ku), and Consciousness (shiki). Through Meditation they also attempt unity with the Absolute and to know their own Mind in its true nature. Zen Buddhism wishes to find Buddha abruptly by realizing the Truth through Meditation.

Shinran-Shonin, having studied these doctrines and philosophies for many years, thought that philosophical doctrines might be good for the wise, but the ignorant and the wicked had no other way but the Liberation through Buddha Amitabha, and that only His Supreme Vow (Hogan) and His Sacred Name (Myogo) could give them the True Benefit (Shinri). For this reason Shinran-Shonin believed in Buddha Amitabha and wrote the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. And through this wonderful book he wished to express his own faith, thankfulness and gratitude to Buddha Amitabha, Buddha Sakyamuni, and all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (Bosatsu) for their compassion and skilful devices (Hoben).

All philosophical schools of Buddhism believe that they can reach the supreme wisdom by accomplishing the duties of the Four Grades- Teaching (Kyo), Philosophy or Truth (Ri), Practice (Gyo), and Attainment or Enlightenment (Ka or Sho), that is, in the Teachings of Buddha there is Philosophy or Truth, and by Practising the Philosophy they can attain Nirvana, the supreme wisdom. This is the general law of Buddhism. But Shinran-Shonin saw the greater truth in Buddhism, and he believed that the wicked and the unwise could be saved only through the pure Faith in Amitabha, the property of which being Buddha's Wisdom (Chi-e) and Mercy (Ji-hi) which are all powerful. For this reason, following the fashion of the Patriarchs, he, proclaimed the Doctrine of Teaching (Kyo), Practice (Gyo), Faith (Shin), and Attainment (Sho), and on which he established the Jodo-Shinshu.

In this case, the True Teaching (Kyo) is the Larger Sutra of Pure Land (Dai-Muryo ju-kyo, the Larger Sukhavati-vyuha), in which the True Practice or His Sacred Name Namu-Amida-Butsu and His Supreme Vow (Hongwan) are manifest. And we are saved by believing in His Sacred Name and Vow and can be reborn in the Pure Land (Jodo), where we attain Enlightenment.

He put absolute value upon Pure Faith (Joshin), the sole cause of Enlightenment, and he wrote the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho chiefly for the purpose of manifesting the Pure Faith, discriminating it from other faiths for the Temporary Paradise (Ke-Shin-Do), and the Enlightenment, distinguishing it from other Schools of Self-Effort.

In the Larger Sutra (The Larger Sukhavati-vyuha) we read: All Buddhas do like this; preach like this; and teach like this. This is My Law (the Buddha's). (1) Having read this phrase, Shinran-Shonin firmly believed that the Larger Sutra, in which Amida's Vows are perfectly manifested, is the True Teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni and that for the sake of this Teaching all Buddhas appeared in the world. Indeed Amida's teaching is most adapted for the ages of depravity, and the truth of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho is acceptable by all people, and those who believe are given the true Benefit.

In reality, Shinran-Shonin systematized and accomplished the works of the Seven Patriarchs (Hichi-Koso) of Pure Land School (Jodo-mon) of India, China and Japan. Some teachers put stress on Practice (Gyo), others on the Recitation of the Sacred Name (Shomyo or Nembutsu), and some on Faith (Shin), but Shinran-Shonin most distinctly and most conspicuously revealed the True Pure Faith (Shinjitsu-no-Joshin) in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho with many evidences and testimonies quoting Sutras and discourses. Therefore we look upon this Living Book with reverence as the Dharma-kaya (Hosshin, or Body of the Law) of Shinran-Shonin. Indeed it is the Oasis in the desert, and the Light in the darkness.

Shinran-Shonin was ever conscious of his ignorance and wickedness, and called himself Gutoku Shinran , that is to say Shinran, a Simple Bald-headed Man . He was humble and deeply reflected upon himself by the Light of Buddha Amitabha; yet, why did such a meek man write as great a book as the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho , in which he sometimes rebuked the scholars of other Schools so harshly? This is the point that we must consider.

Of course he had no personal grudge against them, nor was it because of his ignorance of Buddhism. He was full of thankfulness to all Buddhas for Amitabha's salvation. This thankfulness and joy begot the spirit of gratitude and at last he rose to repay the Teaching. His compassion for his fellow beings led him to proclaim the true Benefit of the Pure Land and to compose the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho.

In the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho and other writings he expressed a deep lamentation reflecting upon himself, but on the other hand, he rejoiced at the Larger Sutra and discourses and commentaries of the precedented Patriarchs, gaining victory over difficulties and adverse circumstances. He was especially glad to be blessed with the pure Faith by which he could rid himself of the eternal suffering of birth-and-death. Therefore he ardently wished all the people to believe in Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, and to repose in the Power of Amida's Great Vow and to meet with one another in the Land of Bliss. He was of the same faith as Zendo who said: To hold the true faith and to persuade others to believe you is very hard, nay, almost impossible; and if you could propagate His great mercy, you have really repaid Buddha Amitabha. (2)

In reality, he founded the Jodo-Shinshu by writing the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, but he was not proud of it al all. Rather, he was humble and gracious, and always praised, glorified and revered his teacher Honen-Shonin(3)and said, 'It is Honen-Shonin who founded the Jodo-Shinshu and proclaimed the chosen Vow of Buddha Amitabha (Senjaku-Hongan).' Shinran-Shonin also respected and revered Prince Regent Shotoku (Shotoku-Taishi) whom he called the Lord of Teachings in Japan (Wagakuni-no-Kyoshu). And as for the great teachers in the past, he said, Each of the Patriarchs of the three countries proclaimed of his own accord the Jodo-Shinshu, (4)and he taught the people to come to the teachings of those great teachers.

The actions and deeds of Shinshu adherents always proceed out of their pure Faith. This is the characteristic of Shinshu, which is distinguished from the ideas of other Schools of Buddhism. Their faith, thankfulness and joy are none other than the virtues of His Sacred Name.

The Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, as stated before, is the book of confession of Shinran-Shonin. Speaking objectively, he intended in this book to expound the spirit of the Sen jaku-Hongan-Nembutsu-shu (lit. The Sacred Name as the Realization of Amida's chosen Excellent Vow) written by his great teacher Honen-Shonin, the founder of the Jodu-shu. He also attempted through this book to correct the heretic views of the scholars of Buddhist Schools of Self-Effort or Shodo-mon, and consequently he wished the adherents of the Jodo-shu not to deviate from the right path of Pure Land Buddhism. At the same time he hoped that the followers of the Schools of Self-Effort would not entertain any misguided prejudices.

The scholars of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho have discussed the intention of Shinran-Shonin in composing this book. They state as follows: Shinran-Shonin wrote the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho with the following object in mind:

  1. To express his thankfulness and faith in Amitabha for his salvation and to lead all the people to the same realization.
  2. To establish a true religion in Buddhism, Jodo-Shin-Shu.
  3. To distinguish the true faith and the True Pure Land from the inferior faiths and the Temporary Pure Land.
  4. To proclaim widely the doctrine of The True Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment (Kyo, Gyo, Shin and Sho).
  5. To propagate the good Law of Buddha Amitabha, crushing heretic views of the various branches of Pure Land Schools, and the prejudice of other Schools of Self-Effort.
  6. To reveal the true sense and spirit of the Senjaku-Hongan-Nembutsu-shu by Honen-Shonin, his teacher.
  7. To lead the scholars of other Schools in Buddhism to the True Teaching.
  8. To indicate the wrong views of other religions.

The seven articles, from 2 to 8, are all included in the first article.

Historically speaking, the reasons for composing the Kyo-Gyo-Shun-Sho can be known by the notation at the end of the book. Shinran-Shonin wrote about the exile of Honen-Shonin and himself in the first year of Shogen (1207), the first meeting with Honen-Shonin at Yoshimizu in Kyoto (1201), and the transference of the Senjaku-shu by Honen-Shonin to Shinran-Shonin himself. In closing he wrote:

Thanking heartily my teacher for his kind instruction and meditating upon the infinite mercy of our Tathagata, here I put down the true doctrine of Shinshu and the essence of the Teachings of the Pure Land, without regard for the sarcastic criticism of the world. Therefore, I sincerely wish that those who read this book would be born in the Pure Land through their faith in the Power of His Vow, and that even the abusers would be blessed with conversion in the end.

From the above quotation we can see clearly Shinran-Shonin's intention for composing this noble work.

The irreligious calamity in the year of Shogen moves us deeply.

In consequence of this calamity Honen-Shonin was exiled to Hata in the province of Tosa, and Shinran-Shonin to Kokubu of Echigo. Taking advantage of these terrible punishments, the happy tidings of Buddha Amitabha came to spread to every nook and corner of Japan. Indeed the adverse circumstances brought him joyous, fruits. The Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho was firstly projected by virtue of this terrible event. As a rule, a religion spreads by encountering difficulties and adversities. This truth can be applicable to the case with Shinran, and indeed his teaching has shone most brilliantly in the history of religion of Japan.

Shinran-Shonin's conversion under Honen-Shonin at Yoshimizu in the first year of Kennin (1201A.D.), and the transference of the Senjaku-shu in the second year of Genkyu (1205 A.D.) from his master these two historical events can be conjectured to be the principal reason of composing the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. This book, as we have already mentioned, is the self-manifestation of Amida's compassion and the confession of Shinran's faith, that is, it is the description of his conversion from the Path of Difficult Practice (Nangyo-do) to the Way of Salvation by Amida's Vow of the Path of Easy Practice (Igyo-do). The first five books of Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho are the exposition of True Salvation and the last chapter, Kenshin-do denotes the attitude of the true disciple and the course of his conversion.

In Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, Shinran-Shonin confessed his faith for the sake of the people, and at the same time he intended to protect the Senjaku-shu. For in those days the Senjaku-shu was attacked and reproved by many scholars. Moreover, there sprang many heretical views among the disciples of Honen-Shonin as to the doctrine, and the true meaning was perverted and wrongly interpreted. In order to tide over the religious crisis for the sake of the glory of the Great Sage and of the honour of his master, Shinran-Shonin wrote the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho.

Those days were indeed the ages of persecution against the new religion. The Buddhist scholars of Mount Hiyei and of Nara, who belonged to the Schools of the Path of Self-Effort, abhorred, accused and even persecuted the new religion without cause. They were always ready to attack the priests of the new religion as rioters or breakers of peace and order. On the other hand the Scholars of Confucianism (Jukyo) and Taoism (Dokyo) dared to rebuke the followers of Nembutsu School (Nembutsu-shu) without discriminating right and wrong. In the end there appeared the formal protest by Myoe-Shonin and the impeachment by Gedatsu-Shonin, and at last the Order of Nembutsu at Yoshimizu was condemned to disperse. This religious disturbance has an intimate connection with the Senjaku-shu. For instance, the Sai- jarin (The Crushing of the Heretic Doctrine) by Myoe-Shonin, the Jodo-Ketsugi-sho (The Judgment of the Doctrine of Pure Land) by Koin, and the Dan-Senjaku (The Impeachment of the Senjaku-shu) by Josho, were the books written against the Senjaku-shu.

The outward impeachments and abuses were comparatively easy to bear, but the formidable enemy was in their own circle -- among Honen's disciples. Honen-Shonin had three hundred and eighty disciples and more whom he kindly taught for many years. Nevertheless, strange to say, very few disciples could understand clearly the true spirit of Honen-Shonin. Some disciples insisted a new heretic view, Ichinengi , and said that a man could enter the Pure Land by reciting the Sacred Name even once in his life time; and some entertained Tanen-gi , that is, repetitions of Nembutsu is necessary for the rebirth into the Pure Land, and another had the doctrine of Shogyo-hongan-gi , that is, Buddha Amitabha's Vow is to save the people who fulfilled all moral laws or merits without emphasis on Faith.

Those who insisted on the Doctrine of Merits as the True Sense of Amida's Vow (Shogyo-hongan-gi) impeached the Senjaku-shu as Honen's temporary teaching. They said that Honen-Shonin in reality supported the Doctrine of Merits . And some of the disciples were so impudent and audacious as to say that the Senjaku-shu was not Honen-Shonin's real work.

Soon after the death of Honen-Shonin the Jodo-shu Sect branched into four great schools: - Seizan, Chinzei, Kubon, Cho-rakuji. Of these all misunderstood the Senjaku-shu and their doctrines were nothing but their own heretical opinions, deviating from the true sense of Jodo-shu. Such being the circumstances, Shinran-Shonin was at last compelled to compose the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. He discriminated and separated Shin (faith) from Gyo (practice or reciting of the Sacred Name), while Honen-Shonin always taught apparently to recite the Sacred Name (Gyo) as the condition of the rebirth into the Pure Land. Shinran-Shonin also distinguished the right faith from the wrong, and indicated the difference between the True Pure Land (Shindo) and the Temporary Pure Land (Kedo) in the chapter of Keshindo . He judged and asserted that the 11th, 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th Vows are the True Vows, and the 19th and 20th Vows are Temporary Vows - the causes of the Temporary Pure Land. By so doing, Shinran-Shonin clarified the true meaning of the Senjaku-shu.

He said in Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho as follows:

Both priests and lay-adherents in these depraved ages, nay, even the so called patriarchs of Buddhist sects entertain philosophical interpretations and hold heretical views, saying: Amitabha and His Pure Land exist within the mind, and not beyond this earthly world. They do not believe in the Enlightenment in the Pure Land; They do find more religious value in Meditation and merits than in the pure faith of the Sacred Name. Alas! They are all blind to the True Faith imperishable!

Again he lamented saying:

Most of the priests, who cling to the doctrine of the Path of Self-Effort and who have gone astray from the genuine Path of Shin-shu, are not so unwise as to understand the Buddha's teachings correctly. They cannot discriminate between the true and the temporal teachings. The scholars of Confucianism in the cities of Kyoto and Nara do not know what work (or practice) is the most beneficial to the sinful, nor do they distinguish between the right path and the wrong.(5)

In conclusion, Shinran-Shonin, on the one hand, pleaded for the Senjaku-shu and its author Honen-Shonin and on the other hand/ he confessed his faith, following the faith of Vasubandhu (Tenjin Bosatsu) and Donran-Daishi (Tan Luan). These are the reasons for which he composed Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. He said in the chapter of True Faith , as follows:-

Here I, Gutoku-Shinran, a simple priest, believing in the true teachings of all Buddhas, could know the discourses and commentaries. I was blessed to read with reverence the Three Sutras of Pure Land, but I was especially obliged to Vasubandhu's Jodo-ron Discourse on the Pure Land in, in which his pure faith (Isshin, or a single mind) in Amitabha is clearly described. (6)

1) The Larger Sutra, Vol 11, leaf 34.

2) The Ojo-Raisan (A Liturgy Praising the Rebirth in the Pure Land), leaf 17.

3) Shonin means a Venerable Person.

4) Kakunyo-Shonin's Goden-sho (Life of Shinran-Shonin), Vol. 11, Chap. 23; The Book of Keshindo, Part 1, P20.

5) The Book of Keshindo, the Conclusive Passage.

6) The Book of Shin, The Introduction.

  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)