For practicers of the same mind

Here, then, I set down in small part the words spoken by the late Shinran Shonin that remain deep in my mind, solely to disperse the doubts of fellow practicers. (Tannisho, Preface)

In this final sentence of the Preface to the Tannisho Yuien says he is writing for ‘fellow practicers’ who have the same mind as he does.  ‘Fellow practicers’ (doshin gyoga) means ‘followers with the same mind’. Clearly Yuien intends to clarify what his dharma friends already know. He reminds them of teachings that they already share; teachings that are part of their lived experience.

The word for ‘doubt’ in this section of the Preface is different from the word often also translated as ‘doubt’ at the beginning. Bando Shojun’s translation of this final sentence uses ‘uncertainties’, which is a better choice.

Yuien was close to Shinran Shonin. More so than many other fellow practicers. Because of this he is in a position to reassure nembutsu friends that they have understood Shinran’s teaching correctly and can safely ignore those who are inventing distorted views of it. Indeed, anyone who is close to the translated writings of Shinran – for example, by constant study of The Collected Works of Shinran – would also be able to confirm the accuracy of Yuien’s account of Shinran’s teaching.

In the second section of the Tannisho Yuien identifies some of the incorrect ideas that were circulating in the nembutsu community, and he addresses them carefully and in detail. Yuien is not speaking to those who perpetrate the errors in question. Rather, he is talking to people of faith who are beleaguered by those who are careless with the teachings.

Yuien’s closing words at the end of the Tannisho instruct his readers ‘not to show [the Tannisho] around indiscriminately.’ This caution is pertinent because, as we have seen, he is writing for those of ‘the same mind’, people of true shinjin, whose hearts are at one with Shinran and his teacher Honen Shonin.

The nature and purpose of the Tannisho as revealed by the author means that the Tannisho is not necessarily suitable as an introduction to Jodo Shinshu. But it is a priceless treasure for people who are confronted or ambushed by distortions of the teaching. Speaking directly to women and men of true entrusting heart, and those aspiring to the same mind as theirs, it is a safe harbour and a reliable guide.

Author: George Gatenby

George is a Shin Buddhist priest and lives in South Australia