The Tannisho is not for everyone

Near Broome, Western Australia. Image by Mark Healsmith

That there be no differing of shinjin among the fellow practicers, I take my brush with tears in my eyes and record this. Let the title be TannishoA Record in Lament of Divergences [from True Shinjin].

It should not be shown about indiscriminately. (A Record in Lament of Divergences; CWS, p. 680)

This sacred writing is an important scripture in our tradition. It should not be indiscriminately shown to any who lack past karmic good.

Shaku Rennyo (A Record in Lament of Divergences, CWS, p. 682)

Yuien’s final words caution readers of A Record in Lament of Divergences against careless dissemination of this book. Furthermore, at the end of an addendum attached to it, the eighth Abbot of the Hongwanji branch of Jodo Shinshu strengthens Yuien’s caution and qualifies it by saying that it should not be given to people who do not have the proper disposition.

In spite of these two cautions, A Record in Lament of Divergences has been indiscriminately translated, published, and openly marketed to the general public.  Of course, there is nothing that can be done about this. The book came into favour towards the end of the nineteenth century and has remained popular until only recently. These days, interest in it has begun to wane.

I have often wondered why the author himself — and later, Rennyo Shonin – issued their respective cautions. In the first case I think that Yuien-bo was ashamed of the disharmony within the Shin Buddhist sangha. After all, in the tradition of the Buddha Dharma, one of the principal characteristics of sangha is harmony. That is why Yuien tells us that, because it has been necessary for him to undertake this task, he is shedding tears and feels great sadness.

In a way Yuien is contributing to disharmony by criticising those who hold wrong views. Indeed, it is well known that, for many centuries, monks and lay people of both the Sravaka vehicle (Hinayana) and Bodhisattva vehicle (Mahayana) lived and worked together in peace and harmony, regardless of strong differences of opinion about faith and practice.

But the point to be made is that Yiuen has a particular and critical focus, which we must always keep before us when reading A Record in Lament of Divergences. This central concern is –  the importance of a proper understanding of the entrusting heart (shinjin) of Other Power.

Entrusting heart of Other Power is what we mean by ‘true shinjin’ (shinjitsu shinjin). It is perfectly clear that this is the sole basis of Yuien’s corrective intentions and endeavour.

So, I would qualify the cautions that I have quoted above by saying that this book should not be shown to anyone who does not share a single vital concern: Other Power shinjin. We should also remember that Yuien strongly recommends that we should also study the other received scriptures of True Pure Land Buddhism.

Finally, it is clear that Yuien has chosen persuasion rather than conflict as his approach; and so, should we.