Criticism of “Shinjin is the True Cause” and “Reciting (The Name) in Gratitude”
Recently, a small group of scholars have criticized the main points of our Jodo-Shinshu teachings, namely: “shinjin is the true cause (of our birth in the Pure Land)” and “reciting (the Name) in gratitude (for our indebtedness).”]
These scholars do not seem to disagree that shinjin is the true cause of our birth in the Pure Land. They do argue, however, that reciting the Nembutsu to express gratitude for the cause of our birth in the Pure Land having been established by Amida Buddha is not part of the Venerable Master’s thought, but rather, is a later development. These scholars assert that this thought is something that Master Rennyo added.
Are these assertions true? In his Shoshin-gé, the Venerable Master wrote:
We enter the “rightly-established group” without effort
The moment faith in Amida’s Primal Vow is awakened.
(How can we not) express our gratitude for that Vow of Great Compassion
By reciting the Tathagata’s Name?
Further, in the Goshosoku-shu (Collection of (the Venerable Master Shinran’s) Messages) 『親鸞聖人御消息集』（編纂善性）, it states: “Those who consider their birth in the Pure Land to have been determined should be grateful to the Buddha, and express their indebtedness by holding the Nembutsu deeply in mind and reciting it.”
As can be determined from these quotations, there is no doubt that those who hold that “reciting (the Name) in gratitude” does not exist in the Venerable Master’s thought are incorrect. I believe, however, that there is a much more fundamental problem with those who hold such as position.
As already related, reciting the Nembutsu in gratitude for the assurance that we will be born in the Pure Land is the most important doctrinal point in our Jodo-Shinshu teaching. I believe the reason misunderstandings regarding this arise because those who hold such a position have not had the experience of receiving shinjin, and as a result, do not have any experience of being in the “Rightly-established group (of those assured of birth in the Pure Land) in the present.”
Those who criticize reciting the Nembutsu in gratitude generally make the following three assertions:
1. The Nembutsu that the Venerable Master speaks of is the “great practice” (daigyo) 大行mentioned in the Chapter on Faith of the Kyogyoshinsho: “The ‘great practice’ is reciting the Name of the Tathagata of Unhindered Light,” (大行者，則稱無礙光如來名) and can be considered “great practice” even when recited without shinjin, i. e. , even a Nembutsu that is recited without shinjin has the power to bring about shinjin. The Nembutsu is not only an expression of gratitude after the attainment of faith, it should have the power to awaken shinjin even before faith.
2. The Venerable Master does not make a distinction between the Nembutsu recited before receiving shinjin and the Nembutsu recited after receiving shinjin. Although the teaching of “reciting (the Name) in gratitude” does speak of gratitude, originally, there was no difference in the Nembutsu before and after receiving shinjin.
3. The Venerable Master urged us to recite the “Nembutsu of the true gate真門” (the Nembutsu of the 20th Vow of “self-centered effort”), because by reciting it, it becomes the “true Nembutsu” (the Nembutsu of the 18th Vow of “Buddha-centered effort”). The Nembutsu is not only an expression of gratitude for our indebtedness; it helps us receive the shinjin based on “Buddha-centered power.”
Those who criticize the teaching of “reciting (the Name) in gratitude” assert that although it does refer to reciting the Nembutsu in gratitude for our indebtedness to the Buddha, the Nembutsu also has the power to arouse shinjin, and that the Venerable Master referred to the Nembutsu in that way too.