The Five Fold Teaching - Requirements For Birth

Master Rennyo is such a beautiful writer, he is very simple and clear, and before I begin I would suggest that anyone new here, or looking to receive Shinjin; Master Rennyo's letters are a great place to start.  The book the Ofumi, is a collection of the Masters letters, and they are very simple, self explanatory, and his thoughts are repeated in different ways over and over.  In my view this is a great way to learn about the Dharma in simple terms and a must read.   You can find this book along with many other books, articles and inspired posts online here:

So onto the Fivefold Teaching; Master Rennyo speaks to us and gives us the five Teaching's on what is necessary to reach Shinjin.  This is such an important chapter of how and why, that I am going to share it all below...

Let us read what he says in Fascicle II:11 from the Ofumi.


In recent years, the import of the teaching of our tradition's Master Shinran has been presented in various ways in the provinces, with a lack of uniformity.  This is a most deplorable situation.  For, to begin with, although the birth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land through Other Power faith has been of primary importance in our tradition, some brush aside the matter of faith and do not consider it.  They propose that 'faith is not forgetting that Amida Tathagata settled our birth at the time of his perfect enlightenment ten kalpas ago."

What is completely lacking in this is the element of taking refuge in Amida and realizing Other Power Faith.  Therefore however well they may know that their birth has been settled since the time of Amida's perfect enlightenment ten kalpas ago, UNLESS they fully know the significance of Other Power faith, through which we attain birth, they will not attain birth in the land of utmost bliss.  There are also some people who say, 'Even it we take refuge in Amida, this is to no avail without a good teacher.  Therefore, there is nothing for us to do but rely on a good teacher."  These are their words.  They, too, are people who have not properly attained our tradition's faith.

The function of a good teacher is just to encourage people to take refuge in Amida single-heartedly and steadfastly.

Therefore a fivefold teaching has been established giving the conditions necessary for birth -

FIRST:  The unfolding of good from the past;
SECOND: Meeting a good teacher;
THIRD:  Encountering Amida's light;
FOURTH: Attaining faith;
FIFTH:  Saying the Name of the Buddha.

Unless this fivefold teaching is realized, it is evident in the received texts that birth is impossible.  Thus the good teacher is the messenger who tells us to take refuge in Amida Buddha.  Without meeting a good teacher through the unfolding of good from the past, birth is impossible.  Bear in mind, however, that to abandon Amida, in whom we take refuge, and to take only the good teacher as essential is a serious error.


I wanted to clarify the last paragraph of Master Rennyo's writing about having a GOOD teacher...

In a nutshell a good teacher needs to be:
A person of Settled Shinjin
A person teaching the Dharma without ADDITION or SUBTRACTION; and completely as Shakyamuni Buddha and the Masters expounded it.

If your teacher is NOT teaching what the DHARMA says, then they are not good teachers - simple.  They maybe a lovely person, they may have a whole heap of knowledge, they maybe a scholar, and they may have the charisma and the personality to pull it all off... BUT IF THEY DONT TEACH THE PURE AND PRISTINE DHARMA OF THE MASTERS AND SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA then you need to find someone who does.

Obviously you do yourself no favours by staying with a teacher expounding false teachings, or ignoring fundamental teachings.  If you goal is to become a Buddha then you need to be fully focused on the TRUTH, and not on people and personalities.

Secondly if a teacher does not have SETTLED SHINJIN, which Master Rennyo tells us 'IS EVERYTHING' then they should not be teaching you - or ANYBODY. This is quite obvious really - how can you teach something that you dont know, or have NOT experienced....

Unfortunately there are many teacher's/scholars, who know alot; know the words and have the reputation, but ignore Shinjin, and dont understand it or have it...   So they ignore the true teachings; teach their own version of it; and mislead many people which is a grave error. Not only are they misrepresenting the Dharma, but they are also causing a whole lot of negative karma, by keeping many people from the truth.  By teaching the incorrect Dharma, they may stop countless people in this and future lifetime's from reaching SHINJIN and therefore the Pure Land!! and this is why it is considered the worst sin.

In Master Shinran's, Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, chapter 3 we read about why slandering the Dharma is the worst sin.....

Question: What are the characteristics of slandering the right dharma?

Answer: Saying there is no Buddha, no Buddha-dharma, no bodhisattva, no bodhisattva-dharma.  Deciding on such views, whether through understanding thus in one's own mind or receiving the ideas from others, is called slandering the right dharma.

Question: Taking such views only concerns the person himself. What pain and suffering does his act inflict on other sentient beings, that it should exceed the evil of the five grave offenses in seriousness?

Answer: If there were no Buddhas and bodhisattvas to expound the mundane and supramundane good paths and to teach and guide sentient beings, how could we know of the existence of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity?  Such mundane good would all be cut off, and the sages of the supramundane would all perish.  You know only the gravity of the five grave offenses, and not that they arise from the absence of the right dharma.  Thus, the person who slanders the right dharma is involved in the gravest karmic evil.


*I would suggest that you read the KGSS 3:120 onwards to get a full understanding of Master Shinrans writing on this topic.

Also a Good Teacher will encourage you to ask questions and to be open about your doubts and frustrations - as this is clearly beneficial.  LISTENING DEEPLY is the ONLY teaching in True Shin Buddhism, and so that is another area to watch out for...  We rely solely on Amida's OTHER POWER...  and NOT Self Power, in any way shape or form.

I also must point out that there have been cases, well one I can think of off hand, when the 'Good Teacher' has been the scriptures themselves...  Bodhisattva Nagajuna the First of the Seven Patriarchs, was the first Self Power Sage who found refuge in the OTHER POWER of Amida.  He didnt have a Teacher as it were, however by reading and studying the scriptures of Shakyamuni Buddha and LISTENING DEEPLY to them, he proclaimed that this was the EASY way and therefore, why go the difficult route...  He played a huge part in bringing the Amida Dharma to the world.  However this is a rare happening.

Also I want to repeat the couple of scriptures I quoted in my last post to make sure people understand that we Entrust AMIDA BUDDHA ONLY...

Master Rennyo in the Ofumi says...

Therefore sentient beings of the present time should realize that if they rely on Amida and, undergoing a decisive settling of faith, repeat the nenbutsu and are to be born in the land of utmost bliss, then all the kami in their various manifestations, recognizing this as the fulfilment of their own fundamental purpose, will rejoice and protect nenbutsu practicers.  Consequently, even if we do not worship the kami in particular, since all are encompassed when we rely solely on one Buddha, Amida, we give credence to them even thought we do not rely on them in particular.


Because the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are discrete manifestations of Amida Tathagata, Amida is the original teacher and the original Buddha of the Buddhas of the ten directions.  For this reason, when we take refuge in one Buddha, Amida, we take refuge in all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas; hence the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are all encompassed within the one body of Amida.


So my point here is that we DO NOT worship or pray to any of the other Buddha's, bodhisattva's, or kami's - we ONLY trust in the ONE BUDDHA, AMIDA!! It really couldnt be easier - ONE BUDDHA  -  AMIDA;   ONE practice - Listening Deeply;   One Power -  OTHER POWER;   ONE goal, to become Buddhas at the end of this life by receiving Shinjin...

I think of it like a path; we have the (figurative) 84,000 paths that Buddha Shakyamuni speaks of - we are not all ready for the SAME path - and therefore there are MANY paths we can and do travel down throughout our various lifetimes.  We all will eventually ripen our karma sufficiently so that we reach the path of Amida Tathagata...  We can only imagine our journeys during these lifetimes - some lives we learn, some we choose not to learn, some we are unable to learn; some help to ripen our karma, some dont, and some do the opposite - no one story is the same, and we have many many lifetimes of 'stories' that we have no idea about...  the scenarios are endless and we will not know them until we become Buddha's ourselves.

So Unfolding Good from the Past - this is dependant upon our past lives, this life and our experiences....   If your karma is ripe - you can hear the Dharma and it can click for you right away - where as someone who is not ready, Amida's Dharma may not make any sense to them at all...   Most of us are in the middle somewhere and have a ways to go to receive Shinjin from when we first hear it.  So what do we do - we LISTEN DEEPLY....  we hear or read the Dharma, and we LISTEN DEEPLY; we hear a bit more we LISTEN DEEPLY again, and it goes on like this, breaking down the barriers, removing the obstacles, and trying to get our ego out of the way; until the final piece fits into the gap and we receive the precious gift from Amida :)

Mostly we meet Amida face-to-face during our own time of "Listening Deeply" not avoiding Amida but embracing and being embraced by Him".

Listening deeply is the most important thing.  It is the one practice we are called to so that our karma can ripen to to point that Amida can give us His gift of Shinjin - aka His Faith-Mind Consciousness.

And of course, It doesnt make any difference whether we are clever or a scholar etc in this life; the Dharma is able to be understood by anyone when the time is right.  This is the path of OTHER POWER....  not self power....  We rely solely on Amida Buddha's Other Power and Entrust our karmic destiny to him; say the Name; and LISTEN DEEPLY to the Dharma, and that is the beauty of it :)

Let us read a passage in the Tannisho XII, to understand this better...  Yuien-Bo says...

Since the Name is devised to be easily said by the unlettered who cannot even grasp the basic meaning of the sutras and commentaries, such utterance is called easy practice.  Learning is required in the Path of Sages; therefore, it is called difficult practice.  Some people mistakenly pursue knowledge for the sake of fame and profit - their birth in the next life is doubtful, so states an attesting passage.


So we see that the Dharma has been written for all to understand, when the time is right, and that there is no need to be a brilliant scholar or extremely clever - as Amida wants to save US ALL...  Not just the clever ones....  And we have all most likely been a CLEVER ONE in some of our many lives, it makes no difference.  What we see and experience in this life is just a drop in the bucket of many many many lives.

There is also a scripture found in the 'Lamp for Latter Ages' where Master Shinran, remembering his time as a young man with Master Honen says...

I recall hearing the late Master Honen say, "Persons of the Pure Land tradition attain birth in the Pure Land by becoming their foolish selves." Moreover, I remember him smile and say, as he watched humble people of no intellectual pretensions coming to visit him, "Without doubt their birth is settled." And I heard him say after a visit by a man brilliant in letters and debating, "I really wonder about his birth." To this day these things come to mind.


So the Dharma was taught to the illiterate peasants in ancient Japan, so they could hear it and get it, without being able to read or understand the great Sutra's or writings of the time/past.  Whereas the scholar, who had studied long and hard and was a very smart man - he didnt get it....   So intellect, and cleverness which means a whole lot in this day and age, means nothing with regards to Shinjin...  It is just an interesting point to note...

When we realise this, we realize the Great compassion and love of Amida Buddha for us - he didnt work as Bodhisattva Dharmakara for many kalpas, to save the clever and brilliant - he worked and worked so hard to save those of us who were not capable of saving ourselves, who were beyond help and hope, and to give us the same chance...

If we can imagine the power of Shakyamuni's Buddha field when he was on the earth - imagine hearing him with our own ears, and being in his presence...  How much easier would it be to understand and to comprehend and be lifted by his power...  Amida as the Bodhisattva Dharmakara made his Vows so that we, in times without that opportunity, and having no chance of reaching Buddhahood on our own; DID have a way.  He did it not for the powerful, knowledgable, or the clever among us (although they of course are included) - but for those who were evil, and ignorant of these matters; those who left to their own devices couldn't do it no matter how much they tried...  He did this for us....

He Vowed to save ALL OF US...  And he has already done that, but the time when WE realize it varies from one person to another.  We know that when Dharmakara became Amida Buddha, that it was because his Vows were fulfilled and ALL of us were saved....  The Fivefold Teaching tells us what we need, to come to Amida in this life and we are in the right place here to do this.  LISTENING DEEPLY to the Dharma; ENTRUSTING our karmic destiny to Amida ONLY, and to release ourselves and our karma into his waiting arms to be embraced for the rest of our life, until this life ends, and we become a Buddha ourselves.

So I hope this has been helpful for you, a bit more of the guidance from Master Rennyo.

Namu Amida Butsu
Thank you Amida Buddha

Gassho,  Camille