Erm... The posts here have more or less gone off track from the title of the thread.
However I'd like to pose a question. The recent threads like to quote from "scholars" etc but the gist of the Pure Land teachings is not whether one is a scholar or not. It is just simply to say the Nembutsu.
Even in Shin Buddhism there are scholars who acknowledge that the Three Pure Land Sutras may not have been directly 'spoken" by the historical Buddha, and evolved during early Mahayana. But then again, can we be very certain that even the Pali texts were directly from the Buddha Himself without any form of evolvement? Are these scholars "enlightened beings", are they the Buddha? We can argue on whether the Pure Land exists or not, or even whether the Pure Land teachings were really expounded by the Buddha. BUT more important is, when impermanence strikes, are we ready for it?
On the assertion that for practicers who do not read the sutras and commentaries and engage in study, birth is not settled.
This statement must be declared hardly worth mentioning.
All the sacred writings that clarify the significance of the truth and reality of Other Power state that one who entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow and says the nembutsu attains Buddhahood. Apart from this, what learning is essential for birth?
Indeed, the person confused about this should by all means engage in study and understand the significance of the Primal Vow. But nothing is more to be pitied than failure to understand the fundamental intent of the sacred teachings even though one reads and studies the sutras and commentaries.
The Name is meant to be easy to say for the person unfamiliar with even a single character and ignorant of the lines of discourse in the sutras and commentaries; hence it is called "easy practice."
It is the Path of Sages that takes learning to be essential; it is called "difficult practice." As for those who engage in study with wrong intentions, dwelling in thoughts of fame and profit, is there not the authoritative passage: "I wonder if their birth in the next life is really settled"?
At present, people of the sole practice of the nembutsu and those of the Path of Sages initiate disputes over the teaching, each claiming their own way to be superior and those of others inferior; as they do so, enemies of the dharma emerge and slander of the dharma is committed. Does this not finally result in abusing and bringing destruction to the teaching they themselves follow?
Suppose that all other schools joined together in declaring, "The nembutsu is for the sake of worthless people; that teaching is shallow and vulgar." Even then, without the slightest argument, one should reply "When foolish beings of inferior capacity like ourselves, persons ignorant of even a single letter, entrust themselves to the Vow, they are saved. Since we accept and entrust ourselves to this teaching, for us it is the supreme dharma, though for those of superior capacity it might seem utterly base. Even though other teachings may be excellent, since they are beyond our capacity they are difficult for us to put into practice. The fundamental intent of the Buddhas is nothing but freedom from birth-and-death for all, ourselves and others included, so you should not obstruct our practice of the nembutsu." If one responds without rancor thus, what person will do one harm? Moreover, there is an authoritative passage that states, "Where disputation takes place, blind passions arise. The wise keep their distance."
Further, the late master said:
Shakyamuni taught that there would be both people who entrust themselves to this teaching and people who abuse it. By the fact that I have entrusted myself fully to it and there are others who abuse it, I realize that the Buddha's words are indeed true. Hence, I realize all the more clearly that my birth is indeed firmly settled. If there were none who abused the teaching, then surely we would wonder why there are those who entrust but none who abuse it. This is not to say the nembutsu necessarily must be slandered; I merely speak of the fact that the Buddha, knowing beforehand that there would be both those who trust and those who slander, taught this so people would have no doubts.
Thus were his words
These days however, people seem to engage in learning to put a stop to criticism by others, making ready to devote themselves wholly to debate and argument. If one studies, more and more one realizes Amida's fundamental intent and grows in awareness of the immensity of the compassionate Vow, so that one can explain, to those who anxiously wonder how birth is possible for the wretched people like themselves, that the Primal Vow does not discriminate as to whether one's mind is good or evil, pure or defiled. Only then is there meaning in being a scholar. But to intimidate a person who happens to say the nembutsu in accordance with the Primal Vow without any forethought- insisting that one must have learning- is the act of a demon obstructing the dharma, of a foe of the Buddha. Not only do such people themselves lack shinjin of Other Power, but further they confuse others with mistaken thoughts.
One should cautiously fear that one may be going against the late Master's intent. Further, one should grieve if one is not in accord with Amida's Primal Vow.
(Tannisho 12, shinranworks.com)
Lamp for the Latter Ages 6
It is saddening that so many people, both young and old, men and women, have died this year and last. But the Tathagata taught the truth of life's impermanence for us fully, so you must not be distressed by it.
I, for my own part, attach no significance to the condition, good or bad, of persons in their final moments. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason their end also - even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom - is a happy one.
You have been explaining to people that one attains birth through the Tathagata's working; it is in no way otherwise. What I have been saying to all of you from many years past has not changed. Simply achieve your birth, firmly avoiding all scholarly debate. 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.
Each of you should attain your birth without being misled by people and without faltering in shinjin. However, the practicer in whom shinjin has not become settled will continue to drift, even without being misled by anyone, for he does not abide among the truly settled.
Please relay what I have written here to the others.
Bun'o , Eleventh month, 13th day
Written at age 88