I think this is uncalled for. Are you taking the precepts as "commandments"? In Shinshu, the precepts are worthy of upholding, if you are able to uphold them, go ahead. But don't take the precepts as something that will feed your ego. This is what Shinran admonished against. Many of us tend to think that we're "holier-than-thou" when we follow the precepts and see others to be "lower" when they don't.
That's the point Shinran was making, indeed. Shinran never said break the precepts or that they have no value, he simply didn't give them to his followers because he was aware that there are always situations that we find ourselves breaking them. If you first take them as a vow and then realize that you are breaking one of them it adds the karma of breaking a holy vow to the fact of breaking a precept. People tend to be afraid of everything and Shinran lived in a time when people had lots of reasons to fear situations and people around them. He didn't want to add fear into their lifes but bring them hope and freedom and peace.
When you are a fisherman and you have to kill to make a living (and in the time of Shinran people had even less possibilities to change their 'way of life' than we have today), then you have to break the precept of 'avoid not to kill'. You have no choice. If you are a prostitute who is selling her body to have enough food for her children then you are not living according to the buddhist ideal - but again you might find yourself unable to change it. Shinrans main approach to the Dharma was compassion and that was the driving force behind his life and work. The precepts are guidelines not commandments as Dodatsu says, so it makes perfect sense to see them as ideals and trying to live holding them up. If for whatever reason you fail to do so, don't feel guilty and start all over so to say.
It sounds like you have critically misunderstood what a Buddha is and made a Brahma out of Buddha. Your vision of the Buddha has turned him into a god like we find in monotheist religions
From what you are saying in this thread I think you have greatly misunderstood Shinran and his teachings. It is you who is always repeating that Amida is a 'being' and like a 'god saving people', Shinshu having a 'theodicy problem' etc.. Amida and his Pure Land are ONE and it's Nirvana itself. 'Nobody' is 'there' when 'you' are born in the Pure Land and that's the state of transpersonal ultimate reality. Amida is neither a creator nor a judge, but reality.
My idea of the Pureland is to build one right here on earth. Or rather turn our world into a Pureland. Let us eliminate all disease, war, fighting, anger, poverty and oppression on earth. Let us turn the US Pentagon into a Dharma Center.
Sounds to me that you are not really grasping what the First Noble truth is actually saying and that you don't see the root problem that is causing both our illusions and our cravings. Both illusions, who we are and what we can achieve and the craving for power and wealth etc., are closely tied to how we live our life. To strive for a better world is a noble goal, but what you seem to have in mind is ignoring the root problem and by that feeding what is causing all the trouble - our ego.
My problem is with the assertion that merely by saying, "Namu Amida Butsu" that you can become free from all defilements and become an omniscient tathagata.
Again, you should go and study Shinrans works or read some books by good Shin teachers to get the basics right. The Nembutsu is doing nothing, by saying it nothing happens. It's more like the other way round - something happens to you and you say the name. It's not a mantra with magical powers, no charm to fight any spirits or whatever - it's pure gratitude born from the experience of being grasped never to be abandoned. The experience of being grasped is not debatable and can't be proven to you in any way (nor is there any need to do so actually) and the response to it is born out of gratitude and happens naturally - it has nothing to do with what you seem to think the nembutsu is.
From that perspective maintaining precepts allows for an accumulation of merit in daily life. You need merit to get to the pure land of Amitabha, ergo maintaining precepts is quite beneficial in achieving said goal.
In Shinrans teachings the Pure Land is Nirvana and to say you have to maintain the precepts and accumulate merit to attain it is saying that enlightenment is based on conditions and has a definitive cause. Enlightenment though is the state of unconditioned awareness of suchness and it is a misunderstanding (even among Buddhists) to think that meditation is the cause for enlightenment. It has no cause or else it wouldn't be the state of freedom, the realization of it happens naturally. Since the liberation from suffering is a shift in perspective and no specific step on a ladder of magical education and practice there's nothing to do to make it happen. The goal is to be free from causes and conditions so you can not reach that state by creating a certain framework with the idea to 'produce' it.
Thus I disagree with Shinran or anyone else who would say precepts are unnecessary. They are the foundation of everything in Buddhism.
It's fine that you disagree, but again I'm afraid you don't understand what Shinran had in mind. When Shinjin happens then a certain transformation of your being starts and that will naturally transform your life towards the 'better' which may even help you to hold the precepts (aren't the precepts some guidelines to transform you into some 'better person'?). Then it's not a matter of 'holding a precept' like a robot but to simply live a natural life of compassion without any calculation to get something out of it. For Shinran the precepts as such are neither the cause nor the hindrance to enlightenment, but guidelines and Shinjin will make them unnecessary because then you will most likely live according to their spirit anyway.
The foundation of Buddhism is the insight that we are living a life of ignorance based on a false understanding of who and what we actually are. The Ego- illusion and how to get rid of it is the foundation of Buddhism not a bunch of thou-shalt-nots. To think one can beat the illusion by giving more power to the idea itself (you know, sitting down and meditating the ego away so to say) is actually fueling the ego-engine and it will produce even more illusions this way. Shinran was aware of this since he knew how it worked when he was trying to become liberated/enlightened without any positive results (quite the contrary) and the solution was to simply surrender the idea itself - if you can't cross the mountain simply circumvent it. Not by strengthening the ego is liberation from it achieved but by letting it go. And letting go of the ego is the foundation of Buddhism...
that's how by remembering Amita Buddha we can meet him at the time of death and be escorted to the Pure Land.
Well, it seems you are still closer to Honen than to Shinran, but Dodatsu already gave Shinrans quote regarding this idea.
chanting the name of Amida creates the cause to be reborn in Sakavati
No it does not. At least not in the understanding of Shinran. Nembutsu is not about getting enlightened or receiving merit or achieving any other goal. The nembutsu is a response to something, not a cause of something.
Then with rebirth in the Pure Land one quickly attains enlightenment.
No, since birth in the Pure Land IS attaining enlightenment.
The thread here actually reminds me why we had a separate Shinshu forum on E-Sangha. So many misunderstandings and confused ideas about what Shinran taught or didn't teach come together that it is nearly impossible to give concrete answers and to explain things extensively. And it's the reason why Shin Buddhists always see the need to rectify some errors regarding Shinrans ideas and always find themselves in an endless fight with those who say they don't accept it as a valid path etc. - although the teachings are not well understood by those who say that. Makes it all rather pointless imho.
In the end it really comes down to a simple decision. If you can not enter the hall by any other door but the one that is wide open then you will use it. Any debates why other doors might be better are useless when you don't have the keys to open them. That's why we are crossing the ocean of suffering by boarding the ship of the Great Vow. The calculation whether it works or not is already beyond the decision because we have no other way to go anyway. That's why Shinran said 'only the nembutsu is real' - it's simply our reality.