Dharma Friends -
I find myself writing this post every few months, and decided that it was a good time to write it again, because we've gotten some new members recently.
So let me start with this: There is only ONE practice in our school, and that practice is LISTENING DEEPLY to the Dharma.
You've probably watched my YouTube video on the subject, but let me repeat the basic ideas:
First, in order to listen deeply, you must be willing to TEMPORARILY lay aside your pre-existing thoughts, ideas and beliefs. No one is going to steal them from you, and if you don't find True Shin Buddhism to your liking, you can take them up again at any time. But while you are investigating this unique Dharma path to Buddhahood, you need to simply come with an open mind to listen to what is being taught.
Second, the first part of listening deeply is listening with the HEAD - aka the INTELLECT - to understand clearly what the teacher is actually teaching. By all means if anything is unclear, or you have any doubts or questions, you should feel free to raise them. Indeed, I WANT you to raise them - that's what the Sangha is for.
Third, after you have understood the Dharma message with the head, now you must listen with the HEART. You need to personally evaluate the message, to decide whether or not you bear witness to the TRUTH of it. If you don't - no harm, no foul. It just means this is not the path for you at this point in your spiritual journey. We can still be friends, and you can look elsewhere for your truth. And you can always come back anytime - and you can leave and come back as many times as you want to. You'll always be accepted here.
Now...in order to LISTEN DEEPLY, I have a specific recommendation for the new folks, in particular - and everyone else, too.
Start off with the Collected Letters of Master Rennyo - known as the OFUMI or GOBUNSHO. They are short and simple to understand. They capture the ESSENCE of our Dharma message, and were written so that plain and uneducated people could understand them.
I consider Master Rennyo's letters to be the PRIMER of True Shin Buddhism. There is literally nothing better for you to read as a beginning seeker on our Dharma path.
It takes only a few minutes to read each letter. If you read just one a day, you can read through the entire collection in a couple of months. If you read 2 or 3 a day, you can read through the collection in about a month.
Now...this may sound silly to some, but I honestly recommend you read through the entire collection 5 - 10 times in a row. I promise you that you will see things and understand things on the 5th reading that went right over your head on the 1st and 2nd.
And if you take my advice, you will understand more about TRUE Shin Buddhism than 99% of the folks out there who identify as Shin Buddhists.
There are two links in the new version of Rick's Shin Buddhist Portal: One for an HTML version of Rennyo's letters, and the other for a PDF version, which is actually a reproduction of the book you can buy online from Amazon, that also includes the TANNISHO, as well.
Just go to the portal, and use the F3 (Find) key to search quickly for RENNYO.
You can also buy a hard copy of the book (which I recommend if you can afford it) from Amazon and other booksellers, too. Here's the Amazon (US) link:
Again, I can't recommend this course of action too strongly, if you want to get grounded in the TRUE Teaching of the Pure Land Way.