The Teaching of “Casting Aside Zogyo” and “the Teaching of Exhortation of Good Deeds”

The primary meaning of zogyo is myriad good acts. The teaching of Buddhism is “Refrain from doing bad deeds and perform good.” What, then, does “casting aside good” actually mean? Every morning and evening, Pure Land Buddhist followers read Master Rennyo’s Letter in which he exhorts them to “cast aside zogyo,” yet most of them do not understand the meaning of “cast aside zogyo.” Not only that, but there are even those who spread such outrageous misconceptions as, “You should not perform good deeds. You don’t need to,” and, “It is against the teaching of Buddhism to encourage good acts.” This is exactly what destroys Buddhism. This is caused by total ignorance about what zogyo is on the part of both priests and laymen. In no way does “Cast aside zogyo” mean “Cast aside good acts. You don’t need to do good deeds.” Doing good deeds cannot possibly be bad – so why is it that myriad good acts are called “zogyo” and we are encouraged to cast them aside?

Zogyo means myriad good acts done with a bad mindset. Therefore what we are instructed to cast aside are not good acts but the bad mindset behind doing the good deeds. Buddhist masters exhort us to cast aside zogyo, meaning to cast aside the bad mindset. However, nobody knows what this “bad mindset” is. The “bad mindset” is the mind that stands head-on against Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha sees through us and concludes that we are like corpses who commit the five grave offences and the sin of slandering the truth, and Shakyamuni Buddha calls us extremely evil people who have never done a single good deed and who have nowhere to go except the realm of incessant suffering. Despite this, we think at the bottom of our hearts, “Don’t speak nonsense,” “I can do good deeds to some extent,” “If I listen to Buddhism seriously, I think I can be saved. I will figure out the way.”

Yet we become anxious, thinking, “I might not be able to be saved,” and so we do the various good acts, speculating that it might be better to do so than not to. This mindset is the one that doubts Amida’s Vow and thinks one must ensure one’s birth in the Pure Land by doing good deeds. As this mind that doubts the Vow is the most evil mind, Buddhist masters tell us to cast it aside. Master Shinran's Purpose for Writing Shoshinge

From the magazine Shojoju (The Truly Settled)

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #50 | 2015, The Teaching of “Casting Aside Zogyo” and “the Teaching of Exhortation of Good Deeds”

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