Tannisho (歎異抄)

"Tannisho" (Notes Lamenting Deviations) is a Buddhist book written in the later Kamakura period. It is said that the writer was Yuien who learned from Shinran.
The title of this book originated from that the writer had written his grief about difficulties and division arose in the Jodo-shin sect after Shiran's death, and he had written also in the opening of the preface as 'grieving over the difference from the truth of his master's kuden (oral instruction).'
"Tannisho 歎異抄" was also written as "歎異鈔" (the pronunciation was the same).

About the Writer

As for the writer, there are opinions saying the writer was Nyoshin or Kakunyo besides Yuien. Generally it is said Yuien wrote the book.
(This article describes in assuming that the writer was Yuien.)

Kagetsuin Jinrei said that the writer was Nyoshin. He based on the descriptions of materials including "Kudensho" (Orally Transmitted Words) edited by Kakunyo, and according to them, Shinran had taught the thought directly to Nyoshin, and Nyoshin taught it to Kakumyo.

Myoonin Ryosho was the main person who said that the writer was Yuien. They based on the facts the name of Yuien appeared in the book, and the writer could be guessed to have been Togoku-monto (believer of the Jodo-shin sect in Kanto region) judging from the context.

The Backgrounds of the Book

The heart of this book is the story which the writer listened directly from Shinran after 'the Incident of Zenran.'

The Incident of Zenran
It was an incident that Shinran disowned and excommunicated his real son Zenran in May, 1256.

Around 1236 which was about twenty years before the incident, after Shinran left Togoku (present Kanto region) and returned to Kyoto, some priests began to teach different thoughts, and the upset spread among Togoku-monto. Shinran sent his son Zenran in order to save the situation.

Zenran tried to persuade the people who preached heterodoxy, however they did not accept his teaching, so he told that he had been taught a true way to achieve Ojo (birth in the Pure Land) by Shinran. He also told that 'Shijuhachi-gan' (forty-eight vows Amitabha had made) was 'a faded flower,' saying his thought was genuine.

When Shinran knew that Zenran was preaching such heterodoxy, he told Togoku-monto that he had never taught the secret and sent his letter to disown and excommunicate Zenran.

After that, a group including Yuien went up to Kyoto and asked Shinran about the incident.

However, after Shinran's death, many people taught doctrines one after another, which were quite different from the thoughts of the Jodo-shin sect 'Senju Nenbutsu' (believers had to only recite nenbutsu without doing any other exercises) which Honen had taught to Shinran. Yuien grieved about those different thoughts ignoring Shinran's teaching and wrote a book.

In addition, Yuien taught Shinran's thoughts to Kakunyo and some sentences of "Kudensho" are similar to sentences of "Tannisho," therefore, it is said that this book was written at the request of Kakunyo.

The period of the editing is thought to have been thirty years after Shinran's death (in the later Kamakura period, around 1300).


For some centuries after the book had been written, it had not been known. However, in the middle of the Edo period, it was rediscovered by the influence of the scholars' studies including those by Sorai OGYU and Norinaga MOTOORI. After that, some learned priests including Kagetsuin Jinrei and Myoonin Ryosho developed the study on this book. The commentaries were written such as "Tannisho Koriki" by Jinrei and "Tannisho Monki" by Ryosho.

In the Meiji period, the book was appreciated again by scholars including Manshi KIYOZAWA, and it was gradually introduced to people.


This short book is composed of the followings.

Manajo (a preface written in Chinese)

From the 1st article to the 10th article

Shinran's words

From the 11th article to the 18th article

Criticism of the different thoughts by Yuien

Kojo (afterword)

In the 10th article, Yuien used Shinran's word to explain his grief's reason.


In Manajo, the writer wrote the purpose and the reason to write this book.
That is, he was 'grieving the difference from the truth of his master's kuden (oral instruction).'

Originally, in the religious community in Kanto region, different thoughts often arose as the Incident of Zenran showed. Shinran's death accelerated that tendency. The followings are the major different thoughts.

The thought that for reaching Ojo people should stop evil and reach good.

The thought that for reaching Ojo people should study Buddhist scriptures.

The writer (Yuien) quoted Shinran's words that the writer had directly learned, and explained the reason he judged those thoughts were different and wrong.

In addition, some people say that 'the master' of this 'master's kuden' referred to Honen. According to that theory, the person who was grieving was not Yuien but Shinran.

From the 1st article to the 10th article

From the 1st article to the 10th article, the writer (Yuien) recorded Shinran's words which are considered to have been directly told to the writer. Among them, the 3rd article has been often cited because the theory of Akuninshoki (evil people as the true object of salvation) was clearly explained.
(For the details, refer to 'Akuninshouki')

Yuien heard these words as one of the priests who went up to Kyoto from Kanto region and asked Shinran about the Incident of Zenran. Shinran answered that there was no way to reach Ojo except Senju Nenbutsu however whether people accept Senju Nenbutsu would depend on each person's will. He also told that since nenbutsu was done by the power of Amida (Amitabha), he did not have actual disciples.

From the 11th article to the 18th article

After the 11th article, the writer explained each content of the different thoughts and the reason he judged that they were different and wrong.

At first, he defined nenbutsu as 'a way for making people right although the way itself was not right,' that is, since people could never understand Amida-butsu (Amitabha)'s original vow to save people, people could never understand the right way for making them right. He explained that Shinran had never told people should do good things and throw away bad things, nor told people should do bad things, since people did both good and bad things due to each person's innen (destiny).

Therefore, he explained that seducing people to do bad things or encouraging doing good things were both wrong ideas. In addition, he said that the priests saying that people could not reach Ojo without reading and studying Buddhist sculptures did not understand the original vow of Amida-butsu.


The Kojo was written long after the other parts of the book had been finished.

When Shinran was learning directly from Honen, he said that his faith and Honen's faith were the same, then other disciples blamed him. At that time, Honen taught that since the faith was given by Amida-butsu, Shinran's faith and his faith were the same.

Yuien explained that even during Honen had been alive different thoughts had arisen and he worried about wrong faiths would be passed down to future generations therefore he had decided to write a book.


As for the manuscripts, there remain Rennyo-bon, Hashinobo Eisho-bon, and so on. As of 2009, the original copy was not discovered.

There are some differences such as postpositional particles between Rennyo-bon and Eisho-bon, but there is no big difference between them. As to the differences, 'appendix' is written in Rennyo-bon after Kojo but it is not written in Eisho-bon.

In addition, Rennyo-bon has Rennyo's signature and the following descriptions at the end.

Rennyo described that this book was 'the important shogyo (Buddhist sutra) for this sect,' houwver, it should not be easily shown to a person who 'had no shukuzen (good from the past lives).'
For this reason, it had been held as a secret book and had not been introduced to people. However, in 'Ofumi' written by Rennyo, there are many citations from the contents of Tannisho.

[Original Japanese]