Another misunderstanding is just the opposite of zoaku muge, and that is, although the Primal Vow assures our birth in the Pure Land, that does not mean we need not do anything to be born there. Rather, it means that we must continually endeavor to do good. This misunderstanding—in the opposite direction—is referred to as senjukenzen.
When the Venerable Master was about 80 years of age, he sent his son Zenran to the Kanto area in order to correct these misunderstandings. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a very difficult task, and the work did not seem to go forward smoothly. As time went on, it seems that Zenran developed the ambition to gain control of the organization in the Kanto area. In order to increase his influence and authority, Zenran began promulgating what is now known as the “secret tradition of the wrong views” (mitsuden igi).
Zenran told the people in the Kanto area that he was taught by his father secretly late one night, and that he was the only person in the Kanto area who knew the true teaching. This was, of course, completely untrue, for the Venerable Master always taught the same thing openly to everyone.
The actual teaching that Zenran claimed to have learned from the Venerable Master is not known; however, the letter that the Venerable Master wrote to disown Zenran contains the following passage: “…you say that the 18th vow, the Primal Vow, is nothing more than a faded flower that must be discarded…” This indicates that Zenran denied the saving power of the “absolute ‘Buddha-centered power’” (zettai tariki) of the 18th Vow, and that he seems to have said that we must concentrate on performing good acts, which is the error of senjukenzen. In other words, rather than relying on “Buddhacentered power,” Zenran seems to have urged “self-centered effort” to attain birth in the Pure Land.
Sending Zenran to straighten out the misunderstandings among his followers in the Kanto area did not seem to have much effect. Rather, it seems to have resulted in disturbances breaking out among his followers. When the Venerable Master learned that the leader of those who misunderstood his teaching was his own son Zenran… We today probably cannot begin to imagine the Venerable Master’s disappointment then.