On Recollecting and Reciting the Hoke-kyo and Gaining an Immediate Reward to Show an Extraordinary Sign

A tale from the Nihon Ryoiki
of the Monk Kyokai

In Kazuraki upper district, Yamato province, there was once a devotee of the Hoke-kyo. He came from the Tajihi family, and, even before he was eight years old, he could recite the Hoke-kyo with the exception of one character which always escaped his memory and continued to escape it even when he was in his twenties.

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Once he prayed to Kannon, confessing his offenses, and had a dream. A man said to him, "In your previous existence you were the child of Kusakabe no Saru in Wake district, Iyo province. At that time while reciting scripture you burned one character with a lamp so that you could no longer read it. Now, go and see."

When he awoke, he was filled with wonder, and said to his parents, "I want to go to Iyo on urgent business." They consented.

Setting forth on his quest, he reached Saru's home at last and knocked at the door. A woman came and reported back to her mistress with a smile, saying, "There is a guest at the door who looks exactly like your deceased son." On hearing this, the mistress went to the door to see the guest, finding him the very image of her deceased son. In wonder, the master asked the guest, "Who are you?" And the latter answered by announcing the name of his home district and province. In turn, the guest asked the same question, and he was given a detailed answer. It became evident to him that they were his parents in his former life. He knelt down to pay respect to them. Saru affectionately invited him into the house, and, staring at him as he sat in the seat of honor, said, "Aren't you the spirit of my deceased son?" Their guest told them in detail about his dream and announced that the old couple were his parents. Saru, after some reminiscing, motioned to him, saying, "My late son, so and so, lived in this hall, read this scripture, and used this pitcher." The son entered the hall, opened the scripture, and found that the character which he could never remember was missing, for it had been burned with a lamp. When the yound man repented of his offense and repaired the text, he could recite it correctly. Parents and son were amazed and delighted, and the son never lost the parent-child relationship and his sense of filial piety.

The note says: How happy is this member of the Kusakabe family who, in pursuit of the path through Buddhist scripture, recited the Hoke-kyo in two lives, present and past, and served two fathers to be renowned in posterity. It is an extraordinary phenomenon, and not commonplace. Indeed, we are sure it is due to the divine influence of the Hoke-kyo and the miraculous power of Kannon. In the same spirit, the Zen'aku ingo-kyo says, "Look at present effects if you want to know past causes. Look at present deeds if you want to know future effects."

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Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryoiki of the Monk Kyokai. Translated and edited by Kyoko Motomochi Nakamura. First published in 1973 by Harvard University Press: MA. This edition published by Curzon Press: Surrey, Great Britain. Copyright 1997. For non-profit educational use only. ISBN:0-7007-0449-3
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