On the Death Penalty in This Life of an Evil Son Who Tried to Kill His Mother out of Love for His Wife

A tale from the Nihon Ryoiki
of the Monk Kyokai

Kishi no Omaro came from the village of Kamo, Tama district, Musashi province. Omaru's mother was Kusakabe no Matoji. In the reign of Emporer Shomu he was appointed a frontier soldier at Tsukushi by Otomo (his name is unknown) and had to spend three years there. His mother accompanied him and lived with him, while his wife stayed behind to take care of the house.

Omaro, out of love for his wife who had been left behind, thought up the wicked idea of killing his mother and returning home to his wife, claiming exemption from duty on the pretext of mourning. As his mother's mind was set on doing good, he said to her, "There will be a great meeting for a week's lecture on the Hoke-kyo in the eastern mountain. Shall we go to hear the teaching?

His mother, deceived, was eager to go, and, devotedly purifying herself in a hot bath, accompanied her son to the mountain. Then he looked at her fiercely, as though with the eyes of a bull, and said, "You, kneel down on the ground!" Gazing at his face, she said, "Why are you talking like that? Are you possessed by a fiend?" The son, however, drew a sword to kill her. Kneeling down in front of her son, she said to him, "We plant a tree in order to get its fruit and to take shelter in its shade. We bring up children in order to get their help and to depend on them. What on earth has driven you so crazy! I feel as though the tree I have been depending on has suddenly ceased to protect me from the rain." He would not listen to her, so she sorrowfully took off her clothes, put them in three piles, knelt down, and told him her last wish: "Will you wrap up these clothese for me? One pile goes to you, my eldest son, one to my second son, and one to my third son."

When the wicked son stepped forward to cut off his mother's head, the earth opened to swallow him. At that moment his mother grabbed her falling son by the hair and appealed to Heaven, wailing, "My child is possessed by some spirit and driven to such an evil deed. He is out of his mind. I beseech you to forgive his sin." In spite of all her efforts to pull him up by the hair, he fell down. The merciful mother brought his hair back home to hold funeral rites and put it in a box in front of a Buddha image, asking monks to chant scriptures.

How great was the mother's compassion! So much that she loved an evil son and practiced good on his behalf. Endeed, we know that an unfilial sin is punished immediately and that an evil deed never goes without a penalty.
Don's Buddha Shrine in May 2001

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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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