On the Reward of Copying the Hoke-kyo and Holding a Service for a Mother in Revealing the Cause of Her Rebirth as a Cow

A tale from the Nihon Ryoiki
of the Monk Kyokai

Takahashi no muraji Azumabito was a very wealthy man in the village of Hamishiro, Yamada district, Iga province. He copied the Hoke-kyo for his mother, making a vow, saying, "I want to invite a monk related to my vow by karma to hold a service for her salvation." When he finished preparing a place for the service on the following day, he called a servant and said, "The first monk you happen to meet I will make the officiating monk. Don't overlook any monk who seems to be able to perform esoteric rites and bring him to me."

The servant went first, in accord with his master's request, to the village of Mitani in the same district. There he found a mendicant lying in the road, drunk, with a bag for a begging bowl at his elbow. His name is not known. He was sleeping so soundly that some mischievious person had shaved his head and hung a rope around him like a surplice without waking him. Seeing him, the servant woke him with a greeting and asked him to visit his master.

On his arrival, the master greeted him with respect and faith and kept him inside the house for a day and a night, during which time he made a clerical robe in haste and offered it to the mendicant. The mendicant asked, "Why have you treated me like this?" and the host replied, "I would like to ask you to expound the Hoke-kyo." Then the mendicant said, "I have no learning. I have simply stayed alive by reciting the Hannya dharani and begging food." The host, however, repeated his entreaty. The mendicant thought to himself that the best way for him was a secret escape. Knowing the mendicant intended to run away, the host had him watched.

That night, the mendicant had a dream. A red cow came to him, saying, "I am the mother of the master of the household. Among his cattle there is a red cow, whose calf of none other than I. Once in my former life, I stole property from my son, and now I am atoning for it in the form of a cow. I have confided this to you with respect and sincerity since you are going to preach on the Mahayana scripture for me tomorrow. If you feel any doubt about my story, please prepare a seat at the back of the hall where you will preach tomorrow. You will find me seated there."

Awakening from this startling dream, the mendicant was very curious. The next morning, he went up to the lecturer's seat, saying, "I am ignorant of Buddhist teachings. I came to take this seat in compliance with my host's entreaty. But I have one thing to tell you, which is a revelation that came to me in a dream." Then he told about the dream in detail. Whereupon the host stood up, prepared a seat, and called the cow, which took the seat and lay down. In sorrowful tears he said, "Indeed this is my mother! I had no idea! Now I will forgive her." The cow heard his words and sighed. When the service ended, the cow died suddenly. All the congregation cried so bitterly that there were echos of weeping in the hall and garden. Nothing has ever been so miraculous as this. The son continued to accumulate merits for his mother. We know that this miraculous event took place as a consequence of the son's extreme faith born of his feeling for his mother, and the mendicant's merits accumulated from reciting the divine dharani.
Click here to learn more about the Hokekyo [Lotus Sutra]

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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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