On Gaining an Immediate Reward for Faith in the Three Treasures

A tale from the Nihon Ryoiki
of the Monk Kyokai

Lord Otomo no Yasunoko no muraji of the Great Flower Rank was an ancestor of the Otomo no muraji in Uji, Nagusa district, Kii province. He was endowed with a lucid mind and highly revered the Three Treasures.

According to a record, in the reign of Emporer Bitatsu, sounds of musical instruments were heard off the coast of Izumi province. They sounded like pipes and strings or rolling thunder. They were heard in the daytime and at night a light spread estward. Lord Otomo no Yasunoko no muraji heard this tale and reported it to the emporer, who did not believe it and remained silent. When he reported it to the empress, however, she ordered him to investigate. He went to the seaside to witness the scene and found it exactly as reported. While there, he came upon a camphor log which had been struck by thunder. On his return, he said to the empress, "I have found a camphor log on the beach of Takaashi. I humbly request permission to make Buddha images out of it." The empress gave permission saying, "Your wish is granted."

Namas Sakyamuni Buddha, Namu Myohorengekyo, Namas Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvas

Yasunoko was very happy and announced the imperial decree to Shima no oomi, who, in great joy, commissioned Ikeba no atae Hita to carve three bodhisattvas. They were consecrated in a hall at Toyura to inspire awe and reverence in the people. However, Lord Mononobe no yuge no Motiya no omuraji address the empress, saying, "NO Buddha images should be kept in this country. They must be thrown away." Hearing this, the empress call Lord Ysaunoko no muraji, saying, "Hide these Buddha images without delay." Thereupon he had Hita no atae hide them among rice sheaves. Lord Yuge no omuraji eventually burned the hall and threw the remaining images into the canal at Naniwa. He rebuked Yasunoko, saying, "The cause of our present disaster lies in keeping pagan images sent from a neighboring country. Give them up and throw them into the current which flows toward Korea." ("Pagan images" mean "Buddha images.") Yasunoko firmly refused. Yuge no omuraji, deranged and rebellious, looked for an opportunity for treason, but heaven disliked him and earth heatedhim. He was at last overthrown in the reign of Emporer Yomei, and the Buddhist images were brought into the open to be kept for posterity. The image of Amida is now enshrined at Hiso-dera at Yoshino.

In the first month in he spring of the tenth year of the ox, the empress was enthroned at the Palace of Owarida, and reigned for thirty-six years. On the tenth of the fourth month, in the summer of the first year of her reign, Prince Umayado was appointed Prince Regent, and Yasunoko no muraji was made his personal attendant. On the fifth of the fifth month of the thirteenthyear of th ereign, the empress gave him the Great Fifth Fank, saying, "Your distinuished service shall be remembered forever." In the second month of the seventeenth year, the Prince Regent entrusted him with six hundred and seventy acres of rice fields at Iho district in Harima province. When the Prince Regent died at the Palace if Ikaruga in the secondmonth of the twenty-ninth year, Yasunoko no muraji revealed his desire to renounce the world, but the empress did not permit this.

In the fourth month of the thrity-second year, a Buddhist monk took an axe and smote his father with it. Yasunoko no muraji immediately petitioned the throne, saying, "All monks and nuns should be examind and a presiding officer appointed in order to guide them and establish righteousness." The empress agreed and granted him the right to carry out the task. It turned out there were eight hundred and thirty-seven monks and five hundred and seventy-nine nuns. The monks Kanroku was appointed daisojo, and Yasunoko no muraji and Kuratsukuri no Tokosaka were appointed sozu.

On the eighth of the tenth month of the thirty-third year, Yasunoko died suddenly at Naniwa, His corpse was unusually fragrant, and the empress declared seven days' mourning in honor of his loyalty. He returned to life in three days, however, and told his family the following tale: "There were five-colored clouds like a rainbow stretching to the north. I was walking along that roadway of clouds, and it smelled fragrant, as if valuable incense was being mixed. At the end of the way there appeared a golden maountain which dazzled my eyes as I approached it. There the late Prince Shotoku was waiting for me and we climbed to the summit together. A full-fledged monk was standing on the top of the golden mountain. Bowing to the prince, he said, 'I have come from the Palace in the East. In eight days you will fall into danger. I beseech you to take this elixir of life.' Then he gave one bead of his bracelet to be swallowed, and, with the penetrating eye, he had the prince recite three times, 'Homage to the Bodhisattva of Miraculous Powers' and retired. The prince said to me, 'Go back home without delay and prepare a place to make a Buddha statue. When I finish performing the rite of repentence, I will return to the court to make it.' I cam back along the way I had taken before, and all of a sudden I was brought back to life."

Accordingly, people called him the "Revived Muraji." In the ninth month in the autumn of the seventh year of the dog, the sixth year of the reign of Emporer Kotoku, he was decorated with the Great Flower Rank, Upper Grade, and when he died he was overy ninety.

A note says: How praiseworthy the member of the Otomo family is for his devotion to Buddha, for his commitment to dharma with purity of heart and loyalty, and for his longevity and fortune! He was known for his courage, and for the sense of filial piety he handed down to his descendants. Indeed we know it is a testimony to the Three Treasures, and it is due to protection by good deities. On reflection we discover that danger in eight days corresponds to eight years; "Bodhisattva of Miraculous Power" corresponds to Bodhisattva Monjushiri, the "one bead" which was swallowed is a pill to escape danger. "The golden mountain" is identified with Wu-t'ai-shan in China, while the "Palace of the East" means Japan. The "going back to the court to make an image" was realized in the birth of ex-Emporer Shoho-ojin-shomu, who built a temple and Buddha Statue. The Most Venerable Gyogi, a contemporary of Emporer Shomu, is an incarnation of Bodhisattva Monjushiri. This is a miraculous story.

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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. Pages 111-115. For non-profit educational use only. ISBN:0-7007-0449-3

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