On the Immediate Reward of Salvaging the Lives of a Crab and a Frog and Setting Them Free
A tale from the Nihon Ryoiki
of the Monk Kyokai
Okisome no omi Taime was the daughter of a nun name Honi, the presiding officer of the nunnery of Tomi in the capital of Nara. She was so devoted in her pursuit of the path of Buddha that she preseverved her chastity. She used to collect herbs every day and serve them to the Most Venerable Gyogi.
One day she went to the mountains to collect herbs and saw a large snake swallowing a big frog. She entreated the snake, "Please set the frog free for my sake." But the snake would not. She entreated again, saying, "I will become your wife if you do me the favor of letting the frog go." On hearing that, the large snake raised its head high to see her face and disgorged the frog. Whereupon she said to the snake, "Come to me in seven days."
On the appointed day, she hid herself in the house with all the openings closed. The snake came as expected and knocked on the wall with its tail. The next morning, terrified, she went to her master, who lived at the mountain temple of Ikoma. He said to her, "You cannot break your promise. Only be strict in observing the precepts." Therefore, she affirmed her faith in the Three Treasures and her acceptance of the five precepts, and returned home.
On the way she met a strange old man with a big crab. She said, "Who are you, old man? Will you please set the crab free for me?" He answered, "I am Edori no Nimaro from Uhara district, Settsu province. At the age of seventy-eight I had neither sons to depend upon nor the means of making a living. In Naniwa I happended to find this crab. I cannot give it to you, for I have promised it to someone." She took off her robe, begging him to sell her the crab in exchange for her robe, be he would not listen. She then took off her skirt to add to its price, and he finally agreed to her offer. Thereupon, she brought the crab back home and invited the Most Venerable Gyogi to hold a service for it, setting it free with a prayer. Impressed with her deed, the master exclaimed, "How noble! How good!"
That evening the snake came back again, climbed to the roof, and dropped into the house by pulling off part of the thatched roof. The terrified girl heard something jumping and flapping around in her bed, and the next morning she fund a big crab and a large snake that had been chopped into pieces. Then she realized that the crab she had liberated had come to her rescue out of gratitude. This was also due to the virtue gained by keeping the precepts. Although she wanted to unravel the mystery and tried to identify the old man, she could not find him. It was evident he was an incarnation of Buddha. This is a miraculous event.
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