Enjoying Otogi Zoshi with the Help of Synopsis and Illustrations, Fourth Story ; Manjuu
Once upon a time, there lived an unrivaled samurai worrier named Tada-no-Manjuu. He served the Imperial Court with his first, second, and third sons; Yorimitsu, Yorinobu, and Tada Hogan.
One day he came across an idea that
"Life is fragile like bubbles. Even if I'm very much flourished now, my current honor is like a morning glory which blooms only in the morning and wilt in the evening. It's no use only adhering such prospering. People feel fear of me only for now. But when I die, none of my thousands of soldiers will come along with me. I would have to endure the punishment by evil in hell by myself. I feel extremely bitter about it. However, if I try to devote myself to Buddhism, I cannot work fully as a soldier. What shall I do?"
He could not stop thinking about Buddhism. Finally, Manjuu visited a holy priest at his hermitage.
"Holy saint, could you tell me how ordinary people like me can die peacefully?"
"It's very good for you to ask about that, Manjuu. Since the days back to Prince Shoutoku, Buddhism is very popular in our country. Hoke-kyo is one of the most precious scriptures. It consists of 8 volumes. I recommend you to learn this sutra."
"What kind of scripture it is?" Manjuu asked.
"It is told that if you hear only a short phrase of that, you could have blessing beyond Goharamitsu (kind of enlightenment). In addition, you as a warrior fight with a bow and arrow to protect Buddhism, our country, and people. There must be a reword to save many people by killing one person. Some sutra even tells of a story of Buddha fighting to defeat evil.
Even if you are not a priest, your faith will help you to die in peace. The famous Yuimakoji of Tenjiku (old India) and Prince Shoutoku of our country also had learned Buddhism in their daily lives. Even serious criminals could expiate their sins by a blink of faithfulness. With your belief in Buddhism, you are certainly able to die peacefully."
"How grateful I am. Please give me such a wonderful scripture. Although I am not brilliant, please teach me that scripture. I will learn it as hard as possible."
"I will be glad to. When Buddha taught this Mantra, it is said that everything, weed, tree and even a country, had attained Buddha hood. I will make every effort to teach you, although it might not help you attain it immediately."
Soon after, the saint gave a set of the Hoke-kyo scripture to Manjuu.
Manjuu thought that
"I have found that the most important thing for human beings is to pray for a peaceful death. I would make my youngest son a priest and pray for our afterlife."
Then he called for his 12-year-old son Bijogozen and said,
"You, Bijogozen, will go and study at a temple to become a priest. I wish you to mourn for us after we die."
Hearing his father's words, Bijogozen thought in his mind, "I am in trouble. I usually do not like the idea of becoming a priest even in others' case. I have never expected to be a priest myself. What a pitiful guy I am!"
But there was no way for him to reject his fathers order. Finally he reluctantly said yes to his father. Immediately, Manjuu decided to send Bijogozen to Nakayama-dera temple.
Manjuu emphasized to his son that,
"You ought to learn the Hoke-kyo sutra first at the temple. And then study other teachings."
Bijogozen promised his father to do so and left for the temple. But he does not like living at the temple at all. So he had no intension to study Buddhist scriptures. Instead, he trained in martial arts by leaping and jumping, as well as making armor, wooden pole swords and wooden swords with bark and vine. Bijogozen also chased after fellow scholars and wrestled with them in order to compare his strength. And when a master tried to scold him, he even hit the master back. After a while, he became the most violent scholar in the temple. No one can control him anymore.
In the meantime, Manjuu was unaware of his son's conducts. He thought,
"Bijogozen should have remembered the Hoke-kyo sutra by now. I would call him back and listen to him chant."
Bijogozen was flurried.
"I am in big trouble. I have been at this temple for these two to three years, but I have not learned even one word from the Buddhist scriptures. My father will surely ask me to chant the Hoke-kyo sutra. What shall I do?"
However Bijogozen had no time to learn the Hoke-kyo sutra, so he left the temple and returned to his home town, Tada-no-sato.
Manjuu met Bijogozen immediately after his arrival.
"I have not seen you for so long, Bijogozen. You have grown very well. By the way, you should have remembered the Hoke-kyo as promised. Let me listen to you chant it now."
On the floor in front of a red sandalwood desk, eight volumes of Hoke-kyo sutra written in gold paint on a blue background were placed.
"This is the Buddhist scripture I told you before. Go ahead and chant it now."
But Bijogozen remained silent.
"Why do you keep your silent? If you make any mistakes, you won't get away with it."
Manjuu urged his son to recite promptly with his hands on a sword.
As the poor Bijogozen had studied not even one word the sutra, he had no way to open the scripture. He just sat still with embarrassment and blushed.
Manjuu lost his patience and attacked Bijogozen with his sword, saying,
"What an uncountable son you are! You deserve this."
But Bijogozen was not defeated easily. Although he had learned no scriptures at the temple, he was always trained in martial arts. Bijogozen grabbed a roll of the sutra from the table to stop the sword. He leaped back from his sitting posture and disappeared as quickly as lightning.
This made Manjuu very angry. He summoned his retainer Nakamitsu and told him,
"Kill Bijogozen with this sword and bring his head back to me." Manjuu gave the ancestral sword to him. Nakamitsu could not find a word to say. He just prostrated himself on the floor.
"Are you against me? If you disobey my order, a traitor you will be."
Nakamitsu could not resist the order any more. He received the sword and went back to his house.
As he reached his front gate, he found Bijogozen standing there shamefully. Clinging to Nakamitsu's sleeve, Bijogozen fell into tears, saying,
"You are the only person I can ask for help."
Nakamitsu led Bijogozen into his house and said,
"It must be fate that your father ordered me to kill you amongst all his warriors and that you should come to me for help. However, please feel safe now. I promise to save your life, even at the expense of my own."
Meanwhile, Manjuu sent messengers repeatedly, urging Nakamitsu to bring the head of Bijogozen.
"What shall I do now? Even if I commit hara-kiri, my lord would not spare the young prince's life. One lord directs to kill, and the other commands to save. What shall I do?"
Nakamitsu was totally at a loss.
"Oh, my son Kojumaru is the same age as the young prince. He has been studying at a temple since nine years old. He must be 15 now. I will make him come home and substitute the young prince."
Meanwhile, the son Kojumaru was very beautiful and smart, so everyone at the temple cared for him very well. Kojumaru received an urgent message from his father to return home at once. As he had not met his parents for six to seven years, he missed them dearly and went home happily.
As he came closer to his house, he found his father waiting for him in front of the gate. He gratefully got off his horse and rushed to his father. Nakamitsu shed tears, with the sight of his grown up son. He thought,
"Kojumaru, My dear son, has grown so well but I should kill him myself."
"Kojumaru, my son, listen to me. The reason I called you back is this. The lord Manjuu has directed me to kill the young prince, Bijogozen, because of his disobedience. Thus the young prince fled to my place asking for help. How can I be so cruel to kill him? As a vassal, we should give up our life for our lord. It is taught that a dutiful son devotes himself to mourn for the souls of his deceased parents. I am sure you know well these reasons from what you have learned at the temple. I am very sorry to say this but would you take the place of the young prince?"
Kojumaru smiled to said,
"I am so grateful that you ask me that. I have always thought that once born into as a child of a worrier the best way to show my loyalty is to substitute my life for the lord. I am so grateful indeed that I can both substitute my lord and follow your instruction. Please kill me right now. I have no regrets to die for my lord.
However, please give me a moment for I would like to meet my mother for the last time."
"How pitiful you are! Go ahead and see your mother. Make sure your mother does not know about this."
"I will. I am not regretful. Trust me, please. I will never tell her the truth."
Kojumaru went to see his mother. Suddenly he began crying at first glance of his mother.
"I thought you will be very happy to meet me after a long time. What makes you cry?", asked his mother.
"I happen to remember one anecdote now. The story is this. Once upon a time the King Han (Kan-ou) of the old China invaded Ko-koku (country). He dispatched General Kousei as a generalissimo. After 12 years of battle, the general successfully won the battle and made a triumphant return. Then he went to see his mother and cried. The mother said,
'I thought you are very happy to have won the battle. Why are you crying to meet me?'
General Kousei replied,
'You had completely black hair when I left for Ko-koku. But your hair is white all over now. That makes me sad and drew tears to my eyes.'
The mother was delighted to hear this and said,
'I feel sorry and also glad that you are crying as you are concerned about my aging.'"
Kojumaru continued, "I am in the similar situation as the general. Your hair was black when I left for the temple at the age of nine. Now it is totally white. I wonder how many more times we would see each other hereafter. Thinking of this, I am filled with sorrow and tears."
The mother hardly doubted her son's words. She simply appreciated Kojumaru's dutifulness and was proud of him.
"I would rather talk with you a little longer, however, I was told that Bijogozen is staying here right now. I will go and meet him. Then, I will get back to you soon."
Kojumaru lied to his mother and dismissed himself. This would be the last time the mother and the son would see each other in their lives. How sorrowful Kojumaru must be.
Thereafter, Kojumaru went into his room alone, recited a sutra, and made his farewell poem before death.
Kimigatame Yonikaharunotsinoyono Yamiwobaterase Yamanohanotsuki
(I will die as a substitute of my lord. May Buddha light the dark streets in the world after my death like the moon lights the night darkness.)
He hoped to leave letters as mementos to his master and colleagues, but it was not possible. All he could do was to write a single letter telling a false tale. That is,
"I came back home today because my father ordered me to mourn for my lord Bijogozen, who was killed as a consequence of disobeying his father's instructions. Once I saw his last moment, I could not help feeling sorry for him. Therefore, without telling my parents, I decided to bring his ashes, hanging from my neck, to Kouyasan (Mt. Kouya's Kongoubuji-temple). I certainly will come back to meet you all at the temple in three years. Sincerely, Kojumaru."
He left a small bunch of his hair as a keepsake. He missed everything so much.
Kojumaru showed himself to his father.
"I have just met my mother for the last time. I have nothing left behind but one thing. I left a letter in my room. Would you please send it to my long-time-home temple?"
After only saying that Kojumaru sat on a mat and put his hair up. Facing the west, he then began reciting a sutra. He remained so still and calm.
Nakamitsu, with his sword in his hand, came closer to his son. However deep in sorrow and grief, he could not swing the sword anywhere on his son. Finally he dared to swing it, and Kojumaru's head fell down in front.
Nakamitsu has long been prepared for this. It was no use grieving now. He wrapped the head of Kojumaru with the young prince's clothes (called hitatare) and then went to see Manjuu.
Nakamitsu said, "I had no way to resist your order. So I killed your son Bijogozen although it was very hard for me. Now that you have your wish accomplished, please appease your anger. It was very regretful what you have done."
Before finishing his remarks, Nakamitsu bursted into tears with his face in the sleeves. Manjuu also seemed too painful to bear. "I am proud of you have finished your duty. You may have the head. I want you to mourn him carefully." Manjuu left these words only and returned to his room.
Nakamitsu brought back the head of Kojumaru to his home, then called his wife. He told her the truth and showed her the head. Looking at it, his wife could not utter any word at all.
"Now I understand the reason why Kojumaru was crying, when we met earlier. I am sure I would never protest him in substituting his life for the young prince. If you had told me beforehand, I could have helped him to prepare for death and see him to his last moment. Then, I would not feel as much grief as I do now. I feel some dissatisfaction in that I was not informed about this."
Holding her son's head, she cried continuously whilst lying down.
Bijogozen happened to hear the conversation behind a shoji screen. He opened the screen quickly and attempted to kill himself with his sword upon saying,
"Is it true that you killed your own son Kojumaru as my substitute? Why didn't you kill me rather than him? There would be no way for me to live at the sacrifice of his life."
Nakamitsu and his wife abruptly rushed to grab his sword.
"From now on, we would like to ask of you to study hard and mourn the soul of late Kojumaru."
Nakamitsu secretly brought Bijogozen out of Tada-no-sato and went to the Juzenshi temple in Sakamoto.
"With the help of Juzenshi-gongen (holy spirit), I hope you to become a pupil of a scholar at Hieizan (Mt. Hiei's Enryakuji-temple) and study very hard.", said Nakamitsu.
"Are you leaving now, Nakamitsu? I will miss you so much.", replied Bijogozen.
Bijogozen went to see Nakamitsu off for a long time, while Nakamitsu looked back again and again as he returned to Tada-no-sato.
Nakamitsu met with his wife when he arrived at Tada-no-sato, and said,
"When I saw Kojumaru's last moment, I wished to kill myself hundreds of thousands of times. However, I persuaded myself that I have to help the young prince flee first. Now I have no regrets. Take care."
Then he attempted to do hara-kiri with his carrying sword. The wife, holding the sword, tried to convince him by saying,
"Calm down please, Nakamitsu. I feel exactly the same as you. So, please kill me first and then kill yourself. On the contrary, you should never forget about what we have done to our Kojumaru. After our death, what if the lord knew that our son Kojumaru dead in place of Bijogozen? The lord might find out that Bijogozen is hiding deep in the mountains. If that happens, Kojumaru must turn in his grave so much. Please refrain from committing suicide. Why don't we, husband and wife, together mourn for the soul of Kojumaru?"
With his wife's words, Nakamitsu was convinced and did not commit suicide.
Meanwhile, Bijogozen was totally at a loss at Juzenshi. He had no acquaintances in the temple and could not find a master to whom he should serve. In spite of that due to the help of Juzenshi-gongen, that Bijogozen happened to meet the famous Eshin-sozu (high ranking priest) who went to visit the Juzenshi.
"What a beautiful young man you are. I have never seen you here before. Where did you come from? Which family are you belong to?
"I am a mere orphan. My parents passed away when I was a child.", he replied.
"Then, why don't you come with me?" Eshin-sozu let his fellow priest take Bijogozen's hand to their place.
Since then, Bijogozen devoted himself to studying very hard. One day, when he was 19 years old, he was crying as he was reciting Shoubounenjo-kyou sutra. Eshin-sozu saw him crying and inquired,
"Young priest, why are you crying?"
"What this sutra tells, reminds me of what I have done to my parents. It tells that an undutiful child must go to hell."
"That's strange. Didn't you tell me your parents died when you are a child? How could you be an undutiful son?"
"I cannot hold the truth back any more. I was disowned by my father because I had been too lazy to study.", Bijyogozen replied.
"Who is your father?"
"His name is Manjuu. He lives in Tada-no-sato in Tsu country."
"It's a very surprise to me. I have assumed that you must be from prestigious family. So you really are the son of the famous Manjuu. Then as a son of him, you ought to keep studying harder. It was foolish of me to not notice that before. I, Genshin, would visit your father Manjuu to ask for his forgiveness, after you have become a respectful priest."
Bijogozen became a priest at the age of 19, named Engaku of Eshin-in temple. Thanks to his hard learning of Tendai teaching from Eshin-sozu, he finally attained the truth at the age of 25. Accompanying Bijogozen, Eshin-sozu went to visit Tada-no-sato.
When they arrived in Tada-no-sato, they secretly visited Nakamitsu's house. Nakamitsu was so grateful to meet Bijogozen that he could not even say a word of welcome.
"You look brilliant, young prince. You remind me of Kojumaru. My lord Manjuu have been longed for his young prince to be a priest. He should want to see you. Let's go to meet him right now."
Immediately, Nakamitsu showed himself up to Manjuu. Without speaking of Bijogozen, he told Manjuu that,
"We have the famous Eshin-sozu from Hieizan here to meet you."
Manjuu was astonished hearing that the famous Eshin-sozu came to see him. He said,
"This is unbelievable. Eshin-sozu himself came to my place. I have never expected this. Why don't you lead him here?"
He invited the holy priest into the room.
When Manjuu met with him, he inquired,
"I am afraid it is impolite to ask you such thing at the first meeting, but what should we, helpless ordinary people, do in order to be blessed after we die?"
"It is told that only listening to a phrase of a sutra gives you enormous forgiveness. If you recall the phase during the battle, as you fight with bows and arrows, your sins should be expiated and you should be blessed immediately."
Hearing this, Manjuu was delighted and said,
"Then, with worship from the bottom of my heart, I could be blessed in the heaven, even if I live a life of battle."
It was the 13-day-old moon in September. The moon was brightly shining. It was an attractive night with the voices of deer and insects singing. Engaku, former Bijogozen, loudly recite one phrase of the Hoke-kyo sutra. The voice seemed to reach even the heaven. The preciousness is far beyond description. Everyone was in tears to hear his voice. Manjuu was also very touched and cried with joy. He asked Eshin-sozu to stay at his house longer, however, the holy priest said,
"I have to go back for my practice."
Manjuu then said in return, "I want your young apprentice priest to stay with us." Eshin-sozu replied,
"Although he has always accompanied me since he was a child, I will leave him here for one more week. Please let him go back to Hieizan after that."
The holy priest then went back to the mountain without saying anything about Bijogozen.
Engaku stayed alone in Manjuu's place and kept reciting sutra for seven days. After watching him reciting for a while, Manjuu said to Engaku,
"I wonder who you are, young priest. My son should be at your age now. Because he was too lazy to study I made my warrior to behead him. It is too late to regret that now. This is his mother. She was filled so deeply with sorrow and cried until she was blind. You look like my son very much."
Manjuu turned to his wife and said,
"My dear wife, I think this priest resembles our Bijogozen a little."
The wife said,
"It makes us miss our son so much. Please call on us occasionally even if you do not have special business and recite for us. That will help us relieved."
As Engaku listened to them, he cried and thought,
"It was my laziness which made my mother blind. The Gods should regard me as a sinned person. How regrettable my old sins are."
"Gods, Buddha, please make my mother's eyes open.", he prayed.
Just then, might it be the sympathy of the Gods, the principal image of Buddha suddenly sparked golden light to shine the wife's forehead. Manjuu said to his wife,
"Take a look at the golden light from the statue." The wife replied,
"Where is it?"
Just at the moment, her long-time blinded eyes suddenly opened.
Manjuu and his wife bowed with their hands joined. However Engaku modestly step backward.
"It is unkind of you to withdraw. Why do you do so?"
Engaku replied, "It is told that even Buddha left the Rengeza to show his respect to his father King Jobon, who appeared during his teachings. Moreover, as a humble priest, why shouldn't I withdraw?"
"However, that is the respect between parents and children. We are but mere strangers, why should you withdraw?"
"I must confess now. I, myself, am Bijogozen. Nakamitsu saved my life by substituting his son Kojumaru. By chance I am now serving Eshin-sozu.", said Engaku.
Manjuu and his wife both clung to Engaku's sleeves.
"I wonder if this is a dream or reality. If it is a dream, please do not wake me up."
They said delightfully.
Soon after, Nakamitsu and his wife were called.
"Look at Bijogozen here. From now on, you may assure your future and think Bijogozen as your son Kojumaru.", said Manjuu.
Both Manjuu and his wife and Nakamitsu and his wife were grateful in tears as they clung to Bijogozen's sleeves.
Manjuu divided his feudal territory of 98 thousand-chou (one chou is 99.17a) in half and gave one half to Nakamitsu to govern it. He also had built a temple, named Shoudou-ji temple to mourn Kojumaru's soul and placed a Manjusri Bodhisattva, in a figure of a young priest, as the main statue.
Manjuu, despite he was a warrior serving with bows and arrows, was able to govern people and have his descendants flourished because he repented his sins and believed in god. On the other hand, Kojumaru was admired among people because he made a great deal of reasons and sacrificed his life. Thus accordingly, he was remembered by the future generations.
** The End **
Copyright 2001. Kyoto University Library