Enjoying Otogi Zoshi with the Help of Synopsis and Illustrations, Eleventh Story ; Kurumazososhi, The Wagon Monk Story

        Long ago there lived a venerable Zen monk. He had diligently studied the teachings of the venerable Bodhidharma for more than 30 years and was proud that he had finally mastered his secrets. Becoming a monk means renouncing the world, so he built a small wagon, thinking that it would be bad to settle down in one place. During the day he would let his wagon take him around town and at night he would sleep in it, so people called him the "wagon monk."

[The wagon monk who was never without his wagon.]
[The wagon monk who was never without his wagon.]

        One day, the snowy landscape was beautiful, so the wagon monk took his wagon and headed toward Sagano, gazing in all directions at the scenery around him.
        Just then, Tarobo, a long-nosed goblin of Mt. Atago, was watching him.
"This man seems to have a slightly proud heart. I think I will play a little trick on him."
        Tarobo disguised himself as a monk and came down Mt. Atago to Sagano.
"Hello there! Wagon monk, I have something to say to you."
        "Who are you?"
the wagon monk asked.
"Why do you spend your life riding round and round in circles on this wagon? It seems as if you are still caught in the cycle of reincarnation,"
he recited.
The wagon monk, finding this quite amusing, recited in reply,
"If there are wheels I can ride and I can understand the teachings, how can I get lost in the cycle of reincarnation while riding through this transient world?"
Hearing this, Tarobo thought, "This guy is tricky," and approached him to ask him some questions. The wagon monk thought,
"Aha, this guy thinks I am proud and came up to me to try to stop me from attaining enlightenment,"
and answered Tarobo's questions one by one. It appeared as if Tarobo had more than met his match.
"You are Tarobo, the goblin who lives in Mt. Atago, are you not?"
asked the wagon monk, realizing Tarobo's true identity. Tarobo gave up and thought about asking his goblin friends for help.
"It is just as you say. I am Tarobo of Atago. There is no road, but come to Mt. Atago. I will be waiting,"
Tarobo stated and as he said this, the sky suddenly began to rumble. A black cloud swooped down, carrying Tarobo off with it, and he was gone.

[The wagon monk answering Tarobo's questions.]
[The wagon monk answering Tarobo's questions.]

        The wagon monk thought, "Well, I wonder if I should head back ... no, he'll definitely come back. This time I'll catch him and make him use some of his magic," and he again began to gaze at the snowy landscape.
        Meanwhile, word of the wagon monk and Tarobo's exchange spread among the goblins, who were large and had wings, in a flash.
"From what we hear, Tarobo was insulted by some trickster in Sagano called the wagon monk. Let's go down to Sagano and teach this wagon monk a lesson,"
the goblins said, and a swarm of black clouds carried them to the wagon monk.
        The wagon monk thought,
"I do not know who they are, but they must have come to try to trick me," but he did not budge.
"Hey, wagon monk, take your pride and come to the goblin road."
        The goblins tried to tempt the wagon monk as they flew around in front of him as they wished. The monk totally ignored them.
        Frustrated by this, one of the goblins took hold of the shaft of the wagon monk's wagon and tried to lift it off the ground.
"Hey, you detestable fellow, take this,"
said the wagon monk, and he raised the holy long-haired brush he was holding and struck the goblin's wing. The goblin tumbled to the ground.
        The goblins, seeing this, swooped down at the wagon monk. The monk began to conjure up the magic spell of the God of Fire. The goblins were terrified and fled in all directions.

[The fleeing goblins.]
[The fleeing goblins.]

        Meanwhile, at Mt. Atago, Tarobo gathered his goblin friends of all sorts at his dwelling. The goblins, hearing about his exchange with the wagon monk, said,
"What a shame! No matter how tough this wagon monk is, if we go, there is no doubt we will be able to bother him in his ascetic training."
As they were about to leave, Jirobo of Hirano Peaks said,
"This is strange. For some reason, Sojobo with the saddled horse is not here! What happened to him?"
"It is very strange that a goblin like Sojobo with the strength of 1,000 goblins is not here. Send a messenger quickly."
        The messenger immediately delivered the message to Sojobo.
"Actually the other day near Ichihara I encountered a trickster called the wagon monk and my wings were so severely broken that I was on the verge of death. Please forgive me."
"We cannot do anything if you do not come with us, Sojobo. Please come with us."
"You do know what you are talking about. Do you know what it means to be on the verge of death? Quickly, go back and tell the other goblins of this matter."
The messenger hurried back to Tarobo and the other goblins and told them what had happened.
"If this he could do this to Sojobo, he must be quite a man. Tarobo, let us call it off this time and wait for our chance."
The goblins backed down.
At this point, Sagamibo spoke up.
"Sojobo was ddefeated because he was alone. If we go in a group like this, we will easily be able to lure the wagon monk down the path of evil."
"Indeed he is right."
The goblins scrambled to find the wagon monk.

[The goblins' war council.]
[The goblins' war council.]

        The sun began to set in the west and the birds started to fly home to roost. Just as the wagon monk was about to head for home, he heard voices in the sky.
"Where are you going, wagon monk? You are probably thinking proudly, 'No one is as important as me.' If that is so, why do you not walk down the path of evil? Good and evil are inseparable like the wheels of a wagon. If Buddhism exists, materialism exists. If Buddha exists, human beings exist. If you exist, Tarobo exists. If you are going to pray, pray. Well, make your choice."
        Looking up at Mt. Atago, the wagon monk saw that untold numbers of goblins were approaching on black clouds, all led by Tarobo.
        This was what the wagon monk had been expecting, so he was not the least bit startled.
"No matter how much you try to bother me, do you really think you are going to affect me? You should go away immediately."
"We won't let that happen. We are taking you down the path of evil."
        The goblins began to strike the monk's wagon.
"How terrible! Do you think you are going to make the wagon move by striking it? The way to make a wagon move by striking the ox."
"There is no point in striking the wagon."
        The goblins thought, "Oh, I see" and were convinced, but when they went to strike the ox, there was no ox. There was no ox because there never was one. In the end, they went back to striking the wagon.
"How stupid! It seems like you cannot see the ox that pulls my wagon. Move out of the way."
"Does that mean that if you strike the ox, the wagon will move?"
"Of course. I will strike the ox. Watch."
        The wagon monk struck the air with his holy brush and mysteriously the oxless wagon began to move. In no time he went from Sagano to Ogurayama to Oikawa to Arashiyama and back again. The goblins were stunned.

["How mysterious! The wagon moving without an ox."]
["How mysterious! The wagon moving without an ox."]

"Now it is your turn. Let us see how powerful you are."
"We will show you."
        As soon as the goblins said this, the earth split in two and began to burn. It was the dreaded path to hell. A raging battle was being waged inside.
        People calling out each other's names, people wrestling, people cutting off people's heads, people having their heads being cut off, people fighting furiously, people committing suicide by cutting their stomachs-every scene of the battle was unfolding right before the wagon monk's eyes.
        Just as it seemed as if the flames were rising once more, the next instant everything was as it was before. The white, snow-covered field stretched out before him.

[The goblins show the dreaded path.]
[The goblins show the dreaded path.]

        "How strange! That was interesting,"
said the wagon monk, who was slightly moved by what he had seen.
"How was that? We can show you things like this for 100 days and 100 nights, as you please."
        The wagon monk, hearing this, came back to his senses and said,
"I will use the power of Buddha's teachings and stop you from using that kind of magic from now on."
The goblins replied,
"Now, we will show you what paradise is like. Look over there."
The wagon monk placed his hands together in prayer and bowed to the sky. He began casting a spell to vanquish the powers of evil.
        Something strange happened. Out of the blue the purple clouds began to appear on the mountains all around. From the clouds, the figure of the God of Fire, his relatives including Kongara and Seitaka, the Twelve Devas and other evil deities appeared.
        The deities captured the goblins flying around, brought them before the wagon monk, who made them swear never to cause such trouble again.
"You are great, wagon monk. You are important and fearsome. We will never do anything like this again."
"Then I forgive you. Go home right away."
The goblins disappeared into the clouds and the mist and they all returned to Mt. Atago.
        It was precisely because the wagon monk pursued his study of Buddhism that he was able to call upon these mysterious forces. It was all thanks to the power of Buddhism. This story was about how you should believe in Buddhism.

[The goblins surrender.]
[The goblins surrender.]

** The End **

Copyright 2002. Kyoto University Library