Tales from the Gosho
In this month’s installment of “Tales from the Gosho,” we will discuss
Bodhisattva Fukyo who became a Buddha by carrying out Buddhist
austerities called raihaigyo or “the austerity of bowing in reverence”
in which he endured verbal abuse having stone thrown at him and
being beaten by sticks.
No doubt all have or will experience friends or acquaintances
speaking ill of us. However, during such time, we should never lose
our temper nor become saddened by these events. We should instead
embrace faith in the Gohonzon and fervently strive to carry out our
In ancient times, there was a Buddhist monk called Jofukyo, whose
name signifies “never despising.” He held his hands together in
reverence equally towards all those he met, whether that person was
a priest, nun, layman or laywoman, and said, “I will never despise or
look down upon you, as you are all people who will [someday]
Bodhisattva Fukyo said this because all people have the Buddha
nature. This signifies that they inherently possess the nature to
someday become a Buddha. Bodhisattva Fukyo therefore carried out
his Buddhist austerity of holding his hands together in prayer as he
bowed his head in reverence to the Buddha nature of each person he
met. He would then say, “I will never despise or look down upon
The people, not understanding why he was doing this, were and at
first, astonished. Then they felt that they were being ridiculed by
Bodhisattva Fukyo and began gossiping or speaking ill of him,
throwing stones and beating him with staves. Nonetheless, Jofukyo
over a period of many years never ceased to bow in reverence to the
people he met.
When Bodhisattva Fukyo’s time of death approached because of all
the persecution he was forced to endure, his past offenses against the
Law of Buddhism were dissipated. At that time, Bodhisattva Fukyo
realized that he had embraced an entire prose section from the Lotus
Sutra that Ionno Buddha1 had preached. Through his faith in this
section of the Lotus Sutra, he was able to receive the benefit of the
purification of the six sense-organs Ñ eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body
and mind. This means that purification comes about through carrying
out consistent faith and practice in True Buddhism.
Many people believe that the scenery they see with their eyes and
the sounds they hear with their ears are the same scenery and
sounds that all other people perceive. Yet, in truth each person sees
and hears things slightly differently from the next. It is taught that
people who are close to reaching enlightenment will see everything
illuminated around them.
A baseball player, for example, says he may see a ball stop in mid-
air as he attempts to catch it. There are also people who are deeply
moved when they hear classical music while others find it irritating.
In this way, one perceives the outside world differently from others
according to one’s own six sense organs. It takes a purified heart to
fully see the world.
It is said Bodhisattva Fukyo was able to extend his life and live to
the extremely old age of two hundred trillion nayuta years, preach
the Lotus Sutra and lead all people to happiness. Because of their
offenses, all the people who had persecuted Bodhisattva Fukyo in the
past fell into the sufferings of hell for a very long time. However
these very people were all later saved by the Lotus Sutra preached
by Jofukyo. Jofukyo represents Shakyamuni Buddha during the time
of his observance of austerities.
You may ask, why was Bodhisattva Fukyo tormented by all these
people even though he had maintained correct faith? The reason can
be found in the Buddhist terms gozai hitchi meaning that one can
expiate the offense of slander against the True Law of Buddhism that
one has committed in the past. For example, when others speak
badly about one’s weak points or defects, the cause of that weak
point or defect is erased and can be changed into strong points or
assets. Therefore, we should feel great joy because we are able to
grow and therefore become happy when others speak negatively of
Secondly, it states within the Lotus Sutra that those who correctly
carry out their practice of Buddhism will undergo various
persecutions. Therefore, all practitioners of the Lotus Sutra strive to
overcome any and all obstacles when faced with persecution. The
benefits received from this are the purification of the mind (heart)
and body, and being able to become truly happy.
Nichiren Daishonin was stuck on the forehead with the Fifth Volume
of the Lotus Sutra during the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.
That particular fifth volume contains the Kanji chapter that states
that the Votary of the Lotus Sutra will be struck by staves and will
encounter the persecutions of the sword. Therefore, Nichiren
Daishonin was overjoyed at carrying out his role as the Votary of the
Lotus Sutra, proving his identity as the True Buddha of Kuon Ganjo.
In our own daily practice and faith of the Daishonin’s True Buddhism,
we should take this as a role model to practice with great joy, no
matter what obstacle we may encounter.
Also there is another tale of a person who was struck with a bow.
This tale appears in Nichiren Daishonin’s Gosho, “Persecution by
Sword and Staff” (Shinpen, p. 1360; M.W. Vol. 2, p. 304) This story
takes place in Japan long before the Daishonin was born.
A young acolyte priest who wasn’t very good at his studies ran away
from the head temple (Tendai sect of Buddhism) and returned to his
parent’s home. However, his father, worried about his son’s future,
would not allow the son to enter into the house and instead took a
bow of boxwood and began striking the boy with all his might as he
exclaimed, “Go back to the head temple and work harder at your
studies!” The young acolyte then gave up trying to enter his parents
home and returned to the head temple. Thereafter, he studied
fervently and later became Ensho, the fifteenth chief priest and
abbot of Mt. Hiei of the Tendai sect.
As he grew older, he recalled the days of his youth and the pain of
the beating with the bow and he had held bitter resentment towards
his father. However, when he became an accomplished adult he
realized that it was because of his father and as a result felt great
feelings of appreciation. After his fathers death, he erected a stupa
made of boxwood as an offering to the soul of his deceased father.
When others speak ill of us, to us, or when we are scolded, let’s take
these things as nourishment for our lives and the practice of
Buddhism. Let us strive to become splendid human beings and
members of Nichiren Shoshu in order to reply to the great
expectations of Nichiren Daishonin and the High Priest.
1 Ionno Buddha: This Buddha is also referred to by the Sanskrit
name, Bhishmagarjitasvararaja, or “King of Imposing Sound” Buddha,
mentioned in the Fukyo (twentieth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
According to this chapter of the Sutra, there were a total of two
billion Buddhas with this name. Bodhisattva Fukyo appeared in the
Middle Day of the Law of the first of these Ionno Buddhas.
©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved