I-Lung

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Tales from the Gosho

I-Lung

This month we will discuss a person named I-Lung who by copying
the Daimoku or titles of the lotus Sutra was able to save his father
from the sufferings of hell. parable is illustrated in detail in Nichiren
Daishonin’s Gosho, specifically Letter to Horen, also referred to as
Wu-Lung and I-Lung, (Shinpen, p. 809).
Long ago in China there lived a renowned master calligrapher named
Wu-Lung. Wu-Lung was an ardent believer of Taoism who highly
respected Lao Tzu 1. Since Wu-Lung detested Buddhism, the
Buddhist scriptures were the only documents that he we would not
transcribe.
Wu-Lung had a child named I-Lung who excelled in calligraphy just
as his father. His ability in inscribing beautiful Chinese characters
with the brush was astounding. At the time of Wu-Lung’s impending
death, he summoned his son I-Lung to his side and said:
It is my will that after my death you follow me in becoming a master
calligrapher. Our family has embraced the Taoist teachings for
generation upon generation. Therefore, of the calligraphic works you
produced, you must not transcribe any of the Buddhist teachings.
Shakyamuni Buddha once stated the term “Yuiga Tokuson” – that he
is the only revered one within this world. However, your father
believes that Lao Tzu is a revered person, therefore, you must never
ever transcribe any of the Buddhist works. If you break this promise,
I will return as a ghost to kill you. You must keep this promise.
As soon as the father, Wu-Lung, said this, his tongue splintered into
eight parts and his head broke up into seven pieces. He suffered an
extremely painful death as blood gushed forth from his eyes, ears,
nose and mouth. Wu-Lung was forced to endure this death of
suffering as punishment for placing credence in a mistaken teaching
and disbelieving in the True Law. However, his son I-Lung did not
understand this and followed his father’s will to the letter, not
transcribing a single thing that had to do with Buddhism. Many years
passed since the death of the father. One day though, a messenger
arrived from the king of his country Ping-cho. The king’s name was
Ssu-ma and he was a believer in the Buddhist Law. The messenger
had come to visit I-Lung on request of the king to ask him as the
most skilled calligrapher throughout the country to transcribe a copy
of the lotus Sutra to be made as an offering during a Buddhist
memorial service. I-Lung, however, refused the king’s request, citing
the promise he had made to his father to maintain his will. The king
did not give up his desire to have the copy of the sutra transcribed.
He instead asked another calligrapher to make the transcription.
However, this calligrapher was not able to render a transcription that
was pleasing to the king. At this point, the king attempted once more
to persuade I-Lung to write some of the sutra by ordering him, “It
will be sufficient if you please just copy the titles of the eight
volumes of the Lotus Sutra.”
I-Lung responded, “I’m so very sorry, Please forgive me.” again
refusing the king’s request.
The king replied, “Wasn’t your father one of my retainers? If you do
not obey my words, then I will be forced to have you beheaded right
here in this garden.” I-Lung began to cry as he inscribed the words,
“Myoho-Renge-Kyo Dai-Ichi”, “Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Dai-Ni”, continuing
until he had written down all the titles of each of the eight volumes
of the Lotus Sutra. In having written the tittles of the sutra, I-Lung
then received the king’s forgiveness. I-Lung returned home and was
filled with tears as he apologized to the spirit of his deceased father
for having violated his will. He eventually cried himself to sleep.
During the middle of the night as I-Lung slept, he had a very unusual
dream. In this dream, just as when the sun first rises in the early
morning in which everything is suddenly illuminated, he saw a lone
wondrous heavenly being who stood in a garden attended by
multitudes of people. Above this were sixty-four Buddhas in the sky.
I-Lung was astonished and asked the lone figure, “Who are you?”
The heavenly being replied:
I am your father, Wu-Lung,. As punishment for having spoke
abusively about the True Buddhist Law, I languished at the time of
my death as blood poured from my entire body. Even after I died, I
was forced to endure the agony of the hell of incessant suffering. The
torment was tremendous. The agony experienced was much more
horrendous than the suffering of having one’s fingernails ripped off
with a sword, one’s head cut off with a saw, being forced to walk
over hot coals and being wrapped in thorns. I wanted to inform you
of these things and ask you to make Buddhist offerings fro the
deceased, but I was not able. I regretted having told you it was my
will that you not write any of the Buddhist teachings. Yesterday
morning, the initial character “Myo” of the Lotus Sutra flew above
the hell of incessant suffering and suddenly turned into a golden
Shakyamuni Buddha and said, “Any person who hears the Lotus
Sutra will become happy, even the most evil of people.” From the
character of “Myo”, it then began to rain heavily as it extinguished
the fires of the hell of incessant suffering. The great king of hell,
Emma, held this with great veneration, and the surrounding demons
all readied themselves for resistance. Then the next characters of
“Ho” and “Ren” appeared, with sixty-four characters becoming sixty-
four Buddhas. Everything around us became bright and the suffering
disappeared. These Buddhas then stated, “Our golden bodies are the
sixty-four characters of the titles of the eight volumes of the Lotus
Sutra that you, I-Lung, write. (Since I-Lung is a child of Wu-Lung, it
was the same as if Wu-Lung himself had written these characters.)
Because of what you did, all the people who were in hell together
with me and myself were saved. So, we all came to thank you.
I-Lung had broken his promise with his father and was grieved over
the fact that his father was probably angry at him and distressed
over what he had done. On the contrary, however, when he found out
that his father had instead been saved from hell he became
overjoyed. From that time on, he never again transcribed non-
Buddhist documents. When he explained to the king about the dream
he had, King Ssu-ma was also highly delighted. It is said that the
Lotus Sutra spread throughout the Kingdom that then brought
prosperity.
This parable is a story that explains the benefit of transcribing the
Lotus Sutra. Naturally, the benefit will be even greater for one who
actually uses one’s mouth to chant Daimoku or use one’s body to
practice the Lotus Sutra. If by the will of one’s parents, one practices
a mistaken religion or philosophy, then both the parents and that
person will suffer. For example, if one’s parents are thieves, then
both the parents and the children will increasingly be accumulating
the causes in their lives to become unhappy.There are three ways to
requite the debt of gratitude that one owes one’s parents. Dividing
them into three “highest”, “middle” and “lowest” ways, the third or
“lowest” way of repaying one’s debt of gratitude to one’s parents is in
giving material goods. For example, this can be done by building a
house for one’s parents, presenting them with beautiful clothes,
preparing or taking them out to eat delicious food, amongst other
things. The “middle” or second way is to sincerely attend or take care
of them. This is done, for example by listening to what your parents
tell or advise you, by sincerely feeling in one’s heart that one’s
parents are truly dear, holding them in esteem and by obeying what
they have told you. The first or “highest” way is to bring the life
conditions of one’s parents to that of happinesses through the
benefits of the Gohonzon and the power of the Buddha. This can be
done, for example, by holding memorial services for one’s parents
after they have passed away which includes the offering of memorial
(Toba), sincerely praying for one’s deceased parents during the fifth
prayer in morning and evening Gongyo, and by chanting Daimoku for
them.
The first or “highest” way of repaying one’s debt of gratitude to one’s
parents far surpasses that of the “middle” and “lowest” ways. By
chanting Daimoku for one’s parents even after they have passed
from this world, one’s parents, one’s ancestors and oneself can all
attain Buddhahood through the benefit of the Gohonzon. Let’s all
strive to sincerely chant Daimoku in a resonant and clear voice, and
with correct posture to the Gohonzon together with our families,
either in our own homes, when we have the opportunity to make a
pilgrimage to the Head Temple or when we participate at the Shodai-
kais of our local temples. This sincere effort on our part, is the most
wonderful form of repaying our debt of gratitude to our parents.

Reference:
1. Horen Sho (Letter to Horen, also referred to as Wu-Lung and I-
Lung), Shinpen, p. 809.
2. A Dictionary and Buddhist Terms and Concepts, NSIC.
3. Dictionary of Oriental Literature-East Asia Edition, Tuttle.
Footnotes:
1. Lao Tzu b. ?570-d.490 BC?) the founder of Taoism in China, and
according to Ssuma Ch’ien, is said to have been originally an archivist
and with the Chou court. Seeing the dynasty decline, he resigned his
court position and set out for the Han-Ku Pass (south-west of present
day Honan Province). At that time he wrote his teachings of Tao (the
way, method, reason) and Te (virtue, power energy)that later
became known as the 81 chapter volume of Tao Te Ching, the central
basis of Taoist philosophy.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly