Ichimyo-maro

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Tales from the Gosho:
Ichimyo-maro

This month we will discuss one of the stories seen in the writings of
Nichiren Daishonin, entitled “Ichimyo-maro”. In the first installment
of this series, we will present a story about Ohashi Sadatsune. This
person is noted in “Reply to Lord Nanjo”1, also referred to as “The
Story of Ohashi-no-taro”. (M.W., Vol. 6, p. 147). In a letter to Lord
Nanjo Tokimitsu, Nichiren Daishonin writes that as Ichimyo-maro
realizes his father had been captured by enemies and imprisoned in
a dungeon, he earnestly prays with wholehearted belief in the Lotus
Sutra that his father’s life will be spared and that he will not be
beheaded.
Ichimyo-maro is the childhood name of Ohashi Sadatsune, who was
born on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. His father, Ohashi
Taro Zaemon-no-jo had been a retainer of Taira no Kiyomori2 and
the steward of the three provinces of Chikugo, Chikuzen and Higo3.
The Genji and Heike Clans4 battled for power throughout Japan,
resulting in the Heike Clan being defeated. Ichimyo-maro’s father,
Ohashi Taro Zaemon-no-jo, was captured by Minamoto Yoritomo5
and brought to the city of Kamakura where he was imprisoned for
twelve years.
Ichimyo-maro had been born after his father’s arrest. He lived
together with his mother and at the age of seven, entered a mountain
temple and began training for the Buddhist priesthood. His
schoolmates and friends ridiculed him, calling him a “fatherless
child”. When he asked his mother about his father, his mother
explained, “Your father is a respectable Samurai warrior who was
defeated in battle, taken prisoner by his enemies and brought to the
city of Kamakura. I do not know if he is still alive.” She then showed
Ichimyo-maro a letter that his father had written and a diary that
she kept as keepsakes. Out of love for his father, Ichimyo-maro
memorized every passage in the Lotus Sutra that his mother
believed in and earnestly prayed for his father’s safety.
Ichimyo-maro just could not subdue his deep feelings of wanting to
see his father. So, at the age of twelve, he left Kyushu and walked by
himself all the way to Kamakura in search of his father.
Ichimyo-maro stood in front of the Hachiman Shrine as he arrived in
the city of Kamakura. He fell to his knees and folded his hands in
prayer. He stood for hours reciting the Lotus Sutra with a clear voice
as he asked Bodhisattva Hachiman6 with all his heart to “Please,
somehow grant my prayers. Help me to find my father alive and
well.”
A passerby named Lady Nii (Masako7, the wife of Yoritomo) heard
him praying and suggested he go and recite the Sutra in the hall of
the palace of the Shogun. Following her suggestion, he was chanting
the Lotus Sutra in the palace when a boisterous noise came from the
palace gardens. Inquiring to what it was about, Ichimyo-maro was
told that a man called Ohashi Taro who had been imprisoned for
twelve years was about to be beheaded.
Not knowing what to do, Ichimyo-maro started to cry loudly “My
father is going to be killed!” As the Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo
passed by, Ichimyo-maro pleaded with him. “The man who is about
to be beheaded is my father. Please help my father for whom I
prayed to Bodhisattva Hachiman to save!” While staring at Ichimyo-
maro as the Shogun grappled with the child’s feelings for his parents,
he decided to spare the life of Ohashi Taro.
A horse raced toward the execution site at Yuigahama where at that
very moment, the executioner had just raised his blade. Halting the
execution, Ohashi Taro was saved a the very last moment.
Ohashi Taro whose life had been spared, discovered that he had been
rescued by a child. He was even more surprised to find out that this
child was indeed his own son who had been conceived shortly before
being captured and was born while he had been imprisoned.
Minamoto Yoritomo commented, “This child is yours. You are an
enemy general and you were not executed but instead forced to
suffer imprisonment for twelve years. However, I hereby pardon you
due to the merit of this child’s faith and practice of the Lotus Sutra.”
The father and child were overjoyed as they held on to each other in
a tearful embrace. Yoritomo continued, “the Lotus Sutra is a Law for
which we should all be grateful. Through my own faith in the Lotus
Sutra, I was able to apprehend my parents enemies. The reason that
this child has been able to save his father is truly because of the
benefit of the Lotus Sutra. It is a totally incomprehensible, but
marvelous thing!”
The Lotus Sutra is the highest of all the numerous sutras. It is the
teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha that leads all humanity to
happiness. Nichiren Daishonin has taught that for all those who truly
love their parents, it is important that they perform Gongyo. Nichiren
Daishonin revealed the Gohonzon so that all of us could carry out the
practice of the Lotus Sutra, the most important of all Shakyamuni’s
teachings. Ichimyo-maro believed in and carried out the practice of
the one True Law of Buddhism and was thus, able to save the life of
his father. Let’s all become truly happy and work hard to make the
wonders of this Gohonzon known to all the people who are not yet
acquainted with Nichiren Daishonin’s True Buddhism.

1. Written in 1276 from Mt. Minobu when Nichiren Daishonin was 55
years old.
2. Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181): Also referred to as Taira Kiyomori,
son of the ex-emperor Shirakawa and the most renowned member of
the Taira Clan and a very prominent person in Japanese history who
in 1129, succeeded Taira Tadamori and virtually governed Japan for
twenty years.
3. Chikugo, Chikuzen and Higo: The two ancient provinces of Chikugo
and Chikuzen were located in what constitutes present day Fukuoka
Prefecture in the northwestern sector of the island of Kyushu. Higo
was located in the current Prefecture of Kumamotoa, in the western
area of Kyushu.
4. Genji and Heike Clans: The Genji Clan is composed of four branches
of the Minamoto family while the Heike Clan, also referred to as the
Heishi, are the Taira family. Minamoto is an alternative reading of
the same Chinese character Gen of the name Genji. The term “Genji”
in itself, therefore, signifies the Minamoto family. The Genji were
closely associated with the noble family of the Fujiwara Clan who
fought with Genji against the Taira. The word “Taira” is an alternative
reading of the same Chinese character Hei of the name Heike. The
ancestor of the aristocratic family of Taira Clan was Takamochi, the
grandson of the Emperor, Kammu. These two foci of the Genji and the
Heike Clans battled for authority over Japan in 1160 (1159, by the
lunar calendar) during the Heiji War, also referred to as the Heiji
Insurrection.
5. Minamoto Yoritomo: (1147-1199): the first Minamoto Shogun, or
lieutenant-governor, and founder of the Kamakura Shogunate which
governed Japan from 1192 to 1333.
6. Bodhisattva Hachiman: The original form of this bodhisattva was
Shakyamuni Buddha who preached the Lotus Sutra.
7. Masako: (1157-1225): Daughter of Hojo Tokimasa, Masako has
sometimes been referred to in Japanese history as Ama-Shogun, or
the Nun Shogun, and Nii no Zenni, or the Zen Nun Nii. Masako was
appointed governor of Kyoto in 1185. After her husband, the first
Kamakura Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo died in 1199, the widowed
Lady Nii had her head shaved and governed in the name of her son.
After her son Sanetomo was assassinated in 1219, Masako had a two
year old child, Fujiwara Yoritsune appointed emperor as she
governed together with her brother, the Kamakura Regent, Hojo
Yoshitoki.

References:

1. Reply to Lord Nanjo (also referred to as The Story of Ohashi-no-
taro”), Showa Shintei Gosho, Vol. III, p.1460-1476, Nichiren Shoshu
Taisekiji; Shinpen Gosho p.970-974, Nichiren Shoshu Taisekiji; Gosho
Zenshu (“The Complete Writings [of Nichiren Daishonin]”), Nichiren
Shoshu and Soka Gakkai Joint Edition, pp. 1531-1534; The Major
Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. VI, p.147-155.

2. A History of Japan to 1334, G. Sansom, Tuttle.

3. Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan, E. Papinot, Tuttle.

4. Myokyo, Edition no. 8 June, 1993, Myokyo Publishing Committee,
Nichiren Shoshu Hoshoji Temple

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly