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​​​​​Thoughts of Gotan-e

By Rev. Jim Yanagihara

​The great Shinshu scholar and priest, Kojuin Tokuryu (died in 1858 at the age of 87) was the teacher of Hichisaburo, a Myokonin.

Hichisaburo was very humble and modest, a man who never boasted of his deeds or actions.  During discussions on the Teachings, he listened quietly to what others had to say and always recited the Nembutsu.  Even a man as humble and modest as Hichisaburo, an event in his life revealed that he could not be completely so.  The following incident reveals that he was not humble and modest all the time. 

Once, a serious student of Jodo Shinshu visited Hichisaburo to hear his understanding of the Teachings.  The student waited and waited for Hichisaburo to begin his talk, but all he did was recite the Nembutsu.  The student waited so long he began to doze off.  Another man who had also visited Hichisaburo woke the student saying, "What's the big idea of falling asleep when you have come to listen to Hichisaburo on a most important matter!"  To which Hichisaburo said, "No, no, don't scold him.  He is showing me my past life, when I did not listen to the Dharma seriously."

This incident reached the ears of Kojuin Tokuryu, who said disappointedly, "Is Hichisaburo still saying things like that?" 

This was relayed to Hichisaburo who was very surprised at his teacher's remark and decided to go ask him what he meant.  Hichisaburo traveled from his home in Aichi Prefecture to Kyoto only to find that his teacher was away on a lecture tour in Kanazawa City.  After a long difficult trip to Kanazawa City, he met with his teacher and asked him, "What did you mean when you aid, 'Is Hichisaburo still saying things like that?'"  Kojuin looked at him very sternly and asked, "How about now, about now?"

This struck Hichisaburo deeply and he immediately understood what his teacher was saying to him.  He bowed his head and with tears in his eyes apologized saying, "I was boasting that I am better than that student when I'm not.  I still am the same Hichisaburo who often forgets the great Compassion of Amida Buddha."

To listen to the Teaching means to listen earnestly at all times, without any thought of "I have heard enough," or "I know enough of the Teaching," for we never graduate from listening to the Dharma.

Shinran Shonin said, "To boast "I know more than others,' is not the right attitude to listen to the Dharma."

Rennyo Shonin stated, "To think, 'I know enough,' is proof that one has not learned enough."  The idea that "I am good," is the root of all evils. 


This Dharma Message was reprinted from Dharma Talks of the Four Seasons No. 2 which is available for purchase from Hongwanji Place.  Rev. Yanagihara was a long-time minister in the Southern District.  

​​Dharma Message- May 2019