Osha Castle Tragedy:
Essence Of The General Preface to Venerable Master Shinran's
Treatise Teaching, Practice, Faith,
by Eiken Kobai Sensei
The General Preface to the Venerable Master Shinran's Teaching,
Practice, Faith and Attainment begins with:
Reflecting carefully, I realize that
the difficult-to-consider Universal Vow is a great vessel that bears us
across the difficult-to-cross ocean. The unhindered light is the sun of
wisdom that vanquishes the darkness of our ignorance. Thus when
conditions had matured for the teaching of birth in the Pure Land to be
revealed, Jodatsu provoked Jase to commit great crimes. Using this
opportunity, Shakyamuni Buddha lead Idaike to select the Land of Peace
and Happiness by explaining the pure action by which birth (in the Pure
Land) is established.
In other words, after careful reflection, the Venerable Master realized
that Amida Buddha's Primal Vow, which is absolutely beyond the
comprehension of the "ignorant filled with base passions" (bombu), is a
great ship that allows us to sail across the ocean of delusion from
which it is so difficult to be saved, that it is the light which rips
asunder the darkness of doubt without being obstructed by anything.
And because that is what it is, when the Pure Land teaching matured to
where it could be revealed in this world, Jodatsu (Daiba, Devadatta in
Sanskrit) seduced Jase (Ajase, Ajatasatru in Sanskrit) into turning
against his own father, King Binbashara (Bimbisara in Sanskrit), and
finally killing him. This tragic incident resulted in Shakyamuni Buddha
leading Idai (Queen Idaike, Queen Vaidehi in Sanskrit), who desired to
live in a world without suffering, to select the Pure Land of Ultimate
That world is attained by reliance on the Nembutsu of Amida Buddha's
Primal Vow. This is called "accommodative virtue" (gonke no nin), which
refers to a Buddha or a Bodhisattva who has temporarily assumed a form
to bring about the salvation of sentient beings. The Venerable Master
Shinran considered Daiba, Ajase and Idaike in this story recounted in
the Meditation Sutra, to be
Bodhisattvas who assumed the forms they did in order to relieve the
suffering of sentient beings in this world. What this story tells us is
that the Buddha's Great Compassion is what truly saves those who are
filled with evil, such as those who commit the "five perversities"
As I have already stated, the above are the opening words of the
Venerable Master Shinran's major work, Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment.
Obviously, he wanted first of all, to praise the virtue of the Primal
Vow by which he himself was saved, and therefore described the central
character in the Meditation Sutra,
Queen Idaike, with the words, "Shakyamuni Buddha lead Queen Idaike to
select the Land of Peace and Happiness...."
Queen Idaike was the consort of King Binbashara of the great country of
Magda in ancient India.
King Binbashara was a devout Buddhist and well-known in Buddhist
history for having constructed the first gathering place for Buddhists,
known as Chikurin Temple. According to what is narrated in the sutras,
the king and his queen had a very difficult time conceiving a child.
Because he was so anxious for an heir, King Binbashara consulted a
soothsayer, who told him that an ascetic living deep in the mountains
would die in three years and be reborn as the king's child.
King Binbashara was so anxious for an heir, however, that he could not
wait three years. He therefore ordered certain of his followers to
visit the ascetic and persuade him to end his life immediately. If the
ascetic refused, King Binbashara ordered, they were to kill him. And
because the ascetic did refuse to kill himself, the king's followers
killed the ascetic.
Just before he was killed, the ascetic said that when he was reborn as
the king's son, he would in turn kill the king. The king's followers
reported this threat to the king.
As the soothsayer had prophesied, Queen Idaike found herself pregnant
the night of the ascetic's death. King Binbashara was overjoyed. He
called the soothsayer to ask whether the child would be male or a
female. The soothsayer replied that it would be a male, and that this
male successor would eventually injure the king.
At first King Binbashara did not feel threatened by the impending birth
of his son. Finally, however, he became concerned enough that he
ordered Queen Idaike to give birth from the top of a cliff, hoping the
newly-born infant would be killed. Queen Idaike did so, but
miraculously, the infant lived. All it received was a small cut in its
The infant grew up to be Prince Ajase who rebelled against his father,
imprisoned him in a jail with seven walls and finally killed him.
Daiba was Shakyamuni Buddha's cousin. He is said to have been Anan's
(Shakyamuni Buddha's closest disciple) older brother. Although Daiba
was also a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, he gradually developed the
ambition to become the leader of the fledgling Buddhist organization.
To accomplish that end, he approached Prince Ajase, gained the prince's
trust, and proposed that Ajase become the political leader of the land
by replacing his father as king of Magda. He then tried to take control
of Shakyamuni Buddha's organization.
After planning this intrigue, Daiba learned the details of Ajase's
birth, which played right into his hands. "Your father planned to kill
you!" Daiba told Ajase. "Because he (King Binbashara) does not love
you, he will not allow you to succeed him. That's why you should do
away with your father and assume the reigns of power yourself!"
Ajase did not trust Daiba at first, and actually became angry at
Daiba's suggestion that he kill his own father. After being told that
his injured little finger was proof that his father had tried to have
him killed, however, Ajase began trusting Daiba. At first, Ajase tried
to starve his father to death by placing him in a jail with seven walls.
The Venerable Master Shinran wrote about this in Hymns of the Pure Land (Jodo Wasan) in the following way:
Not waiting for
the ascetic’s natural death,
King Bimbisara had
In retribution for
this horrendous act,
He himself was
placed in a prison of seven nested
Last year I went on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India. With my own eyes I
saw the remains of the seven-walled jail within which King Binbashara
was imprisoned; the remains of wheel tracks of the chariot that the
king rode; the remains of Osha Castle where King Binbashara, Queen
Idaike and Prince Ajase lived; and finally the remains of King
Binbashara's temple, said to be the first Buddhist structure ever built
(Chikurin Temple. What remains today, however, was built much later.)
The activities of Shakyamuni Buddha, King Binbashara, Queen Idaike,
Prince Ajase and Daiba two-thousand-five-hundred years ago came vividly
Returning to my narrative, Queen Idaike learned that her son had
imprisoned her husband in a seven-walled jail and was starving him. She
therefore covered her body with a mixture of honey and wheat-flour
paste, and filled her ornaments with wine. In this way, she was able to
secretly feed her husband. After 'three periods of seven days' (21
days), when Ajase inquired of his guards about his father's condition,
he learned how his mother was keeping his father alive.
"My mother has turned against me!" Ajase shouted. "She's a traitor!"
Ajase tried to kill his own mother, but was prevented from doing so by
two of his senior counselors, Giba and Gakko (Jiva and Candraprabha in
Sanskrit). Queen Idaike was placed in prison as a compromise.
The problem of a child using violence to solve a family quarrel is the
same social problem that exists today, 2,500 years later. I believe
that for a parent, nothing is more frightening than to have a child use
violence. How much more difficult would it be for a mother who
sacrificed herself to give birth to and raise a child, have that child
turn against her?
Choked with tears, Queen Idaike faced Mt. Gishaku where Shakyamuni
Buddha was then living, and asked him to console her.
Shakyamuni Buddha immediately appeared before Queen Idaike.
"O World-Honored One," Queen Idaike said, "what evil have I committed
that I gave birth to such a child?
"Further, O World-Honored One, how could you be related to so evil a
person as Daiba?" she asked.
While acknowledging the evil in her own child, Queen Idaike could not
help but make allowances for that evil. "If only that even-more-evil
Daiba had not been around...if that Daiba had not tempted my precious
son, my precious Ajase would not have killed his father." Even as she
sought his help, Queen Idaike could not help feeling resentment towards
Shakyamuni Buddha because of a desire to protect her own child. Her
resentment of Shakyamuni Buddha was all the greater because Daiba was
Shakyamuni Buddha's cousin.
Queen Idaike thus reveals herself as a self-centered, deeply-evil
individual who is 'ignorant and filled with base passions' (bombu).
But Queen Idaike then asks, "O World-Honored One, please teach me of a
world in which there is no suffering or agony. That is where I would
like to live. Please use your great powers to show me such a pure
Shakyamuni Buddha revealed and explained the various Buddha-worlds in
the ten directions. Queen Idaike selected Amida Buddha's Pure Land (the
Pure Land of Serene Sustenance), and asked to be born there.
This is expressed in the General Preface to the Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment
in the following way:
And using this
opportunity (to reveal the Pure Land teaching), Shakyamuni Buddha lead
Vaidehi to select the Land of Peace and Happiness.
And in Hymns of the Pure Land,
the Venerable Master Shinran wrote:
Leading her to
Amida’s world of
peace and happiness
From all the lands
Revealed in the
pedestal of light.
The Venerable Master Shinran said that in order to lead Queen Idaike
from her grief and sorrow as a result of the treachery of her own son -
in response to her desire for a realm without suffering or anguish -
Shakyamuni Buddha lead her to wish birth in Amida Buddha's Pure Land of
The Venerable Master Shinran considered King Binbashara, Queen Idaike,
Prince Ajase and Daiba to be bodhisattvas who took human form in order
to "save" deluded beings. He considered this tragedy of Osha Castle a
means to lead those who are aware of the "weight of their karmic evil"
(zai-aku jinju) and their "ignorance and base passions" (bombu) to the
realm of salvation through the Primal Vow. That is why the Venerable
Master emphasized that, like Queen Idaike, those with true and real
shinjin would receive great salvation.
In his Hymn of True Faith,
the Venerable Master wrote:
correctly receive the diamond-like mind,
In accord with the
one-thought-moment of joy;
They acquire the
And reveal the
eternal bliss of dharma-nature
Just as Queen
As expressed here, those with the settled 'diamond-like mind' (SHINJIN)
and the resulting joyous mind and heart, acquire the same 'three-fold
insight' (joy, awakening, confidence).
The Venerable Master Shinran considered acquiring the 'three-fold
insight' to be the same as entering the 'group of those assured (of
birth in the Pure Land)' and that doing so guarantees we will be born
in the Pure Land where we will attain Enlightenment.
Essentially, what this part of the Hymn
of True Faith states is that in this present life, those with
'settled SHINJIN' will dwell in the same 'group of those assured (of
birth in the Pure Land)' that Shakyamuni Buddha taught Queen Idaike in
the story of the Tragedy of Osha Castle.
Regarding this point, in the Chapter on Faith of the Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment,
it states that since those with 'settled SHINJIN' are guaranteed to
become a Buddha, they are the same as Miryoku Bosatsu. Following this
passage, the Venerable Master continued:
who receive the diamond-like mind are the equals of Queen Idaike and
realize the insights of joy, awakening, and confidence. This is because
they have the true mind directed toward them '(in the aspect of) going
(to the Pure Land),' which accords with (the working of) the
'marvelously mysterious' Primal Vow.
In other words, those who receive the SHINJIN of "Buddha-centered
power" receive the same "three-fold insight" of "joy" (ki), "awakening"
(go) and "confidence" (shin) that Queen Idaike did, and dwell in the
"group of those assured (of birth in the Pure Land)." All this, the
Venerable Master Shinran said, is solely due to the power of Amida
Buddha's Primal Vow.
He expressed this in the General Preface to his Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment:
"... Shakyamuni lead (Queen) Idaike to select the Land of Peace and
Happiness" after being oppressed by her own son and being jailed, after
barely escaping being killed herself. While lamenting her difficulties,
Queen Idaike heard and seriously considered Shakyamuni Buddha's Dharma
Talk. As a result, she entered the world of salvation through the
Primal Vow, received the 'three-fold insight' and entered the 'group of
those assured (of birth in the Pure Land)' in her present life. This is
what the Venerable Master Shinran emphasized and urged us to also
Near the end of the General Preface are the words:
Ah, hard it is to encounter, even in
many lifetimes, the decisive cause of birth (in the Pure Land), Amida's
universal vow! How hard it is to realize, even in myriads of kalpas,
pure SHINJIN that is true and real!
As expressed here, the true and real 'pure SHINJIN' (jo shin) is
difficult to receive, but when it is received, we are able to
appreciate the 'power of (Amida Buddha's) Primal Vow' (honganriki), and
take the greatest of joy in it.
I believe this expresses very well the Venerable Master Shinran's mind
and heart that urges us to receive SHINJIN.