Genno Shinsho (1329-1400)

Dispelling the Dragon

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Genno Dispels a Ghost & the Evil Dragaon

Genno was traveling through Hoki when he encountered the ghost of the wife of Shimazu Atsutada, the lord of Kasuga castle. A lifetime of evil deeds had led the deceased wife to suffer the torments of hell. Every night as she attempted to escape, her ghost appeared, shrieking outside of her grave. The local people were afraid to go out after dark. Genno confronted the ghost, teaching her that anyone who repented of their evil deeds could be saved. That night Atsutada dreamed that his wife had become a Buddha. The next morning he discovered that it was Genno who had led her to salvation, and in thanks he pledged his financial support to Genno. Shortly thereafter, Atsutada told Genno that for several nights he had observed a light shine out of the sea to a certain spot on a nearby mountain. Genno interpreted the light as evidence that a Buddhist spirit must be hidden in the mountain. Atsutada, however, told him that at the foot of the mountain lay the pond of an evil dragon. On occasion, the dragon had destroyed local crops and attacked people. Genno walked over to the mountain, seeing with his own eyes the lands wasted, the crops in ruins. The local villagers begged Genno to protect them from the dragon. As he approached the pond, the wind suddenly howled and the surface of the water boiled. The dragon appeared out of the pond and moved toward Genno. To stop the dragon, Genno chanted scripture. Then, as soon as the dragon became still, he administered the precepts. The dragon was transformed instantly into Kannon bodhisattva and disappeared into the sky. The next morning the baleful pond was gone. The site of evil obstructions thus proved the ideal setting for revealing the spiritual power of the precepts and the Buddhist compassion associated with Kannon bodhisattva. At that site Atsutada erected a new Zen temple (Taikyuji) for Genno.

— William M. Bodiford, Soto Zen in Medieval Japan,
     University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1`993, pp. 176-178

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