108. The Roads to the Summit Are Many
Seijiro Imagawa had been suffering from a stomach ailment for many years. He was an ardent follower of the Hokke sect. He invited Buddhist priests to his home to pray for him and he himself also prayed all the time. Although others were saved by this, his own stomach ailment did not get any better. One day, the wife of a neighborhood bamboo dealer said to him, “Since you are devoted to Hokke you might not listen but there exists a wonderful god.” He replied, “I will listen to the talk once to learn what is taught.” Thus, it was arranged for him to listen to the teachings of the path. He then received the marvelous divine blessing through the three days and three nights of prayers, and recovered completely from the stomach ailment which had bothered him for thirty years. This was about 1882.
Thereafter, he completely ceased going to the Buddhist temple, and resolved to follow the path single-heartedly. He returned to Jiba and when he had an audience with Oyasama, he received these wonderful words:
“Do you know Mt. Fuji? Its summit is one, but the roads to the summit are many. Whichever road you take, it is the same.”
He was deeply moved by Her warm parental love.
Then, Oyasama asked:
“Did you come from Osaka?”
and, continuing, said:
“I understand Osaka has many fires. Even if a fire should get close, in some cases it will burn only so far and then it will stop moving any closer. The reason it stops is because the direction of the wind changes. Because the wind changes direction, a fire stops from coming.”
She explained with the gesture of drawing a line with Her finger.
Later, on September 5, 1890, at the time of the great Shimmachi Fire in Osaka, the fire burned furiously toward the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity] at Itachibori. Everyone, beginning with Izutsu, the head of the [confraternity], performed the Prayer Service in earnest. Then, just as the wooden fence in the back edge of the lot was burned down, the direction of the wind changed and the whole area of the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity] remained untouched. Seijiro, with deep emotion, recalled the words of Oyasama.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 91–93
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“[Imagawa Seijiro was] a member of the Shinmei-gumi Confraternity. He was the first minister of Totsu Bunkyokai, affiliate of Ashitsu Daikyokai.”
My research / take
It ought be mentioned that the “Hokke” or Lotus sect must refer to one of the several Nichiren Buddhist branches that existed at the time. I also imagine that the priests most likely recited the Lotus Sutra on Imagawa’s behalf when they prayed for his recovery and that Imagawa himself likely chanted the daimoku.
Regarding the quote attributed to Oyasama (“Do you know Mt. Fuji? Its summit is one, but the roads to the summit are many. Whichever road you take, it is the same.”), one can almost imagine Imagawa “was deeply moved by Her parental love” because Nichiren Buddhism had a historical tendency to be highly sectarian1, insisting its practice was the only one that mattered, and its priests would most surely have been miffed when Imagawa converted to the faith Oyasama expounded.
When preparing for this post, I serendipitously came across The Religions of Man from Huston Smith, professor of religion and philosophy, who, in writing on Hinduism, illustrates a religious sentiment not unlike what Oyasama expressed in Anecdotes 108. I give a rather lengthy citation (from a section that happens to be entitled “Many Paths to the Same Summit”):
That Hinduism has shared her land for centuries with Parsees, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians may help explain a last idea that comes out more clearly through her than through any other leading contemporary religion; namely, her conviction that the various major religions are alternate and relatively equal paths to the same God. To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room but not the next, in this attire but not another. Normally each individual will take the path which leads up life’s mountain from his own culture; those who circle the mountain trying to bring others around to their paths are not climbing. In practice India’s sects have often been fanatically intolerant, but in principle they have remained notably open. The Vedas early announce Hinduism’s classic contention: the various religions are but the different languages through which God has spoken to the human heart. “Truth is one; sages call it by different names.”
It is possible to climb life’s mountain from any side, but when the top is reached the pathways merge. As long as religions remain in the foothills of theology, ritual, or church organization they may be far apart. Differences in culture, history, geography, and group temperament all make for different starting points. Far from being deplorable, this is good; it adds richness to the totality of man’s religious venture.2
It may also be worthy of note that while Oyasama is described revealing a sympathetic view of other faiths, statements attributed to her in Anecdotes 10 subtly hints Jiba is superior to other places of worship.
As for the summit of Mt. Fuji, Akio Inoue sensei has written that it symbolizes the realm of spiritual insight (satori) where the Joyous Life will come into view. He writes, “It is said that once one begins to see the image of Mt. Fuji as a full representation of the concept ‘if one saves others, one shall be saved,’ one will understand there are several roads that lead there.”3
Anecdotes 108 also seems to imply that Oyasama foretold the fire of 1890 and that the Shinmei-gumi Confraternity would be spared, functioning as another feather to her cap (holy reputation).
- Inoue Akio. 2006. “Shinkō to michi: ‘108 Noboru michi wa iku-suji mo’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 177-207.
- Nichiren Shōnin. 2003. Writings of Nichiren Shōnin: Doctrine 1, translated by Hori, Kyōtsū and edited by Sakashita, Jay. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Smith, Huston. 1958. The Religions of Man. New York: Harper Colophon Books.
- The sectarian character of this Buddhist school that emerged in Japan stems from the fact that Nichiren, the monk who founded the sect that bears his name, was highly critical of other Buddhist sects.
Nichiren had proclaimed that “Shingon Buddhism is the evil dharma that destroys the country, the nembutsu is the teaching that leads people into the Hell of Incessant Suffering, Zen is the teaching of heavenly demons, and Ritsu priests are national traitors (Writings of Nichiren Shōnin, p. 273).” He also referred to Pure Land, Shingon, and Zen as “the three calamities” (ibid, p. 219), “derogatorily calls such masters as Kukai, Ennin, Enchin, Annen, Genshin and Honen parasitic worms in one’s bosom” (p. 187) and that the convention of assigning priests from many of the established Buddhist schools to protect the nation was “as useless as feeding coarse food to elderly persons and hard rice to children” (p. 259). ↩
- Smith, p. 76. ↩
- Inoue, p. 184. ↩
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