The Importance of Following the True Teacher - Tragedy of Oshichi of a Grocery Store

Suppose you met Buddhism and heard about Amida Buddhaʼs Vow that eliminates our dark minds and grants us absolute happiness. But no matter how much you wish to be saved, it is not possible unless there is somebody who can first show you the way. The person who preaches true Buddhism is called a Zenchishiki. The word chishiki means knowledgeable, but in Buddhism chishiki means a teacher who leads people to Buddhaʼs teaching. And Zen means right or true. So Zenchishiki means a true teacher. (It can be pronounced as Zenjishiki, too).

If someone understands the true mind of Buddha deeply and conveys it to people correctly, then this person is called as a Zenchishiki. (For us, members of Shinran-kai, Takamori Sensei is the great contemporary Zenchishiki.) However, if one misunderstands the mind of Buddha and spreads a wrong teaching, he is called as an Akuchishiki, which means a bad or false teacher.

Amida Buddha is desperately trying to be saved. Why canʼt the desires of both parties be fulfilled if thatʼs so? It is because people have not yet encountered a Zenchishiki who can relate the great compassion of Amida Buddha to them in a way they understand clearly.

This relationship can be explained vividly through the tragic tale of Oshichi, a Japanese girl of exceptional beauty, who lived a couple of hundred years ago.

Love is Blind

Her father was the owner of a grocery shop and they lived modestly within the city. All was well until one day when their home was consumed by an immense fire, forcing her and her family to take shelter at a local temple. Upon arriving, Oshichi quickly fell in love with Kichisaburo, a young handsome attendee of the temple.

The beauty bloom of first love was cut short when Oshichiʼs family had to move back to their newly built home. During the feudalistic Edo period, young lovers were not permitted to see each other freely. Oshichi missed Kichisaburo so badly and wondered in tears if she would ever be able to see him again.

“Maybe... If my house just happens to be burned again...Thatʼs it!” So, Oshichi burned down her parentsʼ house.

At that time, arson was the worst punishable crime. A convicted arsonist would be seated on top of a horse bound with rope and dragged through the cityʼs streets in shame and then burnt at the stake.

Magistrate's Strategy

The magistrate of Edo at that time was famous for his wisdom and sound judgment. He examined Oshichiʼs case and felt very sorry for her. He wanted to spare her life somehow, but the crime she had committed was extremely serious. Leniency in this matter would cause great trouble for him and his administration. There was just no way of reducing her penalty in any way according to the law.

After much consideration, the magistrate decided to save Oshichiʼs life by getting her to alter her testimony with his convincing and authoritative manner. When she was brought before the court, the magistrate reprimanded Oshichi harshly expecting her to simply answer “Yes, Sir!” to everything he commanded.

“Oshichi!” he shouted. “You say it was you who set the fire... but it was actually someone else! Wasnʼt it?!”

Frightened and focused instead on what she thought was the best answer to be set free, Oshichi replied, “Oh, no Sir! It was I who set the fire!” Unfazed by her newly repeated confession, the magistrate rebuked her even more severely in hopes she would follow his lead. “Listen closely now, Oshichi! You say you are FIF–teen years old this year but youʼre still FOUR–teen, arenʼt you?!? ... Donʼt make a mistake this time!!!”

In those days fourteen-years-olds and younger were considered minors and were exempted from punishment. All that was necessary for her life to be saved was a simple answer of “Yes, Sir.” But Oshichi simply couldnʼt read the magistrateʼs mind, “No, Sir! I am truly fifteen years old!!”

In this way, Oshichi lost the opportunity to be set free and brought her own misfortune upon herself. People of those days even made a song about her and sang: “Like the summer-insect that flutters around the candle and burns itself to death, Oshichi, madly in love, ends her life in flames.”

A Go-Betweener

Oshichi desperately wanted to be saved and the magistrate desperately tried to save her. Why then did it have to end in such tragedy? It was because there was no one to convey to her what was on the magistrateʼs mind. His intention to help her despite the strict laws remained unseen. There was too great a distance between the magistrateʼs mindset and Oshichiʼs mindset for mutual understanding.

For example if someone had just told the teen, “Hey, girl, whatever this official guy tells you, all you have to do is say ʻYes, Sir!ʼ He is really trying to get you off the hook, so donʼt sweat it!” then her life might have been spared.

Applying this to Buddhism, Amida Buddha is exemplified as the magistrate and we are portrayed as Oshichi. The person who can convey Buddhaʼs mind to us is the Zenchishiki. Amida Buddha has been longing to save us since ten kalpas ago. Yet people are not able to comprehend his universal mind of infinite compassion. So they are still not saved.

Zenchishiki is the Must

A Zenchishiki is a person who truly understands Amida Buddhaʼs mind and leads people to the right path so they will experience the Buddhaʼs salvation.

If we follow a person who goes west, we will go west. Following a person who goes east, we will go to the east. By following a Zenchishiki, we will encounter a Buddha. No matter how sinful we are, if we meet a Zenchishiki and follow his teaching exactly, it is for certain we will be saved.

To conclude, letʼs use our own physical health as an example. We have to choose the best doctor available if we come down with a serious or rare illness. Thatʼs why we really have to carefully select the right teacher who can lead us to solve our most crucial matter of life. This is why we must make such great efforts to encounter a Zenchishiki.

Edited by Felix Crosser

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #22 | 2012, The Importance of Following the True Teacher - Tragedy of Oshichi of a Grocery Store

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