You are walking in Kyoto, towards the Eifukuji Temple (the Temple of Eternal Bliss). It is the year 1251, in the Kencho period of Emperor Gofukakusa. A monk from the temple, named Zenko, passes you by, walking hurriedly with a wooden box in his hands.
The night before, Zenko sat by the side of his ill mother. Although he had been taking good care of her, she was not recovering and spoke from her bed to Zenko: “If only I could eat some octopus (tako), I like that so much from since I was young, that my illness might get better!”
Zenko was not allowed to buy octopus, a living being, for a meal because he was a Buddhist monk and therefore he was greatly distressed. Still, the thought of his sick mother was stronger than his awe for the precepts, so when he woke this morning, he took a wooden box in his arms and went to the market to find an octopus.
Other people on the street have taken notice of Zenko as well, and are starting to seem suspicious. You walk quickly behind the others who are following Zenko back to the gate of his temple. The whispers you hear in the crowd reveal that people are questioning whether Zenko bought a living creature for food. Upon arrival at the gate, they press him to show what is in the box.
Zenko does not refuse, and prays with all his heart to the Lord Buddha: “I have only bought this octopus to help my mother recover from her illness. Lord Yakushi, please help me out of this difficulty!” You begin to feel nervous for Zenko and hold your breath as he slowly opens the box…
When he opens it, the eight-legged octopus transforms into a set of eight sutra scrolls and a light shines from them in all four directions! The crowd of people all press their hands together in prayer and sing the praises of the Lord Yakushi, the Buddha of the Lapis Lazuli Paradise. You too begin to pray and sing until your song stops abruptly, jaw dropped in complete awe.
Right before your eyes, the eight scriptures turn back into an octopus that jumps into the pond in front of the temple and then changes again, into the form of the Yakushi Buddha! The Buddha emits a green Lapis Lazuli light which strikes the head of Zenko’s mother, and immediately heals her illness. She rises from her bed and in a loud voice sings the praises of the Lapis Lazuli Buddha, over and over again.
People from all over the town hear the loud songs and join you at the temple, praying for relief from illness, for the blessing of children, and for all types of difficulties and problems to be eliminated. From that day on, the temple comes to be known as Octopus Yakushi.
~ inspired by the engi, retold in a pamphlet from the Octopus Yakushi Temple in Kyoto, Japan
What prayers are you carrying and what songs of praise are you singing today? Where are the metaphorical or literal temple gates that you visit? Share your songs, praises, and “temple gates” in whatever way you choose, remembering that you can’t do YOU wrong! Post on your social networks and/or on the CLNFacebook Page.