(Minghui.org) There was a general named Toshiyuki Fujiwara in Japan over 1,000 years ago. He was also an accomplished poet. Chinese calligraphy was introduced to Japan during the Sui and Tang Dynasties, and, along with Chinese traditional culture, it was deeply admired. Learning Chinese calligraphy became a fashion in Japan and it developed into a school of art. Fujiwara was also a fan of calligraphy.

After Buddhism spread to Japan, many Japanese started to learn it and to transcribe Buddhist scriptures. Fujiwara took a great interest in it and some of his friends asked him to transcribe Buddhist scriptures for them. He hand-copied around two hundred pieces of Buddhist scriptures (about two volumes).

Summoned to the Netherworld

One day, Fujiwara passed away, but he felt as if his spirit was still alive. Two foreboding emissaries from the netherworld came to him. They tied him up and took him away.

Upset at being mistreated, Fujiwara asked what he’d done to deserve this. “We don't know,” said one of the officers. “We’re just following orders to arrest you. But have you ever copied Buddhist scriptures?”

When Fujiwara admitted that he had, the emissary asked “How much did you copy?” “I copied two volumes at the request of my friends,” Fujiwara said. “Then that is why you are being summoned to the netherworld,” the officer said.

As they escorted Fujiwara in silence, about 200 ghost-like soldiers dressed in armor galloped up on horseback. Their eyes were flashing with fury and their lips were red like fire. Shaking with fear, Fujiwara almost fainted. They headed right for him.

When Fujiwara asked, “Who are these soldiers?” an emissary replied, “These are the people who asked you to transcribe Buddhist scriptures. They were hoping that, by asking you to do that, they would gain virtue and be reborn into a better world, or become deities, or be born again as humans. But you were not diligent when you copied the scriptures. You did not stop eating meat and harbored all sorts of desires. Your mind wandered with random thoughts and was filled with demonic sexual notions. Because of that, they never accrued any virtue and ended up as you see them now. They hate you and reported you to the netherworld. Seeking revenge, they demanded your arrest. You never would have been called here otherwise.”

“What is going to happen to me?” asked Fujiwara in abject fear. “You always ask silly questions,” the emissary said. “They will cut you up into 200 pieces with their swords, and each will take a portion containing a bit of your heart. The pain will be unbearable.”

“How can I be spared?” he asked. “I don't know,” the emissary replied, “I cannot help you.”

Fujiwara paced back and forth and then noticed a river. It was as black as ink and smelled foul. He asked the emissary, “Why is the water so black and evil-smelling?”

The emissary replied, “The water was the ink you used to copy the scriptures. Scriptures copied by people with a clear and calm mind have all been accepted by the heavens, but those like you copied with a dirty mind were thrown into the wasteland. Rain washed the ink off and created this river.” Fujiwara was devastated to hear this.

He wept and asked the emissary, “What can I do to be saved? Please help me.” The officer said with sympathy, “I am very sorry for you, but you have accumulated a lot of sinful karma. I really cannot help you.” Just then, someone told them to hurry up.

Soon they arrived at a gate. Inside were many people who were tied up or in shackles. They had come from many different places and the place was overcrowded.

Making a Vow to Change

The 200 soldiers looked at Fujiwara with hate in their eyes, anxious to cut him up. Terrified, Fujiwara asked the emissary again, “Are you sure there is nothing I can do?” The emissary said, “Well, you could try to make a pledge, promising that you will copy four volumes of scriptures.” So Fujiwara made a vow in his heart before entering the gate that he would copy four volumes of scriptures to make up for his wrongdoings. Soon, he was taken to the palace of hell.

An official came out and asked, “Is this Fujiwara?” “Yes, it is,” replied the emissaries. The officer complained that they were late, then asked, “Fujiwara, listen carefully. What virtue have you accumulated in the human world?”

“Nothing special,” Fujiwara replied. “I copied only 200 pieces of Buddhist scriptures.” The officer said, “Your life span has yet to come to an end, but you were summoned here because you copied Buddhist scriptures with a filthy mind. Now I will hand you over to those who reported you and let them deal with you as they wish.”

Scared stiff, Fujiwara said, “I vowed to transcribe four volumes of Buddhist scriptures but I have only finished two. I have been summoned here without fulfilling my pledge.”

“Is this true? Bring me the record book,” the officer ordered. A huge record book was brought in. While he was flipping through it, Fujiwara looked over and saw that every single sin he’d ever committed was recorded and no acts of virtue—until, at the very end, the vow he’d made before entering the palace of hell.

The officer said, “Very well, I'll give you a chance this time. You may go back to fulfill your vow, but you must truly do as you promised.” At his words, the 200 soldiers disappeared instantly. The officer emphasized one more time, “You must fulfill your vow when you return to the human world!” With these words, Fujiwara was released.

Eternal Remorse and Regret

When Fujiwara came back to life in the human world, he saw his wife weeping sadly. He felt as if he had just awakened from a dream, but everything in the dream was still so vivid. He thought, “This time, I must transcribe the Buddhist scriptures with a pure heart.”

Gradually, Fujiwara regained his health. He prepared his brush, ink-stick, paper and ink-stone to copy the scriptures. He asked someone to draw special lines on the paper so that he could write neatly. As time went on, however, Fujiwara forgot himself again. He often stopped copying and went to seek out geishas for pleasure. Little by little, he forgot everything that had happened in the netherworld. His lifespan soon came to an end and he died.

Over a year later, Ki no Tomonori, a well-known Heian waka poet, saw Fujiwara in a dream, in which Fujiwara looked very strange and horrifying. Fujiwara said to him, “I returned to the human world after making a pledge to copy four volumes of Buddhist scriptures. But because I was weak-willed, I continued to be lazy with a filthy mind. Since I failed to fulfill my vow, I must be punished, and now I am suffering unbearable pain.

“If you take pity on me, please find some good paper and ask the monk in Mitsui Temple to copy four volumes of Buddhist scriptures for me.” Then he burst out crying. Ki no Tomonori woke up in a cold sweat. He got up at dawn, found some paper, and went to see monks in Mitsui Temple.

As soon as one of the monks in the temple saw Ki no Tomonori, he said, “Well, I was about to send someone to your place, but you have come yourself. This is wonderful.” Ki no Tomonori asked, “Is there anything you want from me?” The monk told him, “I dreamed of Fujiwara last night and he told me that he should have copied four volumes of Buddhist scriptures with respect, but because of laziness he died and is now suffering in hell for his sins. Fujiwara also told me that you have the paper and he begged me to copy scriptures to reduce his sins. He cried and told me to ask you about it.”

Ki no Tomonori told the monk what he saw in his own dream. The two wept. The monk took the paper and copied Buddhist scriptures with a pure and sincere heart.

Later, Fujiwara appeared in their dreams again and said, “Thank you, both. With this virtue, I now have a little relief from the unbearable pain.” He looked much better and there was some happiness on his face.

Source of the story: Uji Shūi Monogatari in Japan