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Importance of Itai Doshin

Once upon time, tens of thousands of quails lived in a forest. There were young and old quails and the forest was with noise every day. All day long, the quails fed on fruits, chewed on leaves and ate earthworms. Every day, the quails laid eggs and nourished them, causing the population of the quails to increase gradually.

One day, a man came and the forest was never the same again for the quails. This man was well-known as the best quail catcher in the region. He caught quails in bulk using nets, never individually. How did he manage that? He could imitate the sounds of quails very well by whistling.

“Come here, everybody! There is plenty of delicious food here” Hence, this resulted in the gathering of many quails from all the different parts of the forest. The man would capture the unsuspecting quails immediate when they were flying. The shocked quails would then flap their wings and attempted to escape. However, the harder the quails struggled, the tighter the net became. Hence, the man was able to capture hundreds of quails at once. After this incident, the quails became more wary.

However, some of the greedy quails would still be attracted to the imitated whistles of the man and ended up being trapped in the net again. Upon witnessing the situation above, the leader of the quails often thought to himself: “What should I do? I must think of a solution.”

But, the imitation calls of the man were so realistic that even the leader of the quail were tricked at times. It was hard to differentiate these imitations from the calls of his peers.

Nevertheless, the leader strongly believed that even if they were trapped within the net, they would be able to escape, as long as everyone could unite as one group. Hence, he asked all the quails to gather. “I believe that everyone wants to escape from the quail catcher, despite being tricked by him. I have a strategy. Whenever the large net fall from above, we should never panic. We should also refrain from spreading our wings. We should remain still, hold the net firmly with our mouths and avoid getting our bodies trapped. We shall then fly upwards as one group. After that, we will shift the net to a rose tree nearby and toss it there. The net will be trapped on the rose tree, enabling all of us to escape. Alright?

“It is important that all of us unite as one. Let’s split into groups and follow the instructions of the group leader. If we act individually, we will definitely get captured again.”

The next day, the quail catcher came again. As usual, he whistled: “Come quickly, everyone. I have joyous news.”

Once again, the quails were tricked and lured over. They were captured and trapped within the net. As usual, the quail catcher smiled in glee. However, this time the quails did not put up a struggle as they used to. The net rose gently upwards and got caught on the rose tree. Moving from the rose tree branches, the quails flew towards the sky. None of them were caught. The quail catcher was taken aback. “Are my eyes playing tricks on me? What exactly is happening?” The net continued to rise skywards.

As the quail catcher took a closer look, he noticed that there was not a single quail within the net. Furthermore, it was hard to retrieve the net, which was stuck on the rose tree. The quail catcher was astonished by the unexpected outcome. However, he was still able to smile. This was because, being an expert quail catcher, the more challenges he faced, the more excited he became.

He thought to himself “Given your (the quails’) capability, I must take revenge.” Hence, he continued using his net on the following days. He whistled and waited for the quails to be trapped. The net rose skywards and got stuck on the rose tree time again. As he continued this procedure routinely the quail catcher was convinced that the quails’ unity would be put to the test, since he knew that quails were birds which were individualistic by nature.

A few days later, his prediction came true as the captured quails started quarrelling while taking instructions from their leader and lifting the net. The reasons for their arguments were that they were knocked against and trampled upon by one another while being trapped in the net. Hence, their feet and wings were stuck and all of them were captured within the net once again.

The strategy which the leader painstakingly took to come up with was rendered useless, all because of the disunity among the quails. Similarly, given that the successive High Priests wholeheartedly intend to save all believers from their misery and hardship by setting a common direction for all believers to follow, if we cannot come together as one group and unite through itai doshin, we will suffer the same fate as the quails. Even though there are thousands of quails, as long all of them are united and act together by tossing the net skywards, they will be safe. This is what is meant by itai doshin.

On the other hand, if there is no itai doshin among them, they will be caught as each of them panics while acting individually. This is what is meant by many spirits same body.

Nichiren Daishonin in ‘On Itai Doshin’ states “Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal if they are of the same mind.”

This is especially true in faith as the importance of the spirit of itai doshin, cannot be over emphasised.