Long ago, Cho was one of seven Chinese countries during the Period of the Warring States, which lasted from 465 BC until China was unified by the Shin dynasty in 221 B.C.
There was once a person named Rin-Shojo in the country of Cho. Although he was of humble birth, because of his wisdom, he was taken into service by the King of Cho to administer the affairs of the country. Once, the King of Shin said that he would give the King of Cho fifteen cities in exchange for the Jade of Cho, and Shojo was dispatched to carry the jewel to Shin as envoy of the king, . At that time, the rest of the ministers conspired against him. “If such a precious gem is entrusted to a man of low birth like Shojo, it would look like there is no one capable in this country to whom it could be entrusted. It is shameful for us. We will be looked down upon by people of later generations. We should kill him while he is on his way and steal the jade.”
At the time, someone secretly told this to Shojo and advised him to decline the mission in order to save his life. Shojo said, “I dare not decline. It will be my pleasure for later generations to know that Shojo, envoy of the king, was killed by evil ministers while on his way to Shin with the jade. Even though I might be killed, my name as a wise man would remain.” So saying, he left for Shin. When the other ministers heard of his remark, they said, “We cannot kill a person like this” and gave up the plot.
Shojo eventually met the King of Shin and gave him the jade. However, he realized that the King of Shin was not an honest person and was not about to give the fifteen cities in exchange for it. So Shojo devised a plan and said, “There is a flaw in this jade. I’ll show you.” So saying, he took the jade back, and continued, “From your demeanor, your Majesty, you seem to begrudge the fifteen cities. If so, I will smash this jewel by hitting it against the bronze pillar!” Glowering at the king with angry eyes, he moved toward the bronze pillar as if he were really going to break the jade. The King of Shin said, “Please don’t break the jade! I’ll give you the fifteen cities. Keep the jade while I make the arrangements.” Afterward, Shojo had one of his men secretly take the jade back to his own country.
Later, the Kings of Cho and Shin met at a place named Menchi for a party. The King of Cho was a skillful lute player. When the King of Shin asked him to play something for his amusement and the King of Cho complied without consulting Shojo first, Shojo became angry because his king had obeyed an order of the deceitful King of Shin. He said, “The King of Shin shall play the flute for my amusement.”
He approached the King of Shin and asked, “Your Majesty, you are skilled at playing the flute. The King of Cho would appreciate listening to you very much. Please play.” The King of Shin refused, and one of his generals reached for his sword and rushed toward Shojo for his impudent request. Shojo glared furiously at the general who became frightened and retreated without drawing his sword. Finally, the King of Shin consented and played the flute.
Shojo eventually became the prime minister and administered the affairs of the country. One time, another minister envious of Shojo’s higher status tried to kill him. Shojo fled and hid himself here and there. Appearing to be afraid of the minister, Shojo purposely avoided any encounter with the minister even when he had to go to the court. One of Shojo’s retainers said, ”It is easy matter to have that minister killed. Why do you hide yourself in fear?”
Shojo said, “I’m not afraid of him. With my eyes I have defeated the general of Shin. I also took back the jade from the king himself. Of course I can kill the minister. However, raising an army and gathering troops should be for defending our country against our enemies. As its ministers, we are now in charge of protecting the country. If the two of us quarrel and fight with each other, one of us will die. Then, one half will be lost. If that happens, neighboring countries will take delight and attack us for sure. Therefore, I hope for the two of us to remain unharmed to protect our country together. This is why I don’t fight with him.”
Upon hearing this, the minister became ashamed of himself and called on Shojo to express his regret. The two of them then cooperated in the task of governing the country.
Zen Master Dogen commented on this story, saying, "Shojo forgot himself and carried out the Way. Now in maintaining the Buddha-Way, we should have the same attitude. It is better to die for the Way than to live without it."