The second volume of the Yaemugura presents over ten accounts from China and Japan in which people who were mortally ill and near death, or who had actually died, regained health and life through the merits of reciting the Kannon-gyō (Avalokitesvara Sūtra [ch. 25 of the Lotus Sūtra]) or the Enmei jikku kannon-gyō (Ten-phrase Kannon Sutra for prolonging life), and who gave elaborate descriptions of what they had seen in hell prior to their recoveries. Hakuin’s primary objective in relating these accounts was to promote faith in the Enmei jikku kannon-gyō, a text he worked hard to popularize.
After relating these long and detailed stories, Hakuin turns around and informs the reader that they are all fictions and not to be taken at face value. He then proceeds to say that there is a far more valuable “miraculous experience” than the ones he has described. That experience consists of focusing the vital energy in the tanden, practicing zazen, and awakening to self-nature. Moreover, following that awakening, one mustn’t rest in the experience but must press on in the spirit of eternal “after-enlightenment” training, expressed in the dictum, “above, to seek enlightenment, below, to liberate all sentient beings.” This is Hakuin’s true message in the Yaemugura. At first glance the book appears to be a traditional collection of cause-and-effect tales and stories about hell, but it is in fact a discourse on the way of the bodhisattva, centering on bodhicitta, on the four bodhisattva vows, and on benefiting others as one benefits oneself.