|Back||1 2 3||Next|
A Japanese Story
(0 Lovely One-O thou Flower! With Thy beautiful face, with Thy beautiful eyes, pour light upon the world! Adoration to Kwannon.)
In Japan in the days of the remote Ancestors, near the little village of Shiobara, the river ran through rocks of a very strange blue colour, and the bed of the river was also composed of these rocks, so that the clear water ran blue as turquoise gems to the sea.
The great forests murmured beside it, and through their swaying boughs was breathed the song of Eternity. Those who listen may hear if their ears are open. To others it is but the idle sighing of the wind.
Now because of all this beauty there stood in these forests a roughly built palace of unbarked wood, and here the great Emperor would come from City-Royal to seek rest for his doubtful thoughts and the cares of state, turning aside often to see the moonlight in Shiobara. He sought also the free air and the sound of falling water, yet dearer to him than the plucked strings of sho and biwa. For he said;
"Where and how shall We find peace even for a moment, and afford Our heart refreshment even for a single second?"
And it seemed to him that he found such moments at Shiobara.
Only one of his great nobles would His Majesty bring with him - the Dainagon, and him be chose because he was a worthy and honorable person and very simple of heart.
There was yet another reason why the Son of Heaven inclined to the little Shiobara. It had reached the Emperor that a Recluse of the utmost sanctity dwelt in that forest. His name was Semimaru. He had made himself a small hut in the deep woods, much as a decrepit silkworm might spin his last Cocoon and there had the Peace found him.
It had also reached His Majesty that, although blind, be was exceedingly skilled in the art of playing the biwa, both in the Flowing Fount manner and the Woodpecker manner, and that, especially on nights when the moon was full, this aged man made such music as transported the soul. This music His Majesty desired very greatly to hear.
Never had Semimaru left his hut save to gather wood or seek food until the Divine Emperor commanded his attendance that he might soothe his august heart with music.
Now on this night of nights the moon was full and the snow heavy on the pines, and the earth was white also, and when the moon shone through the boughs it made a cold light like dawn, and the shadows of the trees were black upon it.
The attendants of His Majesty long since slept for sheer weariness, for the night was far spent, but the Emperor and the Dainagon still sat with their eyes fixed on the venerable Semimaru. For many hours he had played, drawing strange music from his biwa. Sometimes it had been like rain blowing over the plains of Adzuma, sometimes like the winds roaring down the passes of the Yoshino Mountains, and yet again like the voice of far cities. For many hours they listened without weariness, and thought that all the stories of the ancients might flow past them in the weird music that seemed to have neither beginning nor end.
"It is as the river that changes and changes not, and is ever and ever the same," said the Emperor in his own soul.
And certainly had a voice announced to His Augustness that centuries were drifting by as he listened, he could have felt no surprise.
Before them, as they sat upon the silken floor cushions, was a small shrine with a Buddha shelf, and a hanging picture of the Amida Buddha within it - the expression one of rapt peace. Figures of Fugen and Fudo were placed before the curtain doors of the shrine, looking up in adoration to the Blessed One. A small and aged pine tree was in a pot of grey porcelain from Chosen - the only ornament in the chamber.
Suddenly His Majesty became aware that the Dainagon also had fallen asleep from weariness, and that the recluse was no longer playing, but was speaking in a still voice like a deeply flowing stream. The Emperor had observed no change from music to speech, nor could he recall when the music had ceased, so that it altogether resembled a dream.
"When I first came here - "the Venerable one continued-" it was not my intention to stay long in the forest. As each day dawned, I said; `In seven days I go.' And again - 'In seven.' Yet have I not gone. The days glided by and here have I attained to look on the beginnings of peace. Then wherefore should I go? - for all life is within the soul. Shall the fish weary of his pool? And I, who through my blind eyes feel the moon illuming my forest by night and the sun by day, abide in peace, so that even the wild beasts press round to hear my music. I have come by a path overblown by autumn leaves. But I have come."
Then said the Divine Emperor as if unconsciously;
"Would that I also might come! But the august duties cannot easily be laid aside. And I have no wife - no son."
And Semimaru, playing very softly on the strings of his biwa made no other answer, and His Majesty, collecting his thoughts, which had become, as it were, frozen with the cold and the quiet and the strange music, spoke thus, as if in a waking dream;
"Why have I not wedded? Because I have desired a bride beyond the women of earth, and of none such as I desire has the rumor reached me. Consider that Ancestor who wedded Her Shining Majesty! Evil and lovely was she, and the passions were loud about her. And so it is with women. Trouble and vexation of spirit, or instead a great weariness. But if the Blessed One would vouchsafe to my prayers a maiden of blossom and dew, with a heart calm as moonlight, her would I wed. 0, honorable One, whose wisdom surveys the world, is there in any place near or far - in heaven or in earth, such a one that I may seek and find?"
And Semimaru, still making a very low music on his biwa, said this;
"Supreme Master, where the Shiobara River breaks away through the gorges to the sea, dwelt a poor couple - the husband a wood-cutter. They had no children to aid in their toil, and daily the woman addressed her prayers for a son to the Bodhisattwa Kwannon, the Lady of Pity who looketh down for ever upon the sound of prayer. Very fervently she prayed, with such offerings as her poverty allowed, and on a certain night she dreamed this dream. At the shrine of the Senju Kwannon she knelt as was her custom, and that Great Lady, sitting enthroned upon the Lotos of Purity, opened Her eyes slowly from Her divine contemplation and heard the prayer of the wood-cutter's wife. Then stooping like a blown willow branch, she gathered a bud from the golden lotos plant that stood upon her altar, and breathing upon it it became pure white and living, and it exhaled a perfume like the flowers of Paradise, This flower the Lady of Pity flung into the bosom of her petitioner, and closing Her eyes returned into Her divine dream, whilst the woman awoke, weeping for joy.
But when she sought in her bosom for the Lotos it was gone. Of all this she boasted loudly to her folk and kin, and the more so, when in due time she perceived herself to be with child, for, from that august favour she looked for nothing less than a son, radiant with the Five Ornaments of riches, health, longevity, beauty, and success. Yet, when her hour was come, a girl was born, and blind."
|Back||1 2 3||Next|
The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck