Sample text for Religions of Japan in practice / George J. Tanabe, Jr., editor.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog

Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.


Religions of Japan in Practice

George J. Tanabe, Jr., Editor

Chapter One

Selected Anecdotes to Illustrate Ten Maxims

Ward Geddes

In the winter of the fourth year of the reign period Kencho (1252), I made some free time and wrote in that period when my mind was at repose. An old man, ... retiring to a grass hermitage at the foot of Higashiyama, I have completed this book in the time free from my prayers.

So states the compiler/author at the end of the preface to the Selected Anecdotes to Illustrate Ten Maxims (Jikkinsho). Most scholars have accepted these words as a true record of the date of composition and the conditions under which the work was created. Comparison of its contents with other literary works supports the dating; no definite identification of the author has been made. The most likely suggestion appeared in a postscript to a no longer extant manuscript that said, "Some people say this is the work of Rokuhara Jirozaemon Nyudo, in the service of Nagatoki, Tokishige, and others." The term Jirozaemon Nyudo signifies a position something like "lay priest, second gate guard of the left of Rokuhara," and the actual identity of this person remains unclear. Because Nagatoki and Tokishige were administrators in Kyoto's Northern Rokuhara District during the appropriate period and the text that contained the attribution is one of the older manuscripts, most scholars have accepted its reliability. The Japanese scholar Nagai Yoshinori discovered records of a man, Yuasa Munenari, who may have been a gate guard and lay priest during the time of Selected Anecdotes' compilation. However, the supporting evidence is not conclusive, and the best one may say is that, of various suggestions, this is the best supported, and it is possible that Yuasa Munenari did in fact compile the work.

    Selected Anecdotes is a collection of short stories belonging to the genre known as tale literature (setsuwa bungaku). Such anecdotes are generally short, are not written with great attention to artistic or literary effect, are frequently received rather than original tales, and usually include a moral for the reader. Since works of this genre are composed mainly of tales taken from other sources, oral or written, the creators of the tale collections are often referred to as compilers rather than authors. However, an argument may be made that, as the collections are built on fairly consistent principles of organization and are structured in such a way as to further a philosophical or moral aim, use of the term "author" rather than "compiler" may be justified.

    The earliest tale literature is represented in collections of Buddhist tales treating the early history of Buddhism, origins of temples, incidents in lives of holy men, miracles, and so forth. The suggestion is that these tales were first delivered orally by Buddhist monks and were set down in outline form to serve as mnenomic devices for the monks to refer to as they preached. Over time the collections come to include more and more secular material, and they may be seen as falling into two types: religious (i.e., Buddhist) and secular. Selected Anecdotes, while including many tales concerned with incidents related to Buddhism, is clearly a member of the secular group of setsuwa collections. In the preface the compiler tells his reader that the purpose of the collection is "to serve as an aid in forming the moral character of youth as yet untutored in the ways of the world." Here the emphasis is on preparation for entry into the everyday world of social encounters rather than the other-worldly concerns of religious enlightenment. Although Buddhist influences are found in many tales, generally such stories are used to demonstrate that many of the virtues demanded of Buddhists are also helpful in day-to-day conduct.

    But Confucianism is the major argument of Selected Anecdotes. Much of the compiler's view of proper conduct is based on Confucian ideas of natural order, which are seen as determining social order. Thus tale 18 in chapter 5 cites The Classic of Documents (Shu ching), "The crowing of the hen is the finish of the family," to support the idea that women properly remain subordinate to men. To illustrate the harmoniously integrated relationship required in a well-run state, the preface to chapter 1 uses the organic metaphor of the sea as representing the ruler or state and its currents as signifying the people.

    Other reflections of the influence of Confucian values are seen in Selected Anecdotes' stress on recognition of authority, observation of conduct appropriate to one's position, prudent and proper conduct in all situations, and the need for a balanced reaction to adversity or good fortune. Confucian concern for education and learning is expressed mainly in an emphasis on knowledge of Chinese classics and Japanese poetic works and the ability to compose and appreciate both Chinese and Japanese poetry.

    In accordance with its generally authoritarian approach to relations between people, Selected Anecdotes is consistent in advocating conduct appropriate to one's station and the situations one encounters. However, this approach does not urge blind obedience to superiors or condone arbitrary actions by leaders. Although people serving those of higher rank generally are expected to follow orders, they are also instructed that superiors must be informed when they are unreasonable or in error. Conversely, those in high position are also admonished that they must listen to and heed wise advice and treat their subordinates fairly.

    Two areas of human interaction are held to transcend the usual hierarchy of relationships: friendship and marriage. Both are viewed as originating from the heart and breaking the normal strictures of reason and society. Friendship originates in a kind of mystical communication of mind and emotion, particularly found in shared reactions to nature and poetry. However, a major concern is that friends are chosen carefully. Friends selected unwisely for the wrong reasons may lead one to disaster. Love, like friendship, transcends normal social strictures. Again, love may lead to unwise actions and result in loss of face. The Selected Anecdotes counsels that men of lower status may follow their hearts in the choice of a wife, but men of higher status must consider social standing. Thus, in a number of the tales, as in many works of Japanese literature, there is tension between human nature expressed in pursuit of love and Confucian tenets dictating well-governed actions and strict social organization.

    Like most tale literature, Selected Anecdotes is a potpourri of clerical and secular, serious and comical, ancient and contemporary, mundane and fabulous tales of wisdom and folly intended to improve its readers. The one consistent guiding principle in the selection of the stories appears to have been the belief of the compiler/author that the tales derive from actual experience. Although some of the stories recounting religious or supernatural experiences may raise doubts in the modern reader, it seems that in their time they were regarded by their tellers and audiences as narrations of experience that might be encountered in daily life.

    Fujiwara no Sukezane (dates unknown), whose misadventures are related in tale 3 below, exemplifies unacceptable behavior. The Confucian hero does not brag; he is learned but does not show off his abilities. Sukezane's loss of his topknot and the embarrassing outcome of his meddling in Lord Hanazono's poetry study both result from pride. The proper Confucian gentleman underplays his abilities and earns the admiration of others through exercising his skill unostentatiously.

    The act by the retainer who cuts off Sukezane's topknot is an example of action unsuited to time and place. To lose one's topknot, a symbol of rank, was a major disgrace. The punishment inflicted by the country soldier outweighs the seriousness of Sukezane's offense. That the story has a person from the provinces commit this act reflects the usual Japanese attitude of the time that people from areas outside the capital are unrefined or, as the story says of the soldier, lack "either compassion or understanding."

    The end of the tale presents Atsumasa as a model for conduct. Sukezane's verse poking fun at Atsumasa's nose is clever but shallow and in poor taste. Atsumasa uses the art of verse-capping both to repay Sukezane's insult and to display his much greater poetic ability. In contrasting the bare "Sukezane Garden" and the mountain with its nosegay, the verse implies the fertile creativity of Atsumasa's verse as opposed to the barren emptiness of Sukezane's. There is also an adroit use of puns involving the birds (tori) of the verse and the topknot (motodori) of Sukezane. Other possible allusions may include a reference to the saying "tori naki sato no komori" ("a bat from a village without birds"—i.e., "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"). The implication here is that where there are no learned people the ignorant try to make their influence felt. Additionally, the birdless garden with its apparently trackless snow may further hint at lack of literacy. The invention of Chinese characters is said in folklore to have been inspired by imitation of bird tracks (tori no ato).

    Another element that runs through the tale is the tension between martial and literary accomplishment. Sukezane sees the possible rivalry for the court beauty, Sakin, as a contest between himself, a military man of sorts, and Nakamasa, a poet of high repute. As its author/compiler states, Selected Anecdotes is intended to present examples for young men hoping to advance in the world, that is, attain prominence in courtly society. The court continues to value literary ability above martial skill. As most of the young men for whom the tales are intended would belong to the military class, which was rising to power when the Selected Anecdotes was composed in the mid-thirteenth century, a stress on the importance of literary accomplishment in conducting oneself at court is to be expected. Thus, while some stories, like tale 55 of chapter 10, emphasize the importance of mastering both martial and literary skills, in general, as in the story of Sukezane, literary ability is more important.

The translation is based on Nagazumi Yasuaki, ed., Jikkinsho (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1958), with reference to Ishibashi Shoho, Jikkinsho shokai, rev. ed. (Tokyo: Meiji Shoin, 1927).

Selected Anecdotes to Illustrate Ten Maxims


The Beauty, Sakin; Sukezane's Proud Words and His Argument with Nakamasa; Kebiishi Morishige; The Scholar Atsumasa

In the mid-eleventh century there was a lady-in-waiting of incomparable beauty called Sakin who served in the palace of ex-Emperor Horikawa's (r. 1087-1107) mother, Queen Takako (d. 1084). Minamoto no Nakamasa (d. 1156), the supervisor of the military storehouses, was in love with her.

    One day some men from the palace home guard gathered at the Kamoi Hall, one-time home of Horikawa. After they had drunk some sake, they began to discuss this Sakin.

    "Her demeanor as she walked serenely in the palace grounds was more graceful than an angel's. If she is truly a creature of this world, I want something like her as a souvenir of life here."

    Someone else answered, "A warrior for whom neither devils nor witches hold fear is fearsome indeed; yet, even your love is sure to come to nothing. Let's speak no more of her."

    The governor of Ise, Fujiwara no Sukezane, who was given to putting on airs, said, "Even a warrior may fall in love. If I felt inclined to steal her, no matter how much Nakamasa tried to prevent it, I doubt that he could stop me." After this he seemed to be considering some kind of troublemaking and self-complacently spoke of Nakamasa in a scornful way. His companions had little to say and stopped talking.

    Somebody apparently spread tales about this conversation. These rumors soon came to the ears of Nakamasa, who consulted with his men, saying, "This is not a situation easily ignored. My fellows, what am I to do? Sukezane doesn't know the bottom of a bow from its top. He would make no kind of an opponent in a fight, but he said these things and I cannot just let the matter lie. I think we should look into the situation and give him a scare."

    His retainers replied, "That is easily done." That evening they awaited Sukezane's return from the palace and forced him to get down from his carriage. They made him write an apology pledging that he would not say such things again and then let him go.

    However, there was a man among Nakamasa's retainers who, being a rough country soldier, lacked either compassion or understanding. He arrived late, just as Sukezane was about to cover his shame by taking refuge in a farmer's house, and, riding up to him without a word, cut off his topknot. The retainer then returned to Nakamasa's residence and presented the topknot to him.

    "I never thought things would go this far. This is shocking," said Nakamasa. But, since there was no way to remedy the situation, he decided to leave it at that. Although for the sake of his reputation Sukezane could not speak openly about the incident, could one expect such a matter to be simply dropped?

    Hearing what had happened, the ex-emperor summoned the perpetrators of this deed and cross-examined them closely. He decided that the cutting off of the topknot was not a serious offense. However, he ascertained the name of the man who had actually cut off the topknot and summoned him, but the culprit had fled without a trace.

    Since Nakamasa did not have the resources to find the man, the ex-emperor, in concern, summoned [a certain] Morishige of the Department of Criminal Justice and ordered him to apprehend without fail the man who had cut off Sukezane's topknot.

    On receiving this charge, Morishige made inquiries of the man's friends and relations and kept a secret watch, morning and night, on the house of his mother, a Buddhist nun. While the house was under surveillance, a monk disguised as a woman came knocking at the gate early one morning. Realizing that the monk's visit was not a casual occurrence, Morishige seized him on the spot for questioning.

    The monk, excited and flustered, protested, "I have done nothing wrong. He is staying up in the hills at some place near Kiyomizu Temple. I have come merely as his messenger."

    "My good monk, we have no business with you. You will serve as our guide in finding the place." And then saying, "You will hear more of this in a while when the matter has been settled," Morishige immediately set out to apprehend the culprit.

    Since the arrival of Morishige and his men was completely unexpected, they had no trouble arresting the wanted man and taking him away. However, it occurred to Morishige that the minister of justice, Lord Taira no Tadamori, was located in the area of Kyoto known as Rokuhara, and if they passed through his estate, their prisoner would surely be taken from them. Feeling that such a development would truly make him look like a fool, Morishige seized a vagrant monk he happened upon and, fitting him out in eye-catching fashion, had him taken by way of Rokuhara. The real culprit he stealthily escorted by way of a little-frequented route. However, Tadamori, clearly thinking it a matter of little importance, simply let them pass.

    Then the monks of Kiyomizu Temple arose in throngs, crying, "The act of seizing a man within the precincts of this temple for no apparent cause is unprecedented from olden times. Even if the man were a criminal, the abbot should surely have been contacted by the government before the arrest," and they appeared unwilling to let Morishige and his prisoner pass.

    Perplexed, Morishige composed a letter on some paper he had in the breast of his kimono. Displaying it to the crowd, he called, "How could I arrest this man without consulting the abbot? Since we did not want talk circulating about the matter, we have not made our consultation public. Here is a document, which is proof that I contacted the abbot this morning."

    "In that case there is no problem," said the monks, and they let him pass.

    When he heard the details of Morishige's actions, the ex-emperor was extremely impressed by his resourcefulness.

    The prisoner, summoned by the ex-emperor, said straightforwardly that he had cut off the topknot. Since at that time Sukezane remained concealed at home, Horikawa felt he would like to ask a few more questions. He said to Morishige, "Do you suppose you could go and confirm whether in fact this topknot was actually cut off?"

    Morishige left, saying, "That will be easy." As he left he saw Yasutada of the palace guards and called, "Come along with me. I'm on my way to someone's for a drink. Join me."

    Since Morishige was much in favor with the ex-emperor these days, Yasutada was happy to accompany him. Before he had time to wonder where they might be going, they had arrived at Sukezane's house. Morishige spent a full two hours in small talk, making conversation about various matters in order to disguise the purpose of his visit.

    When their host brought out the sake and bade them drink, everyone relaxed and began to enjoy themselves. While exchanging cups with his host, Morishige feigned nervousness and, as if in great deference to Sukezane, reached for the sake bottle. In some apparent confusion he knocked off Sukezane's hat. While pretending to be deeply upset by his gaffe, Morishige raised a great fuss to create a diversion and managed to get a look at the top of Sukezane's head. He could see that the cap had been worn over the spot where Sukezane's remaining hair had been meticulously done up to cover the area where the top-knot had been cut off. Morishige signaled Yasutada with a look, and at this point the guard realized for the first time that he had been asked along to serve as a witness. Morishige apologized profusely for his blunder.

    Since the enjoyment had gone out of the party, Morishige and Yasutada returned to the palace. Morishige reported what had happened, adding that he had taken along a witness.

    "Even had you gone alone, I would not have doubted your word, but taking along a witness has doubly secured your statement," the ex-emperor said, deeply impressed.

    Thus Nakamasa's retribution took on added significance. Even so, Sukezane remained argumentative as ever. Although people laughed when he made his appearances for duty at the palace, things continued pretty much unchanged.

    About that time Lord Hanazono (1103-1147), who was later to become a high official and a well-known poet and musician, was still of low office and a certain doctor of letters, Atsumasa, was tutoring him. Although it may be easily imagined how lacking Sukezane was in intellectual qualities, he went to the Hanazono residence and during a conversation said, "When you are reading the classics you must call on me, for I expect I am not outdone by Atsumasa."

    Although he had trouble knowing just what to make of this shallow remark, Hanazono, perhaps believing it true, responded politely.

    Sukezane continued, "Knowing I was coming here, I have prepared a particularly witty Chinese verse."

    "How interesting. What is it?"

"Nosegay, nosegay
The mists of spring
Around Atsumasa mountain
Are tinged in red."

    His host laughed and said, "A most witty jingle." Thus praised, Sukezane left, feeling quite proud of himself. In his poem Sukezane had made a point of the fact that Atsumasa's nose was rather red. In spite of the truth of this, Lord Hanazono began to feel bad about the verse and, when Atsumasa came again, told him what had happened.

    Enraged, Atsumasa said, "If I were a fighting man, I should show him the same sort of calamity as Nakamasa did. However, even as deeply angered as I am, that sort of thing is not an action befitting one of my profession. Just let me add these final lines to his verse.

"No birds, no feathers—
The winter in Sukezane Garden
White with snow."

    Lord Hanazono was most impressed. People of those times used to amuse themselves telling this story.

The following story derives from one appearing in a second-century B.C. Chinese work, Writings from Huai-nan (Huai-nan tzu). This well-known anecdote illustrates the Taoist principles of avoiding extremes of any kind and practicing inaction, which relies on the self-regulation of nature to solve human problems, since the good or bad effects of any action or event cannot be predicted with certainty. Thus, in the Taoist view one who understands the world does not attempt to impose one's will upon it but succeeds by acting in accordance with nature.

    The old man of Hsin Feng referred to in the final paragraph is immortalized in a poem by the famous poet Po Chü-i (772-846) satirizing militarism. Versions of this tale found in variant manuscript copies differ slightly, but not significantly. Tales of this type preserved from the beginnings of Japanese history through the present, together with the Buddhist concept of "karmic reversal" (gyakuen), emphasize the importance of a stoic refusal to get upset at things since good can turn into bad, and bad into good.


The Old Man Po Sou's Horse; The Fu on the Old Man of Hsin Feng

Here is an example that proves that one should not give oneself over too deeply either to joy or sorrow. In ancient times there was an old man in China called Po Sou. He was fortunate to own a strong horse. Although he depended on the horse for his livelihood by renting it out to people and using it himself, it disappeared somewhere or other. Those who heard about his loss felt it was terribly unfortunate. But when they consoled the old man, he said, "Why get so excited? It may or may not be a good thing."

    People found this attitude strange, but the horse came home, bringing along another horse of equal quality. Since this was a very fortunate development, the old man's friends and even casual acquaintances rejoiced.

    Again, the old man said, "Why get excited? It may or may not be a good thing." Shortly after this, the old man's son mounted the horse, fell off, and broke his arm. Hearing about this, people came to pay their condolences, but again the old man said, "Why get excited? It may or may not be a good thing."

    People again found this strange. A year later there was a great war throughout the country. When soldiers were drafted for this conflict, men were also called up from the old man's area. All went to war, and all died. Because the old man's son had only one good arm, he escaped this fate. Thus, although he had only one arm, he had his life. This story has been handed down from the past as an example of wisdom.

    Even in these days wise people do not allow themselves to become flustered and flighty, resembling closely the spirit of the old man.

    The old man of Hsin Feng, too, was able to avoid becoming a soldier in Yunnan because he broke his elbow. These incidents were in accordance with the law of nature and were very good things.

The next two tales treat events occurring at Shinto shrines. The Shinto gods are seen as responding to poetry and music. The most famous statement of this effect of poety is seen in Ki no Tsurayuki's (884-946) preface to the seminal collection of Japanese poetry, Collection of Japanese Poetry of the Present and Past (Kokinwakashu). Tsurayuki says that "poetry moves heaven and earth, stirs the feelings of gods and spirits invisible to the eye, softens the relations between men and women, and calms the hearts of warriors."

    In Selected Anecdotes poetry often "softens the relations between men and women," but even more frequently it is seen as a kind of social or political tool that, skillfully used, demonstrates one's intellectual superiority and qualifications for advancement in official rank or social recognition. Musical skill—ability to sing or play the biwa or flute—while also establishing one's reputation, at the same time often influences natural phenomena, which are generally understood as manifestations of the activity of Shinto gods. In the first tale recorded below, Gensho (unidentified), a man who held the title of Master of Music at the Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, incurs the anger of the gods while visiting an outpost in present-day Okayama Prefecture. He then expiates this anger through skilled musicianship.

    In the second tale, although the main theme remains the appeal of music to the Shinto gods, the objective of the biwa player is mastery of literary skill, an essentially Confucian ideal. The mention of the Decline of the Buddhhist Law/ Dharma (mappo) refers to the Buddhist concept holding that the ability of sentient beings to practice, or even understand, the Buddhhist prescription for attaining Enlightenment degenerated over time. The Decline of the Law/ Dharma is the final stage of this degeneration.

    The mixture of Confucian, Shinto, and Buddhist ideas is striking. The final complication of belief patterns is found in the fact that Moronaga's words are taken from a prayer by Po Chü-i asking Buddha to bestow writing ability.


The Master of Music of Iwashimuzu Shrine; Gensho’s Flute

The Master of Music, Gensho, who directed the music for festivals and ceremonies at Iwashimizu Shrine south of Kyoto, went to visit the shrine's holdings at Yoshikawa in Bitchu Province. On his return to the capital he stopped at Muro. While there he seemed about to die from a derangement of the spirit. Half the hair on his head turned as white as snow. Thinking this was something supernatural, he sought the help of a shaman. Speaking through this woman, the god of the Kibitsu Shrine said, "Although you frequently pass through this area, you never play your music for me. Therefore you are suffering in this way." Gensho quickly paid a visit to that shrine, and as he played the tunes secret to all but the emperor, his white hair returned to its normal color. One must say that he was a wonderful credit to his calling.


Prime Minister Moronaga's Biwa Playing

When Prime Minister Moronaga (1137-1192) was in Owari Province [modern Gifu Prefecture], he made his way to the Atsuta Shrine night after night. On the night of the seventh day, in the clear moonlight, he played his biwa. When he recited, "My wish during life in this world is to master the writing of popular works," the shrine shook violently. Even at the end of the law, mastery of an art is a highly desirable accomplishment.

The next tale is a clear statement of the desirability of combining literary and martial capabilities. For the young men who were to read Selected Anecdotes, this accomplishment was essential. Although military families now held power and governed, the emperor, despite holding little political power, continued to reign and remained the symbol of state. The culture of the court, with its emphasis on refinement of taste, literary skill, and aesthetic sensibility, continued to hold sway as the measure of a truly civilized man. To offset the rough and ready aspects of character associated with military (and generally provincial) origins, young men from military families must add a finish of literary skill. This was vital if one desired to obtain official position at court, the persistent center of culture. The preferences and tastes of the emperor and the members of his court were approved and aspired to by all.

    Selected Anecdotes, like all works of its time, assumes that its audience shares a common store of knowledge. In this tale what appear to the modern reader as references to obscure figures of Chinese history or folklore, the archers Yang Yu and Li Kuang, were probably as familiar to readers as contemporary citations of the exploits of Robin Hood or William Tell are to a Western audience.

    Again, allusion to Chuang-tzu, a Chinese classic surely familiar to most readers in the thirteenth century, must certainly have called to their minds the incident in which a young man attempts to imitate the way in which a prominent man walks, forgets how he himself walks, and ends up crawling home on his belly.

    Another allusion to Chinese literature is seen in Shigefuji's (dates unknown) recitation of the poem about the lamps and the bells. Ekirei were bells brought by an imperial commissioner and put out in front of the inns. Their ringing signaled the raising of a levy of men and horses for travel or war. The poem is found in the Collected Poetry of the T'ang Period (Ch'uan T'ang shih) and appears in various Japanese works, including Godansho, Fukurososhi, and Wakan roeishu. Shigefuji obviously had literary knowledge, and his dismissal of his dual military and literary accomplishments is not to be taken seriously. In fact, this typically Japanese denial of ability is the standard method of acknowledging a compliment. In present-day Japan, also, compliments on one's accomplishments or abilities are invariably answered with disclaimers and self-effacement.


Kiyowara no Shigefuji's Chinese Poem on the Study of Literary and Military Arts; His Chinese Poem on the Fishing Boats' Lights

Now, although one might wonder why those born into military families should attempt to master anything other than the art of archery like Yang Yu of the Spring and Autumn period or to follow in the footsteps of Li Kuang, the Han era master bowman, those who also study literature and love poetry are excellent indeed. Although Kiyowara no Shigefuji's military prowess enabled him to become inspector of the army, he was skilled in literary composition. Once, as the final couplet to a Chinese poem, he wrote:

Confusing the study of literary and martial arts,
Like an impersonator lacking self-identity,
I am undone.

    Modestly dismissing his dual accomplishments, Shigefuji alludes to the famous incident in Chuang-tzu that tells of a young man who, imitating another, ends up capable of doing nothing on his own.

    Shigefuji accompanied the minister of the Home Bureau, Fujiwara no Tadabumi (873-947), when he was appointed shogun in 940 to quell the revolt of Taira no Masakado (d. 940). When they lodged overnight at the seaside by the Kiyomi Barrier in Suruga [present Shizuoka Prefecture], Shigefuji recited the following old poem, and the shogun in purity of soul was reduced to tears at its aptness.

The shadows of the fishing boats' lamps burn the waves coldly;
The sounds of the bells along the inn road echo through the

    This poem was made by Tu Hsun-ho (9th c.) when he stayed at Lin chiang yi. It is indeed awesome to think that reflection during a night's lodging inspired these same thoughts in both men.

The final tale presented here, which is also the final tale in Selected Anecdotes, is an interesting example of the mixing of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements. The sincere performance of Taoist rites by Sukemichi's son moves Emma, the king of Buddhist hell, to spare Sukemichi's life. Although the son, Arikuni, has offended Buddhist principles, he has done so in good faith, following the ideal of filial piety, a cardinal Confucian precept. The character of Emma also has Confucian overtones: exemplifying the wise Confucian leader, he gives "precedence to mercy, encouraging rewards and reducing punishment."

    Selected Anecdotes mixes, picks, and chooses models of conduct from Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian sources, but, even while invoking images such as the Taoist "will of heaven" found in the last sentence of this tale, it remains an essentially Confucian work emphasizing practical moral conduct in the world of here and now.


The Sudden Death of Fujiwara no Sukemichi; His Son Arikuni's Handling of the Death Rites; The Debate at Emma's Palace

When the provincial inspector, Councillor Lord Fujiwara no Arikuni (943-1011), was young, he was in Kyushu with his father, Sukemichi, the governor of Buzen, when Sukemichi became sick and died. In accordance with the rules of worship, Arikuni prayed with all his soul to Taizan Fukun, the mountain god worshiped by Taoists in China. In three hours his father returned to life and said, "Although I was called to Emma's Palace, because of the beautiful offerings you made, the decision was made to send me back.

    "During the discussion of my fate, one of Emma's servants said, `Although it may be decided to send Sukemichi back to the world of the living, Arikuni should be summoned here. Because, although he is not a Taoist, he has practiced their worship rites, and that surely must be a sin.’

    "When he said this, another of the men present said, `Arikuni has committed no sin. He is located in the countryside, in a province far from access to any man versed in Buddhist ways, and his heart was unable to resist the call of filial piety. The fact that he took it upon himself to carry out such rites should result in no adverse judgment.'

    "On hearing these words, all those present agreed, and I was sent back." Although he has countless matters to supervise, even in a case such as this, Emma deeply considers the accumulated karma of each individual case. How much more then should human beings exercise care? Therefore, to give precedence to mercy, encouraging rewards and reducing punishments, will ensure that in the world beyond your actions will touch upon the will of heaven and in the mundane world will meet the approval of men.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Japan Religion