Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hermits of the world, disunite! 1216 Death in Kyoto, Japan, of Kamo no Chōmei (b. 1155), Japanese author, poet (waka) and essayist, critic of Japanese vernacular poetry and major figure of Japanese poetics. Born Kamo no Nagaakira born into a family of Shinto priests in Kyoto, he began his career as a poet at the imperial court poet. In the closing years of his life, having seen Kyoto devastated by earthquake and fire, he attempted a reclusive lifestyle, writing, among other works, Hojoki, a description of his life in a hut, rather in the manner of Henry David Thoreau's Walden.

"Now the moon of my life has reached its last phase and my remaining years draw near to their close.
When I soon approach the Three Ways of the Hereafter what shall I have to regret? The law of Buddha teaches that we should shun all clinging to the world of phenomena, so that the affection I have for this thatched hut is in some sort a sin, and my attachment to this solitary life may be a hindrance to enlightenment. Thus I have been babbling, it may be, of useless pleasures, and spending my precious hours in vain.

"In the still hours of the dawn I think of these things, and to myself I put these questions: Thus to forsake the world and dwell in the woods, has it been to discipline my mind and practise the law of Buddha or not? Have I put on the form of a recluse while yet my heart has remained impure? … Is this poverty of mine but the retribution for the offences of a past existence, and do the desires of an impure heart still arise to hinder my enlightenment? And in my heart there is no answer. The most I can do is to murmur two or three times a perchance unavailing invocation to Buddha."
Kamo no Chōmei, Japanese poet, died on July 24, 1216

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