The Dharani Daoist


(According to Wikipedia, a dharani is "a type of ritual speech similar to a mantra." The distinction between dharani and mantra is difficult to make, but a dharani is usually a longer passage of Sanskrit syllables.)



           "Ahh, Seimei--" White breath came from Minamoto no Hiromasa's mouth as he spoke. He nodded several times as if something had occurred to him, and then said in a decided tone, "It's quite definitely on the turn."

           "What is?" Seimei asked, raising his cup to his lips with the suspicion of a smile. The two were drinking together on the narrow verandah of Seimei's house that looked onto the garden. They sat face to face on straw mats, and at their side stretched the autumn moorland. Properly speaking it wasn't a moor at all, but the garden of Seimei's house was so uncultivated that it looked as if an autumn wasteland had been brought into it complete.

           "The year, obviously."

           The evening sun lay slantwise across the garden. Bellflowers and villosa herbs stood clumped together here and there, their blossoms already withered.

           Looking out at them, Hiromasa loosed a long-held breath that showed faintly white. "Do you think there's something wrong with me, Seimei?"

           "With you?"

           "Mh-hm." Hiromasa drained his cup and looked over at Seimei. "I know this garden well. I know what plants come up here in spring and what kind of flowers they're likely to have. But then--"

           "Then what?"

           "These plants grow so lush in summer, but then in fall they wither and are covered in frost..."


           "It's just like..." Hiromasa cut short his words and turned to gaze out at the garden, looking vexed.

           "Just like what?"

           "Never mind. I don't want to say it."

           "Why not?"

           "You'll laugh at me if I do."

           "No I won't."

           "Look, your mouth is already smiling."

           "No it's not. It's just the same as it always is."

           "If it's the same it's because you're always laughing at me."

           A faint smile touched Seimei's mouth.

           "You *are* laughing."

           "But this time it's different."

           "Different how?"

           "It's a compliment."

           "A compliment?"


           "I don't see why."

           "I was thinking, very seriously, what a good man you are."

           "And so you smiled?"

           "As a compliment."

           "I don't feel especially complimented."

           "Even so, it's still a compliment."


           "So tell me."

           "Hmph." Hiromasa gave a small grunt and looked down at the ground. "I was going to say, it's just like the world we live in," he muttered.

           "Indeed," and Seimei nodded with an unexpectedly serious expression.  Seeing it Hiromasa looked up.

"Even that brave Masakado-dono of olden times is no longer to be found on this earth," he went on, as if reassured by Seimei's look. He picked up the flagon and poured more wine into his own glass. "And so, when I look at this kind of scenery, I feel sort of sad, but also as if I've been given an unexpected glimpse of the way the world really is. I start to feel strange, though I can't quite understand why."

           "And you think that odd?"

           "Mhm." Hiromasa threw back his head and drained his cup.

           "There's nothing odd about it, Hiromasa."

           "You think not?"

           "It means you're just like everyone else."

           Hiromasa was lowering his cup but his hand stopped dead at Seimei's words. He sighed.

           "What's the matter?"

           "You're not going to tell me that saying I'm just like everyone else is another compliment?"

           "It wasn't intended as either a compliment /or/ an insult---"

           "Then what is it?!"

           "Oh dear."

           "I'm the one should be saying 'oh dear!'"

           "You're angry?"

           "I'm not *angry*. I just don't like it," Hiromasa said in a sulky tone.

           Precisely at that moment a woman's clear voice spoke from the garden. "Seimei-sama." In the middle of the withered grasses, backed by the evening sun, stood a woman dressed in a Chinese robe. "A guest has just appeared."

"A guest?" Seimei said, turning towards the woman.

"A monk called Myouchi from Eizan."

"My my."

"He says that if Abe no Seimei-sama is at home, he would greatly appreciate the honour of an interview."

"Oh well, in that case-- show him in with all courtesy."

"At once," the woman replied, and glided away toward the outside wall. She walked as smoothly as if the overgrown herbage wasn't there. Even the plants failed to stir as the hem of her robe passed over them.

"Lucky thing, that," Hiromasa said turning to Seimei.


"A guest appears and so we can't continue our conversation."

"Hmm." Seimei neither nodded nor denied the remark but looked at Hiromasa with a smile.

Very shortly the woman returned, walking composedly along the verandah with a monk following behind her. He was slender of frame and looked to be about sixty years old.

"I bring Myouchi-sama before you." The woman bowed her head, turned slowly and walked away. One step, two steps- within five steps the woman's form began to grow transparent, and before she reached the far corner of the verandah it had silently disappeared.



           Seimei and Hiromasa sat side by side, and the monk Myouchi took his seat across from them. Although he was facing Seimei, Myouchi seemed unable to settle himself comfortably and kept twisting his upper body in a fidgety manner.

           "So what might the problem be?" Seimei asked, but Myouchi did not at once reply.

           "Well, you see-- well, it's just that this is a very private matter--- I'd prefer that you told no one that I've come here---"

           Seimei and Hiromasa repeated several times that of course they would be discreet, and finally Myouchi broached the subject.

           "Well, it's just that, I've had a dream."

           "A dream?"

           "Yes. And a very strange dream it was--"

           "Indeed." Seimei composed himself to listen.

           "By the by, may I ask if you've ever heard the name Sonshou-darani?"

           "The Butchou Sonshou-darani- that is, the mantra spell of the Buddha's crown?"

           "Yes. That's the very thing I've come about."

           It was said that Shakyamune, that is the Buddha, had thirty-two marks about his body that are not found in ordinary men. The first of these was the 'topknot of flesh' on the crown of the head. This was a protuberance of bone and skin resembling a round topknot, and it came to be considered the most important of all the Buddha's marks. As the worship of the 'topknot' spread, the mark itself was deified and in no time at all became revered under the name of 'the Buddha Crown.'

           The Sanskrit name for this mark was Usnisa; from here on it was held that the rays of light emitted by the usnisa subdued all manner of demons and heretics. The mantra for this usnisa is 'Butchou sonshou darani' ('buddha crown revere conquer dharani')- which is the 'spell of the Buddha's crown' that Seimei referred to.

           "I have heard that a certain Tsuneyuki-dono, Imperial minister and adviser, escaped harm from a gang of night-wandering demons through the use of that spell," Seimei said.

           "Ahh, you know of Tsuneyuki-dono, the 'amorous youth'--?"


           From the time this Tsuneyuki was a boy until he reached relatively advanced years he was possessed of an amazingly youthful appearance.  "The beauties of this man's form were such as to arouse feelings of longing and desire, and his love for women in turn was past that of other men. Thus when it came to be night he would leave his house and travel east and west on his affairs." So says the Konjaku Monogatari (Tales Ancient and Modern).

           One night this Tsuneyuki was travelling to a certain woman's house accompanied only by his page, a groom, and a guard. They had come north up the great avenue and turned east. They were almost at the Bifuku Gate when they saw a large group of people carrying torches coming towards them from the darkness up ahead. But if you looked long at the new-comers' appearance you saw that seeing them as 'people' was a mistake: they were a band of oddly unusual types.

           A red-haired woman with horns and a fox's face. A dog dressed as a warrior walking on its hind legs. A woman's head, all by itself, flying through the air, and other uncanny 'things.'

           "Ohh, on a night like this, there aren't many humans walking about."

           "Ohh, and I'm so hungry, so hungry--!"

           "Last year on Nijou Avenue I snuffled up that young woman's eyeballs, and I haven't forgotten the taste yet."

           "I'd like another chance to eat the balls of a man who's been alive."

           "Ohh, yes!"

           "Ohh, yes!"

           Thus Tsuneyuki heard them babbling on one after another.

           "Oh no. This is a place that groups of oni cross on their way to somewhere else." Tsuneyuki had come across one of the famous bands of 'A Hundred Night-walking Demons'-- and they were coming closer even as he watched. Unless he did something they'd be devoured bones and all. What should he do? Just at that moment his page whispered, "The north gate of the Shinsen garden is open."

           They slipped through this opening into the park, closing it after them, and waited trembling for the demons to go by. Then they realized the troupe had come to a halt outside the gate.

           "Ohhh, do you smell humans?" one said.

           "Aahh, I'm sure that's a human smell," another answered, and with that they pushed open the gate and came into the garden.

           "If there's humans here I'll eat their eyeballs!'

           "If they're men, *I*'ll eat their manballs!"

           "I'll rip the tongues out of their throats!"

           Tsuneyuki gave himself up for dead.

           But though the oni kept coming close to them it seemed as if they had no idea where the humans actually were. 'Like trying to see the hair on the top of your head,' as the old saying has it.

           A moment later one demon turned his eyes on Tsuneyuki. "What- there's a sonshou mantra here!"

           The words were barely out of his mouth when all the oni made a mad dash out of the garden and soon had totally vanished.

           Returning home half-dead with fear, Tsuneyuki related the event to his nurse, who told him, "The fact is that last year I spoke to my brother the abbot and had him write the Sonshou mantra for me, and then put it into the collar of the clothes you wear."

           The woman had reasoned that in his night excursions Tsuneyuki would doubtless run into the 100 Night-walking Demons and so had devised this means of saving him.

           This is the matter that Seimei and Myouchi were referring to.


           "And I assume you know about this mantra and the monk Youjou?" Myouchi asked.

           "The monk who returned to the sky on a cloud of incense- that story?"

           "As I expected, Seimei-dono, you know everything," Myouchi said with deep admiration.

           The story of Youjou is also found in Konjaku Monogatari. According to that record, Youjou was a man of outstanding talents. His former name was Kinouji. At the age of eleven he climbed Eizan and became a disciple of Master Kuunichi of the western tower of the Triumphant Lotus monastery.

           From childhood Youjou was intelligent and never had to ask twice about anything he'd heard once. His faith was strong and he possessed 'an abundance of no-mind.' It is said he had no interest in other things. It was his custom, if he saw a man with no clothes, to give him his own robe, and if he saw a starving man to give him his own food. The Konjaku Monogatari says 'He took no notice of mosquitoes stinging and lice biting.'

           While he was living in Eizan, of a sudden he had a change of faith- which is to say, he became engrossed in the study of Daoism. In plain words, he wanted to become an Immortal sage. So without warning he left Eizan and shut himself up in Muta Temple, in the old capital in Yoshino, and began studying the Way.

           The first step of his study was to cease eating grain. He refused all rice and only ate mountain vegetables. Then he stopped eating vegetables and lived on nuts and seeds. The third stage was to eat only one grain of millet per day and to wrap his body in a single wisteria cloak. Next was to suck the dew from grasses, and then the scent from flowers, and in the last stage to find himself free from the need to eat at all.

           Sometime after this an ascetic called Onshin who was practising his austerities in Yoshino mountain caught sight of this Youjou.

           "Youjou had altogidere bycome an Immortal. In hys bodie was no blod nor sinew, hys bones sorely malshapped and upon them straunge heer. Two wings grew upon hys bodie and he fle in the heuenes as a kirin or a phoenix."

The author of Konjaku Monogatari is saying there was no blood nor flesh left in his body: it consisted only of strangely shaped bones and fur, and two wings grew on his back.

In any case, this Daoist sage Youjou returned without fail to Mt. Hiei on the eighth day of each month to attend the recital of the Eternal Nenbutsu and to pray at the grave of Master Jikaku.

The Konjaku Monogatari tells what happened afterwards.

At that time, on Mt. Hiei, a high-ranked priest called Jougan lived in the west tower of the Thousand Beams monastery. This Jougan was accustomed to recite the Sonshou mantra every evening after his day's work. When the Daoist Youjou came to hear the Eternal Nenbutsu, he happened to fly above Jougan's cell and heard his voice reciting the sutra. Without thinking he sat himself down in the branches of a cryptomeria outside the cell and listened, and at last caught the revered and blessed words of the dharani itself. He descended from the tree and perched instead on the railing of the cell, where the priest Jougan saw him and addressed him: "Who might you be?"

"When I was a monk here on Eizan I was called Youjou. As I was flying over your cell I caught the sound of a blessed voice reciting the Sonshou mantra, and without thinking I came down in order to hear more."

"Ah I see, I see." The priest opened the side door and bid Youjou enter. Youjou flew in like a bird and sat himself opposite Jougan. Thereafter the Buddhist priest and the Daoist sage talked together through the night. As it got to be light, the Daoist said "I must be on my way" and stood up, but found he could no longer fly in the sky.

"It must be that my body has become heavy after being touched by the human air after so long a time." He asked Jougan, "Please would you burn some incense for me and waft the smoke in my direction?"

The Konjaku Monogatari tells that when Jougan did so, the sage Youjou at once leaped on the smoke and rose in the air, to fly away no one knows whither.

Afterwards Jougan's faith too was kindled. It is said that he left Heizan with the message 'I too shall become an Immortal.'


           "Now," said Seimei, "this strange dream you had, how was it connected to the Sonshou mantra?"

           "Well, I too am a monk of Heizan and each night I chant the Sonshou mantra."

           "I see."
           "And then, four nights ago, I had a dream." And Myouchi proceeded to relate what it was.



He had read over the sutra and fallen asleep, when he heard a voice saying "Myouchi-dono, Myouchi-dono." When he came awake the voice was not to be heard. He assumed his ears were playing tricks on him and was just nodding off again when once again he heard the voice. 'Myouchi-dono, hullo, Myouchi-dono--"

           He opened his eyes and saw in the air above his face, another face looking down on him.

           He jumped out of bed in surprise, only to find a monk sitting beside his pallet.

"Myouchi-dono--" The man opened his mouth and said, very calmly, "So you finally heard me?"

           "Who are you?" Myouchi asked, and the other answered, "Oh, my name would mean nothing to you."

           "Then what might you want of me?"

           "Well, it's just that as I was passing by I happened to hear a voice chanting the Sonshou mantra, and without thinking I came in here to listen better."

           But Myouchi was perfectly aware that when he recited the mantra there'd been no one in his cell with him.

           "When it was finished I intended to return home, but I find I've spent too long in the air of the human realm. My body has become heavy and I get nowhere, so I was wondering if you'd burn a little incense for me..." the seeming monk explained. "When you burn it, fan the smoke in my direction."

           Myouchi of course had heard the story of the monk of Eizan. "Are you then Youjou-sama?"

           "No no, I'm nothing like him. I'm just an ordinary monk," the man corrected him.

           Well, in any case Myouchi lit some incense and wafted the smoke towards the man who seemed to be doing his best to rise upon it, but his body showed no signs of being about to fly.

           "Oh dear, this *is* a problem."

           As they were doing this the dawn approached and Myouchi became sleepy. He began to nod off. When he opened his eyes it was morning and he was lying on his back, having been asleep in his bed.

           Ah, he thought, so last night was a dream- but the scent of incense filled his cell and by his pillow was the burnt end of an incense stick he'd apparently lighted during the night.

And come to think of it, it was strange that he'd been able to see the monk's figure clearly when no lamp had been lit. Ah, so it *must* have been a dream, he concluded. But the next night--

He recited the mantra as always and fell asleep, and then--

"Myouchi-dono--" the voice came again. When he sat up, there was the monk sitting beside his pillow.

"I'm sorry but will you burn some incense?" He lit the incense and fanned the smoke, and the other tried hard to fly away but his body showed no signs of lifting upwards. And as Myouchi did so he became sleepy, and once again, woke in the morning lying in his bed.

"And this went on for three nights running," Myouchi said.

Then, the night before, a concerned Myouchi said to the monk, "Here in Eizan there are other monks more powerful than I in the Law. I was thinking of consulting them about your plight---"

"No, no! You mustn't do that! Please don't even think of it!" But in spite of the man's protests it was clear they could not go on doing the same thing every night in this fashion.

"In any case, let me seek the help some person skilled in these matters," Myouchi said. To which the other replied, "Well, in that case, could you consult Abe no Seimei-dono about this matter? He dwells in Tsuchi-mikado lane in the north-east corner of the royal enclosure."

"And that is why I have come calling upon you this day." Myouchi looked helplessly at Seimei.



           "That's a strange tale we have here, Seimei," Hiromasa said, nodding decidedly with his arms folded. Myouchi had left a little while ago so now only Seimei and Hiromasa were left on the edge of the porch.

           It was evening, and the sake as well as the air were fast growing cold. Now they were sober it felt as if the warmth of the wine and its intoxication had both been a dream. Hiromasa, bright-eyed, stroked his chin, grunting in thought. "Seimei, I've decided."


           "I'm coming too." Which was his way of saying 'Take me with you'- since Seimei was going to visit Myouchi's hermitage that night: 'Really, take me with you, Seimei. While I was listening to that story I felt that if you left me here alone I'd be so worried I couldn't sleep.' And since he wasn't going to sleep, naturally he said "I'm coming too."

           "Besides, the night roads are dangerous."


           "Night travelling ghosts and youkai- you can handle those if we meet them. But if it's a living person, like a thief say, then *I'll* look after them." He'd clearly made up his mind and was not to be budged.

           "Well then, shall we go?"


           "Let's go."

           "Let's go."

           And so they did.



           A clear moon was rising in the sky. About it countless wisps of cloud went streaming towards the east. Looking up one could see them passing between the tops of the pitch-black cedars.

           Seimei and Hiromasa were standing outside Myouchi's cell.

           "Do as you always do," Seimei had instructed Myouchi. Until just a moment ago they'd been listening to Myouchi's voice reading through the Sonshou mantra. Now it had stopped and the interior of the hut had returned to silence.

           Seimei and Hiromasa were wrapped about by the night air, so chill it seemed to seep into the marrow of their bodies. The tips of the pine trees rustled gently.

           "How long do we have to go on like this, Seimei?" Hiromasa whispered.

           "We should have brought some sake," Seimei answered, to which Hiromasa replied, in a slightly louder voice, "Who needs sake?"

           "Aren't you cold?"

           "Yes, I'm *cold* but I can put up with this much. I'd be fine even if I was naked," Hiromasa said, as if truly prepared to strip off his clothes.

           "I see," Seimei whispered, and just at that moment-

           "Myouchi-dono, Myouchi-dono..." A voice came from within the cell, and it wasn't Myouchi's.

           "Seimei-" Hiromasa spoke in a low voice, looking at him. Seimei nodded in answer to the unsaid 'did you hear that?'

           Myouchi's low subdued voice was speaking in response. "I've called Abe no Seimei-dono here tonight."

           Seimei took a step forward as he listened to Myouchi. "Let's go, Hiromasa."

           "Mh." Hiromasa followed him, left hand on his sword. They opened the door and walked silently into the cell, along with the rays of the moon. In the interior darkness they saw the bedclothes laid out on the floor and Myouchi sleeping on his back, with only his lips moving.

           "Shall I burn incense tonight?"

           Myouchi lifted his head but his eyes remained closed.

           "No, tonight Seimei-dono's here so there's no need to." His head dropped again when he finished speaking, and he began snoring quietly.

           In the darkness beside Myouchi's pillow they could make out the vague outlines of a monkly figure. It was sitting on the floor and looking up at Seimei.

           "Welcome, Seimei-dono." The voice was that of a man of eighty or so, but clearly not belonging to someone still of this world. The moonlight piercing through the side door fell faintly on him but passed through his body, so that one could make out the outlines of the desk behind him.

           Seimei sat himself down in front of the monk and said, "May this person inquire what business you have with him?"

Hiromasa remained standing behind Seimei.

           "I would have you save this poor believer."

           On close inspection the man's face was terribly emaciated.

           "And from what might I save you?"

           "The fact is, I can't get home."

           "You can't go home?"

           "Mh-mh." The monk nodded and continued. "Once upon a time I was a monk here in Eizan, but preferring the way of the Dao to that of Buddha I left the mountain-"


           "I practised my austerities in Kumano and Yoshino and took on the appearance of a Daoist, but I could never master the art of remaining young and immortal."

           "I see."

           "Essentially it's because all the things of this world keep changing. Though you enter the path of Daoism it is impossible to stop the body's aging."

           "Of course."

           "When I reached an age when I could presently die, I started to remember fondly the things of old and unconsciously turned my steps towards this mountain."

           Seimei said nothing.

           "But though I came back I could not, without shame, show myself in my present state at the temple, where there were men who still remembered me. I hid myself in the mountains in a spot where I heard this Myouchi reciting the Sonshou mantra." The monk gave a faint smile. "So every night I came in and listened to the sutra, but when I tried to go back I couldn't. I tried using incense smoke and other things, but the end of it is that I have become unable to leave this place. Myouchi offered to speak of me to certain monks powerful in the Law, but it would grieve me deeply to have men who knew me see me as I am now. Then I happened to remember your name and requested that you might come here, and so..."

           "So if I find a way to help you get home, that will suffice?"

           "Yes, if you could do that..."

           "In which case I must ask you to tell me everything."



           "You want me to tell you something?"

           "Smell this incense. It's Black Silence Incense, yes?"


           "The sutras say its fragrance spreads throughout the 3,000 worlds, so it means something if you cannot mount on it to return home." Seimei seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. "Have you fallen in love with someone here?"

           "In love?"

           "Did you ever meet a woman here who moved your heart? Or could it be Master Myouchi who--"

           "Of course I'm not attached to Myouchi!"

           "A woman, then?"

           "Mhhh..." the monk mumbled.

           "Then permit me to show you something not totally refined." Saying which, Seimei took from his pocket a single flower. It was a gentian, withered but still showing a little blueness in its petals. "This is the last flower left blooming in my garden." He blew on it lightly. "Now, Aomushi, here's your last task," and he laid the flower on the floor.

           In the darkness the flower grew gently larger, and a woman dressed in a blue Chinese robe was standing there.

           Hiromasa spoke without thinking. "Seimei, that's--" It was the woman who had announced Myouchi's arrival that afternoon.

           "Aomushi, bring before us the woman who is in this man's thoughts."

           The woman-- Aomushi silently lowered her head and then raised her face. But before it came up her figure seemed to melt into the darkness. An instant later, in the place where she had vanished, Aomushi's figure began to appear again, faintly visible. She was not alone, but was leading another woman by the hand. It was a beautiful courtesan. When Aomushi was fully visible she turned to Seimei, gave a small smile, and vanished, leaving the courtesan behind.

           "This is the person you mean?" Seimei said, turning to the monk, who was looking at Seimei in amazement.

           "Ah- well, that is--" he replied with an embarrassed smile.

           "Seimei, who is she?" Hiromasa asked.

           "The lady this monk is enamoured of," Seimei replied.

           "Oh no, really," the monk said, shifting nervously.

           "Now, wouldn't it be better?"


           "You don't have very long, do you?" Seimei told him gently.

           "That's true," the monk agreed, his voice now settled.

           "So, now that you've left the way of the Immortals and returned to that of men, perhaps you should tell this lady how you feel."

           The monk did not reply.

           "Seeing it was the Sonshou sutra that created the connection between you, surely there's no harm in it?"

           Seimei stretched out his hand and laid it on the forehead of the sleeping Myouchi. Myouchi opened his eyes and jumped up in surprise at sight of the courtesan.

           "Wha- what--??"

           "Shall we go outside for a bit?" Seimei urged Hiromasa and the dumbstruck Myouchi out of the cell.

           "Seimei, what on earth's going on here? I don't understand a thing!"

           "Oh, let's just look at the moon and wait. You'll understand soon enough."


           Seimei was gazing at the moon as if unconscious of Hiromasa's voice. "You know, Hiromasa, we really should have brought some sake."



           Half a watch later the monk appeared before the three men as they viewed the moon. He stood silent in the moonlight, with a shy expression, and looked at Seimei.

           "How was it?" Seimei asked.

           "I told her how I felt. But you know, Seimei-dono, men can't achieve Buddhahood or Immortality that easily." There was an embarrassed note in his voice. He scratched his head. "Whether Buddhism or Daoism, the result of trying to master the Way is that you become, in the end--"


           "A human being." He looked down. "I'm sorry. If you go into these mountains westwards a ways, I think you'll find my dead body. Burn it or bury it- I leave its disposition to yourselves."

           "Very well," Seimei said, and the monk bowed, once and again, and as he continued doing so his figure became pale and dissolved into darkness. All that was left was the moonlight and the tips of the pine trees sighing gently in the breeze.

           "Well, shall we go back?" At Seimei's suggestion they entered the hermitage again, where of course there was no sign either of the monk or of the lady.

           "Now, could I ask for an explanation?" Seimei said to Myouchi, who had been silent all this while.

           "Yes," Myouchi nodded. "I believe you already know all about it, Seimei-dono, but it behooves me to tell you with my own lips." Myouchi crouched and turned up the bedclothes, and from beneath took out a rolled up scroll. He lit the lamp and unrolled the scroll by its light. It had a picture drawn on a silken background.

           Hiromasa groaned. "But that's--"

           It was a picture of the courtesan who had just now stood within the room.

           "I will tell you, though I am ashamed to do so," Myouchi said in a low voice. "Though I am a monk I find it hard to give up all thoughts of women. Every night, after I recite the mantra, it is my custom to look on this picture while consoling myself. I was surprised just now to see it take on flesh, but I think it must be that every night it heard the Sonshou mantra being recited, and though a mere picture, it grew a soul of its own. The monk who was here just now was attracted to this place by the sutra as well, and every time I consoled myself, he looked at the picture and so came to fall in love with it."

           "But I wouldn't have thought the monk's spirit, being in a separate location, could have come here by itself," Seimei objected.


           "Has there been anything unusual happening these last few days?" Seimei looked about him as he spoke, then seemed to discover something on the floor and picked it up. "There we are." Seimei was holding the dead body of a black butterfly. "He must have sent his soul into the body of a butterfly that had survived so late."

           "Now you mention it, these last few days I remember seeing this butterfly flitting listlessly about my cell."

           This thing, no blood nor flesh in its body, with its strangely shaped bones and fur, and two wings growing on its back-

"This?" Hiromasa murmured.

           "Well, shall we be off, Hiromasa?" Seimei said as he stood up.

           "Where to?"

           "To the west of here--"

           As Seimei was about to leave, Myouchi said, "My thanks to you. If there's anything I can do--"

           "No-" Seimei began, but paused as if in thought. "Well, if I might, could I have this scroll? This winter I'll be needing a shikigami to look after me," he said, taking from the floor the gentian and putting it tenderly in his robe.

           "Please take it."

           Seimei put that into his robe as well and went out into the moonlight. Dimly the courtesan's figure appeared in front of them. "Let's go, Hiromasa. This lady will guide us," at which words the woman set off walking in front of them.



           At the foot of a great old pine tree, an ancient monk lay dead on his back

           "Is this the man, Seimei?" Hiromasa asked, holding up his torch. The courtesan stood quietly to the side.

           "Yes it is," Seimei answered.

           "Who could he have been?"

           "At a guess, Jougan-dono," Seimei said.

           "You mean, the one who tried to become an Immortal in the manner of the Daoist master Youjou?"

           "That's him. But let's not ask what his name was in life," Seimei said, looking down at the old man's body.

           Hiromasa brought the flame of the torch closer to shine redly upon its face.

"Oh--" he said in a low voice. "Look, Seimei- the master's dead face is smiling a little."

As Hiromasa said, a small smile was hovering about the old monk's wrinkled lips.