Kamo no Chomei

Chapter 3--Medieval--KAMO NO CHOMEI (1153-1216)

Kamo no Chomei's An Account of My Hut is a long essay that, while coming out of very different circumstances, reminds one of Thoreau's Walden, but is interesting as both history and philosophy.  The history is the history of Kyoto, or Heian-kyo, the capital city of Japan in what must be one of the most disasterous periods for any important city in history.  Kamo no Chomei describes the Great Fire, the Whirlwind, the moving of the capital, the famine, and the earthquake, all while civil war between the Taira and Minamoto clans is going on.  In this chaos, he is denied the appointment as priest at the Kamo Shrine that he might have expected, and, with all these other experiences, this leads him to renounce the world in favor of a retreat into a Buddhism that is philosophically close to Thoreau's transcendentalism.  The late Medieval period was a time of the develpment of several new sects of Buddhism in Japan--Shingon, Nichiren, Zen--but what Chomei preaches from his ten-foot hut is pretty fundamental--the world is a veil of tears and the wise man will turn his spirit to Nirvanah.  I identify with the author strongly--if I were left alone I might arrange my affairs to live as simply as I could, too, enjoy what I could do with my own hands, and see with my own eyes (I tried to imitate Thoreau while I was still in my teens--but now would want my computer and VCR).  At any rate, it is not hard to see his pattern of reaction to the catastrophes of life as pretty universal.

I will present him in his own words, which I have translated from a modern Japanese version of the essay, and present in what I would call a second-draft translation.  (It still needs a lot of work, and, if it ever gets it, I'll replace this, perhaps a paragraph at a time, with the new translation--one of the advantages of publishing on the world wide web.)


The Hojoki


    [1]    Though the river's current never fails, the water passing, moment by moment, is never the same.  Where the current pools, bubbles form on the surface, bursting and disappearing as others rise to replace them, none lasting long.  In this world, people and their dwelling places are like that, always changing.
    [2]    When you see the ridgepoles of the impressive houses in Heian-kyo competing to rise above one another--dwellings of people of high status or of low--they look like they might stand for generations, but when you inquire you discover there are very few still standing from ages past.  Some may have burned down just last year, and been rebuilt since.  Or a mansion may have disappeared, to be replaced by smaller houses.  Things change in the lives of the people living in those houses, too.  There may be just as many people, but in places where I might have known twenty or thirty people in my youth, I may only recognize one or two now.  Some die in the morning; others are born in the evening.  That's the way it is with the people of this world--they are like those bubbles floating on the water.
    [3]    Nor is it clear to me, as people are born and die, where they are coming from and where they are going.  Nor why, being so ephemeral in this world, they take such pains to make their houses pleasing to the eye.  The  master and the dwelling are competing in their transience.  Both will perish from this world like the morning glory that blooms in  the morning dew.  In some cases, the dew may evaporate first, while the flower
remains--but only to be withered by the morning sun.  In others the flower may wither even before the dew is gone, but no one expects the dew to last until evening.

    [4]    I have seen many terrible things in the forty years I have lived since I first noticed such things.
    [5]    I believe it was April 28th of the third year of Angen (1177).  There was a strong wind blowing at the hour of the dog  (8 o'clock in the evening) to spread a fire which broke out in the southeast part of the capital to the northwest.  In that one  night the Red Sparrow Gate, the Palace Council Hall, school dormitories, the Public Housing Ministry, and many other buildings were burned to the ground, reduced to ashes.
    [6]    I heard that the fire broke out in Higuchitominokoji, in a shack where a dancer lived.  Then, spread by the wind, it touched place after place, until finally it reached everywhere, like the unfolding of a fan.  Houses far off became engulfed in smoke as  those near the center were caught up in swirling flames.  The brightness of the fire was reflected against the solid cloud of ashes blown up in the night sky, a deep red at the center, which, as the wind had flames leaping 100 to 200  yards, kept shifting.  People caught in the middle gave up all hope.  Some died as they were completely overcome by  the smoke, others as they became dizzy in the eye of the flame.  Still others, who barely escaped with their lives, lost everything they owned.  Some of the great treasures in the Palace were also reduced to ashes.  How great was the damage?  Sixteen buildings in the Imperial Court were burned, but it is impossible to calculate the total loss.  Perhaps a third of the capital city was destroyed by this fire.  Scores of men and women were killed, and who knows how many horses and cattle?
    [7]    I think it is absurd to sacrifice so much wealth and energy to build a house anywhere, but particularly in such a dangerous place as the center of the capital city.
    [8]    Again it was in April of the fourth year of Jisho (1180) when a great whirlwind struck near Naka-no-Mikado, east of the Imperial Palace, and swept southwest to Sixth Street.
    [9]    Racing across the city, 300 to 400 yards wide, the whirlwind destroyed every house, large or small, in its path.  In some cases they were completely flattened; in others only beams or pillars remained.  The roofs of gates were blown 400 or 500 yards away, as if offering no resistance at all, and hedge fences were completely blown away, so the boundaries between neighbors disappeared.  Household goods and cypress shingles flew up into the air, like leaves from winter trees, to be distributed far and wide.  There was so much dust and trash in the air that it was better not to open your eyes, and you couldn't hear a thing anyone said to you in the terrible echoing.  I thought it must be like this in Hell.  Not only were buildings destroyed, but many people were crippled trying to salvage those that had just  been damaged.  This wind moved in a south, southwest direction, across the central part of the capital city, so it caused grief  for a great many people.
    [10]    Since there are often whirlwinds, this would not be such an unusual thing except for the severity.  Many saw it as a special Buddhist or Shinto warning.
    [11]    Then, in June of that same fourth year of Jisho, the capital was suddenly and unexpectedly moved.  I have heard that Heian-kyo had been the capital for almost 400 years, since the reign of the Emperor Saga.  So it would certainly seem unwise to move such a stable capital without some special reason, and it naturally caused a great deal of anxiety among the people.
    [12]    But no matter what people said, they all moved, beginning with the emperor, his ministers, and other nobles.  I wondered if anyone associated with the government would remain in the old capital.  Certainly anyone who wanted an important position in the government, or promotion in rank at court, very quickly moved to the  new capital, leaving behind only those with little chance of successful careers, or those for whom the future had little to offer.  Soon the most impressive mansions fell into disrepair.  Some were disassembled, the pieces floated down the Yodo River on rafts, so the land they had occupied became open fields.  People's ideas changed completely.  Now  a horse and saddle was valued over an ox and ox-cart.  Land in the direction of the sea, south and west, was thought desirable, while no one wanted to settle in the direction of Tohoku, or to the north.
    [13]    I happened to visit the new capital, at the seaport in Settsu, at this time.  It was obvious that the place was too narrow even to lay out the streets properly.  On the north side the mountains were crowding in and the south side was sloping into the sea.  The sound of the waves was noisy all year long, and the salt water wind was especially strong.  The Imperial Palace was right in the mountains, and the trees used to build it became the fashion, with comments about the peculiar points of elegance it had.  Houses were re-constructed from the components of so many being floated down the river as almost to dam it; still, though unoccupied land was plentiful, few new houses had been built.  So the old capital was already ruined, while the new capital was not yet established.  People came to feel like floating clouds.  The natives of the place complained because they had lost their land, and those who had moved there about the difficulties of building in this new place.  The people I saw on the streets who ought to have been riding in ox-carts were on horseback, and instead of kimono, ancient headdress, and formal wear most had assumed the clothing of soldiers.  The manners of the capital had changed, became no different from those of country samurai.  People wondered if, in these troubled times, courtly manners would be lost completely, and whether this might not presage greater catastrophes to come.  Finally, after all the complaints, in the winter of that year the emperor returned to Heian-Kyo.  However, by then most of the mansions had already been pulled down, and I don't believe that as many new ones were ever built.
    [14]    I have heard that, long ago, a wise and virtuous emperor ruled over the country, who looked upon his subjects with pity.  Even when thatching the roof of the palace they did not trouble to make the eaves uniform, and when there was not as much smoke coming from his subjects' kitchen  chimneys as he expected, he exempted them from taxes.  He had his subject's blessing, because the public welfare was his concern.  This is the way it was.  If we compare the state of affairs in today's society to that of this legendary wise emperor's reign  what do we find them to have in common?
    [15]    Also about that time, in the reign of Emperor Yowa (1181), I believe, though it becomes so long ago I have trouble remembering, there was a terrible famine, lasting for two years.   From spring through summer there was a drought, and in autumn and winter typhoon and flood--bad conditions one after another, so that grain crops failed completely.  Everything people did became wasted effort.  Though they prepared the  ground in the spring, and transplanted the rice in the summer, the fall's rice harvest and winter's prosperity were not achieved.
    [16]    In all the provinces, peasants were abandoning the land and leaving the region.  Some went to live in the mountains.  In the Imperial Court special Buddhist prayers were scrupulously conducted, but to no effect.  The prosperity of Heian-kyo depended on these crops, and under these conditions a normal economy could not be sustained.  Given these pressures, people living on bamboo shoots tried to sell their valuables at sacrificial  prices, but nobody wanted to buy anything.  They engaged in barter as monetary values were depressed, and the value of grains skyrocketed.  It became common for beggars to be heard in the main street of  the capital, complaining about their conditions.
    [17]    After a year of such suffering, people hoped the new year would be better, but the misery increased as, in addition to the famine, people were afflicted by contagious disease.  Everyone suffered from malnutrition, until gradually to say that "All the fish will choke in shallow water" would fit very well.  Now even those wearing bamboo hats, with legs wrapped in leggings, walked frantically from house to house begging.  I saw vagabonds of this kind, as they were walking, suddenly collapse and die.  Close to the roofed mud wall at the side of the road, the number of bodies dead from starvation continually increased.  Because no one even tried to clear away those corpses, the odor of the putrefaction became offensive throughout Heian-kyo, and people could not even  stand to look at them.  The city was permeated by the smell, and the mountain of corpses accumulated along the Kamo river bed until there were places where horses and carriages could not pass.  Poor woodcutters, becoming exhausted, were unable to carry firewood into the city, and, as fuel became scarce, people were breaking up their own houses and selling the wood in the city.  However, all the wood a man could carry would not sell for enough to sustain him for a single day.  And it was not unusual to find red paint and gold and silver foil here and there among the firewood, because desperate people would sneak into temples and steal the image of the Buddha, or pull down temple ornaments and furniture to  turn into firewood.  I was born into a world in which this kind of thing could happen.
    [18]    And there were other terrible, pitiful things.  No one was prepared to abandon a beloved wife or husband before they were separated by death.   When they thought their partner was failing,  sometimes they would put their own food into the hand of that cherished wife or husband, and it was frequently the case that the parent sacrificed for the child.  Sometimes the mother was dead, and the nursing child did not even know it.  There were  many situations like that.
    [19]    The high priest Ryugyo, of Ninanji Temple, deploring the fact that so many people were dying unrecorded, whenever he encountered a dying person wrote the Buddhist letter A on that person's forehead, binding the person, on the point of death, to Buddha's providence.  When they estimated the number of people who died, in the two months of April and May, in the city  of Heian-kyo, from 1st Street in the south to 9th Street in the north, from the Eastern Capitol in the west to the Red Sparrow Gate in the east--that is to say on all the roads of the entire city--the number of dead came to more than 42,300.  Since many died before and after that two month period, and many died outside the city, in the Dry River Bed, in White River, in the West Capitol, and in the suburbs, the total number far exceeded such counting.  And if we think beyond Heian-kyo and the suburbs--adding all the provinces--it is an appalling thing to consider.
    [20]    I've heard that when Sutoku was emperor (1134), there was such a pestilence, but know nothing of that time.  The misery in this case I saw with my own eyes, and it was very extraordinary.
    [21]    Not long after this (1185) there was a violent earthquake, causing unbelievable damage.  Mountains crumbled, rivers were completely filled up, and waves from the sea inundated the land.  The earth split and water gushed out.  Boulders broke off in the mountains and tumbled into the valley.  Ships were tossed around on the sea, and horses were unable to keep their footing on the roads.  In the vicinity of Heian-kyo, temples, shrines, and towers were so damaged that not a single one was left in good condition.  Some collapsed; others were turned upside down.  Dust and  ashes billowed up like smoke.  The sound of the movement of the earth, and of the destruction of houses, was like thunder.   People who were inside the houses might be crushed at once, but those who ran outside were faced by the cracks in the earth.   Since they did not have wings, they could not fly up into the sky, or become dragons riding in the clouds.  We can only imagine their misery.  Among the most dreaded of catastrophes, we must conclude that the earthquake is the worst of all.
    [21*]    In that earthquake the only child of a samurai, a child of about six or seven, was innocently playing under the roof of  a mud wall, making a toy house, when suddenly that wall collapsed, burying the child, crushing it so badly that it couldn't be recognized, both eyeballs having been popped out about three centimeters.  It is impossible to express in words the pity I felt seeing the mother and father, crying and wailing in loud voices, holding that child in their arms.  To see that not even a brave warrior could disguise the anguish in his eyes suffering the agony of his child's death, could not control this kind of natural lament,  provoked my sympathy.
    [22]    The terrible shaking stopped after a short time, but then there were after-shocks.  After that great earthquake, there might be twenty or thirty tremors in a single day.  After ten days, then twenty days, they gradually came to be more widely spaced, probably four or five times in a day, then two or three times, then every other day, skipping two or three days--but there were still some aftershocks up to perhaps three months.
    [23]    Among the four great elements recognized by Buddhism, three--fire, water, and wind--are frequently associated with disasters, but earth is most often identified with stability.  Still, in the Saiko era (540), I believe, there was an earthquake so severe that it damaged the neck of the Todaiji's Great Buddha so that the head fell off, and did unusual damage to many other things.  But it was no match for the violence of the earthquake this time.  Those who experienced this earthquake all talked about it that way at the time, that of all the miserable things in this world, it was the worst, seemed to be a thing of evil passions.  But the days and months passed into years, and they came to deplore other things, so that you might go for a month now without meeting anyone talking about the earthquake.
    [24]    People respond to these disasters in terms of their own experience. Unless the disaster has struck them personally, their circumstances, their environment, it is dismissed as a superficial thing.
    [25]    Someone of low status who becomes a neighbor of a man of power, even when he has cause to be very happy, cannot celebrate loudly, or if his sorrow is severe, his lamentation and weeping must be muted.  His conduct is controlled by anxiety, for in any situation he is as fearful as a sparrow caught in a hawk's nest.  Poor people, living as neighbors to the rich, morning and evening are embarrassed by their poorly dressed appearance, even as they go into and leave the house, seeing their neighbor's flattering condescension.  The wife and children envy the neighbor's servants, who look down on them with haughty expression, provoking bad feelings.  They can never have peace of mind.  If it is crowded in the neighborhood, and the next-door house catches fire, there is no escaping the spreading fire.  If you live outside the city, where it is sparsely populated, it is difficult to go and come, and you have to worry about being attacked by thieves.  People want power and authority, for if their family has none, others look down on them.  But people who have property have many worries, too, just as the poor people who envy them do.  Whenever you must rely upon others, so are not self-sufficient, then those others come to possess you.  Even helping a stranger, if you are drawn to that person, infringes on your independence of spirit.  On the one hand, it is difficult to maintain independence in following the standard social conventions, but, if you do not, you will seem absurd, will look like a lunatic.  And wherever you live, whatever you do, in the short period of time of this life, you should seek  peace of mind--but this seems impossible for human beings.
    [26]    This has been true in my life.  At first, taking over the estate of my father's grandmother, I lived there for many years.  But, after that, cut off by fate, I fell into adversity.  Finally, I could no longer stay there.  I was thirty years old when I built a smaller house for myself.  Compared with the previous house, it was only a tenth of the size.  It was no more than my own sleeping quarters, constructed as such a modest building might be.  A mud wall was finally added, but there were never funds for a gate.  Bamboo supports were constructed, through which a vehicle could enter.  If the snow was falling, or the wind was blowing, there were difficulties.  Because it was near the Kamo River channel, there was great danger of flooding, and there were many cases of robbery in the area.
    [27]    It was difficult to find a satisfactory place to live, as I struggled with the problems of this world for over thirty years.  During that time, as I stumbled from one situation to another, I came to realize that it was all a matter of fate.  Therefore, in the spring of the year in which I became fifty, I abandoned that house, too, and sought seclusion from the world.  Since I had no wife and children, and no allowance for rank or office, in what did my commitment lie?  I had no obligations beyond myself, so was free to go into monastic seclusion.  Though attached to nothing, living in Ohara, I had managed to live through the cycle of months meaninglessly for five years.
    [28]    Now I am sixty years old, and again changing my way of life so late in life, have constructed a house to which to entrust my last years.  It was like a silkworm diligently making a cocoon, or as if designed to provide a single bed for a traveler for a single night.  This house, compared to the one I built in the middle of my life near the river bank, must not be a hundredth part of that house.  Many find fault with what I am doing, as I move to a smaller and smaller dwelling house as my age increases from year to year.  Comparing to the earlier, larger dwellings, this does not even resemble an ordinary building.  The house is only ten feet square, and the height is less than seven feet.  I did not model it on houses I have lived in all through my life, but selected the lot and built the house on other principles.  I built the foundation and constructed the simple roof by linking timbers together and pulling them up so that they are suspended from metal fittings.  By planning it this way, if I become displeased with the place it is located, it is easy to move it to another location.  The house is so constructed that to move it is relatively easy to pile the pieces in two carts, and, except for the charge for the rental of the carts, no other expenses are required.
    [29]    So I have withdrawn to live in the Hino mountains in this ten-foot square hermit's cell.  On the east side, where the eaves extend less than a meter, there is a place to burn the firewood I have gathered.  On the south the bamboo drainboard is spread.  Inside, on the west, is a shelf made for the water offerings to the Buddha.  On the north, in a single-leaf screen partition, the portrait of Amida Buddha is placed, and, next to that, Fugen Bodhisatva's portrait, before which the Kekyo sutra is placed.  On the east side of the hermit's cell, I spread the straw from bracken grain as a cot.  In the southwest corner, I have built a hanging shelf on which three black leather-covered boxes are placed, for poems, music books, and collections of sutra prayers.  Next to that a koto and biwa stand, one on either side.  These are the circumstances in this temporary hermit's cell.
    [30]    Outside my hut, to the south, I have a water pipe.  The water accumulates in a basin formed by rocks I have piled there.  And because I am surrounded by forest, it is easy to gather small branches for firewood.  The name of this place is Toyama.  Creeping vines almost conceal the paths to it, but, though the trees grow thick in the valley, in the west it is clear, making this Western Paradise Pure Land view convenient for silent prayer.  In spring the wisteria flowers tremble in the wind, so many blooming in the west that it seemed like the coming of Amida Buddha riding on purple clouds.  In summer I can hear the cry of the cuckoo, promising to be my guide on the mountain road to death.  In autumn the sound of the cicada fills the ear, and, as I hear it, I grieve to think of the transience of life in this world.  In winter I see the snow with some emotion as it piles up and then begins to melt away, as the sins that people have committed may disappear if they are able to repent.  If reciting the nembutsu becomes troublesome, or I do not feel I have time to read the sutras, no one is here to accuse me of being lazy.  There is no one to interfere in any way.  If I do not impose the severity of silence as a religious discipline, as may be my responsibility, living alone it is difficult to violate the rule in any case.  If I were not strictly observing the commandments, I would wonder why, given this environment, I were not able to.  But I don't break the rules.
    In the morning, I watch the boats come and go in the  kanoya vicinity.  When, after a boat passes, the white waves immediately fade away, I see my own transient experience in that, and am provoked to try to imitate the priest Mansei's elegant poetry, or, in the evening, if the wind blows in the maple trees, making the leaves sound, I recall the river at Jinyo, and I mimic the Minister Minamoto Tsunenobu in playing the biwa.  When that has still not exhausted my mood, I try to skillfully combine the sound of the koto with that of the autumn wind through the pines, or the sound of a valley stream, as I accompany my prayer by playing on the biwa.  I am clumsy in playing on the instrument, but, since no one else can hear it, it doesn't matter.  Alone by myself in musical performance, or singing, it is only for personal enjoyment.
    [31]    There is also a thatched cottage at the foot of this mountain.  That is where this mountain's keeper lives, and there is a small boy there.  Sometimes he comes to visit me.  When I am bored with what I am doing, he may become my companion on the walks I take.  He is ten years old and I am sixty.  The age difference is great, but the pleasure we take in walking is the same.  Sometimes we pull up the sprouts of chugaya flowers, gather peach moss, pull up rice bran, or pick Japanese parsley.  Sometimes walking in the fields at the foot of the mountain we may also glean heads of grain.  If the weather is nice, we may climb to the summit of the mountain and look out over Kobatayama, Fushimi Village, Toba, or Hatsukashi.  This is a good neighborhood for this kind of scenery, and, best of all, since it is not owned by anyone, I can look at it all I want to with no one able to keep me from it.
    When I feel like walking further, we may traverse a series of peaks, passing Sumiyama and Kasatori, perhaps, to visit Iwama Temple, or Ishiyama Temple, to worship.  Or we may cross Awazu Plain to look for the ruined hut where the old man Semimaru used to stay, or crossing the Tanakami River to visit Sara Maru Taiyu's grave.  On the way back, depending on the season, we may look at the cherry blossoms, or observe the maple leaves, breaking off the bracken tree's berries to place before the Buddha's altar at home, or just to eat.
    When my heart is becoming lonely in the evening, I look at the moon from the hut's window, and think about old friends, and hear the voice of the monkey, my tears flowing sentimentally.  In the grass of the high meadow there seem to be fireflies, but they also seem to be points of fire on Maki no Shima.  At dawn I also like to hear the rain blowing in the leaves of the trees like a storm.  When I hear the weeping chirp of the mountain birds, I think of children calling their father and mother.  And when I see the approach of the mountain deer near the summit without fear, I understand how far I have been separated from society.  Or when I again rake the banked fire when I am unable to sleep, I do it as an old friend.  These mountain recesses are not fearful, and the lonely owl's voice, rather than sounding frightening, has a sad charm.  The mountain scene, in going through the artistic effects of the four seasons, offers abundant change, never exhausts your interest.  Since I feel this way, I think any deep thinking person, or person more knowledgeable than I am, would find the experience I have described of unlimited value.
    [32]    Though when I came here I only expected to be living in this place for a short time, it has already been five years.  I have gotten used to this temporary residence, as the dead leaves have collected in the eaves, and the moss has grown on the foundation.  Naturally, on occasion, I have heard of happenings in Heian-kyo since I have retreated to the mountain, of how many of the people in high social position have died.  I couldn't count the number of people of lower position who have, or how many houses have been consumed by fire.  But I have no concern about the security of this temporary residence.  Even if it is small, it offers a place to sleep at night and a place to sit during the day.  There is no shortage of room for my single body.  It provides a small shell, like the hermit crab likes, somewhere to return to when danger threatens.  The osprey always lives on the windswept seashore, because it fears the proximity of human beings.  I am like the hermit crab and the osprey.
    If you are insecure living in the capital, you should not busy yourself with worldly desire.  Only the quiet life is important, and taking pleasure in assuming its hardships.  Ordinary people cannot give up their house, feeling that it is needed to preserve their safety.  Some consider it necessary as a place for their wife and children, for the family structure, others for their intimates and friends.  Some may build for landowners, or teachers, or own property to keep cows and horses, but others have no need to construct a building.  Asked why I live like this, given the present circumstances of the world, and my own position, I say that I have no wife and children, and no need to rely upon servants.   If I were to build a larger house, who would be staying with me?  Who would I live with?
    [33]    It may be important to people who have friends to have property, and a superficially friendly person makes a lot of friends.  It is not necessary for a person who has friendships, or a gentle character.  If it was, you are better off with no friends.  It is better to have only music and the changing landscapes of the seasons as your friends.  People's servants must be rewarded.  It is important that they receive a great many benefits.  If they are treated kindly, without these benefits, there is little likelihood of tranquility of life.  Because of that, I myself do without servants.  I have become my own servant, which is the better way.  If I have something to do, I use my own body.  If I am tired, it is still better than using other people, where there is so much more to worry about.  If it is necessary to walk, I use my own legs.  If I am tired, it is still better than the trouble of taking care of a horse, or riding in an ox-cart.  With one body, the work can be divided between two hands and two feet.  With my hands as my servants and feet as my vehicles, I do everything entirely by myself.  Because I understand the emotional distress and torment of my own body very well, I know when I need to rest to improve my spirit.  Even if I use my own body, I don't often have to for too long a time.  Since feeling tired is up to me to determine, there is no reason to overdo it.  And, if a person always walks, he is always moving his body, which tends to keep him thin and promote good health.  There is no encouragement to be lazy.  To make other people suffer is a sinful thing.  So why borrow other people's strength and energy?
   Clothing and food are also concerns.  Plain, coarse clothing can be woven from arrowroot, and hemp can be used for bedding.  Whatever I can make by hand is good to wear.  I grow starwort in the field, and gather nuts from the trees by the mountain peak, and in this way sustain life.  I might be concerned to expose myself to other people dressed so, but since I have no others to see me, have no cause for remorse.  And I might feel that I am eating poor things, but, though they are poor, they are the product of my own industry and I thank heaven for them,  This leads to happiness, a rich life, which I say without sarcasm--by myself alone, using my own body--compared to the life I led before.
    [33*]    Since entering the priesthood, fear and resentment of other people has disappeared.  Because life is under heaven's control, it doesn't matter if I live long or not.  I am not concerned about early death, am like a floating cloud, and do not complain.  The happiness of my life can be expressed in one peaceful nap, and in the hope of  seeing the beautiful scenery of the four seasons.
    [34]    In general, the past, present, and future history of human beings is a product of the mind.  If there is no peace of mind in possessing the elephant or horse, or the seven wonders or treasures of the world, it is meaningless to have palaces and buildings of many stories.  Now I dwell in my tranquil residence.  It is only a ten-foot hut, but I love it.  When I want to go to the capital for something, I may feel ashamed to go in the appearance of a beggar, but I return feeling sorry for the people I see there, who are so caught up in and preoccupied with wealth and honor, so busy doing things.  If you are doubtful about what I am saying, look at the situation of the fish and the birds.  Fish are always in the water, yet they don't become bored with the water.  If you are not a fish you probably can't understand that feeling.  Birds hope to live in the forest.  If you are not a bird, you probably can't understand that motive.  My feeling about my tranquil residence is of the same kind.  Who can understand this if they haven't tried it?
    [35]    My life, like the waning moon, is about to finish.  The remaining days are few.  Soon the Three Ways of the Hereafter will begin.  The acts of my whole life may be criticized.  An important Buddhist teaching is not to form attachment to anything of this world.  I now feel that it is a crime to begin to love this hermitage so much.  I have also persisted in the silent life here, that may become an obstacle to salvation too, perhaps.  Why am I wasting time speaking about this worthless happiness with so little time remaining?  This is not the thing to do.
    [36]    Thinking about this at dawn after a quiet night, I try to give vent to my own heart facing these questions.  "Chomei, by trying to escape from the world by going to the mountains and forests this way, to put the disorder of your heart into order is a Buddhist practice.  And yet, while trying to become a pure monk, your heart remains tainted by impurity.  By living in a ten-foot hut in imitation of the Jomyo Buddhist layman Yuima, even if you are given the benefit of the doubt, you have not realized the practice of Shuri Handoku.  When you perhaps do by chance, doesn't your karma's punishment worry you?  Or again, by reckless judgment, not becoming more intelligent you grow worse by this, grow crazy.  What do you think?"  When I ask myself like this, my heart cannot answer.  I have no answer.  There is one way remaining.  I continue to move my tongue, but I am unable to welcome the celebration of Amida Nurai.  I only chant two or three times.  That is all.
    [37]    It is now Senryo Two (1212), the end of March.  I have become a priest.  I remain in Hino's Toyama hut, and am writing this letter.