The Japanese Buddhist priest Myoe Koben (1173-1232) was initiated into both the Kegon and Shingon Buddhist sects. Although both originated in China, they trace their lineage, through historical teachers, to the mythical Indian Buddha, Vairocana, "the most cosmic expression of this vast web of interpenetration."1
With the publication of Hayao Kawai's The Buddhist Priest Myoe: A Life of Dreams,2 Myoe came to the attention of non-specialists in the West. When I first read this book, I was only faintly aware of Buddhism's rich esoteric tradition which begins in God's proximity, the consciousness of insanity which torments those prostrate at his feet. Saints and mystics alike end in triumph when they penetrate divinity with erotic abandon. But their triumph proves nothing. We who pass through Divinity leave them behind as, in the West, this aspect of Buddhism is largely brushed over.
In early 2004, I received a copy of Kawai's Dreams, Myths and Fairy Tales in Japan,3 a book in which Japan's first Jungian analyst again takes up the theme of Myoe's "Chronicle of Dreams" (Yume no ki). A few months later, I read George Tanabe's study,4 and then Mark Unno's Shingon Refractions: Myōe and the Mantra of Light.1
After moving along different synaptic pathways, memories and dreams are recollected in the brain's frontal lobe; thus we may wonder: "Was it a dream, or did it actually occur?" As myth is an analogy of the two, there's already deja vu.
With words and images, animated or not, with five texts this project parses one of Myoe's dreams.
1. M. Unno, Shingon Refractions: Myōe and the Mantra of Light. Boston, MA., 2004.
2. Venice, CA., 1992.
3. Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 1995.
4. Myōe the Dreamkeeper: Fantasy and Knowledge in Early Kamakura Buddhism. Cambridge, MA., 1992.
5. S. Sigrist. From, "The Wanderer." Parabola. Fall 2004.
which begins: E.M. Cioran, Tears and Saints. Chicago, 1995. Bernard Faure writes that "Despire the Chan/Zen rhetoric of immediacy, dreams seems to have played a significant role in the life of Chan/Zen communities. Like poets, according to (Jean) Cocteau, many Chan masters 'took their orders from the night.'" The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton, NJ., 1991.
Scroll painting of Priest Myoe is from Kozan-ji, Kyoto. "In a valley west o f where [Myoe] was living was a crag which he called Meditation Rock. Also at that place was a pine called Rope-Seat Tree, on whose two branches he would take refuge to sit in meditation." R.E. Morrell, "Kamakura Accounts of Myōe Shōnin as Popular Religious Hero." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, June-September 1982. (Click on scroll to begin.)
Music: K. Miyata. From, "Shika no Tōne." ("The Sound of Deer Calling to One Another") Japan: Shakuhachi—The Japanese Flute. New York, 1991.
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