Kumori - Journal Entry 5
Night fell rapidly across the sands. The company had made a hasty, crude camp in the lee of one of the larger dunes, counting on it for cover and to keep the worst of the night wind at bay. The sky overhead glittered with a jeweled panoply of stars, and the moon hung high above, bright as silver and curved like the horns of an oni. At the last thought, Kumori’s gaze shifted warily from the sky to Smriti, who sat on the far side of the fire by herself. Her eyes glittered redly through the slits in the mask. I am sorry, my friend, Kumori thought, I should have kept better watch on that thing. When we reach Alhambra, we will find a powerful enough priest to rid you of it. Until then,… Smriti looked up at him, and he carefully nodded before turning away.
Dorak slept near the fire, catching the two hours he needed while Iz kept the first watch. The wind came in erratic, freezing gusts, and Kumori found it difficult to fall asleep. So instead, he watched the sky and prayed the Sutra of Stars.
“And the Enlightened one exhaled, saying:
‘From Nothing, into Everything.’
And thus was born the Dharma.
‘From Darkness, Light.’
And the stars kindled in the first sky.
‘From Light, Life.’
And the world formed, with life upon it in all variety.
‘From Life, Spirit.’
And the lower beasts were divided from Humanity.”
He felt Dusky’s presence beside him before he caught sight of her. But he had become used to her ways, and smiled. “You have told me of the faith of the Church; do you want to hear of the Enlightened One?” She nodded.
“The Enlightened One is much like your Maker, whom you do not name. In the beginning of time, he created the universe, which is the story of the Star Sutra, which I was just praying. In Kaidan it is taught, or at least it was taught, and I hope it still is, that all of the thousand gods and millions of spirits in the world were born of the Enlightened One, and that they can all ultimately return to the Enlightened One, finding freedom from suffering and desire.
“The forces of darkness, afraid as they are of extinction, created illusions that made all the thinking races forget this truth. This happened in the very earliest times of creation, and it was only with the realization of Nirvana by the Bosatsu that the truth was revealed again. This happened in what is now Kushar, many thousands of years ago.
“We are limited, while the Enlightened One is limitless. Thus, we yearn to achieve reunion with him, but stumble along the way, fettered by our desires. Each time we die, we move up or down the chain of creation based on how close we have gotten to rejoining the Enlightened One. The Bosatsu’s teachings show the Path toward true enlightenment, but the path is difficult, in the best of worlds.
“By the time the teachings of the Bosatsu had reached Kaidan, the world was already in a fallen state, and there was no hope for an individual to reach Nirvana in a single life.
“So it was that the Merciful Bosatsu proclaimed the prophecy and the promise of the Pure Land. Whoever speaks his name in true faith, with full commitment, even at the very moment of death, will not be consigned to reincarnation, but will be carried by his mercy to the Pure Land of the Farthest West, to dwell in the presence of the gods until the unmaking of the world and the return to universal Oneness.
“Kiyomori’s curse turned the cycle of reincarnation into a trap with no escape. The unworthy and the worthy travel along the same road; all eventually lead to Yomi, or what you would call Hell. So the Taira and their lackeys stop themselves on the road, becoming undead rather than facing their punishment or trying to earn reward. And so the spiritual balance of my homeland is destroyed, like the strings of a biwa left out in the rain.
“The priests of the Jodo-Nara temple and its lesser shrines in my homeland hold tight to the faith, and it is their spirit-work that has allowed the Northern Court to defy Kiyomori’s edicts and remain free. In the south of my homeland, the faith is called a heresy, and anyone caught praying any of the sutras is flayed or crucified for the crime.
“You have told me of your gods, Dusky, and I start to wonder if, perhaps, the Maker and the Enlightened One are two faces of the same god? Or if Hachimantaro of the Eight Banners, Bosatsu of protection and champion of heaven, is my people’s face for Terak the Mighty, your god of war? If Maal is another face of Enmadai-yo, the judge of the dead? I feel that there is truth in what you have told me, but I do not think all of my own beliefs have been wrong. Perhaps, the forces of Yomi, who you call Asmo- ah, I see you flinch, I am sorry- perhaps the forces of darkness have prevented my own people from seeing a part of the truth that was revealed to the people of the west long ago.
“So have I scandalized you with my heresy, friend? Or are my idle musings worthy of discussion? I find myself in an odd mood; shall we talk?”