By Royall Tyler
Listed here are 2 hundred and twenty mind-blowing stories from medieval Japan, stories that welcome us right into a tremendous, remote international populated through saints and scoundrels, ghosts and magical healers, and an unlimited collection of deities and demons. tales of miracles, visions of hell, jokes, fables, and legends, those stories replicate the japanese worldview in the course of a vintage interval in jap civilization. Masterfully edited and translated by way of the acclaimed translator of The story of Genji, those tales ably stability the lyrical and the dramatic, the ribald and the profound, supplying a window right into a long-vanished notwithstanding perennially attention-grabbing tradition.
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Extra info for Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library)
M any legends tell how the native gods accepted Buddhism gladly, listened eagerly to its teach ing, and sometimes even claimed Buddhist-sounding titles. All this helps to explain why the stories talk more about Buddhist divinities than about the native gods. Although the court honored the gods, it was so steeped in Buddhism that it did not think deeply about them. The Kasuga God, the clan god of the Fujiwara, upheld Buddhism with affecting conviction (no. 31). In fact, his shrine was thoroughly dominated by Kofukuji (no.
The Name of Amida, already explained, is a kind of mantra; so is the title of the Lotus Sutra. But the M antra of Fudo and the M antra of Fire (no. 34) are better examples. Both illustrate a peculiarity of most mantras: they are not even in Chinese but in hopelessly distorted Sanskrit. In other words, they are unintelligi ble not only as spoken but also as written text. The unusual Chinese characters used to write them convey only sound, not meaning. Buddhist mantras in Ja p a n are 'mystical” indeed.
M any monks were involved with spirit possession as healers, often acting in partnership with a woman medium. An absorbing or outstandingly apt oracle was uncommon. W hat people sought instead, at both shrines and Buddhist temples, was dreams. The Buddhist divinities did not possess mediums, but they and the gods could speak or otherwise signify their will in dreams. The common procedure was to do a seven-day retreat at a temple or shrine, in the hope of getting a sign from the divinity in the form of a dream.