Japanese Text Initiative
Cornell University East Asia Papers, number 18
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
Spacing in print source has been preserved. Natural line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a verse has been joined to the preceding line.
Underlining for emphasis has been rendered as italics.
Komachi on the Gravepost is a play of such astonishing contrasts that one can feel hard put to make of them a whole. Komachi is here, as in Komachi at Gateway Temple, a hundred-year-old crone, but she still debates brilliantly with two monks from the Shingon center of Mount Koya. Hardly has she triumphed, however, and confessed her name, when she is savagely possessed by the spirit of a former suitor who re-enacts, through her body, his fruitless courtship of her. At last the spirit leaves Komachi and she vows to enter the path of enlightenment (which, in the first half of the play, she seemed to have traveled to the end) by accumulating such countless little acts of devotion as are mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. This sutra says that even children who make sand towers (mud pies) in the name of the Buddha accumulate by this act incalculable merit. Thus, at the very end of Komachi on the Gravepost there is a hint of the innocence that pervades Komachi at Gateway Temple. Perhaps the whole play suggests that knowledge is nothing without love, and that humility is greater than pride. Perhaps when Komachi reminds the monks that 'Back links it is that lift one high' (for 'back link' and 'right links,' see Glossary), she is saying more than even she realizes at the time.
Komachi's suitor is Shii no Shosho, also known as Fukakusa no Shosho, the 'Captain from Deepgrass.' According to legend, Komachi promised Shosho she would yield to him if he would appear before her house each night for a hundred nights. He was to record his visit by cutting a notch on the shaft-rest there, the wooden support for the
The gravepost which is at issue in Komachi's triumphant debate is a sotoba, in Sanskrit stupa. A stupa is usually a mound consecrated to the Buddha, so that the mud pies mentioned above are a form of stupa. What Komachi sits on, though, is not a mound but a plank. A Shingon grave monument of this kind displays the symbolic shapes of the five elements or 'five wheels' which are the constituents of matter.
Zeami attributes Komachi on the Graveposts to his father Kannami, although he says that the present version is his own condensation of what had been a very long no.
Shallow these hills yet conceal one shallow these hills yet conceal one very deep the heart!
I am a monk from Mount Koya. I am just now on my way up to Miyako.
The Buddha of the past, now, is long gone; the Future Buddha comes not yet into the world.
[ face to face again ]
Born are we into dream time between. What then shall we take for the Real? Human bodies, seldom won, are ours; the Tathagata's own Buddha-Teaching, hard to find, we've found, and this it is shall be seed of awakening vows the heart with purpose single black robes we've put on:
but know the self that's before birth but know the self that's before birth and parents there are none to cherish, and with no parents, no child either to detain the heart. The ten thousand leagues we go[ Sideman takes a few steps to show travel, returning to his place by second 'home.' He then faces front. ]
are never long; on moors we lie and lodge in mountains, yes, these for us are the true home yes, these for us are the true home.
[ Sideman and Sideman's Second retire to Sideman's spot. Stagehand places a stool at center, to serve as the gravepost. ]
Hurrying along that way, we've come to Abeno in the land of Tsu.
Pondweed adrift am I yet no stream stirs pondweed adrift am I yet no stream stirs to woo me: wherefore I grieve.
[ turning front ]
Alas! In the old days my pride waxed very great. My hair, a black kingfisher-sheened, swayed supple, like willow fronds trailing down spring winds. My warbler tongue's sweet trill was lovelier far than fine bush clover flowers gorged with dew, at each whisper poised to drop; now even fishwives shrink from me, all see my shame. Joyless moons and suns have piled on me till I've turned hag, one hundred years old.
In Miyako I fear men's eyes lest 'It's she!' they safe at nightfall
with the moon I sally forth with the moon I sally forth past Cloudloft the Hundredfold! The sentinel on Inmost Peak himself would never
the Lovers' Tomb of Toba, Autumn Hill, the moon's own Katsura river boats shooting shallows, and the rowers, who might they be, and the rowers, who might they be?
I'm so exhausted I think I'll sit here on this rotten timber and rest.[ She takes her hat in her hand and sits on the stool. Sideman and Sideman's Second stand up. ]
Oho, the sun's gone down, we'd better hurry. Look! The thing this beggar here is sitting on is a stupa gravepost, there's no doubt about it. I'll enlighten her and get her to move.
[ Sideman's Second goes to mark post, passing behind Doer, thus leaving Sideman at Sideman's spot. ]
Right you are.
You there! You beggar! Isn't what you're sitting on a stupa gravepost, the very image of the Buddha-body, to which be reverence? Get off it and go rest somewhere else.
The very image of the Buddha-body, you say, most worthy of reverence. . . But I see no inscription to suggest that, no graven shapes. To me, it looks like just a rotten timber.
s 'Dead and dry the tree may be deep in the hills, yet once in bloom a cherry's not to be hid' -- sp a timber, then, graven as the Buddha-body, how should it make no impression?
s I too am a lowly buried timber, but if at heart I've still blossoms, why should they not do for offerings? Come, what makes you say it's the Buddha-body?
Why, a gravepost, stupa that it is, is Kongosatta briefly manifest, working his Samaya Shapes, his Vow-in-Action.
sp The shapes he works, what are they?
s Earth, water, fire, air, and space.
The Five Great Ones, the Five Wheels, make man's own body; how is it you see a difference?
Identical the shapes, but heart and virtue differ.
sp Then the gravepost stupa's virtue?
s 'Once spy a stupa and forever leave the Three Evil Ways.'
'One thought arouses the True Wisdom Mind.' There too, how am I the lesser?
If True Wisdom Mind is yours, why don't you hate the sorry world?
As if it were one's mere appearance that might hate the world! No, it's the heart!
No heart have you, and therefore knew not the Buddha-body.
sp I knew it, and therefore approached this gravepost.
s Then why did you sit down and pay no homage?
Here it's lying, this gravepost -- what's wrong with my resting too?
It clashes with all right links.
sp Back links it is that lift one high.
s Daiba's evil,
mercy of Kannon,
what's called Evil
is Good itself;
what's called Torments,
and Perfect Wisdom's
no tree planted:
the Clear Mirror
stands on no stand.
Yes, when 'Never has one thing been,' Buddha and Beings coincide.[ Sideman's Second goes back to sit at Sideman's spot. ]
Ever a device to save dull, average man, it has been the thrust of the deep Vows; therefore, 'Back links it is that lift one high': when thus kindly she reminds them,[ Doer faces Sideman and assumes a commanding presence. ]
'Truly, an awakened outcaste!' they cry, the monks,[ Sideman, as though quelled, retreats two or three steps, goes down on one knee and reverently salutes Doer. Doer then turns front again. ]
touching head to earth and doing homage thrice. But then,
Now my strength gathers, I give you this jesting song:
My crime in Paradise most grave post it without quite free of every blame.[ Doer suddenly stands, turns her back on Sideman, and moves several steps toward main spot. ]
You tiresome monks and your sermons! You tiresome monks and your sermons!
Come then! Who are you? Please, say your name!
[ She comes back to center and sits facing front. ]
[ turning to Sideman ]
I'm ashamed; and yet I'll tell you my name.
I am what is left of Ono no Komachi, daughter of Ono no Yoshizane, the governor of Dewa.
Oh the pity! Komachi was years past a peerless beauty: blossom, her face shone, moon-laurel brows gleamed delicate, white-powdered was she
ever; gauze and damask robes o'erflowed her Laurel Hall.
Native songs I made, and Chinese verse;
'Drink deep' urged my cup, from Heaven's Stream moon on my sleeve lay light, a lovely sight indeed. on And when did change
crown me with frosty weeds, sidelocks once fair clamp to skin in inky runs, moth brows once lilting lose hue of far hills?
My hundred years lack wan these hairs hankerings do I no sooner dawn breaks than shame at my looks covers me.[ As she speaks these last words, Doer hides her face with hat, then stands and goes to main spot. ]
In the pouch hung round your neck, what is it you keep?
Though this day may be my last, against tomorrow's hunger it's parched beans and millet, mixed, I carry in my pouch.
And in the bag you've slung behind?
Stained, filthy clothes.
And in the basket on your arm?
[ Now she glances at the hat she holds. Below, she lowers her head as though to hide, and then at mention of sleeves, glances at her sleeves. ]
Arrowheads white and black.
do little to hide the face;
and what of frost, snow, rain, and dew?
[ She drops her staff, thrusts hat out again, and presses toward Sideman. ]
Tears at least I'd wipe from sight but have no sleeves![ She thrusts the hat before her, held upside down like a bowl, and goes toward mark post. ]
Now I wander roads, beg from passersby; and when refused,[ She glares down into hat. ]
rage and crazed wits seize me. My voice changes, ghastly. . .
str Come on you, gimme something, you monk, come on!
sp What's this?
Got to be going to Komachi's place. Come on!
[ Doer faces front. Below, at 'billets-doux,' glances hither and yon; at 'shower,' steps backwards; at 'reward,' lowers head as though containing agitation. ]
You're Komachi! What is this nonsense you're talking?
Oh no, Komachi, she's too much the lover: billets-doux here, proposals there str shower as sudden summer rains from skies empty comfort even gives she none, not one answer. w Now, just reward, she's touched one hundred years. Oh how I love her, how I love her!
sp 'How I love her,' you say; then who has possessed you?
[ turning to Sideman ]
Among the throng whose hearts were set on Komachi, [ turning front ]
w specially captain Fourth Rank of Deepgrass, Shii no Shosho's
[ Doer gazes toward bridgeway, the direction of the west; at 'moon's along,' turns front again; at 'gate guards,' goes to main spot, then withdraws to stagehand spot. ]
bitterness thus manifold [ advancing toward Front ]
has come full round: I'm bound for her shaft rest.
What time of day? Nightfall What time of day? Nightfall; the moon's by me down the road gate watchmen stand but they'll not stop me! Come, I'm off!
[ Doer presses fan to breast, drops to one knee, then sits; at 'he of Deepgrass,' lowers head, absorbed. ]
Spotless white skirts I lift high spotless white skirts I lift high,
wind-crease the tall court hat, hunting cloak sleeves pull about me, shrink from prying eyes
along the way I go by moon, go in blackness, nights of rain, storm nights, leaf showers, deep the snow,
the eaves' bright drops drip quick drip quick
Chorus[ Doer steps backwards to center. ]
I go and come and back again one night, two nights, three nights and four, seven, eight nights, nine nights attend the Harvest Vigil Feast I cannot, all alone cock-crow I never miss, each dawn notch the shaft-rest, bent on going the full hundred nights, and this the ninety-ninth --
Oh the pain! My eyes dim!
My chest bursts! cried he in agony and one night short died, he of Deepgrass, the Captain. His hate it is possesses me[ She briskly stands and, turning to Side man with a fierce air, stamps beat. ]
and so turns me mad![ Now she becomes perfectly calm and peaceful. At 'sand,' she holds out fan as though beckoning; at 'burnish,' turns right up to main spot, then holding fan like an offering, advances toward front; at 'start' folds fan and joins palms; then turns to side and remains motionless. ]
But for all that, my strong hope for life to come is very real: sand I'll pile into stupas, burnish me skin of purest gold and, offering the Buddha flowers, set out on the road to awakening set out on the road to awakening.