Shike – Day 304 of 306

“I’m sorry our love is such a burden to you, Jebu. But it seems you have the strength, somehow, to part from me.” He seemed to be trying to make it sound as if his sufferings were equal to hers, which could not possibly be true.

“For me to refuse this responsibility would leave me with my insight beclouded and my contact with the Self broken.”

“And I—and our love—must be sacrificed to your spiritual attainment? That’s what I dislike about all this pursuing of insight or enlightenment, whatever you wish to call it. It’s nothing but a selfishness of the spirit.”

Surprisingly, Jebu nodded. “A long time ago Taitaro abandoned my mother, Nyosan, to follow his inner voice. She died in the holocaust of the Teak Blossom Temple. When he told me how she had died, there was a moment when I hated him for having left her. As you must hate me now. But you have known satori. So you must know that we realize in enlightenment that the individual self is an illusion. We are all part of one Self.”

She was crying again. It was so frustrating to be unable to touch him with her anger. She had experienced enough of what he was talking about to understand him. Still, she could not, would not, give him up.

“How do you know that denying our love won’t damage your precious insight?” she demanded. “How can you be so sure that what you have decided is right?”

“I can’t,” he said. “Being sure that you are doing right is one of the easiest ways to go astray. We Zinja have ways of reminding ourselves that what we are doing is not necessarily right. But I know I must do this just as I knew, six years ago, that I must answer your call and come to you in Kamakura. The deeper my insight, the more the Self chooses for me.”

She sneered. “When you ask monks hard questions, they always retreat behind words that are impossible to grasp, like clouds of smoke.”

Surprisingly, he was crying again, and he took her sleeve and wiped his eyes with it. “That reminds me so much of what my mother said to me once when I was preaching at her. ‘Sayings that boom like a hollow log in the temple,’ she called my words. I know how you feel. Even so, you know that at the bottom of my words, hollow as they are, there is a reality.”

“The reality is that you are going to leave me,” she whispered in a choked voice.

“I am not going to leave today or tomorrow, my love,” said Jebu. “In the spring I will go. Sakagura and I will outfit a small ship and sail to China. Sakagura doesn’t know yet that I have decided to take him with me. But he wants to be my student, and I need someone to help me cross the ocean and to be my companion after that. I will be back, Taniko. Be sure of it. Much of the reason for my making this journey is so that I can return to the Order with new treasures of knowledge. I will be back, and then we will be together for ever after. That I promise you.”

Her rage and grief burst out, not in a scream as on the night before, but in a flood of speech, broken by sobs. “And I promise you that when I am asleep my angry ghost will leave my body and go wherever you are in the world and torment and plague you until you go mad. As I will go mad here, if you leave me. I believe you are mad already. After we have been forced to be apart so much of our lives, can you turn your back on me of your own free will? Even if you do return you will surely be gone ten years or more. I may be dead by then. I will be dead. Have you forgotten that when we were a boy and girl here in this spot so long ago, you swore you would be mine forever? You don’t really love me. You never have. I’ve just been someone for you to come back to after your legendary exploits. If you leave me now, Jebu, I will always hate you. Always.”

Jebu put his arms around her. She tried to push him away at first, but he held her tightly, and in spite of her anger at him it was comforting to be held. The pain tore at her from within, like some monstrous crab that had been conceived inside her and was trying to tear its way out. With his forefinger he wiped the tears from her cheek. Crickets chirped in the forest. Was it Taniko’s imagination, or was there a sadness in the sound because winter was coming and the little insects would soon all be dead? He and I will soon be dead, too, she thought, and our love lost forever.

“There is another reason why it would be good for me to leave now,” he said softly. “Did Sametono tell you about our quarrel before he went out in Sakagura’s kobaya?”

“He told me that he was angry because you persuaded the generals not to let him go into combat.”

“He said that our love is becoming a national scandal. The temples, the warrior families, the people are losing respect for you. He would never have said those things to me if he weren’t angry, but they are true.”


“Taniko, you said yourself that our being lovers is no longer a secret. Munetoki and Sametono need you. They’ll need you until Sametono is grown up. Most of the time, the path that leads to enlightenment is simply doing your duty as well as you can, according to your place in the world. For you, the path is to accept my going and to work to make the Bakufu strong. Your duty is to keep the figure of the Ama-Shogun bright and shining.”

He was still holding her. Part of her wanted to lift her head and kiss the lips that looked so inviting surrounded by his white beard. Part of her wanted to push him away, leave this mountain-top whose meaning for them he had betrayed, and never see him again. She hated all this talk about enlightenment. It had nothing to do with life and love. But she knew it was true. She was trapped in her position. But—she could give up her position. Or offer to. If he realized that she was willing to give up everything for him, then surely he would be willing to turn his back on his Order for her.

“Very well, then,” she said. “If you won’t stay with me, I will go with you.”

His grey eyes widened. “You will give up your position, leave your family and home, and travel all the way across the world with me?”

“Will you take me?”

After a long silence he said, “It would make the trip more difficult, of course. You are very strong, but still the Order will object. They’ll say that my having you along will slow me down. And they would be right, but that doesn’t matter. I have decided to make this journey despite the suffering it inflicts on you and me. They’ll have to accept my making it on my terms. For the sake of our love, if this is what you think you must do, I cannot refuse you.”

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