“The so-called 'Left-Hand Path' - that of Kaulas, Siddhas and Viras - combines the... Tantric worldview with a doctrine of the Übermensch which would put Nietzsche to shame... The Vira - which is to say: the 'heroic' man of Tantrism - seeks to sever all bonds, to overcome all duality between good and evil, honor and shame, virtue and guilt. Tantrism is the supreme path of the absolute absence of law - of shvecchacarī, a word meaning 'he whose law is his own will'." ― Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar.

“It is necessary to have “watchers” at hand who will bear witness to the values of Tradition in ever more uncompromising and firm ways, as the anti-traditional forces grow in strength. Even though these values cannot be achieved, it does not mean that they amount to mere “ideas.” These are measures…. Let people of our time talk about these things with condescension as if they were anachronistic and anti-historical; we know that this is an alibi for their defeat. Let us leave modern men to their “truths” and let us only be concerned about one thing: to keep standing amid a world of ruins.” ― Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga.

“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died at his post during the eruption of Vesuvius because someone forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one that can not be taken from a man.” ― Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Battle of Dan-no-ura & Hōichi the Earless

This is one of the most fantastic sequences in the history of motion pictures, from the film Kwaidan (1964), the segment entitled "Hoichi the Earless" depicting the opening story of the Battle of Dan-no-ura: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsxo3pFpBYI

This is an exceptional traditional performance of the song (once you get past the obnoxious "host" at the beginning), played on the biwa:



From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dan-no-ura

The battle of Dan-no-ura (壇ノ浦の戦い, Dan-no-ura no tatakai?) was a major sea battle of the Genpei War, occurring at Dan-no-ura, in the Shimonoseki Strait off the southern tip of Honshū. On April 25, 1185, the Genji (Minamoto) clan fleet, led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, defeated the Heike (Taira) clan fleet, during a half-day engagement.

The Taira were outnumbered, but some sources say that they had the advantage over the Minamoto in understanding the tides of that particular area, as well as naval combat tactics in general. The Taira split their fleet into three squadrons, while their enemy arrived en masse, their ships abreast, and archers ready. The beginning of the battle consisted mainly of a long-range archery exchange, before the Taira took the initiative, using the tides to help them try to surround the enemy ships. They engaged the Minamoto, and the archery from a distance eventually gave way to hand-to-hand combat with swords and daggers after the crews of the ships boarded each other. However, the tide changed, and the advantage was given back to the Minamoto.

One of the crucial factors that allowed the Minamoto to win the battle was that a Taira general by the name of Taguchi Shigeyoshi defected, and revealed to the Minamoto which ship the six-year-old Emperor Antoku was on. Their archers turned their attention to the helmsmen and rowers of the Emperor's ship, as well as the rest of their enemy's fleet, sending their ships out of control. Many of the Taira warriors, as they saw the battle turn against them, threw themselves overboard, committing suicide rather than having to face defeat at the hands of the Minamoto. Among those who perished this way were Antoku and his grandmother, the widow of Taira no Kiyomori, head of the clan. To this day, the Heike Crabs found in the Straits of Shimonoseki are considered by the Japanese to hold the spirits of the Taira warriors.

The Taira attempted to toss the crown jewels off the ship but only managed to get the sword and mirror into the water before the ship holding the jewels was captured. The mirror was recovered by divers; many presume the sword to have been lost at this time, though it is officially said to have been recovered and enshrined at Atsuta Shrine.

This decisive defeat of the Taira forces led to the end of the Taira bid for control of Japan. Minamoto Yoritomo, the elder half-brother of Minamoto Yoshitsune, became the first Shogun, establishing his military government ('bakufu') in Kamakura.

In 1965 a dramatized version of the battle appeared as part of the movie Kwaidan.

In his book and television series Cosmos, Carl Sagan presents a brief, dramatic account of the battle in chapter/episode 2; "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue". Sagan then uses the Heike crabs as examples of artificial selection.

In the Japanese remake of the Spaghetti Western movie, Django, Sukiyaki Western: Django, this battle has a main focus within the plot.

The battle is also recounted near the beginning of the Usagi Yojimbo story arc, Grasscutter.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoichi_the_Earless

Hōichi the Earless (耳なし芳一 Mimi-nashi Hōichi) is a character from Japanese mythology. His story is well-known in Japan, and the best-known English translation first appeared in the book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn.

A version of this story appears in the film Kwaidan, as well as the play The Dream of a Summer Day, which are both based on Hearn's work. Hoichi the Earless is closely associated with Akama Shrine in Shimonoseki, as his story takes place at the Buddhist temple Amidaji, which preceded the shrine before Shintō became the state religion of Japan.

According to legend, Hoichi was a blind minstrel (or biwa hoshi) with amazing gifts for the biwa (a loquat-shaped Japanese lute). He was particularly good at performing the Tale of the Heike, an epic describing the fall of Emperor Antoku, who is buried at Amidaji Temple. His performances were so wonderful that "even the goblins could not refrain from tears." Despite his talents, Hoichi was very poor and was forced to live at Amidaji Temple with a friendly priest.

As the story goes, Hoichi was approached late one night by a gruff samurai who demanded that the minstrel play for his lord. The retainer led the blind Hoichi into what appeared to be the home of some powerful nobleman, where a performance of the Tale of the Heike was requested. Hoichi's performance was met by high praise and moved his audience to tears, and he was asked to return the next evening for a follow-up recital. Before the retainer returned him to his temple, Hoichi was told that the nobleman for whom he had been playing was traveling incognito, and was warned not to speak of the evening's events.

The following evening, the samurai returned to Hoichi's quarters and led him back to the nobleman. However, this time Hoichi's absence was discovered by his friend, the priest of Amidaji Temple. The priest grew suspicious and instructed his servants to look after Hoichi the next night. When they saw him leaving the temple the servants gave chase and eventually found Hoichi playing his biwa furiously in the middle of the Amidaji cemetery. When they dragged him back to the temple, Hoichi explained the previous night's events to the priest.

Realizing that Hoichi had been bewitched by ghosts, the priest vowed to save his friend from further trickery. He painted Hoichi's body with the text of a holy sutra (specifically, the Smaller Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra) and instructed him to remain silent and motionless when he is called upon by his ghostly audience. That evening the samurai called for Hoichi as before, and was angered when he received no response. The ghostly samurai approached Hoichi but was unable to see anything but his ears. The holy sutra had rendered the rest of Hoichi's body invisible to the retainer. Attempting to comply with his orders, the samurai ripped Hoichi's ears off as proof that they had been the only portion of the lute player that was available.

After the ghostly retainer had left, Hoichi was still too frightened to react, despite the blood gushing from the wounds on his head. When the priest returned, he realized in dismay that he had neglected to write the sutra on Hoichi's ears, which had left them vulnerable to the spirit. Despite his injury, Hoichi's ordeal had freed him from the spirit's power, and he went on to recover from his wounds and become a famous musician.

More Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaidan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwaidan:_Stories_and_Studies_of_Strange_Things
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwaidan_(film)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058279/
http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/kwaidan/kwai03.htm
http://cruises.about.com/library/pictures/japan/blshimonoseki15.htm

2 comments:

Hadding said...

"But at least she didn't lose her ears"? HAHAHAHAHA

Jim said...

Kwaidan is a great film.

I bought the video game Total War:Shogun 2 not because it is something I wanted or it is a type of game I enjoy but because it is the only one that has the Gempei War and Dan no ura.
I am a Yank but also a Buddhist