Hyakuzo Kurata.

The priest and his disciples : a play online

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rio".^ .\r:\T

K'cn the worst of sinners, I,
Simply on the Buddha cry
And, safe folded in his breast,
In salvation's sell find rest :
Though eyes have I, I cannot see,

O *

For lust of things preventeth me ;
But his great mercy never-ending
Ever lighteth all my \vending.

(77te Right-Relief Song of Invocation?)


KURATA HYAKUZO, the author of the reading drama
Shukke to Sono Dcshi, of which this book is a scntence-
for-sentence translation, was born in 1891 in Sh5bara,
a secluded little village some fifty miles north of
Onomichi in Hiroshima Ken. He comes of an old
family which has for generations conducted a sub-
stantial country dry-goods store there and owns a
considerable acreage in neighboring rice-fields. After
graduating with a good record from his provincial
middle school, he was sent by his father to pursue
his studies at the First High School in Tokyo. But
he read what appealed to him rather than what he
was told to read and left school without completing
the course. He had just lost his two elder sisters,
given up his studies, been disappointed in love and
fallen victim to an incurable tubercular affliction when,
at the age of twenty-six, after having contemplated
committing suicide and determined rather to fight out
his life to its nalural end, he wrote this, the first and
still the greatest of the many successes which have
now made him the ! ' ;1 of a growing group of young
Japanese who find in his writings the encouragement
and stimulus to help them brave out their own

Shukkc to Sono DcsJii is a story of religion and


love woven about the lives of Shinran and
his disciples. Shinran (i 1 73 to 1 262) was the founder
of the Shin sect of Buddhism, the outstanding features
of which are its doctrine of salvation through faith in
the Buddha Amida and its recognition of a normal
married life for priests and laymen. It is to-day the
largest and most influential of the Buddhist sects,
having over 19,000 temples, nearly 1 5 ,OOO priests,
and adherents running up into the million.;. Worship
for them consists of the sincere recitation of the
invocation Namu Amida Bntsu, " Save us, oh Amida
Buddha ! "

Since its publication in 1918, SJmkkc to Sono Deslti
has gone through well over a hundred editions. It
has been rearranged for stage production and, after
successful presentation before crowded and almost
worshipfully attentive houses at the Imperial Theatre
and the Yu r aku:'.a in Tokyo, and later at the V-iniwaza
in Osaka, is ;>o\v on the road in the provinces. And
it lias been the immediate cause of a whole flood of
books on the life of Shinran that still continue to
come from iho press in undimiuishcd numbers.

Its great popularity seems to be due, not to its
being good propaganda for the most popular of the
Buddhist seels, which it undoubtedly i.-;, nor to its
being a historically accurate portrayal of the greatest
revolutionizing figure in Japanese Buddhism, which
it certainly is not, but rather to the sincere and


moving exposition it presents of the religious philoso-
phy of a thinking and struggling contemporary in
an unsettled hind of change. In Japan lo-day, as
indeed in all lands, there are many people who can-
not believe in anything, and Kurata offers them in
story form what he b-'lieves to be the only reasonable
attitude toward life. I [is story is packed with an-
achronisms and errors of fact. His Shinran is not
the historical Shinran ; some of the words he puts into
Shinran 's mouth were sure'}' never spoken by any-
body in Kyoto in the thirteenth century. lie has
simply uiko:i a great and admired teacher whose
heart looks :o him like his own and, without violent
wrenching, made him the vehicle for the expression
of his own convictions.

And where did lie get the terms with which to
understand and in winch to clothe those convictions?
lie got them everywhere, just as every modern
Japanese writer does, out of his everyday life, out
of his reading of Japanese, Chinese and western
literature, out of Buddhism and out of Christianity.
He makes no distinction between them, but having
taken them all for his own, uses them as his own.
His book may be called a twentieth century labora-
tory demonstration of -.hat process of borrowing and
adaptation that has through the ages altered all
religions. Some Buddhist critics have avowed that
Shinran must be weeping in his grave at the picture


Kurata has drawn of him. Some foreign Christians
will surely call parts of the book deliberate steals.
But other followers of Shinran have pointed out that
if that generous reformer were living to-day, his
teachings to the people of Japan would be less unlike
those of Kurata than the illiberal critics suppose.
And many liberal Christians, too, care more for the
teaching than for its identification and will find this
book a mixture in which their favorite beliefs are
working as a leaven. Whatever others may think,
Kurata Hyakuzo is evidently a serious man fighting
death with his art and breathing into that art what
he believes to be a vital message. Leonardo da
Vinci's " Last Supper " and " Mona Lisa " hang
together on the wall by his sickbed at Omori near
Tokyo and speak eloquently of two different loves he
has added to liis Japanese birthright, one the love of
the man Jesus and the other the love of the feminine

I have limited myself to the task of making a
faithful translation of the words of the author. Where
the text contains expressions employed in Christian
phraseology, I have tried carefully not to read into
them either more or less than their natural content.
Hitsuji should certainly be rendered " sheep " de-
spite its unnatural use as a Japanese religious meta-
phor, but whether ddji no mure, literally " a bevy
of boys ", the ddji of which is a word ordinarily used


to designate the youths who wait upon saintly per-
sons in the East, should be turned into the I lebrew
word " cherubim," is at least open to question. ?>Iy
only deliberate departure from the original, however,
has been in the rearrangement, for the sake of
uniformity, of some of the material at the heads of acts
and scenes and, here and there, of the paragraphing
of stage directions. The Japanese pronunciation of
proper names has been used throughout, and all
Japanese titles of courtesy have been retained.

I am indebted to the author for his kind permission
to publish this translation and to my friend and
neighbor, Mr. Nagura Jird, for the invaluable assist-
ance that makes me believe I have approached
accuracy in my work.

Yamaguchi, June 3, 1922.




Muii (-^iil/ai:^ iw 1 lie face of the car'.'i). I am born.
And bathed in sunlight and breathing in the at-
mosphere, 1 live. Truly I live. See ! That beauti-
fully colored arch of a sky! And this black earth
on whi.:h ::aked feet of mine walk with firm
step ! Luxuriant trees and grasses, flying and frisking
birds and beasts, and belter still, the preciousncss of
woman, the love of children, ah, I would live, I
would live ! (Pauses.) Up to this day, I have knou a
all manner of grief. I>u; the more I suffer, the more
I like this world. Ah, strange world! I cling to
thee. Lovable Shaij.L ! I would play in the forests
of worldly passion.''. I would live a thousand, nay,
ten thousand years. Forever ! Forever !

(A Bang :;/:// cohered face appears.}

Bd-:g. What ore you ?

Man. I'm a man.

Being. Then you're a tiling Lhat die-, aren't you?

Man. I'm alive. That's ah I k":0-.\ .

Being. You evade a^ai'i, I se .

2 The Priest and His Disciples ind.

Man. My father died. My father's father, too.
Oh, many of my beloved neighbors also have died.
But that I shall die, I cannot believe.

Being. You're spoilt, aren't you ?

Man (after a moment's hesitation}. In truth, I'm
afraid. I fear I may die. Ah, you've looked
through my heart. The truth is, I think I may die.
For from the beginning, my ancestors, the wise patri-
archs, have called themselves mortal.

Being. It's the truth. Like birds and beasts,
grasses and trees, fishes and shells, you die.

Man. Who are you ? You who speak with these
words of authority ?

Being. I'm the servant of that which never dies.
Don't you know me ?

Man. I seem to know you, but no, I don't, after all.

Being. Often you seem to call my name. Espe-
cially of late, so often as to vex me.

Man. Then is it possible that you Humbly I
beg you to take off your veil and let me see your face
but once.

Being. I don't show my face to mortals. To
things that die.

Man. Why not ?

Being. Because if seen of a mortal, I'd die of

Man. In the words " thing that dies," I hear
what seems to be a meaning of contempt.

Ind. The Priest and His Discip'cs 3

/icing. That's death conies of sin. The
sinless live eternally. " Tiling that dies " is identical
with " sinner ".

Alan. Then do you say that all men are sinners?
Being. They're all had. The price of sin is death.

A fan. This was he. That's certain. What on
earth is lie, illusion or actuality ? At first I was sure
he was a phantom. But gradually I reached the
point where I couldn't believe it, for his terrible power
< >f destruction is too plain. If lie's real, \\ hat on earth
is he? I'd like to see what he really is. If I but
knew that, I'd not fear him. Because, knowing the
real nature of those fearful things, fire and water, !
use them according to their own laws and make them
turn the wheels of my mills and heat my furnaces.
I'd like to know his laws. I'd like to get hold of his
real being. Otherwise my life will always be threaten-
ed. It's my misfortune that I've mad.: his acquaint-
ance. But my wisdom also has grown. Ah, but
he's fearful !

Being- {reappearing). You called me again, didn't
you ?

Atari. I want to see your face.
Being. It cannot be.
Man. Not possibly ?

Being. That wish is beyond your station. So
long as your eyes are impure.

4 The Priest and His Disciples ind.

Man. Not though I make you ?

Being. You poor thing !

(Man extends his hand and tries to take off th e

Being. Cursed be that hand ! (Distant thunder
rolls. Man falls to his knees. A phantom pro-
cession appears}

Being. Behold !

Man. A line of birds, beasts and creeping things
goes by. The eagle controls the dove, the wolf
oppresses the sheep, and the snake lords it over the
frog. But he who rides at the head of the procession
on a horse, clad in mail and armed with bow and
arrow, looks like a man.

Being. He leads the whole procession.

Man. He's their conqueror.

Being. And the most pitiful of all pitiful things.

Man. Ah, he's clapped spur to his horse, and
all have broken into a charge. (Boisterous music is
heard.} Just like a tempest. Where can they be
going so rapidly ?

Being. To destruction. To that place where go
all who know me not.

Man. Oh !

(The procession passes on. The stormy music gra-
dually calms down and changes into a quiet dream
tune. A new vision appears}

Being. Behold !

ind. The Priest and His Disciples 5

Man. It's a young man and woman, isn't it ? He
embraces her with his strong arms. And she buries
her face on his breast. Her black hair quivers on
her pearly shoulders. She must be intoxicated with
sweet delight.

Being. Look well.

Man (looking intently}. Ah, she's crying. He
talks to her and sighs. He looks lonely.

Being. They're beginning to know that happiness

Man. Aren't they calling you ?

Being. They've begun to think of me. But they
naturally shrink from calling me. They're deceiving

Man. The man tries to take her in his arms again.
But this time she resists and gets away. And she's
cursing him. He seizes her. lie pulls her by main

force to the edge of the cliff. Ah, look

out ! (He cries.} Ah !

Being. It's the mistaken fall of those who see me
not directly.

(77/6' music s'o^s and the vision vanishes.)

Man. I acknov. ledge you. I look straight at you.
I'm importunate to see your real nature.

Being. With the intelligence of a little mon-
key, eh? With an intelligence that goes round
surfaces, but can't possibly go to the heart of

6 The Priest and His Disciples incl.

Man. I acknowledge your power. Your power
of destruction. \Yhy do you destroy things ?

Being. To temper the unbreakable and imper-

Man. I seek .such imperishable things. Ever
since meeting you, I've been looking for something
you can't break.

Being. Have you' found it?

Man. Not yet. You've broken everything I
thought permanent. Desire of conquest, friendship,
love, learning.

Being. It'n my work to destroy all things that
deserve destruction. (A pause.)

Man. I've found what looks to be permanent.
This time there's no mistake.

Being. What ?

Man. My child. Though I grow weak and die,
my child lives on with new strength. I breathe my
desires into his soul.

Being. You don't kno\v yet, I >ce.

Man. What ?

Being. Your son is dead.

Man. What ! (Grows sickly pale.) Is such a
tiling possible ?

Being. The bad news will be here shortly.

Man. It was only this morning a letter came
saying he was studying in good health.

Being. He died just after noon.

1 1 id. The Priest and His Disciples 7

Man. It's a lie.
(The Being present's silence. }

Man (staring). Ah, there's truth in your attitude.
(//lifelessly.} It's all over !
In ing. Good-bye.

Man (excited). Wait. My son way concealing
some illness, wasn't he? Thinking not to worry his
poor father.

J'fing. lie was the liveliest of all hi.; class.
Man. Did he fight a duel? To strike clou n
some discourteous insulter ? For lie pri/ed his good

Being. No.

Man. Then ho\v did he die?
fidng. 1 Ie fell from a chimney.
(Man becomes like one struck dumb.')
Being. Vp to within two minutes before, he was
talking merrily with his friends on a sunlit lawn.
Then one of them, upon a sudden impulse, said,
" Won't somebody show us how to climb that chin:.,
ney ? " Your son, also in caprice and thinking in his
lovable and humorous heart to give his friends a
laugh, said gayly, " I'll give her a try," and began
to climb. The rest praised his nimble-ness. But the
spike step at the very top was rotten.
Man. Oh !

Being. Men said the degenerate, cliimney-sweep
v\ ho came later in the afternoon was a lucky man.

8 The Priest and His Disciples ind.

Man (groaning). It's art. The permanent thing
is art. I'll mix my colors with my tears. I'll paint
into my canvas that which can't be broken.

Being. When it comes to that, I say not whether
it be permanent or not. But you don't forget your
illness, do you ?

Man. Not for a moment. When you took my
health from me, my misfortunes began. And I first
knew you then. Since that time, how I've suffered !

Being. If your temperature goes up t\vo degrees,
you'll have to throw away your brush.

Man. Oh !

Being. Do you think that impossible ? Even
now don't you have fever every da} 7 ?

Man. It's prayer. The permanent tiling is prayer.
Though I can't move in my bed, I can close my eyes
and pray.

Being. If a single blow disturbs the balance of
your head, you'll talk silly nonsense widi the mouth
that has prayed till now, and with the hands so admi-
rably folded till now, you'll do filthy things before
the eyes of the world. Like a monkey in a zoo.

Man (staggering). Such things are impossible.

Being. They're possible. For example, recently
your fellows have been killing each other by the
millions, and there's no telling how many such idiots
have come of it.

Man. You're too cruel.

Ind. The Priest and His Disciples 9

Being. Simply according to your deserts.

(77/1.' cry of thing things, birds and beasts icitkout
number, arises.}

Man (afraid}. That cry ?

Being. It's the curse of the creatures you've

Man. Ah. (fie presses his head in /its hands.)

Feing. You're a tiling born of adultery. Though
you hide it under the name of love.

Man. Leave off the numbering of mv sins.

o *

lacing. For they're numberless.

Man. I couldn't live without eating these, and
I'm so made that I can't reproduce without aduhcry.

Being: That's the lot of mortals.

Man (pleadingly). Pity the sufferings of nun.

Being. Compassion's not my business.

Alan. \Yhy not ? Ah, why not ?

Being. It's to punish ! (The earth trembles furi-
ously. Man falls to the ground. The Being rani sites.
The stage is pitch dark. The noise of a tempest
arises. Then the tumult gradually dies down, the
stage becomes dimly lighted, a pale blue sky is seen in
the distance, and Man's body is visible stretched out
like a corpse. Soft music plays. Cherubim appear
adore and sing.)

Cherubim. Blessed be all creatures on earth,

Joy be to the Immortal's dear children.

(The Cherubim vanish).

10 The Priest and His Disciples ind.

Alan (standing up and raising Ids face to heaven},
Iv.r, far away is the blue of the sky. A vague long-
ing pulls me thither. I have the sweet feeling of
being drawn in. I begin to be sure that this world
must be good. I can no longer doubt the existence
of permanent things. I'm surely controlled by some
power. But I'm satisfied that I'm controlled with
kindness. As if the acceptance of it is happiness
itself. I go. (Takes two or three steps forward!) To
yonder sky. Till my soul be lifted up.



IIixo SAEMON, aged 40.
OKAXK, his wife, aged 36.
MATSUWAKA, his son (after talcing the tonsure

called Yuicn), aged 11.
SHINRAX, aged 61.
JIEN, Shinran's disciple, aged 60.
RYOKAX, Shinran's disciple, aged 27.


(The house of I Iixo SA:-:MC;X. yl hearth is cut into
tlie middle of the floor of the room. A spear hangs on
the moulding and on the ica'l a gun, a rush hat,
a straw raincoat, and such t 'rings. Toward the rig,';!:
of the stage stands a g.ite. Outside, a small open
space connects rcitJi a path. Snoiv is filed deep, s!io - j-
ing a depression only where //'v path runs.)

Okane (sewing on a garment beside the hearth).
At last I've got this much done. I ought to finish ia
four or five days. Anyway if I don't get it clone in
a hurry, Ne\v Year's will be here. Matsmvaka will
be twelve next year. I wish he'd grow up quickly.
I really feel that I'd like to stretch him out. (lenses.)

12 The Priest and His Disciples Act I

Which reminds me, I wonder why Saemon Dono
has become so violent of late. lie seems to be get-
ting worse and worse. Though he was no such man
back in our native place. Really I'm anxious about
the future. (From outside comes the noise of the storm
blowing I'} 1 .} To-day he went to Kichisuke Dono's
in a fit of anger, but I hops no trouble conies of it
(Stands up, opens the door, and looks out at the sky.)
Oh, it's cold. (Shivers.) It's snowing again. (Closes
the door and comes to the hearth, stirs the fire with the
poker and holds out her hands to the heat.) How late
Matsuwaka is to-day, when in this cold he ought to
come back quickly. (Looks about her.) It's dark
already. (Stands ,'//>, takes a paper lamp out of a
closet, and lights it. Offers a ta/cr at the family
shrine and prays witJi folded hands. Enter MATSU-
WAKA. His color is bad. He is dressed in clothes iJiat
make him loo 7 -: puffy. lie opens the Iiouse door.)

Matsuwaka. Mother, I'm back. (Throws down a
bundle in a clolh wrapper and his copy-book.) Oh,
it's cold, it's cold. (Blows his breath on his

Okane. Oh, you're back. You must be cold.
Cornr, warm yourself. Today you're very late,
aren't you ?

Afatsuwaka (going up to the hearth). There was
a party at the teacher's. All of us were invited.
That's why I'm late.

Sc. I The Priest and His Disciples


Okanc. Was there ? That's fine. Did you cat
nicely ?

Matsu-caka. Yes. I got the mark of the pine on
ni}- clean copy.

Okanc. Did you ? That's fine. Let's sec your
copy-book ; the time before, you got the bamboo
mark, didn't you ? (Takes the copy-book from MATSI"
\VAKA and i\\-;:s it.} I sec, it's " I le who touches
cinnabar, gets red," isn't it ? You've become much
surer, haven't you? It vould be still better if you
arranged your characters a little more careful!}-. This
is the result of studying hard. (Pats MATSUWAKA'S

filaismvaka. Kichisuke San's boy Kichiya got the
plum mark.

Okanc. Because he's mischievous and idle.
(Pauses} Here, just stand up a minute. (?!ATSL-\VAKA
stands up. SJic tc.kcs t/ie length of his kimono -<:iih a
stick.} Three and a half inches. Then I must make
the tuck narro\v. Your kimono, you sec. It'll look
fine on you. O:i Xe\v Year's day you'll put it on
and co call on the teacher.


Jlatsnivaka. YYhen's Xew Year's ?
Okane. Sleep ten more nights and it'll be here.
Matsuivaka. Where's father ?
Okanc. Father's gone to Kichisuke's. He'll be
back any minute now.

Matsmvaka. Kichisuke's Kichiya teases me. To-

14 The Priest and His Disciples Act I

day again, as \ve were coming back from our lessons,
they all said bad things about me.

Okane. What ? Said bad things and teased you ?
Really ?

Matsuivaka. 1 Ic called father a bad man because,
although he's an outsider, he abuses the peasants,
and lie kills living things.

Okane. Good gracious! (Looks sad.} Did lie
say that ?

JHatsiiiViikti. Yes. Kichiya said since my father
abused his father, he'd abuse me, and he threw snow
at me.

Okane. 1 Ic's a bad boy. It's all right. I'll tell
the teacher.

MatsiKcaka. No. Once when I told, he abused
me worse than before on the way home. (Regret-
fully.} lie pushed me off the roadside into a wet

Okane. Gracious ! Does he do such terrible
things? Don't worry. I'll soon fix things right
for you.

Matsuivaka. All right. (Nat Is his head.}

Okane (getting a plate of dried persimmons from a
closet}. Come, help yourself to these. They're some
I dried in the autimn. I'm going to the kitchen for
a moment. (Goes out tJie baek door}

(MATSUWAKA eats the persimmons. Then he looks
around him, goes up in front of the household shrine,

Sc. I The Priest and His Disciples 13

and stands gazing ivonderingly at the image of
l)iuldl:a. '1 'ten !;? sils do:cn and I ouches fiij hand.;
together in momentary i<.-orship. Then searching for
a book on t/ie I able, lie comes lo tl:c fireside 'iiitk a,
volume of pictures and looks at //, turning the pages
curiously. I'.nter OXANK, wiping her hands on her
apron. }

Okane. They're good, aren't they? (Pauses.}
What are you looking at ?

Matsiiwak-.i. Yes, they're goo-!. ^n:cs inicnti)
at tlte pi.titic-lh'ok.}

Okane. I'll sew a little while we wait. {Brings
the unfinished garment to the hearth and plies her
needle. r>oth are silent for a moment.}

J\I(ilsmca/(a. Mother. What's this picture?

Okane (stopping Iicr needle). Let me see. {Looks
closely at the picture.} It's a picture of the death of
the Buddha called Oshaka Sama. (Goes on seizing}

Maisuivaka. Is it? Many priests in robes are
weeping beside him, aren't the}' ?

Okane. They're all his disciples. They cry be-
cause their great teacher is dead.

Matsuii'aLa. H'm. There are monkeys and
snakes, aren't there ? And doves, too. They're all
weeping, aren't they ? Why's that ?

Okane. Oshaka Sama was a very merciful man
and loved even the beasts. So they're weeping be-
cause he who loved them is dead.


The Priest and His Disciples Act I

3Iatsiiii-aka. I I'm. (Thinks.)

(Enter SAEMON, wearing a hunting suit. He car-
ries a gim on his shoulder and two or three birds at
his belt.)

Saeinon. I'm back. It's frightfully cold.

Okane. Welcome home. We've been waiting for
you. You must be cold. Is it snowing ? (Goes to
the door to meet him.)

Saeinon. It's a big snow. At tins rate, the roads'll
be blocked up. (Brushes off the snow.)

Matsuwaki. Father. Welcome. (Puts his hands
down on the mats and bows his head.)

Sacmon. I I'm. (Pats his head.) To-day there
was a feast at the teacher's, wasn't there ?

J\Iatsuwaka. Yes. You know well, don't
you ?

Sacmon. I heard about it from the boy Kichiya at
Kichisuke's house.

Okane. How did your talk come out ? (Hangs the
gun on the wall and puts away the game.)

Saeinon. Not well at all. To-day I've had a hard

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