Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • In ancient Kyoto, a devout Shinto scholar lived a simple life,

  • but he was often distracted from his prayers by the bustling city.

  • He felt that his neighbors were polluting his soul,

  • and he sought to perform some kind of personal harae

  • a purification ritual that would cleanse his body and his mind.

  • He decided to travel to the revered Hie Shrine.

  • The trip was an arduous climb that took all day.

  • But he was glad for the solitude it afforded him,

  • and the peace he felt upon returning home was profound.

  • The scholar was determined to maintain this clarity for as long as possible,

  • and resolved to make this pilgrimage another 99 times.

  • He would walk the path alone, ignoring any distractions in his quest for balance,

  • and never straying from his purpose.

  • The man was true to his word, and as days stretched into weeks,

  • he walked through driving rain and searing sun.

  • Over time, his devotion revealed the invisible world of spirits

  • which exists alongside our own.

  • He began to sense the kami, which animated the rocks underfoot,

  • the breeze that cooled him, and the animals grazing in the fields.

  • Still he spoke to no one, spirit or human.

  • He was determined to avoid contact with those who had strayed

  • from the path and become polluted with kegare.

  • This taboo of defilement hung over the sick and deceased,

  • as well as those who defiled the land or committed violent crimes.

  • Of all of the threats to the scholar's quest for spiritual purity,

  • kegare was by far the greatest.

  • After paying his respects for the 80th time,

  • he set out for home once more.

  • But as darkness fell, he heard strained sobs in the night air.

  • The scholar tried to push forward and ignore the moans.

  • But the desperate cries overwhelmed him.

  • Grimacing, he left his path to follow the sound to its source.

  • He soon came to a cramped cottage, with a woman crumpled outside.

  • Filled with pity, the scholar implored the woman to share her sorrow.

  • She explained that her mother had just died

  • but no one would help her with the burial.

  • At that news, his heart sank.

  • Touching the body would defile his spirit,

  • draining his life force and leaving him forsaken by the kami.

  • But as he listened to her cries, his sympathy soared.

  • And so, they buried the old woman together,

  • to ensure her safe passage into the spirit world.

  • The burial was complete, but the taboo of death weighed heavily on the scholar.

  • How could he have been so foolish,

  • to shirk his most important rule and corrupt his divine journey?

  • After a tormented night,

  • he resolved to go back to the shrine to cleanse himself.

  • To his surprise, the usually quiet temple was filled with people,

  • all gathering around a medium who communicated directly with the kami.

  • The man hid himself, not daring approach in case anyone glimpse his polluted soul.

  • But the medium had other ways of seeing, and called him forward from the crowd.

  • Ready to be forsaken, the scholar approached the holy woman.

  • But the medium merely smiled.

  • She took his impure hand in hers,

  • and whispered a blessing only he could hear

  • thanking him for his kindness.

  • In that moment, the scholar discovered a great spiritual secret:

  • contamination and corruption are two very different things.

  • Filled with insight, the scholar set himself back on his journey.

  • But this time, he stopped to help those he met.

  • He began to see the beauty of the spirit world everywhere he went,

  • even in the city he'd previously shunned.

  • Others cautioned that he risked kegare

  • but he never told them why he so freely mingled

  • with the sick and disadvantaged.

  • For he knew that people could only truly understand harae

  • through a journey of their own.

In ancient Kyoto, a devout Shinto scholar lived a simple life,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 scholar kami spirit forsaken medium polluted

The Japanese folktale of the selfish scholar - Iseult Gillespie

  • 4 1
    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/11
Video vocabulary