The Japanese folktale of the selfish scholar - Iseult Gillespie
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The monk spoke to no-one, but he could sense kami all around – spirits and ancient ancestors that inhabit all living things in Shinto tradition. To learn more about the kami, click here.
One of the monk’s aims was to maintain harae, or purity, over the course of his pilgraimage. You can learn more about Shinto purifications beliefs and rituals here. When he encountered the young woman who needed help, the monk risked spiritual pollution or kegare by helping her bury her mother. For more information on kegare, visit this page.
Filled with regret for risking his purity, the monk ventured back to the shrine. However, when he came there was a great crowd gathered around a medium, who told him that he had done the right thing. Filled with insight, the monk set himself back on his pilgrimage. But this time, he stopped and connected with the people he passed.
Even after one hundred pilgrimages, he remained open to the crowded city he had previously shunned. Others marveled at the ways he embraced the sick and the dying. But he never told them why he did it. For he knew that people should be moved to good deeds not through the desire to break rules – but through the desire to perform them.
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