I HAVE received the food you sent me for the priests’ meals. Is it already the anniversary of the passing of your husband, the lay priest? I was absorbed in one thing or another and had forgotten. But you would certainly never forget.
A man named Su Wu traveled to the land of the northern barbarians as an emissary on behalf of the Han emperor, and as a result his wife was separated from her husband for nineteen years. On his side, her husband could not stop thinking of her. And so strong was her love for him that each autumn, she would lay cloth for him upon a fulling block and beat it to spread the fibers. And it is said that her longing for him finally transcended the miles and her husband actually heard the sound.
There was a man of Ch’en1 who, when he and his wife parted, broke a mirror in two so that each had a piece to keep. When one party forgot the other, the pieces flew off like birds.
A woman in Sung,2 longing for her husband, went to his grave, and was reborn there as a tree. This is what is now known as the tree of mutual love.
There is a deity called the Shika deity,3 who dwells along the way people travel when they journey to China. It is said that a woman, pining for her husband who had crossed over to China, became the shrine deity, and that the shape of the island where this deity dwells resembles that of a woman. That woman was Princess Sayo of Matsura.4
From the distant past to our present day, what parting is there, whether parent from child, or lord from retainer, that has ever been painless? But no parting is as painful as that that takes place between man and woman.
You have been born as a woman in countless existences since the far distant past, but it is this husband who was your last good friend in the sahā world.
and fallen fruit
bloom and form again.
Why must the deceased one
Last year you grieved
this year is also hard
day after day, month after month.
For your heart
is ever heavy.
I have chanted the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra on his behalf.
The second day of the eleventh month
Reply to the lay nun Myōshin
1. One account regards “a man of Ch’en” as Ch’u Te-yen, an official of the Ch’en dynasty (557–589) of China.
2. One account regards “a woman in Sung” as the wife of Han P’ing, an official of Sung, a state in China that was destroyed in 286 b.c.e.
3. Shika refers to Shikanoshima, an island at the mouth of Hakata Bay in southern Japan, and to Shikanoumi Shrine on that island.
4. A woman who is said to have lived at Matsura in Hizen Province in Japan in the sixth century.