and the Mongol Invasions) kara shishi (courtesy|
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
It seems that the aspects of strength, courage and righteousness, in particular, came to be the defining aspects of the lion in Japan – similar, indeed, to how lions were viewed in the west. Rather than being associated chiefly with the ruling powers (eagles and tigers have that distinction) it kept its associations with Buddhism. There is some crossover, however. Most notable is the case of Hojo Tokimune, the defacto ruler of Japan at the time of the Mongol invasions.
|Hojo Tokimune, depicted as a Zen Abbot|
'The hour of my trial is now at hand,' declared Tokimune.
|Manjusri riding the Golden-Haired Lion|
More on Mugaku Sogen
|An example of Sogen's calligraphy (Courtesy of Tokiwayama |
Throughout heaven and earth there is not a piece of ground where a single stick could be inserted;
I am glad that all things are void, myself and the world:
Honored be the sword, three feet long, wielded by the great Yüan swordsmen;For it is like cutting a spring breeze in a flash of lightning.
(It may be noted in passing that this was a reworking of a much earlier poem (c.414 C.E.) by Seng Chao, who composed the poem below while in jail, waiting for execution.
He was, indeed, executed:
The four elements essentially have no master.
The five shadows are fundamentally empty.
The naked sword will sever my head
as though cutting the spring breeze.
This takes nothing away from Mugaku's work, as Chinese poetry was an art that made much use of borrowing from older works. Mugaku's poem was, in turn, used by the noted monk and poet Sesson Yubai as the basis for a poem when he found himself in extremis.
Tokimune was particularly concerned with the question of fear, and Sogen set him the question 'Where is my fear located?' as a koan. His response, as Sogen indicated may be seen as a kind of 'Lion's Roar', a term which goes back to the very origins of Buddhism, denoting the truth of the teachings of the Buddha and his disciples. Sogen was to use the image of the roaring lion again in his death poem:
A lion appears before ten billion ignorant fools
The lion roars before the ten billion ignorant fools
Hossu with the
Once again, this provided fodder for at least one later poet, the monk Torei Enji (1721-1792), a pupil of Hakuin. His rather witty take was this:
A million ignorant fools
A million lions appear
But of all Sogens's verse, I like the following best:
The bow is shattered; the arrows are all gone.
At this critical moment
Cast aside all doubt.
Shoot without the slightest delay.