11. The Story of Shun-Kai

    The exquisite Shun-Kai1 whose other name was Suzu was compelled to marry against her wishes when she was quite young. Later, after this marriage has ended, she attended the university where she studied philosophy. 

    To see Shun-Kai was to fall in love with her. Moreover, wherever she herself went, she fell in love with others. Love was with her at the university, and afterwards, when philosophy did not satisfy her and she visited a temple to learn about Zen, the Zen students fell in love with her, Shun-Kai's whole life was saturated with love. 

    At last in Kyoto2 she became a real student of Zen, Her brothers in the sub-temple of Ken-Nin3 praised her sincerity. One of them proved to be a congenial spirit and assist her in the mastery of Zen. 

    The abbot of Ken-Nin, Moku-Rai4, Silent Thunder, was severe. He kept the precepts himself and expected his priests to do so. In modern Japan whatever zeal these priests have lost for Buddhism they seem to have gained for having wives. Moku-Rai used to take a broom and chase the women away when he found them in any of his temples, but the more wives he swept out, the more seemed to come back. 

    In this particular temple, the wife of the head priest became jealous of Shun-Kai's earnestness and beauty. Hearing the students praise her serious Zen made this wife squirm and itch. Finally she spread a rumor about Shun-Kai and the young man who was her friend. As a consequence, he was expelled, and Shun-Kai was removed from the temple. 

    "I may have made the mistake of love," thought Shun-Kai, "but the priest's wife shall not remain in the temple either if my friend is to be treated so unjustly." 

    Shun-Kai the same night with a can of kerosene set fire to the five-hundred-year-old temple and burned it to the ground. In the morning she found herself in the hands of the police. 

    A young lawyer became interested in her, and endeavoured to make her sentence lighter. "Do no help me," she told him, "I might decide to do something else which would only imprison me again." 

    At last a sentence of seven years was completed, and Shun-Kai was released from the prison where the sixty-year-old warden also had become enamoured of her. 

    But, now everyone looked upon her as a 'jail bird.' No one would associate with her. Even the Zen people who are supposed to believe in enlightenment in this life and with this body, shunned her. Zen Shun-Kai found, was one thing, and the followers of Zen, quite another. Her relatives would have nothing to do with her, She grew sick, poor, and weak. 

    She met a Shin-Shu5, priest who taught her the name of the Budhha of Love, and in this Shun-Kai found some solace and peace of mind. She passed away when she was still exquisitely beautiful and hardly thirty years old. 

    She wrote her own story in a futile endeavour to support herself and some of it she told to a woman writer. So it reached the Japanese people. Those who rejected Shun-Kai, those who scandalized and hated her, now read of her life with tears of remorse.


1. Shun-Kai (Suzu)

2.  Kyoto

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and a major tourist destination.


3. Ken-Nin (sub temple)

4. Moku-Rai (Silent Thunder)


5. Shin-Shu