Excerpts from An Account of My Hut
The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same.
The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are
not of long duration. So in the world are man and his dwellings.
In the forty and more years that have passed since first I became aware
of the meaning of things, I have witnessed many terrible sights. ...
On the twenty-ninth day of the fourth moon of 1180, a great whirlwind
sprang up in the northeast of the capital and violently raged as far
south as the sixth ward. Every house, great or small, was destroyed within
the area engulfed by the wind. Some were knocked completely flat, others
were left with their bare framework standing. The tops of the gates were
blown off and dropped four or five hundred yards away, and fences were
swept down. ... Innumerable treasures from within the houses were tossed
into the sky. ... A smoke-like dust rose, blindingly thick, and so deafening
was the roar that the sound of voices was lost in it. ... must be the
blasts of Hell, I thought. ... Countless people were hurt and crippled.
... The whirlwind moved off in a southwesterly direction, leaving behind
many to bewail its passage. People said, "We have whirlwinds all
the time, but never one like this. It is no common case — it must be
a presage of terrible things to come.
Then there was the great earthquake of 1185, of an intensity not known
before. Mountains crumbled and rivers were buried, the sea tilted over
and immersed the land. The earth split and water gushed up; boulders
were sundered and rolled into the valleys. ... The rumble of the earth
shaking and the houses crashing was exactly like that of thunder. Those
who were in their houses, fearing that they would presently be crushed
to death, ran outside, only to meet with a new cracking of the earth.
All is as I have described it — the things in the world which
make life difficult to endure, our own helplessness and the undependability
of our dwellings. And if to these were added the griefs that come from
place or particular circumstances, their sum would be unreckonable. ...
For thirty years I had tormented myself by putting up with all the
things of this unhappy world. During this time each stroke of misfortune
had naturally made me realize the fragility of my life. ...I became a
priest and turned my back on the world.
Now that I have reached the age of sixty, and my life seems about to
evaporate like the dew, I have fashioned a lodging for the last leaves
of my years. It is a hut where, perhaps, a traveler might spend a single
night; it is like a cocoon spun by an aged silkworm. ... It is a bare
ten feet square and less than seven feet high. ... Since I fled the world
and became a priest, I have known neither hatred nor fear. I leave
my span of days for Heaven to determine. ... My body is like a drifting
cloud — I ask for nothing, I want nothing.
Excerpts from Donald Keene, Anthology of Japanese
Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New
York: Grove Press, 1955), 199, 203-204, 206, 211.