Ono-no-Komachi was a historical poet, and she has become synonymous with a beautiful woman.
However, her background and details are mostly unknown.
It’s certain that she existed over 1,000 years ago.
Some episodes about her have been handed down to the present day.
A Noh play called, “Sotowa Komachi” is one of them.
In the first half of the Noh play, two Buddhist monks and Ono-no-komachi, who is 100 years old, discuss Buddhism.
I like this part because their discussion is witty and interesting.
They speak in the difficult old Japanese language. So, I translated it loosely based on the Noh script.
One night, Ono-no-komachi was taking a break while sitting on a decayed tree.
Aatually, the decayed tree was a wooden statue of Buddha called, “Sotoba”.
A Buddhist monk warned her, “That is blasphemy!”
She objected, “Though I’m an old woman, I have some beautiful flowers in my thoughts. So, my behavior indicates that I’m offering flowers to the Sotoba. That isn’t blasphemy. By the way, do you know what Sotoba is?”
The Buddhist monk answered, “A Bodhisattva gave shape to the five elements of nature. That is Sotoba”.
She said, “the human body is made of the five elements of nature. So, Sotoba and I are equal”.
The Buddhist monk replied, “But Sotoba has merit. Sotoba distances us from vice”.
She said, “I have a strong will that seeks enlightenment. My will distances me from vice”.
The Buddhist monk asked, “Then, why don’t you become a Buddhist monk?”
She said, “My appearance isn’t important. My faith is important”.
The Buddhist monk said, “In the first place, you didn’t notice the Sotoba”.
She said, “I noticed the Sotoba, so I sat on it”.
The Buddhist monk said, “You are wrong”.
She said, “A misdeed sometimes will be a trigger for forming a connection with Buddhism.
Finally, the Buddhist monk made a deep bow out of respect for her.
I really liked their discussion.
She saw through the true nature of faith with her penetrating insight.
When I looked into the details of the Noh script, I found some Zen doctrines.
However, she wasn’t a believer in Zen.
When Ono-no-Komachi lived (during the first half of the 9th century), Zen had not developed.
This Noh play was made in the 14th century when Zen was prospering in Japan.
So, it’s complete fiction.
Sotowa Komachi shows that Kanami and Zeami were really creative and had great insight.