Kankyo no Tomo (閑居友)

Kankyo no Tomo is a collection of Buddhist tales written in kana in the early Kamakura period. There is a note saying, 'Hosshinshu (Tales of Awakening) is a good go-between between a true friend and one in a cloistered life' which the term Kankyo no Tomo is considered to have originated from. It came into existence in Spring of 1222. Kankyo no Tomo consists of 32 tales in 2 volumes, and is compiled from stories that were not included in the preceding collection of Buddhist tales. It was a book written to show a certain noble lady an ideal way for seeking spiritual truth. The author said that the purpose of this book was to correct one's failings and to develop and complement thought, being aware of the lessons of the preceding "Hosshinshu" (Tales of Awakening).

While it had been said since ancient times that Jien was the author, research has revealed that it was not Jichin (also known as Jien) but a Tendai sect priest Sogetsubo Keisei who was the grandchild of Jien's older brother. Keisei was a person of talent being an accomplished waka poet as well as the writer of numerous books. In addition to his early work "Kankyo no Tomo," it is said that a collection of anecdotes entitled "Hirasan Kojin Rei Taku" (The Entrusted Soul of the Ancient Man in Mt. Hira) was also written by Keisei. Born the child of Sessho (Regent) Yoshitsune KUJO and the older brother of Kanpaku (Chief Advisor to the Emperor) Michiie KUJO, it was said that Keisei became physically disabled due to a childhood accident and subsequently entered the priesthood at Enjo-ji Temple. After studying esoteric Buddhism at To-ji Temple, Keisei visited the Southern Sung Dynasty in 1217 and returned home in the following year. Keisei set up Hokkesan-ji Temple where he lived in Matsuo in the western outskirts of the capital Kyoto, forming a close friendship with Myoe of Kozan-ji Temple.

Beginning with the story of the Cloistered Imperial Prince Shinnyo on his Gudo (seeking for the teachings of Buddha) expedition in India, the 21 anecdotes in "Kankyo no Tomo" Volume 1, describe the religious life of various famous and anonymous saints including the anecdotes of high-ranking priests such as Zenshu (Zenju), Genpin (Genbin) and Kuya, whereas many of the 11 stories in Volume 2 relate anecdotes concerning women such as Kenreimonin. Although identifying with those living in seclusion the author doesn't show a pessimistic view of life. Keisei's strength in this area seems to have stemmed from his own misfortune. Additionally, Keisei's interest in death and uncleanliness can be identified.

An ancient copy of Kankyo no Tomo has been passed down through the generations and still remains in existence at Sonkeikaku-bunko (a library of the Kaga Maeda family) today. Kankyo no Tomo is included in Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei (New Japanese Classic Literature Outline).

[Original Japanese]