Komuso (komoso) was a monk belonging to the Fuke sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. These monks put on distinctive basket-shaped straw hats that fully cowl their heads and play a bamboo flute often called the shakuhachi. Originally, the monks have been known as komoso, a phrase which means “straw mat monk” however later grew to become often called komuso, a phrase which means “priest of nothingness.”
The Fuke sect was based in ninth century China and got here to Japan someday within the 13th century. One of its cofounders was well-known for strolling across the streets close to the temple whereas ringing a bell to name the monks and the devoted to meditation. While most Zen monks apply sitting meditation to attain enlightenment, the Fuke sect taught monks to meditate by taking part in sure tunes, often called takuhatsu, on their bamboo flutes. The monks additionally performed these tunes once they begged for cash or food within the streets, or once they went on frequent pilgrimages, touring to different pagodas and temples that housed relics of Buddhist saints and copies of sacred books. They wore the straw baskets on their head as a approach to erase their id and management their ego.
In the 16th century, many komuso have been recruited by warlords to turn into samurai warriors throughout a civil conflict that pitted a number of ruling households in opposition to each other. The victor of this conflict, the Tokugawa shogun, later recruited the komuso as spies. Allowed to journey freely by way of the nation, their face-covering straw hats and their standing as Buddhist monks enabled them to overhear conversations with out being suspected by these they spied on.
Modern komuso nonetheless wander the streets of Japanese villages and cities close to Fuke temples wearing 17th century kimonos, a wrapped sword tucked into their belt, their heads lined with a straw basket, taking part in songs on a wood flute to commuters hurrying previous them on the way in which to work, dwelling, or worship.