Japan Again

I had a flash that my life in Japan had been that of a child killed who died young before rather than that of a fox as I had previously imagined, but this one seems to strengthen my suspicions.

The only actual memory I had was that I had indeed been a child, and had been killed by a truck (a relatively rare sight in that part of Japan in those days and one I was unprepared for) between 1925 and 1928.  That puts my age at 8-13 years if the roughly 2-year gap between my life and Phil’s is any indication.

I also had some subjective impressions surrounding this memory.  I was at that tender age when children are about midway between adults and babies and everyone is gushing about what a handsome young man or pretty young woman they’re becoming.  I believe “Kinsei” (golden) may have been a doting nickname I was called or something used to describe me by a doting elder.  As a very young child I may have been confused by the book “Takasaki Han Kinsei Shiryuku,” which had already been released at that time.  

I also believe that my family was Buddhist and that I spent a fair bit of time around the Daruma-Ji temple in Takasaki in that life.  

I don’t know though.  For one thing, my only memory of the temple is from down low, outside one of the buildings, in the company of foxes, not other children, and being hit by a truck is also what my first instinct was that had killed me as a fox.  Also, I can’t read Japanese so unless there’s a database of English translations of newspapers from Takasaki in the early 20s, I’m going to need someone who speaks Japanese because the full extent of the Japanese I can actually read is embarrassingly poor; I have a difficult time learning non-Latin alphabets and I get stumped by grammar outside of Anglo-Germanic or Latin conventions.

I’m a bit stumped by this.  It’s almost as if this were a sort of temporal accident where I might have been both in some weird warping of time (maybe evidence of these “accidents” Phil was talking about?) but going in that direction feels dangerous and unfounded to me.  

I can conjecture wildly about it, but for now the easiest explanation is that either confusion of memory or wishful thinking at some level has caused me to create sets of memories that are either ambiguous or hint at two seemingly mutually-exclusive possibilities.  Unless I can somehow find evidence that both sets of memories are authentic and distinct from each other, I don’t think I’ll have any reason to believe this is genuine.  I’m recording it here for the sake of completeness in case something really unexpected comes along and I’ll have date stamps for every discovery.

That Makes Sense…

Last night, I had some memories that suggest that I may not have been a fox in Japan after all.

The memories were in Japan, but they challenge the idea of having been a wild animal.  Most notably, I remembered things in color (I have memories from another time that were in blues and yellows that were more convincing).  

Second, there was a care-worn old woman (my grandmother perhaps?) bathing me, rubbing something in my hair and saying “Yosh, yosh, yosh,” (in this case, roughly “there there”).  I had brief flickers of toys or children’s books or something brightly colored.

But there was also the memory of the back door of the temple, where I remember being among foxes.  Was I a foundling?  Was I a child, then a fox or vice versa?  Or was I a pet fox, kept by an eccentric old woman and treated like a child (the way so many ennobled pets become convinced that they’re people)?

Whatever the case, if I was a human child I must have died at a very young age some time in the 1920s, which is sad to think about.  It’s curious to think how different the story plays out if I wasn’t a fox; a generous lifetime for a small, wild animal is a tragically short life for a human being.

But which was I?  I’m really at a loss.

Why I Don’t Believe in God (Yet).

There are several beliefs that I do not hold, but dearly wish I had a solid reason to believe them.

Sadly, a single and benevolent god was one of those casualties, and quite some time before I had past life memories or any sort of unusual experiences.  For a while I embraced a transcendental view in the trappings of eclectic Pagan worship and forged a fairly solid cosmology based on the model of mushroom mycelia (thank you, Terrance McKenna).  But as far as believing in a literal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god, I didn’t see much in the world that I couldn’t distinguish from cosmic indifference if I thought about them logically.

The past life memories are one of those things.  The way I see it, if the collective soul of Buddhism could just as easily explain it without the need for a god, then Occam’s Razor shaves us toward the Buddhist hypothesis.

But every so often, it’s not so clear-cut.  There are some coincidences- or synchronicities if you like, and although they don’t tell me anything on their own, they’re pervasive, across lives like really solid memes.

Why do rice paddies, Cistercian Monasteries, and intense religious themes run through most of the lives I remember?  Why would I be conceived near a road called “Dorchester Road” in two separate lives?  Why would I remember the same abbey at two points in history, one as an active monastery and one as a ruin?  Why would I have a life as a monk, one as an animal held in veneration, and one as a modern-day scholar of religions that I can locate and approximately date (or in some cases, precisely date)?

And what’s with the initials?  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but my birth initials are JAH.  Now compare that to my initials when I was John, which are JWH.  One is shorthand for the Judeo-Christian God, and the other is very close to the abbreviation YHWH if you consider that Y and J are often transliterated interchangably from Hebrew.

The initials I had don’t always add up that way; they didn’t in my most recent past life for instance; all you get when you type out the initials of my previous life is typewriter diarrhea.

That’s what really makes using Occam’s razor difficult here.  There’s enough going on to say that I’ve found the footprint of some influence, but I can’t say that calling that influence “God” is the best idea.  Also, the coincidences are kind of weak at times (like the initials), but at times they’re solid themes (like this overarching theme of asceticism or proximity to asceticism).

Then there’s the possibility too that this is grandiose self-deception.  That thought has been heavy on my mind since the themes started shaping up with my memories of being John and being that nobleman who became a monk.  It just sort of exploded from there, with the abbey that I saw at two points in history.  Did I just go off my rocker at about that point and launch myself into a fantasy world?  I look back and I read my own work and I wonder if I’m crazy.

What’s going on here, then?  That question hangs over everything I do nowadays.  I’m still waiting to find the answer for myself, since nobody seems to have an answer that works that I’ve found yet (though I’m still looking).  I’ve been hit with some really heavy questions about the nature of pretty much everything because of this.

It was the song “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison that inspired this post, incidentally.

Now I’m shocked

The past life I had as a fox is very likely true, though it probably did not take place in Hokkaido as I had thought.

The words “Kinsei” and “han” popped into my head last night.  I thought maybe “Kinseihan” was a name they had given me.

I did some searching and found a book titled “Takasaki-Han Kinsei Shiryoku,” which interestingly enough was published in 1913 and would have been in circulation by the time I would have been there in the late 1910s or early 1920s.  After doing some research, I discovered that under the old Han system, the land now known as Gunma prefecture was known as Takasaki.  Today, only the city of Takasaki itself retains that name.

I looked at the satellite map of Takasaki.  They do have rice fields, and lo and behold, some of them do have very thin old-fashioned layers of pavement on the causeways between them!

Also, they have a Zen temple up in the hills (where I remember a temple being) and it’s near a forest with a fair bit of bamboo… I did recall having a scuffle with a raccoon dog in a bamboo grove but I thought for sure that one was wishful thinking since I’ve always been fascinated by wild canids anyhow.

The temple that matches best with my memories is called Shorinzan Daruma-Ji.  One of the popular items that visitors to the temple buy are Fuku-Daruma dolls, which are a sort of good luck charm.

Interestingly enough, my mother lived in Japan with her family in the 60s, and one of the things I was given when I was old enough was a rather unusual Fuku-Daruma holding what looks like a scroll with five more miniature ones… I’ve yet to find a picture of another one quite like it.  Going to have to ask Mom to send that to me from my old room.

So I have a memory that matches an area very well, a pair of words that led me to that area, and a connection in this life to the icons of a temple in that town.  This is getting very, very interesting.

If I find out that the monks at Shorinzan Daruma-Ji would feed rice balls to the local foxes back in the day (or even better, if they still do it), I think I have a good case for this being a genuine past life.

I did NOT expect to find anything near this level of detail in an animal past life and thought almost for sure it was only wishful thinking.  This is almost as surreal than the other past life I recently turned up.

EDIT: So far, this is the best match I’ve seen for the porch where the monks used to feed us: http://www.daruma.or.jp/eng/00_09-senshin.html  Whether or not they actually fed us seems to be one of the few pieces of the puzzle I’m missing, but time will tell.