Today I would like to discuss a short passage found in a ninjutsu scroll written in 1680 CE by a Koka-mono（甲賀者竊盗）named Fujiwara Hisayasu (藤原久康) and addressed to Kimura Okunosuke (木村奥の助).
The scroll’s title is “Shinobi Gokui no Maki” (竊盗極意之巻) or “The Scroll of Shinobi Secrets”. Interestingly the term shinobi in this case is written as 竊盗 rather than the traditional 忍び. Usually the characters 竊盗 are read as “Settō” meaning a low life thief. But in historical ninjutsu documents, like the Jiyōshu (侍用集), it was pronounced “shinobi” and meant a specialist in stealth. Sneaking in and sneaking out without ever being noticed. Stealing from the enemy whatever the mission required.
What I find most interesting though is the content of the passage that I am going to discuss. Nothing to do with the art of stealth, or even sneaking into a castle.
No, this ninja gave us a little gem on summoning the gods or ancestors in our dreams. A ritual called Yume Makura (夢枕). Many of you may immediately recognize this name as it is also the name of a kata in the Bujinkan martial arts. In the throwing technique Yume Makura, the meaning is to drop the opponent down so hard he is knocked out and “has dreams of his ancestors” …
Before going into the secret ritual let’s discuss the meaning of the name “Yume Makura”. The kanji for “Yume” means dream. The second kanji “makura” means pillow. So, at first translation we may simply think this means a comfortable pillow to place our head on to have sweet dreams.
A better translation is more along the lines of “the dreams that take place in the mind on the pillow”.
But it also has another meaning that stems from esoteric yamabushi lore. To the shamanistic mountain ascetics and the Shugenja monks of old Japan, Yume Makura meant to have a revelation in a dream that comes directly from the Shintō gods or a buddha. In this dream something very special is usually revealed, leading the dreamer to solve a problem, defeat an opponent or even lead one to enlightenment.
So now, back to the passage. Here we have the magical ritual to attract the spirits to visit us in our dreams. Of course it seems extremely superstitious to us today with our modern ways of thinking and believing, but to a Japanese man, from the Koka region, in the middle of the 1600’s…this would have made sense….I think…LOL
Here it goes,
Matters of Yume Makura
Prepare a sleeping place of five or six “ma” for the incoming, you must keep your eyes open, on the belt you always wear write the following characters and hang it high on a rod, or write them on your chest
*One “ma” equals 1.8 meters
(描かれるお守りの図 / please see picture of the talisman)
The Sanskrit characters represent the sounds “Kya” “Ka” “Ha”
This seems to mean, because of confusion, the three worlds become a fortress, 100,000 are emptied because of enlightenment, originally there is no east or west, where are north and south?
So, there it is, your magical spell for summoning the gods, buddhas and ancestors into your dreams. This was written in pretty archaic Japanese so if anyone sees any translation errors please let me know.
Sean Askew (Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo)
April 10, 2020