Asleep in Japan in the 13th Century & Asleep in Sweden in the 18th Century


Asleep in Japan in the 13th Century


Yume no yo no utsutsunariseba ikani semu sameyuku hodo o mateba koso are If this world is only a reflection of a dream what can I do but wait until I wake?

A jewel was radiating light and a good friend of mine was terrified by it.

A large insect that looked like a centipede stung the hand of a nun.

I asked the High Priest, “Is it true that I will die within a hundred days?” and he replied, “It is not true.”

I found a chicken egg in my pocket. It was cracked and I could see the tail. I carefully opened it and the chick ran out. A horse whinnied. I was in a large house. I was not afraid.

I gave my friend an artificial lotus flower, then thought perhaps I had already given him one before.

I had a wooden turtle in my sleeve. Someone had cut off half of its face. It was alive and ordered me to bring it something to eat. Then it began to make other demands.

I made a pond and then drew a figure on the surface of the water.

I put five bulbul birds and some deer and rabbits inside my robe.

I saw two puppies, one white and one of many colors. I made a pot of rice. The people there ate out of strange containers. The white dog walked into the fire but wasn’t burned.

I taught a monkey how to meditate. He sat in the lotus position and formed the proper mudras, but his sitting posture was not quite straight.

I took off my clothes to swim in the sea. I dried off and picked a peach from a low-hanging limb. The fuzz on the peach was as long as my finger.

I was building a house with some farmers. Next door lived a princess who was three years old and chubby.

I was living in a house that was in a state of collapse. A sparrow flew by, fell in the ashes and died. I saw a dove and called it and it came into my hands. It turned into mist. It turned into a bluebird, then turned into a blue cloud. I reached up and grabbed the cloud and somehow drank it.

I was on Vulture Peak in the afterlife. The Superior Master was holding the head of a dead man, but it was only half of his head. Since I was in the afterlife, I thought I should inquire about my maternal grandmother.

When I awoke, the bottom of my pillow was soaked with tears.

I was tied up with someone else. We were bound at the wrists by a small snake. I thought we would die. The other person told me not to worry, that he would be my friend in all our future lives.

I was told that I had come to this place for two reasons. The first was so that I could be cured of my illness. The second reason I could not hear very well.

In a bamboo forest I saw a dead snake cut in two. A flying squirrel flew by. I stopped to watch it; it froze in midair. When I continued walking, it continued flying and landed on a tree.

My friend was searching for a like-minded friend. His servant told him that there wasn’t anybody like that. I thought there was such a person, but that he was in hiding.

Someone had roped off a swampy area. When people walked in it, their feet sank in the mud and they could barely move. I put one foot in, took it out, and kept walking along the road.

Someone poured salty brine on my food and it tasted bad. I was told to sleep on a very high bed that had a staircase leading up to it. Underneath there was a very tired dog. I tried to give him my food but he refused to eat it.

Someone showed me a poem that began “It is done and gone . . .” but I awoke and could not remember the rest.

Someone was about to cut off my head.

The Assistant High Priest (who is no longer alive) appeared and looked at my hand: “Your fingers are short and thick. It is natural for you to speak of great things.”

The new Councilor came over and was reluctant to leave. 

I thought this strange, so I said: “I don’t think you are ordinary. Are you a god?” 

“Yes,” he said. “I have come to tell you something.” 

“What is it?” 

“I can’t live in Kyoto.”

The number of people in the world doubled every day.

The Superior Master told Lady Higuchi to jump into a pond. She soared high into the air and dove in. When she came out her clothes were not wet.

There was a large boulder with a small opening. I went in and was trapped inside. The boulder slowly melted like a block of ice. First my head emerged, then my body above the waist, then my legs. I managed to free my feet and I got out.

That which is frightful in a dream is not frightful.

That which is good is good.

There was a wooden staff in the sky with a long rope dangling down. I grabbed it.

There was something huge in the sky that looked like a sheep, then it turned into pure light, then it turned into an aristocrat with a cap, then it turned into a commoner. I thought it was wonderful, but the priest Girin found it disgusting.

Three monks in battered black clothes asked me where we are. 

“Where do you think we are?” 

“We think we are somewhere that is like India.” 

Two monks came to visit and I showed them a book called Crushing Evil Views. 

They wept and said, “This book is indescribably magnificent.”

Two women with long white faces enthusiastically told the Retired Emperor that they agreed with me.

With six or seven others, I was walking toward a house. The path was covered in excrement and my friends poked their chopsticks in it.

Knowing a dream is only a dream, I awoke to help those who are still confused.


Eliot Weinberger’s most recent book, Angels & Saints, was published by New Directions in 2020.