Death in Midsummer (RIP Challenge Update)

Oh dear.
I'm not doing so well in my first reading challenge in a long time.

But at least I'm kind of enjoying myself.
I have been reading the simply brilliant book of short stories by Yukio Mishima, Death in Midsummer.

But I am only doing one a night, so I am progressing slowly.
Last night I read the fascinating story The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love. This was always going to appeal to me because it is concerned with two of the really great themes in my own life: eros and Buddhism. In the story an elderly celibate monk of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism finds himself lusting after one of the emperor's concubines, whose face he sees by accident. Having assumed he had overcome physical dsire, the old master is plunged into a crisis of faith, and the concubine, on hearing of the destruction she has caused a holy man, finds herself with a heightened religious sensibility.
This is a brilliant story. I was surprised by the depth of knowledge of Pure Land Buddhism - I had no idea that this was an interest of Mishima's. In many ways it really is just a meditation on Buddhist doctrine and the place of desire in that world view. It is provocative, of course - the monk decides that the only way out of his problem is to accept and embrace his desire, and in doing this he causes the concubine to become herself a holy figure, both of them realising a higher spiritual state through the peculiarity of their predicament.
If you are interested in Buddhism and haven't read this story I really recommend it - it will tantalise and intrigue you, and might inspire all kinds of theological wonderings.
Oh, and as to how it fits into the theme of the R.I.P reading challenge - it doesn't really, sorry. But don't despair - other stories in the collection have been quite dark.


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