The Empress Somedono is possessed by a tengu (天狗).
The Empress Somedono (829-900) was the wife of Emperor Montoku (r. 850-858). Also known as Akirakeiko, she was the daughter of the Regent Fujiwara no Yoshifusa (804-872), chief adviser to the Emperor. She was the mother of Emperor Seiwa (r. 858-876).
In the Shui Õjõden (1123), a text recording stories about rebirth in the Pure Land of the Amida Buddha, it is recorded that:
"Empress Somedono was possessed by a tengu. Several months passed by, but nobody could exorcise the tengu. The tengu announced: ‘Unless the buddhas of the three eras appear, who could dare oppose me.’
After some time the priest Sõõ (831-918) who had founded Mudõ Temple on sacred Mount Hiei was summoned to perform an exorcism.
Sõõ prayed to Amida Buddha for a week, but his prayers had no effect on the tengu. Sõõ then returned to Mount Hiei to pray instead to Fudõ Myõ-õ, the Immovable Wisdom King.
Fudõ Myõ-õ sat upon his great dais facing the south. When Sõõ sat to pray to Fudõ Myõ-õ, the Wisdom King turned away from Sõõ and faced the west. When the priest seated himself in the west, Fudõ Myõ-õ turned to face the east. The priest again sat in the east facing Fudõ Myõ-õ, but the Wisdom King again turned to face the west. After a few more times at trying to pray to Fudõ Myõ-õ, the Wisdom King finally returned to his original position facing the south.
The priest seated himself again in the south and with tears in his eyes, begged Fudõ Myõ-õ, ‘I request an answer to my prayers, why do you turn away from me?’ Fudõ Myõ-õ looked into the teary eyes of the priest and spoke, ‘In accordance with my vow that if a person keeps my spell even once, I will protect him for lives to come, I have not responded to your petitions and have turned away from you. This is my reason, in the past, the priest Shinzei of Ki kept my spell; however, because of a slightly wrong attachment, he fell into the realm of tengu and now torments the Empress.
Because of the original vow, I must protect this tengu. You must go to the palace and secretly whisper to the tengu, ‘Are you the tengu of Kaki no moto, the priest Shinzei of Ki known as Ki no Sõjõ? As he answers, lower your head and perform an exorcism by quietly chanting the magic Buddhist spell of the Daiitoku. The tengu will then be bound by this spell. Meanwhile, I will absolve him of his wrong attachment and lead him back to the path of the Buddha.’ Sõõ was deeply moved by the words of Fudõ Myõ-õ. He did as he was instructed, asking the question and performing the exorcism. He was able to successfully seize the tengu and banish it. The Empress Somedono recovered soon after.”
The tengu that possessed Empress Somedono was Shinzei (800-860), the priest of Ki known as Ki no Sõjõ. Shinzei was a disciple of Kõbõ Daishi (774-835), the founder of Shingon-shu Mikkyõ (esoteric) Buddhism. He transformed himself into a tengu and possessed the Empress because he supported Prince Koretaka as the new emperor in place of Prince Korehito.
Empress Somedono's father Fujiwara no Yoshifusa had her child, Prince Korehito (later Emperor Seiwa) placed upon the thrown when he was nine. A child so young had never been crowned emperor before. There was considerable opposition to Yoshifusa's meddling in imperial affairs, and so a struggle began between Prince Korehito and his half-brother Prince Koretaka (844-897).
In the Heike Monogatari (1180) it says:
"The struggle for the throne between the two princes was to be decided by a sumo tournament and ten horse races. The actual outcome however would be dependent on the mystic powers of the Mikkyõ (Buddhist magic) of two priests - Kaki no moto Ki no Sõjõ Shinzei, the head priest of the Shingon-shu Tõ Temple and disciple of Kõbõ Daishi, praying for Prince Koretaka - and Eryõ, priest of Tendai-shu on Mount Hiei and guardian priest of Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, praying for Prince Korehito.
Koretaka won the first four horse races and Korehito won the next six. During the sumo match, it was already apparent that Korehito was going to win as he had a champion of enormous strength. But Eryõ performed the magical Buddhist ritual to Daiitoku and piercing his own skull with a kongõ-sho, removed brain matter and threw it into the ritual fire as an offering to the Buddhist gods. This action was approved by the Buddha and so Korehito's wrestler won the match, he was then named Emperor Seiwa.”
So, the fight between the powers of a Tendai-shu Mikkyõ priest and a Shingon-shu Mikkyõ priest led to the possession of the Empress Somedono by a tengu.
© James Kemlo