The Komusō's Rice

It happens that people ask a Komusō to share his rice with them (meaning the raw rice he has received as alms and is carrying around in his bag). It depends on the region, but that custom is fairly well know. When it happened to me for the first time, I was also startled.

Anyway, when for the first time someone approached me with an empty tray asking me for rice - instead of giving me rice - I thought there are surprising people in this world. They live in a splendid house but come to the mendicant Komusō to ask for a share and I was astonished. But this is also a kind of superstition. Someone would donate some money nicely wrapped in paper and afterwards ask for rice. I didn't understand and asked: "What are you going to do with the Komuso's rice?" "Well, this rice is very healthy, if you eat it, diseases will go away."

"I see, what kind of illnesses does it cure?", I asked. He replied: "My son is suffering from kakke 脚気 (i.e. Beri beri) and this rice is the best medicine for him." I understood, the ascetic monk is striding all over the country and has sturdy legs (the character for leg appears in the word kakke), his rice is good to cure kakke. That was a well made theory. "Please take a lot", I said.

In fact, it happens that when I receive rice and my container of one shō (old Japanese unit, 1800cc) is filled by someone, that I refuse: "Actually this time I will content myself with receiving your kindness." And I would then even return the bowl, because rice is very heavy and can be troublesome when on the road. But the Komusō's rice is regarded as a treasure, therefore I also use it to pay for lodging. And when on the way there is someone who is ready to receive rice from me, that is most welcome and I always give them all I have, because it eases my weight. (p. 8-9)