Once upon a time, a monk named Anchin was returning to his village, known as Kishu. He had been traveling for a long time and was longing to get back to his temple, called Dojo-ji. He loved the peacefulness of the village, with its evening bells and the sound of the monks chanting the sutras.
But Anchin was very tired, and the journey was long, so he stopped by the Hidaka River at the home of a wealthy landlord who often provided lodging to traveling priests.
The landlord warmly greeted the monk and invited him to spend the night. It was quickly growing dark, so Anchin gratefully accepted.
As the monk sat in his room meditating that night, the landlord's beautiful daughter, Kiyohime, noticed him. She asked her father who this visitor was. Her father explained that he was a monk from the Dojo-ji Temple in the village of Kishu.
"He's so handsome," Kiyohime said.
"Ah, yes. I suppose he is," her father laughed. "Perhaps one day you'll marry him."
Kiyohime did not realize her father was joking. Besides, she had already fallen in love with Anchin, and so she sneaked into the monk's room to talk with him.
Anchin was lying in bed and drifting off to sleep. Startled at the sight of the girl, he sat up and asked, "Who are you? What are you doing in here?"
Kiyohime sat beside him and said, "You will be my husband."
Anchin was charmed, and the two talked. Although the handsome monk protested her pleas to wed, she insisted they would marry one day.
In the morning, Anchin prepared to depart, but Kiyohime ran after him. "Where are you going?" she cried. "You cannot leave me! We are meant to be husband and wife."
"I promise I'll return," Anchin said, and he continued on his journey home, returning to his temple the next day.
Time passed, and Anchin forgot all about his promise to return to Kiyohime.
Meanwhile, in her father's house, Kiyohime waited patiently for Anchin. Summer turned to winter, and then to spring. As a new summer dawned and Anchin still had not returned, Kiyohime grew sadder.
She longed for Anchin. Weeks passed, and her longing turned to despair. When at last Kiyohime understood that Anchin had forgotten her and would not return, her sorrow turned to hate.
No one could help her as her hatred burned hotter. Indeed, her hatred burned so hot, she was transformed into a furious, hissing snake.
As a snake, she traveled across the land toward Anchin's temple.
And so it was one summer morning when Anchin was meditating that he saw the snake coming toward him. He knew at once this was Kiyohime. Although his heart ached with guilt, Anchin ran to the great bell of the Dojo-ji Temple and hid inside.
But the snake that embodied Kiyohime's fury wound itself around that bell. Her hatred burned so fiercely that it consumed the bell and everything inside -- including Anchin. They melted into the river Hidaka.
For the next 100 years, the Dojo-ji Temple had no bell until the monks decided to have a new one created.
They brought the bell into the temple to install it. When they did, to everyone's amazement, a beautiful girl appeared and threw herself at the bell. The moment she touched the bell, she vanished. It was as if she'd been swallowed up inside the bell.
No one could believe their eyes.
From that moment on, the new bell of the Dojo-ji Temple did not ring like other bells. Rather, it wailed and howled in sorrow -- the voices of Anchin, the monk, and Kiyohime, the girl who loved him.
Each time someone rang that bell, disaster struck.
Before long, the monks understood that the spirit of Kiyohime resided in their bell and would never rest. They took down the new bell and buried it in the ground beside the temple, and there it remained.
But after 200 years, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a great master and unifier of Japan, ordered the bell dug out of the ground and taken to the Myomanji Temple, where the Buddha had achieved Enlightenment.
People say that it was at Myomanji, where monks chanted the Lotus Sutra, that the troubled souls of Kiyohime and Anchin came to rest at last. The sound of the bell then became beautiful, tinged with wisdom and deep understanding of the complexities of love. It is at Myomanji where the bell remains, one of the temple's great treasures.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.