the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters

Mokugyo daruma

By on December 14, 2018, in Buddhism, gong, Hyakki tsurezure bukuro, musical instrument, object, Patreon, Religious, Toriyama Sekien, tsukumogami, yōkai

木魚達磨
もくぎょだるま

TRANSLATION: wooden fish gong Daruma
HABITAT: temples

APPEARANCE: Mokugyo daruma are the tsukumogami of mokugyo—fish-shaped wooden gongs used in Buddhist temples. After years of service helping monks to focus on their meditations, these gongs have also achieved enlightenment.

ORIGIN: Mokugyo have multiple purposes in a Buddhist temple. They are used to keep the rhythm when chanting sutras. They are also used to keep people awake during meditation. Because fish sleep with their eyes open, in old times it was believed that fish did not sleep. Thus the wooden fish gong represents avoiding falling asleep while meditating.

Toriyama Sekien describes mokugyo daruma in Hyakki tsurezure bukuro. He says that a mokugyo might possibly gain a soul and take on the features of Daruma (aka Bodhidharma), the founder of Zen Buddhism, after nine years of being used by ascetic practitioners. Like mokugyo, Daruma is a symbol of wakefulness. Daruma is said to have meditated for nine years straight without sleeping. Due to their shared symbolism, Sekien combined these two figures of wakefulness into one tsukumogami.