The Legend of Empress Kōmyō

The Legend of Empress Kōmyō

From Japanese bathing culture, there is one woman whose name I have come across again and again: Empress Kōmyō. As with all women, there are many facets to her life story, but I have been particularly intrigued and inspired by her connection and influence on bathing.

A true empress and thoroughly elegant woman, Empress Kōmyō was known for her great beauty and equally for her compassionate and charitable nature. Hailing from the aristocratic Fujiwara clan of the Heian era, she was a devout Buddhist and was remarkably humble. It is said that she was devoted to personally bathing the poor as an act of charity (bathing or sponsoring baths for the poor was often done by aristocrats of the day).

Upon having a vision, she vowed to bathe one thousand beggars. When she came to the thousandth person, she was faced with a man who was gnarled and sickly. Empress Kōmyō did not flinch from her task and looked upon him with kindness. At that moment, the man revealed himself as the reincarnation of the Buddha, who had come to aid the Empress Kōmyō on her path to enlightenment.

What I take away from this is so simple but something that I need to be reminded of often: Never judge anyone and treat everyone with respect. We have no idea of what someone has been through or what they are about to bring into our lives. 

Warm wishes,


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