Kaminari Den (Palace of Thunder) is located in Kaminari no Kuni above the lightning plains that lie far north of Kumogakure no Sato. This little known and secluded monastery is dedicated to the Kami Raijin, god of lightning and thunder. In particular it is his guise as Yakusa no ikazuchi no kami (eight thunder spirits) to which the monks dedicate their lives.
Life of a Monk
The head of the Ikazuchi Order of monks is the Dai-sojo known as Yakusa Zhu. Zhu and the rest of the brotherhood live a life marked by duty and loyalty to the order which was charged to preserve the old wisdoms and techniques sacred to Lord Raijin. Although this is an austere life style, wholly without squandering of resources, they are charged with the maintenance and protection of certain sacred relics. For the most part the monks lead a modest life without embellishment or undue emphasis upon personal adornment. Many of the monks shaved their heads and retreated to this isolated mountain location to devote their lives to deep contemplation. Certain traditions are universal to those within the order.
The initial process consisted of a long series of grueling physical labors which seem to be pointless in nature. However it is believed that through this hardening of the body, one prepares the mind for a journey undertaken by the spirit. Asceticism is an important theme to the monks who view the trappings of this world to be a burden that only weighs down ones soul. Most take a vow of poverty and chastity but this is not required as each has his own path to walk. Their only goal in the physical realm is to seek enlightenment; helping others is a major step in obtaining this goal. Purity of the physical body was also a common belief, and contaminating the body with worldly materials was a barrier to the achievement of spiritual purity. Fasting, rigorous exercise, and consumption of only the bare essentials such as rice and water were also common vows among the monks.
Monks in the order do not discuss their past and it is considered the next best thing to blasphemy to even inquire after such information. Whether a man be a servant or a nobleman has no bearing upon spiritual enlightenment and can only act as barriers along the way. The old life is shed and given up upon taking their vows. As such most in the realm honor all with great respect for the fear of inadvertently insulting someone who may be a former daimyo.
It is rumored the heart of a great green dragon rests within the mountain in which the monastery lies giving to the monks a strange kinship with lightning dragons as well as enhanced memory, clear and quickened thought.
Those who enter the monastic life do so as initiates and may progress through the different ranks depending upon the direction their particular interest of study may lead. These include:
- Dai-sojo: These are the elder monks of the monastery who often oversee several monasteries. This is the top of the monastic hierarchy and only below the head of the order to whom they report. They wear a red robe over their saffron to show their status. With respect to combat the position of Azure Serpent is drawn from this rank.
- Sojo: These typically are head of the monastery above the Risshi and Sozu and below the Dai-sojo. Wore purple over-robe to show their status. As a keeper of the temple the Sojo has a great deal of influence and responsibility. He has domain of their own temple and is the leader of the sect. he is charged with maintaining good relations with the monks and the lay people. he researches both the mystical and mundane worlds. With respect to combat the position of Stormbringers are drawn from this rank.
- Sozu: These are the monks who supervise various areas of life within the monastery. This rank is above Risshi and below that of Sojo and Dai-sojo. They wear a black over-robe to show their status. Often these are the ranks who are the instructors. With respect to combat the positions of Wardens and Ambushers are drawn from this rank.
- Risshi: These are the rank of monks above the initiates in the heirarchy of the monastery. Traditionally they have only been in the order for a few years and also wear a black over-robe to show their status. With respect to combat the position of Disciple is drawn from this rank.
- Initiate: These are the new devotees of the monastery and as yet have taken no vows. They undergo the rigors of preparing for embarking upon their spiritual journey of enlightenment. They have yet to earn their robes.