Ten men came forth from the hills
Ten men were one, yet ten men were ten
One man left, the others fell
Was this the fault of any?
-The Hollow Reed
The Path of a Thousand Whispers OverviewEdit
The Hollow Reed (one of the most important sutras of Dharma) praises moderation; while the other paths describe themselves as storms or fires, the Reed speaks of emptiness given form. The sutra's title comes from the Dharmic ideal: To be like the reed, fed by water but filled with nothing, rooted in the ground but reaching to the sky. The Way's name comes from its practice of living multiple lives to gain multiple insights. To maintain balance, the so-called "Rootless Trees" walk a thousand roads, each under a different name. It's a long path to enlightenment, but then, they have nothing but time.
The Whispers don't believe that the Sixth Age is the end of creation. To them, it's a ritual death, one of many. Like the reeds rising from a riverbed, the Rootless Ones trust that when the storm ends, their flexibility will carry them through. Other Dharmas won't survive. The cricket is drowned. The wasp is blown away. The centipede remains unharmed. The hollow reed still stands.
This path's disciples love riddles and couch everything in symbolism. Some vampires claim that the Thousand Whispers write sutras for each blade of grass, and, while that's an overstatement, it captures the Way's perspective. These Kuei-jin love to look at old things through new eyes, and do so literally at every opportunity. Talented shape changers, the Rootless Trees shift gender, alliance, lifestyle, and temperament with bewildering speed. Each change, claim the sages, teaches a Whisper a little more.
The Whispering Way is the rarest of Dharmas, and with good reason: It's the hardest to maintain. Kuei-jin are neither balanced nor temperate. To offset their destructive natures, Whispers cultivate the Broken Mask technique -- a multiple-personality path to enlightenment. While most people cling to their identities, the Rootless Trees take on different personas, then kill them off when all lessons appear to have been learned. Since most lives tend to be full-time affairs, many vampires take on one or two personas at once, then stage tragic deaths and enter new roles. Immortal as they are, the Whispers can experience the full range of human perspective and thus rise above any single view.
Naturally, such insight takes time. In the early stages of the path, a Whisper is pretty much like any other Running Monkey. Her elders scold her and offer koans that demand a wider view. As she moves through many lives, the vampire's vision broadens. In time, she becomes like a fine jade carving -- precious in the rough, but smoothed into exquisite form by the sculptor's steady hands. The key to the path is to be both sculptor and jade, to craft yourself into a work of art.
This Dharma does have a special affinity to the Yulan-jin, those Kuei-jin’s whose souls have been warped by Yomi. These beings cannot hold onto a body for very long and with every Little Death they encounter, they are hurled to another body where they are left without memories. The Yulan-jin find it easier to follow the Path of a Thousand Whispers, as you are supposed to leave the old behind holding only onto the lesson learned. However, they will often forget that lesson as well. Yulan-jin become Wise Centipedes more than any other Dharma.
Internal Divisions and SectsEdit
The loose nature of the Dharma makes schools of thought obsolete, after all, what is the point in establishing a society you will leave behind eventually. Instead, Wise Centipedes orientate themselves on their Direction, using it as a compass to navigate the myriads of lives they live in order find the Void within.
- Bunraku: North-orientated, the Bunraku operate from the shadows to enforce Balance within the Middle Kingdom
- Dancing Peacocks: East-orientated, the Peacocks live among mortals and involve themselves the most in mortal affairs
- Scarlet Centipedes: South-orientated, the Scarlet Centipedes are troublemakers and warriors that seek to subvert the status quo.
- Exalted Jade Masks: West-orientated, the Jade Masks hunt ghosts, seeking to correct their imbalance by allowing them to pass on or slaying them if they refuse
- Center-balanced Whispers address themselves simply as Wise Centipedes, and are concerned with the maintenance of balance once it is achieved in a place or person.
The Path of a Thousand Whispers TrainingEdit
To follow the Whispering Way, a Kuei-jin must continually die and be reborn. Every few years, she suffers a ritual "death," is buried, and returns as a new person. During her burial, the vampire enters a long trance, during which she meditates on the lessons of her past life. Certain powerful Whispers project their soul into the spirit worlds while the body sleeps. The Kuei-jin's body remains in stasis, guarded by mortal friends or other Whispers. The former are usually devoured when the vampire returns from her travels; the latter salute her and walk away as she emerges from the tomb. Each time she "dies," the Kuei-jin severs all ties to her past life; in time, she walks away from her wu and court as well. In their breathing days, most Whispers were either fanatics for one cause or scattered among many. Neither path allowed them to learn their karmic lessons. When the training begins, sifus ask impossible questions, then send their pupils out to seek the answers. Disciples are given three new identities by their masters, and these identities are as different as possible. All the necessary skills are passed on through early training, along with funds, sutras, meditations, and Kuei-jin manners. When those three lives end, the disciple is on her own.
The Path of a Thousand Whispers WeaknessEdit
Moderation is hellishly hard to practice, especially if you're a vampire, who are by their very nature heavily imbalanced. Despite the meditations and Broken Mask technique, the four-way pull between Yin, Yang, Hun, and P'o yanks many Rootless Trees from their paths. To hold true to their Way, many Whispers look to the earth. That earth appears solid, yet it melts away as mud, swirls into sandstorms, and hardens into rock. Sometimes, it splits open and swallows its surroundings. It never simply lies still
To be truly balanced, one must occasionally go to extremes. To avoid attachments, Whispers destroy things and people they love too much. These betrayals gave rise to the Dharma's other name -- the Way of the Wise Centipede, a sarcastic comment on the Arhat's inspiration. Other Wan Kuei distrust the followers of Balance; who knows when your friend might suddenly turn on you?
Auspicious Omens and Symbols for the Path of a Thousand WhispersEdit
Important signs to watch for and to keep around. Many followers of this Way integrate these symbols into their homes and temples. Bodhisattvas frequently manifest such phenomena whenever they appear. The following Auspicious Omens and Symbols for The Path of a Thousand Whispers are: Jade masks, caves, centipedes, tunnel complexes, boulders carved into human shapes
Affiliations of the Path of a Thousand WhispersEdit
Earth, the color white, the number 0, and the centre direction.
The Tenets of the Path of a Thousand WhispersEdit
Each Way has eight tenets to guide its lessons and philosophy. To pursue one's purpose, one must follow these precepts as closely as possible. The tenets for the Path of a Thousand Whispers are the following.
|Live 1,000 lifetimes, each one different from the last.||As the hollow reed is used to make a flute, so must we use the emptiness inside to create beautiful music, with different notes.|
|Learn what you can from each life.||Each life is a learning experience. Even ones seemingly mundane hold lessons to be learned. The key is in finding the wisdom within each and learning to heed it. Hold onto that lesson, but leave the rest behind.|
|Change as much as possible between breaths.||Even the still earth flows, and it is impossible to step into the same river twice. If you follow one road, you must also experience its reverse. Balance is a dynamic force, not a static one.|
|If you grow too close to something, kill it. It'll only hinder you.||Wise men say if you meet the Buddha along the road, kill him, because the Buddha is not the way. Anything that holds you down, that might halt your need to be ever changing, must be destroyed.|
|Turn your back on each life as you leave it.||Lives are lessons, not prisons or possessions. When you leave a life, close the door forever.|
|Give when generosity is needed; take when theft is required.||The only shameful act is to upset the balance of things because balance is the natural way. Stealing something, means replenishing something as well. Each act must have a counter-act.|
|Pry open the eyes of the sightless and make the mute defend their wordless state. All beings must confront their choices, so question them as you pass.||All things must know that life is composed of choices- let no creature make these choices without questioning itself.|
|When something appears to be out of balance, correct it. If you can't, destroy it.||Balance begets balance. If something is out of balance, it must be corrected. If the balance cannot be restored, then it must be ended.|
- Kindred of the East Rulebook p.70-71
Allied to Yomi Wan