A Monk from Mio no Seki in Izumo (Shimane pref.) is traveling to the Sennyūji temple on the eastern hills of Kyoto. Among the treasures of the temple are the geshari (teeth of Buddha), preserved there as relics. On this day the relics will be given a public viewing. Following the directions of a Temple Servant, the Monk enters the Shari Pavilion and begins to worship. As the Monk sheds tears in front of the relics, an odd-looking Villager appears. Saying that he also came to worship, he joins the Monk in prayer. Suddenly, the appearance of the Villager changes. He claims to be the demon Sokushikki, who once stole the relics. Transforming into his real form he snatches the relics before breaking through the roof of the pavilion and flying away.
Alerted by the crashing sound, the Temple Servant appears. He tells how when Buddha Shakyamuni died the demon Sokushikki appeared and stole his bones. Thankfully, the Guardian Deity Idaten forced the demon to put them back. Some of those relics were kept here at Sennyūji. Just as it happened long ago, Idaten appears and finds Sokushikki as he is escaping through the heavens. The two fight but Idaten’s power prevails, forcing Sokushikki to descend to the earth and return the relics.
The title of this play, Shari, refers to the bones and teeth of Buddha Shakyamuni (Gautama), worshipped as relics after his death. The location of the play is Sennyūji, a temple on the Eastern hills of Kyoto, an important place of worship for emperors and military commanders in medieval Japan when the play was written.
The Temple Servant tells the story of how when Shakyamuni died his disciples gathered at his feet and cried in desperation. The demon Sokushikki, disguised as one of them, approached the body of Shakamuni and stole his teeth. His name meaning “fast-paced”, he quickly tried to escape. However, Idaten, one of the guardian deities of Buddhism, prevented him to escape and forced him to return the relics. Since then, Idaten has been considered a lightning-fast deity.
In the nō, a jewel-like object is placed on top of a stage property representing the tabernacle in which the relics are kept. In the first half of the play, the platform placed downstage center represents the building, while in the second half it represents the heavens, where Idaten and Sokushikki fight.