From Hakanasa to Mujo – By Chris Navarro

I walked my dog to the park at midnight on a snowy night and I was taken by how beautiful and bright it was.

Grass covered with snow

Black dog running in the night

Appears bright as day


In class, we discussed how Japan’s society was polytheistic —a crucial point in understanding modern day Japan.  “The Kami were multiple rather than single” (Inouye 33).  Many of these kami were marked with shimenawa.  However, unlike many other religions, these kami are not representations of other beings (Lecture 1/28).  This early social understanding of life facilitated the spread of Buddhism, and its concept of mujo.  Therefore, the expression of evanescence, which will be a continuing subject of study in this class, evolves throughout Japanese history as utsusemi to hakanasa to mujo (Inouye 30).  When it comes to Buddhism, we have covered three major topics: anitya, duhkha, and anatman. Anitya is very similar to the concept of evanescence.  It expresses that both our environment and our perceptions are constantly changing.  Duhkha refers to the Buddhist idea that: “life is suffering” (lecture 1/28).  This expresses that the reason we suffer in life, is because we are attached to things of this world.  For example, when a family member passes away, we suffer due to the emotional attachment we have with them.   Finally, the word anatman is the notion that there is no-self (Inouye 31).  This idea seems to be the hardest for people to accept.  I have to admit that it is quite difficult for me as well.  However, having a background in social psychology, I understand that much of what we consider “me” is easily changed.  For example, research shows that one’s overall perception of happiness and satisfaction can be influenced by how comfortable one is while being asked.  Therefore, your perception of how happy you are with your life varies if you are sitting on an uncomfortable stool versus sitting on a comfortable reclining chair.  I found these data very surprising. However, it definitely coincides with the Japanese and Buddhist terms we have discussed.


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One Response to From Hakanasa to Mujo – By Chris Navarro

  1. I agree that at first it is definitely difficult to grasp the concept of there being no such thing as “self.” It’s interesting that you found a correlation between social psych research and Buddhist beliefs. I like your psych reference because it puts into perspective how variable your perception of life can be depending on circumstances.

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