Is it Spring? by Ge Cui

I was walking back to Haskell Hall towards the back door last Wednesday when I saw green grass instead of the white snow I was used to.


Sunlight on the lawn,

from the bottom of my feet,

to my chilling heart.


In this week’s lecture, we first talked about the role of Buddhism in Japanese history. Buddhism passes the spirit on both “text” form and the visual form, each can use sutras and statuaries as examples. But in Japan, people understand Buddhism more from visual. Besides the true faith that people seek in it, a religion that can be prevail in a certain area must meet the demands of the people, physically and mentally. So did Buddhism. The first fundamental notion of Buddhist is “Anitya” – all things are changing, nothing is permanent(Lecture 2). This reminds of the early Japanese geographic conditions that mentioned in Professor Inouye’s book: earthquake and tsunami happened randomly, volcanoes could bury a whole city in few seconds. The nature, the habitats, and the world of Japanese people are always changing. The second notion is “Duhkha” – life is suffering(Lecture 2). I remember in “Journey to the West” (Saiyuki) the monk from Tang Dynasty had to suffer 81 times to obtain the real sutras from India. No one can live a life without single suffering. When we compare this to our real lives, we start to understand it and accept it and stop complaining about lives. The third notion of Buddhist is “Anatman” – there is no such a thing as the self(Lecture 2). This is the highest level in Buddhism is you can really achieve it. No self means no subjective feelings or personal emotions. Without human’s desire and lust, real Buddhist asks for nothing and doesn’t feel sad for anything: you know you are suffering, but you can avoid the pain. However, as I human being, I appreciate the different emotions we have. Both tears and laughs are proofs of me living a real life. Well, Buddhism did play an important role in ancient Japan, its still deeply inside Japanese people’s daily lives. However, Japan nowadays has a unique culture of its own, many special “forms”, not liking anywhere else at all. In the lecture, Professor Inouye said that the Japanese culture is somehow a religion but Japanese people never feel so because the religion is just too deep in people’s hearts that no one notice its existence. But in my opinion, I consider it more likely as tradition than as religion. They are precious habits protected and passed on by one and one generation of Japanese people. They only belong to Japanese people and only fit Japanese people. It’s no like Buddhism has stone figures and temples all over the world. Only Japanese people wear kimono and only Japanese people keep their secret with shimenawa. On Wednesday’s class, we also talked about the reading material: As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams. Some classmates argued that Lady Sarashina was a lazy dreamer who live a passive life. I’d agree with it if Lady Sarashina lives in the same era with us. And the fact is that she’s from Heian Period, thousand years ago when feudalism was still a cage for everyone, especially females. She couldn’t do whatever she could. People says that dream shows people’s desire. She wanted some lives she could never have, so she dreamed about them. Connecting to the Buddhist notions we talked before, life is always changing and suffering. We all try to figure out what’s gonna happen to us, so we dream. When I was a little kids, every night before I fell sleep, I thought about what should I do if there was suddenly a fire, a robbery, or a stealing in my house: where should I hide or escape; what are the necessary things I need to bring with me; how should I notice my parents about the dangers; and how should I ask for help. It was all about “I don’t wanna die”. Now it looks hilarious to me, but I know I was serious. This is how I understand Lady Sarashina, we know that life’s always changing, and we know that we are both out of control of our life and death.

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One Response to Is it Spring? by Ge Cui

  1. Avatar of ksoni02 ksoni02 says:

    Your poem was very striking for some reason to me, I could really picture a person feeling warmer or fill with hope that the seasons would change. With regards to your essay, while I do believe that a lot of Buddhist teachings have a lot to do with the Japanese lifestyle, I feel as it isn’t only just tradition, but also just a general mentality and perspective on life. That is, however just my opinion, and maybe it will become clearer in coming weeks.

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