Winter and Dreaming

I was walking across the Res Quad on my way back from a late class when I noticed the serenity of the lawn as the night set in.

As the sun sets over Medford

the winter chill pierces my lungs—

A trash bag blows by.

This week in class we looked at the influence of Buddhism on the budding Japanese culture. The cicada shell that came to represent the evanescence and form of our reality has been replaced by the more formal Buddhist teachings. Anitya, “this Buddhist notion of impermanence” (Inouye 31), appeals to the Japanese sense of hakanasa. As hakanasa gradually transforms into the more formalized Buddhism-inspired notion of mujo, we look to the writing of the time as a guide. “As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams,” written by a nameless woman in the Heian court, emphasizes romance and dreams in Japanese reality of mujo. Dreaming frees us, yet it also can trap us in the comfort it provides. Dreams are insubstantial and, like the Buddhist concept of anitya, are constantly changing (Lecture 3). The writer, living a sheltered aristocratic life, turns to dreams to entertain herself, living her life through the Tales she reads. As Inouye points out, “it becomes difficult to choose (or even distinguish) between a dreamlike reality and a dream” (29). Whether it is healthy to live in surreal dreams of love and romance instead of facing a reality of uneventful dullness in the courts of Heian remains to be seen. Personally, I don’t know if I agree with the idea of dreaming as a way of life. Living in a dream seems like setting yourself up for a rude awakening when reality hits home.


Griffin Quasebarth

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3 Responses to Winter and Dreaming

  1. I agree with your last point. I can see why it might have helped Lady Sarashina, who didn’t have much going on in her personal and family life, but I think it’s a little impractical at this point to consider going through life in a dreamlike state when there’s so many things happening for us in the conscious world.

  2. Avatar of Laura  Sabia Laura Sabia says:

    I like the point you raise about the apparent contradiction inherent in the Japanese interest in dreaming as a response to evanescence. The idea of dreaming naturally evokes a sense of otherworldliness. While dreaming, we leave the reality around us and travel to another reality: an imagined one. Some are of the view that this is a way to test the realness of reality. I say that it is purely avoidance and an escape from living and experiencing the tangible, human world. I find it fascinating that the Japanese foundations of animism advocate direct participation in and relationship with the natural world and its elements (a focus on concrete things) but at the same time, the Japanese Buddhist influence causes the philosophy to simultaneously encourage dreaming and escapism.

  3. I find it interesting you view dreaming as a trapping, insubstantial comfort, that blinds us from the truth of reality. If we are to understand Anitya as ever changing reality and perspective in life, wouldn’t that leave one without a solid reality to stand on anyway? With the fleeting nature of life as being able to end at any point and end any suffering or cut short any joy, is there really a difference between life and dreams? Having had some experience with lucid dreaming, I’ve come to realize that dreams can be as terrifying or fulfilling as actual life, only, they apply on different time-frames and states of being.

    And at Julia, to quote my favorite philosopher,
    “Soon you’ll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most—and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial.” from Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.
    What do the things “happening” matter?

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