A House Might Crush You

By Julia Russell

I was sitting in my room on Friday evening when I realized how quiet everything was without cars no the roads.

Snow floats

into the street

in silence.

We continued our discussion of Buddhism this week, still emphasizing the importance of anitya, duhka, and anatman. It was noted that Buddhists try to convince you that your metaphorical house is on fire and help you escape the cycle of suffering (Lecture 2/4). I really enjoyed the simplistic Hōjōki, Kamo no Chōmei’s account of abandoning his political affairs and setting up countryside life. “Caught inside, a house might crush you,” he warns (Chōmei, 52), referring to his peers’ preoccupations with materialism and status. While I don’t think his book can be taken at face value anymore (in the sense of dropping everything and moving away to a hut in the sticks), I see it as a cautionary tale about living your life versus putting all your efforts into the representations of your life, only to have them crumble in an instant. Once again, the world is always changing, and it’s useless to hold onto those things that will not last. We also learned, through the Tale of the Heike, that what goes up must come down. Taira no Kiyomori’s ambitious abuse of his position gave him great power, but his death brought a “transitory plume of smoke” and the descent of his clan (Heike monogatari, 211-212). Success follows failure follows success, so the best way to avoid the ups and downs of life is to remain at zero. I fail to see the possibility of this stasis except to perform shukke, “leaving home” as Chōmei did (Inouye, 40). But personally, I’d rather experience the beautiful moments that stem from our successes and failures than run away and avoid them altogether; personally, I think the latter a bit of a cowardly choice.

This entry was posted in Week 3: Failure, Success, and Leaving the World. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A House Might Crush You

  1. I probably wouldn’t say it is a cowardly thing to leave society as Chomei did; I imagine myself embarking on the same journey and I think it would take a lot of fearlessness and self-trust. I don’t think he was avoiding anything, I think he just no longer belonged in the world in which he grew up. It was time for him to move on and i think it take a brave person to realize this. Although I do know what you are trying to say; it is much easier to live a simplistic, peaceful life when you are by yourself in the forest and all you have to do is pray and meditate.

  2. Am I allowed to respond to my own post? Maybe not. Anyway, I wasn’t saying that Chomei himself was avoiding something. I just feel that if I, personally, were to commit shukke at this point in my life, I’d feel like I’d given up so many opportunities and missed out on so many wonderful things, even if they are all meaningless in the end. Thinking about it again, though, I see your point about Chomei himself outgrowing his world; perhaps that will happen to me, eventually.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>