the burning house

Woke up earlier than usual on Sunday morning because it was bright outside, so I opened the window and smelled the snow.

Morning arrived earlier

Waiting behind the shutter

Sunlight, the smell of snow.

Last week we talked about the paradox of success and failures in this floating world, which led to the discussion of leaving the world as an alternative option for us to deal with sufferings brought by the evanescent nature of life. In The Lotus Sutra, there is a famous analogy. It says our mortal life is like a burning house, and we’re children playing in it, unaware of the danger. (Inouye 39) We are attracted to it and insist not to leave because we think that we are “having fun”, which we’re likely to lose by leaving the house. So most of us will not choose to leave the house until we realize that we’re actually in great danger and there is a safer place that we can go to. In Buddhism, the burning house is our life in which we are enslaved by our unwise desires and pursuits of ever-changing things like a house, fame, and someone that love us forever. Desires on these external things trap and torment us, blocking our eyes from seeing the truth. So one option that Buddhism gives us is to leave the world, or shukke. By physically isolating ourselves from the “floating world”, we can get rid of some distractions and thus focus more on obtaining inner peace.  In the first half of Hojoki, Chomei describes scenes from several natural disasters and how vulnerable people’s lives were when facing those disasters. And he brings up the question that if our houses are so vulnerable and fragile, why should we dedicate our life to build and maintain a seemingly secure dwelling? The second part of the book, Chomei documented his life as a recluse. He abandons the world in which he cannot fit in, and builds a shabby hut in a mountain as his home. But at the end of the book, he says that although away from the floating world, his attachment to the hut and the quiet life itself is a likewise burden. (Chomei 76) My understanding of the “house on fire” is that it is our desires and attachment that are troubling us. The objects that we attach to do not distinguish ourselves from others, as long as we all attach to something. So the key to our salvation is to forgo the unwise desire, which does not necessarily require us to physically leave the world, but to learn to forgo desires and delusions inside us.

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

2 Responses to the burning house

  1. It probably was not purposeful, but your drawing almost looks like you burned the paper slightly to add effect. Either way, great artwork,

  2. Onno Vocks says:

    It’s hard to find experienced people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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