On Saturday morning, while snow was still falling, I looked outside my dorm window and saw a glaring world of snow, which almost matches the piles of snow of the winter of 2011 that took several months to accumulate – they would nevertheless melt and fall again the following winter.
A Saturday morning’s sunshine
Renders the world glaring -
A winter’s snow in a day.
This week our discussion continues to focus on Buddhism, and in particular, the notion of “a burning house” as an analogy for this world of illusions (Inouye 39.) As a matter of fact, I reviewed the slides before Monday’s lecture, but had not imagined that the burning house image and the lyrics would have become a choir plus Professor Inouye himself presenting a rap. Back to this conceptualization itself, the one condition that I find indispensable in its reasoning is that those trapped in the house are “small children” that would not take notice of the danger by themselves. This unmistakably points to the people fooled by the false promises of this ever-changing world, and stands in contrast to those who take the notice, leave the world, and even come back to help the still-trapped. “Leave the world” refers, of course, to the idea of shukke, which we see in detail through Chōmei’s Hōjōki. That he would toward the end re-examine his life at the shabby abode and wonder if he is again indulging in the illusionary world indeed exemplifies how we are prone to fall for it: “Buddha taught we must not be attached. Yet the way I love this hut is itself attachment” (Chōmei 76.) And finally, the Japanese perception of success and failure, as exemplified in The Tale of the Heike. Two different ideas come across: firstly, defying formality leads to despicable failures; secondly, doing everything righteously promises nothing, and only evanescence guarantees to bestow failure fairly upon everyone (Inouye 48, 49.) The consequent third idea confuses me a little at first: “… if it is the case that failure follows success, then the converse of this statement must also be true. Success follows failure” (Inouye 50.) To me it sounded like a classic example of affirming the consequence. Then, of course, I come to realize that it is evanescence that sponsors both ideas. This (pseudo-)glitch aside, the three ideas seem to explain pretty well the Japanese exactness and the successes that it has led to.
- George (Zesheng Xiong)