We go up to come back down

This past weekend I exited a friends apartment and saw how beautiful the city looked at night during a light snow.

A light snow

silently falls

in the city


One of the concepts we covered this week, the Bodhisattva cycle, was hard for me to understand until I spoke with both teaching assistants after class today.  I was having trouble with the aspect of sorrow which is at the top of the cycle.  It was not until Basho’s journey was pointed out in relation to this cycle that I began to understand that top aspect.  Basho goes on his journey in order to see the various beautiful sites around Japan.  In doing this he was attempting to get away and find enlightenment; this is where the concept of sorrow came into play.  Basho, while on his journey, mentions loneliness a number of time.  One example of this is when he says, “The loneliness at dusk was overpowering,” (Basho/Keene, 171) which is then followed by a poem expressing this loneliness.  I believe that this loneliness that he felt was the sorrow of his Bodhisattva cycle.  The loneliness Basho feels during his journey forces him to return home, hence coming back down.  As we see in Inouye’s Evanescence and Form, “We wish to be something higher.  Yet this is precisely why we must eventually return to the low.” (Inouye, 79)  Basho achieved his transcendental experience while out of the road, connecting with all the beautiful sites.  However, for his experiences and poetry to be legitimized, he has to return back to his normal life.  Only when we return back down to our normal life can we truly know what we have gained.  At the end of The Narrow Road to Oku we see the Basho is going back out for another journey, “…I left on the sixth of the ninth month to witness the renewal of the Great Shrine at Ise.” (Basho/Keene, 175)  By ending the story in the manner Basho leaves us with a concept of the Bodhisattva cycle to ponder.  When one has climbed the mountain and returned to the valley does he stay in the valley, or find another mountain to climb?

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One Response to We go up to come back down

  1. Interesting question at the end. I would imagine being in the valley might have its own kind of “mountains” in which to climb. or maybe once you’ve climbed the mountain, and seen the views, you can enjoy the valley even more, now with a sense of lightness and perspective.

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