It was 5:30 p.m. when I sat in Haskell’s common room and saw the reflection of myself on the window covered with cars outside on Packard Avenue.
Look into a window.
The darker the outside,
the clearer I see myself.
In this week’s class, we spent a lot of time talking about the burning house. Why do people build house for themselves? I believe the original usage of house is functioning as a shelter, a place for people to stay, like a cave. But today, a house means much more than that. House is our property, is the representative of oneself, is a proof of one’s existence. It’s just really hard to imagine a person who does not have a home address. House can be permanent but people cannot (Lecture 3). Maybe we are just building the houses to make ourselves more “permanent”. In another word, we are all aiming at something “impossible”. We all have desire and ambition, which trapping us on things around us, keeping us focusing on the “self”. We want success, but we forget that nothing’s permanent. What goes up, must come down (Lecture 3). So we fall. Like Taira no Kiyomori, the higher we climbed at first, the harder we’d drop ourselves on the ground later. Having a common heart is the best thing we can do about that. For those people who cannot control themselves from “climbing up”, Shukke (Lecture 3) is the best choice for them to realize “Anatman” in Buddhism. Like Kamo-no-Chomei said in Hojoki: “I built a simple living space, but had no means to build what most would think a proper house.” (P59) “Being a zero”, we should see the house as one of the many in the floating world.
I was walking back to Haskell Hall towards the back door last Wednesday when I saw green grass instead of the white snow I was used to.
Sunlight on the lawn,
from the bottom of my feet,
to my chilling heart.
In this week’s lecture, we first talked about the role of Buddhism in Japanese history. Buddhism passes the spirit on both “text” form and the visual form, each can use sutras and statuaries as examples. But in Japan, people understand Buddhism more from visual. Besides the true faith that people seek in it, a religion that can be prevail in a certain area must meet the demands of the people, physically and mentally. So did Buddhism. The first fundamental notion of Buddhist is “Anitya” – all things are changing, nothing is permanent(Lecture 2). This reminds of the early Japanese geographic conditions that mentioned in Professor Inouye’s book: earthquake and tsunami happened randomly, volcanoes could bury a whole city in few seconds. The nature, the habitats, and the world of Japanese people are always changing. The second notion is “Duhkha” – life is suffering(Lecture 2). I remember in “Journey to the West” (Saiyuki) the monk from Tang Dynasty had to suffer 81 times to obtain the real sutras from India. No one can live a life without single suffering. When we compare this to our real lives, we start to understand it and accept it and stop complaining about lives. The third notion of Buddhist is “Anatman” – there is no such a thing as the self(Lecture 2). This is the highest level in Buddhism is you can really achieve it. No self means no subjective feelings or personal emotions. Without human’s desire and lust, real Buddhist asks for nothing and doesn’t feel sad for anything: you know you are suffering, but you can avoid the pain. However, as I human being, I appreciate the different emotions we have. Both tears and laughs are proofs of me living a real life. Well, Buddhism did play an important role in ancient Japan, its still deeply inside Japanese people’s daily lives. However, Japan nowadays has a unique culture of its own, many special “forms”, not liking anywhere else at all. In the lecture, Professor Inouye said that the Japanese culture is somehow a religion but Japanese people never feel so because the religion is just too deep in people’s hearts that no one notice its existence. But in my opinion, I consider it more likely as tradition than as religion. They are precious habits protected and passed on by one and one generation of Japanese people. They only belong to Japanese people and only fit Japanese people. It’s no like Buddhism has stone figures and temples all over the world. Only Japanese people wear kimono and only Japanese people keep their secret with shimenawa. On Wednesday’s class, we also talked about the reading material: As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams. Some classmates argued that Lady Sarashina was a lazy dreamer who live a passive life. I’d agree with it if Lady Sarashina lives in the same era with us. And the fact is that she’s from Heian Period, thousand years ago when feudalism was still a cage for everyone, especially females. She couldn’t do whatever she could. People says that dream shows people’s desire. She wanted some lives she could never have, so she dreamed about them. Connecting to the Buddhist notions we talked before, life is always changing and suffering. We all try to figure out what’s gonna happen to us, so we dream. When I was a little kids, every night before I fell sleep, I thought about what should I do if there was suddenly a fire, a robbery, or a stealing in my house: where should I hide or escape; what are the necessary things I need to bring with me; how should I notice my parents about the dangers; and how should I ask for help. It was all about “I don’t wanna die”. Now it looks hilarious to me, but I know I was serious. This is how I understand Lady Sarashina, we know that life’s always changing, and we know that we are both out of control of our life and death.
Name: Ge Cui
Class:[JPN061] Intro Japanese Culture
Professor: Charles Inouye
Week 1: The secret of Winter
I was walking to Cohen Auditorium at 9 in the January morning when my breath steamed in the air and soon vanished.
Words, laughs, and sighs.
Where did they go?
All in the cloud.
“In spring the cherry blossoms” (Lecture 1) was the first “fact” I got to learn about Japanese culture from the class. I still remember in my high school senior year when my family decided to travel in Japan, all we worried was when the cherry blossoms would be open. We checked Japan weather report and read online analysis everyday. It was all because the flower only opens a week long per year. And when we finally arrived and watched them falling gradually from the branches like a pink rain, my world just slowed down all in a sudden. I actually love it when Professor Inouye told us that the whole semester we would be talking about “evanescence and form”. It is really interesting how the whole content of a culture can be generalized within two basic phenomena. “Evanescent – brief, fleeting, ever-changing, unpredictable, and fragile”(Inouye 1) as the cherry blossoms, “dying at the hight of their beauty”(Inouye 2). There is no permanence and everything is changing. But they either change in a certain way or remain something unchanging while changing. It looks familiar to me by reminding me of human’s heredity and variation. If we realize how many different individuals are in this world, we understand how genes never stop changing. But all the genes are listing in a certain order in the DNAs, and forming proteins in a certain way. That’s why most of us have one dead, two eyes, one mouth, and four extremities. Chinese media have always been talking about how Japanese people build the “sense of crisis” into each generation. Now I understand it as the “earthquakes, volcanoes, seasons, utsusemi, and cherry blossoms” taught Japanese people that anything can happen to anyone at anytime-nothing lasts forever. We can’t control them, so we should cherish them. And the “form” works as the paths we walk on in the chaos so we won’t get lost. Evanescence and form sound like two opposite words, but without either both of them might just lose the meaning.