Author Archives: ksoni02

Hanami

I was sitting on the Bendetson Patio during our Hanami celebration and looked into my sake cup to find the reflection of the cherry blossom tree, which disappeared as a gust of hit the liquid in my cup.

Reflections of the sakura

in a warm sake cup

fade away as the wind blows

photo-1

This was probably the most unique class I’ve ever taken at Tufts. As a Physics major, my coursework has focused on mathematical proof and logical reasoning. What we learned about evanescence and form throughout the semester forced me to accept the fact that I can’t necessarily grasp everything in life. I did however learn how to appreciate things in the moment. The weekly exercises we did every week strengthened my appreciation of nature, and the world in general by noticing the beauty in almost euphoric moments of strong emotion. I think the most important thing I learned from this class is about balance. I think more so than grasping and appreciating the material, I began to appreciate that in life there is a difference between aiming to be truly happy or successful, or experiencing extreme sadness or depression, and just being “O.K.” There is a lot to be said about the pluses and minuses we face everyday, but I think from now on I’ll try to keep everything at “0.”

Thanks,

Krishna S.

Posted in Week 1: Shell of the Cicada | Leave a comment

Reaction

Walking on the sidewalk at night after the snow storm, I stepped into what looked like solid concrete, but was actually a large puddle of wet snow.

Solid ground collapsed

into cold, dark, wetness

never to hold weight again

 

Japanese advent of Westernization brought upon a perspective in Japanese culture that strayed from the non-symbolic, to the objective. During the Tokugawa period in Japan, the country was centralized and isolated, while with the advent of the Meji period and westernization, the Japanese people not only were exposed to western beliefs but acquired a more globalized perspective (Lecture 3/6). I was extremely disheartened in learning about this stray from evanescence, as personally I felt the Japanese perspective almost refreshing. Gone were the days of discovering and appreciating small moments of life as in the gardens of Katsura. Artists now tended throwing away the evanescence in their work and simply concentrated on the “big picture.” I feel this theme permeates not only through the Japanese perspective at this moment but also through Western philosophy as a whole.  Inouye mentions of how, “ rather than focus[ing] on bubbles drifting haphazardly upon the river of change, the rhetoric of progress comes to fixate on the current itself”(Inouye, 105).  While the Japanese people understood the “haphazard” mode of life through evanescence, I feel like this grounded perspective seemed as a way to gain control. Here, evanescence became, “either [being] progress or regression (Inouye 95). Upon reading this I asked myself, how could this last? How can you simplify something so insatiable and so incomprehensible as evanescent qualities of life? This reliance on form was contradicted in Nitobe’s description of Bushido, which in itself was characterized  (at face value) as the most symbolic and formalistic aspect of Japanese culture. Nitobe went on to say that, “having no set dogma or formula to defend, [Bushido] can afford to disappear as an entity; like the cherry blossom, it is willing to die at the first gust of the morning breeze” (Nitobe, 153). I feel like this statement clarifies what many misconstrue about this supposed westernization of Japanese culture. While the advent of form and linearization of evanescence became pertinent during this time, something like Bushido, the cherry blossom, or any symbol or entity could still change at any given moment or time. This makes me think that the Westernization of Japanese culture wasn’t actually a straying away from past philosophy, but a way to retain form in an ever changing society as Japan became more globalized (Lecture 3/6). Even then, this “western” idea of retaining form is cyclic, nothing can be held down forever, just as the cherry blossom or the ideology of Bushido. As Inazo puts it, “[form] can well repress the genial current of the soul. It can force pliant natures into distortions and monstrosities”(Inazo 110). We see that we can impose form on something, but if we rely too much upon it, it will cause us to distort the way we look at things and entrap us in fallacy. The Japanese looking to Westernization was reactionary, but at the same time they still realized that if they relied too heavily upon it they would suffer. I feel now, more than ever, that the Japanese attempt to achieve balance, but now adding the dimension on a societal level, rather than just with the individual.

Posted in Week 7: Bushido and the Transcendental Order | Leave a comment

Appreciation

I was walking down the hill from Tisch Library to the campus center late at night when I looked up and saw the glimmer of snowflakes falling in line of a bright light on the roof of the campus center.

Black night–

Snowflakes glimmer

the same under one light

I’ve said before that the concepts we’ve learned has a lot to do with balance, but now I’m starting to think it’s more than that. I feel like Japanese culture seems to pervade a fight to retain this balance. This weeks classes concentrated on Basho’s poetic journey and his experience with the, “unchanging and ever changing” (Inouye, 75). This statement alone exemplifies the core ideas we have been learning over the past two weeks, evanescence and form. Basho was one of the most famous poets in Japanese history. He traveled all over Japan observing nature and studying himself in order to attain enlightenment. Because Basho expressed himself through poetry, his moments of inspiration were purely lyrical. I think a lot of this has to do with the idea of living in the “here and now.”  In class we looked at a pile of sand that was molded into a very specific shape and kept that way. Professor Inouye asked us “if you were to rake this everyday, would you have chosen this shape?” (Lecture 2/25). This struck me, mainly because I felt that this very much illustrated what we were emphasizing before and what Basho was aiming to describe. You can mold the sand every day however much you like to whatever shapes you so desire, but it will eventually change. The wind might blow it away, the sand may fall out of place, or something may come and hit it, but you still can mold it back into place at the end of the day if you choose to do so. I feel like this may be what the Japanese may have been getting at in terms of evanescence and form, as you can’t help the changes that come with life, but for a moment you construct something (physical or spiritual), and appreciate its aesthetic beauty. Even Basho, who was portrayed as completely lyrical and fleeting, still had some aspects of formalism to his work. His work, Narrow Road to the Deep North took excerpts of his travel diary that he kept with him throughout his journey. Yet, the book published and the diary, or haibun, he kept (the “truest” record of his experiences) were two different things. As Inouye pointed out, “much artifice went into his work that seems to flow naturally as a series of lyrical encounters (Inouye, 74). Even here, Basho takes his fleeting expression, emotion, and “molds” them into something else. While it isn’t the “truest” expression of Japanese nature, it illustrates his attempt at attaining formalism in his experience with the ever-changing Japanese landscape. His experiences culminated in epic highs and lows, was eventually cyclic, as displayed in Basho’s poem, Under the same roof/ We all slept together,/ Concubines and I-/ Bush-lovers and the moon (Basho, 132). While he experienced temporary happiness, at the end of the day he was still at a most primitive state, a “Bush-lover.” Even at the end of his journey he aims to start a new one, “I left on the sixth of the ninth month to witness the renewal of the Great Shrine of Ise” (Basho 172).  Even as his journey ends, a new one begins displaying his experience with the Bodhisattva cycle, reaching enlightenment and coming back to the world as he was.  This concept alone, further displays the idea that while someone can change their surroundings in the moment, they cannot control life as a whole. You can let the fleeting change consume you, or you can retain some of your form and rebuild it, appreciating life as it were for that moment. Now I’m starting to think these ideas don’t describe a fight, but a simple appreciation and culmination of life at that given moment.

Posted in Week 6: The Order of Here and Now | Leave a comment

Perspective

As I walked down Professors Row feeling distraught after a fight with my friends, I noticed  rain droplets dripping off the trees’ leaves along the snow covered sidewalk.

Wet leaves–

once frozen in snow

now dripping endlessly

I’m not sure what to think about Hedonism, but I feel it’s a matter of perspective. I’ve always been taught since I was young that there is more to life than “simple pleasures.” However, studying about the evanescence of life, or mujo, I have grown accustomed to why Japanese people may embrace this idea, feeling “a sense of urgency to the pursuit of pleasure” (Inouye 70). In the context of Hedonism, I feel like this “pleasure” can be construed as lyrical. When someone gets drunk, falls in love, becomes entranced by lust, etc. he/she seems to become completely entrapped by emotion.  Even then as Saikaku points out, “the blossoms of the heart are sacred/ by evening the tree itself has been turned to firewood. Who can escape?”(Saikaku, 154).  Pleasure and strong emotion is temporary, but I feel even though that Saikaku points out that this pleasure could lead to our own destruction, there is still something can be learned from it. Pursuing a life full of pleasure seems to be destructive and only ends in sadness, as all things are evanescent and all ends in sadness, or mono no aware. But as we talked about in class, sadness can be beautiful (Lecture 2/20). This beautiful sadness has become an intrinsic part of the Japanese culture. Takahito highlights that the “dual structure of inner and outer dimension” is responsible for the actions we take (Takahito, 13).  Takahito’s words hit me hard. The idea of morals seems to not matter in this context. People do not make actions based on moral values, but by their environment. Thinking back however, this makes sense in terms of the Japanese idea of evanescence. As the environment changes, so does life, and because of this we are all eternally (at some point or the other) sad. But we can learn from sadness, as Inouye highlights, that resigning oneself to the sadness of reality has its own rewards (Inouye, 85). Reading this made me wonder if it was to become enlightened and engage in a hedonistic lifestyle by learning through the beauty of sadness.

Posted in Week 1: Shell of the Cicada, Week 5: Hedonism, Mono no Aware, Monstrosity | Leave a comment

Empty

I was sitting in my room late at night after watching a YouTube clip of the meteor passing over a city in Russia when I looked outside my window to see the night sky.

A city sleeps—

Stars pass over

never to encounter

The idea of nothingness both struck me as calming and confusing. I think a lot of has to do with the disregard of boundaries that we build for ourselves as a society. Professor Inouye drew the example in class that for many of us we only associate with people that make us feel comfortable and complacent (Lecture 2/11). I feel the reason for this is the over exertion of form in our lives, creating delusions and prejudices that prevent us from being permeable and open to opportunities and experiences in life. The idea of nothingness or mu is a large constituent of Zen Buddhism, but you can’t simply embrace nothingness. As Merton aptly puts it, “doctrine was not a doctrine but a way of being in the world”(Merton, 110).  At face value, this is extremely hard for me to understand. Where do you draw the line between knowing and being? I think a lot of has to do with completely relinquishing all that you have been accustomed to and strived to be, which for me is seems to be extremely difficult. I think the idea of the Zen garden that the Professor discussed in class was very interesting. We talked that a Zen garden is both the capability of being a sign and a symbol, because it is interactive (Lecture 2/11).  I feel as if the garden then is a living embodiment of the ever-changing boundary of evanescence and form. Something like the garden is so concrete yet can be regarded as spiritual. The idea that this epitomizes Zen tells me that a lot of what the philosophy has to do with is extinguishing that boundary. I think this also has a lot to do with the customs and culture of the Japanese, as Inouye aptly says that the Japanese, “confirm their status by affirming the visual field properly and appropriately”(Inouye, 57).  This makes me think that nothingness isn’t about absolute nothing, but just relinquishing of all connections and boundaries. We discussed in class that something everyone has in common is nothing (Lecture 2/13). With this being said, if someone relinquishes their boundaries, prejudices and delusions, there is nothing left, and I feel that is what Professor Inouye may have been talking about.

-Krishna Soni

Posted in Week 4: Nothingness | 1 Comment

Balance

I went outside after the snow fell in the morning to find a dead bird on my porch and then looked up to see the sun rising over my neighborhood.

A fallen bird—

Snow-covered feathers glimmer

as the sun rises

This week’s lecture focused on the idea of success. I feel however, a lot of this has to do with the idea of balance and letting go. We traced back to themes of evanescence and impermanence in our successes and failures. Professor Inouye said distinctly that the idea of success and failure is impermanent, saying that “[we] may be doing well today, but failure will strike tomorrow” (Lecture 2/6). This hit home for me as I have lived my life striving for success, and the idea that I will always be faced with failure was incredibly discerning for me. Given the ideas of impermanence and evanescence that we have expressed so far, I feel as this idea makes sense under the context of Japanese culture. We cannot control the outcome of events in our life, so the idea of success and failure is impermanent. In our reading, The Tale of Heike, the author opens his narrative by equating temporary success to a “dream,” saying that the “prosperous must decline” and, “the proud do not endure” (Heike 1). This message correlates strongly with our burning house example we did in class. Professor Inouye talked, and rapped about how people may become disillusioned by their present success. If they don’t realize their complacency, they may never escape it. Inouye goes on to say in his text that, “[i]n this floating world of illusion and misguided attachments, our moments of victory and accomplishment are like a dream. We ourselves are like dust in the wind” (Inouye 47). Becoming attached to our successes and our failures only brings us suffering, and that by understanding that each of these occurrences is transient we can attain spiritual peace. I think the best summation of this is what Professor Inouye said at the end of class that, “we should not strive to be at +1 or -1, but at zero” (Lecture 2/6). This kind of thinking is completely foreign to me. I’ve always tried to be at a “+1” but maybe if I started to look at life this, I wouldn’t experience so many “-1s” all the time.

-Krishna Soni

Posted in Week 3: Failure, Success, and Leaving the World | 1 Comment

Letting Go

I was sitting on the subway when I overheard a conversation of a between a woman and her friend.  One of the women was talking about how she had to leave her children due to drug addiction when I noticed the color of her eyes.

Tears trickling down wrinkled cheeks

Emerald eyes–

Holding onto a mother’s love

I was ill last week so I will do my best to write about what I have learned and observed. The week seemed to focus on the principle values of Buddhism: Anitya (impermanence) , Dukha (suffering), and Anatman (no-self) . While I’ve heard these concepts before, these concepts seem foreign to me. I think it may be a construct of Western philosophy, which to me was always dissatisfying because you would never end up with an answer, just another argument. A lot of people seemed to think that this concepts of Anitya and Anatman were incredibly depressing, but I felt like it was pretty satisfying. The book “As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams” seems to emphasize the idea Buddhism through dreaming. The main characters finds solace in her dreams, but at the same time that comfort seems to also imprison her in a false sense of security. Inouye says that, “it becomes difficult to choose between a dreamlike reality and a dream” (Inouye, 29). This reminds me a lot of what Professor Inouye talked to us about when he rapped and made us all sing. I think it may have been more impressive if he didn’t read off the board. Anyway, these concepts follow very closely to what we talked about the very first week,. I’m starting to think more that Japanese culture and Buddhism seems to be more about and “being” rather than “existing.” I don’t know if that makes sense, but I hope it does soon.

 

-Krishna Soni

Posted in Week 2: From Hakanasa to Mujo | Leave a comment

Of Evanescence and Form

I was walking down Professors Row near the Presidential Lawn in the morning when I noticed a plastic bag blowing in the wind and then get caught in a tree.

 

A plastic bag–

Changing shape in the wind

Now snagged in one direction

The two topics that we are going to learn this semester are “evanescence and form” (Inoyue, 1). I thought these were easy to understand at first, but they become more difficult to understand as I think more about them. Everything is always changing, but has some order when it does. Where do you draw the line for “kata” or shape in evanescence (Inoyue 7)? If everything changes, and nothing stays the same, how do you define what is different and what is not? I think the best way to go about understanding this is to not overanalyze and to take things as they are. I think a good example of this is how real objects, like trees, can have divine attributes, or kami (Kitagawa, 44). This type of thinking is very different for me. I think the basic idea is that there doesn’t have to be a meaning behind everything, but things just “are.” I feel like things will be clearer later. For some reason, trying to think this way calms me down. Maybe that has to do with understanding what we are learning too.

- Krishna Soni

Posted in Week 1: Shell of the Cicada | 1 Comment