I was walking to Braker Hall on Wednesday afternoon when I looked up to see one layer of clouds that was stationary and one underneath it which was moving across the sky quickly.
Two layers of clouds –
The other moving.
This week, I learned that the ideologies of Japanese Buddhism are a lot like the Japanese people themselves, diverse and conceived from many different backgrounds (Lecture, 1/30). Though Buddhism began in India, then spread to China, Korea and finally Japan, I understand the transition from hakanasa to mujo, both pointing to the fact that nothing is constant (Lecture, 1/30). I learned that “love was associated with dream…[and] the Buddhist implication is clear (Inouye, 28). This idea was a major theme in As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, written by an unknown woman of high status during the Heian period of Japan. He poems touched me, for instance: “The hazy springtime noon- / That is the one I love / When light green sky and fragrant blossoms / Are all alike enwrapped in mist” (As I Crossed, 84). That poem is a great example of how she captured the beauty of love, spring, and dream; her simple image of the hazy springtime noon made me see the haziness when there is mist in the air, making everything dreamlike. I look forward to learning more about the differences between Buddhism and Animism, as Buddhism is more symbolic and Animism is non-symbolic.
Walking along the Capen St. parking lot when it was snowing; saw footsteps etched in the snow that went in almost every direction.
Snow falling –
On the blanketed path,
Footsteps of unnamed travelers.
This week’s lectures talked a great deal about some Buddhist notions, like the lack of a ‘self’, as well as the world of dreams, two topics which really interest me. I feel as if the character in “As I crossed a Bridge of Dreams” is having experiences that show the reader she is not limited to her “self”, or “body”. By dreaming that she at a shrine, she experiences the pilgrimage she longs to make; her mother decries this idea as being “ terrifying…very dangerous” (As I crossed a bridge of Dreams, 69). I particularly enjoy the “difficult[y] to choose between a dreamlike reality and a dream” (Inouye, 29). This idea that reality may be a dream, or that a dream is another reality, is very provocative, and evokes a sense of adventure. Its as if there are parallel/other realities to explore apart from the one we take for granted. Further, the idea of “we want that which does not exist” (Inouye, 32) as being the source of suffering, is extremely relevant to those who perceive “success” as obtaining financial assets, as having a fake sense of permanence. Taking for granted what we do have “reject what we do know” (Inouye, 32) to run after what we think we need “purse what we do not (and cannot) [have]” (Inouye, 32) is a chief cause of modern ills, like the damage we are inflicting on our surroundings. Regardless of Buddhist messages, it seems Buddhism’s most profound impact on Japan was tying it to the culturally to the continent, with monks serving as “carriers of superior Chinese culture” (Tsunoda, Theodore de Bary, Keene, 92).
Carlos Eduardo Hespanha Madeira
Looking outside of my warm room’s window, I looked at a bare tree that was gaining snow, yet seemed unaffected by the cold outside.
Tree dusted with snow,
Bare and beaten by the wind.
Why don’t you shiver?
From hakanasa to mujō appropriately sums the lessons learned this pass week. The title represents the shift in the meaning of evanescence caused by Buddhism. The three main concepts of Buddhist evanescence are anitya (impermanence), duhka (suffering), and anatman (no-self). While concepts seem to put a damper on viewing life, it is interesting how it takes away the specialness humans gave themselves. These ideas teach that people are a part of the world that is changing around them. In Japan love is associated with dreaming rather than death (Lecture 2/15). This is different from Western culture in which plays like Romeo and Juliet tie love to death. People in Western culture like to believe love is permanent and this brings suffering, which is caused by not understanding changes from day to day (no-self). This makes reference to dreams prevalent in japanese poetics because they are suggestive, brief, and lyrical. Everyone in Japan poetry because it’s an expression of feelings from a person’s heart. Two sentences from this weeks readings struck me profoundly, “We do not live. Rather, we are made to live.” (Inouye 35). Memories of climbing mountains, watching sunsets, walking through cities, and poems I made rushed to my mind. What has made my life have been the responses my environment have invoked in me. This week ends, but I look forward to what the next week’s lessons will open my mind to.
I was walking one day to Hill Hall, my freshmen year dorm, to collect a package from mail services, when I saw the clear blue sky and clouds scattered on it that remind me of the beautiful view which I used to enjoy from my dorm room and take photos of, and which has never visited upon me since I became a sophomore.
Clouds resting in sky,
Cell phone in pocket -
No picture is taken.
This week our discussion on evanescence and form continues, and we have seen that, as we come to Nara and Heian periods, building upon the animistic understanding of impermanence, Buddhism now enters the psyches of the Japanese on its way to formalizing the notion into mujō. It is rather interesting to ponder on this historical interaction in Japan of these two beliefs that are simultaneously harmonic and inharmonic. As Professor Inouye points out, the “broader” cicada-shell view of the world now transforms into hakanasa, or “the unreliability of Heian-period human relations,” before being further coded into the Buddhist view of “all things are impermanent” (Inouye 30-31.) In a sense, this Buddhist tradition resonates well with the native Japanese “awareness of change” that “preceded Buddhism”, so it is not surprising that Buddhism is much welcomed as it was introduced to the Japanese (Inouye 31.) In fact, Buddhism symbolized mujō as the representation of impermanence, and as we have discussed in lecture, the Japanese practiced Buddhism through markedly graphical means (Inouye 36; Lecture.) As we can see, this interestingly comes at odds with the “nonsymbolic understanding of symbols” that is characteristic of the native animism, which is the very source for the native understanding of impermanence (Inouye 31.) This week we also continued to discuss the significance of impermanence to oneself; unlike the animistic view of all things as awesome, Buddhist teachings encourage people to see through the impermanence of this world and find peace of mind through resignation from its false promises; in other words, “a focus on emptiness teaches us the dangers of a false sense of permanence” (Inouye 39.) This view makes sense to me; yet personally I find it hard to perceive this apparently inconsistent understanding of the world by the Japanese as both awesome and illusive, although both ideas derive from the same notion of “impermanence.” It will surely be very interesting next week to learn how the Japanese balances this world view to live their lives, and how form also comes into play.
- Zesheng Xiong (George)
Walking down Professor’s Row on Wednesday night.
with the drizzling rain
A warm winter night.
The framing of Buddhism into Japan as a belief system that is both complementary to and foreign to the indigenous culture brings up an interesting set of questions; while I have studied the pre-modern history of Japan before in the past and am familiar with the introduction of Buddhism into Japan through Korea in the 6th century, I hadn’t really considered Buddhism conceptually foreign to Japanese culture. (Tsunoda 91) In what ways does Buddhism mesh with and contradict native Shinto belief? Buddhist temples are everywhere in Japan – it seems so much a part of the landscape and culture of Japan now, with certain key festivals tied to Buddhist customs (Obon), that it’s difficult for me to see Buddhism as something that’s not intrinsic to Japan. Some of the most prominent historical landmarks are Buddhist temples that are several centuries old, if not more than a thousand years old. Which is why it was surprising for me to hear that much of Buddhist theology and doctrine never really stuck with most of the Japanese populace (Inouye Lecture 4/16). I’m still trying to understand how one can lack an understanding of Buddhist theology and belief yet “go through the motions” year after year. But again, we all do a lot of things that we don’t really understand. Never really thought about why I take my shoes off at the door. I maintain that outdoor shoes are actually dirty and that it’s difficult to relax at home with your shoes on, though.
by Shawn Power
This past weekend I was in the locker room in between periods with my hockey team when I looked around at my teammates.
One period to play
This past week we began to talk about Buddhism in Japanese culture. The main Buddhist notion that we spoke about were anita, duhkha, and anatman (lecture). The concept of anita was easy to understand because we had already talked quite a bit about how the Japanese believe that life is always changing. The concepts of duhkha and anatman, however, were somewhat more difficult to understand. The line in “Evanescence and Form” that clarified it for me was, “We suffer because we desire the impossible and unobtainable” (page 31). I guess I understand it now as life is suffering because we are always trying to obtain more and are unable to be sated. The notion of anatman was somewhat confusing for me as well. I began to understand it when I looked at it in relation to anita. Thinking of how the world is always changing, which means we are always changing, makes the concept of there being no “self” easier to understand. This past week we also read “As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams”. The thing that stuck out the most for me was how the story was told in a very similar style to how we write our blog poetry. The story essentially set up the details, in depth, of the poem that followed. It was also interesting how they sent poems back and forth to each other as a way to communicate.
By Julia Russell
I woke up Sunday morning to a thin layer of snow outside, but with new flakes melting quickly on the street.
Snow floats past the window;
A gust drives it faster
toward the ground.
This week in class we focused on the Japanese reception of Buddhism and its principles. Due to traditional nonsymbolism in Animism, when Buddhism arrived, “expressions of religious fervor generally assumed a tangible form” (Tsunoda, de Bary, Keene p. 94). The concept of hakanasa allowed the Japanese to accept mujō, the Buddhist term for evanescence. Three basic tenets of Buddhism are anitya, duhka, and anatman. Duhka, meaning suffering, stems from our attachment to unreliable things. Anitya is another term for impermanence. Supposedly, “pondering anitya heals duhka” (Inouye, 31). I can accept that the things I’m actively pursuing—a Tufts degree, a job, a family, possibly some money—are all transient and I have no control. But does that mean that I should just give up on them? I think I can still pursue my goals as long as I’m generally aware of how little they actually mean. This seems to be the norm; clearly, not every Buddhist has renounced the world and retreated to nature. The last belief, anatman, is accepting oneself as a “part of this world” (Inouye 32) and realizing that we are different every day, if a ‘self’ really even exists at all. We saw these notions played out in Lady Sarashina’s book As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams. Through carefully extracted excerpts of nature and religion, Lady Sarashina shows us how she considers change (Lecture 1/28). She writes of nature and her sadness when the world changes, focusing little on materialism or people. Also included in her writing was the concept of koi, of longing, an “evanescent presence that is absence” (Inouye, 27). We can see this in the short exchange with her father, “Forest of Child-Yearning/How sad it is to see you here” (Sarashina, p. 68). Koi is seen as beautiful because of how much you want to share an experience with another person. While I can objectively think of sadness as beauty (since I’ve now been told that it is), it’s much harder to step back when you’re in some moment of sadness and think about how lovely it is. I think this is related to anatman. You realize that you’re only part of a great big universe, and that the universe is always changing, and it will never stop changing, and you have to be all right with that. Only then can you gain some sort of inner tranquility.