2 Tommy To

I was walking back to my dorm today, as it just began to rain.


A raindrop,

On my head.


This week’s lectures and readings detailed the evolution of the concept of utsusemi, into the more intricate and sophisticated concepts of hakanasa and mujō, with Buddhist influences of suffering and impermanence that revolves around the changing and fleeting evanescence of human life and love. The term hakanai would appear frequently in the works of romances and diaries of the Heian period (Inouye, 26). This term would encapsulate the inability to make permanent and significant gains of love and the struggle of love and power within the Heian court. Love was hakanai– changing and fleeting. As said well by Professor Inouye, “what could be more changeable than the matters of the heart?” (Inouye 26). Love, then, became an interesting contradiction within the Heian court. Evanescence and hakanai would teach us that nothing lasts, no human relationship nor emotion, life is fleeting. And yet, the human heart and its want to love and be loved, strives for lifelong love. Earl Miner would describe this relationship between love and hakanai very well, “In the West there rose the identification of love with death…In Japan, love was associated with dream” (qtd. In Inouye, 28). He highlighted the conceptual permanence of love in the West, and of the concept of evanescence that permeated the East with the metaphor between hakanasa and dreams. In my own opinion, I can see how evanescent love is, and how skeptical lifelong love seems. And yet, love can be found in the hands of an old, white haired couple, married for dozens of years. It can be found within the words in the pages of Shakespeare. Love is a real emotion, and can last with the will of the people who feel it strongly. It is this will to love and live, despite the evanescence of life, that in the memoirs of a Heian lady-in-waiting, she detailed her continuing life and her will to continue living, despite her suffering at losing her father and husband, “We continue on despite life’s unpleasantries” (As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams*). And with this notion of the impermanence of love and the longing of the human heart to find love in this evanescent world, we can see the notion of koi. And in koi, we see the relationship between the Buddhist notions of anitya and duhka (Inouye, 31). Koi can exist, and in such, the human heart will more often than not, suffer from desiring the unattainable and impossible. And so, Buddhism would teach us to accept change and what we cannot alter, be aware and accepting of simplicity. Japan understood evanescence in their understandings of utsusemi, and so the teachings of mujo, taught by Buddhism, would ring easy within the Japanese. Indeed, in ancient Japan, human affairs would be illuminated by Buddhism and its teachings would teach about the dangers of attachment (Inouye, 30). From this relationship of mujō and hakanai, we see the ancient Japanese understanding of evanescence evolve to become more sophisticated in its encompassment of suffering, desire, and life. 



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