4 Zhang, Jiabin

I walked in the snow to Dewick for lunch, noticing the trees besides Asian American Center.
Falling on the tree
White on the green


To quote D.T.Suzuki, nothingness or emptiness is a state of “seeing into the nonexistence of a thingish ego-substance” (Merton, 109). Here, nothingness means being completely receptive to surroundings, and therefore “to be absolutely nothing is to be everything” (Merton, 109). How can one reach such state? According to Zen Buddhism, the answer, somewhat counter intuitively and paradoxically, lies in form or kata. The importance of form is a result of a mix of conventional Buddhism and Japanese indigenous animism. Buddhism in Japan is unique in that form is prioritized instead of script. For instance, the Pure Land school teaches believers to chant nenbutsu repeatedly while Zen school focuses on the right way to do certain things. Form is so vital because it establishes an order of here-and-now, which accords with the traditional Japanese animistic and nonsymbolic understanding of world. Form gives meaning to life because it is unchanging in this fleeting world. Form also defines reality. Different forms would lead to different realities, which is why in Japan form is equally important as essence. Given the indispensability of form, it is no wonder that in order to become a master, one needs to start from the basic form and repeat it until it flows. The Noh theater is an epitome of such form-nothingness process. The Noh theater is extremely formal. However, when the actor excels at those forms, he would “hold his audience spellbound during those moments when he himself is completely motionless” and “the single intance becomes an expansive and inclusive mystery, a moment of yugen”(Inouye, 68). That is when nothingness is achieved. Everything including emotions and thoughts flow from the rigidity of form. Now, I think this very exercise is a practice of form. Through the repetition of such rigid practice, hopefully, we would achieve some degree of nothingness in the end.



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2 Responses to 4 Zhang, Jiabin

  1. Profile photo of Karen  Chan Karen Chan says:

    I think the Noh theater and this practice of a weekly response are two excellent examples of using form to reach mu. They both require strict form and following of instructions. Once these forms have been perfected and can be done without much thought, then perhaps that is when we achieve nothingness.

  2. Profile photo of Hoang  Le Hoang Le says:

    I really like the color elements in your poem that suggests a juxtaposition of the changing seasons. It works extremely well to indicate that although winter is a unique season itself, it will not stay permanently forever as spring will come, evanescence will take place.
    The connection you’ve made between achieving nothingness through belief in importance of form is very clear and reasonable. Nothingness in a sense can also relate to form’s contrasting idea that is evanescence. By having mu, we are “empty” to new information, influences. We are ready to embrace change and accept that permanency doesn’t exist. Nothingness leads us to break free from deluded attachment to a fake consistency in an ever-changing world.

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