This Wednesday I was looking outside the classroom window at Dowling Hall during a heavy snowstorm.
Through the glass
Gather on Jumbo’s head
In class this week we explored the concept of Nothingness, and it’s importance in the Japanese’s effort to convey meaning in an evanescence world. A common theme that continually keeps recurring in Japanese culture is the importance of form. Focusing on Zen Buddhism, which developed during the samurai period in Japan, behaviors were properly practiced by the rules of the “kata” (Inouye, 65). Everything is done a certain way in Japan, to not only practice proper etiquette but to illustrate the knowledge and reality of the immediateness of God (kami) and to maintain connections between the divine’s presence everywhere and the self (Lec 4). The importance of doing everything properly to obtain mastery in a specific field seemed pretty logical to me. As a basketball player, I’ve heard countless lectures on the importance of developing muscle memory through practice. The Western phrase “Practice makes Perfect” comes to mind immediately, but the vast difference of the meaning behind this term in America vs. Japan is extremely important to understand. For the Japanese, practice isn’t just to obtain mastery as a personal goal, but is rather a practice of faith (Inouye 65). Achieving mastery is one of the paths towards enlightenment. In Zen Buddhism enlightenment can only be obtained by embracing nothingness. “To be absolutely nothing is to be everything. When one is in possession of something, that something will keep all other somethings from coming in” (Merton 109). An example of this nothingness can be observed in the Noh plays, which arose in popularity in the samurai period, allowing for a catharsis for samurai to escape the reality of their cicada world. The Noh play’s slow moving actors and instruments help to convey nothingness to the audience in the observance of the slight changes in detail emulating the fluidity of kata (Lec 4). The path to enlightenment is very difficult, through not only the acceptance of nothingness but also it’s practice. The breaking out of the cycle of suffering can only be achieved by efforts of perseverance through a world of sorrow (Lec 4). This makes sense to me, but it also makes me understand that even though enlightenment is achievable, the path is far from simple and can only be achieved through dedicated perseverance of the mind and body.