3 Chen Zachary
Watching the New Year Lantern Festival on the roof of Tisch
A dark sky
The fires float away
Shukke, translated literally as “leaving home”, is a Buddhist process of abandoning the world. The reason for doing so is tied to ukiyo, both “the disagreeable world” and “the floating world” (Inouye 2/3/14). The world is “impermanent, unmoored, and without substance” (Inouye 40) and to seek security and permanence in such a world can be called foolish and delusional. During the lecture, Professor Inouye mentioned the Burning House we all live in. To get someone to leave the burning house, they have to be coaxed by hoben, “convenience” or “expedient means” (Inouye 39). It seems to me that means that shukke is not only an abandonment and resignation of the world but also a convenient, expedient choice for the ones who choose to do so. And indeed, in Hojoki – Visions of a Torn World, Chomei ponders how one can “bring even short lived peace to our hearts” (Chomei 58). After all, it is in that time of disaster and famine, where people sold off possessions worth nothing, where temples were defaced for mere firewood, that it seemed that the floating world truly manifested itself. What was the point of building a fancy mansion if a fire, a hurricane, or a powerful earthquake would destroy it at once. Chomei choose shukke after, in the middle of civil strife, and left for a life of solitude. His resignation from the world liberated him. Chomei wrote, “I play just for myself and sing to give sustenance to my own heart” (Chomei 66). He had no need to worry about others, his leaving the world freed him from conflict and worry. Abandoning the world was became more important due to the rise of the samurai class, who fought and vied for control of the emperor. The resulting upheaval “added a sense of urgency to the practice of shukke, which remained formalized as a way to try to avoid implication and (sometimes) slaughter” (Inouye 41). From that perspective, shukke is a hoben for leaving the burning house. But “in the end, we return to the burning house to warn our friends who are still unaware of the smoke and fire” (Inouye).