Thursday, July 8, 2010

Essays in Idleness

I came to know this master piece of Japanese essays written by a monk named Yoshida Kenkō through the book The Lost Wolves of Japan. Walker, the author of The Lost Wolves, used one of the essays in the introduction part of the book. The whole collection of the essays is called "Essays in Idleness" or Tsurezuregusa (徒然草) in Japanese. It was published during 1330-1332 and is widely considered a gem of medieval Japanese literature. Most of the essays focus on Buddhist truths including death and impermanence, and nature. Here's the one which Walker chose as an introduction to his book.

"If we carefully observe the countless varieties of birds and beasts, even tiny insects, we shall discover that they love their children, long to be near their parents, thus husband and wife remain together, that they are jealous, angry, greedy, self-seeking, and fearful for their own lives to an even worse degree than men because they lack intelligence. How can we not feel pity when pain is inflicted on them or people take their lives?
A man who can look on sentient creatures without feeling compassion is no human being."


Another interesting example of Buddhism philosophy which Walker presents to the readers through his book is one of the Japanese theologian Ryōgen's writings on the Buddha-nature inherent in plants and trees. His observation was translated into English like this...

"The sprouting forth of a plant is really the mode by which it bursts forth its desire for enlightenment; its residing in one place is really undertaking of disciplines and austerities; its reproduction of itself is its attainment of (the fruit of) enlightenment; and its withering and dying is its entry into the state of nirvana."

6 comments:

Chris said...

This is a master piece, no doubt of that. These are beautiful words and you use wonderful pictures to illustrate these words. Beautiful!

Ari said...

Beautiful pictures befitting beautiful words, well done Ayuwat!

Stu said...

The title of this post could describe my entire 41 years on this planet.

Phil said...

Some deep thoughts there Ayuwat and I like your photos today.

Ryou said...

Such wise philosophical words complemented beautifully by your pictures! Thanks for sharing such beauty.

John said...

Interesting philosopher... I confess, new to me.