Japan. A Civilisation and a Religion. Japanese Syncretism (‘cultural blending of distinct religions’.). BUDDHISM. SHINTO : ‘Way of the Gods'. SHINTO. Japanese Syncretism, con’t. BUDDHISM. Shuichi Kato on Japan & Literature. No story to history; no plan; no plot of events.
Japan A Civilisation and a Religion
Japanese Syncretism (‘cultural blending of distinct religions’.) BUDDHISM SHINTO: ‘Way of the Gods'
SHINTO Japanese Syncretism, con’t. BUDDHISM
Shuichi Kato on Japan & Literature • No story to history; no plan; no plot of events. • “undeniable tendency of Japanese culture is to avoid logic, the abstract, & systemization, in favour of emotion, the concrete, the unprogrammatic.” • Events are accumulative by addition • Japan assimilates by a simple addition of an external concept or item and then recontextualising it • In the West, there is an accommodation required: a reconfiguration of the addition or of the entire system around it. • No transcendental values: which means that when adding new not necessary to discard the old. No cultural crisis. • ‘Born Shinto, Married Christian; Buried Buddhist”
Civilisations: (one conception of) • Latin American • Orthodox • Baltics, Greece, Eastern Europe, Russia • Eastern • Muslim • Japan • Sub-Saharan African • Western • Anglosphere + western Europe • A civilisation is a shared set of values, culture, art, architecture, history and ways of life; and most of all, fundamental and (usually) unconscious assumptions about the way that the world works and is.
Cultural Exclusivity Thesis Give every civilisation the benefit of its own assumptions Civilisation chauvinism to assume one’s own civilisation has the universal understanding Approach other civilisations and cultures from the assumption that their fundamental values and understanding of the world is different from your own. Universality (multiculturalism) may be a Euro-centric ideology?
Western Civilisation Values All civilisations and cultures are fully explainable from Western premises and methods. Western science is the universally-valid method of study. All civilisations and cultures perceive the world—configure phenomena—identically and in away that Western science can explain
Japanese Civilisation Assumptions • Intensely subjective • Context creates meaning • “demons chuckle when they hear us talk about next year.” • Passivity a virtue when connected with reflection • Æsthetics are more important than Logical consistency . • Death is æstheticised in seppuku • Only slight exaggeration to say that Japan is an æsthetic. Japanese relations to each other—formalities, hierarchies, rituals—and to nature are æsthetic,
Japanese cultural assumptions: examples. • Western concept of symbolism: one thing signifies another type of thing. Platonic Forms; Judæo-Christian type-archetype; Freudian conscious-subconscious • Japan: this thing is associated with that experience or aspect. Non symbolic. • A lonely old tree is associated with—invokes—thoughts of age and loneliness. The meaning is in the person, not the object: an æsthetic approach to the world.
Japanese cultural assumptions: examples con’t. • Western Art—the fuller the mind of the perceiver the better the Art is appreciated • Literary Modernism: James Joyce Finnigans Wake • Renaissance Art: Giorgione The Tempest • Japan: the less the mind is active, the better.
The Presence of Absence Hokusai: 神奈川沖浪裏 (Under a Wave Off Kanagawa)
Shuichi Kato on Japan & Religion • No story to history; no plan; no plot of events. • “undeniable tendency of Japanese culture is to avoid logic, the abstract, & systemization, in favour of emotion, the concrete, the unprogrammatic.” • Events are accumulative by addition • Japan assimilates by a simple addition of an external concept or item and then recontextualising it • In the West, there is an accommodation required: a reconfiguration of the addition or of the entire system around it. • No transcendental values: which means that when adding new not necessary to discard the old. No cultural crisis. • ‘Born Shinto, Married Christian; Buried Buddhist”
Mujokan: A sense of transience the impermanent quality of life, nature, and human artifacts. Buddhism: 4 Noble Truths 8-Fold Path Japanese Religious Æsthetic: Mujokan
Japanese Religious Æsthetic: Mujokan • Mujokan: A sense of transience • the impermanent quality of life, nature, and human artifacts. • First of Buddhist 4 Noble Truths: Dukkha • love of ambiguity and the abhorrence of clarity in literature and everyday language • tendency in design and architecture toward the asymmetrical and seasonal rather than the symmetrical and permanent: • click for current example: ‘yaeba’. • asymmetry is open to movement of observer’s eye or mind & therefore suggests transience.
Japan: mushin—’no-mind’ • Mushin is an intellectual, æsthetic & martial concept: • remove the conscious mind from getting in the way of understanding, appreciation and response. • Zen 禅那 : from zenna = a practice of meditation • Zen koan emphasise meditation on nothing (‘mu’) • Japanese martial arts work toward mushin as highest warrior state
mono no aware • Mono no aware: “awareness of the pathos of things” • Mono: things; aware: sadness. • Lady Shikibu, c.985 Tale of Genji: an literary sensibility. • Contemplation of natural objects—old trees, plants, seasons—to reflect on the sadness of one’s own transient existence.
Japan—Silence: a significant cultural, personal, religious, and artistic virtue. • Iwanu ga hana. Not-speaking is the flower (“Silence is golden.”) • Chinmoku: kanji=“sink (down)” + “no-word.” • Seijaku: “quietude” + “loneliness-sabiness”
wabi-sabi • Wabi refers to a wordview -- a sense of space, direction, or path • Sabi is an aesthetic construct rooted in a given object and its features, plus the occupation of time, chronology. • Wabi-sabi is a commonly unitary referral in modern times. Now, a pop æsthetic: “Honey, look at that darling wabisabi coffee table!”
wabi-sabi • Metaphysical Basis • Evolving toward or from nothingness: change. Love equals death • Spiritual Values • Truth comes from observing nature. • Greatness exists in the inconspicuous & overlooked details. • Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness • State of Mind • Acceptance of the inevitable, appreciation of cosmic order • Moral Precepts • Get rid of desire and all that is unnecessary. • Focus on the intrinsic & ignore material hierarchy • Local and cultural situation and order: no absolute principle • Material Qualities • Suggestion of natural process; irregularity, intimacies; unpretentious; earthy; simple above all.
wabi • The original connotation of wabi is based on the aloneness or separation from society experienced by the hermit, suggesting to the popular mind a misery and sad forlornness: i.e. mono no aware. • The life of the hermit came to be called wabizumai in Japan, essentially "the life of wabi," a life of solitude and simplicity. • Only by the fourteenth century in Japan were positive attributes ascribed to wabi and cultivated. • Wabi is literally – i.e. etymologically -- poverty, but it came to refer not to merely absence of material possessions but non-dependence on material possessions. 2nd & 3rd of the 4 Noble Truths (suffering caused by craving; divest of objects craved • simplicity that has shaken off the material in order to relate directly with nature and reality. • absence of dependence frees itself from indulgence, ornateness, and pomposity.
wabi, con’t • Wabi is quiet contentment with simple things. • In short, Wabi is a way of life or spiritual path. • Zen principles inform wabi : a native Japanese syncretism of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhism, and Shinto traditions. • Typical of Japanese addition over Logic • Wabi precedes the application of aesthetic. • principles applied to objects and arts, this latter is Sabi
sabi • Sabi is the outward expression of aesthetic values built upon the metaphysical and spiritual principles of Zen • translates these values into artistic and material qualities. • Sabi considers natural processes result in objects that are • Irregular • Unpretentious (subtle) • ambiguous. (See yaeba.) • Sabi objects are: • irregular in being asymmetrical • unpretentious in being the holistic fruit of wabizumai • ambiguous in preferring insight and intuition, the engendering of refined spiritualized emotions rather than reason and logic. • Ambiguity allows each viewer to proceed to their capacity for nuance.
“shibui” • Ascerbic good taste: ‘astringency.’ • Simple, unadorned, subtle, hidden, beauty • The taste of umeboshi
ki-sho-ten-ketsu起承轉合 • Literary composition principle • Reader-centred, opposed to Western writer-centred: esp. Modernism, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, etc. • KI: opening, beginning • SHO: continuing • TEN: turning away (change) • KETSU: binding together.
Japanese Religious-Æsthetic Concepts • Shichi-Go-San: “7-5-3” Celebrate a child's 3rd, 5th & 7th birthdays, and a deceased’s 3rd, 5th & 7th anniversaries. • Haiku is 5-7-5 syllables • rock-gardens have odd-numbered - arrangements of stones • Numbers 4 and 9 are shunned: • “4” can be “shi” meaning ‘death.’ • 9 can be “ku” meaning ‘suffering’
Japanese Religious-Æsthetic Concepts • Ten-Chi-Jin: ‘heaven-earth-man’ • a sense of something high, something low. and an intermediary: the axes are spacial, temporal and human. The middle concept is (explicit in the configuration of the Noh stage) a bridge.
Japanese Religious-Æsthetic Concepts • Shin-Gyo-So (true, moving & grass-like.) • In calligraphy, block-style, kana & cursive; in the cha-no-yu, of its implements, formal, semi-formal, informal. Shin-gyo-so is an effective schema for mapping the uniquely Japanese manner of reacting to any discrete new foreign encounter. Evident in literature in comparative representations, structural contrasts and developments in character
Japanese Religious-Æsthetic Concepts • Jo-Ha-Kyu (gathering, break, urgent action) • A concept exemplified by -- & likely originating in contemplation of -- the waterfall. In literature -- notably haiku -- it signifies introduction, development, action. In music, it has several compounding applications, essentially a triptych of increasing rapidity & climax. This is accepted as the natural rhythm -- gestation, birth, life is just one obvious universal triad/
Japanese Religious-Æsthetic Concepts • Shu-Ha-Ri (keep the form, lose the form, no form) • the process by which mastery of any art or practice is attained. • copy and practice the fundamental forms • Steadily lose reliance on use of fundamental form • Achieve mastery where the art is natural, personal, and subconscious (=mushin) • applies to the arts (e.g. calligraphy, literature, painting), professions, martial arts, sport, etc.