Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cherry blossom and "hakanasa" <儚>

If one's life has a point as a part of something larger, it is still possible to ask about that larger thing, what is the point of it?....If life is not real, life is not earnest, and the grave is its goal, perhaps it's ridiculous to take ourselves so serioiusly. On the other hand, if we can't help taking ourselves so seriously, perhaps we just have to put up with being ridiculous. Life may be not only meaningless but absurd.(Thomas Nagel "What does it all mean?")

"Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.( Gladiator .)

There is a theory in Japan that the cherry is so popular because the Japanese prefer flowers that are falling rather than flowers that are blooming. That would explain their love for the cherry—even a relatively mild breeze is enough to send a spray of petals floating like so much pink snow. When the cherry motif is used on television, such as a backdrop for the performance of a song, the blossoms are often shown fluttering to the ground, rather than in a static scene. The attraction for the Japanese is the brevity of the beauty, which contains an intrinsic poignancy and tension.Anpontan

That nicely explains why Japanese love fireworks in the summer.
Japan is after all "the fragile blossom".

There is a book called "Hakanasa to Nihonjin/the sense of fleeting and Japanese.

1〔むなしい〕vain; 〔つかの間の〕((文)) evanescent,((文)) ephemeral, fleeting
・ はかない努力
vain efforts

・ はかない幸せ
fleeting [ephemeral] happiness

・ はかない喜び
transient [short-lived] joy

・ このはかない人生
this transitory [evanescent] life

・ 宝くじに庶民ははかない望みをかける
The common people 「hope against hope [pin their hopes on the faint possibility] that they might win in a lottery.

・ それははかない夢だった
It was only an empty dream.
("haka" as you notice means achievement"...and another chinese letter for it is man's dream)

The author picks up three typical Japanese attitudes toward hakanasa.
I'll summarise them in my own way.

The three attitudes share the following thought.
Don't pursue things that is fleeting. You can not hold it for ever: It is deplorable. Achievement is nothing. Death will deprive you of your achievement. your achievement might remain for somebody, but that somebody will not last after all. It does not achieve anything after all, because there is no ultimate end to which everything is related .There is an end to everything but there is no ultimate end to which everything is related to. After all you achieve nothing, because your achievement will not last. Life is meaningless repetition that will achieve nothing. Life is eternally meaningless, incomplete, imperfect .

The first attitude toward "hakanasa" is "to the heaven"
This world is passing.This world is the Hell with meaningless repetition
of suffering. So pray that you go to the heaven where you can be peacefully permanent.
Abhore thing that is passing so much so that you welcome your death; You body will perish sooner or later, your body is fleeting. Only after your death comes your eternal world.

The second attitudes is "into the dream"
Everything does not make sense, it is a joke. Don't take it seriously.
Everything is illusion/dream. When you are completelyl awake, sober as a judge, you find yourself in the darkeness, in the absolute silence. The rest of time, you see fleeting mirage. You are inevitably mad, because you see nothing but illusion and dream. Be mad.
The future is illusion, the past is illusion, the present is illusion. The life after death is illusion as well as boring. It does not make sense to think of the future, the past because they are illusion. Don't relate yourself to the future, the past, this or that.
If this is a dream, then intesify it, crystallize it and you are with your ideal. Don't abondone your lust that persists in you, intensifiy it and you'll get a taste of reality, the truth.
Be mad, be mad about it. Be it your love, your loyalty or anything, you sense the intense reality in madness.

If you fall in love with somebody, your love with your partner will not last as beautiful as at first. So, just keep it to yourself and crystallize it, then you are with your perfect love. Your true love is complete...You are with your ideal that you feel so intensely as the Reality, the Truth.(忍恋)
If you want to prove you and your partner are really in love. Kill yourself and your partner together.(心中) You love is forever though your bodies will perish.. You are true to your ideal relation for ever. And you prove your love to yourself, your partner, in particular to your community..
If you want to be loyal to your lord. Be prepared to kill yourself at any time. "The way of the samurai is found in death" That is all there is to it. You are true to your lord for ever.You prove your true loyalty to your community for ever.

The third attitude is "let it be as it passes"

Everything comes and goes. The world is in the constant flux, you are in the constant flux, you are the world that is eternally flowing.
Everything is related to everything else, and yet there is no center, no end to which everything is related to.
The dream that is intensified is still a dream that will pass away.
The partner, or the community you want to prove your sincerity are also fleeting entitity that will pass away.
Everything will pass away into the darkness, into the silence, but the absolute darkness and silecne is still mirage that will pass away:Noting can escape from the constant flux.

There is no freedom of will nor non-freedom of will. Will is a recollected vision, mirage, of the failed effort, resentment, lust,intensive flow that repeats and persist but still will deappear into the darknes as everything else.
There is nothing you can do :You are abslutely powerless, but everything is what you are doing. you are creating, you have been creating, you will be creatitng; you are the eternal flow which is yourself, into which you commit your sprit, and it stands alone without the body that is reading this,
The world is eternally differenciating itself, it will never return.
You are eternally differenciating, you are the world eternally differentiating itself from itself, differentiating earlier/later, past/future from eternitiy. In one sense, You are timeless because you are the world that differentiating itself into another sense you are ephemeral.
Identification with a particular is the negation of eternal differentiation Identifying yourself with something/somebody as against something/somebody else is differenciating you from the other as "not different from that something/somebody.
You learn to be somebody by identifying yourself with that somebody, but there is no necessity for you to be that somebody: you happen to be you as it is , but you can be this or that.
You are the formless, empty perciever/mover that is operating here and there, in the past and in the future, acting as a flower, angel, villain, murderer, mad man.
When you look at the cherry that blooms and falls, you are the cherry petals that is fleeting, which happened, will happen endlessly a bit different each time, for ever. When the petal is falling, there is no-thing/no-body but the petal against the background, and there is no-thing/no-body but you who is falling against the stable background that is also you. You are the fallig petal with the flow of the wind, so fragile, so fleeting.

Every petal blooming and falling is complete, perfect . It is finished. It has no debt. It is not the process to the end, but it is the end itself. It shines on its own.
The blooming of the flower---good, the falling of the flower---good. Life smiles at you---smile back, death smiles at you, smile back.

Every moment, you see something different coming, this moment is so unique, so, this moment is so shining, so pleasure,
Every moment you see something going , so this moment is so sad, and so precious, so lovely.

When you are killing somebody, you are killing yourself, at the same time, I am killing that somebody, I am killing myself---This is a crazy world where there is no punishment, no reward. But when viewed from this world, it is the mundane world that is crazy.
This and that world are neither reality nor illusion. It is like the scenery you see when you are drunken in such a way you are half-awake and half-asleep: you cannot tell reality from dream, dream from reality, you can not tell the present from the future, the past from the present. Still it stands alone, it is the whole, it is perfect.

Enjoy your cherry blossom and falling with a glass of "sake", Japanese liquor.


In his book Tales of Old Japan, Mitford describes witnessing a hara-kiri [1]:

As a corollary to the above elaborate statement of the ceremonies proper to be observed at the hara-kiri, I may here describe an instance of such an execution which I was sent officially to witness. The condemned man was Taki Zenzaburo, an officer of the Prince of Bizen, who gave the order to fire upon the foreign settlement at Hyogo in the month of February 1868,—an attack to which I have alluded in the preamble to the story of the Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto. Up to that time no foreigner had witnessed such an execution, which was rather looked upon as a traveller's fable.

The ceremony, which was ordered by the Mikado himself, took place at 10:30 at night in the temple of Seifukuji, the headquarters of the Satsuma troops at Hiogo. A witness was sent from each of the foreign legations. We were seven foreigners in all.

"After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburo, in a voice which betrayed just so much emotion and hesitation as might be expected from a man who is making a painful confession, but with no sign of either in his face or manner, spoke as follows:

"I, and I alone, unwarrantably gave the order to fire on the foreigners at Kobe, and again as they tried to escape. For this crime I disembowel myself, and I beg you who are present to do me the honour of witnessing the act."

Bowing once more, the speaker allowed his upper garments to slip down to his girdle, and remained naked to the waist. Carefully, according to custom, he tucked his sleeves under his knees to prevent himself from falling backwards; for a noble Japanese gentleman should die falling forwards. Deliberately, with a steady hand, he took the dirk that lay before him; he looked at it wistfully, almost affectionately; for a moment he seemed to collect his thoughts for the last time, and then stabbing himself deeply below the waist on the left-hand side, he drew the dirk slowly across to the right side, and, turning it in the wound, gave a slight cut upwards. During this sickeningly painful operation he never moved a muscle of his face. When he drew out the dirk, he leaned forward and stretched out his neck; an expression of pain for the first time crossed his face, but he uttered no sound. At that moment the kaishaku, who, still crouching by his side, had been keenly watching his every movement, sprang to his feet, poised his sword for a second in the air; there was a flash, a heavy, ugly thud, a crashing fall; with one blow the head had been severed from the body.

A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood throbbing out of the inert heap before us, which but a moment before had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

The kaishaku made a low bow, wiped his sword with a piece of rice paper which he had ready for the purpose, and retired from the raised floor; and the stained dirk was solemnly borne away, a bloody proof of the execution.

The two representatives of the Mikado then left their places, and, crossing over to where the foreign witnesses sat, called us to witness that the sentence of death upon Taki Zenzaburo had been faithfully carried out. The ceremony being at an end, we left the temple.

The ceremony, to which the place and the hour gave an additional solemnity, was characterised throughout by that extreme dignity and punctiliousness which are the distinctive marks of the proceedings of Japanese gentlemen of rank; and it is important to note this fact, because it carries with it the conviction that the dead man was indeed the officer who had committed the crime, and no substitute. While profoundly impressed by the terrible scene it was impossible at the same time not to be filled with admiration of the firm and manly bearing of the sufferer, and of the nerve with which the kaishaku performed his last duty to his master."Seppuku