How these Japanese concepts can mould you

7 min readSep 5, 2022

Viewing the thundering clouds at 6:40 am, I realize that nature also vents out. The sky has no limit; the clouds are speaking, while after listening to many stories of the people, I feel, I wish, I had a listener like this sky. Listening is an art; sadly, very few listeners can do it without judging you. Listening with an intent to understand than with an intent to reply is altogether a wise experience. But it’s “wrong on my part to expect” a listener of my way.

The clouds continue to thunder. The dawn is dusk. Gloomy, yet a beautiful scene. After a few moments, I wondered if nature is trying to display new literature, new suchness. In Zen Buddhism, the experience of suchness deals with realization. This realization is the gatekeeper of enlightenment (‘satori’), for which one needs to have a sound experience of ‘kensho’ (the art of seeing nature as it is). When we see reality from our projected view, we often fog our minds. When we ‘view reality as it is’, without inferring any cosmetic design into it, we are least likely to be elementarily disappointed. I’m glad, I saw these impermanent states of clouds in the way the clouds exist.

These concepts, as mentioned, are merely abstractive. Like life, it can be made concrete when we adhere to the philosophy of life without doubting it. When, in doubt, our sceptical mind is vulnerable to drive us towards nihilism; the state of voidness; nothingness, and thus depression. These concepts, like rafts, are to be used to reach from one experience to another, without attaching to the rafts or the journey. When the concepts are bounded by conventional qualifications, who am I to stop myself from seeing the absolute reality?

On the same day, in the evening, Kenneth tells me how his life has been inured with loads of challenges, goals, and struggles. I look at him, not as a separate entity from myself, but as my reflection. This genre of orientation towards others helps me understand the suffering of myself and others very empathetically. It also makes me realize that I should not be selfish to only concerned with my sufferings, in this vast universe. Like a flower, an interdependent being is not selfish in its functions. It needs soil, water, and solar energy. None of them has any solid foundation, thus, they’re empty. While the flower is compassionate because it does not have any intrinsic identity of self. But humans attach to their identities of self and therefore we see the world in chaos in abundance.

What Kenneth is failing to experience is ‘pratītyasamutpāda’ (the idea of causality). He feels that he is alone in his path. Thanks to his ‘ego’ (illusions), encouraging him to conveniently misunderstand that the internal conditions of mind and the external conditions of our lifestyle shape the causes and effects. Christina Feldman, in a Buddhist Journal: ‘Spring’ (published in 1999), writes: “What the paṭicca-samuppāda actu­ally describes is a vision of life or an un­derstanding in which we see the way everything is interconnected — that there is nothing separate, nothing stands alone. Everything affects everything else. We are part of this sys­tem. We are part of this process of de­pendent origination — causal relation­ships affected by everything that happens around us and, in turn, affecting the kind of world that we all live in in­wardly and outwardly. It is also important to understand that freedom is not found separate from this process. It is not a question of transcending this process to find some other dimension; freedom is found in this very process of which we are a part. And part of that process of understanding what it means to be free depends on understanding inter-con­nectedness and using this very process, this very grist of our life, for awaken­ing.”

Kenneth, before fixing his marriage plan with Vinnie, needs a lesson plan on ‘ukiyo’. And mastering the philosophy of ukiyo is something that many fail. Why? Well, ukiyo aims at living in the moment. It is about giving up the idea of living in the past, which may cause depression if undone, and also the idea of imagining the certainty of the future, which may cause anxiety if undone. Therefore, ukiyo is a panacea. This and other Japanese philosophies are not any activity of word salad or intellectual masturbation. But they’re simply intended to reconstruct your reality, your world, and your habits. It’s the habits that define our lifestyle and many of us are not willing to give up many habits or routines that cause us trauma. I understand that certain trauma can be intergenerational but it does not mean we gaslight ourselves and do not focus on them.

Ensō is a sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism meaning circle, or sometimes, circle of togetherness. It is traditionally drawn using only one brushstroke as a meditative practice in letting go of the mind and allowing the body to create, as the singular brushstroke allows for no modifications.

The maxim of ‘zen’ is focus/concentration. Do we observe every moment mindfully? Do we find equanimity in every moment, no matter what is the state of it? Or, do we struggle to be in a state of equanimity? History tells us that Rome was not built in a day but why is pausing at the moment a very difficult act? Vinnie, sitting beside Kenneth, while sipping a cup of green tea, shares her mental health issues! I listen patiently, only to ask: “Like this cup of tea, you’re full! When do you intend to empty the views of the reality, and why?”

There is a moment of silence, after this query. Kenneth and Vinnie look at me in serenity. In this state of silence, where there is no conversation, no expression, no exchanges, we make collective eye contact on the same frequency. Was this the state of equanimity? Yes. Will this state of equanimity be the same hereafter? No.

The science behind the silence between us, after a question, did not stem from a koan: “what is the colour of the wind?”. This was such a ‘wabi-sabi’ moment for all of us. Indeed.

Not all questions need to have answers. Not all answers need to have questions. Sometimes, the question is itself an answer. Sometimes, the answer is a question. This cycle is inevitable, as long as human intelligence is not obsolete, not unlike stupidity. The wabi-sabi moment is a transient experience, which needs to be adhered to, for disowning life from nihilist tendencies. When life is understood as a temporary story, which is always changing, you will be able to enjoy your life more. I informed Vinnie, with great audacity. She patiently listened this time, which lead her to culminate that ‘nothing stays the same’. That all we see, or experience, is a temporal state of existence. The concepts like happiness and sadness are all interchanging and they will never be the same. People come; people leave. Money comes, money goes. The same with our state of emotions or despair. The predicament emerges when we endeavour to keep it the same, without cherishing the absoluteness of imperfections and seeking beauty in chaos.

Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything.

The conversation melted the anxious Kenneth. He whispered, “This is my sanzen!” I am younger than him, yet he felicitated me for being his teacher. I acknowledged it but did not let this celebration proselyte into my ego. Whatever we confabbed was indeed a ‘sanzen’. I am obliged that this interaction between him and me, made him a great student; an avid listener. Well, I am not sure if they made me their ‘kintsugi’.

Kintsugi fosters the idea that a broken object can be repaired and made useful once again. It tells us we can always begin anew despite past failures. Accepting imperfections helps us to break free from the obsession with perfectionism which causes unnecessary stress and inhibits creativity and productivity.

No objection to both. I witnessed a ‘furusato’ between Kenneth and Vinnie, filled with the joy of ‘seijako’ and ‘yugen’. Both made it, amid the cacophony of ‘datsuzoku’ world, with the whole essence of ‘omotenashi’.

Ah, this was too much? LOL

Well, these Japanese or Zen concepts are not merely words. They’re verbs; they’re you and I. The ‘furusato’ is a ‘home that one lays for’. These could be emotions, a mindful heart; or a solid foundation of ‘serenity and tranquillity’ (‘seijako’). The way Kenneth and Vinnie beautifully hold hands with each other transcends and supersedes the uncertainty. I experienced as you would, ‘the beauty in seen and unseen’ (‘yugen’).

Their companionship has left an indelible mark on my mind. Both of them reside in Man Opus, a tower lesser complicated than mankind, 20 mins from my breath. What makes bonding great? The answer is endowed in ‘omotenashi’ (a rare quality of being thoughtful and considerate of others, and it’s so much that it begets the attitude of ‘enryo’; the state when we are altruist, irrespective of the plight). In these epochs, when easy sex flexibly rides against the tides of meaningful relationships, ‘mentsu’ (pride and honour) has gone for a toss. And, we are here!

Life becomes better, every moment, when we initiate and joyous over little steps. It is against the principles of ‘kaizen’ if we’re not consecrated and dedicated enough to beget ‘ikigai’. Very sensitive, this life is. Imagine a baby playing with the knife, so yeah that’s the scenario! Ending this blog with the last words of Buddha, on his deathbed, “Work hard for your salvation, you won’t find liberation outside, but inside. Be your own light, do not be dependent on anyone.”





A libertarian professor based in Mumbai, youtubing at times, and reading books all-the-time. I write too. Dhamma practitioner.