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Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō

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❶One is taken aback by some passages - like his complaint that in his time no one knew the proper shape of a torture rack nor how to correctly attach a criminal to it!




They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain. But if you decide that you cannot very well ignore your worldly obligations, and that you will therefore carry them out properly, the demands on your time will multiply, bringing physical hardship and mental tension; in the end, you will spend your whole life pointlessly entangled in petty obligations. I shall not keep promises, nor consider decorum. Let anyone who cannot understand my feelings feel free to call me mad, let him think I am out of my senses, that I am devoid of human warmth.

Abuse will not bother me; I shall not listen if praised. To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring - these are even more deeply moving.

Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with flowers are worthier of our admiration. It cannot be in reason to know others and not to know oneself. Therefore one who knows himself may be said to be a man who has knowledge. Though our looks be unpleasing, we do not know it. We do not know that our skill is poor.

We do not know that our station is lowly. We do not know that we grow old in years. We do not know that sickness attacks us. We do not know that death is near. We do not know that we have not attained the Way we follow. We do not know what evil is in our own persons, still less what calumny comes from without. People always exaggerate things. More so, when months and years have passed and the place is distant do they relate any story they please, or even it put down in writing, so that at least it becomes established fact.

Anyhow, it is a world that is full of lies, and we shall make no mistake if we make up our minds that what we hear is really not at all strange and unusual but merely exaggerated in the telling. To yearn for the moon when it is raining, or to be closed up in ones room, failing to notice the passing of Spring, is far more moving. Treetops just before they break into blossom, or gardens strewn with fallen flowers are just as worthy of notice.

There is much to see in them. Is it any less wonderful to say, in the preface to a poem, that it was written on viewing the cherry blossoms just after they had peaked, or that something had prevented one from seeing them altogether, than to say "on seeing the cherry blossoms"? Flowers fall and the moon sets, these are the cyclic things of the world, but still there are brutish people who say that there is nothing left worth seeing, and fail to appreciate.

Things that don't offend good taste even if numerous: Keisarin valtaistuin toki on liian korkealla: Being born into this world there are, I suppose, many aims which we may strive to attain. The Imperial Throne of the Mikado inspires us with the greatest awe; even the uttermost leaf of the Imperial Family Tree is worthy of honour and very different from the rest of mankind.

As to the position of a certain august personage i. But when those who are of lower degree chance to rise in the world and assume an aspect of arrogance, though they may think themselves grand, it is very regrettable. In that regard, Kenko is, perhaps, too idle, too reflective. Eventually, Kenko retired at 42, became a Buddhist monk his family descended from Shinto priests , and resided alone for the rest of his life in a temple outside the capital Kyoto.

Kenko is observant but traditional, nostalgic, sentimental, even anachronistic. Sometimes he is a philosophical skeptic, but usually he expresses Buddhist themes without overt religious sentiment. His sensitivity to impermanence shapes his ethics and aesthetics. The hermit way of life is best; he feels no want even if he has nothing. People today cannot compare in resourcefulness with those of the past.

They go into the mountain forests to live as hermits only to find the life unendurable without some means of allaying their hunger and shielding themselves from the storms. As a result, how can they help but display at times something akin to a craving for worldly goods?

It is excellent for a man to be simple in his tastes, to avoid extravagance, to own no possessions, to entertain no craving for worldly success. Sun Ch'en slept without a quilt during the winter months. All he had was a bundle of straw that he slept on at night and put away in the morning. Not surprisingly, therefore, Kenko's writing turns to advice. He recommends to the sufferer of misfortune "to shut his gate and live in seclusion, so quietly, awaiting nothing, that people cannot tell whether or not he is at home" 5.

He refers admiringly to a court bureaucrat who spoke of wanting "to see the moon of exile, though guilty of no crime," a clear and admirable expression of desire for reclusion 5. The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known.

Kenko warns against a "desire for fame and profit" as "foolish" and "a delusion" Several essays admonish against wasting time on useless activities, an affliction of youth. Indeed, "you must not wait until you are old before you begin practicing the Way," he advises.

Even if a man has not yet discovered the path of enlightenment, as long as he removes himself from his worldly ties, leads a quiet life, and maintains his peace of mind by avoiding entanglements, he may be said to be happy. Instability and impermanence characterize everything.


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Other articles where Essays in Idleness is discussed: Yoshida Kenkō: ; Essays in Idleness, ), became, especially after the 17th century, a basic part of Japanese education, and his views have had a prominent place in subsequent Japanese life.

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Kenko's Esteem for Hermits in his Essays in Idleness The Tsurezuregusa or Essays in Idleness of Yoshida no Keneyoshi (that is, Kenko) is a posthumous collection of essays and aphorisms on disparate topics, probably assembled in their existing sequence by Kenko himself.

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Essays in Idleness was written around by Yoshida Kenkô. Buddhist beliefs were spreading in Japan at this time and are reflected in the literature—such as this work by Kenkô—written during this period of Medieval Japanese history. Written between and , Essays in Idleness reflects the congenial priest's thoughts on a variety of subjects. His brief writings, some no more than a few sentences long and ranging in focus from .

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Critical Analysis and Biography – Paper Two: “Essays in Idleness” - Kenko Name Institution Course *for you to complete, please Introduction It is estimated that. Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations! Sign in. Watch Queue Queue.