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mercredi, 04 novembre 2020

Jared Taylor on Japanese Cinema


Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 297
Jared Taylor on Japanese Cinema

188 words / 1:33:48

To listen in a player, click here. To download the mp3, right-click here and choose “save link as” or “save target as.”


On this episode of Counter-Currents Radio, Greg Johnson is joined by Jared Taylor of American Renaissance for a discussion of Japanese culture and cinema, including Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. Other topics include anime, current events, and your questions.

  • 00:00:00 Intro
  • 00:03:00 Why are Westerners interested in Japanese cinema?
  • 00:07:15 Jared’s favorite directors and films; Jared’s discussion of Harakiri
  • 00:25:30 Jared’s favorite anime
  • 00:33:30 Grave of the Fireflies
  • 00:42:30 Jared’s Schengen ban
  • 00:47:00 Sony endorsing BLM
  • 00:49:15 How to deal with “anti-racism training” at work
  • 00:52:00 Mixed Japanese-white couples
  • 00:57:00 Japanese rules against vulgarity in films
  • 01:00:30 Yukio Mishima
  • 01:08:30 The upcoming election
  • 01:29:00 Incentives for increasing birthrates

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lundi, 03 juin 2019

Zen & Martial Arts


Zen & Martial Arts

Translated by Guillaume Durocher

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

Translator’s Note: The following extracts are drawn from Taisen Deshimaru, Zen et Arts martiaux (Paris: Albin Michel, 1983 [1977]). The style reflects the rambling, spontaneous speaking of many Zen masters, whose “writings” are often not of their own initiative, but rather sayings recorded by their pious (often Western) followers. Another example of this would be Shunryū Suzuki, who was popular in California. This does raise the question of how “Taisen Deshimaru” authored the books ascribed to him. Deshimaru’s French was poor and his English a tolerable “Zenglish.” The particular French language used then must be the product of his followers. Still, as with all foundational spiritual texts, whatever the relationship with the founder himself, the words are a genuine reflection of his school or movement, and, in this case, of an authentically Francophone and European Zen.

Is there not a Way which would allow man to surpass the limits of his humanity? To go beyond?

It was to answer this fundamental hope that Budo[1] [2] produced the principle of wasa. One can define a wasa as an art, as a kind of super-technique passed on from master to student, enabling one to impose oneself on other man and to elevate oneself above them. The wasa of Japanese Budo goes back to the historical age of the samurai. It is a power, beyond the individual’s own strength.

Zen, for its part, has created another super-technique, which not only grants physical and mental strength, but even opens the path to Wisdom, the path of a wisdom comparable to that of God or Buddha. This is zazen:[2] [3] a training in sitting down in a traditional posture, a training in walking, in feeling oneself standing up, in breathing correctly; a mental attitude, the hishiryo[3] [4] state of consciousness, a profound and unique education. (16)

* * *

deshimarubook2.jpgThe Seven Principles

The fusion of Buddhism and Shintoism enabled the creation of Bushido, the Way of the samurai. One can sum up this Way in seven fundamental points:

  1. Gi: right decision in equanimity, the right attitude, truth. When we must die, we must die.
  2. Yu: bravery with shades of heroism.
  3. Jin: universal love, benevolence towards humanity.
  4. Rei: right behavior, which is a fundamental point.
  5. Makoto: total sincerity.
  6. Melyo: honor and glory.
  7. Chugi: devotion, loyalty.

These are the seven principles of the spirit of Bushido. Bu: martial arts. Shi: the warrior. Do: the Way.

The way of the samurai is imperative and absolute. The practice coming from the body via the unconscious is fundamental. Hence the very great importance assigned to education in right behavior.

The influences between Bushido and Buddhism have been reciprocal. But Buddhism was influenced by Bushido in five respects:

  1. The calming of sentiments.
  2. Tranquil obedience in the face of the inevitable.
  3. Self-mastery in the presence of any event.
  4. Greater intimacy with the idea of death than with that of life.
  5. Pure poverty.

Before the Second World War, Zen Master Kodo Sawaki gave lectures to the greatest martial arts masters, to the highest authorities of Budo. In French, we confuse martial arts and the arts of wars; but in Japanese the former is the Way. In the West, these martial arts, which are now fashionable, have become a sport, a technique, without the spirit of the Way.

In his lectures, Kodo Sawaki said that Zen and the martial arts have the same taste and are united. In Zen as in the martial arts, training counts for a lot. How long must one train? Many people have asked me: “How many years must I do zazen?” And I answer: “Until your death.” Then my conversation partners are not very happy. Europeans want to learn quickly, some even in a single day. “I’ve been once and I’ve understand,” so they say! But the dojo is different from University.

And Budo, too, one must continue up to one’s death. (20-21)

* * *

In the martial arts, one must penetrate the elements, the phenomena, and not miss the mark. The martial arts are then essentially virile, because man penetrates woman. But nowadays, everyone saves their energy and only half-lives. We are always incomplete. People half-live, tepid like bathwater. (31)

* * *

We must create our life, make ourselves free, detached, attentive only to the here and now: everything is there. (32)

* * *

To concentrate means the complete expulsion, the total discharge of energy. This must be found in all the acts of our life. In the modern world, we see just the opposite: the young half-live and are half-dead. And during their work or during zazen, they think of sex, and vice versa: it is like this in all the acts of life. (33)

* * *

One must channel the body’s tension and the technique’s skill into the mind’s mindfulness-intuition. The mind is then empty, ku,[4] [5] flawless. This is Zen. This is also the true way of Budo. In the face of death, as with life, the consciousness must be calm. And one must decide, all the while accepting, one’s life as much as one’s death. To not passively endure.[5] [6] Even if my body dies, my mind must remain upright: this is the training of Zen and Budo. (48)

* * *

In the spirit of Zen and Budo, daily life becomes a battlefield. Every moment one must be conscious, getting up, working, eating, going to sleep. Self-mastery is found here. (49)

* * *

You can use [controlled breathing] in your daily life. In a discussion, when you are getting emotion, practice it, and you will calm yourself. You keep your control. (53)

* * *

One must not bow any old which way: in the West, one vaguely joins the hands together and one bends the head down a bit; one has not understood anything about the gesture’s beauty! One must bow completely: join one’s hands together slowly, arms straight, parallel to the ground, the ends of the fingers coming to the nose’s height, then curving thus one’s back towards the ground, powerfully, to get back up with one’s hands still joined and putting the arms naturally along the body. Body upright, neck upright, feet on the ground, the mind calm. (In a majestic gesture, Taisen Deshimaru got up and bowed to us.) Thus you show the respect you have for your opponents, for your master, for the dojo, and for life! I am sometimes asked why I bow before the statue of the Buddha, in the dojo: I am not bowing to a wooden statue, but to all those who are here with me, in the dojo, and also to the entire cosmos. (55)

* * *

deshib3.jpgNo one is normal today. Everyone is a bit mad, with their mind working all the time: they see the world in a narrow, impoverished way. They are consumed by their ego. They think they see, but they are wrong: they are projecting their madness, their world, onto the world. No lucidity, no wisdom in that! That is why Socrates, like Buddha, like all sages, first says, “Know yourself and you will know the universe.” That is the spirit of traditional Zen and Bushido! For this, the observation of one’s behavior is very important. Behavior influences consciousness. With the right behavior, there is the right consciousness. Our attitude here, now, influences the entire environment: our words, our gestures, our bearings, all this influences what happens around us and within us. The actions of every moment, of every day, must be right. The behavior in the dojo will spill over in your daily life. Every gesture is important! How to eat, how to get dressed, how to wash, to go to the toilet, how to put things away, how to behave with others, with one’s family, one’s wife, how to work, how to be completely in each gesture. One must not dream one’s life! But one must be completely in everything we do. This is training in the kata.[6] [7] The spirit of Zen and Buddha tends to this: they are true sciences of behavior. This has nothing to do with the imagination that transforms the world, as in many religions. One must live the world with one’s body, here and now. And completely concentrate on each gesture. . . . Modern civilization understands nothing of all this, from school onward we are cut off from life in order to do theory. (55-56)

* * *

“What is the Buddha way?” It is to study the ego. “What is studying the ego?” To forget oneself. . . . “Do not think. Do not search. Do not desire. Do not hold yourself back. Do not obtain. Do not give up.” (66)

* * *

You must kill yourself, kill your own spirit. (69)

* * *

“The moon’s reflection in the river water does not move, does not flow. It’s only the water which is passing.” . . . If one wants to explain the relationships between spirit, consciousness, and the true self, it is exactly like the relationships between the Moon, its reflection, and the river water. (69-70)

* * *

In Budo, consciousness and action must always be a unity. At first, in aikido, kendo, etc., one repeats the wasa, the techniques, and the kata, the forms. One repeats them constantly for two or three years. The kata and wasa, the forms and techniques, also become a habit. At first to practice them, one must use one’s personal consciousness. It is the same in playing the piano, the drum, or the guitar, for example. At the end, it is possible to play unconsciously, without attachment anymore, without using the principles anymore. One can play naturally, automatically. It is possible to create something fresh by this wisdom. And it is the same in our daily life. This is Zen, the spirit of the Way.

The great works of art are created beyond technique. In the field of technology and science, the great discoveries go beyond principles and techniques. To be attached to only one idea, one category, one system of values, is a false conception, contrary to the laws of life and of the Way. (81)

* * *

If we only think about the result, the fruits [of our actions] with our personal consciousness, then we cannot concentrate nor evacuate our full energy. If we only make the make, the greatest fruits will then appear, unconsciously, naturally. Practice without consciousness is better than conscious practice. (83)

* * *

There need only be neither love nor hatred
For understanding to appear
Spontaneously clear
Like the light of day in a cave.

— From the Shin Jin Mei (Poem on Faith and Mind, 89)[7] [8]

* * *

[How can one exercise one’s ki?[8] [9]] By practicing zazen! (People laugh.) But also by training oneself in combat, in action. Today, children are too weak: modern education makes them weak, soft, ki-less. Master Obaku always educated with his kyosaku (staff) by striking great blows upon this follower who was too intelligent, asked too many questions, and always analyzed each situation with his conscious mind. (102-3)

* * *


There is no reason to be afraid of anything. Those who are afraid are too selfish, think only of themselves. One must abandon one’s ego, then fear vanishes. When you always go against, fear arises. Even in a fight, one must have the same consciousness as one’s opponent and not go against, but with. This is a great koan.[9] [10]

One must become the situation and not differentiate oneself from it. A selfish being can never be brave, never. The true traditional education of the martial arts strengthens ki, destroys egoism and fear, makes one abandon the dualistic spirit, and develop mushin consciousness,[10] [11] which forgets the self.

No need to want to win; only then can one win.

To abandon the ego . . . That is the secret to the right life. The strengthening of the will, strength, and skill are necessary in life as in the practice of the martial arts. But to strengthen the spirit and find one’s freedom remain essential!

Mushin . . . nothingness. (103)

* * *

[Does the spirit remain?] Perhaps. I don’t agree with the Western theories which separate body and spirit. The spirit needs a form to realize itself, therefore a body. Also, if a body is dead, what we know under the name of spirit also dies, returns to the cosmic energy. Our ki, upon death, returns to the cosmos.

The real problem remains: where does all this come from? (105)

* * *

Another factor in the loss of ki, especially in modern civilization, is dispersion, mental agitation, anxiety, disordered thoughts: today, we use the frontal lobes too much, whereas one should develop the unconscious activity of the hypothalamus to strengthen the deep brain, intuition, instinct. And the lack of vital energy is making everyone sick: everyone is more or less sick today. (106)

* * *

To know how to concentrate is to put one’s ki, one’s vital energy, in one single action at a time.

Training in concentration means that, little by little, one knows how to concentrate on one thing at a time, but also to be conscious of everything which is happening around us. . . . In general, we need to fully concentrate in each situation. Here, now, I drink water; to only do this, to drink water. To concentrate on the water I drink. And so forth. No need to think too much! . . .

Concentration is acquired through training: to be concentrated on each gesture. To return to the normal state of the body and the mind. In the end, will plays no more role, it is done automatically, naturally, unconsciously. Without fatigue. Whereas with the will, the frontal lobes become tired, and with them, the entire being. During fights, the lower dan[11] [12] tire quickly because they are tense, always ask themselves what they should do, when to act, and so on. It’s the same thing for an actor who thinks about his role while acting, he is bad: he must live his role, that’s all, commit himself completely. . . . (107-8)

* * *

[What is the Way?] To look at one’s consciousness, here and now . . . and the Zen koan says: the Way is under your feet. (108)

* * *

[T]he martial arts ultimately aim to keep oneself alive in the face of contrary forces, whereas zazen resolves the question of death. I often say: practicing zazen is likely entering your coffin because, in the end, you abandon everything. . . . It follows that in being alive, we need to concentrate on life and the approach of death, we need to abandon life and know how to die. That is wisdom. But what is life, what is death?

Then, if we want to really live, we need to know death within oneself. Life is a succession of here-and-nows: one needs to constantly concentrate, in the here and now. People, who are worried by the future or the past, do not realize the illusion in which they live. One must resolve the contradiction in oneself, the contradiction carried by the brain itself. (108-9)

* * *

[What should I do when I am attacked? One cannot think of all these things at once.] Don’t think, of course! But react with wisdom. One must always be wise. If you are attacked by someone stronger than you and you really don’t feel you are up to size, it is better to flee! No need to get whooped! (People laugh.) Otherwise, one needs to fight. Without passion, with instinct, strength, and wisdom. (109)

* * *


By reflecting on oneself, one can then see the imperfections of one’s karma and control the bonno,[12] [13] desires, and passions. And in this zazen is the great mirror to ourselves which allows us to improve ourselves. If in life there is no such practice which rebalances tendencies, we develop only a part of ourselves. One becomes, one way or another, too spiritualist or too materialist. That is the mistake of all of modern civilization and the cause of the current crisis. (110)

* * *

. . . understand that your life is nothing but a dream, a bubble, a shadow . . . Your death will come soon: never forget this from one moment of consciousness to another, from each breath in to each breath out. (118)

* * *

With a long experience, and thanks to the infinite merits of zazen, you will understand all this unconsciously . . . Nor is it from one day to the next that we will become sensitive to the goodness of the people with whom we live. On the Buddha-Way, you must always keep hope without ever tiring, whether this be in happiness or misfortune. . . .

It is within us that is found the root, the origin of life and death. (121)

* * *

If the mind is calm, the body can act spontaneously; action then becomes free and easy. If one always uses one’s conscious mind, the body is constrained in its action. (131)

* * *

Nowadays people are too chatty. When they talk, they only speak according to the result of the words, at a superficial level, to be polite, out of interest or competition. Human interrelations become complexity, worry, and pride. By the practice of zazen, we learn to have direct, natural ties, not influenced by our ego, and we also learn the merits of silence. (134)

* * *

“To study the Buddha-Way is to study oneself; to study oneself is to abandon the ego; to abandon to ego is to melt into the whole cosmos.” (136)

* * *

Cosmic energy is concentrated in the lower belly, and in particular in the genitals. Sexual energy, indeed, is the primary manifestation of this universal life in us, and enables the relationship between the life of the universe and individual life, between the world of phenomena and the invisible world of ku. . . .

Sexual energy during procreation enables the manifestation of the force (ki) of universal life in the phenomenal world. (137)

* * *

In Europe, the philosophers have tried to realize this fusion between mind and matter, but only at a superficial, purely intellectual level. (138)


[1] [14] The martial arts. The Way of the samurai, to be precise: bushido. Budo is the way of combat. But the kanji bu really means: to stop the sword, to stop using the sword, to cease fighting. [Unless otherwise indicated, footnotes are taken from Zen et arts martiaux’s Glossary. – GD]

[2] [15] Seated meditation. – GD

[3] [16] Thinking without thinking. Beyond thought.

[4] [17] Vacuity. Existence without a noumenon. In Buddhism, it also means: the Invisible. A notion identical with the notion of God.

[5] [18] For subir. – GD

 [6] A “form” in Budo. All the martial arts – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – have kata: forms, actions, training exercises aimed at winning. The beginners must learn the kata, internalize them, use them, and then create based on them, from this original and specific form unique to each of the martial arts.

[7] [19] Translated from the French. – GD

[8] [20] Invisible activity imbued with the energy of the cosmos. Becomes the energy of the body, in all its cells.

[9] [21] A Zen riddle, often apparently absurd. – GD

[10] [22] “Mind without mind,” a kind of detached activity, comparable to “flow.” – GD

[11] [23] A rank in Eastern martial arts. – GD

[12] [24] Illusions, attachments. – GD


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dimanche, 10 mai 2015

Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Buddhism


Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Buddhism

by Kenneth Rexroth

Ex: http://www.bobsecrets.org

“In attempting a book upon a country so well trodden as Japan, I could not hope — nor would I consider it prudent attempting — to discover totally new things, but only to consider things in a totally new way. . . . The studied aim would be to create, in the minds of the readers, a vivid impression of living in Japan — not simply as an observer but as one taking part in the daily existence of the common people, and thinking with their thoughts.”

So Lafcadio Hearn wrote to Harper’s Magazine in 1889 just prior to leaving for Japan. He kept this promise so well that by his death in 1904 (as Koizumi Yakumo, a Japanese citizen) he was acclaimed as one of America’s greatest prose stylists and the most influential authority of his generation on Japanese culture. That reputation has dimmed somewhat since then. Changing tastes in literary styles have made Hearn’s work seem old-fashioned, and Japan’s astonishing absorption of Western industrial methods and industrial values have made him for a time irrelevant.

Now interest in ancient Japanese culture and religion is again on the rise, and Hearn’s work, devoted as it is to what he perceived as lasting and essential in Japanese life, is experiencing a revival. From his essays and stories emerges a sensitive and durable vision of how Buddhism was and still is lived in Japan — the ancient Buddhist traditions, rituals, myths, and stories that are still preserved, and their effects upon the beliefs and daily life of ordinary Japanese people.

lafcadio-hearn-1406.jpgLafcadio Hearn was born on the Ionian island of Santa Maura in either June or August 1850 and died in Okubo, Japan in 1904. His father was an Irish surgeon major stationed in Greece and his mother a Greek woman, famous for her beauty. It was she who named him Lafcadio, after Leudakia, the ancient name of Santa Maura, one of the islands connected with the legend of Sappho. In a relatively short lifespan of fifty-four years he managed to live several different literary lives.

From Greece, at two years of age, he went to Ireland, where his father soon obtained a dissolution of marriage from his mother. She was sent back to Greece. His father quickly remarried and went off to India. That is the last Hearn saw of either of them.

His formal education consisted of one year at a Catholic school in France (he just missed Guy de Maupassant, who entered the school a year later and who later became one of his literary idols), and four years at St. Cuthbert’s in England, where he lost one eye in a playing field accident. The disfigurement (the blinded eye was whitened, the good eye protruded from overuse) helped to make Hearn a painfully sensitive and shy person for the rest of his life. At seventeen, as a result of financial and personal misfortunes in the family, he was withdrawn from school. A year later, his uncle gave him passage money to America and advised him to look up a distant relative in Cincinnati. From then on Hearn had to make his own way in the world.

After a year of homelessness and near-starvation in Cincinnati, Hearn got a job as an editor for a trade journal and then as a reporter for the daily Enquirer. His assignment was the night watch, his specialty sensational crimes and gory murders. He had good contacts in the coroner’s office, and his small, shy figure and one-eyed face did not arouse suspicion among the street people. His stories, with their ghastly descriptions, were frequent features that titillated the Enquirer’s readers. The editor reluctantly fired Hearn when rumors began to circulate that he was living with a mulatto woman whom he insisted he had married. (He had, but Ohio law refused to recognize mixed marriages.)

Another daily newspaper, the Cincinnati Commercial, hired him immediately. Here Hearn was allowed to contribute brief scholarly essays, local color stories, and prose poems, as well as the sensational stories that had got him his reputation. But he was restless with this kind of newspaper work, and sick of Cincinnati. In 1877 he quit the Commercial and left for New Orleans.

There he found work as a reporter for the struggling Item, though what he reported was anything he fancied, most often sketches of Creole and Cajun life. His Item essays were eccentric, flamboyant, and often self-indulgent, but they caught the eye of New Orleans’ literary establishment. When the city’s two largest newspapers merged to form the Times-Democrat, Hearn was invited to be its literary editor. He translated and adapted French stories (principally Gautier, Maupassant, Flaubert, and Loti — none of whom yet had a reputation in America); he wrote original stories in the lavish prose style he was perfecting at that time; and he collected local legends and factual narratives. His subjects ranged from Buddhism to Russian literature, from popularizations of science to European anti-Semitism. Altogether he offered the people of New Orleans such unpredictable and exotic fare that his reputation soon spread throughout the South. By this time he had become a disciple of his contemporary, Robert Louis Stevenson (or perhaps vice versa: they developed similarly mellifluous prose styles and shared a fondness for fantastic and exotic subject matter). Hearn was enormously popular. From these years in New Orleans date Stray Leaves from Strange Literatures, 1884, Some Chinese Ghosts, 1887, and a novel, Chita, 1889.

In 1887 Hearn went to the West Indies for Harper’s Magazine and produced Two Years in the French West Indies, 1890, and his last novel, Youma, 1890, an unprecedented story about a slave rebellion.

In 1890 he went to Japan for Harper’s but soon became a school teacher in Izumo, in a northern region then little influenced by Westernization. There he married Koizumi Setsuko, the daughter of a Samurai. In 1891 he moved to Kumamoto Government College.

Hearn was by now well known in America as an impressionistic prose painter of odd peoples and places. For this he was at first celebrated and later deprecated. Yet much of his Japanese work is of an entirely different quality and intention. He wrote to his friend Chamberlin in 1893, “After for years studying poetical prose, I am forced now to study simplicity. After attempting my utmost at ornamentation, I am converted by my own mistakes. The great point is to touch with simple words.” The Atlantic Monthly printed his articles on Japan and syndicated them to a number of newspapers. They were enormously popular when they appeared and became even more so when they were published in two volumes as Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, 1894.

In 1895 Hearn became a Japanese citizen and took the name of Koizumi Yakumo. In 1896 he became professor of literature at Tokyo Imperial University, a most prestigious academic position in the most prestigious school in Japan. From then until his death he produced his finest books: Exotics and Retrospectives, 1898, In Ghostly Japan, 1899, Shadowings, 1900, A Japanese Miscellany, 1901, Kwaidan, 1904, Japan, An Attempt at Interpretation, 1904. These were translated into Japanese and became at least as popular in Japan as they did in America.

During the last two years of his life, failing health forced Hearn to give up his position at Tokyo Imperial University. On September 26, 1904, he died of heart failure. He had instructed his eldest son to put his ashes in an ordinary jar and to bury it on a forested hillside. Instead, he was given a Buddhist funeral with full ceremony, and his grave is to this day a place of pilgrimage perpetually decorated with flowers.

At the turn of the century, Hearn was considered one of the finest, if not the finest, of American prose stylists. He was certainly one of the masters of the Stevensonian style. As literary tastes changed, he was thought of more as a writer of pretty but dated essays about Japanese tame crickets and of sentimental ghost stories. After his death, his literary reputation was further damaged by the publication of several collections of his florid earlier work. His all-but-final reputation was as a lush, frothy stylist whose essays and stories were about as important as the pressed flowers likely to be found between their pages.

In fact, Hearn’s Japanese writings demonstrate economy, concentration, and great control of language, with little stylistic exhibitionism. Their attitude of uncritical appreciation for the exotic and the mysterious is as unmistakably nineteenth century as the fine prose idiom with which it is consistent.

lafc2.jpgIn spite of the incredible changes that have taken place in Japan since Hearn’s death in 1904, as an informant of Japanese life, literature, and religion he is still amazingly reliable, because beneath the effects of industrialization, war, population explosion, and prosperity much of Japanese life remains unchanged. For Hearn the old Japan — the art, traditions, and myths that had persisted for centuries — was the only Japan worth paying attention to. Two world wars and Japan’s astonishing emergence as a modern nation temporarily extinguished the credibility of Hearn’s vision of traditional Japanese culture. But both in the West and in Japan interest in the old forms of Japanese culture is increasing. In Tokyo there are still thousands of people living the old life by the traditional values alongside the most extreme effects of Westernization. Pet crickets, for example, still command high prices, and more people apply their new prosperity to learning tea ceremony, calligraphy, flower arrangement and sumi-e painting than ever before. Ghost stories like those told by Hearn are popular on television; three of his own were recently combined to make a successful movie that preserves his title, Kwaidan.

One of the foreigners’ (and Westernized, secularized Japanese intellectuals’) myths of Japan is that the Japanese are a fundamentally secular, irreligious people. Nothing could be less true. The great temples swarm with pilgrims and are packed during their major festivals. Buddhism is more popular than ever. Shinto and Shingon and Tendai Buddhism perpetuate rites that began long before the dawn of Japanese history.

Although it is no longer true, if it ever was, that Japan is totally “Westernized,” it is certainly the most Post-Modern of all the major nations today. With an economy which has ceased to be based on the mechanical, industrial methods of the nineteenth century (really because the old industrial capital structure was destroyed and everything dates from 1946), Japan has moved into the electronic age more completely than any other nation. Yet any Japanese who wishes can still make immediate contact with the Stone Age.

Hearn foresaw the industrialization of Japan and her development of imperialist ambitions. As much as possible he avoided the atmosphere of modernization, spending his summers away from Tokyo at Yaizu, a small fishing village where today there is a Hearn monument. His happiest period in Japan was the early years he spent as a country school teacher in Matsue on the southwest coast. His house and garden there are still preserved, and a Hearn museum is located next door. The essay “In a Japanese Garden” in his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan describes his home and Matsue.

Beginning with Charles Eliot’s Japanese Buddhism, there has grown up an immense bibliography of Buddhological works in Western languages. Since World War II, there is an ever greater store in the United States of books on Zen, which has become a popular form of Existentialism. There is no interpreter of Japanese Buddhism quite like Hearn, but he is not a Buddhologist. Far from it. Hearn was not a scholar, nor was he in the Western sense a religious believer. What distinguishes him is an emotional identification with the Buddhist way of life and with Buddhist cults. Hearn is as good as anyone at providing an elementary grounding in Buddhist doctrine. But what he does incomparably is to give his reader a feeling for how Buddhism is lived in Japan, its persistent influence upon folklore, burial customs, children’s riddles, toys for sale in the marketplace, and even upon the farmer’s ruminations in the field. For Hearn, Buddhism is a way of life, and he is interested in the effects of its doctrine upon the daily actions and common beliefs of ordinary people. Like the Japanese themselves, he thinks of religion as something one does, not merely as something one believes, unlike the orthodox Christian whose Athanasian Creed declares: “Whosoever would be saved, it is necessary before all things that he believe . . .”

One of the things Hearn admires about Buddhism is its adaptability to the spiritual and historic needs of a people. If they need a pantheon of gods, Buddhism makes room for them. If they need to fix upon a savior, Buddhism provides one. But the Buddhist elite, the more learned monks, never lose sight of the true doctrine. I will never forget a symposium in which I once took part along with a number of Buddhist clergy. A Westerner asked the leading Shinshu abbot, “Do you really believe in the existence of supernatural beings like Amida and Kannon, and in a life after death in the True Land Paradise of Amida?” The abbot answered very quietly, “These are conceptual entities.” In fact the Diamond and Womb Mandalas with their hundreds of figures (sometimes represented by quasi-Sanskrit letters) are tools for meditation. The monk moves from the guardian gods at the outer edge, in to the central Buddha — the Vairocana — and at last beyond him to the Adi Buddha — the Pure, unqualified Void.

Yet, popular rather than “higher” Buddhism is Hearn’s main subject, and he always is careful to distinguish between the metaphysically complex Buddhism of the educated monks and the simpler, more colorful Buddhism of the ordinary people.

The only peculiarity in Hearn’s Buddhism is his habit of equating it with the philosophy of Herbert Spencer, now so out of date. However, this presents few difficulties for the modern reader, as his Spencerianism can be said to resemble Buddhism more than his Buddhism resembles Herbert Spencer. Also, it is not Spencer’s Darwinism, “red in tooth and claw,” but Spencer’s metaphysical and spiritual speculations that have influenced Hearn’s interpretation of Buddhism. We must not forget that Teilhard de Chardin, who certainly is not out of date, is, in the philosophical sense, only Herbert Spencer sprinkled with holy water. Philosophies and theologies come and go, but the group experience of transcendence is embedded in human nature, and when it is abandoned, theology, philosophy, and eventually culture, perish.

It is difficult to think of a better guide to Japanese Buddhism for the completely uninformed than Hearn, though there are others who may be his equals. Certainly the popularizers of Zen are not. Zen, after all, is a very special sect, in many ways more Vedantist or Taoist than Buddhist. And of course as the religion of the Japanese officer caste and of the great rich it plays in Japan a decidedly reactionary role. Hearn’s Buddhism is far less specialized than Zen. It is the Buddhism of the ordinary Japanese Buddhist of whatever sect.

The first distinction to be made in any consideration of Buddhism itself is that Christianity is the only major religion whose adherents live lives and hold beliefs diametrically opposed to those of its founder. Nothing could be less like the life of Jesus than that of the typical Christian, clerical or lay. Imagine thirteen men with long beards, matted hair, and probably lice, in ragged clothes and dusty bare feet, taking over the high altar at St. Peter’s in Rome or the pulpit of a fashionable Fifth Avenue sanctuary. The Apostolic life survives in only odd branches of Christianity: the Hutterites, some Quakers, even Jehovah’s Witnesses, but not, as everyone knows, in official and orthodox denominations. Catholicism carefully quarantines such people in monasteries and nunneries where a life patterned on that of the historic Jesus is not wholly impossible to achieve. The opposite is true of Buddhism. No matter how far the sect — Lamaism, Zen, or Shingon — may have moved from the Buddhologically postulated original Buddhist Order, all sects of Buddhism are pervaded by the personality of the historic Siddhartha Gautama.

The historicity of almost all the details of what are generally considered to be the earliest Buddhist documents is subject to dispute and in many instances is improbable. The earliest surviving Life of Buddha was written hundreds of years after his death. The prevailing form of Buddhism in Japan, Mahayana, seems to Westerners more like a group of competing, highly speculative philosophies than a religion. The complete collection of Hinayana, Mahayana and Tantric Buddhist texts makes up a very large library. In addition, there are many thousands of pages of noncanonical commentary and speculation. Yet out of it all emerges, with extraordinary clarity, a man, a personality, a way of life and a basic moral code.

lafc.jpgBuddha was born in Kapilavastu, now Rummimdei, Nepal, sometime around 563 BC and died about 483 BC in Kusimara, now Kasia, India. His personal name was Siddhartha Gautama. Buddha, The Enlightened One, is a title, not a name, as is Shakyamuni, the saint of the Shaka clan. In Japan, the historic Buddha is commonly known as Shakya. He was a member of the Kshatriya warrior caste, the son of the ruler of a small principality.

For six years Buddha lived with five other ascetics in a grove at Uruvela practicing the most extreme forms of self-mortification and the most advanced techniques of Hatha Yoga, until he almost died of starvation. He gave up ascetic life, left his companions, and traveled on. At Bodh Gaya he seated himself under a Bo tree (ficus religiosa) and resolved not to get up until he had achieved true enlightenment. Maya, the personification of the world’s illusion, with his daughters and all the attendant incarnate sins and illusions, attacked him without success. Gautama Siddhartha achieved final illumination, entered Nirvana and arose a Buddha: an Enlightened One. He returned to his five companions at Uruvela and preached to them the Middle Way between self-indulgence and extreme asceticism. They were shocked and repudiated him, but after he had preached to them the Noble Eightfold Way and the Four Truths, they became the first Buddhist monks.

The first Truth is the Truth of suffering: birth is pain, old age is pain, sickness is pain, death is pain, the endless round of rebirths is pain, the five aggregates of grasping are pain. The second Truth is the cause of pain: the craving that holds the human being to endless rebirth, the craving of the passions, the craving for continued existence, the craving for nonexistence. The third Noble Truth is the ending of pain: the extirpation of craving. The fourth Noble Truth is the means of arriving at the cessation of pain: the Noble Eightfold Path, which is right views, right intentions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration (or contemplation). This doctrine is the essence of Buddhism, common to all of its otherwise divergent sects. It is always there, underlying the most extreme forms of Tantrism or Amidism. It produces in the personality of the devout Buddhist what the Japanese would call the iro, the essential color of the Buddha-life.

As Hinduism was taking form in the Upanishads, it began to teach the doctrine of the identity of the individual self, the Atman, and of the universal self, Brahman as Atman. Buddha attacked the Atman doctrine head-on, denying the existence of the individual or absolute self. He taught that the self is simply a bundle of skandhas, the five aggregates of grasping: body, feeling, perception, mental elements, and consciousness. The skandhas that comprise the self are momentary and illusory in the flux of Being — but they do cause and accumulate karma, the moral residue of their acts in this life and in past lives. It is karma which holds the aggregates embedded in the bonds of craving and consequence until the skandhas disintegrate in the face of Ultimate Enlightenment. In the most philosophical teaching of Buddhism, it is the karma and the skandhas which reincarnate. The individual consciousness or soul, as we think of it, disappears. But the universal belief in the reincarnation of the individual person has always overridden this notion. The ordinary Buddhist in fact believes in the rebirth of the self, the atman.

It is these doctrines which distinguish Buddhism. Many ideas which we think of as especially Buddhist are actually shared by Hinduism, by Jainism, and in fact by many completely secular modern Indians — transmigration, Yogic practices (some modern Buddhologists have held that Buddhism is only a special form of Yoga, anticipating its final synthesis in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). Vedic gods appear at all the crucial moments in Buddha’s life, from his conception to his entry into final Nirvana. Some time after its inception, Buddhism developed the practice of bhakti, personal devotion to a Savior, parallel to that of Hinduism. But always what distinguishes Buddhism is the Buddha Way, the Buddha-life, the all-pervasive personality of its founder, as the personality of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita does not.

The fifty years after his illumination Buddha spent traveling and preaching, usually with a large entourage of monks. In his eightieth year he stopped at the home of Cunda the smith, where he and his followers were given a meal of something to do with pigs. The language is obscure — pork, pigs’ food, or something that had been trampled by pigs. Buddha became ill and later stopped in the gardens of Ambhapala, where he announced to his monks that he was about to enter Parinirvana, the final bliss. He lay down under the flowering trees and died, mourned by all creation, monks, laymen, gods, and the lowest animals. His last words were, “The combinations of the world are unstable by nature. Monks, strive without ceasing.”

This is the account preserved by the Pali texts, the sacred books of the Theravada Buddhists, of the religion of Ceylon, Burma, and the countries of the Indo-Chinese peninsula. Pali is a dialect of a small principality in Northern India, now forgotten in its homeland. The Pali texts are earlier than all but fragments of Buddhist Sanskrit documents, but this does not necessarily mean that the Hinayana (“The Lesser Vehicle”) Buddhism which they embody is the most primitive form of the religion. Theirs is simply the religion of the Theravada, “The religion of the Elders,” one of the early sects. However, up until the reign of Ashoka, the saintly Buddhist emperor who ruled more of the Indian subcontinent than anyone before him, Buddhism seems to have been a more or less unified religion resembling the later Hinayana. From the reign of Ashoka to the beginning of the Christian era two currents in Buddhism began to draw more and more apart until Mahayana, “The Greater Vehicle,” became dominant in the North and in Java. All the forms of Japanese Buddhism with which Hearn came into contact are rooted in the Mahayana tradition.

The many Mahayana texts are differentiated from the postulated Buddha Word as it appears in Pali by several radically different, indeed contradictory, beliefs and practices. In Hinayana man achieves Nirvana, or advances towards it in a future life, solely by his own efforts to overcome the accumulated evil karma of thousands of incarnations. There is devotion to the Founder as the Leader of the Way, but no worship, because there is nothing to worship. The difference is the same as that which the Roman Catholic Church calls dulia, adoration of the saints, and latria, adoration of God. Mahayana introduced the idea of saviors, Bodhisattvas, who have achieved Buddhahood but who have taken a vow not to enter Nirvana until they can take all sentient creatures with them. As saviors they are worshipped with a kind of hyper-dulia, as is the Blessed Virgin in Roman Catholicism. Buddhism was influenced by the great wave of personal worship that swept through India, bhakti, the adoration of Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, or of Kali, the female embodiment of the power of Shiva. At least theoretically above the Bodhisattvas arose a pantheon of Buddhas of whom Vairocana was primary. Later, an Adi-Buddha was added above him. It is disputable if either properly can be called the Absolute. If there is any absolute in Buddhism, it is Nirvana, which in fact means the religious experience itself. From Vairocana emanate the four Dhyana Buddhas, the Buddhas of Contemplation, of whom Amida is the best known, and of whom the historic Shakyamuni is only one of four, although in his most transcendental form he can be equated with Vairocana or the Adi Buddha.

lafc4.jpgThe story of the development of Mahayana as it spread from what is now Afghanistan and Russian Turkestan to Mongolia and Indonesia to Tibet, China and Japan, while it died out in India, would take many thousands of words to tell. There are traces of Buddhism in China two hundred years or more before the Christian era. Its official introduction is supposed to have occurred in the first century AD. From then until the Muslim conquest of India, Chinese pilgrims visited India and brought back caravan loads of statuaries and sutras (sacred texts) which were translated into Chinese.

Indian missionaries emigrated to China and taught and translated. Buddhism was introduced into Korea in the fourth century and had thoroughly established itself in the three countries of the peninsula by the seventh. From there it passed to Japan in the sixth century.

The first missionaries converted the Soga Clan, which was then the power behind the Japanese throne. For the greater part of a century Buddhism was almost exclusively the religion of a faction of the nobility, and its fortune varied with the factional struggles of the court. In 593 AD Prince Shôtoku became the effective head of state. His knowledge of Buddhism and of the more profound meanings of Mahayana was extraordinary. He not only saved Buddhism from rapidly becoming a cult of magic and superstition, but like Ashoka in India before him, he went far to make it a religion of the people. He copied sutras in characters of gold on purple paper. He preached the doctrines of Mahayana to the common people as well as to the court. He established hundreds of monasteries, nunneries and temples. Not least, he promulgated a kind of charter which modern Japanese called The Seventeen Article Constitution, in which Buddhist ethics and, to a lesser degree, Confucianism were established as the moral foundations of Japan. To this day he is regarded by many as an avatar of Avalokiteshvara, Kuan Yin in Chinese and Kannon or Kwannon in Japanese — the so-called Goddess of Mercy and the most popular of all Bodhisattvas.

By the eighth century Buddhism had become Japan’s official state religion, a feat Hearn credits to Buddhism’s absorption and expansion of the older Shinto worship of many gods, ghosts, and goblins (the gods, Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, the ghosts beings in transit from one incarnation to another, and the goblins, gakis, beings suffering in a lower state of existence). By the thirteenth century most of the major forms of Japanese Buddhism — a religion quite distinct from Buddhism elsewhere in the world — had been established, though minor sects continued to proliferate.

Ten large sects dominate Japanese Buddhism. The oldest of these are Tendai and Shingon. First was Tendai, established by the monk Saichô in 804 on Mt. Hiei northeast of Kyoto (Heian kyo), facing the most inauspicious direction. Not long afterwards the monk Kukai returned from China and introduced Shingon, which became the Japanese form of Tantric Buddhism. In China, Tendai attempted a synthesis of the various schools and cults in the great complex of monasteries on Mt. T’ien Tai. The similar monastic city on Mt. Hiei sheltered a wide variety of cults, doctrines, and philosophies. Basically, however, Japanese Tendai modified what in India was known as “right-handed” Tantrism, which we see today in the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Lamaism in exile. All the great Buddhist sutras were studied, the doctrine of the Void, the doctrine of Mind Only, the vision of reality as the interpenetration of compound infinitives of Buddha natures of the Avatamsaka Sutra, and the complex panpsychism of the Lankavatara Sutra. Most popular, however, was the Lotus Sutra (Hokkekyo in Japanese), the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra, the only major Buddhist document a Japanese lay person is at all likely to have read. Tendai is a ceremonial religion, and only in recent years has it done much for the laity except to permit them to participate in pilgrimages and to watch public ceremonies.

Shingon is even more esoteric than Tendai and is in fact Japanese Lamaism. Its doctrines are occult, its mysteries are not divulged to the people, and many of its rites are kept secret. The worship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as sexual dualities or as terrifying wrathful figures is not as common in Japan as in Tibet, though in both cultures the emphasis on magic formulas, gestures, spells and special methods of inducing trance remains essential. It is not known how many Tantric shastras (scriptures secondary to sutras) survive and are studied in Shingon monasteries, but recent discoveries and paintings of this literature are read by the more learned Japanese monks. “Left-handed” Tantrism, with its cult of erotic mysticism, survives underground in Tachigawa Shingon.

The worship of Amida which began in India around the advent of the Christian era, almost certainly under the influence of Persian religion, effected a complete revolution in Japanese Buddhism when it was introduced in the ninth century. Originally sheltered within the Tendai sect, Amidism grew to be the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan — and the one with which Hearn was most familiar. Amida is the Buddha of Endless Light whose paradise, The Pure Land, is in the west. He has promised that any who believe in him and call on his name will be saved and at death will be reborn in his Pure Land. Buddha, of course, insisted that by oneself one is saved and thus achieves, not paradise, but Nirvana, which far transcends any imaginable paradise. Hearn, however, observed that few Japanese even knew of the concept of Nirvana. For them Amida’s Pure Land was the highest heaven imaginable. Buddha also forbade worship of himself or others and considered the gods inferior to human beings because they could not escape the round of rebirths and enter Nirvana. Amidism, as a gesture to orthodoxy, teaches that the older Buddhism is too hard for this corrupt age and that the Pure Land, unlike other paradises, provides a direct stepping stone to Nirvana. As the Amidist sects developed in Japan, the doctrine of salvation by faith became more and more extreme. At first, it was necessary to invoke the name of Amida many times a day and especially with one’s last words, but finally one had only to invoke it once in a lifetime. This was enough to erase the karma, the consequences, of a life of ignorance and sin.

The Japanese monk Nichiren, who played a role not unlike that of the Hebrew Prophets, taught that salvation could be won by reciting the words “Namu Myohorengekyo,” “Hail to the Lotus Sutra!” The Lotus Sutra is a sort of compendium of Mahayana Buddhism, lavishly embroidered with miraculous visions, with thousands upon thousands of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, demigods and lesser supernatural beings. But its important chapter is the Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), which raises the Bodhisattva to a position similar to that of Amida, The Savior of the World, “He Who Hears The World’s Cry.” The earliest Kannon statues and paintings seem to have reached Japan from the oasis cities of Central Asia. Their peculiar sexlessness led the Japanese, as it did the Chinese, to think of the Bodhisattva as a woman. Not just Westerners, but most Japanese, refer to him as the Goddess of Mercy, and cheap modern statues which depict him holding a baby bear a striking resemblance to popular representations of the Virgin Mary.

The secret of the tremendous success of Amidism and Nichirenism is that they are congregational religions. The largest of all Buddhist sects, the Amidist Jodo-Shinshu, is in this sense much like a modern Christian denomination. But in other respects, and despite its tremendous pilgrimages, Buddhism seems inaccessible to the common Japanese. Very few people know anything about the profound and complex metaphysics of the Mahayana speculation. A surprising number do know the life of Buddha as it is told in Hinayana, which scarcely exists in Japan, and do try to model their lives on the Buddha-life — with remarkable success. But for most secular Japanese, a Buddhist monk is just a kind of undertaker, to be called upon only when somebody dies.

Zen Buddhism cultivated a special sensibility that many Japanese people think of as Japanese. The tea ceremony, sumi-e ink painting, the martial arts (archery, sword play, jiu-jitsu, judo, aikido, wrestling), flower arrangement, pottery, and haiku survive as creative expressions of the Zen sensibility in pursuit of perfection. But this sensibility has weakened in most modern Japanese.

Zen is often translated as Enlightenment (Ch’an or Dhyana), but it means something like illumination, specifically illumination achieved by systematic religious meditation of the kind we identify as yoga. It is supposed to have been introduced to China by a missionary Indian monk, Bodhidharma, probably in the sixth century. It spread to Japan in the thirteenth as the long civil wars were beginning, became popular with the military castes and the great rich, and for a long time dominated the intellectual and artistic life of the country. Zen owed its powerful influence to the fact that it began as a revolt against the Buddhist cults of its time and reverted to what the nineteenth century was to call “Primitive” Buddhism. It rejected the salvation by faith and the devotional worship of Amidism, the cults of Kannon and the Lotus Sutra (“By yourself alone shall you be saved,” says Gautama). It reinstated yogic meditation with a view to final enlightenment as the central and essential practice of the Buddhist religious life. Finally, it reinstated Shakyamuni himself, Shaka, as he is known in Japanese: its special interpretation of the Buddha-life is modeled on his.

Since World War II, Zen Buddhism has become enormously popular in the West, and largely in response to its reception here it has seen an intellectual revival in Japan. Although Hearn was familiar with Zen theories and practices, and had Zen Buddhist friends, he wrote little about the sect that was to become the most influential in the West. Neither Zen as a manifestation of aristocratic traditions nor Zen as a popular fad interested him. Instead, he kept his eye on what had persisted in Japanese Buddhism through the centuries among the farmers, fishermen, and other poor folk. Many of their beliefs inform their stories, and many of their customs in turn have stories behind them. It was the survival of Buddhism in such forms that above all else engaged Hearn.

Hearn’s role in the spread of Buddhism to the West was a preparatory one. He was the first important American writer to live in Japan and to commit his imagination and considerable literary powers to what he found there. Like the “popular” expressions of Buddhist faith that were his favorite subject, Hearn popularized the Buddhist way of life for his Western readers. And he was widely read, both in his articles for Harper’s Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly, and in his numerous books on Japan. Hearn’s essays, with their rich descriptions and queer details, almost never generalizing but staying with a particular subject, always backed by the likeable and enthusiastic personality of Hearn himself, and always factually reliable, satisfied the vague and growing curiosity of his American readers about the mysterious East.

At St. Cuthbert’s school, at age fifteen, Hearn had discovered that he was a pantheist. That is not unusual for a fifteen-year-old, and the fact that pantheism is unaccepted in Christian doctrine or in Western philosophical thought normally suffices to extinguish the common adolescent philosophy or to transmute it to something less vulnerable. But the idea stuck with Hearn, and when finally, at forty, he arrived in Japan, he was delighted to find that he could now exercise and explore his intuition of God-in-All. If Hearn entered Japanese culture and achieved understanding of Japanese Buddhist (and Shinto) thought with unprecedented rapidity for a Westerner, it is because his own spirit had always longed for an atmosphere in which his belief in the sentience and blessedness of all Nature could flourish.

Hearn never became a Buddhist, and he remained skeptical about certain of Buddhism’s key doctrines — such as the relationship of karma and rebirth — but he passionately believed that Buddhism promoted a far better attitude toward daily life than did Christianity. It would be up to more scholarly and less imaginative writers to begin to translate and preach specific Buddhist doctrines, but Hearn has done much to translate the spirit of Japanese Buddhism and to prepare Western society for it.



This essay was originally published as the Introduction to The Buddhist Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1977). It was reprinted in World Outside the Window: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth (1987). The Buddhist Writings collection is out of print, but dozens of other Hearn books are still available.

Copyright 1987 Kenneth Rexroth Trust. Reproduced by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.


dimanche, 22 février 2015




E non scriviamo "il Dio", perché quello è un altro

Primo Gennaio 1946: Hirohito, il dio-imperatore del Giappone, dichiara via radio di essere un comune mortale. In pochi minuti si sciolgono come neve al sole due millenni di storia giapponese: la divinità imperiale è decaduta per sempre. Sono anni di cambiamenti epocali per il paese del Sol levante, piegato dalla sconfitta nel secondo conflitto mondiale, travolto dalle atomiche di Hiroshima e Nagasaki, umiliato da un vincitore che costringe i suoi rappresentati a firmare la resa a bordo della corazzata Missouri ancorata nella baia di Tokyo. La pretesa di affermarsi come popolo eletto dagli dei, l’unico in grado di costruire una grande Asia indipendente a base imperiale e confederata, giace in frantumi. L’orgoglio e l’arroganza di questo popolo che, dopo essere uscito dalla sua secolare realtà feudale, era riuscito a colmare in pochi decenni il gap industriale e tecnologico con l’Occidente – crescendo a tal punto da illudersi di poter sfidare e battere il gigante Statunitense – tramontano all’ombra delle polveri radioattive che soffiano là dove un tempo sorgevano delle prospere città.

I vincitori hanno le idee chiare per il futuro: il Giappone è il territorio di sperimentazione prescelto per la costruzione di una nazione ideale. I piani esistono e si sviluppano fin dal 1942[1]. L’obbiettivo va oltre una semplice smilitarizzazione del paese: il risultato finale a cui si mira è una vera e propria castrazione dello spirito giapponese, lo sradicamento della sua cultura tradizionale per fare posto al modello sociale di stampo occidentale. Ma c’è un ostacolo su questa strada già tracciata: Hirohito. Gli Americani sapevano infatti di non poterlo impiccare alla stregua del generale Tojo e degli altri esponenti della leadership che avevano portato il Giappone alla guerra. L’esecuzione dell’imperatore avrebbe portato a conseguenze imprevedibili in un paese occupato, dove le ferite atomiche avevano lasciato nella popolazione sentimenti di rancore stemperati unicamente dal cibo e dagli aiuti forniti dai vincitori. Il rischio che il paese crollasse nell’anarchia, diventando magari una preda del comunismo, era più concreto che mai. Ciononostante qualcosa andava fatto, perché l’imperatore incarnava la convinzione giapponese di essere una razza di stirpe divina, egli era un dio per il quale i giovani piloti dell’aviazione nipponica non avevano esitato un istante a trasformarsi in kamikaze[2].

hirohito8233.jpgIl passo che seguì allo smantellamento dell’esercito e della gloriosa marina da guerra, fu quindi la cosiddetta Dichiarazione di umanità di quel fatidico primo giorno di Gennaio. Hirohito stesso fu molto turbato dal fatto di dover negare la sua discendenza divina, così come era stato previsto nel documento in inglese che gli fu sottoposto; decise allora di apportare una significativa modifica, facendo apparire il passaggio come fosse una rinuncia volontaria al suo status di dio vivente in nome del supremo interesse del Giappone. Accanto alla Dichiarazione fu emanata la Direttiva sullo scintoismo che prevedeva l’abolizione dello scintoismo di Stato e la sua definitiva separazione giuridica dalle istituzioni: per i giapponesi riverire la nazione e l’imperatore non sarebbe più stato un dovere. In seguito furono in molti i giapponesi che criticarono Hirohito per il suo gesto, considerato un vero e proprio atto di tradimento verso tutti coloro che in lui avevano creduto e per cui avevano donato la propria vita. Fra questi spicca certamente quello Yukio Mishima che non riuscì mai ad accettare il cambiamento imposto alla società giapponese, arrivando al punto da compiere il rito del seppuku[3] nel tentativo, insieme tragico e poetico, di ridare al Giappone il suo vero volto, anche se per un solo istante.

Oggi in Giappone la figura dell’imperatore è associabile a quella dei rimanenti monarchi europei, ovvero una figura istituzionale svuotata di poteri decisionali che vive unicamente della sua simbolicità. Aldilà del giudizio sulla figura di Hirohito, il quale d’altronde non ebbe una vera scelta in merito alla Dichiarazione né tantomeno la possibilità di opporsi al cambiamento del Paese, va sottolineato come fatto determinante il lascito della scelta americana di fare piazza pulita in pochi giorni di tradizioni così antiche e radicate. Quell’imposizione ha dato frutto ad una contraddizione di fondo in seno alla democrazia giapponese: il fatto che i giapponesi siano stati per così dire “obbligati alla libertà” da forze straniere, interroga ancora oggi la politica del paese, la quale si chiede se non sarebbe stato un suo diritto riscrivere la propria Costituzione. In un contesto contemporaneo di ritrovata volontà per una maggiore indipendenza ed un riallacciamento alla propria identità culturale, l’interrogativo potrebbe quindi trasformarsi presto in un atto di accusa e di rivendicazione. Solo il tempo allora saprà dirci se l’esportazione di occidentalità sia una soluzione credibile fino in fondo o solamente un’illusione destinata, alla lunga, a lasciare il passo alle profonde radici spirituali di un popolo come quello giapponese.

Daniele Frisio


[1] Vedi Ward (1987b), p.395, e Borton (1967), pp.4-8.
[2] Letteralmente “Vento Divino”, riferimento alla mitica tempesta che affondò provvidenzialmente la flotta d’invasione mongola nel 1274 d.c. che i piloti di caccia giapponesi speravano di rievocare grazie al più puro dei sacrifici.
[3] Il rituale del suicidio tradizionale, che prevede l’apertura del ventre secondo tagli e movimenti codificati, volti a testare la fermezza e la risoluzione di colui che mette fine alla propria vita (quindi non un semplice trafiggersi con la spada, come ci figuriamo spesso in Occidente). Mishima, pseudonimo di Kimitake Hiraoka, occupa assieme ai fedeli camerati del “Tate No Kai” l’ufficio del generale Mashita il 25 Novembre del 1970. Dopo aver fallito nel tentativo di iniziare una sollevazione dell’esercito, Mishima compie seppuku pronunciando le parole: « Dobbiamo morire per restituire al Giappone il suo vero volto! È bene avere così cara la vita da lasciare morire lo spirito? Che esercito è mai questo che non ha valori più nobili della vita? Ora testimonieremo l’esistenza di un valore superiore all’attaccamento alla vita. Questo valore non è la libertà! Non è la democrazia! È il Giappone! È il Giappone, il Paese della storia e delle tradizioni che amiamo. »

dimanche, 26 octobre 2014


JAPON : LA LÉGITIME DÉSOBÉISSANCE DES 47 RÔNINS - « Ce qu’ils ont fait de leur vivant résonne pour l'éternité.... »
«Ce qu’ils ont fait de leur vivant résonne pour l'éternité....»

Rémy Valat
Ex: http://metamag.fr
L’histoire des 47 rônins dépasse le cadre d’une simple affaire de droit féodal : ce serait l’engagement de vassaux, fidèles à leur maître jusqu’au sacrifice de leurs vies. Le drame se déroule au début du XVIIIe siècle, période durant laquelle le Japon est réunifié et pacifié sous l’égide du Shôgun. Le port et l’usage des armes sont contrôlés ; il est l’apanage quasi-exclusif des samouraïs. Les samouraïs sont ceux qui « servent » (étymologie du nom vient du verbe « servir », saburaû) leurs maîtres, le Shôgun et le pays. Ils sont pour cela présentés comme des « modèles » pour la société : à la fois guerriers et administrateurs, leur éducation et l’étiquette qui régit leur vie sont rigides.

En 1701, deux Daimyos (seigneurs en charge d’une province et en relation directe avec le Shôgun) sont chargés d’organiser une cérémonie en l’honneur de l’Empereur. Asano Naganori du fief d'Akō (province de Harima) commet l’impair de blesser le maître des cérémonies, Kira Kōzuke-no-Suke-Yoshinaka (14 mars). Ce dernier est dépeint comme un être corrompu jusqu’à la mœlle et se serait, selon la tradition populaire, montré arrogant et méprisant envers ces deux seigneurs, insuffisamment généreux à son goût à rémunérer son talent et ses services. Perte du contrôle de soi, agression à main armée sur un haut fonctionnaire de l’ État : Asano doit, sur l’ordre du Shôgun Tokugawa Tsuyanoshi (1646-1709), procéder le jour même au suicide rituel (seppuku). Ōishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, principal conseiller de la famille d'Asano prend aussitôt en main la sécurité des membres et des biens du clan menacés de confiscation et mûrit un plan de vengeance. Les différents récits et le florès d’interprétations théâtrales ou cinématographiques sur les conditions des préparatifs clandestins et de l’assaut final ont, certes été enjolivés et idéalisés, mais quel souffle à la lecture de ce récit ! La mise en scène la plus connue, popularisée par le théâtre kabuki, est l’ œuvre principale de Takeda Izumo (1748). Il existe une traduction française de l’épopée des 47 rônins, traduite par George Soulié de Morant en 1927, et rééditée régulièrement. Nous y puisons cet extrait, révélateur de l’esprit idéal du guerrier japonais.

Ōishi vient de rassembler le clan, 300 guerriers stupéfaits par l’annonce de la mort de leur seigneur et dans l’attente d’instructions : « Venger notre seigneur, voilà notre devoir. Ce que je propose, le voici. Nous allons jurer de ne reculer devant aucun danger pour tuer Kira et sa famille. Si nous n’avons pas réussi dans un an, c’est que l’entreprise est impossible. Nous nous réunirons alors devant la porte de la forteresse, ceux du moins qui auront survécu aux combats et nous nous donnerons la mort, montrant à tous notre fidélité. [...] Je vais préparer un serment écrit avec notre sang. Revenez tous ici demain, à l’heure du Tigre, pour le signer. Pour aujourd’hui, nous allons nous partager le trésor du clan : il ne faut pas qu’il tombe aux mains de nos ennemis.»
[La séance terminée chaque samouraï reçoit 20 lingots d’or et l’assemblée se disperse. Le lendemain, seuls 63 rônins répondirent à l’appel et Ōishi de déclarer :]  « Les épreuves que nous allons subir sont telles qu’une âme ordinaire ne saurait les supporter sans défaillir. En reconnaissant eux-mêmes leur faiblesse, ils m’ont évité le plus difficile des choix : c’est bien. Pour vanner le blé, il suffit de le laisser tomber au souffle de la brise. Le bon grain s’entasse d’un côté, la balle et les fétus de l’autre. [Puis, les loyaux samouraïs signèrent de leur sang le serment scellant leur sort pour l’éternité]. » 

Ce geste symbolique et sacré revêt surtout une dimension politique : c’est aussi un acte de désobéissance. Cet engagement solennel n’est pas sans rappeler les contrats d’ikki : les ikki sont ces révoltes populaires conduites pour réparer une injustice commise par les autorités ou un seigneur, insurrections parfois organisées par des guerriers pour se faire justice eux-mêmes ; ces derniers étant trop fiers pour laisser le règlement de leurs différends entre les mains des pouvoirs publics, fussent-ils le gouvernement du Shôgun (lire sur ce sujet : Katsumata Shizuo, Ikki. Coalitions, ligues et révoltes dans le Japon d’autrefois, traduction parue aux éditions du CNRS en 2011).
La maison de Kira est prise d’assaut le matin du 14 décembre 1702 : le maître et les hommes des des lieux seront passés au fil de l’épée. Les rônins emportèrent la tête de Kira sur la tombe de leur seigneur au temple de Sengaku-ji. Les survivants offrirent leur reddition au Shôgun et mettent celui-ci dans l’embarras. Car si la vendetta été légitime sur le fond et respectueuse des règles et de la coutume du Bushidō, elle ne l’était plus sur la forme : les Sainte Vehme étaient prohibées par le shôgunat, le pouvoir rappelle que le droit de faire justice est une prérogative régalienne dans un pays récemment unifié. Le shôgun les fît condamner à mort tout en leur offrant une fin honorable. Le 4 février 1703, 46 rônins (le 47e , le plus jeune, aurait fait l’objet de la clémence des juges selon la tradition populaire) se donnent la mort par éventration, et selon leurs vœux, leurs corps reposent auprès de celui de leur maître au cimetière du temple de Sengaku-ji.

Les témoignages historiques dépeignent différemment les motivations de ces samouraïs : le seigneur Asano n’était guère apprécié par ses serviteurs, et ce serait 58 guerriers (sur les 308 du clan) qui auraient prêté serment, non pas par simple esprit de vengeance, mais par réprobation du traitement injuste réservé à Asano par le Shôgun. Ce dernier aurait dû sanctionner les deux parties, d’autant qu’il y eut un précédent survenu en 1684. Un guerrier, selon l’historien Nakayama Mikio, en aurait blessé un autre en ce même lieu. Le premier aurait été tué sur le champ par un maître-officier du gouvernement et le second exilé. Enfin, seuls les criminels étaient exécutés ou contraints de se suicider à l’extérieur de leur maison. Les conditions du suicide d’Asano ont été considérées comme un acte infamant. C’est pour ces motifs que les rônins ont souhaité laver l’affront fait à leur maître et à leur maison.
Cette froide et habile, vengeance a été vivement critiquée par Yamamoto Tsunetomo (l’auteur du Hagakure) qui estimait plus conforme au code de l’honneur un règlement rapide du contentieux. Yamamoto Tsunetomo, fidèle serviteur du Shôgun, mît peut-être en avant ce point de la coutume pour discréditer Ōishi et ses hommes qui n’auraient techniquement pas pu mettre au point leur riposte en de si brefs délais, au moment où Kira se trouvait sur ses gardes et bien protégé par ses hommes (rappelons que c’est par respect envers la réglementation shogunale que Yamamoto Tsunetomo ne put accompagner son seigneur dans la mort : le suicide par accompagnement lui a été formellement interdit). Le Shôgun a commis une maladresse, en ce sens qu’au Japon, les suicides rituels avaient pour but de limiter les vendettas : l’honneur des familles lavé, les désirs de vengeance devaient être étouffés et dans le cas de leur mise à exécution, celle-ci était sévèrement sanctionnée. C’est le contraire qui, dans cet affaire, s’est produit.

Cette histoire eut un retentissement immédiat. Si les Japonais du début du deuxième siècle du Shôgunat y ont trouvé un exutoire à la rigidité du régime (surtout en matière de mœurs), le succès intemporel de ce drame tient à son authenticité. Les Japonais sont peu-être plus sensibles que d’autres peuples à l’engagement et au don de soi. Les paroles n’ont de valeur à leurs yeux que si elles sont suivis par un acte sincère. Quelque puisse être les motivations de ces rônins, c’est bien un sentiment positif, l’esprit de justice, qui les animait. Leur désobéissance était légitime et ils ont agi en pleine connaissance du sort qui leur était réservé. Ils ont préféré mourir dans l’honneur que de vivre dans la honte dans une société, et c’est encore le cas aujourd’hui au Japon, où pèse lourdement le regard des autres. Un geste tragique de refus et de liberté qui résonne pour l’éternité, comme l’atteste les témoignages de respect et de dévotion encore porté par les Japonais sur les tombes des 46 rônins....

Illustration en tête d'article : Ancien château d’Edo (actuellement le parc attenant au palais impérial) : emplacement du bâtiment à l’intérieur duquel, Kira Kōzuke-no-Suke-Yoshinaka sera blessé par Asano Naganori le14 mars 1701.©R.Valat

vendredi, 27 août 2010

Perché in Giapponeil cristianesimo è "straniero"


Perché in Giappone il cristianesimo è "straniero"


di Sandro Magister - Kagefumi Ueno

Fonte: L'Espresso [scheda fonte]

Annientamento del "sé", divinizzazione della natura, rifiuto di un Dio personale. I capisaldi della cultura giapponese spiegati dall'ambasciatore del Sol Levante presso la Santa Sede

di Sandro Magister

Già un'altra volta, quest'anno, www.chiesa ha messo in luce l'estrema difficoltà che incontra il cristianesimo a penetrare in Giappone.

È una difficoltà che riguarda anche altre grandi civiltà e religioni asiatiche. Il cardinale Camillo Ruini – quand'era vicario del papa e presidente della conferenza episcopale italiana – indicò più volte la principale ragione di questa impermeabilità nel fatto che in Giappone, in Cina, in India manca la fede in un Dio personale.

È per questo motivo – aggiungeva – che la sfida lanciata ai cristiani dalle civiltà asiatiche è più pericolosa di quella di un'altra religione monoteista come l'islam. Mentre l'islam, infatti, stimola se non altro i cristiani ad approfondire e rinvigorire la propria identità religiosa, le civiltà asiatiche "spingeranno piuttosto nel senso di una ulteriore secolarizzazione, intesa come denominatore comune di una civiltà planetaria".

Per quanto riguarda il Giappone, un'autorevole conferma di questo assunto viene da una conferenza tenuta il 1 luglio scorso al Circolo di Roma dall'ambasciatore giapponese presso la Santa Sede, Kagefumi Ueno.

La conferenza – riprodotta quasi integralmente più sotto per gentile concessione del suo autore – mette in evidenza con rara chiarezza l'abisso che separa la visione cristiana dalla cultura e religiosità del Giappone.

L'ambasciatore Ueno si definisce d'orientamento buddista-scintoista. E nella conferenza parla non da diplomatico ma da "pensatore culturale", come in effetti egli è. Il suo centro d'interesse sono da molti anni le civiltà e le culture. Su questo tema ha scritto numerosi saggi e parlato a vari congressi.

Un suo saggio pubblicato poco prima di arrivare a Roma come ambasciatore, quattro anni fa, ha per titolo: "Contemporary Japanese Civilization: A Story of Encounter Between Japanese 'Kamigani' (Gods) and Western Divinity".

Una sintesi della sua conferenza al Circolo di Roma è uscita su "L'Osservatore Romano" del 14 agosto.


di Kagefumi Ueno

Credo che vi siano almeno tre elementi che caratterizzano la religiosità giapponese come filosoficamente distinta dal cristianesimo.

Le tre parole chiave sono "sé", "natura" e "assolutizzazione".

In primo luogo, sul concetto di "sé" c'è una nettissima distinzione tra la visione buddista-scintoista e quella monoteista occidentale.

Secondo, nel concepire la natura l'oriente e l'occidente differiscono sostanzialmente. Mentre i giapponesi vedono la natura come divina, i cristiani non condividono la stessa riverenza.

Terzo, quanto ai giudizi di valore, a motivo della loro mentalità religiosa i giapponesi in genere hanno una propensione molto minore degli occidentali ad assolutizzarli.


Primo elemento: il "sé". Come differisce il concetto religioso tradizionale giapponese di "sé" dalla visione occidentale? Per dirlo con parole semplici, i buddisti-scintoisti credono che, al fine di raggiungere la vera libertà spirituale, essi devono "cacciar via" ogni "karma" (desiderio), "ego", "interesse", "speranza" e anche "sé". Qui il termine "cacciar via" è sinonimo di abbandonare, rinunciare, dissolvere, svuotare, azzerare, ridurre a niente. In altre parole, lo stato finale della mente, la genuina libertà del pensiero, o la realtà ultima possono essere ottenuti solo dopo aver cacciato via il proprio sé o dissolta la propria identità. Il sé e l'identità devono essere assorbiti nella Madre Natura o universo.

Invece, le religioni monoteiste sembrano essere basate sull'assunto che gli esseri umani sono "miniature" del divino. Gli umani sono definiti per riflettere l'immagine del divino. Essi quindi, per definizione, sono chiamati a essere "divini", o almeno "mini-divini". Per avvicinarsi al divino sono comunque destinati a purificare, consolidare, elevare o portare a perfezione il proprio sé. Mai deve accadere, dunque, che caccino via il loro sé. Il cacciar via il proprio sé è semmai considerato immorale o peccaminoso.

In breve, i monoteisti sono chiamati a massimizzare, a portare a perfezione il proprio sé. Quindi, sono "massimalisti". Con questa idea in mente, non ci vuole una speciale immaginazione per capire che un "sé mini-divino" massimizzato o portato a perfezione è inviolabile o sacro.

All'opposto, i buddisti-scintoisti sono chiamati, al fine di raggiungere la realtà suprema, a minimizzare, cioè a cacciar via il loro sé. Quindi essi sono "minimalisti". Anche la dignità o l'onore di ciascuno è qualcosa a cui non devono legarsi. Mai guardano a se stessi come a delle "mini-divinità". Non accade mai che essi debbano perfezionare se stessi per arrivare più vicini al divino. Un simile desiderio è un tipo di "karma" che essi devono cacciar via.

Insisto, i buddisti-scintoisti credono che da ultimo non ci si deve legare ad alcun desiderio od ossessione, inclusa l'esaltazione di sé. Ognuno dev'essere completamente distaccato dal desiderio di esaltare se stesso.

Fin qui ho fatto una specie di esercizio intellettuale, con l'assunto che le differenti religiosità comportino differenti concetti di "sé". A questo proposito, l'immagine che mi sono fatta è che il "sé" degli occidentali è simile a una grossa, solida, splendente sfera d'oro che deve essere costantemente lucidata, pulita e consolidata, mentre il "sé" dei buddisti è simile ad aria o fluido senza forma, elastico, difficile se non impossibile da lucidare e pulire.

Secondo la religiosità giapponese, ciò a cui si deve rinunciare non è limitato al "karma", ai desideri e al "sé". Bisogna essere distaccati anche da ogni pensare logico. In definitiva, per i giapponesi, la religiosità è un ambito nel quale il "logos" in quanto "ragione", il pensiero logico e l'approccio deduttivo devono anch'essi essere cacciati via.

In particolare, per la tradizione buddista Zen, anche valori opposti come il bene e il male sono qualcosa che va trasceso. Nel senso più profondo della religiosità buddista, nello stadio ultimo dello spirito non vi è nessuna santità, nessuna verità, nessuna giustizia, nessun male, nessuna bellezza.  Anche la speranza è qualcosa a cui non ci si deve legare, a cui bisogna rinunciare. La libertà ultima è data dall'assoluta passività.

I giapponesi credono anche che devono essere distaccati dal desiderio di tendere all'eternità. Nell'universo non c'è niente di eterno o di assoluto. Ogni essere resta "effimero", cioè come un niente. Ogni essere rimane "relativo". La realtà ultima è nel "vuoto", nel "nulla", nell'"ambiguo".

Per vedere come la filosofia orientale ci dice che si deve essere distaccati dal "logos", ecco alcune citazioni riprese da buddisti Zen e in particolare da opere di Daisetsu Suzuki:

– "Molti è uno. L'uno è molti".
– "Essere è non essere".
– "L'essere è 'mu', nulla. 'Mu' è l'essere".
– "La realtà è 'mu'. 'Mu' è la realtà".
– "Ogni cosa è nel 'mu', sorge dal 'mu', è assorbita nel 'mu'".
– "Una volta distaccati dalla visione razionale, si trascendono opposti concetti come bene e male".
– "Nel senso più profondo della religiosità buddista, non vi è nessuna santità, nessuna verità, nessuna giustizia, nessun male, nessuna bellezza".
– "La libertà ultima è data dalla passività assoluta".
– "Alla fine, lo spirito sarà come un albero o una pietra".


Secondo elemento di differenziazione: la natura. Per gli occidentali, la divinità è nel Creatore invece che nella natura, la quale è prodotta da lui. Invece, per i buddisti-scintoisti la divinità è nella stessa natura, dal momento che manca del tutto l'idea di un Creatore che abbia creato l'universo dal nulla. La natura è stata generata da sé stessa, non da una forza extranaturale. Il divino permea la natura. E permea quindi anche gli esseri umani.

La divinità della Madre Natura abbraccia ogni cosa: uomini, alberi, erbe, rocce, sorgenti e così via. Per i buddisti-scintoisti la realtà suprema non esiste al di fuori della natura. In altre parole, la divinità è intrinseca alla natura. [...]

Per i giapponesi, gli uomini e la natura sono una sola realtà inseparabile. Gli esseri umani sono parte della natura. Non c'è alcuna distinzione o barriera concettuale tra le due cose. Una sensazione di distanza tra le due è considerata insignificante o inesistente.

A questo proposito vorrei commentare una formula alla moda, la "simbiosi (o convivenza) con la natura", che è spesso considerata una formula pro-ecologista. A me questo concetto pare invece che includa una sfumatura di arroganza, di "umanocentrismo", poiché conferisce agli uomini una posizione paritaria con la natura. Secondo la religiosità tradizionale giapponese, gli uomini devono essere sudditi della natura. È la natura, non gli uomini, che deve essere protagonista. Gli uomini dovrebbero essere umili giocatori che non possono pretendere una condizione pari a quella della natura. Devono scrupolosamente ascoltare le voci della natura e umilmente accettare ciò che la natura comanda. Ecco perché la formula "convivenza con la natura" suona troppo umanocentrica per il pensiero tradizionale giapponese.

Su questo sfondo, in termini di amore o rispetto per la natura o gli animali, la cultura giapponese è profonda e ricca. Nella sua tradizione così come oggi, i giapponesi trattano la natura o gli animali in una maniera piena di rispetto. Quasi con uno spirito religioso.

Ad esempio, molti dirigenti di polizia in tutto il paese usano officiare una cerimonia per rendere grazie agli spiriti di cani poliziotto deceduti, o per placare le loro anime una o due volte all'anno nei santuari a loro dedicati.

Qualcosa di simile avviene nei tradizionali villaggi dei cacciatori di balene. Essi usavano officiare cerimonie religiose per rendere grazie agli animali o per consolare e placare gli spiriti delle vittime, le balene. Alcuni ancora lo fanno. E facendo così, fanno da bilancia spirituale tra gli uomini e gli animali loro vittime.

Allo stesso modo, in alcuni ospedali vi sono associazioni che celebrano annualmente dei rituali, chiamati "hari-kuyoo", per addolcire gli spiriti degli "aghi", specie quelli delle iniezioni.

Nelle campagne, la gente venera alberi maestosi, grandi rocce, cascate o sorgenti trasformandole in templi scintoisti con dei festoni bianchi detti "shimenawa". Inoltre, molte montagne, a cominciare dal Fuji, e numerosi laghi in Giappone sono ritenuti sacri.

La religiosità o mentalità dei giapponesi ora descritta – che alcuni studiosi chiamano panteista o animista – è chiaramente e vitalmente incorporata in molte opere culturali giapponesi, siano esse di letteratura, di poesia, di pittura, di incisioni o d'altro, indipendentemente dalla terminologia che si può usare.

Ad esempio, Higashiyama Kaii, un grande pittore di paesaggi, disse una volta in un'intervista televisiva che, con l'avanzare della maturità, era divenuto consapevole che la natura talvolta gli parla. Egli percepisce la sua voce e avverte i suoi sentimenti. E quindi, aggiunse, la sua opera di pittore di paesaggi è fatta non da lui, ma dalla natura stessa.

Sinilmente, Munakata Shiko, famoso incisore di legno, disse in tv che, quando la sua anima è in pace, egli compie la sua opera di incisione come ispirata dallo spirito del legno che sta incidendo. Quindi, aggiunse, non è lui ma lo spirito del legno che fa il vero lavoro. [...]


Terzo elemento di differenza: l'assolutizzazione dei valori. A motivo della descritta mentalità religiosa buddista-scintoista, i giapponesi non amano legarsi a "valori assolutizzati". Non credono che vi sia una giustizia assoluta o un male assoluto. Dicono piuttosto che ogni essere è, in sostanza, "relativo". Per loro ogni valore, intendo dire ogni valore positivo, è valido fino a quando si scontra con altri valori. Quando lo scontro tra valori avviene, essi credono che nessun valore particolare deve essere assolutizzato a spese di altri. Semplicemente perché, nel senso più profondo della loro filosofia, non c'è niente di assoluto nell'universo. Esiste solo l'effimero, l'impermanente.

Detto altrimenti, nell'applicare i valori, i giapponesi in genere preferiscono avere un approccio "soft". Ad esempio, alcuni anni fa, prima in Danimarca e poi in altri paesi d'Europa, ci fu uno scontro di ideologie [a proposito di vignette su Maometto] tra coloro che tenevano alla libertà di espressione e coloro che difendevano la dignità religiosa. Questa vicenda non ebbe in Giappone una grande risonanza pubblica, ma immagino che la maggioranza dei giapponesi, se informati degli elementi in gioco, avrebbero detto che assolutizzare la fede di una parte (quella favorevole alla libertà di espressione) a spese dei valori degli altri – cioè affrontare la questione in modo rigido invece che "soft" – era immotivato o imprudente. A questo proposito, durante quella vicenda io stesso ebbi la sensazione che la mentalità di alcuni disegnatori ed editori danesi sembrava essere troppo "monoteista", nel senso che assolutizzavano un particolare valore come qualcosa di trascendentale, di sacro e di inviolabile. In quel caso particolare, faccio notare che la Chiesa cattolica preferì un approccio "soft". Simile a quello preferito dai giapponesi.

Come ho detto, i giapponesi trattano la natura o gli animali in un modo pieno di rispetto. Nonostante ciò, la maggioranza dei giapponesi non si spinge fino ad applicare il concetto dei diritti umani agli animali, come fanno alcuni paladini di tali diritti. Di tanto in tanto esce la notizia che alcuni animalisti fondamentalisti hanno assaltato laboratori nei quali alcuni animali sono sacrificati per finalità tipo la ricerca di nuove medicine. Inoltre, si ricorda la notizia di un gruppo ambientalista radicale che assaltò una baleniera giapponese nell'Oceano Antartico. Essi non solo assalirono la nave a più riprese, ma anche lanciarono bottiglie di sostanze chimiche che ferirono alcuni membri dell'equipaggio della nave.

In questi casi, i protagonisti giustificarono la loro violenza o violazione dei valori altrui sostenendo che la loro finalità era sacra e quindi assoluta. Giustificarono i loro atti dicendo che essi dovevano combattere contro un male assoluto. In questo modo "assolutizzarono" la loro fede e fecero blocco con i loro sacri valori, senza pensare di violare i valori di altri. Nel suo messaggio per la Giornata Mondiale della Pace del 1 gennaio 2010, papa Benedetto XVI ha espresso preoccupazione per la visione eccessiva di alcuni ecologisti o animalisti che conferiscono lo stesso livello di dignità agli animali e agli uomini. Questo è un altro esempio di come la Chiesa cattolica pare essere riluttante riguardo a un approccio rigido o a una "assolutizzazione" di un valore particolare. Lo stesso fanno i giapponesi, con la loro tradizionale mentalità religiosa.


A questo punto si può capire perché, a motivo della mentalità religiosa giapponese che si differenzia dal cristianesimo nei sensi sopra detti, anche oggi molti giapponesi trovano il cristianesimo in qualche modo straniero (od occidentale).

E anche si può capire perché la quota dei cristiani in Giappone resta sempre al di sotto dell'1 per cento e quella dei cattolici al di sotto dello 0,5 per cento.

Ciò non significa che i giapponesi rifiutino di accettare il cristianesimo in tutto. Molti di essi provano simpatia per questa fede e i suoi insegnamenti, non però al 100 per cento, ma al 70-80 per cento. Il restante 20-30 per cento è riconducibile alla differenza di fondo, fondamentalmente culturale e filosofica, tra le due realtà.

A motivo di questa differenza, il cristianesimo appare ai giapponesi come "appartenente ad altri", non a loro stessi.


Osservo ora la religiosità giapponese attraverso lo spettro della premodernità, della modernità e della postmodernità.

Nel passato, sino alla fine del XIX secolo, si riteneva in ogni angolo del mondo che la modernizzazione delle nazioni potesse essere ottenuta solo in società con religiosità monoteista, in particolare col cristianesimo. Si pensava che la modernizzazione e il monoteismo fossero legati assieme, direttamente o indirettamente. Si era convinti che le società con religiosità politeiste, animiste o panteiste, come il buddismo o lo scintoismo, non fossero modernizzabili, a differenza dei paesi occidentali.

L'impressionante modernizzazione del Giappone ha smentito questa credenza. Oggi molte nazioni non cristiane hanno raggiunto livelli evidenti di modernità, sull'esempio del precedente giapponese. Di conseguenza, il loro progresso ha ulteriormente sciolto il legame concettuale tra modernizzazione e monoteismo. È stato reso chiaro che l'approccio politeista, animista o panteista non rappresenta un regresso, se messo a confronto con l'approccio monoteista.

In Giappone in particolare, la modernità scientifica, tecnologica e razionale non solo coesiste con una mentalità panteista e animista premoderna, ma è rinvigorita e rafforzata da tale mentalità.

Insisto. Molti prodotti giapponesi di alta tecnologia sono pensati, progettati, prodotti e messi sul mercato ad opera di giapponesi che hanno in larga misura la mentalità e la religiosità che ho descritto. Sottolineo che il livello tecnologico o la qualità del prodotto sono migliorati dalla combinazione di due distinte mentalità: la scientifica e l'animista.

Ad esempio, molte società giapponesi spesso invitano preti scintoisti a officiare cerimonie rituali quando installano nuovi macchinari nelle loro fabbriche, per invocare l'efficienza del loro funzionamento. Allo stesso modo, essi officiano anche dei rituali per placare o ringraziare lo spirito dei vecchi macchinari prima di smantellarli. E ancora, i costruttori di case celebrano rituali scintoisti per pregare per la riuscita dei futuri lavori, con una cerimonia sul terreno di costruzione. Quasi tutte queste cerimonie sono celebrate da preti scintoisti, solo raramente da preti buddisti. Perché? Perché la maggior parte dei giapponesi preferiscono che siano dei preti scintoisti a occuparsene, convinti che gli spiriti della casa o del luogo, della terra o degli edifici debbano essere presi in cura dallo scintoismo.

Insomma, nel Giappone di oggi la mentalità panteista e animista premoderna è strettamente legata alla modernità dell'alta tecnologia. E dunque si può dire che la civiltà giapponese contemporanea è un ibrido di premodernità e di modernità. Quindi assolutamente postmoderna!


Ho fin qui messo a fuoco la dimensione filosofica, nella quale la distinzione tra l'oriente e l'occidente è ragguardevole. Io credo, tuttavia, che al livello pratico c'è un terreno comune tra le due parti.

Un'ottantina di anni fa il Mahatma Gandhi, il padre fondatore dell'India moderna, citò il "commercio senza moralità" come uno dei "sette peccati sociali". Gli altri sei peccati che egli elencò erano la "politica senza principi", la "ricchezza senza lavoro", il "divertimento senza coscienza", la "conoscenza senza carattere", la "scienza senza moralità" e il "culto senza sacrificio" (sembra di ascoltare un papa).

Anche il papa e la Santa Sede in numerosi messaggi hanno ripetutamente condannato la mancanza di considerazioni morali da parte di molti leader del mondo degli affari.

In Giappone simili richiami si odono da tempo, in particolare tra economisti di orientamento buddista. In effetti, negli ultimi decenni alcuni economisti hanno cominciato ad amalgamare la filosofia buddista con le analisi economiche, fondando una nuova disciplina chiamata "economia buddista", di cui ora dirò gli elementi di base.

Gli economisti buddisti sono molto critici del neoliberismo che ha dominato le politiche economiche delle maggiori potenze mondiali negli ultimi decenni, portando a un aggravamento delle disparità economiche, a una mancanza di equità, a un predominio assoluto del profitto e a un deterioramento dell'ambiente a livello globale.

Per quanto vi siano delle diverse visioni tra gli economisti buddisti, essi condividono i seguenti otto principi, come loro minimo comune denominatore:

– rispetto della vita;
– non violenza;
– chisoku (la capacità di sapersi accontentare);
– kyousei (la capacità di convivere assieme);
– semplicità, frugalità;
– altruismo;
– sostenibilità;
– rispetto delle diversità.

Ad esempio, Ernest Friedrich Schumacher, un economista tedesco che è tra i fondatori dell'economia buddista, autore del celebre libro "Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered", ha particolarmente insistito su "chisoku" e "semplicità".

Allo stesso modo, Wangari Maathai, un'ambientalista kenyana che ha vinto il Nobel per la Pace nel 2004, crede in una filosofia affine all'economia buddista. È famosa come sostenitrice della campagna "mottainai", cioè della campagna internazionale dei tre "ri": riusa, riduci e ricicla. Alcuni anni fa, mentre era in Giappone, si imbatté nella parola giapponese "mottainai" che in sostanza significa "mai gettare le cose minime perché anch'esse hanno un valore intrinseco". Così ebbe l'ispirazione di lanciare la sua campagna, cioè si convinse che lo "Spirito di Mottainai" che anima lo spirito dei tre "ri" doveva essere diffuso globalmente. Ella sostiene che per assicurare la protezione e la conservazione dell'ambiente globale, lo "Spirito di Mottainai" è indispensabile. Questo spirito che ella invoca è in evidente sintonia con i principi base dell'economia buddista.

Gli economisti buddisti reclamano politiche che portino tra l'altro a:

– distacco da un approccio che privilegi solo la crescita;
– distacco da una produzione dipendente dal petrolio;
– instaurazione di un nuovo sistema internazionale che elimini la violenza.

Nell'attuale instabilità e incertezza dell'economia mondiale, che ha rafforzato lo scetticismo nei principi del libero mercato, l'economia buddista guadagna un'attenzione crescente. Sarebbe interessante avviare un dialogo in questo campo tra economisti di orientamento sia buddista sia cattolico.


Per concludere con una battuta, consentitemi di chiamare il buddismo-scintoismo "sushi spirituale" e il cristianesimo "spaghetti spirituali". Quello che ho cercato di dire è che il "sushi spirituale" e gli "spaghetti spirituali" hanno sapori diversi. Ma ho anche aggiunto che entrambi sono "squisiti". Sia l'uno che gli altri arricchiscono profondamente le vite degli uomini. Senza uno di essi, le culture umane sarebbero terribilmente noiose e aride.

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