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Essays in Idleness

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❶What a moving experience that is! Medieval Japanese history, cultural criticism, Buddhist meditations, and personal musings coexist happily in this charming book.




A flute made from a sandal a woman has worn will infallibly summon the autumn deer. Brief and of dubious practicality, these pithy observations nevertheless show us part of a mind that took an encyclopaedic interest in the world: Buddhist ritual, carp fishing, the education of courtiers, physical deformities, burning moxa on kneecaps, the beauty of dew-covered flowers in the morning, the best way to view the moon on cloudy nights He finds evidence of this deterioration in departures from old customs: And he sought to correct these failures by recording his memories of the proper way life was led at court in the past.

This pervasive nostalgia naturally seeps into his appreciation of art. Beauty, he finds, is usually bound up with a feeling of incompleteness or an element of age: He was a connoisseur of muted suspense, and that, coupled with his longing for the past led naturally to his greatest pleasure — reading. Arashiyama in the background. In a world where there was too much talk, too much posturing, too many possessions, there were never too many books. Aug 12, Akemi G.

This collection of Kenko's essays is often compared with Hojoki: Visions of a Torn World by Chomei, but there is a vast difference. Kenko might sound like he is just rambling and he takes that pose intentionally , but he is not. He is talking about the existential dilemma of human being. His awareness is very modern.

He is keenly aware of the problems and also his powerlessness. He cannot solve the problems, so he writes them down, with a compassionate yet cool attitude. I read thi This collection of Kenko's essays is often compared with Hojoki: I read this in Japanese.

I hope the English translation by Donald Keene is reasonably good. I actually didn't know that I already reviewed this book once before here. I guess it makes sense, because I only heard about this book one, two years ago, when this blog was already up. But nevermind, I have new things to say! Basically, after my first review, I lost the book.

I don't know how, I don't know when but it was lost for a period of time. And then I found out I was going to Japan. So before I went, I was at Kinokuniya using up all those vouchers people gave me; and quite naturally, I I actually didn't know that I already reviewed this book once before here.

So before I went, I was at Kinokuniya using up all those vouchers people gave me; and quite naturally, I bought this book. I can't actually say that reading it in Japan is a different experience because honestly, I read it in my dorm room does the fact that I was eating edamane at the same time count? But I can say that this book is timeless. I wasn't bored with it even though it was a re-read. In fact, I think this book was "made" for re-reads.

It's essentially full of seemingly random short chapters, so you really could just flip to a random page and read a chapter which can be as short as a paragraph really. I learnt that although the arrangement of the chapters seem random, they're actually really skillfully arranged. Sadly, my literature skills aren't at the level to discern and appreciate it without any help, although every now and then, I'd get the "woah, cool arrangement" feeling. Being written so long ago, it's imbued with many Buddhist thoughts.

This was because at that time, the only two religions in Japan were Shintoism and Buddhism. Plus, the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko is a Buddhist priest. But I would think that it's a pity to skip this book merely because of its religious influence.

I think it's a really great way to appreciate the culture of that period and once you know that the religious aspect is there and really, it's very obvious , you can always take a step back whenever you feel uncomfortable. The book isn't wholly spiritual after all. Kenko seems to be attached to the past and the secular world he doesn't sound like a hermit so plenty of, in fact the majority of, the passages are related to life in Japan then or the past rather than to Buddhism.

And let me reiterate again, that I really like the Donald Keene translation. It would be interesting to read it in Japanese but let's face it, my proficiency is no where near what is necessary and even my sensei has said that it's hard for the Japanese to understand it. I suppose I'll have to wait another year or two so you might actually see a third review written in Japanese! First posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile Frequentando la gente, la parola si adegua alle intenzioni altrui, non al proprio cuore.

Potrebbe mai il Buddha di neve attendere la fine della costruzione? Jan 28, V rated it it was amazing. Very interesting to read in combination with contemporary texts that follow a similar structure and method. Endless text, forever with its movable parts. A Buddhist monk, Yoshida Kenko wrote these essays - reflections, really - during the 14th century. Many of the reflections have little relevance or context for the present-day reader, especially an American, at least as they're rendered in translation; these A Buddhist monk, Yoshida Kenko wrote these essays - reflections, really - during the 14th century.

Many of the reflections have little relevance or context for the present-day reader, especially an American, at least as they're rendered in translation; these are anecdotes recounting sayings or acts notables from that time or earlier or mundane observations about medicine or customs.

An important recurring theme concerns the transience of life and futility of desiring material comfort and actively pursuing worldly ambition; the author instead extols plainness, simplicity, humility, skill for the sake of its own merit of excellence.

Although he does refer to episodes of women speaking and acting virtuously, wisely, and with propriety, the more substantial reflections upon women - such as - are deeply misogynistic. The topics are so varied, though, that there are quite a few comments worth considering. But soon they themselves must pass away. Then how can later generations grieve, who only know him by repute? After a fime they go no longer to his tomb, and the people do not even know his name or who he was. True, some feeling folk may gaze with pity on what is now but the growth of grasses of succeeding springs; but at last there comes a day when even the pine trees that groaned in the storms, not lasting out their thousand years of life, are split for fuel, and the ancient grave, dug up and turned to rice-field, leaves never a trace behind.

Well-bred people do not talk in a superior way even about things that they have a good knowledge of. It is a fine thing when a man who thoroughly understands a subject is unwilling to open his mouth, and only speaks when he is questioned.

The love of men and women - is it only when they meet face to face? To feel sorrow at an unaccomplished meeting, to grieve over empty vows, to spend the long night sleepless and alone, to yearn for distant skies, in a neglected home to think fondly of the past - this is what love is. It is a great mistake for a foolish man, who is quick and skilful only at the game of checkers, and sees that a wise man is poor at the game, to come to the conclusion that the other's wisdom does not equal his own, or for any expert in one of the various accomplishments, seeing that others are ignorant thereof, to think himself their superior.

If there is width to right and left, there is no obstruction. If there is a distance before and behind there is no confinement. In narrow spaces things are crushed and shattered. When the mind is narrow and severe, we come into collision with things, and are broken in the conflict. When the mind is broad and gentle, not a hair is harmed. He also offers an extended commentary on drinking and drunkenness , which is worthwhile.

Dec 02, Daniel Gill rated it it was amazing Shelves: If you're interested in historic Japanese Buddhist views on aesthetics, propriety, and the ideal life, you'll probably find this book worth looking at. I would suspect Essays in Idleness is a mixed bag for typical western readers. You have some passages that are categorically profound: When I sit down in quiet meditation, the one emotion hardest to fight against is a longing in all things f If you're interested in historic Japanese Buddhist views on aesthetics, propriety, and the ideal life, you'll probably find this book worth looking at.

When I sit down in quiet meditation, the one emotion hardest to fight against is a longing in all things for the past. As I tear up scraps of old correspondence I should prefer not to leave behind, I sometimes find among them samples of the calligraphy of a friend who has died, or pictures he drew for his own amusement, and I feel exactly as I did at the time.

Even with letters written by friends who are still alive I try, when it has been long since we met, to remember the circumstances, the year. What a moving experience that is! And then others that are so bound to their historic or cultural context as to render them almost meaningless to a typical non-scholar American like me: Once when the retired emperor's courtiers were playing at riddles in the Daigakuji palace, the physician Tadamori joined them.

The Chamberlain and Major Counselor Kinakira posed the riddle: This quote justifiably has half a page of footnotes that accompany it in the Donald Keene translation , but it's inarguable that this passage and others like it just don't have much to offer people like me. The words "fixed complement" are used not only about priests at the various temples but in the Engishiki for female officials of lower rank. The words must have been a common designation for all officials whose numbers were fixed.

Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Essays in Idleness Quotes showing of It is such pride as this that makes a man appear a fool, makes him abused by others, and invites disaster.

A man who is truly versed in any art will of his own accord be clearly aware of his own deficiency; and therefore, his ambition being never satisfied, he ends by never being proud. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.

Someone once told me, "Even when building the imperial palace, they always leave one place unfinished. But his instructor said, ' A beginner ought never to have a second arrow; for as long as he relies upon the other, he will be careless with his first one.

At each shot he ought to think that he is bound to settle it with this particular shaft at any cost. But, though he may not himself realize that he is being careless, his teacher knows it.

You should bear this advice in mind on every occasion. In the same way he who follows the path of learning thinks confidently in the evening that the morning is coming, and in the morning that the evening is coming, and that he will then have plenty of time to study more carefully ; less likely still is he to recognize the waste of a single moment. How hard indeed is it to do a thing at once-now, the instant that you think of it! They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain.

But if you decide that you cannot very well ignore your worldly obligations, and that you will therefore carry them out properly, the demands on your time will multiply, bringing physical hardship and mental tension; in the end, you will spend your whole life pointlessly entangled in petty obligations.

I shall not keep promises, nor consider decorum. Let anyone who cannot understand my feelings feel free to call me mad, let him think I am out of my senses, that I am devoid of human warmth. Abuse will not bother me; I shall not listen if praised. People today cannot compare in resourcefulness with those of the past. They go into the mountain forests to live as hermits only to find the life unendurable without some means of allaying their hunger and shielding themselves from the storms.

As a result, how can they help but display at times something akin to a craving for worldly goods? It is excellent for a man to be simple in his tastes, to avoid extravagance, to own no possessions, to entertain no craving for worldly success. Sun Ch'en slept without a quilt during the winter months. All he had was a bundle of straw that he slept on at night and put away in the morning. Not surprisingly, therefore, Kenko's writing turns to advice.

He recommends to the sufferer of misfortune "to shut his gate and live in seclusion, so quietly, awaiting nothing, that people cannot tell whether or not he is at home" 5. He refers admiringly to a court bureaucrat who spoke of wanting "to see the moon of exile, though guilty of no crime," a clear and admirable expression of desire for reclusion 5.

The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known. Kenko warns against a "desire for fame and profit" as "foolish" and "a delusion" Several essays admonish against wasting time on useless activities, an affliction of youth.

Indeed, "you must not wait until you are old before you begin practicing the Way," he advises. Even if a man has not yet discovered the path of enlightenment, as long as he removes himself from his worldly ties, leads a quiet life, and maintains his peace of mind by avoiding entanglements, he may be said to be happy.


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

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

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

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