Now what I want to talk to you about this afternoon are some of the aesthetic principles underlying both Chinese and Japanese arts. And there deriving from these Taoistic and Buddhistic philosophies that have inspired them. And to speak about them tell it technically. In the language of Taoism, there are certain words used which are the foundations of their aesthetic ideas. One of these words is the uncarved block. And another is unbleached silk. And as I already intimated in talking to you about the Taoist view of the relationship of man and nature, the Taoists make a distinction between the natural and the artificial, and seem to be all on the side of the natural and rather against the artificial. Although you must be cautioned against taking this too seriously. Too literally. You might say, of course, that the distinction between the artificial and the natural, is an artificial distinction. Because really, and truly, a human building is no more no less artificial than a bird’s nest. But the Taoists use a kind of art. And a kind of poetry which you could call indicative. That is to say, while understanding that everything that man does is natural, some things that he does a more natural than others. That is to say, they look more natural they they go that way.
And so the idea of unbleached silk. Means silk in the raw, raw silk, natural silk. And so in the same way the uncarved block is the sort of stone that would be selected for a Chinese or Japanese garden. Chinese stones tend, as I see it to be rather more elaborate. Rather more fussy than Japanese stones and I think that in the art of bun seche which means growing rocks. The Japanese are a bit more sophisticated than the Chinese although this doesn’t often happen. But the Japanese are masters of growing rocks. So, this rock that you would find in a Japanese garden, is the uncarved block, even though it may have been. What has happened really it’s what we call in the Western obje tole. Where the artist instead of making something selects it. He finds a glorious thing and shares his finding with other people and that finding is a work of art. And you see that is connected with the whole thought in this tradition of aesthetics in the Far East, that superb art is a work of nature. It is not something imposed upon nature, even though as you’ve seen, in many Japanese gardens, that there are very complex espalier work. On trees and that the an enormous amount of pruning and trimming is done, and in fact the discipline of the garden is amazingly complicated, and requires a great deal of care.
But the object always is, through the discipline of the art to make the garden seem more natural than it would look if you left it to itself. Understand that, is to work upon nature with skill and craft, but to move in the direction in which nature is already going. So that, the uncarved block may be extended into a sculpture. But what the carver, to make the block uncarved, even when the sculpture is finished, what the sculptor is going to ask the block in the first place, is what do you want to become? In other words, along what lines have you already started in the direction of the sculpture, and I will and I will cooperate with you and bring it to completion. So that’s the principle, really, you see that underlies judo. Judo means the gentle way, the gentle Tao. And it is the art of going along with nature, that is also called Wu Wei, or Mui in Japanese. And no doing nothing literally not being because after all it’s man’s nature to act and you can’t do nothing literally. But to act mui without really it’s as to act without feeling that your actions are separate from nature. When you feel that everything you do is simply part of the course of things, then the way in which you do things is changed. You wouldn’t think so, it isn’t logical that it should be. But nevertheless if you really feel, that you can’t deviate from the Tao, that it lies behind it. We think that you do your type of action in your style of behavior will in fact be changed. And it will be in that it will tend to be in the direction, of your seeming to other people in some ways to be more passive, than you might ordinarily be. And the difficulty here is that. Westerners, when they hear about Buddhism and Taoism and the sort of thing, they interpret it one-sidedly as passivity. And don’t see that what sometimes looks like passivity, is cleverness. You as businessmen often know if you leave letters unanswered for a month when you return to the many of them have already answered themselves. And sometimes, when you sit and do nothing you avoid making very serious mistakes. Which would have arisen if you had acted prematurely earlier if you had done something about it. I’ve practiced this in activity of this kind for many years and I’ve always been accused of being lucky. Because when I should have done something and been up and at it I was supposed went and sat and did nothing and then when it turned out all right, this is terrible. Just like no I know you haven’t said. That’s why I’m still married to you!
But anyway this is so in that so. This tendency to look inactive and to go in the direction in the arts of a kind of primitivity to which we know in the words Shibui. The quality course in Japan is a certain kind of sophisticated primitivity. Listen to these contradictions, these paradoxes the sophisticated primitivity controlled accident. Where you see a. Man and Nature are really collaborating, man as the controller the reason, the logical being and yet at the same time. Not ruining life. By making it all logic and all control. To have logic and to have control, that is to say in short to have order, you have to have randomness. Because where there is no randomness, order cannot manifest itself.
Well now., in the vocabulary of Japanese aesthetics, there are a number of terms which you should understand thoroughly, and which are basic. The first is sabi. And that goes along with something that rhymes with it wabi. So often Japanese people speak of Wabi Sabi, or Sabi wabi as a kind of mood of the art of certain art feeling or of Zen taste. And then there is aware, which I’ve mentioned in passing. As another kind of mood there is Yugen. There is furyu. Such words which designate the basic moods of painting and poetry and so on. Now to begin with sabi. The basic feeling of Sabi is loneliness. One of the great paintings that illustrate Sabi is the lonely crow on a tree branch. It is the feeling of the hermit. It is the feeling which the garden artist tries to create, when in a crowded country, he wants to give you the sensation of being way off in a mountain landscape. So this sense, you see, of solitariness, of being able to wander off on your own, is Sabi and is a thing of course that any sane person has to have. One has to have privacy, you have to have space in which to be alone, so as not to become a rubberstamp.
You see it’s often thought that Eastern philosophy is against individuality. And this is not true. The unity of man in the universe is not a loss, or a merging of personality in something impersonal. It’s more like the fact that when individuality, when personality, is known and experienced as an expression of the whole cosmos, then the person becomes more individual not less individual but he becomes individual in a non strident way. In a way that has in it, the spirit of the uncarved block, and the unbleached silk. And so, one of the qualities of this is solitariness. The great Chinese poem which has sabi in it it preeminently, is asking for the master. I asked the boy beneath the pines he says the master’s gone alone. Herb-gathering somewhere on the Mount cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.
So all the whole idea you see of zen that. Wherever you stand, if you realize Zen, you create a mountain. Every Where is the mountain solitude even in the middle of an uproar this is Sabi. And for this reason then an enormous amount of the subject matter of Far Eastern painting and poetry is solitude. The love of solitude. Now there is next, wabi. This is a more difficult idea. Let’s imagine that you are feeling very bad about something, you’re depressed, the world is too much with you. Just, you’re sick of life. And then quite surprisingly, you notice a small weed. Growing underneath the hedge. And this weed is really after all not just to be dismissed as a weed, but some rather lovely design that is in the nature of this plant. Or supposing you are bothered by financial uproar, wars, politics, and everything like that, and you are sitting on a beach and you become aware of the water endlessly crossing pebbles. And you get a sense that this goes on forever and ever and ever it is long before you were thought of, long before all human history, empires, schemes and so on and will endure long after. But it’s something that strikes you that is very simple, very ordinary, like the water on the pebbles, or like the little weed under the hedge. That suggests a kind of amazing eternal reliability of nature. That in a very humble form goes on and on and on and whatever human beings may do this everlasting sanity persists. Now that strange flip, from the mood of depression to the mood of a certain consolation in this weed is wabi.
Now, don’t let me be too dictatorial. I’m trying to explain these things through examples rather than through trying to give you philosophical definitions. It’s better to give examples than to pin it down with abstract terminologies. Wabi comes out in the haiku, very much a Brushwood gate. And for a lock this nail. This is wabi. This is all there is, the path comes to an end among the parsley. Which has a touch of you again but but also wabi because the parsey is just well everybody has parsley in the garden.
Now, next, this word aware. A W A R E. is very much connected with the Buddhist feeling for the transience of life. That everything is change, and nothing at all can be held onto or possessed. This feeling of transience, is at the root of the philosophy of poverty that exists in Buddhism and it has a curious difference in it from the Christian philosophy of poverty as say explained by Sir Francis of Assisi. It’s cognate, it it’s like it but a little subtle difference. Somehow one feels in the Christian emphasis on poverty that poverty contrasts with the richness as good to evil. In other words, poverty is unpleasant, but it’s something you ought to share with the poor who live unpleasant lives. So if you are to expiate your sins, well you ought to be poor. And to, live roughly. And so, for this reason, in Buddhism, one would not say so much poverty, as one would say simplicity. Not going without, not clinging to things because it’s good for you. But because it is actually the happiest way to live. Because nothing is more terrifying than the state the chronic anxiety, which one has if you are subject to the illusion that something or other in life could be held onto and safeguarded. And nothing can.
So the acceptance of everything flowing away is absolutely basic to freedom, to being an unsui, a cloud water person who drifts like cloud and flows like water. But in this, we mustn’t take ourselves too ridiculously. I mean, naturally, all human beings have in them certain clinging. So you can’t let go totally. You wouldn’t be human if you did. You can’t be just a leaf on the wind or just a ball in a mountain stream to use as an poetic phrase because if you were that you wouldn’t be human just as I pointed out that a person with no emotions who is completely controlled his emotions as a stone Buddha. So a person who would be completely let go. Would also be some kind of an inanimate object.
So Zen very definitely emphasizes, being human. Being perfectly human as its ideal and so to be perfectly human. One must have not a state of absolute detachment. But a state of detachment which contains a little bit of resistance. A certain clinging still, they say in India are Divan Mukta, a man who is liberated in this world that he has to cultivate a few mild bad habits in order to stay in the body because if he were absolutely perfect he would disappear for manifestation. And so the, the yogi, great yogis maybe he smokes a cigarette or has a bad temper occasionally something that keeps him human. And that thing little thing, isn’t very important it’s like the salt in a stew. It’s the, it grounds him. Well, this is another way of saying that even a very great sage, a great Buddha, will have in him a touch of regret, that life is fleeting, Because if he doesn’t have that touch of regret, he’s not human and he’s incapable of compassion towards people who regret very much that life is fleeting.
So the mood aware, is that touch of regret. Of nostalgia. Of, you know that poem which speaks of the feeling of a banquet hall deserted. Here it is, been a great banquet you know and that’s all the guests have gone home and there are empty glasses and dirty plates and crushed napkins and all sorts of things all over and somehow the echo of voices and merriment is still there. And so this mood. A lottery comes up so even a very great person. You’re should feel that because the prize otherwise is not to be human.
So for this reason, Buddhist and Taoist poetry is not unemotional. It’s not, dehumanised. And so somehow speaks very much to us as people. And, does not have in it the feeling that we ought instead to turn into saints or Superman. That’s the main thing about this philosophy of life. The next word, the special term is furyu. Know who you means literally. Wind flow who is the character for wind the real means flowing. And the dictionary’s translated elegance, and this won’t do. furyu, fiirst of all you must remember that the word wind is used in Chinese and Japanese a light to indicate atmosphere. The atmosphere of a place. So when a person has say a certain school or philosophy. It’s called The Family wind. That means that the atmosphere the slant the attitude of this particular school. So that meaning of wind, atmosphere comes into the expression furyu. And who are you is, like this. Here is a land of fishing. And he’s sitting in the evening in the twilight on the edge of a river, with his fishing rod in a lonely little boat tied up by the bank. Now if this man is fishing with his mind intent simply on catching fish this is not for you. But if he’s also digging the atmosphere. It’s furyu. To flow with the wind you see to dig the atmosphere American offers the most beautiful possibilities of translation for in our incomparable slang for some Oriental ideas. furyu is there to you know to get with it, to flow with it, and not again you see in the sense of the merely passive leaf flowing on the wind. But, furyu, has in it you see a touch of self-consciousness, like that man fishing. Now, you would think if you started Taoist philosophy that this would be very bad. Chuang Tzu somewhere says that. A comfortable belt is one that you don’t feel. And you’re unaware of it. That’s not the most comfortable belt. That comfortable shoes, would you be completely unconscious of comfortable shoes, no! Something better than comfortable shoes are shoes that you know are comfortable. So in the same way, Self-consciousness adds something to life. It’s one thing to be happy, and not know it. It’s another thing to be happy and to know it. It’s like one’s voice in the shower room or bath tub has more resonance than one’s voice in the open air. And that’s why temples of cathedrals and resonating boxes for guitars and drums and things are created to give this little quality of echo. For all echo is a certain kind of feedback which enables you to reflect upon what you’re doing and to know that you know. So one might say that ordinary people are Buddhas but they don’t know it. And the Buddha is one who knows he’s a Buddha. Only, they don’t let you settle for this comfortably, and easily, because really to know is also defined as not to know. In the Upanishads, it is said that if you think you know what Brahman is you have yet some started to be done. For those who know Brahman do not know Brahman and those who do not know Brahman really know. Now all this paradoxical language is intended to keep you confused. So that you can’t say I’ve got it. So, but disposition is is not one sided. There is something about being human, about being self-conscious you see that is not a. Me. Stake of nature. Not a completely evil fall into self-awareness but self-awareness although it creates all kinds of problems because through self-awareness we him in the human being is in some sense a cell frustrating mechanism. He knows that he is going to die, and the price of being able to control the future, is to know that in the long run you won’t be able to and worry about that. But also with self-consciousness goes the possibility of resonance, of realisation, of becoming enlightened, liberated, and knowing it, and therefore able to enjoy it.
So, furyu adds this to the dimension of going with it. Something more than the mere passive it it of going with but knowing that you’re going. Now. But it does at the same time it isn’t entirely wrong that the dictionaries have translated it elegance. It you could say it for you. Is style. When we say somebody really has style. Now but this designates a particular kind of style. It is the style. Of. What one might call. The elegant poor man. The interesting Pratik bum. The the rich pauper you see. Now you find that a good deal in. The things that we’ve been seeing. We’ve gone to many temples. Well, nobody really owns anything. And yet in a way they’re like serious. This is for you. The next word Yugen. F U R Y U furyu. I have spoken about you again but I haven’t told you. The basic symbol of Yugen as the flower which grows from a rock. And so there is something about that which is improbable mysterious contradictory that a flower could come out of a rock. But Yugen, more than any other of these terms defies translation. The two characters which I shall draw for you shortly. Are rather interesting one the first character yu, shows the basic form of a mountain. And then the mountain is combined with characters indicating dark, darkness, you see in the character for mountain, which is simply it’s just it’s just like this there are these things the other the valleys and the dark is put in the valley say in each case.
Now, you get so the idea of the deep valley. There’s a poem which says, ‘The wind drops but the petals keep falling. The bird calls and the mountain becomes more mysterious. Little sounds emphasizing silence little motions emphasizing stillness.’ This quality you see, is in this word yun. Gen is in Chinese Guan, which means the the original deep deep mysterious darkness out of which everything arises the depth. Yakob Erm I would say urgrund. The. In the Book of Genesis. And darkness covered the face of the deep or the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters those waters of chaos the primeval blackness, which is the same blackness as your head. You know, how your head appears invisible to your eyes. That is gen, it is darker than darkness, because it isn’t it is blacker than black, you see, it is practically nothing that’s it so mysterious, so when you put these two characters together you get yugen. And so yugen is first of all, suggestiveness. I was looking around one of the temples a few days ago, where I noticed that, you couldn’t figure out how big it was. Or it didn’t have any limits. Because always everyone wore say of a room seemed to be a screen which led to something else beyond. And at the back of every garden, there seemed to be a little gate that led to some other courtyard. And everything led into something else and I said to the priest, I don’t know whether I’m going to go exploring on art or just leave it alone and think that well here I left Kyoto and I never did find out what was through that little gate. And so what. Forever there will be magic behind there, which I didn’t define, I didn’t draw in. And so this whole temple was was done that way. All sorts of suggestions, of little avenues disappearing, like a mountain path winding up among the trees where does it go? True, if you follow it, you will eventually go up out of Kyoto here and get down to absolute and then I was you find yourself back in the suburbs. But there is the sense of that disappearing mountain path, like we’ve got going up here that it goes to the place. And everybody has in the back of their minds, an image of the place, that you want to go to, or some no not really an image though it’s always slightly indefinite there’s the certain feeling of there ought to be somewhere the thing I’ve always wanted. We get disappointed, of course, because as we get older we feel that perhaps that doesn’t exist at all. That one just has to put up with the second best or with something half a loaf is better than no bread. But still I find that Far Eastern art is very, very full of hints about what is sometimes called Horison. Horison is the magical island somewhere out in the Pacific. Which is the paradise island. And all these Chinese paintings of wonderful floating Pagodas and terraces with scholars sitting around drinking wine and so on are hints of the Paradise world. And that somewhere then, these little steps lead up to that thing. And you’ve seen these steps, Japan is full of them, as you just go along in the train and look up the hills and there are arches, steps disappearing into the hills all of which suggests the feeling I’m not with that thing. So yugen, as it were comes around full circle to subbie. The wonderful lonely place. At the end of the road. Where there won’t be any mother-in-law to bother you. Any of that sort of dreadful social difficulty. But solitude which fits befits a bearded old gentleman. Now of course, you see all these things are symbols. On one level, they’re very human, and they reflect our perhaps childish and immature desires to be really alone, to have that Paradise thing. And realistic people say well you ought not to bother yourself or fool yourself with such fantasies and nowadays I find that we feel very guilty about thinking of paradise. Of horison, or whatever it is, the enchanted garden. I think na-ah. Reality is what you read about in the newspapers and you’ve got to face it. And everything isn’t pleasant I know there’s the hard boiled school of zoologists for example who insist that birds hate flying. You know, everybody is always envied a bird, and wanted really to live on long wings you know and so there comes up somebody who is usually some wretched academician who says, ‘No now we’ve discovered by measurements that birds loath flying.’ I’m going to feel very satisfactory when you found that out because you’ve smashed an ideal. Oh for the wings of a dove, far away would I roam in the wilderness build me and theirs and remain there forever at rest I’m quoting the Psalms. But, apparently doves just hate this chore of flying.
Now it is just in the same way as it’s ridiculous to try to be so inhuman as never to feel any regrets about the passing of time of life. And so on, it’s likewise inhuman, not to have the paradise fantasy of the mysterious place round the corner, just over the crest of the hill. Just behind the island in the distance. You see, because that place is really the big joke, that’s you. That’s why, you have found that at the end of the line, when you get through the last tory and up. Alas their way you are liable to be confronted with a mirror. And so, everybody is seeking seeking seeking seeking seeking, for that thing that you’ve got to have, you see, well you’ve got it. And but nobody’s going to believe this. But there it is, the real the real thing that you are is the Paradise land if you’re looking for at the end of the line. And it’s far, far more reliable than any kind of an external scene which you could love and cling to hold on to. Of course the whole fascination of life is that that seems perfectly incredible.
So, I think these terms are the crucial ones. Let me repeat them briefly, you’ve got, firsly the uncarved block. And the unbleached silk, these are the prototypes. Then you have sabi. The mood of solitariness. Wabi, the flip from disillusion with everything, to the sudden recognition of how faithful the weeds are. How the sparrows chirping in the eaves suddenly take your mind away from important and dreadful business. Aware, the the regret of the passing of life, which somehow makes that very passing beautiful. Furyu, getting with it. And living with style. That is to say with rich poverty. Elegant simplicity. Yugen, the aesthetic equivalent of…Well let me put it this way. There was a philosopher by the name of Vandal Lew who once said that the mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. That’s yugen. And that mystery that deep deep ever so deep thing which is before all worlds is you. The unrecognized Self. So let’s have a brief intermission.