Friday, June 26, 2015

Zen and the Japanese personality

Japanese has a personality propensity to Zen experience. By Zen experience, I don't mean Zen as written by D. T. Suzuki who spoke primarily to Western audience with a rationalistic mentality with an analytic approach to philosophy. Zen experience is an internal (empirical) perception. Midnight Diner (Shinya Shokudō  深夜食堂), the movie-TV series-manga that I speedily became fan, inspired me to look at the issue, once more.

Zen is acceptance rather than endurance. For the Japanese personality, it is not by any philosophical analysis, it is experiencing life as complete, rather than half-full and certainly not half-empty. In Midnight Diner, the patrons were living in the margin of society. Some of them had very little money to spend on meals. There was this meal called butter-rice. A middle-aged part-time singer (and part-time factory labor) would sing a song in the diner for a bowl of butter-rice (黃油飯 バターライス) and a small bowl of Tonkotsu broth. The master accepted this deal and the singer came once every week. The singer was serious about his butter rice. The rice must be very hot, the butter must first be buried inside the rice for 30 seconds (during which time he closes his eyes in a meditative mode), and after that add just a few measured drops of soy sauce. Itadakimasu! Zen like and at one with as simple as a bowl of butter rice. Simple focus with deference. The essence of a Japanese bath. A willingness and ability to submit oneself to a defined structure - without the need for rational explanations or justifications. The gist of Zen experience. A state or condition that I can see many Japanese have a propensity getting into without much effort, while westerners sweating themselves with endless arguments as to what is the true meaning of Zen.

If you are not a Japanese, probably you have to seek other routes, such as chi cultivation through chi kung or meditation - assuming that you want to experience Zen in the first place.

The Zen way of butter rice

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