I have published an essay about the Confucian scholar Wang Yangming on Gornahoor.net. Anyone will be able to enjoy this exposition of Traditional doctrine. Below is an appendix to that post.
Yōmeigaku, the study of Yangming’s teachings in Japan, was especially prominent during the period of modernization. During the Russo-Japanese War, Emperor Meiji did a perfect imitation of Evola’s anecdote:
During the Russo-Japanese War, the emperor never felt impelled to offer advice on the conduct of the war, and he rarely revealed his emotions, even when told of Japanese victories. As soon as he learned of the fall of Port Arthur, the vice chief of the general staff, Nagaoka Gaishi, rushed to the palace to inform the emperor. … Nagaoke, too overcome by joy to even wait for the emperor to be seated, declared that serving as the messenger of glorious news was the greatest blessing of his life. Having blurted out these words, he started to make his report. He looked up at the emperor’s face. It was calm and self-possessed, exactly as it always was, not revealing a trace of emotion. During the fifteen or sixteen minutes while Nagaoka described the victory, the emperor nodded almost imperceptibly a few times … Nagaoka was deeply disappointed. [Donald Keene, Meiji and His World, 619]
During that war, the Admiral of the Japanese Navy is known to have carried a stamp with him that read, “A life dedicated to following the example of Yōmei”.
Yōmeigaku was shoved aside after 1945 to make way for foreign ideologies, but it captured the interest of Yukio Mishima. Just before his failed coup d’état, he wrote an article on “Yōmeigaku as a Revolutionary Philosophy”. The newspapers of 1972 were written by young, postwar-educated reporters who had no idea of even the most basic tenets of Yōmeigaku, but that didn’t stop them from blaming the unfamiliar old tradition for driving Mishima to suicidal heroism, and if you Google any of these terms today you will find all sorts of baseless slanders about the philosophy online. This is a shame, because both Japan and the world have much to learn from Wang Yangming
Posted: May 13th, 2013 | Confucius, Kokoro | No Comments »
Green Shinto reports that a European is now a shrinekeeper at a major shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo. This position required top-level appointment.
Unlike Green Shinto, I don’t consider this a “breakthrough” from the Japanese side. Shintoists have theorized about shrines for other nations since the 19th century. Although there was strong opposition from the populace to letting foreigners enter Japan at all, shrinekeepers have never moved to stop anyone from visiting shrines. On the contrary, shrines are considered so nonsectarian that there was no objection to exporting shrine practices to Hawaii, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria. Recently a shrine was built in Washington with foreigners as its specific mission.
It is certainly a “breakthrough” on the side of the gentleman who had to learn all the norito, though. Good work, Rev. Wiltschko!
Posted: May 4th, 2013 | Kokoro | No Comments »
The following is a translation from The Analects for the Modern Man (2006) by Kure Tomofusa.
The Magistrate of Shou said to Confucius, “There is a very honest person in our village. When his father stole sheep, he prosecuted his own father.” Confucius said, “In our village, honesty is different from yours. Father defends his children and Children defend their father. Here you may find true honesty.” [Analects 13.18]
I’d like to use this commentary to think about Confucianism’s strong point, filial piety.
When most people think of Confucianism, they reflexively think of filial piety, moreover a stiffly imposed filial piety. In Legalism, to be sure, filial piety is symbolized by bad customs like the Twenty-Four Filial Exemplars. But, recently, filial piety has received notice as a way of thinking to overcome the limits and pathologies of Western individualism. This is the treatment of filial piety as an assimilation of oneself with the whole, of filial piety as symbolizing the continuity of life. In an age where it has become necessary to consider the standpoint of the whole human race, since it is difficult to create a principle for conceiving of humanity from an individualist perspective, this is only natural. We must recognize the absurd spectacle of Western rationalism or individualism being unable to judge the relationship between parent and child.
Parents cannot choose their children, nor can children choose their parents. For that reason, love and hatred are tangled together. The undertaking of that entangled love and hatred– is that not what we call filial piety?
This view is not so far-fetched. When the Analects speak of filial piety, more often than not they are speaking specifically of this social system. Here is an example from the first book:
The Teacher said, “While a man’s father lives, we should evaluate his character by his home life and aspirations. After one’s father dies, we should evaluate his character by his public life and deeds. Three years after his father’s death [when the period of mourning has ended], if his conduct is still in line with his father’s, he can be called a dutiful son.” [Analects 1.11]
This is clearly regarding a social system. The “way of the father” which the son is meant to imitate is furthermore that of the management of a fiefdom, the selection of faithful stewards, and statesmanship. Don’t be tempted to confuse this “way of the father” with knowing when to flip the burgers on the barbecue; such erroneous readings are on the rise these days.
Filial piety is part of this system, and it took form naturally preceding Confucius, as Pre-Confucianism. Taking this as the soil, Confucius was the one who consciously gave it meaning. This meaning-giving could rather be said to give readings to unclear parts of filial piety. The above passage is such; let’s translate it.
The Magistrate of Shou put a question to Confucius. Shou was a province in China, and this magistrate was known for being a wise man, but a haughty one. [Rest of translation omitted; it's as above.]
Parents could not be expected to rejoice in their child’s crime, nor could a child rejoice in his parent’s crime. With all that weeping and lamentation, trying to protect their kin by concealing the crime is only natural for humans. Confucius stressed people over laws. More important than good government is a virtuous people. This insistence in Confucian government, and the nepotism it generated, was the source of social stagnation. The importance of kinship and the restraints of nepotism warded off social progress. While we must remember that fact, even more than that, we must take note how a curiously strong insistence on the objective character of law arose in 20th century America. Believing that their own troubles were caused by the bad education they received from their parents, some American children have even sued their parents and sought restitution.
Li, Confucius’ son who preceded him in death, of course had an untroubled childhood, but was a perfectly mediocre individual. But for his father, Li was a beloved, wonderful son. “Whether or not he possesses genius, he is still my child.” (Analects 11.8)
There is a passage in the Analects which has eluded intepretation since ancient times:
Meng Wu Bo asked Confucius about filial piety. Confucius replied, 父母唯其疾之憂。 (Analects 2.6)
The following readings have been proposed.
Ba Yu of the Later Han: “One should only be concerned for one’s parents in times of terminal illness. At other times, we must not be concerned.”
Shu Shi of Sòng: “Parents are concerned for their children only in times of sickness, so we must pay attention to our health.”
Jinsai Itoh (1627-1705): “The first duty towards one’s parents is to be concerned for them in times of sickness.”
[By the way, here are some other modern readings: “The main concern of your parents is about your health.” ”Have your parents be concerned about only their health.” "Parents are anxious lest their children should be sick."]
In all of these readings, though, we see that the relationship between parent and child is not one of choice.
Confucius himself lost his father at the age of three, and lost his mother at the youthful age of 24. In the roughly 500 sayings of Confucius in the Analects there is not a single one about the kind of filial piety which the Teacher himself carried out. Nor do any of his disciples relate a single word about their teacher’s piety.
He was still a child when his father died, but it is thought as well that something must have happened, preventing him from meeting his mother.
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Confucius | No Comments »
The original sacred text of Oomoto was a piece of “Ofudesaki” automatic writing produced by Nao Deguchi, an illiterate farmer’s wife, channeling a kami that she called Ushitora no Konjin. We do not know if this text is authentic but people who knew her seem to think the following was really written by her in 1903. Also, this contradicts the teachings of Onisaburo, who printed the text. When it came time for him to select his favorite teachings of Nao’s this was not among them.
People use the fine earth planting trees and flower seeds, without a thought for the importance of the land, and do not produce the rice, wheat, beans and millet of our parents, which are the very life of the people. They are saying, “Rice, beans, wheat, whatever, we can buy it from foreign countries,” but that won’t last forever. Even in a place with cats, if you plant the five staple grains, they’ll come. Everyone accepts the foreign country’s material teaching, so in the country of Japan, live the Japanese way, and if you see someone planting those trees, dig them up. The ways of today won’t go on forever. People who are going up in the world won’t be able to accept this teaching today, but when that season comes, they must follow the way prescribed by God, and pass into this world.
If you don’t follow a teaching for Japan, the world will have no rule. If you copy the foreign countries, building your homes from stone and tile, building up your money, saying that you are living a developed life, sticking your nose up in the air, your nose will be so long it gets in the way of your eyes, and you won’t be able to see up, nor will you be able to see down, and while your nose sticks to the sky your feet become lazy, and when people are needed for the nation of God in the moment of truth, there is not a single one right now, so they will need to find the Japanese spirit in this Oomoto, so when the order comes to open the Gate of the Celestial Rock Cave again, we will have to save the universe. The selfish teaching of the foreign nations who say, “Things are all right,” dirties their hearts like beasts, and they will grasp nothing of this teaching.
November 9 [Old Style], 1903
This specific prophecy was suppressed by the Japanese government. Most of the issues of the magazine which carried this quote were destroyed.
Nao was spotted more than once pulling up flowers that Onisaburo had planted.
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Posted: April 5th, 2013 | Tradition | 5 Comments »
The 666th discourse in Reikai Monogatari is entitled “666″. However, this 666 is pronounced “Miroku”, the Japanese word for Maitreya, the future Buddha who will unite mankind. In Japanese, 3 is “mi” and 6 is “roku”, so “Miroku” = “three sixes” = 666. I have decided some parts of this bizarre chapter are worth translating.
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Posted: April 5th, 2013 | World Peace | No Comments »
Reikai Monogatari, the Tale of the Spirit World, is an enormous sacred text by Onisaburo Deguchi, “the Gurdjieff of the East.” The Oomoto (“Great Root”) religious movement in Japan, from which countless groups emerged, is an excellent example of Counter-Tradition. Even though many Oomoto-inspired groups have translated works into English, not a single chapter of Reikai Monogatari has ever been translated into any language, and after reading this section, which defies all description, you will either begin to wonder why, or cease to wonder why. I have chosen sections to translate haphazardly where it pleased me to do so.
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Posted: April 4th, 2013 | Signs of the Times | No Comments »
A little translation about everyone’s favorite Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima today. Here’s a capsule summary of Mishima’s attempted coup, from Counter Currents:
The General was bound and gagged. Close fighting ensued as officers several times entered the general’s office. Mishima and his small band each time forced the officers to retreat. Finally, they were herded out with broad strokes of Mishima’s sword against their buttocks. A thousand soldiers assembled on the parade ground. Two of Mishima’s men dropped leaflets from the balcony above, calling for a rebellion to “restore Nippon.”
Precisely at mid-day, Mishima appeared on the balcony to address the crowd. Shouting above the noise of helicopters he declared: “Japanese people today think of money, just money: Where is our national spirit today? The Self-Defense Forces must be the soul of Japan.”
The soldiers jeered. Mishima continued: “The nation has no spiritual foundation. That is why you don’t agree with me. You will just be American mercenaries. There you are in your tiny world. You do nothing for Japan.” His last words were: “I salute the Emperor. Long live the emperor!”
Professor Kure Tomofusa is a self-described “Confucian” and “feudalist” at Kyoto University. The following is a translation of Kure’s comments on Mishima’s coup, from his article “The End of the Age of ‘Devotion’”.
A summary of the first two sections: At this time in Japan, tiny Maoist and Stalinist groups were having street fights with each other and violently purging, sometimes murdering, their own members. You can read more about this at the Wikipedia articles on the United Red Army and Japan Red Army so I will not translate this part. Mishima’s actions were met with much harsher condemnation in the mainstream media than the leftist groups. Now, here’s the good part.
From Honesty to Ridicule
If you want to call it natural, it was natural. For a novelist– not a superior officer, but a novelist– to suddenly appear on the balcony and ask them to rise up, there could not have been any expectation that the Self-Defense Forces could have any clue what was going on. Being unreasonably interrupted in the middle of their break would have only added to their annoyance. Mishima Yukio called out boldly to all who would hear. It was a naturally meaningless act, since the officers did not have a “legal duty” to listen to what they were hearing. “Are you not warriors, men?” rebuked Mishima. The officers’ reply was derisive heckling. Were they warriors? No one expected them to be. The Self-Defense Forces are not warriors but bureaucrats appointed by the Self-Defense Law.
Mishima Yukio committed his savings to the Tatenokai, a militia standing at the front against communist conspiracies from China, North Korea, or the Soviets… Mishima was devoted in his actions. This was not the frivolous pastime of a novelist. But… the Self-Defense Forces work only from the obligation of the duties of their job, and are granted their authority only by the law. They are a government bureau. Literally speaking, they are a government bureau on the basis of being an administrative organ.
A group of bureaucrats just doing their job was being respected more than a devoted warrior, on the sole basis of their relation to the administrative organ. This signaled the dawn of a new kind of value. In other words, thus began the age of “practicality”.
I am not denying the value of practicality. Despite the force and the romance of devotion, the effectiveness of “practicality” can bring people happiness. An age that longs for a hero is an unhappy one. An age that respects philosophy, and critical thought, and high literature is also an unhappy one. After the 1970s, Japan sought to separate itself from that unhappy age. Not only heroes, but also philosophy, thought, and literature, in sum all our serious “devotion” got down on bended knees before “practicality” and prayed for an era of happiness. Ritual suicide? What nonsense! Ridicule it!
But the age could not be abandoned that easily. Even in an age of practicality, people long for devotedness. And as if to fulfill that longing, in 1995 a twisted, parodic “devotion” showed its hideous face: the Aum gas attacks. Some of the leftists talked about this with words like “frightening”, “gruesome”, “ghastly”. But, the truly gruesome, ghastly, frightening incident came with the passing of the age when Mishima could die for his devotion. That “devotion”, which we thought we had smothered under a veil of “practicality”, had hideously returned from the dead, like a zombie.
Source: 呉智英 「『本気』の時代の終焉」 in 「三島由紀夫が死んだ日」(2005) excerpted in 『健全なる精神』 2012
Posted: March 13th, 2013 | Japan | 1 Comment »
Confucius for the Modern Man by Professor Tomofusa Kure (2006)
Professor Kure of Kyoto University opens this book by complaining that nobody really reads Confucius, pointing out obvious errors that anyone could discover in the standard Japanese translations of him. He picked out his favorite verses, some of which he thinks are overlooked or make scholars uncomfortable. I noticed when trying to find English translations of the verses cited that his verses are missing from some translations. 19th century translations also have many errors, which is weird because there are plenty of centuries-old commentaries on these texts. I hunted down various online translations and the reader may guess what makes these specific chapters so interesting. I am working on securing permission for Kure-sensei’s commentaries.
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Posted: March 9th, 2013 | Confucius | 1 Comment »
A thought, after reading a description of Schuon’s “Maryamiyya”.
There are two forms of “traditionalism” in the sense of Guénonian anti-modernism; the metaphysical reactionaries, who consider Guénon and Evola as two representatives of a large class of those with some understanding (a class that might include anyone from A. Dugin to C.S. Lewis), and the religious perennialists, who consider Guénon and Schuon as modern-day prophets. The religious perennialists frown upon Evola as a dangerous and overly political deviant. Certainly Evola dared his readers to “revolt” against modernity, while Schuon busied himself building a “refuge” from modernity. But as a point of fact, Schuon’s teachings were more deviant and dangerous in his own lifetime than Evola’s. It may at least be said of Evola that he never rubbed his naked body against female devotees. If Evola has a political influence in the future, it is only because more people find his work relevant.
Update: Rather than making a new post, I will update this post with a heartwarming account of Guénon’s strict orthodoxy and the loving devotion of his wife.
In July 1949, the beginning of Ramadan, I was invited to break the fast. I found him lying on the couch, and he explained that fasting tired him to the point that he could not work at night, the day being set aside for prayer and rest. As soon as she heard the cannon announcing the sunset, Hajja Fatima brought us a cup of Turkish coffee, which was drunk at the same time we lit a cigarette. After which, Sheikh Abdel [Guénon] conducted the prayer of Maghreb, and I followed the movements behind him. After an excellent Egyptian meal and a peaceful vigil, I took my leave of the Sheikh and his family.
Source: Jean-Louis Michon, Cheikh Abdel Wahid Yahia
Posted: March 5th, 2013 | Tradition | 6 Comments »
Source: survey by JTB travel agency
A survey of 3,600 Japanese adults shows that 52% visited a shrine or temple in the past year. (Of those who didn’t, most simply didn’t have a reason to go; only 8% of all respondents specifically said they were totally uninterested in religious places.) The reasons shrinegoers and templegoers gave for visiting were as follows:
22% There were things I wanted to see in the surrounding area
21% There’s something special about that place
18% I visit that place regularly
11% No reason in particular
8% I felt like I wanted to pray
5% A relative or friend asked me to go
4% I was taken there on a tour
4% I saw it on TV or in a magazine
4% I was attending a special event or service there
If these reasons seem a bit unflattering, the positive reactions from visiting should be more encouraging:
40% I felt soothed / my heart was calmed
19% The buildings were very pretty
13% I felt like I should go more often
10% My ki/energy was renewed
10% The souvenirs were good
4% I gained something from visiting
2% I enjoyed talking with local people
Furthermore 56% go to temples and shrines together with their families, while only 15% go alone. A supermajority are praying for the health and safety of family members.
JTB found that about 18% of Japanese people would like to visit either Ise or Izumo this year if they can find the time. Other popular choices include Itsukushima, Meiji Jingū, Kiyomizu-dera, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, Atsuda Jingū, Kumano Sanzan, Fushimi Inari, Nikkō, Takachiho, and Kirishima-Jingū. A mixture of tourism-related, history-related, cultural heritage-related, and “power spot” reasons were given for these choices.
Posted: March 4th, 2013 | Japan, Secular-Religious | 1 Comment »