Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees - Kenko

Yoshida Kenko (1283-1352) was a Japanese monk whose 'Essays in Idleness' is one of the most studied works in medieval literature. In this little Penguin classic we get a peep into his mind and thoughts - the essays are taken from his Essays in Idleness. Kenko speaks a universal language of peace, love, kindness. And wonder.

He wonders about human nature. He thinks about how people gives themselves away by the manner in which they treat birds and animals. He talks of sexual desire and ponders of how it distracts the human heart. Of women and how they snare men. How a home gives a person away. How it is not always nice to have someone who agrees with you. How not having anything is a boon. How to be present. The transient and unpredictable nature of lives. The ugliness of excess. The virtue of idleness. The dangers of having backups and not trying hard enough. Dangers of relaxing in the last steps.

He says there are 7 types of friends one should not have - A high ranking person, a young person, anyone strong and in perfect health, a man who loves to drink, a brave and daring warrior, a liar and a greedy man. If you have to choose your friends pick a doctor, someone who gives gifts and a wise man.

He also ponders wisely that illnesses are first caused in the mind - that there is a mind-body connection. He gives an example of the man who was sent to a great height to paint a sign board and how his hair turned white with shock.

Kenko feels a sensible man will not leave any valuables behind. He also advocates a state of no marriage - do not have a wife he says because you will get bored of one another. Instead live separately he says and meet once in a while. It keeps the relationship fresh.



Rajendra said...

seems like a mostly sensible fellow. Ranting against drinks doesn't behove a monk..Monks invented beer!

Harimohan said...

Yes Raja. But he approves of drinking a couple in a prescribed style - subtle and genteel. He is against drinking too much and mostly against this, forcing others who don't want to drink and messing up the day and the next day. But then we need to ask this question - what can we tell others in those times when we discuss the most we had to drink? No point drinking if there are no blacked out hangover stories right.