悟りを開き、フォースを悟るOpening Up the Force

The first 100 verbs learned by people who take up the Japanese language almost always include the word “hiraku (開く/ ひらく). That’s how it was for me in the study materials I first used. I still vividly recall the example sentence introducing the word: “Tobira o hirakimasu (I open the door/I’m going to open the door)”. This isn’t exactly a profound example, and left me with the impression that the word is used in expressions reserved for daily conversation.



Credit: Niwa Keiko
しかし、どの言語にも語彙の使い方は自由闊達であり、「意」を伝えるためにその表現力は常にかつ自然により豊になり、やがてその経緯で新たな表現が「誕生」します。漢字や仏教を始め大陸の中華文化朝鮮半島を通して日本列島に伝来したときに日本語も劇的に変遷し、多岐に渡る言葉とそれを用いる表現が生まれました。例えば仏教において「寺院を開山」や「宗派を開く・開祖する」、そして「悟りを開く」という表現はおそらくその時代に作られたでしょう。これらの表現には「開く」やその字の「開 (かい)」が用いられています。
However, there are really no limitations on how words can be used in any language. The quest to convey what we want to say causes language to consistently and naturally deepen, and this process “brings into existence” new kinds of expressions. This happened when Chinese culture from the continent, including kanji characters and Buddhism, made their way to Japan via the Korean peninsula. The Japanese language underwent a radical transformation, giving rise to a broad range of new words and expressions that employed them. In the case of Buddhism, its transmission to the Japanese isles probably led to the creation of phrases such as “寺院を開山 (“ji-in o kaisan” or “found a temple”), “宗派を開く・開祖する(“shuha o hiraku/kaiso suru” or “establish a sect”, and “悟りを開く (“satori o hiraku” or “to attain enlightment”). All of these expressions feature the word “hiraku” or its kanji stem, which is read as “kai.”
I couldn’t shake this image of “hiraku (to open)” when I first saw “Shroud of Darkness”, the 18th episode in season two of the Star Wars animated series “Rebels”. Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka feel hounded by the Inquisitors and Vader, uncertain of how to fight back against them. Thus, they decide to go to the ancient Jedi temple on Lothal, Ezra’s home world, in order to seek the counsel of Master Yoda. This temple looks less like a place of worship and more like a natural structure, a mountain standing tall above the plains, with no visible door or gate. To open this hidden door, the Jedi master (in this case Kanan) and his apprentice (Ezra) must quiet their hearts together and use the Force.



Credit: starwars.com
The act of opening the door to this mountain-like temple is essentially just that: opening up a mountain. Taking the character for open (開) and mountain (山) we get the word “kaisan” (開山). This word has a few different meanings in Japanese, and nearly all of them have Buddhist connotations. One way in which the word is used is to describe the building/founding of a temple, or “tera o kaisan suru (寺を開山する)”. Temples were often built on mountains in northern India and Tibet, two places steeped in Buddhist history. The same was true in Japan, with many of temples built atop mountains after Buddhism made its way to the Japanese archipelago (incl. Hieizan Enryakuji, Kiyomizu-dera, Koya-san). According to Gen Nakamura’s dictionary of Buddhist terms, the word “kaisan” reflects the fact that places of study and temples were often constructed on mountains as they provided a tranquil location ideally suited for practicing Buddhism.   



比叡山の概要 Overview of Hiezan

Credit: www.hieizan.or.jp


The Lothal temple definitely fits this description, having been built in a tranquil location perfect for training in the ways of the Force. The temple on Ahch-To where Luke spent his final days also fits the bill. Both locations were secluded away from the “worldly” affairs of the wider galaxy, providing the Jedi with a place where they could concentrate on the Force free of such distractions. On the other hand, the Jedi temple on Coruscant was right in the middle of a metropolis, far from nature and nowhere near a remote and tranquil location. This led the Jedi Order to become deeply involved with the Galactic Senate, preventing the Jedi from focusing on studying the Force. Instead, the Order found itself preoccupied with politics for thousands of years. The sway of worldly desires over the Jedi (in this case, a lust for power) is one of the factors that led to their eventual demise. The prequel trilogy wonderfully depicts the downfall of the Order that lost sight of its true self. When we view this particular episode of Rebels with this history in mind, we can view the return to the temple on Lothal as symbolic of going back to the roots of the Jedi, an order originally committed to training in the ways of the Force to gain a transcendent knowledge, not one which used the Force as a means for holding on to power.




Jedi temples on Coruscant (top) and Ahch-To. Quite the contrast.

Credit: Wookiepedia, starwars.com

「開く」を用いるもう一つ仏教用表現は「悟りを開く」です。英語にしますと「to attain enlightenment」や「to become enlightened/spiritually awakened」と訳されることが多いですが、受動的な印象を与えてしまい、自ら悟りへの扉を開く(open)という能動的な意味合いが訳出されないとは拙僧の見解です。3人のフォース使いが求めていた「悟り」はその山の如し寺院に潜めていたことを信じて、だから「山を開いて(開山)」自らの手で掴むことにしました。これは中沢新一氏がいう禅の自立的な面をよく表していると思います。「宗教は、一般的に超越者に自分の身を委ねる傾向がありますが、仏教の中でも、特に禅宗の場合はかなり自立的です。おのれ一人があればよい…メディテーション(瞑想)を通して、自らの努力で自立から普遍へ向かうというのが禅の基本的な考え方です。制度にも伝統にもよらない、おのれ一人の赤肉団上(しゃくにくだんじょう)の心があれば十分なのだという禅の文化。」これを始めて読んだ時に目に留まったのは「制度にも伝統にもよらない」との節でした。滅びたジェダイオーダーを復活しなくてもいいかも知れません。フォース修行に励む心構えだけで十分。この自立を見事に成し遂げたのはアーソカタノであると拙僧が思います。自分の意志を信じ、そして制度と伝統を人より重んじるようになってしまったジェダイオーダーに再び身を委ねること拒んで、自分の道を歩むことにしました。おそらくダースモールに殺された前にクワイ・ガン・ジンも同様の悟りを開きました。制度 (=ジェダイオーダー)より自立を貫き、フォースのあらゆる面を追及する道を選んだはずだと拙僧が思います。二人が開いた悟りというのは、フォースがジェダイやシースの独断的な教理より「遥かに巨大」な存在であることではないでしょうか?最終的にルークもそれを悟りました。
Another Buddhist phrase in Japanese that uses the word “hiraku” is “satori o hiraku”. It is often translated to English as “to attain enlightenment” or “to become enlightened/spiritually awakened”, but these have always struck me as having a passive connotation. They fail to convey the active sense of exercising one’s volition to open the door to enlightenment. Our three Force users in this episode believe the knowledge, the enlightenment they seek lies within that mountain-like temple, so they “open (開) the mountain (山)” and go inside to get it. This act is a good representation of the independent volition in Zen as described by Japanese scholar Shinichi Nakazawa. “Most religions call on people to give themselves over to some superior being. In Buddhism, and in particular Zen, the emphasis is much more on the individual. That’s all you need… The basic premise of Zen is focusing on meditation and working your way towards that universal truth. There’s no need for any particular system or tradition. Just your own heart, free of all worldly distractions.” The part of this quote that really struck me was “no need for any particular system or tradition.” Perhaps it doesn’t matter if the Jedi Order is resurrected. Simply concentrating on studying the ways of the Force is all that needs to be done. The individual in Star Wars who I believe perfectly executed this sense of volition was Ahsoka Tano. She chose not to give herself over again to the Jedi, an order that had come to put tradition and conventions before the individual. Rather, she chose to trust in herself and walk her own path. I believe that Qui Gon Jinn would have “opened” the same “realization (=satori)” had he not been killed by Darth Maul. He would have likely elected to remain true to his own volition, forsaking the Jedi Order and choosing a path committed to exploring the Force in all its aspects. Indeed, their shared realization is that the Force “is so much bigger” than the dogmatic ways of the Jedi or the Sith. This is the realization that Luke ultimately arrives at, or more appropriately, “opens”.



アーソカ・タノ Ahsoka Tano

Credit: starwars.com


芸術を通して窺えるフォースの在り様 Exploring the Nature of the Force through Art



"Light and Shadow" by contemporary Japanese calligraphy artist Kenro 



The gallery near my office holds weekly rotating exhibits, and earlier this year there was one interesting exhibit titled "Seimei no Shin-en (The Depths of Life)". The works on display reflected this theme, laying bare the sadness and negative aspects lurking within the shadows cast by all forms of life, including we human beings. Looking at all the pieces in the exhibit, I came away feeling that we need to accept the fact this darkness is inextricable from the light.




''Mother Maria Bathed in Radiation'' by Shuhei Matsubara


そこで特に目を惹いた作品は2点ありました。一つ目は「被爆する聖マリア」という作品であって、そのタイトルを見た瞬間にすぐに思い浮かべたのは長崎の原爆で被爆されたカトリック教会の「#浦上天主堂」であった。火の如く熱いの赤彩りが原爆の火の苦しみを表現している一方、聖マリアの愛とキリスト教に対して長崎を始め#隠れキリシタン の篤い信仰も表現しているとの解釈もできるではないかと拙僧が勝手に思っていました。

There were two particular pieces that caught my eye. The first was titled "Hibaku Suru Sei Maria (Mother Maria Bathed in Radiation)". The instant I saw the title, my mind raced to the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki that was destroyed in the atomic bombing. The red hues gave off a fire-like heat, evoking images of suffering in the flames from the nuclear blast. At the same time, I found myself taking away another interpretation, one in which the red signified both the love of Mary and the fervent faith of the "kakure kurishitan (Christians in hiding)" in Nagasaki and other parts of Japan. 




''Sorrow'' by Shuhei Matsubara



The other piece that struck me was titled "Hi-ai (Sorrow)". The two kanji that make up the word both can be read as "kanashimi (sadness)" in Japanese, and together they created an image of sinking into the depths of a pool of sorrow that I thought matched the piece perfectly. However, in the depths of this sorrow a single white #cross acts as a bright shining light, seemingly hinting at the purpose religion serves in our lives, whether that be to ease the sadness in our hearts or provide salvation for our souls. 



When I look back on these two pieces, a tweet by Vinland Saga creator Makoto Yukimura comes to mind. "It's impossible to draw white clothing when someone demands that you only use white paint. Quite the opposite. You need a lot of different paints to depict white clothing. Sometimes that means using black as well. This is what I want people to understand: You need black and shades of burnt brown to depict white."


幸村氏のこの言葉は影と光が切り離さない存在であることを改めて教えてくれます。つまり、この影には光の在り様を窺える教訓が潜めているとのことです。スターウォーズでは旧制のジェダイ騎士団はこの影の存在を恐れて、全面的にその闇を否定することがジェダイの掟であると数千年に渡って伝え継がれてきました。しかし、旧共和国の末期にその掟に対して疑問を抱えるジェダイが現れました:クワイ・ガン・ジン。オビ・ワン・ケノビの師匠に至るクワイ・ガンですが、フォースの在り様に対する理解を深めるためにあらゆる面を模索する必要があると信じ、そこに潜む教訓を追及することこそがフォース使いの務めであると考えたのです。従って、影・闇は否定する存在ではなく、フォースの光を理解するのに欠かせない存在であると捉えました。彼のその探求が2018年の終わりに公開された「Age of the Republic(旧共和国の時代)」のコミックスシリーズの中で見事に描写されていると拙僧が思います。いくつのコマを抜粋して下記の通り邦訳してみました。(注意:ネタバレあり)

Yukimura’s words are another great reminder of the fact that the light and darkness are inseparable. Indeed, within the darkness lies knowledge to be gleaned of the true nature of the light. The old Jedi Order in Star Wars feared this darkness, and for thousands of years they maintained that outright rejection of it was fundamental part of what it meant to be a Jedi. However, there was one Jedi in the final days of the Old Republic who questioned this truth: Qui Gon Jin, the master of Obi Wan Kenobi. He felt that it was necessary to explore all facets of the Force to deepen one’s understanding of it, believing that the true purpose of all Force users was to uncover the lessons that lie therein. As such, he viewed the Dark Side of the Force not as a presence to be rejected, but rather essential to understanding the Light Side. His exploration of the Force is beautifully portrayed in the Age of the Republic series that was released towards the end of 2018. The following is my own Japanese translation of some of those scenes (spoiler warning).
















(Y) 求めた答えを見つけたのか?

(QG) 見つけました。でも新な質問が出ました。フォースはいつもそうなんです。

(Y) 質問は良きことだ。聞かなきゃいけないもんさ。フォースを完全に理解していると確信すると傲慢が生まれ、その傲慢が暗黒面への道に繋がる。



(QG) また、その理解を確固たるものにするのも危うい。風にそよがれない木はいつか折れてしまいます。

(Y) 暗黒面はどこにもあるし、消え去らぬ脅威である。屈してはいかんぞ。



(QC) もちろん、マスター。暗黒面はなんでも貪ります。その道でバランスに辿り着きません。我々の務めはそのバランスを見つけることではないでしょうか?



The path of darkness is synonymous with the road to personal ruin. That said, turning to face this darkness makes the light shine all the brighter and helps us understand its nature. Just as one day consists of both daytime and night, the Force as it is portrayed in Star Wars is formed of the coexistence of light and dark. This “realization” is the destination I arrived at on the journey sparked by two pieces of art I highlighted at the beginning of this post.






我が祖国、汝らの国 My Country ‘Tis of Thy People


1890に起きたウンデット・ニーの虐殺で殺されたスー族 (ラコタ族)のビッグ・フート酋長

Chief Big Foot of the Lakota, killed in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890


歴史においてアメリカ大陸の通称の一つは「the New World(新しい世界)」です。この通称の前提となるのは「the Old World (古い世界)から来た者にが大西洋を渡ってこの「新しい世界」を「発見した」ときがその大陸の歴史の始まりであるという解釈です。その解釈はアメリカに生まれて育った拙僧のような人が小中学校で使った教科書の中で濃く染み込まれています。しかし、アメリカ大陸は「無人の新しい世界」どころか、人間史が数万年前に遡る「古い世界」でした。欧州の探検家たちがアメリカに上陸したときすでに豊かで優れた文明を築き上げた「住民」が居ました。つまり「先住民」です。ただし、彼らの物語はアメリカの「正史」において十分い語られることはなく、その歴史からほとんど「抹消された」存在になっています。

“The New World” is one of the names used to describe the Americas in the annals of history. This name implies that the history of that "new world" began when it was discovered by explorers from “the Old World” who crossed the Atlantic Ocean. This interpretation pervades the textbooks that someone like me, born and raised in the US, used in elementary and middle school when they were a child. However, these continents were far from an “uninhabited new world”, but in fact a rather old world with its own human history that stretched back tens of thousands of years. When European explorers landed in the Americas, they found peoples who had built rich and sophisticated civilizations of their own. These peoples are the Native Americans, but today their story is not given its due deserve in the “official history” of the US. In fact, they are largely removed from that tale.



This song was written in 1966 by Buffy Sainte-Marie, an indigenous (Cree tribe) activist born in Canada. It portrays the other side of American history as seen through the eyes of Native Americans. The Japanese translation is my own, and as such some of the expressions are not 100% natural. I just hope it provides a nice reference for the meaning of the lyrics.




My Country ‘Tis of Thy People (1966)



Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you're wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you've chased across America's movie screens
Now that you're wondering "how can it be real?"
That the ones you've called colourful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda
They starve in their splendor?
You've asked for my comment I simply will render








My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Now that the longhouses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions
Forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe, then stress
That the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best
And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country's birth
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed
How a nation of patriots returned to their earth?
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud O'er Kinzua mud

And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year?













My country 'tis of thy people you're dying


Hear how the bargain was made for the West
With her shivering children in zero degrees
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed
And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt it's better this way
And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled
From the Grand Canyon's caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale
From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean;
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean
















My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens;
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we're lacking in thanks
For the blessings of civilization you've brought us
The lessons you've taught us, the ruin you've wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America's brought us







My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we're harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life's to be known as your heritage
Now that even the graves have been robbed
Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you've never seen
That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest, stole their eggs, changed their story;
The mockingbird sings it, it's all that he knows
"Ah what can I do?" say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can't you see that their poverty's profiting you















My country 'tis of thy people you're dying






An artist's rendering of Cahokia at its height. Cahokia, located in present-day southern Illinois, was a religious and political center of the Mississippian Culture. It boasted a population of 10,000 at its height, with a trade network stretching all the way to Mexico. The base of Monks' Mound, the symbol of Cahokia, is wider than those of the great pyramids of Egypt and the Pyramid of the Sun in central Mexico.


ありふれた日常に潜む詩情 The Hidden Poetry in the Ordinary


画集に載っているものはある意味で「再現」に過ぎないです。本物を見ると改めてそれを痛感します。友人と一緒に来日中の「フェルメール展 」を観に行ったとき、まさにその思いがしました。本展示会では「光の魔術師 」と称されることもあるヨハネス・フェルメールの僅かの35作品のうちなんと9作が集結され、それと一緒に他の17世紀のオランダの黄金時代の巨匠の傑作も紹介されています。
The works of art we see in book collections are no more than "reproductions". We are painfully reminded of that we see the real thing. This is exactly what I thought when I went to see "Making the Difference: Vermeer and Dutch Art with a friend. This exhibit brings together nine of the mere 35 existing works of Johannes Vermeer, often referred to as the "Master of Light", along with masterpieces from other Dutch painters at work in the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. 


Gabriel Metsu "Woman Reading a Letter" (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)


ヨハネス・フェルメール「手紙を書く婦人と召使い」 (アイルランド・ナショナル・ギャラリー、ダブリン)
Johannes Vermeer "Woman Writing a Letter, with Her Maid" (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)

Although he is considered to be the "master of light", Vermeer expertly employs the "shadows" that exist with this light. He takes this collaboration of light and shadow to create tranquil spaces filled with mysterious sense of tension. I took advantage of this rare opportunity to take this in with my own eyes, and found myself completely absorbed in his world. Just like Caravaggio, he truly understood the mutual relationship between light and darkness, and deftly employed the two in his works. The light shining through the window illuminates the objects it hits, while those objects then cast shadows. Vermeer's works show us that the "light" and "dark" are two sides of the same coin. He literally cuts deep moments of tranquility right of the ordinary, accentuating the contrast between "light" and "shadow" in a way that allows us to see the inherent poetry of it all.


ヨハネス・フェルメール 「ワイングラス」(ベルリン国立美術館

Johannes Vermeer "Wine Glass" (Staaliche Museen zu Berlin)

Reality is indeed reflected in pictures taken with a camera, but they lack that something we find in oil paintings. The paint adds an extra layer of texture and three-dimensionality, and the fact that we know it was created with a brush causes us to take note of the finer details. That is what makes art so wonderful. Japan was in the Edo Period when Vermeer was alive, and his native Holland was the only European power allowed to call on Japanese ports. The thought of Vermeer coming to Japan during that era and painting the sights he saw fills me with excitement. 




Johannes Vermeer "Woman with a Pearl Necklace" (Staaliche Museen zu Berlin)



Nicolaes Maes "Girl at a Window, Known as 'The Daydreamer' " (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)


ヴィンランドサガに窺える償いの道 Finding the Road to Atonement in the manga ''Vinland Saga''


The release of the latest installment in the acclaimed manga Vinland Saga has inspired me to go back and reflect on this series. Set in the early 11th century in Northern Europe, the story in this manga focuses on the theme of atonement. The road to atonement proves to be a vicious struggle for Thorfinn, the main protagonist of the series. There are three particular scenes that I feel wonderfully examine this theme and show how great this manga is. I have provided my own translation of the original Japanese below (WARNING: some spoilers)


トールフィンのお父さんトールズはかつてヨーム戦士団の4人の大隊長の一人で、「ヨームの戦鬼(トロル)」と呼ばれた冷酷な戦士でした。ただし、戦場とその不毛を倦んで(あぐんで)、自分の戦死を装って家族を連れてアイスランドに逃げました。そこの新天地に根を植えて、「本当の戦士とは何か」の答えを模索しながら戦乱のないアイスランドで家庭を養い、平和に暮らしてきましたが、戦場で生きてきた彼の過去が生んだ因縁は遂に現れ、彼は再び戦場へ向かわざるを得なくなってしまいした。初めて自分の父の戦士の伝説的な功績を知って興奮するトールフィンが父の武器を手にするシーンは非常に印象的でした。そこでトールズがトールフィンに向けて言う言葉を通し て「本当の戦士は何か」と自分が辿り着いた答えを伝えようとします。(日本語はスクリーンショットにありますので、英訳のみの掲載となります。以下は同様です)。

Thorfinn's father is Thors, and he was once one of the four great generals of the Jomsviking army. He was known as the "Troll of Jom" for his ruthless cunning in battle. However, he grew weary of war and the utter futility of it all, and decided to flee to Iceland with his family, faking his own death. Laying roots in his new home, he lives in peace raising his family in a land without war, all the while searching for what it means to be a "true warrior." However, the bad karma from his life on the battlefield eventually rears its head, and once again he must head into the fray. Thorfinn is overwhelmed with excitement upon learning of the legendary exploits of his father, and there is a really impactful scene in which Thors finds him holding the weapons he used in the past. Speaking to his son, Thors attempts to convey the answer at which he arrived (English text below Japanese screenshots; manga screenshots read right to left). 


Thors: Tell me, who do you intend to kill with those?
Thorfinn: My... enemies.  

Thors: So who are your enemies?
Thorfinn: Ahh... Halfdan???
Thors: Listen Thorfinn... You have no enemies. 
That's true for all people. No one has any real enemies.
There's nobody that deserves to be hurt...  Not anywhere. 

Thors's fervent plea was essentially an oath to never to put anyone to his sword again, but it was too difficult for Thorfinn to understand. He was eager to see the "Troll of Jom" go berzerker on the battlefield, and this curiosity drives him to sneak on board his father's ship when it sets out for Europe the following day. However, they are ambushed in the Faroe Islands by a group of mercenaries hired to assassinate Thors. Thorfinn watches as his father is slain before his eyes in his duel with the Asherrad, the leader of the Viking mercenary troop. Thorfinn becomes consumed by a fiery vengeance and attaches himself to Asherrad's band, waiting for the day in which he can avenge his father's death. 

Asherrad is a truly fascinating character. He takes Thorfinn in and has him work alongside his men, despite knowing that the boy seeks to kill him and avenge his father's death. In a certain respect, we see Asherrad watching over Thorfinn as he grows up much like a father would. The reverse is true for Thorfinn, with Asherrad becoming that fatherly presence in his life... only to be killed right before his very own eyes again. The scene depicting the final conversation between Thorfinn and a dying Asherrad is really touching. He attempts to convey the utter futility of a life of vengeance and ceaseless killing, much as Thors had done.


Thorfinn: Don't you go dying on me! I won't allow it!
Thorfinn: Get up! We have unfinished business to settle! You're mine to kill!
Asherrad: (To himself) This is why you've always been a handful Thorfinn.
Asherrad: (To Thorfinn) Tell me... What did you intend to do with your life after I'm gone?


Asherrad: Haha, you've never thought about that. Goes to show with you.
Thorfinn: Silence! That doesn't concern you...
Asherrad: Life's much more than this... Don't let this vengeful hate continue to hold you back...
Asherrad: Your path lies beyond the world your father found... Go forth, Son of Tors...


Asherrad: Go and become a true warrior... Son... of... Tors.

Thorfinn falls into slavery after Asherrad's death and is bought by the owner of a vast farm on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, where he is charged with clearing the forest for new fields. The next few years of his life Thorfinn simply goes through the motions, having lost the object of revenge that he had made his sole purpose for living. Around the time he turns 20 he meets Einar, a young slave from a family of farmers, and their encounter marks a major turning point in Thorfinn's life. Einar makes an active effort to talk to Thorfinn as they go about their work on the farm, and these conversations help Thorfinn to open up. Until then, he had only known a blood-soaked existence of taking life, but his experience on the farm with Einar shows him the joy of cultivating life that in turn supports the lives of others. However, he still finds himself enveloped by the deep and dark swells of regret, and is assailed by nightmares each and every night. Wandering through this darkness, Thorfinn pledges to completely forsake violence and dedicate his life to helping the oppressed. He aims to take them to Vinland, the land far across the ocean that he heard of as a child, and create a place free of war and slavery.  The scene in which he shares this newfound mission with Einar really speaks to the heart. The author does a beautiful job portraying both the remorse Thorfinn feels for his past, and his determination to atone for his sins the best he can by fulfilling this mission. 


Einar: But there's people like you Thorfinn. You reject what many consider to be normal and right. Is it that strange to swear not to hurt others?
Thorfinn: At least in Norse society... People label you a coward, and cowards get left out.
Einar: That's not right.
Thorfinn: I've accepted it. There's no helping it. But it's probably best that way if I'm going to carry their burden.
Einar: Who's burden?
Thorfinn: That of the dead. 
Thorfinn: I'm visited every night by the souls of those I killed. They torment me. "Why did you kill me," they ask. "How could you kill all these people--fathers, brothers, and sons--knowing the anger and hate you felt when your own father was killed?"


Thorfinn: I have to make my penance with them... taking them to a place where they can rest in peace...
Thorfinn: But I can't take it any more. This burden is too much for me to bear alone. 
Einar: Do these dead souls only appear to you? Are other warriors tormented by the spirits of those they killed?


Thorfinn: I can't speak for others. In my case, I began to see them after I became a slave. Maybe we can't see them while we're still warriors. 
Einar: I see. I guess it's impossible to see them while people are still warriors.
Thorfinn: It's always on my mind... finding a way to earn their forgiveness.
Thorfinn: Laying down my sword doesn't seem to be enough... That's a given.
Thorfinn: Simply promising to never kill or destroy anything does not suffice as atonement. 
Thorfinn: I need to grow more wheat than what I trampled under my feet.
Thorfinn: I need to fix more houses than I burned to the ground. 
Thorfinn: I need to do what I can to weed out the death and destruction I sowed with the seeds of life and creation.

While it's easy to destroy things, building them back up is much harder. Just as I wrote above, Vinland Saga seriously examines the theme of atonement. The beauty of this manga, in my view, lies in its examination of this issue. "Is complete atonement truly possible?" I hope the answer to this compelling question slowly comes to light as Thorfinn's tale continues to unfold. 


フォースは法力!?三毒の焔(ほのお)を消すために使われるもの Finding the Force within Buddhism: The Power to Extinguish the Fiery Triumvirate that Poisons the Soul


出所:Vincente Valentine

Source: Vincente Valentine



The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shinbun ran a special feature last year in December when The Last Jedi was released in which they asked people from different professions to talk about their own connection with the saga. One of the people they interviewed for this article was the Zen priest Shunmei Masuno, and it was through this article that I discovered his book Zen Wisdom from Star Wars. I bought it at the end of the year and spent the next month reading a little of it every day on my train ride home. Just as the title implies, Masuno uses different Zen words to explain famous scenes from the original trilogy. It's a really fresh approach to Star Wars, and one that leads to many new discoveries. There were a number of words that really stuck with me, but the views Masuno conveys in the epilogue make this book one worth buying. This section conveys a great message that encapsulates the essence of the book, so I'd like to share this excerpt here for the reader's enjoyment. 






The words “May the Force be with you” form the beloved phrase that is uttered countless times throughout the saga by the Jedi and later on members of the Rebel Alliance. Using the Force, individuals can read the minds of others, influence their actions, parry the attacks of an oncoming foe, and move objects without physically touching them. Star Wars shows us that only individuals who have trained diligently are truly capable of wielding the Force. In watching the saga, I can’t help but think that the Force may be a representation of the power of Buddhism.
法力とは、仏法を修行して得られた功徳[H2] の力。法力を使ったという伝説で有名なのは弘法大師空海(日本に真言宗を伝えた僧侶)です。弘法大師が杖をつくと泉が湧き井戸や池となった、といった伝承は今も日本各地に残っています。
The power I speak of is the “force” to do good deeds that is developed by putting Buddhist tenets into practice. There are famous legends of this power being used by Kuukai, the priest who brought esoteric Buddhism to Japan. Tales from regions all over the country speak of fresh springs and wells forming on the ground touched by Kuukai’s staff.
In Episode 5, we see Yoda teach Luke about the nature of the Force on a number of occasions. He tells Luke, “A Jedi’s strength flows through the Force. But beware of the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.” In Buddhism, these Dark Side elements are referred to as the “three kleshas that poison the soul”. They are “greed”, “anger”, and “ignorance.” I believe that Darth Vader can be taken as the personification of this triumvirate.


In the original trilogy, Luke found himself faced with a decision: Does he kill his father, or does he give in to the Dark Side. He elected to do neither, refusing to embrace the call of the Dark Side or take the life of his father. He believed that a good heart still lay beneath the veneer of Darth Vader. Thus, he rejects the urges of greed that lead to the Dark Side and tosses aside his lightsaber. From a Zen Buddhist perspective, the act of throwing away his lightsaber can be expressed with the word 喜捨 (kisha, or literally “joyfully throw away/let go). Luke believes in the compassion that dwells within his father, and this motivates him to let go of his attachments by discarding his Jedi weapon. When viewed in this light, the argument could be made that Luke used the Force to rid himself of the three kleshas (poisons) that threatened to taint his soul.
Discovering your true form in the “here” and “now”: The essence of Zen
The present is everything in Zen. There is no past or future. The Zen word “Nikon (而今)” introduced in this book is a straightforward expression of this concept, literally translating to “live in the moment”. That is what Zen is all about: focusing on what you need to do in this moment.



出所: アントレ・ラボ・コーポレーション

Source: Entre-Labo Corporation
There are moments throughout the saga in which we see Yoda or Obi-Wan admonish Luke to concentrate on the ''now.'' I feel the first time Luke really became attuned to the meaning of “nikon” was during the Battle of Yavin. Luke hears the voice of Obi-Wan, who had become one with Force, and then turns off his targeting computer and chooses not to rely on his naked eyes, electing instead to focus on the moment. This moment of concentration enables him to blow the first Death Star to smithereens. The word “nikon" imparts an important lesson, teaching us that life is the steady accumulation of each passing moment. I feel in that moment in the Death Star trench was the first time that Luke truly understood how important the “now” is. From there he begins to long for peace in the future Republic and decides to take up the mantle of the Jedi. Such a grand vision seemed impossible to achieve when he sets out on his journey, but by drawing upon this “nikon” tenet and concentrating on the moment, light begins to shine on that end goal.
Human beings fear losing that which we gain and hold onto. We also cast our thoughts to a future that has not yet come, and fret about things that have yet to come to pass. At the same time, all too often we reflect back on things in the past, tinged with regret over perhaps what we should have done. We must remind ourselves that neither the past nor future are part of the “here and now.” The underlying tenet of life is the “now.” That’s why we need to give our all in what we are doing in this instant. This continuous effort connects the figurative dots of each instance to form the line we know as life.



 黙想するクワイ・ガン・ジン (エピソード1より) Qui Gon Jinn meditates (From Episode 1)

Zen is all about refining our mind and heart. The Zen words conveyed in this book are an expression of the understanding and mind we gain through the application of these tenets. We live in a society seemingly controlled by stress, always hounded by the clock and struggling to find ample time and space to enjoy what we have. That is why it is so important to take a moment to still our mind and soul. Nothing would please me more than knowing this book helps to create those moments for you.
Shunmei Masuno

日本庭園と盆栽苑を巡るTraipsing around a Japanese Garden and Bonsai Exhibit


今週は休みを取って、日本庭園を見たい来日中のお馴染み友人を昭和記念公園 へ連れて行きました。拙僧は何回もそこへ訪れたこともありますが、公園の奥の方にある日本庭園まで足を運んだことはなかったので、拙僧は非常に楽しみにしていました。そこでは#盆栽苑 というところもあって、梅雨らしいの天候で誰もいなかったですが、そのしとしととした雨は敢えて憩いの効果もあって、すこぶる落ち着いた雰囲気を醸し出していました。また、樹の葉っぱに付着した雨の雫はその緑の度合い一層に鮮やかにして、まるでその色の光を放っていたようにも見えました。そこで働く庭師(らしい)方が #盆栽の基本、醍醐味、見方を詳しく説明して頂いたおかげで、今まで垣間見ることが出来なかった盆栽の小さい宇宙の中で繰り広げる偉大な世界観を堪能できました。

This week I had some time off to take lifelong friends from back home visiting Japan to Showa Kinen Park to see a Japanese garden, something they were eager to check out. I had visited that park many times before, but I had never ventured to the back to see the Japanese garden there, so I was also really excited to see it. They had a bonsai garden, and with the weather typical fare for the rainy season there was no one else there to enjoy it. The soft mist falling had a rather soothing effect, creating an extremely relaxing atmosphere. The drops of rain resting on the leaves of the trees made the hues of green even more vivid, as if they were giving off a green light of their own. We were approached by (what appeared to be) the gardener that worked there, and he provided us with an detailed explanation about the fundamental elements of #bonsai, their essence, and things to keep in mind when viewing them. Thanks to this great lesson, I was able to enjoy the worldview of the tiny universe that unfurls within each bonsai creation, something I was never able to do before.



盆栽は基本的にで三要素で成り立っています。(1) #根張り: 盆栽の根が四方八方に張り出して、安定感と力強さがあること。(2) #幹: 立ち上がりが素直で、上に行くほど自然に細かくなっていくこと。(3) #枝配り: 幹から出ている枝の太さや間隔がバランスよく配置されていること。これからの要素を兼ね備えたものが理想的とされています。盆栽の楽しみ方は人それぞれです。ある作品の一つは一人から見れば流れる滝に見える一方、また別の人から見れば上る煙や寄せる波にも見えます。何よりは、一つ一つの盆栽に大きいな自然の景色の広がりを感じることが盆栽の醍醐味であると言えます。
A bonsai creation is comprised of primarily three elements. (1) #Nehari: This refers to the roots spreading out in all directions from the base, creating a sense of both stability and strength. (2) #Miki: This describes the stem rising up unfettered, naturally growing smaller and more concise as it stretches higher. (3) #EdaKubari: This refers to the branches extending out from the main stem, with the varying thickness and space between them achieving a fine balance. The ideal bonsai tree features a combination of these three elements. The way in which each tree is viewed varies by person. In the eyes of one person, a bonsai tree can resemble a waterfall, while to another it resembles a plume of smoke rising or a wave lapping up on the shore. The most important thing is that each bonsai work delivers the essence of the art, which is simulating the grandeur of nature on a smaller scale. 



If I had to pick which type of bonsai I liked out of all the works on display, the pieces that really caught my eye were ones in which part of the stem was white. There was one piece of the "chokkan (straight stem)" variety that I liked a lot, and that tree was around 300 years old. At first I couldn't quite place why I liked that particular piece, but after listening to the gardener's explanation I was able to see the charm of this tree and form of expression imbued within it. According to the gardener, the white portion is actually the withered part of the trunk, and by leaving it within the piece the artist was able to convey the stark and severe face of nature. At the same time, the white portion of the trunk and the green of the fresh young leaves create a beautiful contrast, reminding us that "death" and "life" are inseparable. In short, this tree symbolizes the ebb and flow of life. That transience is the essence of the Japanese aesthetic.