SFU English 380: Mutilation and Foreign Relations in the Japanese Novel

A class blog for students of English 380 - "Literature in Translation" - at Simon Fraser University in Autumn 2005.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Classfellow on "no-mind"

I received an intriguing email from a classfellow wrestling with the no-mind concept within the Japanese aesthetic. Here is a selection from it - the comparison with problems solved in sleep is very apposite:
When I hear the term “no mind” or “empty mind” my western mind thinks it describes the condition of being disconnected: “out” of one’s mind, lost in daydreams, illusions, or terrifying disorientation. The idea of no mind seems frightening. Yet my understanding is that “no mind” is an approximate translation of an inexpressible experience of deep connection rather than disconnection. Paradoxically “no mind” is connection of self with the world, free of the disjointed, crazed activity of one’s mind separating one from experience. In retrospect, the person describes the experience of “no mind” as without ego, because at the time of the activity there is no awareness of a separate identity. Someone who leaps into traffic to snatch a child from the path of a truck may be manifesting no mind. It is as if one’s ego based self and the activity align completely. The universal and individual merge to such an extent that the individual has a sense of disappearing as a distinct, separate entity. In sport, as you said, it is being in the “zone.” In art, the artist captures the essence of form and experience without their own constructs of how something should look or be. Even in unimpeded thought, such as when a mathematician resolves a problem in a dream. His mind is working without obstacles and free of his own concept of how it should work. Sometimes one senses it in a confidante who listens completely without distractions, judgments, or expectations. One experiences the complete attention of the other, who is not waiting to jump in with their own thoughts or directives of “shoulds,” “coulds,” and “ought to’s.” Rather than “no mind” meaning mindless disconnection it is a term that attempts to describe profound connection with the world.


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