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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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Kenkō’s Essays in Idleness

Kenkō’s Essays in Idleness

(p.257) 20(A) Kenkō’s Essays in Idleness
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

Donald Keene

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa) by Buddhist monk Kenkō. Buddhist thought naturally supplied the background for much of what he wrote. Specifically Buddhist doctrine is sometimes expressed, but more typical of the work are the general Buddhist beliefs that colored Kenkō's thinking—that the world is no more than a temporary abode and that all things in this world are impermanent. Kenkō also describes the full cycle of birth, growth, sickness, and death, followed by rebirth. But the predominant tone is provided by his conviction that worldly achievements and possessions are without lasting significance in a world that is itself no more than transitory. Many passages in Tsurezuregusa convey this belief, including: “The intelligent man, when he dies, leaves no possessions.” “If you have power, do not trust in it; powerful men are the first to fall. You may have possessions, but they are not to be depended on; they are easily lost in a moment”.

Keywords:   Essays in Idleness, Tsurezuregusa Asian classics, classic texts, Kenkō, Buddhism

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