In our tradition of exploring foreign words and concepts, this collection of unique Japanese words was assembled by Mari Fujimoto, a linguist and professor. In my view, all of these highlight and expand on variations of equanimity. There can be surprising benefits in looking through other cultures and traditions toward our daily lives, changing perspectives or the angle from which we habitually look. Sometimes just reading or hearing a word and its meaning can evoke the experience of it, just as with poetry or music, especially when we are in an unusually receptive state…

Mugon-no gyō: A specifically silent meditative practice for the purpose of taking time to reflect before doing; creating the freedom to act instead of react.

Fukinsei: Beauty in asymmetry. Symmetry represents a limited view of perfection, and is actually alien to human experience. An art form should bring a sense of alternative possibilities and the unknown.

Teinei: A courteous, attentive attitude, where each gesture is performed with dedication and precision; behaving with the utmost care in order to convey excellence in conduct.

Mono-no aware: The ephemeral nature of beauty — the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to dazzling wonders, knowing that none of it can last (at least for you, personally).

Shōganai: Meaning literally “there is no means or method,” a clarifying reminder that sometimes we have to accept things as they are, allowing us to let go of negative reactions, obsession for control and expectation.

Kodawari: A mind-set of determined, scrupulous attention to detail, motivated by sincere passion and self-discipline; knowing in advance that some efforts will go unnoticed.

Yūgen: Prizing what is mysterious and profound, the kind of beauty that derives from subtle understatement. Deeply tied to kanso, a reminder to look beyond what one commonly perceives.

Image: Wood carving of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara; artist unknown

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sam says:

    I was amazed at how effective it has been to set aside the time (at the same time each day) for the words in Equanimity.
    Last year when I first saw this post, I wrote the words and their definition into a notebook and there they sat. This time I studied, each word, one word a day. I learned some things. Reading each definition, I did experience the meaning of the word. And, that brought me back to the feeling of a word a number of times during the day.
    Also, at the beginning, I looked up the definition of “Equanimity” to make sure I knew its exact meaning. The following example of its use gave me the experience of it… ”The quiet equanimity with which the Baron endured his misfortunes, had something in it venerable and even sublime.”

    1. What a wonderfully clear and clean example of “take one or two illuminations and make something from them,” Sam. Deceptively simple, yet “something in it venerable and even sublime.” Thank you for taking the original gesture to a specific act of contemplative training…and for showing us how it’s done.

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