Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Refinement ... food

This desire to go beyond what is, slowly morphs itself into the desire to live the best life possible, a search for best practices. A process of continuous refinement. This process of refinement reflects itself in various ways. Including diet.

In Japan there is a special kind of diet called shoujin ryouri. If you are a vegetarian in Japan, then you'll be glad to know that you can enjoy shoujin ryouri at most Buddhist temples and some onsen (hot water spring bath inns)

The word shoujin is made of two characters. Shou - "refine, essence, spirit".
Jin - "advance, progress".

The word ryouri - loosely translated in English as "cooking" is composed of two characters "ryou" means material. And "ri" means "logic, arrangement, principles of right and wrong.

There is a tacit recognition of the fact that all matter, everything that exists, is 'food' for some force or the other. All material is food. Cooking is the process of arrangement of material according to logical principles of right and wrong.

However, material may be arranged to reflect refinement, so as to bring out the essence and to progressively aid the advancement of that refinement. The principles for doing so have been identified and are embodied in "shoujin ryouri".

-miquelrius journal, end of 2008

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Every person under a roof is a guest. There are no 'clients' or 'customers'.

I remember having read an old story about a Rabbi, when I was in school.
There was a Rabbi who lived a spartan life in a house that didn't have much of the comforts of a normal life. He had few belongings, mostly books. Once a visitor stayed on at his place for a few days. 'Where is the furniture in the house?' the curious visitor asked. He was met with another question 'Where are your belongings and your furniture. Where are they here, in this house?'.
The perplexed visitor said - "But I am a GUEST here. How can my things be here!" The Rabbi then went on to reply - 'My dear friend, all things must pass, and I, too, am a guest.'

What brought this story back to mind was this -

The japanese word for 'every' or 'each' is kaku written as - a pair of  legs on a stone.

The japanese word for 'Guest' is kyaku or .
Kyaku has the kanji for 'each' or 'every' under the radical that stands for 'roof of a house'.

This word kyaku 客is the same kyaku in 'okyakusan' - お客さん。
'Every' person under a roof is a 'Guest'. 

As an interesting aside - There is no common Japanese word like 'customer' or 'client' - be it a big firm, a department store or a small shop; all are called okyakusan or 'Guests'.

Client comes from latin cliens (acc. clientem) "follower, retainer," perhaps a variant of cluere "listen, follow, obey" or from clinare "to incline, bend,".

Patron comes from middle latin patronus "patron saint, bestower of a benefice, lord, master, model, pattern," from latin patronus "defender, protector, advocate," from pater (gen. patris) "father." Meaning "one who advances the cause" (of an artist, institution, etc.). Used to mean 'customer' since about 1605.

In Japan, everyone is a 'Guest'.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Words. Leaves of thought.

話し言葉 or 'hanashikotoba' is a word that means 'spoken language'.
hanashi - say 言+ tongue(thousand 千 on mouth - 口)
koto - 言 - word
ba - 葉 - leaf

The spoken word is a mere leaf of the tree of the thought, the tree that comes from the desire to express, which lies at the root of that tree.  

The root, the proto-word condenses into langauge, language as we know it. Like vapor becomes rain. If you can work with vapor, you can become a rainmaker. Learn to work with proto-language, and you can then use any "language", or perhaps even do away with it.

The spoken language or 'common language' is vaikhari - the point at which vibration escapes the tongue and mouth as sound. There are deeper, more efficient levels of communication possible.

Search for the terms Para Pashyanti Madhyama Vaikhari
Here is a post that compiles interesting information about the Indian take on the spoken word.
Here is another.

Again, the interesting thing here, is that what is now relegated to esoterica in India, is still present in the common everyday language learned by children in Japan. (They might not realize or know it - but it is still -there- directly in the characters they learn, and the writing and speech acts at many layers - whether one is conscious of it or not.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sewa. Service. language of the world.

The sanskrit word Sewa or 'service' is present in the Japanese language as well. Not only does it retain the meaning but the pronunciation 'sewa' as well.

The kanji for sewa is even more interesting.

The first character 'se' 世 is also the 'se' in 世界or world. 世also stands for 'generation' or 'age', being made up of 3 十 characters (the kanji for the number 10) if you look closely. (about 30 years is a generation and about 3 such generations (totalling about 90) live at a time.)

The 話 or 'wa' in sewa, made up of a mouth/speech 言 on the left and tongue on the right 舌 (which in turn has the character for thousand 千on the kanji for mouth 口 -thousand mouths saying the same thing make a 'tongue' - maybe as in mother tongue.) This radical etymology is a folk etymology and perhaps inaccurate - another precise explanation is in Shirakawa Shizuka sensei's works.

However, what strikes me as interesting is not the kanji etymology but the characters chosen for compound formation. Generation/Age/World + Language.
It suggests that if any language is to be used to communicate with, or to change the world, it must be service. 

Those who serve, lead and cause change. Service is a universal language.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A cupped handful of food. A full stomach. The GheranDa samhitaa. Onaka Ippai!

The fifth chapter of the GheranDa samhitaa, a classic encylopaedic text on yoga states -
A good rule of thumb is that the stomach holds the same content as both of ones hands formed into a cup. At a given meal, one should thus eat as much food as can be held in the two cupped hands and one cupped handful of water.

御腹 - onaka or stomach
一杯 - ippai, 一 one; 杯 cup.

This is the phrase that every Japanese person uses to say that his stomach is full.
One cupful.

One more construct that goes to show that the kanji and the Japanese language have direct representations of ancient wisdom.

(Here in Japan the average lifespan is in the high 80's (that includes urban places like Tokyo) - so push that number up by 10 or 15 more years for rural areas like the place where I live.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nerves. God-carriers.

神経。Shinkei - is the word for a nerve.
The first kanji 'shin' 神 also can be read as 'kami' and is the kami in 神様 or God, and the jin in jinja 神社 or shrine/temple. So, 神 is God.
The 'kei' in shinkei - 経 means among other things - 'to transport'.
The 72,000 naaDis in the human body, as seen by the ancient seers in China must have made their way into the formation of this compound.

In the seven dhaatus that make up our body (rasa, rakta, maansa, meda, asthi, majjaa, shukra), as documented in ayurveda, majjaa is associated with the kapha in the bone marrow and the nerves. This is the dhaatu closest to shukra or seminal fluid in terms of refinement and proximity to our essence. What our senses 'eat' gets converted into these dhaatus in steps of progressive refinement from rasa (plasma) [all English translations of the dhaatus are rather loose, because Ayurveda is a different model altogether - it becomes a bit like trying to write device driver code in Visual Basic], rakta (the cells in the plasma), maansa(flesh), meda(fat), asthi(bones), majjaa( the kapha oiliness that forms the marrow and nerves) and further the most refined part of what we consume is converted eventually into shukra or the purest essence of our reproductive fluids. The essence of this is further converted into ojas, among whose outward indicators are a strong immune system and a glow on the face and skin. (How am I aware of all this - I experienced this first hand - as I lost all my dhaatus and ojas, and NO modern medicinal model could explain why. They couldn't even correlate all the symptoms I was experiencing. My gut feel is that modern medical science, specifially, their methods of diagnosis and the models of the human body they use, hack problems at the level of 'if, then, while' loops even if a problem lies at the use case, requirement, design or architecture level. )

Our ahamkaara as we know it is like the tip of an iceberg, and it is not all 'bad' as it is made out to be. For it is responsible for maintaining the very existence of our mind-body complex. It is like a faithful servant making sure that all the internal processes that make up 'living' function properly, a guardian - it fights anything - 'idea', 'food particle', microbe, virus ... that attempts to violate the internal boundary of the digestive canal and the outer boundary of the skin, and all other such boundaries that make up our mind-body complex. The most subtle, refined, essence of this Ahamkaara, resides in the body in the lowermost chakra - and is also called the Kundalini. (link goes to a home page in the eecs dept. in Berkeley U.)

Now, I had heard about this Kundalini thing in 1994 when I was in my senior high school (XIth standard in India), when my first contact with praaNaayaama and yoga was through Shri. Anil Koparkar Guruji of the Rishi Samskriti Vidyaa Kendra and the Siddha Samaadhi Yoga program. At the time, I had scoffed at the whole thing, and said "I don't know what this energy thing means, praaNaayaam is 'breathing exercises' and all that is okay, but this energy-wenergy stuff, don't know man...". However in the last few years, among other things, I realized that not only can one experience this energy - but a lot of profound ancient knowledge has been relegated to esoterica, much to our detriment.

So, this energy eventually frees itself from the 'knots' or 'granthis' that make up our koshas  or our bodies. And it rises up through the central naaDi or the sushumnaa (whose visible manifestation is perhaps what you'd see running through the vertebral column).

These naaDis are sookshma. Not visible. Yet their sthoola roop, or visible interface of some of them is through the nervous system. (As far as visible goes, you may notice, neither are electrons or quarks. You know they exist because of the effects of employing the model on which their existence is hypothesised. When one confuses models with reality, and tries to masquerade it as real, it is perhaps Not a Good Thing(tm). Ancient Indian traditions had seen and synthesised models that were comprehensive, sustainable, complex and abstract.)

Anyways, the point here is that, these naaDis are the carriers of that which is the most refined in our body, our essence, our spirit. So refined that it was associated with the 'God' meme. NaaDis are the carriers of the spirit or God. And -this- is reflected in the everyday word that modern japanese doctors use to refer to the nerves or the nervous system. 神経。God-carriers.

Another instance of Indian and Chinese knowledge systems and culture being preserved by the everyday language.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are you awake right now ? Memory. Seeing. Wakefulness.

'Medha' is a Sanskrit word that is associated with memory.
It implies memory without effort. A Medhavi is a person who has the power to 'remember' everything he exposes himself to. (Not just 'photographic' memory.)

The reason why most of us don't have that ability is because we are sleeping most of the time.
If I ask you if you are awake right now, you will probably reply with a 'Of course, yes. I am reading this, and a few moments later, will be able to recall what I read. So - I am awake.'

What is more likely is that - your usual state is a lack of awareness, but an external trigger, like these words, nudges you awake. The trigger registers itself. And you go back to sleep. Waking, but sleeping. How many minutes of the last 24 hours can you precisely recall ?

This phenomenon was also examined by P.D. Ouspensky.

So - if you remain 'awake' continuously, you could 'remember' everything around you.
But that would be very unusual. Most of us live in well labeled, established mechanical patterns, that we call comfortable. And hence, we do not even SEE. When we look at a wall, we don't see the texture, the color, the tiny marks on the surface, the tiny cracks ... a hundred other things. We perceive a label. Wall. And we don't see the wall. And so we don't remember anything about it.

Now here's the kanji link -
The kanji for 'to awaken' and 'to remember' are, THE SAME!
覚える is oboeru - to remember.
覚める is sameru - to open, awaken

The kanji has an eye on a pair of walking legs, under the radical for a school-house roof.

'nuff said.


Mojibake - 文字化け is composed of 文字 (moji), which means letter, character, and 化け (bake), from the verb 化ける (bakeru), which means to appear in disguise or to take the form of Literally, it means "character mutation".

This journey is about how imi (meaning) bake'd into moji(characters) and how moji bake'd into jukugo(compounds) and later perhaps even look at how that bake'd into bun(sentences).

Attention, concentration and a stream of oil.

I remember reading somewhere that one's attention should be like a stream of oil, not like a stream of water.

Consider this, for instance, in a given room, a civil engineer would be able to perceive materials, structural forces, construction cost - an electrical engineer would see the illumination level and the energy required for the same, the wiring material and cost ... and so on; each perceiving what they can identify with through their senses which have been trained. Among the (perhaps) lesser gifts of Yoga is that it gives the ability to identify oneself (yoga: union) completely with anything. This allows a yogi to unite with any object - with awareness expanding and it's nature taking on, among other things, the nature of a stream of oil. This enables the yogi to perceive much more than is normally possible for a person in any given situation.

Attention like a stream of oil being poured. Constant. Unbroken. Continuous.

Here's the cool thing - yesterday, I discovered that the kanji character for 'attention, concentration' and 'to pour out' is the SAME.
It is the chu 注in chuui 注意 (to concentrate, to pay attention)。It is also the chu in chusui suru (to pour out water) 注水する。 

What we see around us is a result of us pouring out our attention.
There are other connections between the nature of pouring out and the nature of seeing.
To observe is written as chuumoku 注目。 To pour out + eye.
To gaze steadily at is written as 注視する。chuushi suru. To pour out + to inspect (which has the radical for an eye on walking legs).

If you haven't seen it yet, go NOW to the kitchen and pour out some oil into a bowl. You'll see what the Chinese meant.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What comes next ...

This is a record of my journey as I explore the space between reality, the manner in which the ancient Chinese perceived it, and how that perception condensed into the snowflakes we call the Kanji. And further into Kanji compounds. Also perhaps, some interesting patterns that emerged as the kanji were adapted by the Japanese to fit their language. And then some oddities, questions and interesting kanji tidbits.

I use as my sources -
a.) works by Shirakawa Shizuka - a famous scholar who devoted his life to Kanji etymology
b.) Kenneth Henshall - A guide to remembering the Kanji
c.) The Kanjigen dictionary that comes with my Casio EX-Word 6900.
d.) 'The Green Goddess' The big Kenkyusha Wa-Ei
e.) Jack Halpern's beautiful Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary.
f.) Jack Halpern's NJECD
g.) Nihon Kokugo Dai-jiten
h.) intuition - mostly for spotting interesting connections, and asking good questions.
i.) observation - for spotting ways in which the Kanji are intertwined with Japanese culture.

The posts will not be ordered but perhaps the 'label' system can help bring some order later.

slowly the kanji ...

slowly the kanji,
sink into this mind-ripple,
like snowflakes drifting down to the ground.
each one different, but similar
silent moments of frozen beauty, a clue ...
for this world, that there is another....