A Life of Regret

In addition to the Xuanzang book I mentioned before, I’ve been re-reading a book about Ashikaga Yoshimasa, probably the worst Shogun in Japanese history, but a genius with art.

In the book, Professor Donald Keene talks about Yoshimasa’s years in peaceful retirement at the Silver Pavilion (ginkakuji 銀閣寺). which I visited years ago. Now that Yoshimasa is retired and no longer the Shogun, he ruminates about his former life in waka poetry:

くやしくぞ Kuyashiku zo
過ぎしうき世を sugoshi uki yo wo
今日ぞ思ふ kyou zo omou
心くまなき kokoro kumanaki
月をながめて tsuki wo nagamete

Which professor Donald Keene translates as:

Today I recall
The sad world I lived
With bitter regret —
My mind serene as I gaze
At a moon free of shadows

Ashikaga Yoshimasa was never a serious student of Buddhism (though he was nominally ordained as a Rinzai Zen monk) but it’s interesting to hear him regret his life of luxury and power. It reminds me of Miyazawa Kenji’s famous poem Unbeaten By Rain (雨にも負けず).

When I read something like this, it reminds me that a life of honesty poverty is probably better than wealthy lifestyle full of discord.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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