Zen and the Art of Nourishing Life: Labor, Exhaustion, and the Malady of Meditation by ProQuest


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									Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 35/2: 177–229
© 2008 Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture

Juhn Y. Ahn

Zen and the Art of Nourishing Life
Labor, Exhaustion, and the Malady of Meditation

   In his Yasenkanna and other writings Zen master Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1769)
   relies on two seemingly conflicting analogies to speak of the art of nourishing
   life (yōjō). On the one hand, he maintains that vital energy (ki) must be stored
   in the cinnabar field (tanden). On the other hand, he maintains that one must
   circulate vital energy in the body by engaging in labor lest it become stagnant.
   A similar tension can be observed in Kaibara Ekken’s (1630–1714) immensely
   popular manual of nourishing life, Yōjōkun. Although Shigehisa Kuriyama
   points to the industrious revolution and what he calls the “anxiety of stagnation”
   that swept through the Tokugawa populace as a possible cause for the rise of
   this tension, the present article will suggest a fundamental redefinition of labor
   (rō) and, more specifically, reading practices that took place during this period
   as another possible factor behind this development. Labor, be it meditation or
   reading, had to demonstrate a sense of self-mastery for it to be true labor and
   failure to do so would result in exhaustion (rō) or what Hakuin preferred to
   call the malady of meditation (zenbyō).

   keywords: Hakuin Ekaku — Kaibara Ekken — labor — Zen — meditation —

   Juhn Ahn is Assistant Professor in the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion
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