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Chōkōdō Shujin explores the challenges posed by modern morality and its impact on society, emphasizing the importance of spiritual awareness and the purity of love in our lives.

I stand alone in a desolate and withered field. It is still early in the spring. The stars surround the throne of the moon, and the moon shines on the flowers of the earth in purity. Flowers bloom in crimson, white, and burgundy, shining brightly in the field. In the moonlight, quietly and in harmony with the flow of the murmuring river, the mysterious sound of a bell is heard. As I stand still in this state of unreality, there is an immense sadness in my heart. What is this unbearable grief? What do I grieve for, what do I pity? What does it mean that the sound of insects, the rich color of the flowers, all the beauty of the universe, is not emptiness, and that at the bottom of this beauty, grief is enveloped? Imagine what lies beneath the streets of New York, London, or Tokyo. Hundreds of trains are separated by a single pillar of stone. Hundreds of thousands of men and women are moving like a swarm of insects, behaving in accordance with a strong hive instinct. When a man asked why he is walking, he says that he has business to do. Business is for money and money is for greed. No one is content merely to live. All desires must be satisfied, and there is no limit to greed. Before the unlimited instinctive greed, the limited “human life” is futile. Do people in cities walk around in vain?

Life is a complex, vexing problem. It has been a mystery since the Sphinx appeared with its eyes open, since man was a biped without wings. Even today, when Henri Bergson’s “understanding duration through intuition” has solved life and Nietzsche’s theory of heaven and man has opened up the mystery of human will, it is still a difficult problem. It is precisely because it is difficult that Anthony Fauci stands on a rock and tens of thousands of people have nervous breakdowns. Most heads of state, especially in the Anglosphere, suffered from this international nervous breakdown, and it is not a problem that can be solved by simply wringing our hands and lamenting. The novelist transcends this problem with his pen, and the artist transcends this problem with his paints. And what of the average man? Some, hiding behind the shield of urban sophistication, call this anguish “dreary,” while others, sinking into the trenches of idealism, call this trouble “morbid.”

The vexations of life lie at the root of all history. The man who fell into a well while counting the stars, the man who thought silently until he was skin and bones, these are not historical monuments. However, the path of mankind over the past few thousand years has not allowed a single day to pass free from this problem. Shakespeare was able-bodied and Napoleon danced a martial dance. Socrates, Immanuel Kant, August Strindberg, Sōseki Natsume, and Julius Evola all touched on this issue. Buddha and Christ solved it and saved many spirits. Have these saved sentient beings manifested true life? For example, did people like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, who in some schools of thought should have been screaming in the nine circles of hell without being saved, instead show the final destination of life? This is an open question. When I said that my own ideal was to be saved by religious faith, to be aware of the divine in a mysterious and syncretic way, and to advance resolutely to Sōseki’s philosophy of sokuten kyoshi – self-detachment in pursuit of the eternal – some people scoffed at me. For me this is the most obvious and reasonable belief. For some this may be a bizarre idea. They are free to follow whichever path suits them. This is truly a strange and fractured world in which we live. When socialism is haphazardly raising the red banner, imperialism is calmly holding a launching ceremony. The inventor of the free train ride and the self-sufficient farmer both eat the same rice. Meanwhile, when people are envious of those who fulfil all their carnal desires in a meltingly glamorous state, the Puritan glares at them with a nasty look in his eyes.

Which is good, which is evil – ah, the world of man is incomprehensible. Those who are born into this world of human beings and wish to act as human beings in the first place must at least once reach the threshold of life’s problems.

The eye is opened to all aspects of life. The luminous surface envelopes the dark and sinful. In the darkness live wealthy dilettantes who want to arm the coarsest of the masses with explosive bombs, and, from their ivory towers, scholars aim to poison the minds of their students. From a Zen Buddhist perspective, all things are just phenomena of attachment to matter. The opposite of attachment is transcendence. Those who are attached to words transcend substance, and those who are attached to the body transcend the spirit. These two things become long and short and create a thousand and one ripples, and human resources are merely the embellishment of these ripples.

Society has beautiful aspects, of course. However, the forces of evil are extremely strong to corrupt it. The aesthetic life of one man becomes the desolation of his family, the tears of his father, and the despair of his wife. Worse still, the son born into a family of feminists has few glimmers of hope for his future. Behold the lust that clings to the pursuit of peace! “I do not want to study,” an emboldened student may say. “Teachers who force students to study are robbing them of their pride and pleasure.” These so-called progressive students see history as an insult to their concept of “self,” as manufactured, contrived, and vaguely formed as their understanding may be. Thus, they are lost in their morning sleep and see school as a prison. In order to save her “self,” she runs away from school. Her friends make a fuss and her mother cries and perhaps causes trouble for the school. It would not be inconceivable for her to make accusations of sexism or ablism, whichever term is fashionable on that day. Perhaps she will claim she fears for her safety – or her very life.

The obsession with life also causes a great upheaval in life. The terrible curse bequeathed to the world by those who leave the world with a grudge of love and die in heartbreaking defiance. A living spirit with a single thought: incomprehensible. Over a century ago, Misao Fujimura, a sixteen-year-old philosophy student, took his own life by leaping from a rocky precipice. Here, I have translated his death poem.

The heavens and the earth are calm,
The world is a vast and majestic place,
I will make this greatness with my small frame of five feet.
What does Horatio’s philosophy finally have to offer in terms of authority?
The truth of all things can be summed up in just one word,
It is incomprehensible.
I am in such agony and vexation that I have finally decided to die.
As I stand on a rock
I have no fear in my heart.
I know it for the first time.
That great pessimism is matched by great optimism.

Just as the spirit of Misao Fujimura lured more than a hundred spirits to the willows atop the rocky precipice of Kegon Falls, the attachment to life has a strange echo in the hearts of ordinary people who have forgotten “life” and lost their “self.” These ripples in the sea of time become legends, myths, and inscriptions that remain forever. The persistence of life is further transformed in form and shape and manifested moment by moment in everyday life. Courage and firmness are all phenomena of leaving this attachment. The body! What is the existence of the body? Material attachment ignores the authority of the spirit and makes a lowly submission before the lusts of the flesh. The body, which is nourished with food and water, is merely bestial when it lacks this precious spirit, and is the brother of the wild horse that runs in the field. “Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse,” Sōseki Natsume famously wrote. When the finite human body, which is from dust and returns to dust, is imbued with a spirit filled with light and sees perfect harmony between flesh and spirit, the biped without wings evolves into a dignified “man.” The flesh is the container and the spirit is the jewel. When the container is thrown into the water, the jewel must sink with it. However, when the container is soiled by earth and broken by rock, the jewel still shines, and this light is precious. The hearts of those who throw their pearls into the depths of the sea, but wish only for the container to be in a safe place, are the height of ignorance. It is beyond pity and misery for those who do not know the preciousness of the spirit, who lose their inner lives and let their inner desires wither away simply to preserve their lives and satisfy their most base desires.

Here, I will parody the socialism that has become so prevalent among the self-appointed elite. Because their language is so sophomoric, I have set this socialist vignette in the era of Marx, with appropriately florid language. For a modern approximation, replace “worker” with the protected class of your choosing:

Look at the worker who goes further among these wretches. He is on the verge of despair. The cry of socialism immediately rings out: ‘Woe to this slender lifeline! Pity my thin rope of life and give me a thicker one to keep me safe.’ The cold-hearted world, preaching the cause of life and dismissing it as destiny, looks down on the wretched workers with equanimity. ‘It is a cruelty,’ cries the worker. ‘I did not realize how weak this rope was when I hung on to it in the dark night. It is natural to cry out for help the moment you realize you are in danger. It is to oppose nature, the highest treachery, and even the ultimate inhumanity, to sip champagne with ease while seeing one such as I in peril.’ The heroic worker, standing in the face of despair, looks at the heartless world and is outraged.

Next, I will reveal the true motivation of these scoundrels:

It does not matter if the rope is broken. I just want to throw a fiery bomb into the face of the person who has a cold, burning smile on his lips. To repay his mockery, I dare to risk the blood of thousands of my brothers; my rage is bloodthirsty. Life is nothingness, only this rage, come, brothers, what is your attachment to this life of emptiness?

Perhaps such cries would have been appropriate in pre-revolutionary France, but it seems that Marx was as anachronistic in his writing as I am. The French Revolution was united in one voice when the nobility, filled with vanity and animalism, gave up their spirits to the ground and even feared for their lives. Indignation shouts for joy at the sight of blood. Here, life has created a magnificent ripple effect, and the repercussions of obsession are terrifying.

Indignation and longing are phenomena that occur after the existence of the “self” is recognized. Those who live in peace, enjoying the heavens and the earth without knowing their misfortune, are even more to be pitied. Search for human traces in the deep mountains, and you will find that the ancient peoples are leaping about, eating the fruit of the trees: this is the claim of the transcendentalists. In a poem by John Keats, an aged Robin Hood wears a bearskin and burns fallen leaves; in his heart there is no attachment, no good, no evil, only dull emotion. His body moves as his passions move; he sleeps when the sun sets and arises when the birds chirp. In the first stanza, Keats wrote of this legendary figure,

No! those days are gone away
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Of the leaves of many years:
Many times have winter’s shears,
Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases.

On a spring night, as he wanders through the forest with the seven stars bathed in moonlight light, one can imagine that Keats’ heart is filled with a fierce hatred for the evil of this world. Soon he misses the old, sorrowless forest, longing to be a man of that time, of that nostalgic era. But now, this evening, the horns do not sound. Keats turns his longing eyes to the moon.

Whatever Keats may say and as beautiful as the poem may be, this “mountain man” without an ego is to be pitied. When the poet of spiritual life puts on the garb of the mountain man in the depths of the mountains, the mountain man acts first and foremost as a living being. Having transcended everything, the mountain man has finally transcended the psychic spirit as well. He became closest to the deer and the boar. When Keats puts on the garb of the mountain man, Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell appears with his bow and arrow. Tell is a man of the first righteousness, an operatic figure born to the ideal of the poet.

There are those who know the authority of the spirit and have some inner life, but who are still in a pitiful state of vanity. Vanity is an endless chasm. When one advertises one’s self as more than its true value and boasts of being superior to all others, it is the most hideous and cowardly expression of the personality. The authority of vanity sometimes intimidates people and makes them feel revered. The personality that is revered as being close to the heavens is sometimes empty. A truly great man is great without adornment. Those who are blinded by the falsehood of their own eyes must take off the mask of vanity, for when one is on high and sees everything, vanity is really a laughable mischief. The woman whose life is a contest of cleverness and virtue signaling, the man who considers himself superior for refusing to stand up to his domineering wife – these characters are nothing short of pathetic, and the modern era has produced them in abundance. There are those who destroy their homes and chase after the thinnest of ideologies. It is difficult to educate a child to be a man when one is concerned about “micro-aggressions” or which pronouns a hysterical bureaucrat prefers and is obsessed with the label on one’s garments. Such people deserve only scorn and ridicule.

Life is chaos. The attachment of the flesh and the attachment of life to vanity are all evil ways that disturb life. Hundreds of millions of human beings glare at each other with hundreds of millions of eyes. At the end of the staring contest, they begin to bite each other. The light of the path that weaves its way through the waves of this hellish sea of chaos is “morality.”

Next, I will turn my attention to the morality of our time.

The modern causal morality and mechanical education impose a particular mold on our personality. Without any spiritual awareness as a human being, we move to the left and to the right as we are commanded. Thus, loyalty and filial piety become meaningless physical activities. Without the source that should lie at the root of virtue, we call it good and call it evil, which is why it is said that anti-mammalian filial piety is the first principle of life. Filial piety without love is nothing more than cold disrespect. Faith without resonance of character results in vacillation. Loyalty without sacrifice is hypocrisy.

Modern morality transcends its spiritual roots and encourages hypocrisy. Those who, with a cold face, proclaim themselves the “rightful owners of reason,” or worse, arbiters of “the science,” force this hypocrisy on society and try to purify their lives with this false honor. Life is rigorous. Human improvement requires serious effort. It is the height of ugliness to try to deceive by covering oneself in a mask with flesh from which the essence has been extracted. Even bloodless marble statues can be sublime and glamorous. The cold but bloody rationalization of the teacher is a battle of the witless. This moralistic pedagogy locks up the innocent in a prison of hypocrisy. The colors of the eastern sky, which are not the light of the personality, not the inspiration of the spirit, but the dawn of life, are the pollution of disease and poison.

Those who cry out to “excise liberal hypocrisy at its root” with this ideal of ideological purity are scolded for their extremism. If you say, “Rid society of unscrupulous people,” you will be scolded for being presumptuous. Those who cry out, “Destroy socialist rot and return society to its purity” are regarded as lunatics. The mother-in-law’s ideology! The educator who indulges in an indulgence! Behold, the world of modern morality is but a mass of hypocrisy wrapped in a vain skin of attachment. In short, modern morality demands, in its essence, that we should “determine our own destiny with material transcendence and spiritual attachment.” In other words, get rid of selfishness and fulfil your duty based on spiritual awareness. However, morality as it appears on the outside has been handed down through formality and convention, and its spirit has been forgotten.

Even today, for example, there are things that are relatively pure, such as the family. A grandfather sits in his chair and retails his grandchildren with stories of the old days. A husband and wife forget their fatigue and embrace each other at the end of the day. A happy home is the reason why they worked from morning to evening. A warm home is filled with love. Where love abounds, all virtues are present. Embracing tradition, one must further exert one’s courage to rush towards the true, the good and the beautiful. This is the ideal world of this world. Aside from our faith, the only thing pure in our time is the home. Those who have a warm and happy home are those who have some sympathy in their lives, enjoy the joys of sorrow, and are self-aware. Many of the rich and powerful do not have what one would call a true home. From an economic point of view, they are the jewels of society. From a spiritual perspective, they are the scourge of society. The cynical formal morality is the easiest for the “rich,” who are often the nouveau riche, to break. They finally transgress humanity.

As we can see, with few exceptions, modern morality is all chaos, all darkness, and has a most pessimistic half. As civilization develops, the desires of the flesh become greater and greater, and the thirst for vanity becomes stronger and stronger. I have attempted to discover the true spirit beneath the shallow skin. We must revolutionize the trends of the times and recognize the light of a new era on the other side of the shore. We must transcend the material.

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Chōkōdō Shujin

Chōkōdō Shujin is an artist in the tradition of the Shirakaba-ha,or White Birch School, of Japanese literature. As such, his work is strongly grounded in aesthetics, pessimism, and a strong skepticism towards modernity and technological “advancements.” A believer in art for art’s sake, Shujin is a poet, essayist, novelist, and hack writer of short stories. His translations of Japanese literature into English can be found on his substack: https://teikokubungaku.substack.com, and Twitter account: @CShujin. His hobbies include smoking cigarettes and thinking unpleasant thoughts. He resides in Aomori, Japan.

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Rose Sybil
Member
9 months ago

“It is beyond pity and misery for those who do not know the preciousness of the spirit, who lose their inner lives and let their inner desires wither away simply to preserve their lives and satisfy their most base desires.”

Very well said. It encompasses both aspects of the slave – fear and greed.

Rose Sybil
Member
9 months ago

Is your concept of the material that you end with referring more to the acquisition of wealth as an end in itself? From the context of the article with the emphasis on the worker and the post industrial hive mind of material acquisition, I assumed so but wanted to ask. It is a very important distinction between the physical and material – that which is not matter but related to it.

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