Dependent origination and the dual-nature of the japanese aesthetic

Asian Philosophy 7 (2):123 – 132 (1997)
Abstract
As most commentators on Japanese aesthetics agree, the Japanese aesthetic is pervaded by a profound affirmation of things in their suchness or original uniqueness, and at the same time is tinged with an element of sadness or melancholy. While the responses of affirmation and melancholy seem rather subjective and may—at first glance—appear inconsistent with Buddhist notions like anatman, or non-self and the Buddhist demand for non-attachment, I shall argue that a more careful reading of certain Buddhist doctrines, specifically the doctrine of dependent origination or pratitya-samutp da, reveals that the basic tenets of Buddhism are not only consistent with these sorts of subjective responses, but in fact serve to help explain the dual nature of the Japanese aesthetic. Accordingly, I shall suggest that given the undeniable influence Buddhism has had on Japanese culture, it seems likely that the doctrine of dependent origination is not only compatible with, but also contributed to the formation of what we regard as the Japanese aesthetic.
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