Yoshida Kenkō (1283 – 1350) was a Japanese Buddhist monk and poet, best known for his posthumously published collection of short statements and essays known as Essays in Idleness or The Harvest of Leisure that demonstrate the essence of the Way in Buddhism, including the realisation of the Impermanence of All Things and the Transience of Life. Drawing from folklore and classics, Kenkō also provides short morality tales, pointing out the dangers of pride and greed, and advocating temperance in life and moderation in all things that are not necessities to life. He shares his thoughts on the beauty of nature, aesthetics, nostalgia, life at court, and on Japanese poetry, festivals and architecture. Most of his self-professed “ramblings” are either delightful or deeply profound and I am sharing some of them here:
“It is most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met”.
“In all things, the beginning and end are the most engaging. Does the love of man and woman suggest only their embraces? No, the sorrow of lovers parted before they met, laments over promises betrayed, long lonely nights spent sleepless until dawn, pinning thoughts for one in some far place, a woman left sighing over past love in her tumbledown abode – it is these, surely, that embody the romance of love“.
“Wisdom lies in understanding your own limits, and swiftly relinquishing what lies beyond reach. “
“It harms a man more to wound his heart than to hurt his body.”
“Even people who seem eminently intelligent will judge others yet have no knowledge of themselves. It makes no sense to lack self-knowledge while understanding those around you. He who knows himself must be said to be the man of real knowledge” (Kenkō).