The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō



Things which seem in poor taste: too many personal effects cluttering up the place where one is sitting; too many brushes in an ink-box; too many Buddhas in a family temple; too many stones and plants in a garden; too many children in a house; too many words on meeting someone; too many meritorious deeds recorded in a petition. Things which are not offensive, no matter how numerous: books in a book cart, rubbish in a rubbish heap.


These are the things I found most to my taste when I read the  book called Ichigon Hōdan, which records the sayings of great priests:

1. When in doubt whether or not to do something, generally it is best not to do it.
2. A man concerned about the future life should not own even a miso pot. Owning valuables, even if they happen to be personal copies of sutras or images of guardian Buddhas, is harmful to salvation.
3. The hermit’s way of life is best; he feels no want even if he has nothing.
4. It is good for the man of high rank to act like a humble person, for a scholar to act like an ignoramus, for the rich man to act like a pauper, and for the talented man to act awkwardly.
5. There is only one way to seek Buddhist enlightenment: you must lead a quiet life and pay no heed to worldly matters. This is the first essential.

There were other things, but I don’t remember them.

Essays in Idleness, translated by Donald Keene, 1998


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