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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Kasulis' Internal and External Relationships

Kasulis Internal and External Relationships by timtak
Kasulis Internal and External Relationships, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
I just read Kasulis' chapter on Zen and Japanese Artistry in "The Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice."

Kasulis argues that the essence of Zen artistry can be found in the Shinto tradition. He points to three things. First he suggests that contra other forms of Buddhism, the plain, undecorated, inornate nature of Zen artistry is shared with Shinto. More boldly he claims that the "ordinariness" of Zen, which not only shuns being fettered by Buddhist scripture, but sees the philosophy of the Buddha written in all things, mirrors Shinto animism. Finally he argues that Shinto purity of heart (magogoro) is closely related to the state of mind, or no-mind, attained in Zen.

I am one of those people that thinks everything Japanese is Shinto, even if it claims to be Buddhist, I look forward to reading Kasulis' book "Shinto: The way home."

In his introduction to the Japanese section of the book, Kasulis talks about "interior and external relationship" using this diagram above. Kasulis' diagram could be argued to be a detail from Markus and Kitayama's famous diagram which itself has precident in Kimura Bin, Eshun Hamaguchi and Wasuji Tetsuro among others.

Keeping his eye on the relationships however, Kasuli argues that in the West they are seen as being exterior to the person, something that each of the related can objectify, whereas in Japan they are seen as being interior to each and both of the related, consituting them. This means that, he argues, while a Japanese garden may appear "unnatural" in the way that it is cut and pruned into a "surnatural" shape, the gardner is part of nature and nature would loose something of its naturalness if its relationship with the gardner were to be removed.

The interiority of Japanese relationships is part of the cultural psychological cannon (I wonder if cultural psych has become a religion for me) that I ascribe to, and I do not doubt it at all. I can't doubt it because I ask my students, "do you see your relationships as occuring within you", "do you think that in a way others occur within yourself?" and they say "yes." "Other people are inside you?!" I ask them to confirm, and as they nod, I have trouble understanding their reply.

Do they mean that they are simulating intra-psychic others - co called imaginary friends? They may feel very real, as Cathy says, "I am my Heathcliff,"and Celine Dion says "You're here in my heart."

But, I was wondering yesterday whether, if having a mirror in ones head means that one is more inclined to affirm "the veil of perception." The veil of perception is the notion that all that we percieve is internal, our own perceptions, upon a mental screen, no the real world so, as Nietzche quips, we can only ever point to ourselves.

While I am susceptible to this view, generally speaking I do not look at the world in that way and generally feel I am looking at the world and not myself. When I asked my (Japanese) wife, she was quick to affirm the veil of perception, so I wonder if this is part of the origin of the feeling of interiority. Maybe I will be able to do a survey. I have been meaning to for a while but I used to think that the veil would be on us not them.

Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., *Moskalenko, S., *Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 879-887. http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/Website/Papers/Mirrors-pspb4%5B1%5D.pdf
Kasulis (1998) "The Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice" p 338.
Markus. H. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the Self: Implications for cognition, emotion and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253. Downloaded from http://www.biu.ac.il/PS/docs/diesendruck/2.pdf on 2011/11/11

This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.