Kenji's Sense of "Elemental Time" and the Lotus Sutra

Razor-sharp sense and "elemental time"
@It is important to note another point in regard to the association between the singular state of consciousness Kenji experienced and Mahayana Buddhism that is, Kenji's sense of "elemental time" bound up with the Lotus Sutra's philosophy of the eternal Buddha.

Underlying the singular state of consciousness we find recorded in two of Kenji's poems, Inclining Wind and Scenery and a Music Box, is a sense of time that we might term "elemental time." In the opening passage of Inclining Wind we read:

After the inclining wind has passed by/The telegraph poles freshly coated in creosote/The sturdy undulations of dark hills/(the sky is filled with ancient silver-gray moonlight)/The razor-sharp half-moon in an amazonite sky/All of these intricate spectacles of cloud and sky/Transparently alter into the boundless past
In a passage describing cloud particles illuminated by moonlight in Scenery and a Music Box, which is dated the same day as Inclining Wind, we read "This whole place is simply seething with nostalgia ," a scene which corresponds to the spectacles that "transparently alter into the boundless past" in Inclining Wind.
Such scenes seem to clear Kenji's consciousness so that he feels "I" and "all else" permeate each other; fundamental to this experience is an altered sense of time past, present, and future are undifferentiated and seem to permeate one another. A feeling of "nostalgia" rises in him, but he is also struck by the "fearfulness" of such a chaotic condition. Toward the end of Scenery and a Music Box we read "A wind blowing at this rate/Certainly signals the first wind of Kalpa." Kalpa is a Sanskrit term used in the Buddhist religion to designate the largest unit of time, which is a cosmic range of time, and the beginning of kalpa signifies the period of the formation of the universe (see The New Glossarial Dictionary of Miyazawa Kenji). This also lends support to the assertion that Kenji's state of consciousness in Inclining Wind and Scenery and a Music Box is accompanied by a sense of "elemental time."
Kenji's sense of "elemental time" and his faith in the Lotus Sutra The character of Kenji's sense of "elemental time" is bound up with the Lotus Sutra's philosophy of the eternal Buddha. The Lotus Sutra teaches that Shakyamuni's (the Buddha's) entrance into Nirvana at age 80 is merely an expedient used to preach his teachings to all sentient beings. Actually, an immeasurable eternity has passed since the Buddha attained buddhahood; the Buddha transcends time and exists eternally in the Universe. One teaching that characterizes the Lotus Sutra is that the Buddha appears in various buddha forms in the world to preach his teachings; this philosophy is most likely integral to Kenji's sense of "elemental time."

Passages such as the following, found in one of the letters Kenji wrote to his close friend Kanai Hosaka, clearly show the close relation of his faith in the Lotus Sutra to the singular sense of time he experienced.

In the last letter I sent you, I printed out Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. When I printed the characters Na and Mu, innumerable worlds became visible right in front of my eyes and then vanished again. My "three-thousand-great-thousandfold world" lives in those characters and extends over the past, the present, and the future. (The Complete Works of Miyazawa Kenji Vol.9, p.120, Chikuma Bunko)
We can see by this letter that Kenji's perception of "innumerable worlds" extending "over the past, the present, and the future" that appear and vanish in an instant is related to his sense of "elemental time" and inseparable from his faith in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

In the same way as with the relation between Kenji experiences in this state of singular consciousness and the Avatamsaka Sutra, noted in the essay "Monadic Particles and the Avatamsaka Sutra," the relation between his experiences of "elemental time," described in several of his compositions, and the Lotus Sutra philosophy of an eternal Buddha can be considered in two ways: A) Kenji gained his sense of "elemental time" from the Lotus Sutra and wrote about it in his works to instruct others in this teaching; B) It is possible that Kenji had experiences of "elemental time" before he became well-acquainted with the Lotus Sutra, thus many points in the sutra struck a responsive chord in him, accounting for his strong attraction to its teaching of an eternal Buddha. Just as we have stated in the essay in regard to the Avatamsaka Sutra, we believe that B) is the more persuasive argument.

A vantage point that embraces manifold systems of understanding As we have mentioned in a separate essay on Introduction to Spring and Ashura, Kenji calls into question the relationship between "time" and an understanding of "documents and history...or the earth's past ," which is one aspect of the variegations of viewpoints and frameworks that systematize people's sense and understanding. People living in a given period assign meaning to the "data" of history and geologic history of that period via a common frame of reference, so that when times and common frames of reference change, people's understanding is drastically altered. Kenji sought an all-inclusive vantage point that could encompass such manifold interpretations; apparently he felt that his experience of "elemental time" held one of the keys.

Corresponding to this issue of changing awareness of "documents and history...or the earth's past" depicted in Introduction to Spring and Ashura is a scene from the third version of Night on the Milky Way Train. This is the scene where a man in a big black hat appears to Giovanni, who has been left by himself when Campanella disappears at the end of their journey on the Milky Way Train, and shows him a bizarre history and geography book. On one page of the book you read about how the history and geography of a period were viewed, and as you turned the pages the views kept changing. The man tells Giovanni,

"Okay, listen. What you have to do is get through all these bits and pieces of ideas from start to finish. That's the really hard part."
What he is trying to say is that Giovanni needs to arrive at a sense of time that can encompass the "bits and pieces of ideas" that make up the historical understanding of each age.
In this scene also, we see how Kenji tries to employ his experience of "elemental time" to forge a road to a vantage point that will encompass the shifting frames of reference of every age that shape people's sense and understanding.
From Spring and Ashura in The Complete Works of Miyazawa Kenji Vol.1, Chikuma Bunko

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