“En” is central to my understanding and tasting of reality — to my “spirituality” (a word I highly dislike but have used for those of you that still use it).
The concept of En (the Chinese ideograph to the right – ideographs are ideas, not pronunciations.) is pronounced differently in different East Asian languages:
縁 “En” (Japanese)
缘 “Yuan2” (Mandarin Chinese)
연 “Yeon” (Korean)
“En” is a difficult to explain. The simple definitions in most Japanese-English and Chinese-English dictionaries include:
- a relation, a relationship, a connection, bonds, ties
- karma, fate.
But “En” has a philosophical nuance too. It is used to discuss connectedness. It was borrowed by Buddhists to capture their notions of interrelatedness and interdependence.
And in everyday Japanese and Chinese culture it has a rich notion of connectedness. The definition I have created to capture theses other nuances is missing from the above common definitions. So here is my definition:
EN = “vibrant and resonant connectedness”
EN offers me a feeling of awe in this life. EN is richness and wonder. EN is to be sought after, nurtured and honored. But that is me — that is my resonance with that word.
In Chinese philosophy, Yúan (Chinese for “En”) is what gives affinity between friends and lovers. Yuan has the feel of being a mysterious binding force or cause — although I don’t really think it is mysterious. Nonetheless, I allow that illusion of mystery to enrich my perceptions.
“En” has very concrete origins which later were abstracted into deeper poetic meanings. The original meaning of En is related to fabric – the weave or its hem (edge of the cloth). But I am uncertain of the details of this original meaning. This nuance can be seen in the left-side of the Chinese character which means “thread”.
EN is not a deity. EN is not all knowing. EN has no personality. EN is not a thing !! EN does not even exist except as a description of relationships. EN is only mystical in that it is hard to wrap our heads around it. And humans, when they can’t understand a complex system, often makes gods out of them.
One common phrase using EN which I enjoy in Japanese is: 縁がある (or for those who you with browsers not set to read the characters: EN ga aru). Which can betranslated as: “There is a special connection”; “We have a special connection”; “I feel vibrantly connection to that”. Remember, Japanese tries to avoid pronouns! It emphasises the state of being, not the actor.
I will list other En postings here as I write them:
- A Cellist finds his Yuan: En for an undertaker: A film review
- Fly Fishing: a fly fisher tells about his En
- Philosophy’s Substance
- My Atheist Buddhism
- Delusional Myths of Poetry
- On Deep Connections: Yuan: Ramblings on the connectedness of a video and a film.
- The Hour of the Monkey : an example where I don’t share EN with someone
See other “Word!” posts, here.