HomeCosmologyWord of the Day: Yūgen (幽玄)

From the Wikipedia article on Japanese Aesthetics:

Yūgen (幽玄) is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics. The exact translation of the word depends on the context. In the Chinese philosophical texts the term was taken from, yūgen meant “dim”, “deep” or “mysterious”. In the criticism of Japanese waka poetry, it was used to describe the subtle profundity of things that are only vaguely suggested by the poems.

Yūgen is said to mean “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering”.

Yūgen suggests that beyond what can be said but is not an allusion to another world. It is about this world, this experience.

(Ortolani, 325). Ortolani, Benito. The Japanese Theatre. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1995

When I wake up early enough to see the sunrise, if I keep still and watch for a few minutes I can actually perceive the movement. At these times I become vibrantly aware that I am here, standing at this particular spot on the surface of this particular world; and this world is turning, turning, turning this part of its face toward the star we call the sun, 93 million miles away. And half of this world is at this moment experiencing this very same sun along with me, while the other half is in darkness.

These are my moments of yūgen.

Powderhorn Sunrise


Word of the Day: Yūgen (幽玄) — 16 Comments

  1. yugen-sabi aware: the only lasting thing is nothing. A broken life fixed is wabi of being put back together.

  2. How and when is the word used? In mostly poetic contexts?
    It seems to indicate a strong sense of “place”; being aware of oneself in —the broadest sense of — the “universe”.
    With undercurrents of sadness at transience?

    Is this word used in religious or mystical discourse?

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  4. I have chosen this word for my adopted last name. Seems perfect for me. But since I adopted it nobody ever asked me the meaning ;=)

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  8. So this is what Tonto really meant when he called the Lone Ranger Kim Sabi.
    Now I get it.

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  10. this is Robert henry poulin and I want to sincerely thank all who replied with candid and total sincerity the joy of life is life lived without mind in in the scene when one takes the road not taken and sees only the flowers along the pathway to tranquility, this is the mystery of being alive.

  11. I believe that in Christian theology the illusive concept of yugen could be understood as the equally illusive concept of Joy, associated with the mystical and charismatic notion of “The Holy Spirit” and therefore beyond the more material concept of happiness; or even the enigmatic concept of ‘Flow’ characteristically associated with an ‘inner experience’ that gives one a certain ‘high’; of being ‘in the zone.’ While “Flow” from a psychological perspective may be empirically measured, “Joy” and I assume “Yugen” as well, cannot be measured, or even appropriately described with any definitiveness, but only experienced, “taken IN-wardly” and acknowledged without expression of words — in silence. To be “in yugen” or to experience “joy,” I believe, is to find, if only for a moment in time, an immeasurable relationship of Oneness with the infinite. (P.S.: edited message)

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