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Yamato Kotoba: The Language of the Flesh

Author(s): Yukari Kunisue | Judy Schavrien

Journal: International Journal of Transpersonal Studies
ISSN 1321-0122

Volume: 30;
Issue: 1-2;
Start page: 165;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: haiku | Yamato Kotoba | Furuike | Koto Dama | phenomenology | Merleau-Ponty | lifeworld | lebenswelt

This inquiry builds on the work of such thinkers as David Abram and Maurice Merleau-Ponty; like their work, it addresses the fact that people in the Western developed world,through their acculturations, sacrifice intimacy with the natural world. The article exploresone remedial measure: the Yamato Kotoba language of the Japanese. This is a language before the Chinese injection of spoken and written words, one that preserves the earlier words better suited, the authors propose, to expressing the interpenetrating experience ofthe person with—in this case the Japanese—natural setting. Such an intimacy appears, for instance, in Basho’s Haiku. In the same vein, Japanese Koto Dama deploys the spiritual power that resides in words—as they are both spoken and unspoken. These linguistic phenomenaare explored and explained insofar as they preserve, capture, and celebrate human intimacy with nature. In the words of Merleau-Ponty, they re-member humans as “flesh of the world’s flesh.”

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