Ego-Less Basket Monks Of Edo-Era Japan

Wikipedia on the fascinating flute-playing basket monk sect of seventeenth-to-nineteenth century Japan. Across cultures, specific articles of clothing are commonly worn to conceal oneself for purposes of modesty, conformity, or strategic anonymity. However, the concept of the straw basket is more extreme–all identity and ego are removed:

A komusō was a Japanese mendicant monk of the Fukè school of Zen Buddhism. Komusō wore a woven straw hat which covered their head completely looking like an overturned basket or a woven beehive. The concept was that by wearing such a hat they removed their ego. Komusō means ”priest of nothingness” or “monk of emptiness.”

They are also known for playing solo pieces on the shakuhachi (bamboo flute) as a method of attaining enlightenment and as a healing modality. The Japanese government introduced reforms after the Edo period, abolishing the Fukè sect. Records of the musical repertoire survived, and are being revived in the 21st century.

7 Comments on "Ego-Less Basket Monks Of Edo-Era Japan"

  1. Isn’t walking around playing a song on a flute with the intention of “summoning others to enlightenment” an act of the Ego?

    • Ronniedobbs | Jul 30, 2012 at 9:46 am |

       not if u wear a basket on ur head, duh

      • What a bunch of basket cases. 

      • Liam_McGonagle | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

        The practice of itinerant performers covering their heads with baskets is ancient and worldwide.  There’re these trad-revival artists called The Armagh Rhymers, for instance:

        It’s pretty easy to see how the donning of a simple basket can be interpreted as a negation of ego.  But that may not necessarily be the sole province of the Buddhist tradition.  It could equally have sprung from some long forgotten shaman technique of spirit invocation–heightening the power of the musical performance by subsuming the musicians’ individual identities.

    • The only thing to get is money | Jul 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

      Ignore the contradictions friend, just ignore them. After all if we all went around nitpicking at contradictions not even faiths such as Jainism would survive!

      On a more serious note, yeah, “ego” is impossible to get rid of through acts of will, which is the “ego”. It’s simply a mind-fuck, every religion has it’s own brand to fuck with people.

  2. Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes plays that flute…

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