A useful skill for adulting

It’s easy, there’s a trick to it.

(Shintou wo mekkyaku sureba hi mo mata suzushi;
“When you empty your mind, even fire is cool.”)


The Buddhist teaching than any kind of pain or hardship can be endured with the proper mindset. Even being burned by fire can be made to feel cool and refreshing if you’re in a proper state of Zen. (Not recommended if you have any better options that don’t involve being burned, IMHO).


We begin with the noun 心頭 (shintou), “mind,” and mark it as the object of a verb with the particle を (wo). The verb phrase that follows comprises noun 滅却 (mekkyaku), “extinguishment,” and the verb する (suru), “to do,” in perfective form with conditional suffix ば (ba).

The following clause begins with the noun 火 (hi), “fire,” marked by the particle も (mo), often “also” but in this case with the nuance of “even.” This is followed by adjectival conjunction また (mata), “furthermore,” “on the other hand,” and finally the adjective 涼し (suzushi), “cool,” in sentence-final form.


滅却 may be replaced with 忘却 (boukyaku), “forgetting,” “consigning to oblivion,” or the whole phrase may be collapsed into the four-character phrase 心頭滅却 (shin.tou.me-.kkyaku).

This saying was made famous by Zen priest Kaisen, who supposedly uttered it while burning to death in an attack by Oda Nobunaga’s forces, but is originally attributed to a poem by Tang-era Chinese poet Du Xunhe (杜荀鶴, in Japanese To Junkaku).

Example sentence:

「地球温暖化に備えて座禅を組もうぜ」 「え、座禅?どうして?」 「心頭を滅却すれば火もまた涼しというから、どんなに暑くなっても涼しく感じられるようになるためさ」 「……」

(“Chikyuuondanka ni sonaete Zazen wo kumou ze.” – “E, Zazen? Doushite?” – “Shintou wo mekkyaku sureba hi mo mata suzushi to iu kara, donna ni atsuku natte mo suzushiku kanjirareru you ni naru tame sa.” – “……”)

[“Hey, let’s prepare for global warming by practicing Zazen.” – “Huh? Zazen? Why?” – “They say that when you achieve a Zen state, even fire feels cool, so we can feel cool no matter how hot it gets!” – “…”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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