The Analects of Naneun (Pt. 1)


The Analects of Naneun

Here for the first time is the English translation of the first few pages of my work The Analects of Naneun (ナヌンの論説: “nanun no ronsetsu”), a free-form mixture of haibun and poetry (zuihitsu) I self-published in Japan nearly 20 years ago. Each poem-form in the original work was postfaced by commentary in the form of a Zen koan, but for now I am posting the initial form of each analect. It all will be posted in six parts, so I hope you come back to read each posting, o-negaishimasu!

Original 1999 Japanese Preface

This work is the quest to think and feel through the artfully polite evasion of directness, the supreme beauty of Japanese “not-saying-as-such”, infused with kotodama (言霊: word-soul) that moves noiselessly through Japanese language. Thus, I have sought to understand the kotodama and psychological rhythm of Yukio Mishima, Kōbō Abe, Dōgen, the Man’yōshū, Sei Shonagon, Kenko’s “Tsurezuregusa”, Junichirou Tanizaki and so on. Each analect is to be meditated upon for many hours and days, rather than read momentarily like poems. Thus I encourage you to meditate upon each analect, read a single one and stop for at least a few minutes to contemplate it, and let it seep into your subconscious; let the kotodama arise within after your eyes have received it…


hakushi: blank paper
empty pen
nothing in mind
two cows…
just kind of
looking at each other.

the five fish
taking refuge in
the sunrise
who is to blame?

rainfall;Osaka crosswalk
taxis threaten; sideswipe my groceries
what impetuous fellows!

“describe in writing,
Mikado pink…”
no thanks.

twinkle twinkle
little star
I… uh…
(something about snow
and the Buddha?)

river runs through cathedral
canary grass on the pews
catfish glide/rotting hymnals
uh oh!
“ideas have no parents…”

look, the syrian hibiscus
ornette coleman’s music
omoroi! omoroi!
no need to even
know what that means.

Yi Okbong: startled the wind
jade saliva, rock milk
dragon string?
a bone in the rice of
of her enemies

three Vietnamese girls
little Bat Trang pots
stuffed with giggles
Ha Noi (3:24 pm)

I went to Hai Phong
between the airport
and the temple
all other distances
are fiction.

about 10 blocks
from Namba Station
depending on whose
heart you break.

Seoul: searching
The Mapo-gu traffic
offers no proof
I’ll be here before!

©1998 ダニエル・シュネー
©2017 Daniel Schnee

46 thoughts on “The Analects of Naneun (Pt. 1)

  1. “ideas have no parents” is one of the wisest things i’ve ever heard. 나는 나는처럼 생각하고 싶어요 (i want to think like Naneun) but actually in Korean says, “i want to think like me” which just sounds hilarious.
    i wonder if he realized his name could be punned on with the Korean pronoun I or me?
    i love the admission of folly, the humility, the use of location. i think i’ve met the Master i must follow— thanks for these Daniel, can’t wait for more. the box of my mind has been torn apart by the pronoun of Analects.

        1. Yes. I like the word “naneun” and as it is a/the Korean word for “I am” I thought it would be fun to use it as a “name” as well as refer to the fact that these are actually my analects and/or the analects of my “I am”-ness! Plus, Confucius had analects, why not have my own analects; be philosophical in my own way?

          1. Me being a royal idiot thought these were translations at first. That they are yours is so much better. Why shouldn’t you have Analects it is a great form & some DIY philosophy is very important looks like I’m following you for a while Daniel.
            . I tried Aphorisms long ago after reading Blake’s marginalia of Lavater. Dunno where they are. 나는 sort of means i am as well as in regards to me.

            1. One could argue however that peasantry too contained potential for naughty frolics… but I would have preferred mine in a lush garden or gilded tub as opposed to a turnip hut… but… then again, who knows what wild kicks those turnip hut frolickers got up to in 1263 CE?

            2. Having worked and slaved all day over turnips and “enjoying” all the delights of feudalism, a good turnip hut romp with a local beet maiden probably escalated into a passionate circumstance few of us country gentlemen over 45 could imagine or accomplish without needing medical assistance afterward!

            3. Unfortunately, Bodhidharma was/is a socio-literary construct of Buddhism; a hagiography of unified legend and not an actual person. Plus, his classic line about “transmission outside the scriptures…” was an 11th century creation (also a paraphrase of the Lankavatara Sutra). My doctoral dissertation discusses this aspect of Buddhism: Zen or otherwise.

              I would suggest you have open eyes like Kurt Vonnegut or Laurie Anderson.

            4. But even a fictional character has a moral reality we can emulate to our benefit. I recently watched Patterson & the poet played by Adam Driver is a fiction yet i cannot help but want to follow his example of accepting the routine of your life & within it finding a cornucopia of inspiration.

  2. These are going to be a pleasurable challenge to incorporate into my morning practice. I shall indeed meditate on them for many hours.

  3. My mind is blown.


    I read this and laughed loudly enough that my teenagers even noticed and briefly exhibited interest in my existence. Then, my eye started to twitch. I don’t even really know why, except that the “word-soul” has rooted itself in my heart, where the walls will never stop striving to boast a suitably imperial shade. 😍

    Kansha, sensei!

    1. I am nowhere near being a sensei like Okaji-sensei…. BUT I will accept any and all compliments as humbly as I can. If you enjoy what I do then I should bow to YOU in gratitude! No. #4 just came to me while thinking about “having to” write.

      1. I’m glad to have had the experience of these quirky and profound little vignettes, even if only in English, and I look forward to the next installments!

        Also, anyone who has such ease as yours in the “less-is-more” department qualifies as a sensei to me!

        1. Thank you very much! I am so glad you think I wrote these with ease… (considering how I would love to pretend I didn’t have to sweat and doubt and cringe over them for hours)! A good sensei doesn’t lie to those he/she “sensei-s” to… 🙂

          1. I should’ve written, “*conveys* ease” — as I’d meant to express that I recognize (and deeply appreciate) in your spare words the hard-won fruits of a labor of love, devotion, and humility.

            Nothing (that’s Nothing, with a capital N!) ever comes easily to me, either, not that I necessarily think it should be otherwise…

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