23 AUGUST | 11:15–12:15

Emptiness – Form, Control, Liberation

Annamari Konttinen, Lasse Lehtonen, Tuomas Martikainen, Petteri Silenius

This panel session will discuss the concepts of “void”, or emptiness, in Miyamoto Musashi’s teachings and in Japanese culture, art and religions. Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings is a manual of swordsmanship and martial arts, but his wisdom is not limited to survival in battle. Rather, it covers the entire human spectrum, including sciences, arts and religion. 

In the context of battle, emptiness refers to controlling the mind and emotions, as well as to the concept of space and the evaluation of distance. When the blows of a wooden sword rain down, how can one control both the mind and the space around the body? The Heart Sūtra, a popular sutra in Mahāyāna Buddhism, famously states: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” How does this idea manifest in Japanese arts and in the Japanese language? How may it lead to the notion that “form is liberating”, which also relates to “emptiness of the mind”? In various religious traditions, moksha and nirvana refer to emancipation, enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. How can we approach these concepts through the lens of “the void”?

Photo of Annamari Konttinen
Photo: Barbara Kaucher

Annamari Konttinen is University Teacher of contemporary Japanese society for the International Master’s Degree Programme in East Asian Studies (EAST) at the Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Turku. Sociologist by training, her field of expertise comprises social movements, civil society, gender, and the environment. As a part-time entrepreneur and shop owner, she specializes in designing and organizing events and tours to introduce Japanese culture and society to the public, and in promoting the everyday use of vintage kimono. In addition to her academic background, she derives inspiration from the classic arts of tea, haiku, flower arrangement and bonsai.

Photo of Lasse Lehtonen
Photo: Sebastian Trzaska

Lasse Lehtonen received his Ph.D. from the University of Helsinki, Finland, in 2018, and is currently a lecturer at the University of Turku. He has also been affiliated with the University of Tokyo and the Tokyo University of the Arts as a visiting scholar. Lehtonen specializes in the study of Japanese culture with a focus on music. By combining approaches from Japanese studies and musicology, his research explores modern Japanese culture through a variety of perspectives, including cultural history, sociology and music analysis. His research interests range from Western art music composition to popular music and video game music. 

Photo of Tuomas Martikainen
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Tuomas Martikainen is the Rector of the Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki, and a Docent in the Study of Religions. His research has focused on the religious lives of migrants and contemporary trends of religious change. Martikainen also holds a fourth-degree black belt in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He has previously worked as a researcher in different universities and been the Director of the Migration Institute of Finland.

Photo of Petteri Silenius
Photo: Ollipekka Kangas

Petteri Silenius, Aikido 7th dan shihan, has practised aikido for 45 years and is currently chief instructor at the Turku Aikikai aikido club. For 30 years, he has also practised the 600-year-old Japanese martial arts tradition and school Katori Shinto Ryu. His teacher is Tetsutaka Sugawara sensei and Silenius himself is kyoshi menkyo, instructor. Silenius is also a professional budo instructor, shiatsu therapist and artist.