“Kinbaku is, in a word, the extraordinary. More accurately, it is the dissimulation of the ordinary. While it neighbors the everyday, it is different from the everyday; an act that draws out a separate reality. That is why it must be done here, where we all enjoyed supper together not long ago, but also why it cannot be the same as it was then. An expression of Yūgen.”
(from a lecture of mine in a advanced kinbaku workshop)
Yūgen (幽玄) itself is very difficult to explain in Japanese let alone in English. Yū (幽) generally means something dim or subtle, or “hazily perceived”. Gen (玄) infers “something hidden deeply in principles” or “mysteries not easily understood”. In Taoism, it expresses things that are profound, unfathomable, and subtle. In my own experience in the art of kinbaku (tying deeply; 緊縛), the sense that best fits the aesthetic of Yūgen is like observing the gentle drifting of incense smoke in a dimply lit room. There is a sense of things moving slowly and subtly, yet with a certain profound weight about it, not physical, but insubstantial.
In the act of rope bondage, and it’s many facets, there are times when you are simply tying someone like a parcel, sometimes decorative, sometimes sadistic, and that’s all very good, they are facets that make up the art. For myself however, I am deeply drawn to the presence of a scene.
When the lights are out, and the room is dimly lit by candles, her hair is disheveled, and clothing ruffled, the rope being the only thing to hold it in place.
When the only sounds in the room is the creaking of the jute and the rasp of her breathing.
When the very air is heavy, and you dread swallowing your tea in fear of making too much noise and shattering the moment.
This is an expression of Yūgen in Kinbaku.
When you strive for what can be called kinbaku, one must bind deeply (binding the mind; 心緊), and to do that, the senses must be coerced, simple force is not enough, subtlety and elegance are requisites. Seduce the senses, light incense, burn candles, lower the lights, touch and caress, smell the rope, have the model take in the whole experience; build the illusion, for once they are in the illusion you can shape it fully.
All the same, “There is nothing to attain. … The imagined world is seen through.” (The Heart Sutra)