Iroha is an older Japanese poem with deep connections to Japanese culture and religion. There are a number of different versions – the original cannot be read by the vast majority of modern Japanese readers. It has been translated in a number of languages but the translations lose much of the nuance and meaning.
Although its scent still lingers on
the form of a flower has scattered away
For whom will the glory
of this world remain unchanged?
Arriving today at the yonder side
of the deep mountains of evanescent existence
We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.
Abe, Ryuichi (1999). The Weaving of Mantra: Kûkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11286-6.
“Change” and “progress” could be applied to this poem in a number of different ways, for example:
- The original poem is often studied in Japan in modern Japanese, which is far different from the original. To what extent is this change actual progress?
- The translation does “change” a number of ideas in the poem but the English translation does give it a much broader potential audience
- How have the ethical ideas in the poem changed from the time from when the poem was written to know and whether or not this is progress
- How have the religious ideas in the poem changed from the time from when the poem was written to know and whether or not this is progress
- Whether new approaches to literary criticism result in progress