vashtii: (DN :: Light :: BITCH YOU DID NOT JUST.)
Vashti ([personal profile] vashtii) wrote2010-08-29 09:22 am
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"the place they go is mu"

So last night me, [livejournal.com profile] honoumiko and [livejournal.com profile] nardaviel had a huge (and very fun) Twitter argument about the nature of Mu. Which I then wrote up for the DN Wiki, largely based on Libby's summary of Mu.

I figured (a) it might interest some of you gaiz, and (b) you're all smart enough to point out where I've got it wrong—so, haz.

Death Note readers think of Mu as a place, but it turns out to be more of a mental short-circuit, the same sort of result you'd get from dividing by zero. The idea of Mu as a place turns out to be based on a simplistic translation:

English: After they die, the place they go is MU (Nothingness).
Japanese: 死んだ後にいくところ、無である。

The Japanese reads more like "after death, the place they go—it's mu". And in Zen Buddhism, mu is an answer to a question that depends on invalid axioms[1]. If you're asked "have you stopped beating your wife?", you might answer mu, either because you've never beaten your wife, or because you don't have one.

So when the rule states "the place they go—it's mu", it means the question relies on an invalid assumption. They don't go anywhere, because there is nowhere for them to go to. This is why it gets anglicised as "Nothingness", because all that exposition is way too much detail for a notebook rule.

We know Tsugumi Ohba, the author of Death Note, was influenced by Buddhism; this is why the series has 108 chapters. This matches up with various things Ohba says about life after death in HtR13:

For me, one of the premises of the series is that once a person died, they could never come back to life. I really wanted to set a rule that bringing characters back to life is cheating. That's why death equals "nothingness" ... If I had to choose [a theme to express throughout the series], I'd say "Humans will all eventually die and never come back to life, so let's give it our all while we're alive".

death equals "nothingness"—だから、”無”なんです--"so, it's mu"

The number represents the 108 earthly desires in Buddhism.

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