The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Gaman (我慢) is a Japanese term of Zen Buddhist origin which means "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity". The term is generally translated as "perseverance" or "patience". A related term, gamanzuyoi (我慢強い gaman-tsuyoi), a compound with tsuyoi (strong), means "suffering the unbearable" or having a high capacity for a kind of stoic endurance.
Gaman is variously described as a "law," a "virtue," an "ethos," a "trait," etc. It means to do one's best in distressed times and to maintain self-control and discipline.
Gaman is a teaching of Zen Buddhism.
Gaman has been attributed to the Japanese-Americans and others held in United States' internment camps during World War II and to those affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. At time, Gaman has been misperceived as introverted behavior or as a lack of assertiveness or initiative rather than as a demonstration of strength in the face of difficulty or suffering. Gaman is passive and focuses on enduring and not complaining as part of the process in which people collaborate to achieve their goals.
After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the resilience, civility, lack of looting and ability of the Japanese to help each other was widely attributed to the gaman spirit. The 50–70 workers that remained at the damaged and radiation-emitting Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant despite the severe danger demonstrated what was regarded as gaman as well. The word gaman is the origin of the corollary concept of ganbaru.
Gaman is also used in psychoanalytic studies and to describe the attitudes of the Japanese. It is often taught to youth and largely used by older Japanese generations. Showing gaman is seen as a sign of maturity and strength. Keeping your private affairs, problems and complaints silent demonstrates strength and politeness as others have seemingly larger problems as well. If a person with gaman were to receive help from someone else, they would be compliant; not asking for any additional help and voicing no concerns.