|Glossary of Buddhism|
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", "patience", or tolerance. 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 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. In the internment camps, gaman was misperceived by the non-Japanese 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 and the related term yase-gaman are, in Japanese society, closely related to complying with conformity, and silent heroism, which seems to be hidden pride for compensation for sacrifice and be satisfied to pay reciprocal service in advance,or to be seen themselves as victims by folks. Gaman toward authority, 'unquestioning obedience' or 'blind obedience', is supposed to be unfit to a healthy democracy.
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 who remained at the damaged and radiation-emitting Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant despite the severe danger demonstrated what was regarded as gaman as well.
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.
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- Gaman at American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ)