Tag Archives: basho

Basho on being one with the object

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one — when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural — if the object and yourself are separate — then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.

I wonder if Husserl had read Basho or know of this quote. I wonder would he have agreed with it, would he have thought that what Basho is describing is that of the phenomenological project.

This being one with the object of perception had fascinated me in my early days. But as I grow older I have accepted that we will be forever separate from the object in question.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. That we can imagine to be one with the object is an important aspect of being human. But to remain in the illusion of oneness would be a counterfeit of sorts as well.

In my opinion, it is important to return to reality after insight, if you choose to call it that.

Travelling the Narrow Roads with Basho

Go where
The wind blows
Far into the interior
Of the mind
Of your haiku

Then beyond
Its borders
Through towns
Pass common folks
Over seas
And in love
With your
Companion
Only to return
To reality
That is the Edo.

Basho’s Frog Poem and Gutei’s Finger

Old pond
A frog leaps in –
Sound of the water

Furu ike ya
Kawazu tobi komu
Mizu no oto

Perhaps the most well known haiku.

Often said to embody all that is Zen in it, the old world and now are linked by the sound of the water.

I wrote a poem which goes like this:

There is no old pond.
There is no frog that leaps in.
No sound, no water.

This is a pale imitation of the style of the old masters like Mumonkan or Hakuin. Our fixation with the old pond, the frog and the sound will ultimately undo us. To reach enlightenment it is necessary to forget – so to speak – these things which belong to the mind’s illusion.

There is a koan – Case #3 in the Mumonkan – that is similar:

“The Zen master Gutei used to raise one finger as a gesture of Zen. Once a visitor asked Gutei boy attendant what does his master teach. The Boy raised his finger. Master Gutei hearing this cut off the boys finger. In pain, the boy ran crying. The boy called by his master turned, only to see the master riase his finger. At that moment the boy was enlightened.”

I doubt Gutei really cut his finger off and so the boy was also crying in mock. But doubtless was his enlightenment.

The point is Gutei’s teaching has nothing to do with the finger or the gesture. So the boy’s raising of the finger has no meaning, no power. It is as ordinary as Gutei’s gesture. But Gutei’s gesture has all the ability to bring about enlightenment, as does Basho’s poem, but no the boy’s finger.

Why should this be so? If you can say then you have glimpsed something.

One further note: the visitor to Gutei no doubt was pushing the boy. He had seen something in him. He knew he needed one more nudge to be pushed over the edge. In other words this was no ordinary visitor but someone with insight. Zen koans and their dialogues are not accidental. They are carefully orchestrated for the benefit of the student, to bring about enlightenement in him or her.

No sound, no water.

There is no old pond.
There is no frog that leaps in.
No sound, no water.