Tag Archives: haiku

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.

Karate #haiku

Parents trade gossip
In the stiffling gym heat
As children trade punches

Drowned by Jazz

Drowned out by the jazz
My prayers reach no one.

A loose rendering of Santoka’s poem okyou todokanai jaazu no souon.

Falling Leaves

My begging bowl
Accepts falling leaves

A rendering of Santoka’s poem teppatsu chirikuru ha o uketa.

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.

No sound, no water.

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

Santoka’s Hailstone Poem

Into
My begging bowl too
Fall hailstones

Teppatsu no
Naka e mo
Arare

teppatsu (steel begging bowl)
no naka e (falling into the)
mo (also)
arare (grain-sized hail)

A teppatsu is a steel bowl for receiving alms from begging or takuhatsu. Begging is an important part of Buddhist practice. Not only should the receiver, the monk, be thankful but also should the giver, the lay people. People often think that takuhatsu is a base practice but it is really the highest of practices in Buddhism. Takuhatsu is different from begging. The begging of the poor is seen as receiving something for nothing. But in the takuhatsu the giver is also receiving the Teaching of The Buddha from those practicing towards enlightenment. Thus the monks hard work is not only for himself but for others as well. So the receiver and giver both should have a spirit of gratitude for this reason.

The e in the second line is a grammatical particle in the Japanese language. It is possible to replace the e with a ni for the sentence to still remain grammatically correct. But there is a difference in meaning, in nuance. E denotes a movement whereas ni denotes a state of existence. With a ni the sentence would then translate to ‘In my begging bowling too are hailstones’. The cruciality of the movement thus signifies the striking of the metalic bowl by the hail, making a sound which brought probably Santoka to some kind of great realization.

For it to be hailing it must have been during the cold winter months. How hard and lonely it must have seem for Santoka. Yet his poem is full of joy and gratitude. How wonderful is the Teaching! How powerful it is! How deep his realization!

It should also be noted that Santoka is famous for his free-form haiku. While the haiku is usually 5-7-5 in syllables this haiku is 5-4-3 departing radically from the norm. Furthermore it is standard to have a season word or kigo. Here the season word is hail but Santoka may not put one in. This freedom of style is powerful and natural for him, making his poetry closer to modern verse. Indeed he lived in a time (1882-1940) of great change in Japan.