Haikus-sacred poetry

Don’t weep, insects —
Lovers, stars themselves,
Must part                    

                        –Kobayashi Issa

This little poetry jewel I found while researching Buddhist literature after reading an amazing collection of Buddhist stories called Two Zen Classics translated by Katsuki Sekida. This awesome book is full of little stories called “koans” which help zen students attain “truths inexpressible in words”. The Two Zen Classics are: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records, both from the Song Dynasty (960 AD to 1279 AD). The book is full of insights to eastern thinking.

This particular haiku was translated by Takashi Ikemoto. It was written in the early 18th century. Issa is supposed to be one of the best haiku composers ever.

This haiku contains two themes. The first is of God, who is referred to as the Beloved in Buddhist Culture, and his relationship to his followers, who are referred to as Lovers. The theme is that the Lover hopes to be impregnated by the Beloved’s divinity. Interesting theme, huh?

The second theme is the short-lived but blissful happiness that one feels; it is often compared to drunkenness.

I really loved this poem, as I love all haikus, because of the beauty hidden within it’s natural simplicity.

“Zen Buddhism has significantly shaped the historical development of Japanese haiku. Not all the haiku poets were Zen Buddhists, but several key figures were.

 Issa lived for several years in monasteries and took his name from the Buddhist ideas of emptiness and change. “Inasmuch as life is empty as a bubble which vanishes instantly, I will henceforth call myself Haikaiji Issa,” he wrote. Haikaiji means “haiku temple” and Issa means “one tea,” signifying a bubble in a cup of tea. When Issa was paralysed by a stroke at the age of fifty eight, and recovered, he changed his name to Soseibo, meaning “Revived priest.”

In Zen Buddhism there is a great enlightenment called satori, sought through many years of disciplined meditation. There are also many little flashes of enlightenment, called kensho, which are intense forms of those everyday noticings that surprise us or please us because they seem to reveal a truth, or to be exemplary, or to connect us again, momentarily, with the sense of awe. Haiku is a momentary, condensed poetic form and its special quality is that it is perfectly adapted to give the reader that little instant of kensho insight. Basho developed the haiku form so that each haiku became a little burst of awakening. It is this that is the essence of haiku, not its number of syllables.”

                                    —-George Marsh

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