Type :

Haiku volume 1

It belongs to a tradition of looking at things, a way of living, a certain tenderness and smallness of mind that avoids the magnificent, the infinite and the eternal. Its faults are a tendency towards weakness and sentiment, but it avoids lyricism and mind-colouring both instinctively and consciously.

If we say then that haiku is a form of Zen, we must not assert that haiku belongs to Zen, but that Zen belongs to haiku. In other words, our notions of Zen must be changed to fit haiku, not vice-versa. We may have a hard time showing how the ancient code of the samurai, the beatings of Zen masters, the absence of words, the philosophy of the Kegon Sutra are at bottom one with haiku; but it can be done.

The life of haiku, the mood in which they are written and in which they are to be read, is the same as that of Rcshi, the same as that of the Diamond Sutra and the verses of the Hekiganroku. The difference is in the concreteness and abstractness respectively of their vision of reality.

Haiku does not, like waka, aim at beauty. Like the music of Bach, it aims at significance, and some special kind of beauty is found hovering near. The real nature of efch thing, and more so, of all things, is a poetical one. It is because Christ was a poet that men followed and still follow him, not Socrates. Socrates showed us our ignorance. Haiku shows us what we knew ail the time, but did not know we knew: it shows us that we are poets in so far as we live at all.

It is a power in that haiku demand the free poetic life of the reader in parallel with that of the poet. This “ freedom ” is not that of wild irresponsibility and arbitrary interpretation, but that of the creation of a similar poetic experience to which the haiku points. It corresponds very much in English poetry to the different, the very different way in which people read the same poem. In the interpretation of music, conductors vary greatly in emphasis and tempo. There are cases on record where a conductor has for example greatly increased the tempo of a movment, with the astonished approval of the composer (Beethoven).


Those who are interested in the subject should read Miya- mori’s An Anthology of Haiku, Ancient and Modern, and better still, Henderson’s The Bamboo Broom, An Introduction to Japanese Haiku.

In Buddhism, ignorance is the great evil of the world, rather than moral wickedness. The great problem of practical, everyday life is thus to see things properly, not to valuate them in some hard and fast moral scale of virtue and vice, use and uselessness, but to take them without sentimental or intellectual prejudice.

Paradox is the soul of religion, as it is of poetry, but where it is not recognized, or where it is anathematized, religion and poetry dwindle into dogma and sentimentality respectively. Again, the Mahayana teaching of the equivalence of the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds offers to the Oriental mind that strange fusion of spirituality and practicality which is the most striking characteristic of Chinese art and Japanese


Zen writings, e.g. The Heki- ganroku, Mumonkan, Shinjinmei; the Sutras; The Analects, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean; Mencius; The Odes; Laotse, Chuangtse; the poetry of Kanzan, Toen-

mei, Toho, Ritaihaku, Hakurakuten; the Toshisen.