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Buddhist Haiku

Started by DavidGrayson, June 10, 2011, 12:56:08 AM

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DavidGrayson

It's well known that many haiku poets were first led to haiku through an interest in Buddhism. Karma Tenzing Wangchuk refers to "a growing, already vast, gathering of what might be called the canon of American Buddhist songs and poems." (1)

Below are six of my favorite Buddhist or Buddhist-influenced haiku (haiku that, to my mind, reflect Buddhist elements). The selection includes a classic (one of the first haiku I read) and more recent work. Each one has something or other that I find compelling; together the poems reflect key Buddhist ideas such as aloneness, impermanency, and humor. They are in no particular order.


       Along this road
Goes no one,
       This autumn eve.

Basho (2)


Solitary spring --
throwing a javelin and then
walking up to it

Toshiro Nomura (3)


A hundred butterflies --
the centre of each one
shining and shining

Masaharu Goto (4)


small box from japan
the smile of a clay buddha
through the packing straw

Jerry Kilbride (5)


monastery outhouse --
Buddha
also sitting

Stanford Forrester (6)


such a fuss
as though nothing lasts
birds, toyon berries

Roger Abe (7)

.....................

- Do any of the above haiku stand out for you?
- Of course, there are so many great Buddhist- and Zen-inspired haiku. What are some of your favorites? 
- As the community of haiku poets has grown and broadened, do you think that there is proportionally less Buddhist-inspired haiku now?

....................

Notes:

(1) Stanford Forrester and Vincent Tripi, Temple Marigold (Wethersfield, Connecticut: bottle rockets press, 2006).

(2) R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Vol. I: Eastern Culture (Hokuseido, 1964), 179.

(3) Koko Kato, ed. A Hidden Pond: Anthology of Modern Haiku (Kadokawa Shoten), 55.

(4) Ibid., 61.

(5) Raffael de Gruttola et al., A Motley Sangha (Wethersfield, Connecticut: bottle rockets press, 2006), 14.

(6) Stanford Forrester and Vincent Tripi, Temple Marigold (Wethersfield, Connecticut: bottle rockets press, 2006), 13.

(7) Anne Homan, Patrick Gallagher, and Patricia Machmiller, eds., San Francisco Bay Area Nature Guide and Saijiki (San Jose, CA: Yuki Teikei Society, 2010), 100.

hairy

#1
Hello David: Interesting topic. Here is one of my favorite zen-like haiku

troubled night
no resting place
for my thoughts

     --Phil Adams

 

Don Baird

I remain in Basho's corner regarding the set.  It even implies that he, himself, is also no one.  I like the humbleness of it.

If I may:

teetering grass ...
just moments ago
a dragonfly

best to you,

Don
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

DavidGrayson

Thanks, Don. I first came across that haiku in J. D. Salinger's short story, Teddy. Salinger has it as a one-liner.

I like your haiku; there's a real sense of intimacy present. The image has a lot of implications: the moment, ephmerality, etc. Very nice.

David

chibi575

Is this a category of English haiku?  I have just read, "Book of Haikus" by Jack Kerouac and he discusses this association with Japanese hokku/haiku.  Although, many Japanese poets were/are Buddhist, the Buddhist angle (if you will permit my hyperbole) is not usually associated with the haiku in Japan.  Certainly, there are aspects of Buddhism practice that may lend themselves to an awareness that will help in the delicate foci that are encountered in writing Japanese poetry, but, this is more an aside.  I have yet met any Japanese that were drawn to haiku through Buddhism.  This may be because the haiku as a children teaching tool is introduced rather early to show counting and vocabulary.

I am not a Buddhist, so, I am speaking from my own limited experiences.

I think sometimes that we Ameircans are drawn to the exotic Eastern arts from a different perspective than those in the East, being, that we are exotic to Asians as they are to us... haha, true and ironic I feel.

That is why, I believe, that calling what we write as their Japanese name gives a certain feeling towards this exoticism.  For a good starting insight in to this, I recommend, Robin D. Gill's "Orientalism & Occidentalism: is mistranslating culture inevitable?"

I think all the poems I've seen so far stand on their own irrespective of Buddhism (as I am not a Buddhist) I feel so, anyway.

Perhaps, some have an underlying principle of Buddhism that they demonstrate was the intent of the author?

Jus my $.02

知美

Don Baird

#5
I imagine that Taoism may have had a stronger and more direct influence on haiku poetry than Buddhism.  It seems that Buddhism is a possible property of haiku that is defined as such "after the fact", so to speak (after it's written).  However, the permeating perspectives of Taosim most likely affected the writing of haiku in the action side of things (up front and before the haiku was written). The causitive perception being in advance of writing the haiku rather than being discovered as a result of studying an existing poem and attributing it to anything (in particular, Buddhism).

Nevertheless, Buddism, by default, probably had great influence on many Japanese haijin;  it's very difficult to "separate the self from the self".  An internal spiritual perception of self will inevitably create a subtle bias as to how the self "sees things" and, thusly, how they are written.  I think this may be where the subjectivity side of things come into play and, most likely without the haijin being aware of it. In other words, there is no way to separate the Buddhist Self, the Taoist Self, the Christian Self or any other religion or spiritual perception (or self) from the activity self - the haijin.

Don
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

Larry Bole

In the preface to vol. 1 of Blyth's Haiku, "Eastern Culture," he describes two different ways he uses the word "Zen." I think this can be expanded to apply to Buddhism in relation to haiku as well:

"Usually, throughout these volumes, it means that state of mind in which we are not separated from other things, are indeed identical with them, and yet retain our own individuality and personal pecularities. Occasionally ... it [also] means a body of experience and practice ..."

In the history of haiku, there are many haiku which refer to the experiences and practice, as well as the beliefs, of various Buddhist sects. One might say, in that sense, that those are Buddhist haiku.

It is the first meaning that Blyth assigns to his use of the word "Zen" that, in my opinion, creates a problem, and has misled the understanding of the relationship of Zen and haiku in the English-language haiku world.

One doesn't have to be in a Zen state of mind to feel not separated from things, to feel an identification with things outside ourselves. I think poets from pre-literate times to the present have desired to do this and have done it to greater or lesser degrees. I think it is inherent in the very nature of poetry.

The idea of a poet merging with objects outside him/herself became a described state of mind to be consciously pursued during the artistic movement know as Romanticism that emerged in Europe during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For instance, the English Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge could write, "...to make the object one with us, we must become one with the object..."

Blyth would likely call this an instance of Zen mind in one who had no overt knowledge of Zen (so far as I know, but then again, Coleridge wrote "Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream," so who knows?). But that would be misleading in both directions; toward Zen and toward Romanticism. The way Blyth misused the word "Zen" in this sense has led to a significant misunderstanding of the relationship between haiku and Zen in terms of the history and writing of haiku in Japan, for those who have accepted Blyth's position on the subject.

Susumu Takiguchi, for one, thought that Shirane's book, Traces of Dreams, would become a corrective to this misunderstanding. But the "Zen" of haiku seems to be so embedded in the popular conception of haiku in the English-language haiku world, that I don't think ANY print book can correct the misunderstanding. And now that many people use the internet as their primary source of information, I'm afraid this misunderstanding will persist indefinitely.

Larry

P.S. I think that even as Blyth indulged in this misuse of the word "Zen," he was aware of the potential of problems in using the word the way he was. So we have what I consider to be a caveat on Blyth's part, when he writes:

QuoteI understand Zen and poetry to be practically synonyms, but as I said before, if there is ever imagined to be any conflict between Zen and the poetry of haiku, the Zen goes overboard; poetry is the ultimate standard.

Gabi Greve

quoting myself . . .

ZEN is well known in the West, but other forms of Japanese Buddhism are not.

To make the great pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku is not only reserved for believers of the Esoteric sects, but done by many people for many reasons, after retirement, after loosing a loved one or just for finding oneself as a youngster.

Many henro pilgrims carry a small haiku book and produce many beautiful haiku, some featured in the internet these days and some hidden in the pockets of the white robe, only shown to each other when meeting on the way.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage, henro 遍路, comprises many kigo for spring.
The cool climate of spring is the best time to walk the pilgims road in Shikoku.
But there are of course pilgrims all year round.

More is here
http://worldkigo2005.blogspot.com/2006/04/pilgrimage-henro-05.html

not all that is green is spinach
not all that is Buddhism is Zen

or something to that effect from an old german saying .

Gabi
.

Larry Bole

I agree with Gabi. Last night, before I went to sleep, I opened Stephen D. Carter's book, Haiku Before Haiku: From the Renga Masters to Basho at random, and came across this hokku by Soogi:

On "Falling Blossoms," from a 100-verse sequence composed at the home of Lord Sasaki, governor of Oomi

itsuwari no aru yo ni chiranu hana mogana

In a world
of lies--why not blossoms
that don't fall?

--Soogi, Tr. Carter

An excerpt from Carter's comment:

Buddhism teaches that the world is an illusion and all statements are in that sense lies. The poet asks, "If so, why can't we have any choice on how lies work? Why not blossoms that don't fall?"


Soogi (1421-1502) was, according to Blyth, a monk of the Risshuu Sect (Ritsu) of Buddhism. I think this hokku qualifies as a Buddhist hokku, and it comes out of Buddhist teaching (if Carter is correct) that isn't specific to Zen.

Issa also, being a Pure Land Buddhist (Joodo Shinshuu), wrote a number of haiku that incorporate Buddhist concepts that aren't specific to Zen.

Larry

Gabi Greve

And let us not forget the Nichiren sect
(which is quite popular here in Western Japan)

and the kigo related to them


昼もなほ暗き西の谷日蓮忌  
hiru mo nao kuraki Nishi no Tani Nichiren-ki

even during daytime
it is dark at "Nishi no Tani" ...
Nichiren memorial day

Sasabune


- - - and one I can write every year in my valley in summer

full moon night -
the sound of prayer drums
from the Nichiren temple


More about Nichiren
http://dragondarumamuseum.blogspot.com/2006/03/nichiren.html

.
Gabi

Gabi Greve

here is a list of my homework,

Japanese haiku about temples
http://yoshi5.web.infoseek.co.jp/cgi-bin/HAIKUreikuDB/ZOU/BUNKAsyuukyou/336.htm

Japanese haiku about Buddhs statues
http://yoshi5.web.infoseek.co.jp/cgi-bin/HAIKUreikuDB/ZOU/BUNKAsyuukyou/201.htm

Buddhism
http://yoshi5.web.infoseek.co.jp/cgi-bin/HAIKUreikuDB/ZOU/BUNKAsyuukyou/203.htm
part 2
http://yoshi5.web.infoseek.co.jp/cgi-bin/HAIKUreikuDB/ZOU/BUNKAsyuukyou/204.htm


and a lot more . . .

It might take a few lifetimes . . .

Just finished another kigo ... looking for haiku

Toowan Kuyoo 唐椀供養 (とうわんくよう)
memorial service for Chinese bowls

Last Sunday in March

at the temple Manmanji 万満寺, Matsudo town, Chiba
千葉県松戸市馬橋

This is a ritual to ward off paralysis from bleeding in the brain and other effects of bad health (chuuki 中気除け) and after a purifying fire ritual of chopsticks and Chinese bowls, food is served in these bowls.
This ritual dates back to 1591, when Tokugawa Ieyasu passed here and was the first to eat from a purified rice bowl.

After the food is eaten, pilgrims crawl under the legs of the large Nio-Statue to ward off evil for the next year.
http://wkdfestivalsaijiki.blogspot.com/2012/02/toowan-kuyo-for-bowls.html


Gabi
.

Sue

The Buddhist nun Chiyo-ni wrote some exceptional Zen haiku. This is one of my favourites...

cool clear water
and fireflies that vanish
that is all there is...

and more...

one must bend
in the floating world -
snow on the bamboo

over the flowing water
chasing its shadow -
the dragonfly

a hundred different gourds
from the mind
of one vine

the passing year --
irritating things
are also flowing water

there are more here http://thegreenleaf.co.uk/HP/Women/c/Chiyo/00haiku.htm

Don Baird

Thanks Sue ... excellent examples! 
I write haiku because they're there to be written ...

storm drain
the vertical axis
of winter

chibi575

Quote from: Sue on February 16, 2012, 04:45:05 PM
The Buddhist nun Chiyo-ni wrote some exceptional Zen haiku. This is one of my favourites...

cool clear water
and fireflies that vanish
that is all there is...

and more...

one must bend
in the floating world -
snow on the bamboo

over the flowing water
chasing its shadow -
the dragonfly

a hundred different gourds
from the mind
of one vine

the passing year --
irritating things
are also flowing water

there are more here http://thegreenleaf.co.uk/HP/Women/c/Chiyo/00haiku.htm

'Chiyo-Ni: Woman Haiku Master'
by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi

The first book that gave me the ku-lust to explore Japan and Japanese poetry.  I hope to meet both the author and the translator some day.  Excellent book.
知美

Larry Bole

Dear Sue,

If you would, please explain to me what makes those haiku of Chiyo's that you quote specifically Zen, as opposed to exemplifying Buddhist concepts common to most Buddhist sects.

Chiyo was a nun of the Jodo-Shinshu (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism. As Donegan writes in the section, "Chiyo-ni's Life," in the book Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master,

QuoteThe Jodo-Shinshu sect of Buddhism was founded in the thirteenth century by Shinran, espousing a simple faith in Amida Buddha (Buddha of infinite light and compassion) and using the recitation of nembutsu prayer as the way to salvation and enlightenment and rebirth in the Pure Land. This opened Buddhism up to lay people who couldn't handle the rigors of Zen monasticism. Jodo-Shinshu was often called the "easy gate," and in Chiyo-ni's day it was the most conventional form of Buddhism.

It has become common to call anything Zen that employs Buddhist concepts common to MOST ALL Buddhist sects in the Mahayana tradition, or that smack of mysteriousness in meaning. I think this does a disservice to Buddhism in general, Zen in particular, and most especially to haiku.

I'm not sure that this is the proper forum to discuss the ways in which Zen is different from other sects of Buddhism, but I'm willing to enter into such a discussion, and how those differences may or may not apply to the writing of haiku.

Larry

P.S. It was not unusual, going back at least as far as the Heian Court era, for unattached women, or for women who didn't want to depend wholly on relatives, to 'take the tonsure' and become nuns, because this afforded women in Japanese society a certain amount of freedom normally unavailable to women living more conventional lives. But this required a certain amount of renunciation, which is not to everyone's taste. And that renunciation was sometimes practiced with varying degrees of committment.

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