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HAIKU TECHNIQUES Jane Reichhold (As published in the Autumn, 2000 issue of Frogpond, Journal of the Haiku Society of America

.) In my early years of haiku writing, I easily accepted the prevalent credo being espoused on how to write haiku. This was, sometimes implied and occasionally expressed, as being: if the author's mind/heart was correctly aligned in the "proper" attitude, while experiencing a so-called "haiku moment", one merely had to report on the experience to have a darn-good haiku. One reason for rejoicing in the acceptance of this view, was that it by-passed the old 5-7-5 barrier crisis. This was certainly a plus for the whole 70s haiku scene as there seemed a danger of the entire movement bogging down in fights, arguments and broken friendships. Another advantage of this system of defining a haiku was that it bestowed near-religious

honor on the author of a passable haiku. No one knew exactly why a particular haiku was 'good' but it was clear from the ku that the author had experienced a moment of enlightenment (or satori for the Zen inspired). If the moment was holy and the form fit in with the group's philosophy publishing the ku, the haiku was said to be an excellent one. This happened more often if the person judging the ku was a good friend of the haiku's author. Another plus for this viewpoint was it allowed endless articles to be written for magazines on the Zen aspects of haiku writing, and even fuzzier articles of how to prepare for, find, recognize, and advertise one's haiku moments. Books were even compiled around this semireligious idea. However, many of us, recognized that "haiku moments" were very much like other flashes of inspiration which, when transported into other media, became paintings, stories, dreams or even new color schemes or recipes. And many others shared the frustration of having a

truly life-altering moment of insight and then never being able to write a decent haiku that expressed the wonder and majesty of that moment. They would ask, what was wrong with me? Was I not spiritually prepared enough? Was I too common? Too inattentive? Too word-numb? Maybe too many of my Christian beliefs kept me from the Zen nirvana of haiku? The truth is: probably all of the above can weaken one's ability to write good haiku. Ouch, that hurts. However, I felt rescued when I came across Aware – a haiku primer written by hand and illustrated by Betty Drevniok, who was at the time she wrote the book (early 80s I am guessing as it has no date in it), president of the Haiku Society of Canada. Among the many great tips for writing haiku (and obtaining the questionable Zenniness of Zen) I came away with her precept: "Write [haiku] in three short lines using the principle of comparison, contrast, or association." On page 39 she used an expression I had been

there seemed a disinterest in others wanting to study these aspects which I call techniques. And I practiced her methods with glee and relative (to me) success and increased enjoyment. that there were more factors than just these three on which one could build a haiku." Technique! So there are tools one can use! I thought joyfully. Perhaps this is because in the haiku scene there continues to be such a . a contrast or an association between the images and if this relationship was clear and understandable for the reader.missing in the discussion of haiku when she wrote: "This technique provides the pivot on which the reader's thought turns and expands. I found by reading the translations of the old Japanese masters and the haiku of my contemporaries whom I admired. Slowly. Suddenly I could figure out by myself what was wrong with a haiku that failed to jell as I thought it should. over the years. I could ask myself if there was a comparison. However.

An experienced writer could only smile at such naiveté. At the risk of leading anyone into the quasisin of writing dreaded desk haiku. The Technique of Comparison . but the label of "desk haiku" was the death-knell for a ku declared as such.reverence for the haiku moment and such a dislike for what are called "desk haiku". This fear kept people new to the scene afraid to work with techniques or even the idea that techniques were needed when it came time to write down the elusive haiku moment. In order to avoid my seeming to accuse others of using techniques.In the words of Betty Drevniok: "In haiku the . A ku from your mind was half-dead and unreal. The definition of a desk haiku is one written from an idea or from simply playing around with words. If you don't experience an event with all your senses it is not valid haiku material. I would like to discuss and illustrate some of the haiku writing techniques which I have recognized and used. the ku quoted are all my own.

a spring nap downstream cherry trees in bud What is expressed. Together they complete and fulfill each other as ONE PARTICULAR EVENT. is the thought that buds on a tree can be compared to flowers taking a nap. One could also ask to what other images could cherry buds be compared? A long list of items can form in one's mind and be substituted for the first line. Or one can turn the idea around and ask what in the spring landscape can be compared to a nap without naming things that close their eyes to sleep." She rather leaves the reader to understand that the idea of comparison is showing how two different things are similar or share similar aspects. By changing either of these images one can come up with one's own haiku while getting a new appreciation and awareness of . but not said.SOMETHING and the SOMETHING ELSE are set down together in clearly stated images.

simply being aware of what is. is illumination enough. You have instant built-in interest in the most common haiku 'moment'. long hard rain hanging in the willows tender new leaves The delight from this technique is the excitement that opposites creates.Now the job feels easier. ancestors . The Technique of Association . And yet most of the surprises of life are the contrasts.comparison. The Zen of this technique is called "oneness" or showing how everything is part of everything else. All one has to do is to contrast images. You do not have to be a Buddhist to see this.This can be thought of as "how different things relate or come together". The Technique of Contrast . and therefore this technique is a major one for haiku.

As the grazing pony moved slowly into the sunshine. perhaps it is easier to understand with: moving into the sun the pony takes with him some mountain shadow Does it help for me to explain how this ku came to be written? I was watching some ponies grazing early in the morning on a meadow that was still partially covered with the shadow of the mountain. I happened to be focused on the shadow and actually saw some of the mountain's shadow follow the pony – to break off and become his shadow. It can also be thought that the pony eating the grass of the mountain becomes the mountain and vice versa. When the boundaries disappear between the things that separates them.the wild plum blooms again If this is too hard to see because you do not equate your ancestors with plum trees. it is truly a holy moment of insight and .

The Technique of the Riddle . incantations. as it is today. One can ask: "what is still to be seen" on all four sides of the long gone shack The answer is: calla lilies Or another one would be: spirit bodies . Because poetry. It has been guessed that early spiritual knowledge was secretly preserved and passed along through riddles. and is no wonder that haiku writers are educated to latch on to these miracles and to preserve them in ku. it is no surprise that riddles still form a serious part of poetry's transmission of ideas.this is probably one of the very oldest poetical techniques. is the commercialization of religious prayers.

the old masters favorite trick with riddles was the one of: is that a flower falling or is it a butterfly? or is that snow on the plum or blossoms and the all-time favorite – am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man or a man . it is simple and safe to come to the conclusion I did. What can one say that the reader cannot figure out the answer? The more intriguing the 'set-up' and the bigger surprise the answer is. Oh. If one has seen plastic bags caught on cacti. Here is a case against desk haiku. If I had never seen such an incident. it could be it only happened in my imagination and in that scary territory one can lose a reader. you can overextend the joke and lose the reader completely. keep it simple and keep it accurate and make it weird. So keep it true.waving from cacti plastic bags The 'trick' is to state the riddle in as puzzling terms as possible. The answer has to make sense to work and it should be realistic. the better the haiku seems to work. As in anything.

This is something Buson used a lot because he. but one they have used very little and with a great deal of discretion.This is another old-time favorite of the Japanese haiku masters. if you wish to experiment (the ku may or may not be a keeper) you can ask yourself the question: if I saw snow on a branch. It is simply to speak of the sensory aspect of a thing and then change to another sensory organ. was a very visual person. Usually it involves hearing something one sees or vice versa or to switch between seeing and tasting.dreaming I am a butterfly. home-grown lettuce the taste of well-water green The Technique of Narrowing Focus . Again. Basically . what else could it be? Or seeing a butterfly going by you ask yourself what else besides a butterfly could that be? The Technique of Sense-switching . being an artist.

but when he did it he was very effective. Basho used it in his most famous "crow ku". I was standing so still I excited the resident crow's curiosity causing him to fly down . switch to a normal lens for the second line and zoom in for a close-up in the end. I never understood this hokku until one day I was in my tiny studio with the door open. What he was saying in other words (not haiku words) was that an autumn evening come down on one the way it feels when a crow lands on a bare branch. sucking in your breath in horror. There IS that ironclad rule that one does not use metaphor in haiku. the whole sky in a wide field of flowers one tulip The Technique of Metaphor . Posh.I can just hear those of you who have had some training in haiku. It sounds simple.what you do is to start with a wide-angle lens on the world in the first line. Read some of Buson's work to see when and how he did this.

I felt the rush of darkness coming close. But this is a valid technique and one that can bring you many lovely and interesting haiku. but the Japanese have proved to us that this is totally unnecessary. so I'll pass giving you an example of my ku. Occasionally one will find in a haiku the use of a simile with these words still wrapped around it. The Technique of Simile .suddenly to land about two feet from my cheek on the tiny nearly bare pine branch. The thud of his big feet hitting the bare branch caused the tiny ripple of anxiety one has when it gets dark so early in the autumn.Usually in English you know a simile is coming when you spot the words "as" and "like". It is extremely hard to find a haiku good enough to place up against Basho's rightly famous one. In that moment I felt I knew what Basho had experienced. as close as an autumn evening and as close as a big black crow. From them we have learned that it is enough to put two images in juxtaposition (next to each other) to let the reader figure out .

a long journey some cherry petals begin to fall The Technique of the Sketch or Shiki's Shasei . by doing this you give the reader some active part that makes him or her feel very smart when they discover the simile for him/herself.the "as" and "like" for him/herself. was his own rebellion against the many other techniques used in haiku. The poetic principle is "to depict as is". by nature it seemed. made it famous. The reason he took it up as a 'cause' and thus. If poets had over-used any idea or method his personal goal was to point .Though this technique is often given Shiki's term shasei (sketch from life) or shajitsu (reality) it had been in use since the beginning of poetry in the Orient. against whatever was the status quo. Shiki was. Besides. So basically the unspoken rule is that you can use simile (which the rule-sayers warn against) if you are smart enough to simply drop the "as" and "like".

he himself realized. even his new idea can become boring. (Which was followed until someone else got tired of it and suggested something new. And 99% of his haiku were written in his style. Yet. And there are some moments which are perhaps best said as simply as it is possible.this out and suggest something else. He found the greatest beauty in the common sight.) Thus. riddles – all the things you are learning here! He favored the quiet simplicity of just stating what he saw without anything else having to happen in the ku. after writing very many in this style in 1893. puns. Shiki hated word-plays. but never the complete answer of how to write a haiku. So the method is an answer. that used too much. This seems to be the way poetry styles go in and out of fashion. simply said. evening waves come into the cove one at a time The Technique of Double entendre (or . And many people still feel he was right.

eyes in secret places deep in the purple middle of an iris The Technique of using Puns . Only insiders knew the secret language and got the jokes.Anyone who has read translations of Japanese poetry has seen how much poets delighted in saying one thing and meaning something else. We have the very same things in English but we haiku writers may not be so well-versed as the Japanese are in using these because there have been periods of Western literary history where this skill has been . and haiku can use them in the very same way. There are whole lists of words with double meanings: spring rain = sexual emissions and jade mountain = the Mound of Venus. just to give you an sampling.double meanings) . But we have them in English also.Again we can only learn from the master punsters – the Japanese. In some cases the pun was to cover up a sexual reference by seeming to speaking of something commonplace.

Again. Cam-bridge and even our streets give us Meadowgate. Still (there is one meaning 'quiet' or 'continuation') we have so many words with multiple meaning there is no reason we cannot learn to explore our own language. we have to admit the Japanese do this best. First Street. Oxford. Their work is made easier by so many of their place names either having double meaning or many of their words being homonyms (sounding the same). or unusual" there are still writers whose faces freeze into a frown when encountering a pun in three lines. A steady look at many of our cities' names could give new inspiration: Oak-land. Anchor Bay. or fun. a sign at the fork in the road "fine dining" The Technique of Word-plays . And even though the hai of haiku means "joke. and one I lived on – Ten Mile Cutoff. moon set .looked down upon.

For instance. blossoms. fall. spring. flowers. spring rain the willow strings . but one can get away with making it sound as if the strings of willow are really the spring rain manifested in raindrops. one can utilize both aspects of such words as leaves. sprouts. spots. one would not be admired for saying that the willow tree strings raindrops. You can use this technique to say things that are not allowed in haiku. circles and hundreds more. In English we have many words which function as both verbs and nouns. greens. By constructing the poem carefully. This is one of those cases where the reader has to decide which permissible stance the ku has it's right – how it fits Half Moon Bay The Technique of Verb /Noun Exchange This is a very gentle way of doing word play and getting double duty out of words.

Basically this could come as a sub-topic to association but it also works with contrast and comparison so I like to give it its own rubric. winter cold finding on a beach an open knife The Technique of Leap Linkage . So the writer begins to attempt leaps that a reader new to haiku may not follow and .Then as a writer's skills increase.raindrops The Technique of Close Linkage . and as he or she reads many haiku (either their own or others) such 'easy' leaps quickly fade in excitement. They understand it and feel comfortable using the technique. the leap can be a small and even a wellknown one. Being human animals we seem destined to seek the next level of difficulty and find that thrilling. In making any connection between the two parts of a haiku. Usually beginners are easily impressed with close linkage and experiment first with this form.

one will find some of the haiku simply leave the reader cold and untouched. returning to the same book. Usually.therefore find the ku to espouse nonsense. I think the important point in creating with this technique is that the writer is always totally aware of his or her 'truth'. Years later. The nice thing about this aspect. one can find the author's truth. Sometimes it is days later when I will go. if you think about the ku long enough and deeply enough. with many haiku experiences. I know I have quickly read a link in a renga and thought the author was kidding me or had gone off the deep end. the reader will discover the truth or poetry or beauty in a haiku that seemed dead and closed earlier. Poets of the surrealistic often make leaps which simply seem impossible to follow (I am thinking of Paul Celan) where the reader simply has to go on faith that the author knew what he was writing about. "Ah-ha!" and in that instant understand what . This is rare in haiku. is when one begins to read haiku by a certain author.

. . wildflowers the early spring sunshine in my hand The Technique of Mixing It Up . One way to sneak this in is to use the gerund (-ing added to a verb) combined with an action that seems sensible for both a human and for the nature/nature to do. The Japanese language has allowed poets to use this tactic so long and so well that even their translators are barely aware of what is being done.the ku was truly about. haiku are praised for getting rid of authors.What I mean here is mixing up the action so the reader does not know if nature is doing the acting or if a human is doing it. authors' opinions and authors' action. It is a good way to combine humanity's action with nature in a way that minimizes the impact of the author but allows . Very often when I use a gerund in a haiku I am basically saying. As you know. " making an action but leaving unsaid the "I am". "I am.

"insignificant". the Japanese have maintained for centuries that no one can really. and "pitiable". calls sabi – "(patina/loneliness) Beauty with a sense of loneliness in time. they change its definition according to their moods. As fascinated as Westerners have become with the word. "asymmetry" and "poverty". but deeper than. truly comprehend what sabi really is and thus. and now that it comes to the English language it is undergoing even new mutations." Suzuki maintains that sabi is "loneliness" or "solitude" but that it can also be "miserable". Donald Keene sees sabi as "an understatement hinting at . end of winter covering the first row of lettuce seeds The Technique of Sabi . Bill Higginson. akin to. in The Haiku Handbook. nostalgia.I almost hesitate to bring up this idea as a technique because the word sabi has gotten so many meanings over the innumerable years it has been in interaction between humanity and nature.

" As a technique.great depths".aged/loneliness . a freshly painted picket fence does not.A quality of images used in poetry that expresses something aged or weathered with a hint of sadness because of being abandoned.the twin brother to . So you see. A splitrail fence sagging with overgrown vines has sabi. we are rather on our own with this! I have translated this as: sabi (SAH-BEE). Often in English this hallowed state is sought by using the word "old" and by writing of cemeteries and grandmas. rocky spring lips taking a sip from a stone mouth or coming home flower by flower The Technique of Wabi . These English tricks wear thin quickly. one puts together images and verbs which create this desired atmosphere.

parting fog on wind barren meadows birth of a lamb The Technique of Yûgen . Somehow yûgen has avoided the controversy of the other two terms but since deciding which haiku exemplifies this quality is a judgmental decision.Beauty judged to be the result of living simply. However. there is rarely consent over which ku has it and which one does not. In my glossary I am brave enough to .sabi who has as many personas can be defined as "(WAH-BEE)-poverty." Thus one can argue that the above haiku samples are really more wabi than sabi – and suddenly one understands the big debate. I offer one more ku that I think is more wabi than sabi because it offers a scene of austere beauty and poignancy. Frayed and faded Levis have the wabi that bleached designer jeans can never achieve.another of these Japanese states of poetry which is usually defined as "mystery" and "unknowable depth".

to bring the writer closer to this goal.) Some English writers have tried to create yûgen by using the word "old" which became so overused there was an outcry against the adjective. Others tried to reach this state by writing about ghosts or 'spooky' subjects which did not impress the Japanese at all. Jeanne's suggestions seem. mist.propound: "One could say a woman's face half-hidden behind a fan has yûgen. (In a letter from Jeanne Emrich. does not. Using the sense-switching technique can create an air of mystery because of the information from the from the 'missing' sense. empty streets. or something appear suddenly out of nowhere. she suggests one can obtain yûgen by having something disappear. and houses. fog. or by the use of night. alleys. to me. however. . The same face half-covered with pink goo while getting a facial." But still haiku writers do use the atmosphere as defined by yûgen to make their ku be a good haiku by forcing their readers to think and to delve into the everyday sacredness of common things.

one should not be afraid of using it in a haiku.One of the aims of the playing with haiku is to confuse the reader just enough to attract interest.tied to the pier the fishy smells of empty boats The Technique of the Paradox . Using a paradox will engage interest and give the reader much to think about. climbing the temple hill leg muscles tighten in our throats The Technique of The Improbable World This is very close to paradox but has a slight difference. but when it happens. Again. Often it demonstrates a distorted view of science – one we 'know' is . Again. this is an old Japanese tool which is often used to make the poet sound simple and child-like. It is not easy to come up with new ones or good ones. one cannot use nonsense but has to construct a true (connected to reality) paradox.

jokes. And yet. if one is reading before a live audience nothing draws in the admiration and applause like some humorous haiku. Because one has no way of judging another person's tolerance for wisecracks. bathroom and bedroom references. evening wind colors of the day blown away or waiting room a patch of sunlight wears out the chairs The Technique of Humor . Very often the humor of a haiku comes from the honest reactions of humankind. and may the haiku gods . but always has the possibility of being true (as in quantum physics).not true. slurs. one should enter the territory of humor as if it is strewn with landmines. Choose your terms carefully.This is the dangerous stuff. add to your situation with appropriate leaps.

Seeming to be a religious precept. yet this technique works to make the tiny haiku a well-rounded on you. Some say one should be able to read the first line and the third line to find it makes a complete thought. the haiku usually feels 'complete'. For exercise. dried prune faces guests when they hear we have only a privy The Above as Below Technique. When the images in the first and third lines have the strongest relationship. holding the day between my hands a clay pot . Simply said: the first line and the third line exhibit a connectedness or a completeness. Sometimes one does not know in which order to place the images in a haiku. take any haiku and switch the lines around to see how this factor works or try reading the haiku without the second line.

definition and naming. In searching for these examples. I found so many more of my haiku which did not fit into any of these categories. I stop here. nor is the water broken. which tells me there are surely many more techniques which are in use but are waiting for discovery. Although its light is wide and great. The moon does not get wet. hoping I have given you enough to pique your interest in the quest and new ways of exploring the miracles of haiku. .A selection from a 'non-zennist' ! SOME CLASSICS Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. Blessed be! Zen Poems and Haiku .This ku is also using the riddle technique.

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. Although its light is wide and great. The moon does not get wet. The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. So why does it not know . nor is the water broken. The whole moon and the entire sky Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. Dogen It is as though you have an eye That sees all forms But does not see itself. This is how your mind is. Its light penetrates everywhere And engulfs everything. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma. Dogen Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions.

What is this Nor does the mind? void.But does not see itself. Who is hearing Then what these sounds? does? Do not mistake Strive to find any state for out. techniques. This is how your mind is. even more Give up all intensely. Self-realization. Its light penetrates everywhere And engulfs everything. . So why does it not know itself? Foyan Who is hearing? ! Your physical being doesn't ! hear. Put aside your but continue rational To ask yourself Intellect. What is it that Just get rid of hears? the notion of Bassui self.

to find out cravings. Just get rid of the notion of self. and otherShunryu Suzuki afflictions. And Shunryu Suzuki therefore ! are cramped. All because they love the . Bassui intensely. what is the most Resentments important thing. . ! They are wrapped up The most important thing is in illusions. What is it that hears? Bassui Few people believe their Inherent mind is Buddha.Give up all techniques. seriously. Most will not take this Hell is not punishment. it's training.

If you want to be free. and But its function cannot be located. no basis. . Without It has no form. no abandoning appearance. All because they love the cave of ignorance. All are . Name-andform. It responds with The conditioned versatile facility.cravings. my No root. and otherShunryu Suzuki afflictions. Therefore when you look for it. I go the nonGet to know your real Way self. no Ordinary abode. buoyant. person's But is lively and affairs. Fenyang Well versed in the Buddha way. what is the most Resentments important thing.

NamelessYou turn away from it and all the more. Knowledge Nobly. then there is ugliness. where right is. the sky. also there is wrong. When you seek it.Linji I leave ! birth-anddeath. the great priest deposits his daily stool in bleak winter fields Buson . . Name-andform. All are flowers in You become further from it. and But its function cannot be located.The conditioned versatile facility. formless. ! Layman P'ang (740-808) Where beauty is. Therefore when you look for it.

where right is. Until death overtakes him He'll never give up. Since olden times it has been so. If he'd let go the branch and Disappear in the deep pool. Hakuin . also there is wrong. Knowledge and ignorance are interdepend ent. The whole world would shine With dazzling pureness. delusion and enlightenm ent condition each other. I do think about it And shed tears Thinki ng about it. Ryoka The monkey is reaching For the moon in the water. How could it be otherwise now? Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other deposits his daily stool in bleak winter fields Buson ! ! Thoug hI think not To think about it.

and . Hakuin Even though I'm in Kyoto. I advise you to learn Being as is. when the kookoo Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other is merely realizing a scene of stupidity. Ryoka n world would shine With dazzling pureness. Issa ! ! A world of dew. tears Thinki ng about it. how do you deal with each thing changing? -RyokanFood and clothes sustain Body and life. Even if you speak of the wonder of it all. I long for Kyoto.

And there's nothing To be left behind. and Buddha becomes the devil. I advise you to learn Being as is. Sit in zazen . Layman P'ang Look for Buddha outside your own mind.Body and life. Dogen A world of dew. concentrati ng your spiritual energy. And. Look penetrating ly into your inherent nature. I move my hermitage and go. and within every dewdr op a world of strugg le Issa Just stop your wandering. When it's time.

frog jumps in splash Basho ! ! ! How reluct antly the bee emerg es ng your spiritual energy. Don't try to regain it. Bassui Cast off what has been realized. Whatever comes to Old pond.and Buddha becomes the devil. Sit in zazen And break through. The present does not stay. From moment to moment. Dogen The past is already past. Bassui Look directly! What is this? . The future has not come. Turn back to the subject That realizes To the root bottom And resolutely Go on. Don't try to touch it. Don't think about it Beforehand .

There are no commandm ents To be kept. reluct antly the bee emerg es from deep within the peony Basho Lightn ing: Heron' s cry Stabs the darkne ss Basho Go on. Whatever comes to the eye. With empty mind really Penetrated.Don't think about it Beforehand . When you can be like this. Leave it be. Bassui Look directly! What is this? Look in this manner And you won't be fooled! Bassui . There's no filth to be cleansed. the dharmas Have no life.

. Outside the mind In front of the door is there is no Dharma the land of stillness So how can anybody and quiet.1. it boils self nature. grass beyond? grows by itself. Experience Chan! Master Seung Sahn It's not a field of However deep your learning. Experience Chan! ! It's not mysterious. empty names. speak of a heaven Spring comes. Good and evil have no As I see it. 2. down to cause and Holy and unholy are effect. Knowledge of the Learning adds things scriptures.

questions. Knowledge of the Learning adds things scriptures. taken The answer to your The principles of the questions? teachings to heart. communicated. grass beyond? grows by itself. However important Enlightenment is the appears only medium of Your worldly transmission. Experience Chan! Master Seung Sahn It's not a field of However deep your learning. Tokusan Too many questions is ! the Chan disease. The best way is just to ! observe the noise of If you have never the world. that can be researched It is no more than a and discussed. . experience. strand of hair The feel of In the vastness of impressions can't be space. Experience Chan! It is but a drop of water in a deep It's not a lot of ravine.Spring comes. You have no basis 4. 3. 2. Ask your own heart. Experience Chan! For awakening to the It's not the teachings hidden path.

The Chan which you are hankering to speak about Only talks about turtles turning into fish. Experience Chan! It can't be described. Ask your own heart. dust. Kuei-shan Ling-yu Such speakers are guests from outside the gate. Experience Chan! For awakening to the It's not the teachings hidden path. You have no basis 4. 5. When you describe it you miss the point. the whole world is . When you discover that your proofs are without substance You'll realize that Whether you are going or staying or sitting or words are nothing but lying down. taken The answer to your The principles of the questions? teachings to heart. of disciples.the world.

the whole world is 6. everywhere and grass. will always shine and when you take through brighter than this to the limit bright. exist in your own When you don't fake mind or exist outside it and waste time it.that your proofs are without substance You'll realize that Whether you are going or staying or sitting or words are nothing but lying down. dust. others. It's like harvesting when you search into treasures. Experience Chan! your own self. will appear before When you smash the . and forests always. It's experiencing your You must find out own nature! whether the Going with the flow mountains. you will come to the 7. Your Original Self dissect them minutely. trying to rub and Analyze the ten polish it. rivers. where thinking goes You won't need them. no further and Suddenly everything distinctions vanish. thousand things. it you come to the end But donate them to of search. Experience Chan! limitless.

Grasping this When mortals are carefully he comes to alive. Experience Chan! But sages don't It'll require great consider the past. others. Uncertainty. citadel of doubt. Cold Mountain Theirs is the Great ascetics. no further and Suddenly everything distinctions vanish. simply yourself. 9. where thinking goes You won't need them. Altogether complete then the Buddha is and altogether done. . will appear before When you smash the you.treasures. they worry see clearly. blocks those detours Nor do they cling to on the road. skepticism. they till he topples the worry about hunger. Daikaku 8. about death. And they don't worry But great skepticism about the future. it you come to the end But donate them to of search. Experience Chan! Become a follower ! who when accepted ! Learns how to give up ! his life and his death. And then he laughs When they're full.

And they don't worry But great skepticism about the future. Experience Chan! But sages don't It'll require great consider the past. skepticism. blocks those detours Nor do they cling to on the road.truth right where you are. Bodhidharma 10. Experience Chan! There's neither If you can not find the distance nor intimacy. the present.9. Observation is like a where else do you family treasure. earth inside out. moment they follow Turn your heaven and the Way. Experience Chan! ! Ignore that ! superstitious nonsense That makes some There are thousands claim that they've upon thousands of attained Chan. And they're the ones Do not doubt its who most need the possibilities because experience of Chan!of the simplicity of the method. students Foolish beliefs are who have practised those of the not-yetmeditation and awakened. . obtained its fruits. Jump off the lofty And from moment to peaks of mystery. 11.

Observation is like a where else do you family treasure. Experience Chan! There's neither If you can not find the distance nor intimacy.truth right where you are. The one who bows and the one who is bowed to are a Buddha unit. nose. 12. expect to find it? ears.of the simplicity of the method. the one we should most observe? Master Xu Yun . or Dogen tongue ! It's hard to say which is the most amazing to use. body. Isn't this our first principle. Whether with eyes.. 11. The yoke and its lash are tied to each other.. Experience Chan! There's no class distinction.

there is no ice without water. . listening to my breathin g After thirty years ! One step A hun dre d cric kets Jum p Jerr Adding father's name to the family tombst one with room for my own. there are no Buddhas. we seek it far away --what a pity! Hakuin Ekaku Zenji NOT-SO CLASSICAL Not believin g in anything I just sit. As with water and ice.All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas. Not knowing how close the truth is. apart from sentient beings.

Albert Coelho When you hear your inner voice. Hyoen Sahn ! cric kets Jum p Jerr yA Lev y one with room for my own. Nichol as Virgilio in one gust the last leaf decides: gone Robert Henry Poulin ! first on a track night spider webs catch my face Yao Feng (Tasmania) trou bled nigh t no resti ng plac Brown mimosa seed where blossoms once invited Look! The beggar' s shoutin g fingers . forget it.breathin g After thirty years It still goes in and out.

c om ! .Brown mimosa seed where blossoms once invited hummingbirds to feed. Owen Burkha rt loud window thud in my cupped hand the little bird dies Yao Feng (Tasman ia) Empty morning streets Cold path to the castle Castle colder still pierre42@aol. Ethel Freeman t no resti ng plac e for my thou ghts Phil Ada ms beggar' s shoutin g fingers find no listener' s eye.

bang! robin feathers stuck to the frosty window -.just the cat's tail moves ! ! SOME OF MY OWN ZENNISH ATTEMPTS ! The cry of a child The cry of an ambulance The cry of a newborn. ! ! Yellow young spring .washington. A dinner with friends Love. I am so tiny The Univer se so endless All my creatio n School yard with A crosslegged monk Silent awareness A battle for peace.

! Grasping attachmen t. Frenzy of insects Heat of our star The past has dissolved. n School yard with childre n Shamel ess screami ng and fun When did I loose that? ! ! Thunde ring silence Colorfu l darknes s Wantin g to be . laughter and trust Dukkha disguised. Insisting on trouble: My life as a fool. Black naked trees White topping of snow A dinner with friends Love. Grasping a Path. ! Yellow young spring Sky full of hope Future won't come. Insisting on my view: My life as a fool. Grasping. Red humid forest Light rays in fog Shattering silence.a newborn.

! Nowhe re is here Never is now .Black naked trees White topping of snow A perfect year gone. Insisting: Fool. Buddha is dead Not even born. Grasping. ! Wit h met ta to act Wit h wis do m to be on my view: My life as a fool. Colorfu l darknes s Wantin g to be free Dust from the mirror Cleansed with much care Gone is the mirror. Light without darkness. All is so many All is but One None.

! Nowhe re is here Never is now End of the tunnel No tunnel No me. Zen Haiku Haiku is one of the most popular and highly . ! ! A tree in the wind The wind in a tree All in me. All is but One None.h wis do m to be The stru ggl e to end . ! Who am I? Am I? Am? .

Although the form of haiku evolved over time.regarded forms of Japanese poetry. especially among modern haiku poets. and a bird is a bird. snow or ice Winter. that indicates which season the haiku is set in. Haiku traditionally contain a kigo. a blooming flower or cherry blossom would indicate Spring. In general. Most haiku describe a single image or moment. Because of the strict form. Translators must choose whether to stay true to the syllabic structure or the image and meaning of the poem. haiku does not use metaphor or simile. So for example. A frog is a frog. (The translations I've chosen below do the latter.) . and 5 syllables. 7. broken into units of 5. or season word. haiku can be difficult to translate. or brown leaves Fall. in it's current form it is composed of a 17-syllable verse. often from nature. buzzing mosquitos Summer. But there are exceptions.

several prominent haiku poets. as in these two examples: Clouds appear and bring to men a chance to rest from looking at the moon.While all haiku are not Zen.1828).1694) and Kobayashi Issa (1763 . often centered on Buddhist themes. and others of the Edo period of Japan. and under their influence this increasingly became true of haiku in general. this way. this - . were Zen trained. One of these Buddhist themes is transience or impermanence (annica). one of Buddhism's three marks of existence. Their haiku. particularly Matsuo Basho (1644 . that way. Basho A giant firefly: that way.

satori and kensho. Hackett A particularly Zen theme is that of sudden awakening. J. as in these haiku: On a rock in the rapids sits a fallen camellia. Issa Another theme is stillness or silence. of which there are two types often referred to in Zen literature . occurring after many smaller . Satori is typically associated with years of practice. Miura Yuzuru Deep within the stream the huge fish lie motionless facing the current.and it passes by.W. and especially stillness within activity or movement.

kenshos, or moments of awakening or epiphany. Kensho moments are often represented by a surprise or sudden movement within the haiku, as in this famous example: Old pond, frog jumps in - splash. Basho Kensho is also sometimes evoked through an explicit reference to becoming 'awake', as in this example: A pattering of rain on the new eaves brings me awake. Koji Zen and the Art of Haiku Ken Jones

What is it about haiku that imparts that mysterious little whiff of insight, so difficult to describe and yet so strangely satisfying? I would like to offer some pointers from my experience as a long term Zen Buddhist for whom the Way of haiku has become a valued part of my practice. Characteristically we endeavour to secure and console our fragile self-identity by processing, shaping and colouring the raw experience of existence. Even - or especially - in the face of discouraging external circumstances, our minds strive to maximise the 'feel good' factor both emotionally and intellectually, helped and amplified by a social culture which includes plenty of imaginative literature. The worst of this offers merely escape from who we really are; the best offers a sometimes magnificent creative and cathartic treatment of our existential evasion. However, as imaginative literature, it remains ultimately

subjective in the sense used by R. H. Blyth as "the state of mind in which a man looks at the outside world, or at himself, as he would like it to be"' The example he quotes from Byron would be hard to beat: And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves, Dewy with nature's tear-drops as they pass, Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves, Over the unreturning brave. (1) For Buddhism our root unease originates in the countless and subtle ways in which we try to evade, by action, thought and emotion, the totally open experience of just how it is and how we are. Trying to make it otherwise has been described as a life-long lawsuit against reality, which we can never win. Spirituality itself, even Zen Buddhism, may be expropriated by the needy ego as the ultimate

Buddhas might descend to this world by the thousands. As all the spiritual traditions affirm. Above. this brings a sense of joy and release and an ability to live more fully and freely in the world .evasion. At the south pond. in Blake's words. Here is a beautiful warning from the eighteenth century Zen Master Hakuin: At the north window. Freezing clouds threaten to plunge from the sky. icy draughts whistle through the cracks.and in the . They couldn't add or subtract one thing. the mountain moon is pinched thin with cold. wild geese huddle in snowy reeds. (2) Ultimately the only effective remedy is. to learn to "cleanse the doors of perception" and let reality flood in.

Haiku which most clearly embody 'suchness' as the ground of our being I shall. zenga and haiga) whose form both gives expression to insight and helps to deepen it. like this from George Swede (which sums up the argument so far): After the search for meaning bills in the mail . They are also one of the several meditative 'Ways' (like calligraphy and the minimal ink paintings. Zen is a school of Buddhism concerned with the cultivation of a profound down-to-earth awareness of this 'suchness'.moment. Exceptionally they may be quite didactic. Haiku are the most thoroughgoing expression of literary Zen. in the Blyth tradition. unmediated by doctrine or other concepts. call 'Zen haiku' and it is with these that I am particularly concerned. The 'haiku moment' is thus no less than a tiny flash of an ultimate reality which in fact is just what is under our noses.

Empty of Self-Need It follows that haiku must spring from a mind open and unobstructed by any urge to make something of the reality that has come to the poet's attention. Those who go searching after haiku will find them shy and few and far between. And Basho advised: "When composing a verse let there not be a hair's breadth separating your mind from what you write. when the self advances. and they are not to be found." (3) Just washed how chill . composition of a poem must be done in an instant. Don't look for them.. like a woodcutter felling a huge tree or a swordsman leaping at a dangerous enemy. Of subjective meddling the 13th century Zen Master Dogen observed. "When the self withdraws the ten thousand things advance. Look for them and you will not find them. the ten thousand things withdraw".

the white leeks! In Zen parlance there is no need to "put legs on the snake" - not even poetic metaphysical ones, as does Nicholas Virgilio: Lily: out of the water out of itself Similarly, Bruce Ross identifies a "tendency in the fourth generation of American haiku writers of the late seventies, eighties and early nineties unfortunately to frequently offer catchy moments of sensibility that often rely on obvious metaphoric figures. These American poets desire to create 'haiku moments'. But a subjective ego, call it sentiment or call it imagination, intrudes upon their perception of the object".(4) Typical is the poem by Steve Sanfield quoted later in this paper in another context. 'How it is' doesn't come with meanings and explanations attached to give us the illusion of

a more secure grip on it. Nor does it come tricked out with distracting embellishments. Allusive brevity is one invariable characteristic of the haiku form. We have an itch to add in order - as we fondly suppose - to clarify. Too much verbiage muffles the spark: the shorter the poem the more space for the reader. The insight of the haiku moment is fresh, newminted perception, though it may be so ordinarily expressed as to risk failing the "So What?" test unless the reader's reception is similarly attuned, as with Shiki: A single butterfly fluttering and drifting in the wind If haiku were no more than a reflection of how it is ("so what?") they would not engage our attention as they do. But they express how it is as experienced by a human being. Thus, in Martin Lucas's words, they are "open

metaphors" for our human condition and resonate with that condition. They offer a glancing opportunity, without the poetic prompting of another, to accept for ourselves how it is. Such pure acceptance has qualities of compassion, release, quiet joy, subtle humour. It is well known to the mystics, like Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well". However, as T S Eliot observed: For most of us, there is only the unattended Moment, the moment in and out of time, The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight. (5) Haiku moments offer a little bit of existential therapy shared between writer and reader, a little bit of mutual compassion. For of all literary forms haiku are, in the current telltale slang, the least 'in your face'; they have the

but he does not massage this feeling with any expressions of consolation: My old thighs how thin ..least 'attitude'. they may leave us momentarily suspended in an emptiness which nevertheless feels authentic and moving. as in this example from Basho: In the dense mist what is being shouted between hill and boat? The sense of metaphor may be particularly strong when the poet has his own feelings in mind. In this example. Indeed. old age is deeply felt by Shiseki. as with Shiki: The long night a light passes along the shoji (screen) At the other extreme the reader may just occasionally be prodded with a question. He acknowledges the self-pity that comes with it.

but not as symbols of the Infinite. Their meaning is just as direct. as devoid of reference to other things. these 'open metaphors' retain their power only so long as readers leave them open and do not hasten to fill them with their own meanings. hailstones in the sun. the chirp of an insect . but in themselves. as complete and perfect. as clear. the neck of a firefly. not as types of Eternity. value." (6) Traditionally. But this is not necessarily so. as being more contemplatively accessible.. haiku poets have taken nature as their subject matter. Blyth warns: "Where Basho is at his greatest is where he seems most insignificant. interest. that is. R. poetry. as Jim Norton . as firelight However. H. these are full of meaning. Presumably human goings-on were assumed to be more likely to excite the poet's impulse to comment. as dipping the hand suddenly into boiling water..

yanking Shrieking plovers the burning sky calling darkness . (7) with all the dramatic down-to-earth energy of Zen: Mogami river.demonstrates below. there is no need to hype it up. Zen is commonplace: the ordinary is extraordinary when we are jolted out of our habitual selves. Here are two examples from Basho. So it is with Jim Norton in a Dublin tenement: What blue! Coughing through my dirty lace curtain and the stranger upstairs April night coughs. translated by Lucien Stryk. too But when nature turns dramatic only the best haiku poets can both express the drama and retain the haiku spirit without tipping over into subjective melodrama. In such highly tuned haiku the translator also will be put to the test.

have been identified. of lightness of spirit.profound awareness to which we cannot put words. reality displays characteristics of transience and insubstantiality which. In Japanese culture certain mood responses. sono-mama) is 'empty' of the weight of self-need we feel a sense of release. This is the karumi experienced in miniature in haiku. In some instances it may move us very deeply: yugen . many of which give little intimations of this 'emptiness'. of elusive and overlapping meaning.into the sea around Hoshizaki Cape Varieties of Awareness Undistorted by self-need. When "how it is" ('suchness'. deeply experienced (as at moments of lifetime crisis) may feel very threatening. Meditation enables a gradually prepared opening to them and joyful release from the lifetime effort of denying them at a deep existential level. .

or Japanese mannerisms... (8) Sabi is an acceptance of the 'emptiness'. a delicate frisson. and not of stoic indifference. haiku `a la Japonaise. compassionate sadness.Unless appreciated in the spiritual context of Zen these easily become no more than haiku conventions or 'values'. "Sabi is a kind of pure and sublime melancholy and detached emotion which is not received in a self-centred way but simply honoured for what it is . Thus Bruce Ross refers to "the stylistically self-conscious underscoring of Zen-like experiences" to be found in many contemporary American haiku poets. may result. "Willow pattern haiku". In Brian Tasker's words. insubstantiality and vulnerability of phenomena (including oneself). Sabi is the existential aloneness that can only be resolved by .a symptom of the human condition . But it is an acceptance coloured with a gentle.

aged. worn.acknowledging its inevitability coupled with the joy and gratitude that can arise from its acceptance. the commonplace as opposed to the sensational. Simplicity. with "rustic solitude" as a rather more mannered expression. Like the other haiku 'moods'. Wabi essentially denotes respect for the ordinary. restraint. tranquil. in the absence of real insight it can all too easily lend itself to tired and well worn 'oriental' haiku." (9) Consider the following haunting example from Basho (loneliness. deserted. austerity are related meanings. Here is a nice contemporary example from Gary . wild): The loneliness of this deserted mountain the aged farmer digging wild potatoes On more superficial view sabi can refer to anything that is old. mellow and dignified.

white. low key beauty to manifest. as with Marlene Mountain: Faded flowers on the bed sheet . defined by Makoto Ueda as "sadness or melancholy arising from a deep.Hotham: coffee in a papercup --a long way from home When the self withdraws its confirming sharpness and specificity of perception it leaves space for a more subtle. subdued. human life. empathetic appreciation of the ephemeral beauty manifested in nature.(10) It commonly translates as a nostalgic sadness connected with autumn. or a work of art". This is shibui. as in the following from Martin Lucas (silent. empty): First darkness of dusk silently a white owl flies in the empty lane Aware is the mood of transience.

Some Zen preliminaries may help us to understand more profoundly how this device works. In order to free their students from the conventional self-assuring perceptual patterns. the sun rises at midnight. Alexis Rotella has many delightful examples: Undressed today's role dangles from a metal hanger The Zen of the Cutting Line The majority of haiku achieve their main effect through a device called "the cutting line" or "eye opener".autumn night Finally. It typically arises when one of our cherished delusions impacts with reality in the one haiku. sometimes black or tinged with irony. Zen teachers commonly resort to mutually contradictory words and phrases: iron women give birth. or. in this verse by the 15th c. . another noteworthy haiku mood is surely that of understated humour.

what is is the same as what is not. only paradoxical. In all spiritual traditions.Master Ikkyu: Hearing a crow with no mouth cry in the darkness of the night I feel a longing for my father before he was born. The infinitely large is as small as the infinitely minute when its outlines are not seen . paradox is only baffling. one thing is all things and all things are one thing: The infinitely small is as large as the infinitely great when boundaries and distinctions are forgotten. to a mind unable to step out of a logically structured world of this defining that. (11) So characteristic of all spirituality.

In Buddhist terminology. form is in fact 'empty' of the that the self cannot confirm the self by making any sense of it. (12) There is all the solidity of the world of form in "a wooden hen sits on a coffin warming an egg" (Hakuin again). solidity and permanence we need to attribute to it. the power of Zen . But it is empty of 'sense' .'pure nonsense' . paradoxically. weightless man drinks (13) In Buddhist terminology. it is also more real and factitious than the many ways in which we dress it up to escape its sharp any eye. But. Ikkyu explains: A well nobody dug filled with no water ripples and a shapeless.

Two lines set the scene and a third.haiku lies in their embodiment of form-andemptiness. We have been caught off balance. yet so beyond our ordinary habitual perception. We find ourselves saying more than we mean and more than we know. sparking across the gap between the phrases and momentarily illuminating the whole poem in a fresh light. The best of them come to us out of the moment in an insight so right. Self momentarily loses its foothold. cutting line throws them out of gear by switching attention to a different perception. Occasionally the cutting line is wholly contradictory. Selfless space (emptiness) opens for an instant of naked clarity. Trying to figure it out is like figuring out a joke: we miss the point. Our customary .and solidified perceptual associations are fractured. as to dumbfound us. Thus Sodo (1641-1715) says: In my hut this spring .

H. Blyth (in a different connection) quotes Kikaku: The beggar wears Heaven and Earth as his summer clothes (14) The cutting line provides a ready. the double cutting line. R. There is. insinuating .in their nonesense. specific device in haiku making and lends itself to the . haiku are usually more subtle.and accessible . for example. as in this from Yamei: In one shrill cry the pheasant has swallowed the broad field (14) It would be possible (though probably not very useful) to attempt a classification of different uses of the cutting line.there is nothing there is everything (14) However. where the second line magicks the third into being as a throwback illumination of the first.

even as a genre. let alone individually. This doesn't make them 'better' or 'worse'. However the use of the words broad and narrow is not intended to refer to the quality of the haiku.and a bit more as in this one by Steve Sanfield: Sleep on the couch she says cutting his fantasies in two Altogether different is the distinction I would like to make between 'broad' and 'narrow' ends of the spectrum of insightful haiku. and are what I have specifically in mind as 'Zen haiku'. Most haijin probably write and enjoy both. The broader profoundly illuminate our whole human condition. Good 'artful haiku' can be quite clever at tweaking our fancy . Zen haiku are not necessarily good . the narrower do so in a more limited and specific way.cleverness of what I call 'artful haiku' which lie at the opposite end of a continuum from 'insightful haiku'.

from Buson and Issa respectively: In a short life Those two tired dolls an hour of leisure in the corner there .haiku. and particularly sharing in a group.. are valuable in this respect.. The man and wife are dolls: the metaphor is open .. of life) and narrow (about the tedium of matrimony). Hearing or reading haiku. First there is the priming and internalising of the form getting into haiku mood and haiku mode.ah yes. For presumed contemplatives. this autumn evening they are man and wife Note that although Issa's is the narrow one it is more than merely 'artful'.. and yet. there is a Zen perspective on the optimum conditions for the making of haiku. haijin have . Two conditions seem to be needful. broad (about the shortness.. Finally.. Here are two examples.

and more important. and dissolves like a bubble.usually been a sociable lot. is opening to a contemplative state of mind. in which the mind is a mirror. My own experience of solitary meditation retreats of a week or more may be of interest here. For company an empty chair Bruce Ross has argued that the writing of "the . Primed with 'dry' haiku (through reading) it translates into haiku 'readiness'. not a lens. I am far from being either a gifted meditator or haiku poet. Whatever comes up is simply observed. Secondly. After some practice the mind becomes still for quite long periods. and it is usually not until the second or third day that haiku begin to flow freely. without mental comment. This transparency carries over from the meditation periods. The meditation I use is that of 'bare awareness' (shikantaza).

It is rather a deepening of contemplative sensibility that is at the heart of the matter . This is not a matter of taking on board some oriental philosophy or modelling classic Zen haiku.fourth generation of American and Canadian haiku poets ... quite the contrary. attests to the presiding importance of Japanese haiku values to the haiku form as a whole. The Wisdom of the Zen Haiku Masters July 15th."(15) Some awareness of the Zen Buddhist tradition underlying those values can be helpful. again. 2008 | inspiration | Posted by tejvan - .. as "adding legs to a snake". Zen would condemn that..

Haiku is a particular type of poem. during the seventeenth century. and has recently caught the imagination of the Western World. Haiku became popular in Japan. Paradox The Haiku masters delight in the paradox. There are different aspects of the Haiku which can be particularly instructive. A traditional Haiku is 3 phrases with 17 syllables. . Haiku gives the poet a unique challenge to express themselves with the minimum of language.

mixing the mundane with the ethereal. “Where there are people there are flies. the beautiful with the ugly. there is also the deliberate effect of mixing sublime truths in the most ordinary of everyday objects. it was just as likely to be sweeping the floor as it was meditating in a Himalayan cave. The paradox is a reminder to see the extraordinary in the ordinary – the infinite in a grain of sand.Anonymous But. and also there are Buddhas” . If a Zen master was to gain enlightenment.” . “This Rooster Struts along! as though he had something to do. In part this reflects the quirky sense of humour the poet’s enjoyed.Issa .

we need to work on understanding the meaning and inspiration of the poem. The process of seeking beyond the literal words is in itself a spiritual exercise. The poet invites the reader to take the 17 words and create his own imagery and own understanding. A flash of lightning where there were faces plumes of pampas grass.Read Between The Lines. It is a different experience. it is a riddle to be deciphered by the reader. .Basho Humour A characteristic of the Haiku Master is that they never take themselves too seriously. A Haiku is not a university lecture or list of 10 commandments. There is a similarity to the zen koan ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’ A Haiku has the similar effect. Life .

Zen masters are able to see the divine in all. Zen Haiku masters rarely refer directly to God. even this business of enlightenment. “From the nostril of the Great Buddha comes a swallow” . But. especially living creatures .Shiki The Divine in All. but.Issa “A thin layer of snow coats the wings of mandarin ducks such stillness!” .is something to be observed and enjoyed. there is nothing we need to take too seriously. because he felt it was impossible to describe the nature of God. In fact the Siddharta the Buddha preferred not to mention the concept of God.

sacredness is not something to be confined to the temple.Kansetsu Impermanence.and the environment. To a Zen Master.” . dancing a Buddhist chant in the water by the grave.Issa The above poem captures many of the essential elements of a Haiku poem – paradox. “Mosquito larvae.” . The Haiku poets make us aware of both the Divinity all around and the impermanence of the material world. the divine can be seen in all. We! associate Mosquito larvae . impermance and juxtoposing unexpected associations. “Could they be hymns? Frogs chanting in the temple well.

But. the poet unexpectedly brings in the joyful idea of a ‘dancing a Buddhist chant’.with bad things. Water signifies life. our instinctive reaction is to want to destroy them. Here the . grave signifies death. good and bad. But. Here the poet. Even the mosquito’s are part of creation. tries to lift us from the realm of ‘good and bad’ and make us aware of the underlying unity of all living things. look what happens in the second poem. The final line continues the theme of paradox. wisdom through the use of analogy. The poet is saying that in the middle of life and death there is the bliss of creation. in the middle we have the beautiful image of! ‘dancing a Buddhist chant’. Wisdom Sometimes the poets explicitly share wisdom. we just have to go beyond our concepts of death. they too have a role to play in life. In these 12 words we have everything – life and death.

Basho was Zen trained. In one of his travel sketches he describes himself as being dressed in a priest’s black robe.concept of non attachment is beautifully explained with the simplest of examples. "but neither a priest nor an ordinary man . but several key figures were. Not all the haiku poets were Zen Buddhists. and ordained as a priest.Jaso We could write pages and pages of prose on the issue of non-attachment.Haiku and Zen Zen Buddhism has significantly shaped the historical development of Japanese haiku. Part 4 . but here the poet is able to conjure up an image revealing the simplistic power of non attachment. “By the power of complete non attachment the frog floats” . but he did not seem to make up his mind if he was a priest or not.

meaning "Revived priest. When Issa was paralysed by a stroke at the age of fifty eight. Han-shan and Shih-te. for I wavered ceaselessly like a bat that passes for a bird at one time and for a mouse at another." He did not have a parish and priestly duties. "Inasmuch as life is empty as a bubble which vanishes instantly. and a Japanese mainstream Buddhist of the twelfth .of this world was I." The ancient poets Basho most admired were two Chinese Zen eccentrics who lived on 'Cold Mountain' sometime between the sixth and ninth centuries. Issa lived for several years in monasteries and took his name from the Buddhist ideas of emptiness and change. he changed his name to Soseibo. but he often wore the robes. I will henceforth call myself Haikaiji Issa. Haikaiji means "haiku temple" and Issa means "one tea. and recovered." he wrote." signifying a bubble in a cup of tea.

paralleled in the human world. with the sense of awe. called kensho. sought through many years of disciplined meditation. momentarily. Haiku is a momentary. or to be exemplary. Priest Saigyo.century. condensed poetic form and its . There are also many little flashes of enlightenment. is at the core of every haiku: Hoarfrost spikes have sprung out overnight like the hairs on my chin (Koji) In Zen Buddhism there is a great enlightenment called satori. The strong emphasis on the seasons in haiku means that a sense of the changes in the natural world. or to connect us again. which are intense forms of those everyday noticings that surprise us or please us because they seem to reveal a truth. One of Buddhism's 'Three Signs of Being' is that all things are subject to change.

In meditation the trainee stills the . trans. trans. It is this that is the essence of haiku. not its number of syllables. Chiyoko/Marsh) Zen Buddhism is centred on the practice of meditation. Some haiku are explicitly about moments of kensho. and words like "awakening" are the clue: Awakened at midnight by the sound of the water jar cracking from the ice (Basho.special quality is that it is perfectly adapted to give the reader that little instant of kensho insight. Hamill) A pattering of rain on the new eaves brings me awake (Koji. Basho developed the haiku form so that each haiku became a little burst of awakening.

' 'emptiness. . but the sort of words that have been used traditionally for describing it are 'stillness. a calmer space appears. assessing. boundlessness. to which we humans are prone. fantasising. hoping. love. When a measure of control over the runaway mind is established. he or she begins to experience the things mystics of all religious traditions have always said are true of the ultimate reality: its unity.' and 'void.' ! You might imagine. that Buddhism was a form of nihilism. The calm space beneath thought has various names. from this list. self-doubt and so on. selfcongratulation. ! As the trainee attends to the life-rhythms of this calm space. recalling.hectic surface activity of the mind: the constant planning.' 'silence. The 'nothingness' is not barren. dreading.' 'nothingness. speculating. but that is not the case.

58).Zen master Lin-chi said. Zen poets hear the sound of the life-force emerging from emptiness to fill everything: The skylark: Its voice alone fell. The voice of the cicadas Penetrates the rocks. yet has no root or stem. its miraculous sound always in your ears. You can't gather it up. trans. 'It is vibrantly alive. The more you search for it the farther away it gets. Blyth) The silence. (Basho. trans. Blyth) .' (The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi translated by Burton Watson. Poets are struggling to convey the inexpressible. Leaving nothing behind (Ampu. to find images for the 'miraculous sound' in the heart of the silence. Shambhala Publications 1993 p. But don't search for it and it's right before your eyes. you can't scatter it to the winds.

trans.The sense of nothingness or emptiness unites everything: Fields and mountains all taken by snow. trans. but it is a stillness in the midst of the rush of active life: Deep within the stream the huge fish lie motionless facing the current (J. Hackett) ! On a rock in the rapids sits a fallen camellia (Miura Yuzuru. Horioka. Chiyoko/Marsh) The posture for meditation sitting. amended by Marsh) Meditation can be indicated by the word 'sit' or some phrase referring to stillness. cross- . nothing remains (Joso.W.

legged on a cushion. is the place for going from the particular to the universal: In the zendo when the coughing ceased all sound ceased (Satokawa Suisho trans. is a matter of balance: the gull soars on nothing but slight corrections to the tilt of its nose (George Marsh) The meditation hall. trans. Marsh) ! Why flap to town? . called a zendo. Marsh) The black robes of a crow might remind one of a priest: The crow sits on a dead branch – evening of autumn (Basho.

ways and so on are always resonant.A country crow going to market (Basho. Since meditation is essentially something one can only do focused on the inner life. By extension. He lived five hundred years before Christ and wrote The Book of The Way (Tao Te Ching). even when many people meditate together. So references to paths. tea ceremony. acting. the references often have a lonely quality . the arts through which people express their meditative understanding are also known as The Ways: flower arranging. more than a thousand years before Buddhism came to China. archery. trans. dancing and poetry are among them. Living the religious life of meditation practice has been known in the East as following 'The Way' or 'The Path' from the time of Lao Tsu. roads. Marsh) Lao Tsu was the original archetype of The Sage.even more so in .

it walked with me as I walked (San-in) The long night – . Marsh) ! Beyond the crossroads deep into autumn the hillroad disappears (James Norton) The acceptance of an essential loneliness in the human condition is a characteristic of the Buddhist meditator. who struck out on his own poetic path: My way no-one on the road and it's autumn. It is a loneliness that we recognise in others. getting dark (Basho. too: The scarecrow in the distance.the case of Basho. trans.

I walk on and on. (Santoka. a short-lived dream under the summer moon (Basho. Stevens) . He was a traveller.made longer by a dog’s barking (Santoka. trans. Stevens) An octopus pot – inside. In the twentieth century another Zen Buddhist haiku poet followed in his footsteps. trans.Ueda) To Basho the road was not just a literary or religious metaphor. a 'gentleman of the road.' For him the lonely path was a daily reality: There is nothing else I can do. trans. walking the open road on journeys the length and breadth of Japan. Santoka Taneda lived as a wandering mendicant monk.

however. The poems that have the most resonance and power. are those that are observations which have a symbolic after-taste. (Santoka. I go in the direction I want. It never merely illustrates an idea. (Santoka. Stevens) Wet with morning dew. uniting the particular . trans.Going deeper And still deeper The green mountains. The symbolic dimension is an echo of the primary meaning. as well as a metaphor for one's chosen life-path. Fish do lie facing the current. and snow does take the features from the landscape. Haiku imagery is always first and foremost a real observation. trans. It is not simile. Stevens) The road is a palpably real experience to Santoka and Basho. gulls do soar on the wind adjusting the angle of their beaks.

Waning Moon Press is grateful to Lucien Stryk for permission to quote extended extracts from his writings. ! By George Marsh Part 8 . Rinzai Zen Master Nakamura is interviewed by Lucien Stryk: Nakamura: There's nothing intrinsically Zen in any art. Stryk: But surely some arts would not have developed as they did had it not been for Zen.often natural with a human significance. Haiku. 1995. for example. Basho was profoundly . It is the man who brings Zen to the art he practices. in spite of the way some seem to reflect Zen principles.Interviews with Haiku masters Extracts from Lucien Stryk’s The Awakened Self: Encounters with Zen published by Kodansha.detail which is being noticed .

have no Zen whatsoever. Nakamura: Many haiku. Stryk: It might equally be said. and it’s true he studied Zen with the master Butcho. it is man who fills a poem with Zen. It wasn't really there before him. there’s something characteristically Zen-like in the form itself. would you agree. from Basho on. those of its finest practitioners. Nakamura: There is to be sure a strong taste of Zen in his best poems. that there was not true haiku before him? Surely. which was wellestablished before he came onto the scene. and there’s compression. and quite possibly for that reason haiku became an important art.Zenist. He brought Zen to the art of haiku. Haiku writer Fujiwara of the "traditional" . The greatest haiku contain the sense of revelation we associate with Zen. Perhaps he best illustrates the point I am making. an enlightened man. No.

Stryk: Machines. Basho. on the spot. Every place is full of poetry. our greatest haiku writer. I assure you the practice is based on fundamentals which lead to great discoveries. Fujiwara: A good writer ignores no aspect of contemporary life.strict-form Ten-Ro school is interviewed by Lucien Stryk. That’s why we can write one hundred poems in a day about a place we visit. of the presence of poetry all around us. automobiles. As you know. we like to feel. through active seeking. All one has to do is go find the poems. All important haiku artists have been…. slowly to be sure. that . to see our personal world in the same spirit. we begin. highrises. was a Zenist. compose its poetry… We’re made aware. is the greatest of the Zen arts. We select an interesting and beautiful place and. Fujiwara: Haiku.

using their language. whether we like it or not. Stryk: Then the work of Basho is archaic in language? Fujiwara: The themes are not as interesting. images. Stryk: How many feel as you do on that subject? Fujiwara: All good writers! The others are for the most part poor imitators of Basho and Buson. we are very modern in spirit. nothing is too low or high for us.sort of thing? Fujiwara: Why not. and I suspect they know it. yet they can’t help it… . In TenRo we examine everything. It excites me to see how far one can take haiku into reality – very challenging to write of things never before associated with art. Disgraceful.Traditional in method. among many? They make our world.

guided by Zen. muddy. Stryk: You mean the abandoning of the seventeen-syllable limitation? Uchijima: That was the most obvious break . if anything. the first So-Un writes were clearly influenced by the the writers of free verse. has been now for centuries. What we are looking for. is revelation. their innovations were more daring. clear purpose. Never in three hundred years had anyone dared depart from strict haiku form. Small as it is.leading to great incisiveness.In haiku there is a weeding out of all that would clutter. . the haiku is a repository of great wisdom. Haiku writer Uchijima of the "free verse" So-Un school is interviewed by Lucien Stryk. confuse. Stryk: The So-Un school is perhaps the most unusual in the history of the art. In some quarters it’s little short of notorious! Uchijima: Yes. but.

They wanted to return to the spirit of Basho. above all they wanted their works to have Zen spirit.with the past. significance. but not the only. Stryk: How would you sum up the ideals of So-Un? Uchijima: To put it simply. I tell my students haiku is not a game. whatever the theme. Our first writers wanted to restore haiku’s vigour: the art was in a bad way – little originality. We’re still trying to do just that. We aren’t a mutual admiration . Stryk: Were the first So-Un poets Zenists? Uchijima: Yes. Stryk: Significance? You mean seriousness of theme? Uchijima: That and depth of treatment. The idea behind all of So-Un’s departures from the norm was precisely that they had become the norm. less depth.

’ Hakuin answered.society – I expect my work to be judged sternly. ‘Yes. Student says: “I am very discouraged what should I do?” Master says: “Encourage others” Zen Proverb . “Better to struggle with a sick jackass than carry the wood by yourself. Hakuin answered: ‘How am I supposed to know?’ ‘How do you not know? You’re a Zen master!’ exclaimed the samurai. but not a dead one.”! Zen Proverb A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died.

it has become a folk art and a cultural icon. a Jungian analyst from Texas A & M University. Zen and Jung’s Psychology. however.Shakespeare In March the Jung Institute in Evanston invited David Rosen. Most Japanese have written haiku. In Japan itself. Rosen considers haiku a spiritual art form that promotes deep spiritual healing among its practitioners (haiku composers) and readers. to present a program entitled.” Dr. The art of writing haiku began with Japanese Zen monks.” -. MD. there are generally at least a few published in every Japanese newspaper. and in a culture more open to creative expression than our own. the form has spread all over the world. now.Zen and the Art of Haiku By Anna Poplawska “‘Tis better to be brief than tedious. “Haiku. .

haiku written in English. contemporary American poets are free to write shorter haiku with one to three lines and up to 17 syllables. It is rather an expression of egolessness in which the poet turns outward to fully experience and capture the essence of being in a particular moment at a particular place. seven in the second and five in the third. Unlike other poetry. The shortness of these poems is a reflection of Zen philosophy. with five syllables in the first line. like yoga. emphasizes being in the moment. Thus. . haiku generally do not use metaphor or obscure imagery.Traditionally haiku are short poems of three lines. nor do they reflect the feelings or inner life of the poet--at least in an obvious way. Due to language differences. which. often include more information than would be possible in Japanese. using this same syllable count.

Old pond A frog jumps in– The sound of water. ! ! ! ! ! .

the moment of enlightenment.Most of us have seen this haiku by Basho (1644–1694). It describes something that is very ordinary. It’s probably the most famous haiku ever written. Then the frog jumps in and the sound of water breaking the silence represents the something happening. The spiritually healing effect of haiku derives from their ability to take us out of ourselves. Yet in the process of capturing it. Rosen explained that the old pond represents a state of oneness with nature and a mind that has become still. The haiku makes no reference to a past or a future or to a real or imagined self. egoless. The poet and the object have become one. and the best ones speak to the spiritual life of the reader. What we weren’t told by our high school or grade school English teachers is that haiku come out of the spiritual life of the writer. . satori. Dr. the ordinary is transformed into something extraordinary.

if we are alone and wandering in nature. It isn’t necessary to understand haiku or interpret them. but modern practitioners don’t always adhere to this.For example. we are invited to share the experience of being in the moment with the poet. . Dr. worrying about problems or planning tomorrow’s activities. Through this. our mind becomes free to contemplate and to be more deeply present in the moment. Traditional haiku were written about nature. Rosen explained that if we are busy. Haiku are born out of this experience. as readers. consider another Basho haiku: On a leafless branch. Nor is it clear that all haiku can be interpreted. we won’t even notice the crow on the branch. we learn to appreciate the beauty inherent in our own lives. A crow comes to rest– Autumn nightfall. if we are lost in our own thoughts. On the other hand. Rather.

we think we are the only ones who feel this way. Often when we have an experience. He then shared one of his own moments of transcendence: A field of deep grass. we are convinced that there is something wrong with us when we can’t find the right words. it’s easy to look around and see how the world is organized and think that other people don’t care the way we do.After all. When we sit down to write a haiku. “What is life but a collection of very ordinary moments?” asked Dr. When we are lonely. This in itself is healing. One of the things that we gain from reading haiku--or any poetry--is a recognition of the universality of experience. Its vibrant eruption Of orange-red poppies. But . it’s easy to think that other people have more friends or better friends. When we feel compassion. Rosen. a poem or a story.

We don’t feel like we have to twist our brain cells into a metaphorical lotus posture to come up with complex. highfalutin . and then A poppy blooms. We recognize that even Zen monks who wrote 300 years ago had trouble getting it right. Haiku is a form that is deceptively simple. erase. no better or worse than Hokushi or Basho. This recognition enables us to accept our common humanity--one of the steps on the road to transcendence. Erase again. and it sets us free from those feelings of inadequacy: I write. We are merely living in a different century. We don’t feel intimidated. understanding that we are really no different. We then sit down to write our own haiku. rewrite. The apparent simplicity is part of the attraction many feel to writing them. we come across a haiku such as this one by Hokushi (1667–1718).then.

For instance. These are prose essays that might describe a situation in which healing is called for or the experience that led up to the writing of the haiku. haiku poets might also write haibun. A haiga is a work of art that is meant to be hung on a wall.commentary on life. The simplicity of haiku is also what gives them the flexibility to be integrated into other related forms. The haiku is written out in calligraphy and a Japanese brush-painted image is used to illustrate it. A tradition among Zen monks is to write . The recognition that writing haiku is something we can do is also a part of the healing effect. A tradition among prisoners sentenced to death is to be allowed to choose their last meal. and the haiku themselves are incorporated into the body of the essay. Those who feel they need more syllables to express themselves might try writing tanka. which allow 31 syllables.

I think that the more Zen . Asked to what extent Zen Buddhism continues to influence contemporary practitioners. But I’m not one of them. explained.a last haiku when they know that they are about to pass out of this life. and we ought to let go of the Japanese aspects. at the age of 71: The snow of yesterday That fell like cherry petals Is water once again. It includes this poem by Gozan. Some of these haiku have been collected into the book Japanese Death Poems by Yoel Hoffman. because the moment you think you’ve succeeded it’s not Zen anymore. Charlie Trumbull. 1789. “There are people who want to forget about Zen. Zen itself is kind of spongy and difficult to define. president of the American Haiku Society. so you really need to read the haiku themselves to see. written on December 17. They say that it’s an American form now.

and co-author with Joel Weishaus of The Healing Spirit of find in a haiku. David Rosen is the author of Tao of Jung. the more successful it’s likely to be.” He gave the example of this well-known Zen-like haiku by Jack Cain (1969): an empty elevator opens closes Dr. . Tao of Elvis and Transforming Depression. Because if it’s not Zen. which are definitely not a part of haiku. then it’s probably intellectualization and wordplay.