“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” ~ Basho
I have used beautiful quotes of Basho’s for a long time. And while I loved his words, I did not know anything about the man, the poet. It is in grounding myself in my Jizo-experience that I able to be curious about the source of words, the source of ideas I had taken for granted. Maybe I am seeing a little more deeply, patiently?
I seek what wise people before me sought, and for this I am fortunate as I have not had much use for so-called role models. This quote above gave a nod to my orientation: that the wisdom we each seek is not inside a guru or what they tell you, but in finding one’s own path. The groundlessness that sometimes appears on the path has been soothed in so many ways by seeking Jizo in each step of the path.
Now, about Matsuo Basho (松尾 芭蕉, 1644 – November 28, 1694). He is the most famous Haiku poet who ever put ink to paper. During his lifetime, he was recognized for his works in the collaborative form of poetry known as haikai no renga or renku, where poets would gather and write together, sharing a poem’s creation. In Japan, his poems are carved into monuments. Once he gained fame, he left the urban life of Tokyo to wander into the wilderness, seeking inspiration from nature and his travels.
He took four long journeys, always returning to teach in the city. He wrote on these forays and kept journals of his poetry and travels. One recent afternoon, I posted the image of Basho walking (below) and Gomyo Kevin Seperic posted on my page the translation of the poem written there (see the haiku below the image). I thanked him, thinking it was his own poem he was sharing. To clarify, he wrote, “I love to share good Haiku. This is by Basho and is written in brush calligraphy above the painting of him on his journey. The translation is by Robert Aitken Roshi. The haiku was the opening to the travel journal ‘The Record of a Travel Worn Satchel’ and the seasonal reference ‘first rains’ refers to the first rains of winter, letting us know that Basho was starting his journey at the most dangerous time of year to do so. Check out the book ‘A Zen Wave’ by Aitken Roshi for more about this and other great Haiku by Basho.”
I have added the link to the book, should any of you be interested in following up on Basho’s poetry. I am grateful to Gomyo for writing to me on Facebook and teaching me and my Jizo People more about Basho; so timely when I was only beginning to learn more myself.
In reading about Basho, I learned that as he grew older, he sometimes refused visitors, diving deep into Buddhist meditation. While he did not write a Death Bed poem, his last poem, written in 1694, surely sufficed. And as I read it, I knew I would have to share it with you.
abi ni yande/yume wa kareno wo/kake meguru:
falling sick on a journey / my dream goes wandering /over a field of dried grass
Let my name