War Haiku

Basho's legacy

n the Autumn of 1684 Basho came back to the native house of Iga to visit the tomb of his mother, died in 1683. The journey with its emotions was described in
"Nozarashi kikô" (The journey notes of a skull), title chosen by the poet who knew that he could die during his journeys. Basho would leave with the spiritual attitude of a zen monk: "Without any food for a thousand league journey: far into the night I stay motionless in harmony with Nature."

When the poet reached the Fuji river, he heard a child crying. It was a little child prey to the river stream. Nevertheless Basho did not try to save him, but composed only some verses about that poor creature's unfortunate existence.

His attitude today could seem to derange our sensibility, but it must be seen against the background of Basho's age. Japan had been upset by centuries of war. The shogun had power of life and death. The opposed factions were in perpetual rivalries and struggle. During his forties Basho was a poor, tired and frail man conscious of the extreme precariousness of his life.

A few years after, he would write the famous verses: "Pot opening in Summer, fan in Winter" referring to himself and his poetical action, useless and in contrast with the desires of most of the people. Basho's consciousness to be nothing but at the same
time, his love for Nature and the capacity to understand its most secrets messagges, reveals that he was a man who had withdrawn from the world, having realized that the reality was elsewhere.

In those same days Europe knew the horror of the thirty years war, King Louis XIV's absolutism, the wars between France and the Augusta legue, the Spanish crisis, Vienna's siege by the Turks, the fights for power and the rebellions in Russia. Those were years of terrible violence which hardened consciences and hearts.

Basho's message becomes the reason of a great spiritual enrichment for us, who are the descendants of Western culture. Not only in a poetic way, in as much as we learn a new kind of making poetry, but as engagement to do now the one thing Basho could not do then. It is our duty "to save the child from the river". In one word: to achieve the consciousness of our responsability towards the others.

Contemplating the moon brightness, the dew on the leaves, flying butterflies, the wind onto the sea, blooming flowers must not be a way to avoid our responsabilities or close our eyes in front of life, but an incentive to reveal the cruel realities of our
world and drawing attention to them.

Zen is the root of haiku and compassion is the heart of Zen, and the source of compassion is spiritual illumination. There is no compassion without illumination nor
illumination without compassion.

To look at the evils of the world and "chant" them by haikus, means to do a true peace action, for people could become conscious about them and strive to find
some way out of them.

This is the legacy that Basho willed to us more than 300 years ago.
And we must honour it, for we have been "called" to become hajin.

What do you think about it?

if you strike her
with poet's hand
soul sings

Moussia - Roma