Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2018

haiku commentary ~ Kobayashi Issa

All the time I pray to Buddha      I keep on      killing mosquitoes

          — Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa (ed. R Hass, The Ecco Press, 1994)

I’ve been told (but have never been able to accurately source it) that Arthur Koestler* said ‘true understanding involves transcending the barrier of paradox’. And that idea seems to be the backcloth to this haiku by Issa, how he subscribed to the non-violence at the heart of Buddhist thinking and behaviour yet could not live up to the first of the five precepts that all Buddhists should follow: ‘Avoid killing, or harming any living thing’. Because there’s no wriggle room to say that mosquitoes, annoying or not, aren’t living things. How could he call himself a Buddhist but also act in a way that betrayed his core beliefs? Does that make him a hypocrite?
On the logical surface of the argument, yes. But I imagine we are all culpable of what could be described as self-betrayals. Are we Chris…
sunset fishing the flood tide catching the light

tinywords 10 January 2018