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    Post  tunnymac on Tue Mar 22, 2016 2:46 pm

    | Ray Rasmussen's Homepage | | Email | | Part 1 | | Part 2 | | Part 3 |

    Haiku and Meditation: Part 3
    Ray Rasmussen

    "The haiku moment is a freight train of color and image and you are standing on the tracks. The entire train will pass through you and you will be left standing on the trembling trestle of your life holding a little scrap of paper in your hand and on this paper will be the seismic equivalent of what occurred as the train passed through you, the moment you and the train were one. In that moment of forgetfulness and understanding you will know that the train is always passing through you, that the freight car is also the loco/motive and the caboose. That time is one."

    Earl Keener, haiku poet

    A third meditative aspect of haiku is the reading of a haiku. Consider this classic haiku by Buson (1716-84):

    on the one ton temple bell
    a moon-moth, folded into sleep,
    sits still.
    A person new to haiku poetry might think: “Such a short poem! A moth and a bell. What’s there to think about? What’s so special?”

    The answer is, don’t think about it! Don’t count syllables or try to analyze what Buson may have meant by his haiku. Instead allow an image come to mind, the image he presents in the haiku. Move onto the train track and let his train, his haiku moment flow into you.

    Here’s my mediation on his haiku: I walk through a japanese garden and enter a small wooden gazebo. A wooden bench invites me to sit. Suspended from the ceiling is a great blue-black bell. A wooden clapper, a small log suspended from two chains hangs, next to it. And, just there on the bell is a moon moth, in substance as opposite the massive bell as anything can be, small, fragile, light, delicately colored. This moth will live but a day, whereas the bell will perhaps exist forever. The moth isn’t stirring. I can see the moon shapes on its wings, the lovely curl of its wings. It awaits the ringing of the bell. The clapper, almost as massive as the bell, is slowly drawn back, released, strikes the bell. A resonating sound flows into my chest, I become its instrument, I feel the singing bell, it sings in me, it floods me with sensation. Awakened, I fly off into the garden.

    Of course, this is but my own unique mental processing of the images offered in Buson’s haiku. It happens that such a bell exists in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden near my home and that I have sat in the gazebo and have swung the wooden clapper and rung the bell. But, no, there was no moon moth on the bell when I visited. Buson’s haiku brought a new experience of that bell to me, a mix of memory and haiku imagery. In the meditation, I became the moth, experienced the beauty of the moment, and then moved on.
    Your meditation will undoubtedly be different. You may not have seen such a bell, heard one ring, visited a Japanese Garden, or seen a moon moth. Regardless, your mind knows about these things … it will lead you into an experience with Buson’s bell and moth that is uniquely yours. It doesn’t matter whether your meditative experience is identical to Buson’s, after all, how could it have been? Nor does it matter whether you have captured the true meaning or essence of Buson’s haiku.

    America’s Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, created the poem "Japan" in response to this same haiku. It demonstrates the richness of the imagery that can flow from a seemingly simple three line haiku.


    Today I pass the time reading
    a favorite haiku,
    saying the few words over and over.
    It feels like eating
    the same small, perfect grape
    again and again.
    I walk through the house reciting it
    and leave its letters falling
    through the air of every room.
    I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
    I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
    I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.
    I listen to myself saying it,
    then I say it without listening,
    then I hear it without saying it.
    And when the dog looks up at me,
    I kneel down on the floor
    and whisper it into each of his long white ears.
    It's the one about the one-ton
    temple bell
    with the moth sleeping on its surface,
    and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
    pressure of the moth
    on the surface of the iron bell.
    When I say it at the window,
    the bell is the world
    and I am the moth resting there.
    When I say it at the mirror,
    I am the heavy bell
    and the moth is life with its papery wings.
    And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
    you are the bell,
    and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,
    and the moth has flown
    from its line
    and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.
    --Billy Collins
    1997 Big Snap

    If you are interested in composing or reading haiku, there are many resources on the Internet. Use the search terms “haiku” and “masters” and you will find the works of Basho, Issa, Buson, Shiki and many others. In addition, you will find the poems of many modern English haijin. All of them offer rich meditative images.

    | Ray Rasmussen's Homepage | | Email | | Part 1 | | Part 2 | | Part 3 |


    Ray Rasmussen lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He spends a good deal of his outdoor time doing landscape and flower photography and hiking in Canyonlands National Park, Utah and in one of Canada's most remote and untouched provincial parks, Willmore Wilderness just North of Jasper National Park. He writes haiku poetry and its related prose form called haibun |prose plus haiku|. He is also active in creating haiga |haiku plus images|. In a previous life he was a University Professor.

    Earl Keener, whose metaphor likening the haiku moment to a train, is a well known, contemporary haiku poet.

    | Ray Rasmussen's Homepage | | Email | | Part 1 | | Part 2 | | Part 3 |

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    Post  B.B.Baghor on Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:31 am

    Thank you, tunnymac. That poem "Japan" It's beautiful expressed, what I experience, in how multi layered
    our senses can be, while experiencing the world of matter and spirit, both held in our awareness.

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