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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger
Yesterday we had our first heavy snowfall of the season here in Colorado. Today the clouds are breaking and the sun is coming out, lighting up the snow with a crystalline shine. It brought to mind this haiku, one of my favorites by Basho...
Snow appears in the sacred poetry of many traditions, particularly the Buddhist poetry of East Asia. It can imply a few things, depending on the context.
When the difficulties and coldness and enforced internalization of winter are emphasized, snow can represent the struggles of spiritual practice that precede the spiritual awakening of spring.
When the silence that settles upon the world in snow is emphasized, it can represent the perfect stillness of mind that occurs in true meditation.
When the quality of covering or engulfing all things in a uniform whiteness is highlighted, snow is a metaphorical reference to the light that shines through everything, the light one perceives when the mind awakens.
This haiku by Basho can carry variations of all of these meanings, but especially the last one.
Notice the joke in these lines: By viewing the snow we become buried in it -- and that is what Basho is really inviting us to do. With a lot of snow (and a dash of wit), Basho is saying that by viewing something deeply, we become what we view. Seeing the universal radiance, we become the radiance. Hearing the silence, we become the silence. Witness the eternal, and we become consumed by it, buried by it, the egoistic separate sense of self becomes lost in the blanket of white that covers everything, making all of existence one.
Viewing the snow, we become buried in it, we become one with the snow-covered world.
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2002 - 2011 by Ivan M. Granger.
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