Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...

This cold winter night

by Buson

English version by Sam Hamill

This cold winter night,
that old wooden-head Buddha
would make a nice fire

-- from The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library), Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by J. P. Seaton

/ Image by thanapat /

View All Poems by Buson

Chilly weather this morning. Makes a person cast about for a source of warmth... Hmm...

Every time I come across this haiku it makes me laugh. It works beautifully on several levels and can suggest almost opposite meanings. Superficially, we are contemplating an act of sacrilegious vandalism -- hungrily looking at a large wooden Buddha head, perhaps it is neglected or fallen, and fantasizing about setting it on fire for a little comfort. On the other hand, the head engulfed in flames is a common image in Asian iconography to represent enlightenment, a variation on the nimbus or halo -- so the haiku can just as easily be saying something about warming oneself through spiritual illumination.

The haiku shocks, it even offends, at the same time that it inspires awakening -- a masterful joke!

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/ Photo by Daisuke Matsumura /

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