Oct 09 2015
Barn’s burnt down
English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
Barn’s burnt down —
I can see the moon.
— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto
/ Image by Alex37 /
I love this haiku. Using so few words, it still manages to say so much.
The moon, as I have pointed out before, is often used in Zen poetry to represent Buddha-mind, awakened awareness. The burnt barn can suggest worldly calamity and loss which can suddenly open us to the radical, serene truth that surrounds us everywhere. Or the barn can represent our own self-enclosing thoughts, “burned” down by spiritual practice and the ecstatic psychic spaciousness that can result.
So read that haiku again. Line-by-line:
The old structure, the barn has burnt down. It has collapsed, been cleared away.
Now. Now– The shock has brought us, stunned, into the present moment.
The psychic field cleared, finally we can see the luminous moon, the light of enlightenment.
|Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter||Japanese Death Poems|
Mizuta Masahide was a samurai in the Zeze domain of Ohmi Province. Masahide initially studied haikai first under Shohaku but later became a disciple of the famous poet Basho.
In 1688 Masahide’s house was burnt down, prompting him to write his most famous haiku Barn’s burnt down… This haiku is said to have been highly praised by Basho. Masahide visited Basho who was staying in the southern shore of the Lake Biwa and under Basho’s tutorial studied haikai diligently.
After the death of Basho in 1694, Masahide lamented that no one would praise if he wrote haikai according to ryuko (newness, change or fashion) and that he would therefore just concentrate on fueki (eternal poetic truth).
Masahide practiced medicine as well and loved drink. He died about 30 years after Basho.
(Thank you to Susumi Takeguchi and Gabriel Rosenstock for supplying these biographical notes.)