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Basho

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Immersive attention through Basho and Haiku.

Published in: Spiritual
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Basho

  1. 1. Basho
  2. 2. The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still I have always been drawn by windblown clouds into dreams of a lifetime of wandering. Basho, more than 300 years ago in the first entry of his masterpiece, Oku no Hosomichi, or Narrow Road to the North.
  3. 3. Bashō's supposed birthplace in Iga province.
  4. 4. don't imitate me we are not two halves of a muskmelon
  5. 5. Haiseiden (俳聖殿, Poet's Memorial Hall) in Iga, Mie, which was built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Bashō's birth.
  6. 6. How very noble! One who finds no satori in the lightning-flash
  7. 7. A statue of Bashō in Hiraizumi, Iwate
  8. 8. On a journey, Resting beneath the cherry blossoms, I feel myself to be in a Noh play.
  9. 9. A statue commemorating Matsuo Bashō's arrival in Ōgaki
  10. 10. Will you turn toward me? I am lonely, too, this autumn evening.
  11. 11. Basho and Sora
  12. 12. A lovely spring night suddenly vanished while we viewed cherry blossoms
  13. 13. Fleas, lice, The horse pissing Near my pillow
  14. 14. Picture and Poem by Matsuo Basho: Quietly, quietly,/ yellow mountain roses fall – /sound of the rapids. (Makoto Ueda)
  15. 15. The temple bell stops. But the sound keeps coming out of the flowers.
  16. 16. Hiroshige. One Hundred Famous Views of Edo #040. "Basho's Hermitage and Camelia Hill on the Kanda Aqueduct at Sekiguchi"
  17. 17. From Michael Yamashita's photos featured in National Geographic's photo gallery "Basho's Trail."
  18. 18. along this road going with no one autumn evening
  19. 19. “The road gods beckoned.” Thus the poet Matsuo Basho set off in 1689 into Japan’s backcountry. His journal, Narrow Road to a Far Province, described a path, still visible on Natagiri Pass, that devotees have followed ever since.
  20. 20. autumn begins sea and sprouting rice fields one green
  21. 21. Basho celebrated the gauzy green of newly planted rice fields in spring in a haiku—a short, chant-like poem with nature at its heart. “One whole paddy field / Was planted ere I moved on / From that willow tree!”
  22. 22. if I took it in hand, it would melt in my hot tears- heavy autumn frost
  23. 23. A watery moon rises above Nanko lake, reminiscent of the moon views that Basho extolled. Comparing himself to a windblown cloud, he wandered for five months, from spring through fall, exulting in almost every view.
  24. 24. All along this road not a single soul- only autumn evening
  25. 25. Though a celebrated poet, Basho yearned for a simple life. On the trail he dressed as a Buddhist monk, perhaps wearing straw-and-cotton sandals like ones still used at a Zen retreat.
  26. 26. The old pond; the frog. Plop!
  27. 27. The splash of a frog, a cricket chirping from beneath an empty samurai helmet, “the cool fragrance of snow”: Such closely observed moments in nature, often marrying unlikely elements, distinguish Basho’s poetry.
  28. 28. a wanderer, let that be my name- the first winter rain.
  29. 29. Shroud-like veils of falling water on the Abukuma River evoke the ghostly presence of past poets whose words kept Basho company on the rugged trail. Hoping to “feel the truth of old poems,” Basho plotted his route to pass sites known as uta- makura, or poetic pillows: shrines, mountaintops, cherry-tree groves, and other spots memorably described by other writers. Many of the haiku in his book allude to these earlier verses—Basho’s way of adding layers of mood and meaning to the landscape he evoked.
  30. 30. Won't you come and see loneliness? Just one leaf from the kiri tree.
  31. 31. A meditative observer, Basho paid heed to nature’s modest dramas, like a leaf floating through reflections in a mountain stream. Sights like this reminded the poet that life is fleeting. At a fort fallen into ruins, he wept as he wrote, “A mound of summer grass / Are warriors’ heroic deeds / Only dreams that pass?” His closing haiku hints at Basho’s sense that his own days were waning. He died in 1694, not long after finishing his book. Three centuries later, Basho’s words still touch a chord with travelers sensitive to language and landscape.
  32. 32. blue seas breaking waves smell of rice wine tonight's moon
  33. 33. Basho’s route led across the Mogami River. When he crossed in July 1689, the river was swollen with rainwater and running dangerously fast. After his “perilous” voyage in a borrowed rice cargo boat, Basho wrote: “Gathering as it goes / All the rains of June, how swiftly / The Mogami flows!”
  34. 34. Spring departs. Birds cry Fishes' eyes are filled with tears
  35. 35. Silhouetted against the surface of the Mogami, a fisherman carries a long bamboo rod, the same kind that was used in Basho’s day. After viewing the river’s mouth at sunset on a sweltering day, he wrote: “The river Mogami / Has drowned the hot, summer sun / And sunk it in the sea!”
  36. 36. butterflies flit in a field of sunlight that is all
  37. 37. In his travel diary, Narrow Road to a Far Province, Basho found lyric use for the iris and its brilliant hue. Presented with a gift of straw sandals with blue laces, Basho was moved to write: “Sandal thongs of blue: / We’ll seem shod with irises / Of the bravest hue!”
  38. 38. In 1680 one of his students built the poet a small house near the River Sumida, and soon after, when another presented him with a stock of basho tree (a species of banana), the poet started writing under the name that has endured: Basho. Credible accounts of his life hold that during this period he was plagued with spiritual doubt and took up the study of Zen Buddhism. His despair only deepened in 1682, when his house burned to the ground in a fire that obliterated much of Edo. He wrote: Tired of cherry, Tired of this whole world, I sit facing muddy sake And black rice.
  39. 39. banana plant in autumn storm rain drips into tub hearing the night
  40. 40. The poet’s samurai name was Matsuo Munefusa, but we know him by the name he adopted in middle age. That name, Basho, is Japanese for a kind of banana plant with a sturdy stalk and fragile, easily torn fronds—features with which the poet identified. The banana plant that grew outside his simple house in Edo, the former name of Tokyo, figures in one of his contemplative haiku: “A banana plant in the autumn gale— / I listen to the dripping of rain / Into a basin at night.”
  41. 41. How wild the sea is, and over Sado Island, the River of Heaven
  42. 42. Pine, rock, and sea form an elemental vista along the Sea of Japan, where Basho endured the most difficult stretch of his 1689 journey. Beset by heat and rain, he struggled for nine days on the coastal path. “It was every man for himself,” he wrote, “as the names of the worst spots implied: ‘Oblivious of Parent, Oblivious of Child,’ ‘Dogs Turn Back,’ and ‘Send Back Your Horse.’”
  43. 43. bright red the pitiless sun autumn winds
  44. 44. A setting sun seen through fringe of pampas grass heralds the night, a time when Basho enjoyed socializing. He often lodged in the houses of friends, students, or admirers, joining them in composing haikai—linked verse. He also stayed at shrines, where the discipline of the monks deeply impressed him. And at least once, according to his diary, he slept outdoors, witnessing the sunrise on the snowy heights of mount Gassan.
  45. 45. The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly
  46. 46. Bashō's grave in Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture
  47. 47. sick on a journey – over parched fields dreams wander on

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