Don't weep, insects

by Kobayashi Issa

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
Original Language Japanese

Don't weep, insects --
Lovers, stars themselves,
Must part.

-- from A Box of Zen: Haiku the Poetry of Zen, Koans the Lessons of Zen, Sayings the Wisdom of Zen, Edited by Manuela Dunn Mascetti / Edited by Timothy Hugh Barrett

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Another haiku by Issa.

We can't take an expansive view of existence without making room in our philosophy for that universal experience of death and the (apparent) separation that results. Issa's short meditation on this terrible question is somehow sweet, even soothing. It places our personal experience within a vast community of reality -- a quiet acknowledgment that great and small all share the same initiation of breathing out, of letting go.

It seems physical existence is, in some ways, an immense stage for the acting out of the two great dramas of being: learning to connect, and then learning to release. The first requires a heart that is open; the second requires a heart even more open.

Is this a melancholy meditation? When we look at this question with a steady gaze, a calm mind, and that open heart, we can glimpse a life within that doesn't pale at parting even from the body itself. That unflickering glow, that is us, our true self, the sustained self.

And it seems to me it is with that voice that Issa makes his observation of parting -- a wholeness of being watching a passing phenomenon. Such universal rending should be a catastrophe in the soul, yet we don't feel it that way as we read these lines. There is something fleeting and superficial in the haiku's separation, and something eternal in the witness uttering its words.

Have a beautiful day, and a new moon bringing new beginnings, new possibilities.



Recommended Books: Kobayashi Issa

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment A Box of Zen: Haiku the Poetry of Zen, Koans the Lessons of Zen, Sayings the Wisdom of Zen





Don't weep, insects