In the cherry blossom's shade

by Kobayashi Issa

English version by Robert Hass
Original Language Japanese

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.

-- from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

In Japanese Zen poetry, spring blossoms, particularly cherry blossoms, are often used as symbols for the simple, natural, unfolding springtime of enlightenment.

Understanding this, the rest of the poem opens up.

In the "shade" or, you might say, beneath the canopy of enlightenment, there is no longer any sense of separation. Nothing and no one is foreign to you. There is no such thing as a stranger.

In the cherry