Watch birth and death

by Natsume Soseki

English version by Soiku Shigematsu
Original Language Japanese

Watch birth and death:
The lotus has already
Opened its flower.

-- from Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Soseki, by Natsume Soseki / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This poem is a powerful haiku.

We've got birth, death... and flowering. What else is there?

Birth and death, they are a given, unavoidable. Often seekers assume that in the limited timeline strung between those two points, they must race to make the lotus flower of awareness open. But Soseki's Zen practice has revealed a fundamental truth: By contemplating birth and death with a truly still mind, one realizes that the lotus does not need to be opened; independent of death and birth and the thin space of time between them, the lotus is already open! Awareness naturally and always IS. We don't become awakened, we just notice that we already are awakened. "The lotus has already / Opened its flower."

Recommended Books: Natsume Soseki

A Box of Zen: Haiku the Poetry of Zen, Koans the Lessons of Zen, Sayings the Wisdom of Zen Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Soseki Kokoro

Watch birth and