Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  The Human Story:  >  A-12


Basho’s Reverence for Life

14 Basho haiku, 8 renku, 1 tanka, 3 spoken word about this reverence

Legend:
Words of Basho in bold
Words of other poets not bold

Albert Schweitzer made Reverence for Life the basic tenet of the ethical philosophy which he developed  in his hospital in Africa.  Basho also explored this reverence for what is alive.

 

Schweitzer said:

 

"Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil… we are brothers and sisters to all  living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves."

 

"Reverence for life” to Basho may differ from Schweitzer’s concept. The little I have read of Schweitzer is more wordy and philosophical than I can follow; I prefer the fewer and more concrete words of Basho’s version of Reverence for Life.  He said,

 

 We can live without poetry, however                                       
only by harmonizing with the world's feeling   
and passing through human feeling can we be fulfilled                
                                                       


Spring rain -
sprouted to two leaves
eggplant seed

 

The drab brown seed contains the genetic information to producea stalk with large green purple-veined leaves, bright purple flowers,and dark purple eggplants full of seeds. Early in spring these are returned to the Earth under a half inch of soil. Spring rains fallsgently and continuously to soak the tiny plant emerging from theseed. The two infant leaves reach out to the side like hands welcoming the rain.


We plant it
as we would a baby
cherry tree

 

Basho scholar Kon Eizo elaborates: “Planting this sapling, with fondness for its loveable name, we handle it with the care we would our own child.”Basho proposes that we treat both young plants and baby humans with tenderness and sensitivity.


Buddha’s Birthday
on this day is born
a baby deer

 

Fawns conceived in the autumn mating season now are born,18 inches from head to tail, and weighing 13 pounds. The doe licksher baby all over to activate sensory processes in the newborn brain and the baby stands up on spindly legs within 15 minutes. No matter how Japanese classical literature may dwell on the Buddha’s message of sadness in this transitory world, Basho sees within Buddhism  the Light of eternal creation.

 

New Year’s Day
sunlight on every field
is beloved

 

Rice fields, now at New Years, in early February, are barren expanses of mud and frost with row after row of rice stubble. The Sun (Goddess) is weak and cold, yet contains the promise of better things to come – and so Basho loves her. Nothing in this verse ties it to Basho’s time; anyone on Earth can see it any New Year’s Day.


On life’s journey
plowing a small field
going and returning

 

Before transplanting rice to the paddy, water from irrigation ditches floods the paddy. With horse or ox pulling the plow, the farmer goes up one row and down the next, breaking up the clumps of earth and raking the mud smooth. Would that each man forego ambition leading to war, and instead ‘plow a SMALL field’ so the women and children may go and return in peace.


Seeds start to sprout
for our treasured grass

Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself

 

The lovely infant rice plants look like ordinary grass, showing no sign that four months later they will yield the staple food of Asia.We watch Basho’s mind go from rice sprouting to a woman giving birth to the child she loves, then return to Mother Earth giving birth to countless billions of plants.

 

Gradually 
helped to sit up, she 
combs her hair

Cat fondly carressed 
by the one I adore

To stop blossoms
from falling, if only
there was a way

 


Recovering from a long near-fatal illness, with my help she sits up. Lying down, she could not comb her hair, but now sitting she runs the comb down her long black locks, absorbing their power into her body. Also lying down she could not stroke her beloved pet, but now with the cat in her lap, she passes her fingers through the soft fur. Watching her caress pet this small furry living thing – just after she was so close to death -- makes me love her all the more. If only there was a way to keep the young and tender from growing old and bitter. From Basho to Yaba and back to Basho went the thoughts of reverence of life, of “maintaining, assisting and enhancing life”

 

Suddenly speaking out
about my dead mother

All night long
soothing away the nun’s
chronic pain

 

Someone has kept silent about mother since she died, but now blurts out thoughts. Such a person is likely to say “I did not do enough for her when she was alive” – which leads to Yaba’s stanza of caring for an older woman, touching her tumor with sensitivity to soothe away the pain.

 

Over whites airing out
lark sings to the sky

Girls only
going to view blossoms
rise in a flock

 

Single layer cotton cloth has been rinsed and hangs on a line to dry; overhead a lark sings brightly rising to heaven. Japan idolizes the joyful sparkle of teenage girls. The flock of girls in their pretty robes, going to have fun, chatting and laughing with each other,complement the clarity and freshness of the first stanza. Clean white fabric, skylark, cherry blossoms, and group of happy girls, all rise up together. Basho, the poet of joie de vivre, the reverent joy of life.


At Mizuguchi meeting an old friend after twenty years:

 

It has lived
between our two lives
this cherry tree

 

You have gone your way and I have gone mine. Our paths intersect at this cherry tree in full bloom as it has blossomed and withered each of these twenty years. The tree having “lived between our two lives” is Basho’s expression of that mysterious connection between friends transcending physical separation. Through poetry Basho presents a philosophy of friendship.


How glorious
young leaves, green leaves
light of the sun

 

Reverence for photosynthesis.

 

Asked in 1690 to name a newborn girl, Basho wrote this tanka to his goddaughter he named Kasane:


Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom kimono
may you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

The double and triple meanings – layers of kimono, of years, of generations; wrinkles in the kimono and in her face -- overlap to form a web of blessing and hope for Kasane and all female children. Kasane, now your time begins, stretching to infinity before unfocused eyes. Soon you’ll be laughing and playing in the sunshine – that is, if no wars come and natural disasters, fatal illness, and financial ruin stay away too. One spring in youth, you shall begiven your first blossom-kimono. I pray the day comes for you to pass this youthful kimono onto your daughter, the next “layer” of yourself, while you wear one more moderate in color and pattern – and this too passes onto her, and you to the dark sedate kimono of an older woman.


So may our nation remain at Peace and the happiness in your family pile up layer upon layer until wrinkles in the fabric no longersmooth out and you see wrinkles of old age cross your face. Do not despair, my child, for you live again as spring passes by and yourgranddaughters laugh and chatter in their blossom kimono. In his few simple words Basho speaks of what concerns women: the succession of life, the happiness of children—the conditions of Peace, both social and family, in which little girls can dress up and party with relatives and friends, and life goes on generation after generation. The poem in five short lines encapsulates the existence of one woman from newborn to old age. It transcends the boundaries of literature to become something greater, an ode to Life.

 

His old haori jacket
makes the young looks old

Soundly, so soundly
the babe in remembrance
is put to sleep

 

 

Her husband has died; the baby they together created is a memento of him. She has placed his old padded jacket on the sleeping baby, and tucked it in for warmth, so the jacket has the form of a living body, reminding her of him. The two kinds of sleep – nightly and eternal – blend in our consciousness of Basho’s stanza. Putting the child down, reasonably certain to awake in a number of hours, but wondering if in sleep baby will travel to that other world where father is and not return.

 

This morning I found
a strand of white hair

Year after year
lined up under blossoms
number of friends

 

Basho begins with a human experience of old age, but this is too brief to be a poem. We need; the next poet to enlarge that experience. Each year at the blossom-viewing picnic, the years shall increase while the old friends decrease

 

Cherries in bloom
again she climbs the hill
to his grave

 

Every year in this season she comes here to climb the hill of her grief.

 

Basho's Reverence for Life has so many facets.

 

Japanese monkeys, the only ones in the world whose native habitat is so far north, live in packs of about ten in mountain forests. Inautumn they eat all the fruits, berries, seeds, leaves, insects, and crabs they can find, so they grow fat with the thick fur needed tosurvive winter in a mountain forest.


First winter shower,
the monkey too would like
a small rain coat

 

When it starts to rain, Basho hurriedly puts on his mino, a cape woven of straw and waterproofed with persimmon juice. He then sees a monkey shivering beside the road and simply presents his immediate child-like reverent thought – reverence expressed in that word “too”. Adults do not think so simply – unless they are adults who think like children. Adult thoughts are more complicated and knowledgeable. Basho always thinks the simple way. This is what he teaches us – to go back to the beginnings of thought, the thoughts in childhood that begin the development of Reverence for Life.


Basho viewed the famous cormorant fishing on the Nagara River. The birds dive to catch fish, but an iron ring around the gullet stops the fish from going down and men steal it from the hungry bird’s mouth. (Talk about exploitation!). Basho wrote this haiku


Interesting,
but by and by sad
cormorant fishing

 

The sadness he at first did not feel, but later did. A month later he wrote in a letter to Ensui that he had gone vegan.

 

Basho wrote the following haiku on a sketch he drew of three clam shells (with the living clam inside) on a leaf of duckweed:

 

Clams in shells
are worthwhile alive --
end of the year

 

Clam soup is a traditional favorite at New Years, so, to a merchant clams are only worthwhile dead. Basho says “Wrong.” Life itself is worthwhile. The end of the year is a good time to be conscious of what is worthwhile and what is not; a good time for reverence.

 

As a clam’s
body from shell parting
autumn passes

 

The passage of autumn is compared to the tearing of a clam from its shell – a most intimate and sensory image, tearing life from the clam.


Octopus trap
over fleeting dreams
summer moon

 

The traps are laid out in the evening; an octopus crawls in, thinking it a fine place to rest –then when the brief summer night becomes morning, the octopus cannot get out, and someone comes to make sushi out of the little fellow. Octopuses are highly intelligent,possibly more so than any other order of invertebrates. Maze and problem-solving experiments have shown evidence of a memory system that can store both short- and long-term memory. Does an octopus dream? Can an octopus who is alive and comfortable realize its life is soon to end? Can we?

 

In 1688 Chine, the younger sister of Basho’s follower Kyorai, died of illness at age 28.

Her jisei no ku or “farewell to life” poem was:


Easily glows
easily goes out
a firefly

 

Kyorai responded to his sister’s poem with:

 

On my palm
sadly goes out
the firefly

 

Simple words to express Chine’s humility and Kyorai’s grief.

Basho wrote:

 

While in Gifu I hear that Chine has passed away
so I send these words to the home of Kyorai.

 

Now the houserobe
of the one who is gone—
airing in the heat

 

Clothing gets musty in the warm moist summer, so one sunny day everything is hung outside to “air in the heat.”      Basho cannot be with Kyorai’s family in their grief, but he sends them an image which transcends the distance between Gifu and Kyoto. One of Chine’s kosode, a simple kimono for household wear, is being kept as a memento and is hanging outside with the rest of the family’s clothing. The traces of Chine’s being linger in the fabric she wore, gently dispersing in the warm breeze. Each verse conveys some aspect of reverence for life.

 

Two weeks before he died, Basho and followers gathered at the home of Madame Sonome where he wrote this verse praising her:


White chrysanthemum,
not a speck of dust rises
to meet the eye

 

He told Shiko:

 

"This is a verse about  the beauty of Sonome’s elegance.

Because I knew that today’s one meeting

would be the remnant of a lifetime,

I thought to watch for a vision in this hour."

 

He concentrates his attention on the woman before his eyes  -- for this will be his final chance to see her. Basho’s reverence is greatest for female life.

 

Three and a half days before the end, Basho spoke:

 

As the years passed by to half a century.

asleep I hovered among morning clouds

and evening dusk, awake I was astonished

at voices of mountain streams and wild birds

 

“Astonished at the voices of mountain streams and wild birds” — here we have the essence of Basho: a little child, astonished at sensations in nature, feeling reverence for all life.  

 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Three Myths Confining Basho (A-11) (A-13) Bonding the Generations >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com