Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,
Today I have a beautiful "hokku" by a not so well known classical haiku poet, Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831). Let me tell you a little bit more about him to introduce him to you.
|Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831)|
Ryōkan was born as Eizō Yamamoto (Yamamoto Eizō?) in the village of Izumozaki in Echigo Province (now Niigata Prefecture) in Japan to the village headman. He renounced the world at an early age to train at nearby Sōtō Zen temple Kōshō-ji, refusing to meet with or accept charity from his family. Once the Zen master Kokusen visited the temple, and Ryōkan was deeply impressed with his demeanor. He solicited permission to become Kokusen's disciple. Kokusen accepted, and the two returned to Entsū-ji monastery in Tamashima (now Okayama Prefecture).
It was at Entsū-ji that Ryōkan attained satori and was presented with an Inka by Kokusen. Kokusen died the following year, and Ryōkan left Entsū-ji to embark on a long pilgrimage. He lived much of the rest of his monastic life as a hermit. His decision to leave Entsū-ji may have been influenced by Gentō Sokuchū, the abbot of the temple. At the time, Gentō was aggressively reforming the Sōtō school to remove perceived 'foreign' elements, including kōan.
He was originally ordained as Ryōkan Taigu. Ryō means "good", kan means "broad", and Taigu means "great fool"; Ryōkan Taigu would thus translate as "broad-hearted generous fool", referring to qualities that Ryōkan's work and life embodies.
Ryōkan spent much of his time writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and communing with nature. His poetry is often very simple and inspired by nature. He loved children, and sometimes forgot to beg for food because he was playing with the children of the nearby village. Ryōkan refused to accept any position as a priest or even as a "poet." In the tradition of Zen his quotes and poems show he had a good sense of humor and didn't take himself too seriously.
|Statue of Ryokan Taigu|
Ryōkan lived a very simple life, and stories about his kindness and generosity abound. On his deathbed, Ryōkan offered the following death poem to Teishin, his close companion:
Although he lived a simple and pure life, Ryōkan also displayed characteristics that under normal circumstances would be out of line for a typical monk.
In 1826 Ryōkan became ill and was unable to continue living as a hermit. He moved into the house of one of his patrons, Kimura Motouemon, and was cared for by a young nun called Teishin. "The [first] visit left them both exhilarated, and led to a close relationship that brightened Ryōkan's final years".The two of them exchanged a series of haiku. The poems they exchanged are both lively and tender. Ryōkan died from his illness on the 6th day of the new year 1831. "Teishin records that Ryōkan, seated in meditation posture, died 'just as if he were falling asleep”.
performing its "dying swan" © Chèvrefeuille