Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,
I love to introduce a new feature at Carpe Diem's daily haiku meme. It's a weekly kind of column in which I will walk the "Narrow Road to the Deep North" (Oku-no-Hosomichi) by Matsuo Basho and try to explain his journey out of Zen-Buddhism, ancient and modern poetry and literature.
Today the prologue of this series of 'columns'. At the end of each episode I will reproduce the 'station' which was the base of the episode and I hope that you all gonna love Oku-no-Hosomichi as I do. In my opinion this haibun "Oku no Hosomichi" is Basho's masterpiece.
|Basho and Sora on their journey to the Deep North|
Salvatore Quasimodo said: [...] "Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own" [...]
Basho's travel journals, purportedly, the earliest examples of haibun a mix of prose and haiku, are often cited important reading for serious students of the form, as we all are I think (smiles). They showed readers his Japan in a way that was both personal and that allowed us to share his journey, as if we too were present at the events. (Source: www.studymode.com)
As I started to prepare this new feature I was reading "Mount Analogue" by Rene Daumal, a French para-surrealist writer and poet.
Sometime in the year 1924 he, Daumal, had a mystical experience that became the determining event of his life. Soaking a handkerchief in carbon tetrachloride - a powerful anesthetic he used for his beetle collection - the sixteen-year-old Daumal hold it to his nostrils and inhaled. Instantly he felt himself "thrown brutally into another world" a strange other dimension of geometric forms and incomprehensible sounds in which his mind "traveled too fast to drag words along with it" (Daumal, Powers of the Word).
It was his first encounter with what he would later call "absurd evidence" - "proof" that another existence lies beyond the conscious mind.
"Mount Analogue" is similar with "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Basho, it's a journey through our common world, and the journey will be a spiritual path that leads to Karumi (Enlightment) as Basho was seeking for while he walked 'the narrow road to the deep north' and Daumal was seeking for as he took of in The Impossible (a boat) with his companions to find the Analogue Mountain that reaches to Heaven, as the Tower of Babel was meant to be in Genesis 11: 1-9 (NIV).
In the prologue of the "Narrow Road" Basho calls himself a traveller of eternity and with that said he says: "It's time to go and find Karumi, let the Deep North, my Innerself, become enlightened". With this it's clear that he was longing for the deep spiritual truth of life as Daumal did as he wrote "Mount Analogue". The only difference between Basho and Daumal is that Basho's journey has been a real journey and Daumal's journey was one inside his mind. Nontheless ... both went on a trip to find themselves.
Finally Basho completed his journey and died a few months later. His "Narrow Road to the Deep North" was published a few years after his death and was illustrated in a later publication by Buson. Rene Daumal didn't finish his "Mount Analogue", he died at the age of 36 of Tuberculosis leaving a legacy of poems, articles and the unfinished "Mount Analogue". "Mount Analogue" was published in 1952 and a movie "The Holy Mountain" with "Mount Analogue" as base imagery was produced and published in 1973. (This movie won several prices).
|Filmposter The Holy Mountain|
So there were a few similarities in the lives and works of Basho and Daumal, both shared their spiritual journey with the world after they died.
I love to share a part of the Prologue of Basho's "Narrow Road to the Deep North" in a translation from Japanese to English by Noboyuki Yuasa. I think that part gives a good view of Basho's intention to walk his Narrow Road to the Deep North.
[...] "Days and months are the travelers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives traveling. There are a great number of the ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind-filled with a strong desire to wander". [...]
[...] "Even while I was getting ready, mending my own trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the Islands of Matsushima. Finally, I sold my house, moving to the cottage of Sampu, for a temporary stay. Upon the threshold of my old home, however, I wrote a linked verse of eight pieces and hung it on a wooden pillar "[...]
The Renga which is mentioned in the above quote no longer exists. Only one verse is nowadays known from this Renga, it's the Hokku (starting verse):
behind this door
buried in deep grass others will celebrate
the Festival of Dolls
(c) Matsuo Basho "Oku no Hosomichi"
With this verse he expresses how different his situation is from that of the new owners of his house.
In the second fragment that I quoted we can read what Zen-Buddhism says about material things. With the selling of his house Basho's says "It's time to burn all the ships behind me and start a new life". It's a pure thought of Selflessness. He packs up all his personal belongings and departs, as we will see in the next episode of Carpe Diem's Oku no Hosomichi.
In that episode we will depart from everything and everyone in our life to find Karumi (Enlightenment).
following his trail
on a journey through the world
to find ourselves
(c) Chèvrefeuille (your host)
To enclose this first episode I will share the first station of Basho's Oku no Hosomichi in a translation by Noboyuki Yuasa with you all.