NotaBene .

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Renku, Haiku, and Buddhism

It is commonly known that the one-breath poetic form of haiku evolved from the starting verse of Japanese rengathe linked verse form that is widely referred to today as renku. Not commonly known is that renku was shaped over time by Japanese poet-priests to become ultimately a Buddhist ritual designed to lead its participants on an imagined tour of the Mandala of All Creation with the sole purpose of helping them to realize the transience of the universe, thereby taking a major step toward enlightenment. This paper traces the development of renku and haiku to the present day to show how twenty-first century haiku poets stand at a crossroads: they can either continue Masaoka Shikis trajectory of de-spiritualizing haiku, or they can cultivate a more traditional spiritual understanding of haikus art and deep purpose.

This essay first appeared in David G. Lanoue, My Journal with Haiku Sprinkled in (HaikuGuy.com, 2019).
Joint publication with Haiku world

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Abstract: The Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1828) advocated a childlike state of consciousness for composers of haiku. This essay firstly examines Issa's aesthetic approach in the context of cultural antecedents, including Chinese Taoism and Japanese Pure Land Buddhism; and secondly it relates the approach to recent research in neuroscience concerning the development of the Default Mode Network (DMN). Issa's desire, expressed in one of his early poems, to become a child on New Year's Day can be understood as an attempt to return to a primary state of consciousness that preceded the development of the DMN or adult ego. The essay argues that this state of primary consciousness continues to be an important prerequisite for excellent haiku.

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