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Gabi Greve on Issa

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For me, Issa is one of the great SENPAI, one that did what I do a long time before me, a sort of big brother, teacher, companion of lonely hours...

His respect for the small things in life, his own simple life...reflect exactly what we do here in our Paradise Hermitage, GokuRakuAn. It was not meant to imitate him on purpose, it just happens to be that way when you start to live in an old farmhouse in Nowhereland in rural Japan. I came to appreciate the haiku of Issa as real-life sketches, being surrounded by HIS ants and HIS sparrows and HIS odd neighbours. Even the Tonosama ("feudal lords") he writes about still exist in our rural Japan, just by a different name...

His way of living Pure Land Buddhism and telling us about it in his humble haiku is a great way to teach foreigners that Japanese Buddhism has more to offer than ZEN, that Japanese haiku has more to offer than this new American Invention, the Haiku Moment.

Reading Issa is always a time-slip back to the "Good Old Edo Period", with all its not-so-good events at the side. Thanks to the great haiga of Nakamura Sakuo we can now imagine things even better, see them even more clearly.

With Issa, you can learn that haiku is not just a clever play of words, but a way of living. A haiku that does not spring out of a moment lived to the fullest will not itself come to live. Words and ideas that hang in your brain do not make for good haiku, only pathetic statements in three lines.

Take your time, sit by the weeds, watch the stones grow and learn to appreciate this anata makase ("trust in the Beyond"), not as a philosopy but a daily reality. Issa is a great teacher, but then, are you ready to be a great student?

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