And now for a completely different tradition of poetry and spirituality; a little haiku and Zen. When you get down to it though, the truths are the same. Different flavors of ice cream are still ice cream.

I’ve featured the haiku of Mitsu Suzuki here before. She wasn’t only a haiku poet, but wife to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and with him played an important role in bringing Zen Buddhism to North America. First a couple of her haiku written in the summer months, then a spiritual teaching from Suzuki Roshi based on his visit to Yosemite National Park.

by RobW

Too small
to call it a Zen garden
moss blossoms

Gardenia’s
whiteness remains
the night is complete

——

I went to Yosemite National Park, and I saw some huge waterfalls. The highest one there is 1,340 feet high, and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you might expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance. And the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling of being separate when it is one whole river. Only when divided into many drops can it begin to have or express some separate feeling.

 

Before we were born we had no such feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called ‘mind-only,’ or ‘essence of mind,’ or ‘big mind.’ After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have such feelings. And you have difficulty because of such feelings. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore and we have no actual difficulty in our life.

 

— Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


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Waterfalls as Metaphor for Oneness