Basho: The Master of Haikus

Osho on Enlightened Zen Master Basho

Matsuo Basho was the Japanese enlightened ZEN mystic and master, famous for his short poetries known as Haikus. Osho has explained that these Haikus are not from mind or thinking, they are simply what Basho use to see in utter silence, and just write it down. These short lines in the hands of an Enlightened Master carry deep meaning.

Osho has mentioned that Basho’s haiku’s had such a depth that it is incomparable.

In a very early age Basho started getting popular for his poetry. Despite of his success, Basho started feeling dissatisfied and lonely, and then he drew his interest towards ZEN meditation.

Osho says he was not just a poet. Before becoming a poet he was a mystic; before he starting pouring out with beautiful poetry, he poured deep into his own center. He was a meditator.

Some of the Basho’s Haikus-







Just the other night I was reading the famous haiku of Basho, the Zen mystic and master. It does not look like great poetry to the Western mind or to the mind which has been educated in a Western way. And now the whole world is being educated in the Western way; East and West have disappeared as far as education is concerned. Listen to it very silently, because it is not what you call great poetry but it is great insight — which is far more important. It has tremendous poetry, but to feel that poetry you have to be very subtle. Intellectually, it cannot be understood; it can be understood only intuitively.

This is the haiku:




Now, there seems to be nothing of great poetry in it. But let us go into it with more sympathy, because Basho is being translated into English; in his own language it has a totally different texture and flavor. The nazunia is a very common flower — grows by itself by the side of the road, a grass flower. It is so common that nobody ever looks at it. It is not a precious rose, it is not a rare lotus. It is easy to see the beauty of a rare lotus floating on a lake, a blue lotus — how can you avoid seeing it? For a moment you are bound to be caught by its beauty. Or a beautiful rose dancing in the wind, in the sun… for a split second it possesses you. It is stunning. But a nazunia is a very ordinary, common flower; it needs no gardening, no gardener, it grows by itself anywhere. To see a nazunia carefully a meditator is needed, a very delicate consciousness is needed; otherwise you will bypass it. It has no apparent beauty, its beauty is deep. Its beauty is that of the very ordinary, but the very ordinary contains the extraordinary in it, because all is full of God — even the nazunia flower. Unless you penetrate it with a sympathetic heart you will miss it.

When for the first time you read Basho you start thinking, “What is there so tremendously important to say about a nazunia blooming by the hedge?”

In Basho’s poem the last syllable — KANA in Japanese — is translated by an exclamation point because we don’t have any other way to translate it. But kana means, “I am amazed!” Now, from where is the beauty coming? Is it coming from the nazunia? — because thousands of people may have passed by the side of the hedge and nobody may have even looked at this small flower. And Basho is possessed by its beauty, is transported into another world. What has happened? It is not really the nazunia, otherwise it would have caught everybody’s eye. It is Basho’s insight, his open heart, his sympathetic vision, his meditativeness.

 Meditation is alchemy: it can transform the base metal into gold, it can transform a nazunia flower into a lotus. WHEN I LOOK CAREFULLY…. And the word ‘carefully’ means attentively, with awareness, mindfully, meditatively, with love, with caring. One can just look without caring at all, then one will miss the whole point. That word ‘carefully’ has to be remembered in all its meanings, but the root meaning is meditatively. And what does it mean when you see something meditatively? It means without mind, looking without the mind, no clouds of thought in the sky of your consciousness, no memories passing by, no desires… nothing at all, utter emptiness. When in such a state of no-mind you look, even a nazunia flower is transported into another world. It becomes a lotus of the paradise, it is no longer part of the earth; the extraordinary has been found in the ordinary. And this is the way of Buddha: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, to find all in the now, to find the whole in this — Buddha calls it TATHATA. Basho’s haiku is a haiku of tathata.

THIS nazunia, looked at lovingly, caringly through the heart, unclouded consciousness, in a state of no-mind… and one is amazed, one is in awe. A great wonder arises, How is it possible? This nazunia — and if a nazunia is possible then everything is possible. If a nazunia can be so beautiful, Basho can be a Buddha. If a nazunia can contain such poetry, then each stone can become a sermon. WHEN I LOOK CAREFULLY, I SEE THE NAZUNIA BLOOMING BY THE HEDGE! KANA…. I am amazed. I am dumb. I cannot say anything about its beauty — I can only hint at it. A haiku simply hints. The poetry describes, the haiku only indicates — and in a very indirect way.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse name: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 3 Chapter title: Be a buddha! Chapter #3

14 August 1979 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Zen Mystics like Bodhidharma, Rinzai, Hyakujo, Seppo, Bokoju, Basho, Joshu, Nansen, Dogen, Ma Tzu, Isan, Kyozan, Nan in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. A Bird on the Wing
  2. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  3. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  4. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  5. The First Principle
  6. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  7. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
  8. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  9. Live Zen
  10. The Sun Rises in the Evening
  11. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
  12. Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen
  13. The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself
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