ura wo mise omote wo misete chiru momiji
now it reveals its hidden side
and now the other—thus it falls,
an autumn leaf © Ryokan Taigu
somersaulting in free-fall
delicate flash of colour Kim M. Russell, 2017
Image found on howplantswork.com
Today’s ‘hokku’ is by lesser known classical haiku poet, Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831), who renounced the world at an early age to train at Sōtō Zen temple Kōshō-ji, refusing to meet with or accept charity from his family. When the Zen master Kokusen visited the temple, Ryōkan was so impressed with his demeanor that he became his disciple. When Kokusen died, Ryōkan left Entsū-ji to embark on a long pilgrimage. He lived much of the rest of his monastic life as a hermit, writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and communing with nature. His poetry is often very simple and inspired by nature. He loved children and sometimes forgot to beg for food because he was playing with the children of the nearby village. Ryōkan lived a very simple life, and stories about his kindness and generosity abound.
The ‘hokku’ we are using today is Ryokan’s Jisei (death-poem), which he gave Teishin, his close companion, on his deathbed.