Bashô's Narrow Road
You can tell a lot about a book from the opening passage, and I just love
this quote from Narrow Road to the Interior:
The moon and the sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A
lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years,
every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
I added the emphasis in that quote, as this really explains not just the
purpose of a journey … which is really to travel, not just to get
someplace. For him, the journey gives him a sort of rest he doesn't get in
This quote also implies the inward journey. The goal isn't to get to Heaven,
enlightenment, or whatever you call it-- it is the transformation that happens
as we journey there.
While this book is a travelog about this Japanese poet who goes on a trip, he
writes it as a poem. His journey is punctuated by haiku … not just in the
written dialog, but also used to describe the journey. For instance, as he
leaves his hut, he pins a poem to it:
Even this grass hut
may be transformed
into a doll's house.
By "doll's house", he is referring to a mansion, and the transformation here is
alchemist's goal: transformation of the lead of our mortal selves into the gold of our
A couple other quotes/poems that I have found interesting …
All along this road
not a single soul-- only
A haiku, like a Zen koan, isn't supposed to explain it, but to create the mood
and atmosphere. So a haiku's brevity shows what is good about it, but also what
makes it difficult for some people to appreciate.
Still, a haiku is a poem, and poems often let you tease out and catch the
multiple meanings. So while this particular haiku talks about the direct experience of
walking on a road alone in the evening, it also addresses me about the road to the
inward soul … a spiritual journey is always done alone, and while it isn't
completely dark, it isn't bright either. In many myths, twilight
is the threshold between the day and the night, and is the time for the magic
of the stories, of transformation.
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