Japanese Buddhist poetry and shadow of death: Henjo (816-890) and Sogi (1421-1502)

Japanese Buddhist poetry and shadow of death: Henjō (816-890) and Sōgi (1421-1502)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Buddhist poetry in Japan entails many holy men over countless centuries. In the two poems highlighted, the focus is the shadow of death. Therefore, despite Henjō (816-890) and Sōgi (1421-1502) coming from completely different periods of history, the continuity of Buddhism brings them together. 

These two holy Buddhist monks – like so many others – were impacted greatly by Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism. Other philosophical patterns and different Buddhist concepts will have shaped each individual. However, Henjō and Sōgi share the thread of Buddhism and a different clicking clock. 

Henjō beautifully wrote:

On his way to leave the world, a man
Comes to rest
Beneath the trees
But he finds no shade
For every Autumn leaf has fallen.

These words are extremely poignant because all life is a second away from nothingness. Hence, even in the final moments of life, realism dictates to this holy Buddhist monk. Also, you can feel the strong Buddhist faith of Henjō in this delightful poem. 

In the poem by Sōgi, the focus is on the aftermath of a loved one – or loved ones – now parted from this world. This Buddhist holy monk wrote:

We may realize
that people are merely dreams:
the house abandoned,
its wild garden becomes home
to a swarm of butterflies.

The words in these two poems by Henjō and Sōgi are timeless. Hence, Buddhists – and non-Buddhists alike – can admire the mindsets of these two holy men who blessed this world during their lifetime – and who thankfully left traces of beauty behind. 

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/sawako-utsumi.html – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, postcards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests. – ALL ART IN THIS ARTICLE BY SAWAKO UTSUMI 

http://www.wakapoetry.net/kks-v-292/ – Waka Poetry website

http://davidbowles.us/poetry/translations/dream-people-by-monk-sogi/ – translated by David Bowles

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