Buddhism and Poetry are nothing new to Japan, if not Buddhist cultures in general, but in the case of Japan, the main poet of note is of course Basho, whose haikus have inspired many generations. However, in Japan, three other haiku masters are collectively recognized along with Basho as the Four Masters of Haiku:
- Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)
- Yosa Buson (1716 – 1783)
- Kobayashi Issa
- Masaoka Shiki (1867 – 1902)
(1763 – 1828)
Normally haikus get associated with Zen, but this is not always the case. For Kobayashi Issa, his background as a Jodo Shinshu lay minister inspired his haikus from to time to time, while others wrote on more traditional, secular subjects.
Speaking of Issa, poems on him have been hard to find and sporadic, but I was very happy to find a more comprehensive site that listed many poems. This is an excellent site because both the Japanese and translations are listed, so if you like Issa at all, definitely check it out. Among the ones I really liked here was:
ne narande ko chō to neko to oshō kana
Which the translator says:
sleeping in a row–
little butterfly, cat
Which describes a little “family” at the temple.
Anyway, check out if you have time! Also, here’s another Issa poetry website, that will even provide daily emails if you signup. Very cool.
Namu Amida Butsu