On Thursday morning I ordered a bunch of books from Amazon. Lately I’ve started reading and in some cases re-reading texts related to the Samurai tradition, I’m not sure why other than I guess I need something to immerse myself in. Thursday afternoon I learnt that one of my uncles has passed away, so it was with mixed feelings I received a delivery from Amazon today containing, amongst other texts, a collection of Japanese Death Poems – in Zen they are often referred to as Parting of Life Verses since tradition has it that they composed by individuals on the verge of death. I’ve been reading a lot related to Zen lately and it’s not a secret that I have a bit of an obsession with haiku and also tanka. I am amazed to think of the presence of mind needed to compose the kind of verses I’ve been reading as the last thing these men and women did before succumbing to death.
It feel’s inadequate to describe these verses as beautiful in fact I can’t think of any adjective that does them justice. As I read some of them, I found that they forced me to reflect on recent events in my life, particularly the death of my father, I’m reminded of the pain that I feel and that I know I have been hiding from (something a friend at Talis forced me to confront on Thursday afternoon when he gave up part of his afternoon to see if I was ok, and to whom I am grateful).
As much as it hurts to think about it I find that I’m smiling, my father used to say that no-one could really choose the time of their passing, that it was inevitable and we should not fear it, but what we should do is make the most of the time we have and try to be the very best that we can.
He did and He was.
… and that’s a comforting thought 🙂 .
As for this collection of verses, as deeply profound as they all, one that captivated me the most so far was written by a woman, Oroku:
And had my days been longer Nagaraete still the darkness kono yo no yami wa would not leave this world- yomo hareji along death's path, among the hills shide no yamaji no I shall behold the moon. iza tsuki o min. -- Oroku