Another haiku

Awhile ago I mentioned I was reading Patricia Donegan’s haiku mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Heart (I also mentioned that I doubted I could manage to read a new entry every day, and I haven’t) and I have returned to it several times between hiking trips. Some entries are better than others, but there are times when I wonder if an entry has been put there knowing I would come to it on a specific day.

This is one of those entries:

Compassion

don’t hit the fly-
he prays with his hands
and with his feet

ISSA KOBAYASHI

The Dalai Lama was once asked how to teach children com- passion in a world full of violence and intolerance. And he replied, “teach them to like and respect insects.” For if we can learn to care about something that is tiny, strange, and not always easy to relate to, then we can realize that insects, like everything in Nature, share the same life. And in turn we could eventually realize that all human beings-not just our particular group or country-also share the same life. Haiku is a way to remember how everything is connected in our world, and if we feel connected we will not harm things, but rather care for them. Haiku is often about noticing and caring for the small; more than any other haiku poet, Issa was known for his compassion toward small creatures. This was an idea taken from Issa’s belief in Pure Land Buddhism namely that we should not harm any creatures, from human beings down to insects, and that we should have compassion toward them because we are all part of the same life force Haiku is an apt reminder that in order to nurture our compassion toward other people and the world, we can begin by extending our compassion to all living things in Nature, by starting with insects like the tiny fly. Starting with the small.

ISSA KOBAYASHI (1763-1828). One of the three greatest traditional japanese male haiku poets, along with Basho and Buson. As a Pure Land Buddhist, he espoused compassion for all living things, perhaps because he himself had a life of poverty and personal tragedy See his autobiographical haibun collection, Oraga Ham (The Spring of My Life) from 1819.

This is a fairly famous haiku, or at least well-known enough that even I’ve encountered it before. I suspect I would have glossed right over it if hadn’t been for the commentary by the Dalai Lama — that and a couple of synonymous incidents.

First, a grandson was having trouble with an older boy at day camp because he told the boy not to kill insects. The grandson loves finding and studying insects and once the older boy found that out he took great joy in stomping any insects he saw. It ended up with the older boy trying to intimidate the grandson.

Meanwhile Shelley Powers has been calling attention to puppy mills in Missouri, and animal abuse, in general. It’s shocking how people exploit animals, but it’s even more shocking that groups like the Tea Party seem to be defending those who abuse animals because the animals are personal property and the government has no right to interfere.

All in all, I’m afraid these events show just how insightful the Dalai Lama’s comments are.

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