You MUST be out of your mind!

A review of Haiku, The Gentle Art of Disappearing by Gabriel Rosenstock

(Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 2009)

‘It is not mind but the temporary absence of mind which will facilitate your disappearance. Shri Ranjit Maharaj says: “Go deep in yourself, so deep that you disappear”' (34)    

“To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance, and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others…. this is the sole game that has any intrinsic and absolute worth”. Meher Baba                                                       

"The eternal Being is that state where you have disappeared…” Thayumanavar

This book assures both those with little knowledge of haiku as well as those with experience of the genre a most rewarding pilgrimage to the centre of the universe, namely, the haiku moment! They will be treated to great haiku from all around the world and share in the insights of the author and a great many other writers and intellectuals from East and West, from antiquity through to modern times. The reader will be offered a comprehensive analysis of haiku dynamics, describing, in particular, the selfless union of observer and observed in the course of the haiku moment when one sloughs off the ego and, “disappears”, that is, merges with the object in question, experiencing thereby an instantaneous feeling of enlightenment, a moment, succinctly described in the book as follows: '…. when the mind is purged of everything else but the intuitive, interpenetrative perception of the Ding an sich, the mysterious, pulsating thing-in-itself, the haiku moment of disappearance occurs. For one precious instant, there is no room for you or your thoughts. The rose, the moon, the steaming dunghill fill the world in full flow… ' (117). One will also learn of the writer’s views regarding the ideal mental condition that should be aspired to in order to best profit from the haiku moment and also increase the likelihood of the genesis of such moments, as will one of the possible benefits, both personal and general, that can ensue from the writing and sharing of haiku. Finally, some typical characteristics of a successful haiku are described and, in this regard, the final pages of the book will prove of great use – they feature, namely, a section entitled Anatomy of a Haiku in which the author takes a composition of his own under the microscope and carefully dissects it to reveal its multiple meanings.

'What is the haiku moment?', the writer asks, and readily provides an answer: 'Nothing more than an alchemic mingling and fusion of essences in which you disappear. Become a cloud! Become the water, the breeze that moves them! Become a bird.' (5) Occasionally sharing interesting quotations from secondary sources, the author emphasises throughout the book that egolessness is the essential prerequisite for the symbiosis of self and object in the moment of enlightenment, as, for example, in these passages:

'Haiku reaches its purest form in … purposelessness and egolessness…. By sloughing off all concepts, all preconceptions, all judgements and fashions, by burning the furniture of the mind, the haiku becomes disinterested – which is not to say aloof.’ Anna Bonshek, a noted educationalist and spiritual writer is quoted in this regard: “Disinterested contemplation of nature and art brings about a state of mind which is universal in that it can transcend the individual ego”. (33)

‘Stepping back…It is only when the self steps back, withdraws unconditionally, in the haiku moment – and in that moment’s spontaneous, immediate (or subsequent) re-creation in words – only then does the universe begin to appear. We must disappear to allow its appearance…. Naturalist W. H. Hudson reminds us: “Unless the soul goes out to see what we see we do not see it; nothing do we see, not a beetle, not a blade of grass”.’ (30)

Further references in the book to the state of unity between observer and observed, the moment of disappearance, the moment of enlightenment, include the following: 'One is grossly visible in the world when one suffers from self-infatuation, self-engrossment…. Haiku is a streaming into the light in which self-infatuation cannot exist. The pure and purifying action of the haiku moment causes us to dissolve into another dimension. And who or what are we then? Creatures of light. Nothing more…. The self has been sloughed and only Self remains.' (13) And again, with the writer’s words reinforced by a quotation from The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry, ed. Lucian Stryk: ‘The haikuist momentarily identifies with the phenomena perceived in the haiku moment – “so close an identification with the object that the unstable mentalizing self disappears”.’ (52) And another relevant quote from the author in which the haiku moment is again proselytised: 'By trusting in the haiku moment, you open yourself up to the possibility of radical renewal and you will see that by disappearing, you have not lost anything. You have gained. You have gained the most important thing there is in life.' (93)

Also quoted on this theme, the renowned American spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, states that “when you rest in quietness and your image of yourself fades, /and your image of the world fades, /and your ideas of others fade, what’s left? /A brightness, a radiant emptiness that is simply what you are…” (30), while the teacher and seer H. W. L. Poonja, better known as Papaji, describes the dynamics of ego loss as follows: “In order to be born as a baby you have to spend nine months getting bigger and bigger. For Enlightenment you have to get smaller and smaller” (116). Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan Dzogchen Lama, approaches the question from an equally novel perspective: “It is important to remember always that the principle of egolessness does not mean that there was an ego in the first place – and the Buddhists did away with it! On the contrary, it means there was never any ego at all to begin with. To realise that is called ‘egolessness’”. (94)

Here are some more secondary quotations from the book touching on this central theme:

  • “Without the rigidity of concepts, the world becomes transparent and illuminated, as though lit from within. With this understanding the interconnectedness of all that lives becomes very clear”. (From Sharon Salzberg’s Loving-Kindness – The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, 13)
  • “As the rivers flowing east and west /Merge in the sea and become one with it, /Forgetting they were ever separate rivers, /So do all creatures lose their separateness /When they merge at last into pure Being.” (Chandogya Upanishad, 38)
  • “Haiku practice has the capacity to reunite us with things from which we’ve set ourselves apart through SELF consciousness.” (Christopher Herold, 73)
  • “Each existence depends on something else. Strictly speaking, there are no separate existences. There are just so many names for one existence.” (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki, 80)
  • “Suddenly one day everything is empty like space /That has no inside or outside, no bottom or top, /And you are aware of one principle /Pervading all the ten thousand things. /You know then that your heart / Is so vast that it can never be measured.” (Daikaku Zenji, 93)
  • “As long as we set up a subjective self in opposition to the objective world and try to unify that world by means of it, then no matter how great this self becomes, the unity will remain inescapably relative. An absolute unity is only gained by discarding the subjective unity and merging with an objective unity.” (An Inquiry into the Good, Kitaro Nishida, 97)

Theological support for the benefits to be gleaned from a state of egolessness, may also be found in secondary sources, including one mentioned in the preceding book on haiku by the author, namely, Haiku Enlightenment, where he states: ‘Do not be alarmed by the possibility of ego-loss on this path. Do not be afraid! Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, the German-American philosopher, reminds us that God is invisible; so, to be made in God’s image is to be invisible!’ And from the book under review, another quotation in this sense, this one from the 17th century German mystic and religious poet Angelus Silesius: “God, whose love and joy are present everywhere, / can’t come to visit you unless you aren’t there!” (6)

Fittingly, none other than the very Bard of Avon himself is called upon by the author to testify to the tragic consequences that life can visit on those who find themselves prey to the opposite sentiment,
namely, duality:        


'Shakespeare’s greatness as a tragedian rests largely on his supreme ability to depict the tragic consequences of the dualistic mind. Peace and lack of peace are constant themes: “Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, /Uproar the universal peace, confound /All unity on earth.” (Macbeth) This contrasts with the opposite mood: “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, /Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, /Sermons in stones, and good  in everything”. (As You Like It) He is often concerned with the poisoned mind, the loss of wisdom / as when Othello moans, “Farewell the tranquil mind”!’ ‘The haiku path, on the other hand’, concludes the author ‘is one of conflict resolution. How can Oneness be in conflict? The great master Dogen puts it like this: “When the opposites arise, the Buddha mind is lost”.’ (74,75)


Might one deliberately plan in advance to write a haiku in a certain place, or at a certain time? Referring to this well-known haiku by Teishitsu “wow...that’s all/ upon the blossom-covered /hills of Yoshino”, the author advises against such a resolution: ‘Do not go to Yoshino…Do not go anywhere / with the intention of writing a haiku,’ adding that ‘In his Divine Beauty, the invisible Embrace, John Donohue eloquently states: “Beauty is a free spirit and will not be trapped within the grid of intentionality. In the light of beauty, the strategies of the ego melt like a web against a candle…”’ The writer suggests that ‘If you go on a ginko or compositional stroll, be passively aware, that is all. Observe the appearance and reappearance of phenomena, and the half-hid’, and he quotes some exemplary haiku: “Spring snowfall/ on the tucked-in heads/ of drifting sea birds” (H. F. Noyes); “An insect living /in the stone animal’s mouth -/time of melting snow”. (Kato Kenko, 44)


Notwithstanding the impossibility of planning a haiku moment, the author maintains that there are, nonetheless, certain mental characteristics that may be deliberately cultivated in order to increase the likelihood of being seized by reality in this sense and that may serve to intensify the experience when it occurs and also, certain environments which tend to be particularly fertile in generating such moments.

For example, this quotation from the Swiss physician and astrologer, Paracelsus (b. 1493) implies that the heart or spirit of man can learn all of Nature’s secrets, if “man is perfect in his heart”. He states that: “Man is not body. The heart, the spirit, is man. /And this spirit is an entire star out of which he is built. /If therefore a man is perfect in his heart, /nothing in the whole light of Nature/ is hidden from him”. (19)

In this regard and speaking of the output of one of the great haiku masters, Issa, the author praises the characteristics that essentially define his mind-set and which are reflected in his oeuvre, and draws an interesting conclusion regarding the ideal state of mind of a haikuist that, coincidentally, echoes Paracelsus’ words above: 'The richness of his wisdom derives from a powerful combination of his extraordinary unalloyed devotion to the Buddha, absorption of peasant lore, his striking humility, his humour, his immense compassion and fortitude in the face of the vicissitudes of life; these qualities, and more, are all reflected in the variety of his prolific output. No one can read a few hundred of the 20,000 or so haiku by Issa without experiencing and absorbing his charming sensitivity and sweetness of heart. When the heart learns to live with this sensitivity, it discovers that each day, any time of the year, reveals a beauty all of its own... and a hitherto invisible aura manifests itself.’ And there follows some appropriate, illustrative haiku: “autumn coming to an end/ frogs beginning/ to settle underground”. (Shogetsu, 98) “a snail is crawling/in a glimmer of light/ entirely its own”. (Chiyoda Kuzuhiko, 98)

The book suggests another general strategy for furthering the mind’s susceptibility to attracting the haiku moment and appreciating it when it occurs, namely, to try to place oneself mentally beyond the dictates of the consumer society with its foibles and ever-changing fashions, pointing out that the well-known Japanese haikust, Taneda Santōka, ‘advised us not to care a fig for the fashions, follies and figurations of the times we live in. He composed his haiku “in a state of mind and body cast off” …’ (46) In this respect, Anna Bonshek is quoted once more: “In this age of consumerism, the love of art is self-love in disguise…today’s artist can no longer be taken as an exemplary human being since his art, which is more an expression of his own personal concerns than that of human universals, is essentially narcissistic”. ‘Truly’, the author concludes 'the last thing on such an artist’s mind is to disappear!’ (97)                                                                                                                                                                       Silence is golden in the opinion of the author and he suggests that ‘…we can disappear in silence, when the chattering mind falls silent, when the haiku moment emerges, when we no longer have opinions… It comes as a relief, along the haiku path to be opinionless.’ Angelus Silesius is again quoted in this context. He maintains that: “Die Meinungen sind Sand, ein Narr, der bauet drein/ Du baust auf Meinungen, wie kannst du weise sein“? ’ (Opinions are sand, a fool builds on such lies/ You build on opinions, how can you be wise?) (Version:GR) (118).                                                                                                                                                                                          
On a very practical level, the book offers some advice to induce a general calming of the mind ‘for the haikuist who has too many thoughts’, recommending some form of physical exercise or activity, or the consumption of foods and beverages that tend to cool rather than excite the physiology. Examples provided include Brahmi, an Ayurevedic herb which can increase alertness and strengthen the central nervous system and Mentat, a powerful ayurvedic combination of herbs which pacifies the overactive mind. Certain types of music are also recommended as being good for the brain, such as traditional Irish music, traditional percussion from Bali (gamelan), classical Baroque, and classical Indian music, etc. (52)                                                                              

Also, on the practical plane, the writer mentions certain environments and activities as being particularly propitious for generating the magic, haiku moment. A garden is one example, the author calling Ken Wilber to witness. He had noticed how a great garden can “pull the sensitive viewer out of him-or herself and into the garden, so completely that the separate self-sense disappears entirely and at least for a brief moment one is ushered into a nondual and timeless awareness.” (14) Boating, the book mentions, is another activity ‘conducive to the gentle art of disappearance ‘, quoting Thoreau who once mentioned that “Sometimes as I drift on Walden Pond I cease to exist and begin to be…” (21)

The book also refers to another example of a haiku moment on a boating outing, this one very famous. It relates to the monk Ikkyu who apparently in the summer of 1424, when he heard the call of a lone crow at twilight while meditating in a fishing boat on Lake Biwa, experienced enlightenment a second time. In the writer’s words: 'The eccentric monk Ikkyu compressed incredible energy into astounding poems and beautiful haiku. The energy came from disappearing into the void. He too was drifting, on Lake Biwa, near Kyoto, when suddenly– Caaaaaaaaaw! – a crow shatters the silence and Ikkyu disappears in boundless satori. … Disappearing happens
unexpectedly, out of the blue. It’s a type of spontaneous combustion.' And the author provides another example of a haiku moment generated in a lake-side environment: “across the still lake /through upcurls of morning mist - /the cry of a loon”. (Cor van den Heuvel, 21/22)

In like manner, the author maintains that 'the self can disappear in such activities and performances as martial arts, meditation, prayer, bhakti poetry, haiku and chanting’ , adding that ‘for Issa and Chiyo, and others, Pure Land Buddhism offered endless opportunities which might go unnoticed by the faithless’, and he quotes some illustrative haiku: “even the butterfly -/voiceless / Buddhist service” (Chiyo-ni); “could they be hymns? /frogs are chanting /in the temple well”. (Kansetsu, 64)

Finally, the importance of meditation as an element in the haikuist’s training, may be understood from the following passage:'Reviewing Spontaneous Mind:  Selected Interviews, 1958-1996 by Allen Ginsberg, William Deresiewicz reminds us that spontaneity isn’t always as effortless as it may appear. “'First thought, best thought' was his governing principle: no heed to the high-modernist idea of poem as patiently-constructed artefact, but as an equally strenuous discipline, for it was only with hours of daily meditation that he maintained his wide-open path from mind to breath… “(New York Times Review of Books, April 8, 2001) (114).


The benefits imputed in the book to the practice of haiku are manifold and haiku is generally praised as a gateway to a deeper understanding and appreciation of existence. For example, the author very eloquently advances the view that practising haiku may serve as a means of cultivating compassion, optimism and patience:

'By its very size, the haiku cultivates an empathy with all things similarly small, all things struggling to live and to breathe and to flower…By flowering in haiku consciousness, we contribute to a fragrance which makes the world bearable and our lives liveable. The act of haiku is uncompromisingly compassionate' (31)

'Haiku can teach us a joyous – not a gloomily fatalistic – acceptance of the world as it is. Reading and writing haiku brings us ever closer to what a spring morning is, or an autumn evening, until we disappear into its mystery and become one with the rain, the sunshine, experiencing the nature of morning-ness or night-ness fully in themselves, with our invisible participation. For a split second the world can belong to a hototogiso, a little mountain cuckoo: “making an echo /a hototogiso /sings as it pleases”. ' (Hisajo, 48)

‘…. If haiku is a way of interpenetrating with the visible signs of the universe’s constant regeneration, it does so by teaching us infinite patience.’ As an illustration of this concept the writer quotes this haiku from Bashō: “a while chrysanthemum - /however much I look /no speck of dust”, commenting that 'we gaze, intently, emptily, until the flower reveals its immaculate whiteness. The joy of haiku is this: contemplation and meditation, usually seen as distinct practices, become one in electric stillness. This is one of haiku’s great gifts to the world, to you. If you are ready to receive these gifts, they will come unbidden.' (70)

On a more general level, the author considers that the writing and sharing of haiku can, potentially, have great benefits for the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of this planet: 'Haiku teaches us to be unobtrusive, to walk lightly, invisibly, in this world. It may not be too fanciful to claim, as some do, in relation to the rise of global haiku on the internet and the proliferation of haiku exchanges via e-mail, that such activity performs a virtual harae or cleansing of the world’s kegare or pollution; such purification has always been an integral part of Shinto ritual. ' (30). In like manner, on a religious level, the book extols the intrinsic, elevated, spiritual nature of the haiku moment in several passages: ' …Glorious as many scriptures are, true haiku can rival them or surpass them in beauty by showing, not merely telling, by dynamic, physical expression of transcendental experience, as opposed to lofty speculation and obtuse terminology' (39), and again, the transcendental nature of the haiku experience is evoked in this passage: ‘What is often expressed loftily or in abstract terms in the world’s religious and mystic traditions becomes concretized or crystallized in haiku. In Songs of the Ultimate: Hymns from Shankaracharya and Abhinavagupta (collected and edited by Eric Baret), we read: “Wherever you find yourself, stay. /Go neither towards the outside not the inside. /Let the infinite variations of becoming be cast aside /by the glowing of Consciousness”. (71)

Furthermore, the writer suggests that the practise of haiku can lead to a pacifistic, non-grasping sharing attitude, which he refers to as 'Collapse of territoriality'; explaining that 'In the sacred moment in which haiku is conceived and born, the haikuist is no longer grossly visible to himself or others.... Territoriality collapses in silent music…’ There follows a haiku by Ryūshi: “silence - /the sound of a bird walking/ on scattered leaves” and the author continues: 'We know that wars have been about territoriality, spheres of influence, geo-political strategies. We cannot end wars until we have the mind and the disposition of Ryūshi, so that all things, from centipedes to quadrupeds to bipeds can walk unthreatened on the earth.' (41,42)


What elements, stylistic and spiritual, might an ideal haiku contain? To help answer this question the author has provided a haiku of his own which he anatomically dissects for our benefit and which is considered below. Firstly, however, let us consider some other exemplary haiku and the writer’s corresponding comments:

  • “cranes left/without taking/anything”. (Kida Senjo) ‘The sensitivity of pure haiku can be perceived in this exquisite observation of the cranes. Let us call it the “non-grasping” effect. The nature of ego is grasping, craving, desiring. The nature of ego-lessness is non-grasping, non-craving – pure witness. ' (41)
  • “the snail / goes to sleep and wakes up /just as he is”. (Issa) ‘Ari no mama, things as they are, no embellishments, no gilding of the lily, this is found in the folk-literature of all lands… Issa’s work, like that of all great haikuists, is imbued with ari no mama.’ (48,49))
  • “evening hailstones/ lashing the branches - /their whiteness”. (Suju Takano) 'In things as they are, we find real insight, real contentment and haiku is one of the most powerful tools available to all of us towards this end, which is not an end but an experience of no-beginning, no-end.’ (49)
  • “The squid seller’s call/mingles with the voice/of the cuckoo”. The author praises Bashō’s haiku in that it catches 'the beauty of flow and stillness, the intermingling textures of life.' (4)
  • “Tierno saúz, / casi oro, casi ambar, /casi luz”. (slight willow/ almost gold/ almost amber/ almost light) (Version: GR). This haiku is cited as a good example of the union of observer and observed in the haiku moment: 'The effortless action of becoming was intuited in Tablada’s timeless haiku moment. And, where is he? He has disappeared into the willow. Its lambent willowness.' (10)
  • “out come all the creepy crawlies/all over the earth/ see? They have shadows”. (Kuge) Another example of an elementary characteristic of the genre, the writer explains, is that ‘In many good haiku we spy a “miniature animated cosmos”, to borrow an apt phrase from Octavio Paz.' (14)

And, finally, one more example, with the author’s comment, before considering his own haiku: “cuckoo call - / a monk wrote haiku on a rock/ and journeyed on”. (Haritsu) 'Haiku is terrific when it comes to drilling the essential message of flux and mujō, impermanence.' (59)


Anatomy of a Haiku (123 – 125)

Allah-o akbar!
     first light over Kochi
          trembling waves

The composer of this haiku is the very author of the book himself, Gabriel Rosenstock, and here he systematically reflects of the possible meanings of the text which came to him in an inspired moment of enlightenment at 5 o ‘ clock in the morning in Kochi, Kerala, when, as he opened his window, he perceived the first light of dawn which coincided with the voice of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. The author seeks to explain the meanings behind the different strands that make up his own haiku as, so he states: 'one can explain details, in a logical and intuitive manner, in hindsight, things which were mysteriously and seamlessly one at the time of the haiku moment or its composition in words….I was not mentalizing on these various levels and interpretations when the actual event happened. I was drawn into the web of sound, into tendrils of light, disappearing in their interstices'. Similar to a process, we learn, described thus by Rousseau: “I feel an indescribable ecstasy and delirium in melting, as it were, into the system of beings, in identifying with the whole of nature…”

After a brief account of its formal contents – syllable count, imagery etc. – the writer endeavours to interpret the many layers of the various strands which make up the haiku and here is a summary of the more significant aspects of this analysis: ‘Firstly,’ he states ‘the muezzin cries out that God is great. The emerging light of dawn is linked with this statement, physically and metaphysically.’ This is so no doubt because the two events – the cry of the muezzin and the appearance of the first light of dawn – happened simultaneously and the emerging dawn is testimony to the greatness of God. The last line does not, on the surface, seem linked to the two preceding lines, but, as the author explains 'A typical device, which a haikuist often draws upon without intentionality, is to introduce a complementary image which resonates with the first image, though not necessarily having an obvious association'. He guesses that “Trembling waves” could easily refer to the waves of the sea, as Kochi is a port city or that waves could also refer to sound waves, the voice of the muezzin or to waves of light, light waves of the dawn. Might they even not, he asks, refer to 'The waves of creation itself? Echoes of the Big Bang?' Regarding this latter hypothesis, however, he admits that he may be overstating his case, but that he does so deliberately, with the intention of exaggerating for the sake of effect, i.e., demonstrating the great, theoretical depths of haiku for the benefit of those who do not take the genre seriously.

And here are the writer’s thoughts on possible meanings of “trembling”, the second word in the complementary image: 'Trembling could suggest something of the fear of God, God’s greatness conveyed by the haunting voice that cuts through the morning stillness. However, as it was written at the beginning of 2004, is there not the possibility that - subconsciously at least – “trembling” also suggests the pathological fear of Muslim culture which has become part of our world’s neurosis today? Or is “trembling waves” nothing more than pathetic fallacy, a much-used device in Gaelic poetry? Is it the “I” that trembles? Before what? Itself? Fear?Loathing? Alienation? Ineffable admiration and awe?'

In conclusion the poet states: 'I give all of these possible meanings – and allow for more – with the express intention of showing that a real haiku – as opposed to a pseudo-haiku – is not a slight thing at all.'

Comparing the author’s haiku with the exemplary haiku listed above, one could conclude that it also reflects the qualities praised in several of these, in particular those of Issa, Tablada and Bashō’. It could, furthermore, be favourably compared to a haiku of J. W. Sexton quoted in the author’s previous publication, Haiku Enlightenment, and which was credited with the following qualities: ‘There is magic here! Haiku that lack magic and mystery are not really haiku at all. They may conform to the structure and appearance of haiku but that is not enough. .…They must be capable of transforming writer and reader alike...'


As does the author’s previous book on haiku, this one also provides abundant food for thought both for the curious amateur as well as for the seasoned haikuist. Furthermore, it proves to be a delightful reading experience, thanks to the numerous haiku scattered like pearls throughout as well as the refined, ornate, but precise prose style that characterises the book from cover to cover. In addition, a fascinating multi-layered web of quotations from other sources takes the reader on a spiritual journey across continents and through time, sign-posted by Chinese and Zen philosophers, Medieval saints and mystics from the Christian tradition, Indian spiritual teachers and philosophers from antiquity up to modern times, contemporary English and American poets, politicians, teachers, writers and naturalists, Hispanic and Portuguese poets and intellectuals, and sundry other distinguished representatives of the great narrative of human intellectual history such as the emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius (120 – 181), the Roman African early Christian theologian, Saint Augustine of Hippo, the 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic, Rumi, and the one-time avid Nazi supporter turned theologian and equally avid proponent of the Western esoteric spiritual tradition, Karlfried Graf von Durkheim, (1896 – 1988). The main thematic focus of the book, the brief moment of Selflessness, of awakening, of disappearance, of merging in the magic of the haiku moment is painstakingly elucidated, and implicitly illustrated throughout the book with exemplary haiku by Japanese masters, olden and modern, and a host of contemporary Western haikuists. Similarly the other main themes, namely: the measures, mental and physical, that may best serve the haikuist in pursuit of an existence based on compassion and constant, passive awareness; the mental and spiritual benefits that can accrue to an individual who conscientiously follows the haiku path and the more general, wide-reaching advantages for society as a whole, and finally the hallmarks of authentic haiku, are dealt with in an equally comprehensive, yet entertaining manner, thanks to the iconic quotations and haiku and the author’s masterful prose.


The basic themes treated in this book are similar to those found in the earlier book, Haiku Enlightenment, though they are usually here approached from a somewhat different perspective and interwoven with a fresh tapestry of quotes and haiku. Nonetheless, the conclusion to my review of Haiku Enlightenment, might with full justification serve equally well to conclude this one. It reads as follows: “While an effort has been made in this document to reflect the book’s persuasive yet gentle approach to the task of convincing the amateur and reassuring the expert of the virtue of a way of life substantially structured by the haiku ethic, the richness of the original with its huge quantity of haiku, hundreds of quotes and compelling prose can only be intuited. Nevertheless, the overall strategy in this review has been to let the book, as far as possible, speak directly for itself. After all, did not the great Matsuo Bashō advise us to ‘Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine!’”

Thomas Goggin is an ex UN professional active mainly in the fields of administration and finance in diverse duty stations (Vienna, NY, and outreach offices of UNECA and DPA in Tangiers and Dakar, respectively). Since retirement he has rekindled his interest in literature with formal studies in the UK, self-publications and sundry reviews, mainly of poetry. Currently lives in Vienna. 

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