Basho’s lotus flowers


Here is a picture of a lotus flower bud.


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In 2003 I got a haiku book written by Sylvia Forges-Ryan and Edward Ryan.

Its title is “Take a Deep Breath’” ‘The Haiku Way to Inner Peace’.

Its jacket photo by Jana Leon has a flower of white and red or scarlet.  Even now I wonder whether the flower is a lotus flower or a water lily. It might be a water lily, because Sylvia Forges-Ryan wrote haiku about water lilies.

Among these lilies

in Monet’s pond

Basho’s watersound

And they noted:

Here’s that splash again, only now it brings together the spontaneity of Nature―Basho’s “watersound” ―and the art of a painted garden. Even in a pond as beautiful as Monet’s, filled with a mass of lovely water lilies, the frog still goes “pop!” The splash breaks through the stillness of the art.

In ‘HAIKU MEDITATION’ of their book, the classic haiku poem written by Basho, from which Basho’s watersound comes, is shown with their translation.

Old pond

a frog leaps in

water’s sound

They also noted:

It is about a moment―just the experience of this moment―”splash!” Every haiku is an attempt to reveal, in poetic form, such a moment, no more or less. Often the first two lines set the scene, giving the reader a context. Then in the next line the poem opens to offer a moment of insight. True haiku are carefully created so as to lead to a “splash” that sets off ripples of thought in the reader.

  Here I proceed with the main topic ‘Basho’s lotus flowers.

In 1688 Basho visited one of his disciples, 下里知足(Shimosato Chisoku) in 鳴海(Narumi), 名古屋市(Nagoya-shi). There he wrote the following haiku:


(hasu ike ya  ora de sono mama  tama matsuri) 


Lotus pond!

not – pick this as

festival – of – spirits

On the day of Basho’s visit, they held 玉祭(魂祭)(tama matsuri), festival – of – spirits, which is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one’s ancestors. Cut lotus flowers were among the offerings placed on the “spirit shelf” (tama dana) for this festival.

  Basho’s haiku implies that lotus flowers blooming in a small pond of his disciple’s are the very offerings as they are, even if they aren’t cut and offered on the “spirit shelf”.


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By the way, why do lotus flowers have anything to do with Buddhism?

That is because of Buddhist iconography, in which Buddha is often represented on a pink lotus. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also to be noted that most Buddhist, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, amongst other Asian deities are often are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed.   


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This summer I am reading again the haiku book, whose title is “Take a Deep Breath”, ‘The Haiku Way to Inner Peace’.

And I wrote my haiku:


(gasshou ni  iki fukamare ri  hasu no hana)

Palms joined

taking a deep breath

lotus flowers


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Last of all I’d like to refer to the viewpoint on haiku, about which Sylvia Forges-Ryan and Edward Ryan told us in their haiku book.

They noted:

Haiku are the perfect form for their exercises because they are the shortest of poems, with the longest echoes. A good haiku distills a great deal of experience into a few phrases, and sets off a chain of thoughts that expand like the ripples in a pond.


                                                                                                                                                                                    ― Hidenori  Hiruta

8 thoughts on “Basho’s lotus flowers

  1. thank you McDonald san,I’ve also enjoyed your wonderful haiku on your website ‘zenspeug’ and in your haiku books thanks a lot again

  2. What a wonderful post. I am hosting a daily haiku meme at blogspot and this month it’s all about Impressionism and today (February 4th/5th) the prompt is Water Lilies based on the wonderful painting by Claude Monet.
    This first haiku in which you have brought together Basho’s “old Pond” and Monet’s “Water Lilies” is really gorgeous. I just had to use it as an example for my today’s post. I hope you don’t mind. Ofcourse I have credited it.

  3. Thanks a lot covering the events of Basho’s haiku and Buddhist ceremony,
    Haiku, really is the way to connect nature.

    I have done phrase out 108 haiku and deeply touched by it.

    Many thanks again.

  4. It is deeply inspiring to be reading haikus of such grace and gravity !

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