Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Frog That Plops! Or The Sound Of Enlightenment

Basho was a famous Japanese poet and Zen master.
Pic by Ordinary Malaysian
Okay, okay, I know. It's Not A Frog. But We  Are Talking  Zen

Zen is a funny thing. It is not a religion or cult. It is not Buddhism or Taoism. It has been said to be an admixture of the two. What modern chic would call a fusion. Come to think of it, fusion is an ugly word.

The more scientific would call Zen a hybrid of Buddhism and taoism.

Never mind. Zen is a funny thing. It does not  teach you anything. It hits you on the head with a stick and hard when you least expect - to awaken you.

Basho also hit his disciples hard on the head but not with a stick. He hit them hard with his poems or what are known as haiku.

A haiku is not your typical English poem. There is no rhyme or anything resembling an English poem.

Basho had a famous frog haiku.

In Japanese, it went like this:

furu ike ya kawazu tobi komu mizu no oto

There are many translations of the haiku. Below are some examples.

Example 1:

an ancient pond
a frog jumps in
the splash of water


Example 2:
an old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

My personal choice is the one by Osho , mentioned in one of his discourses.

It went something like this:

The pond
Frog
Plop!


What kind of a poem is that! I don't know. It's more like a koan. But a koan is more intellectual. It is not supposed to be, but a koan still makes you want to think.  A haiku, on the other hand, is existential.

Okay, back to the haiku.

Why mention the pond? An ancient pond, an old pond, the pond!

Why mention a pond and that too, a specific one? Maybe frog does not want a pond, and that too a specific pond?! Maybe frog wants to jump into well or plop into a monsoon drain.

So, wouldn't it be better to just say:

Frog
Plop!

There! Better, more existential. Don't you think? But even here too, a frog is too much of a distraction. Maybe you and I also want to jump.

So, wouldn't it have been better like this:

Plop!

See, no pond, no frog. Just PLOP! The sound of enlightenment.

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