Shinran’s Pine


butterfly departs–
even Shinran’s pine
seems to know

choo yuku ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

by Issa, 1818

Shinran founded the Jo^doshinshu^ (True Teaching Pure Land) Buddhist
sect to which Issa belonged. This haiku has the prescript, “Zenko^ji”
(Zenko Temple), the major Pure Land temple in Issa’s home province. At
that temple, Shinran left a gift of a pine tree in a great pot,
centuries ago. Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku.
Shinran matsu (“Shinran’s pine”) is close to shiran matsu
(“not-knowing pine”), which contrasts with shitta kao: the “knowing
face” of the butterfly. Thus, Shinji writes, the haiku might be
translated: “butterfly departs/ Shinran’s pine/ acknowledges.” Or:
“butterfly departs/ even the not-knowing pine/ [has a] knowing face.”

Tr, David Lanoue

More about the pine and Saint Shinran

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