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A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku & Zen Paperback – April, 1979


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Weatherhill; 1st edition (April 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 083480137X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0834801370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
A ZEN WAVE : Basho's Haiku and Zen. Translated by Robert Aitken. 192 pp. New York and Tokyo : Weatherhill, 1978 and Reissued.
All of us, perhaps, need a bit of help when starting to read haiku. As the shortest of all verse forms, with its mere seventeen syllables, it doesn't look like much of a poem at all to the uninitiated, and they may wonder what the fuss is all about.
In 'A Zen Wave,' Robert Aitken, who is a noted American Zenist and competent in Japanese, has had the extremely useful idea of compiling a small anthology of haiku by Basho (1644-1694), and providing each haiku with its own full commentary. After finishing the book, readers will have acquired a background in both haiku and Zen, and will be able to further explore haiku by themselves in an informed way.
In his brief 5-page Introduction Aitken writes:
"... the heart of Basho's haiku is the very foundation of human perception of things - mind itself. Operating superficially, the mind is random in its activity and stale in its insights and images. With practice and experience, however, it is recognized as the empty infinity of the universe and of the self" (pages 18-19).
This statement may gain in meaning if we set it alongside an observation made the great Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253), who wrote:
"Conveying the self to the myriad things to authenticate them is delusion; the myriad things advancing to authenticate the self is enlightenment" (Tr., F. H. Cook, 'Sounds of Valley Streams,' page 66).
The haiku poet is a person who has 'emptied' himself or herself, who has created a space, an "empty infinity" or 'openness,' in which the myriad things can come forward and declare themselves.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vekert on July 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Aitken Roshi is considered by many the dean of American Zen masters. In this book he combines his Zen insight with his university training in liturature to explain Basho's poetry. The book should be read by anyone interested in Zen, and perhaps even more by anyone interested in poetry or literary criticism, since it shows what a wise person can do improve our reading of poetry. If you love Basho or haiku in general, then this book is a must have.
It is terrible that this book is out of print.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Swift on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
"In this book, Robert Aitken gives us the haiku in Japanese, then a word-for-word translation, as well as his own translation. He then goes on to comment on why he chose the translation he did, and also how each haiku relates to the practice of Zen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Matherne on October 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
What is a haiku and why are you interrupting my sushi to tell me about it? Japanese culture has a way of insinuating itself into our Western culture. From Aitken's book, I learned that we have one word for the fruit of a tree (pears, apples, cherries) and the Japanese need two words. We need two words for the flowers of fruit trees (e.g., cherry blossoms), and the Japanese need only one (sakura). What meaning is one able to take from this trans-linguistic inversion? Aitken helps us to discern the linguistic idiosyncracies with three-way translations (Japanese, English, and literal word for word) of the seventeen syllable poems known as haiku, usually three lines of five, seven, and five syllables each in the original Japanese.

We in the West tend to see a visit of a friend as the fruit (the important thing for us has a unique word of its own) and their subsequent farewell as a trivial falling blossom (the important thing for the Japanese has a unique word) of the fruit tree. In Japan the combination of visit and farewell is like short-lived cherry blossoms -- the shower of petals must be enjoyed to the fullest measure possible.

[page 39] People in the West, sometimes quite insensitive to the importance of farewells, can learn from the Japanese, who say farewell to the very end. They wave and wave until their friends are out of sight.

My haiku offering on the subject follows, as suggested by one of Basho's:

Wave & wave until
they are no longer in sight --
all that's left is Fall.

For more obscurity and delight, you can read the entirety of my review in DIGESTWORLD Issue#14b by Bobby Matherne
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have had a passion for the Japanese poetic form of haiku for many years. I have also been interested in how the philosophy of Zen has influenced so many Japanese arts. This book (A Zen Wave: Basho’s Haiku & Zen by Robert Aitken, Published in1978)) is not new, but surprisingly, I had never read this book until recently. The author’s approach in this volume is to show a relationship between the haiku poetic form and Zen Buddhism. He achieves this by reviewing Basho’s (and other poets) poems and provides commentary about the specific poem and how it relates to Zen.

This 192 page volume is organized into 26 short chapters. The introduction gives a brief overview of Basho’s life and the development of the haiku poetry form. Some of the material covered in the chapters is as follows: The old pond, the mountain path, autumn in Kiso, wisteria flowers, Quail, suma in summer, that, that’s interesting, the shepherd’s purse, this road, the morning glory and the butterfly and many other poems. There is also a glossary of selected terms and Japanese equivalents of Chinese names.

If you are interested in haiku and Zen you should check out this book. You can pick it up at a bargain price on Amazon.

Rating: 4 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Haiku Moments: How to read, write and enjoy haiku).
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