Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

R. H. Blyth, fully Reginald Horace Blyth

English Author and Devotee of Japanese Culture

"We walk, and our religion is shown (even in the dullest and most insensitive person) in how we walk. Or to put it more accurately, living in this world means choosing, choosing to walk, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself. Nothing can disguise it. The walk of an ordinary man and of an enlightened man are as different as that of a snake and a giraffe."

"Zen is the unsymbolism of the world."

"To teach Zen means to unteach; to see life steadily and see it whole, the answer not being divided from the question; no parrying, dodging, countering, solving, changing the words; an activity which is a physical and spiritual unity with All-Activity."

"We are to live with life and die with death, not separated from them. The problem of suffering is insoluble, because we think of ourselves as apart from pain and death, in opposition to them. We can be free from change only by changing with it."

"A man’s religion is what he thinks about his relation to the universe, or rather, is what he feels about this relation; or better, it is what he does about this relation; or best it is how he acts."

"A haiku is the expression of a temporary enlightenment, in which we see into the life of things."

"Art is frozen Zen."

"I leave my heart to the sasanqua flower on the day of this journey. [R. H. Blyth's death poem]"

"If all men lead mechanical unpoetical lives this is the real nihilism the real undoing of the world."

"It is not merely the brevity by which the haiku isolates a particular group of phenomena from all the rest; nor its suggestiveness, through which it reveals a whole world of experience. It is not only in its remarkable use of the season word, by which it gives us a feeling of a quarter of the year; nor its faint all-pervading humor. Its peculiar quality is its self-effacing, self-annihilative nature, by which it enables us, more than any other form of literature, to grasp the thing-in-itself."

"Nothing divides one so much as thought."

"Or, to express this in another way, suggested to me by Professor Suzuki, in connection with "seeing into our own nature, poetry is the something that we see, but the seeing and the something are one; without the seeing there is no something, no something, no seeing. There is neither discovery nor creation: only the perfect, indivisible experience."

"The importance and unimportance of the self cannot be exaggerated."

"The love of nature is religion and that religion is poetry; these three things are one thing. This is the unspoken creed of haiku poets."

"The sun shines, snow falls, mountains rise and valleys sink, night deepens and pales into day, but it is only very seldom that we attend to such things. . . . When we are grasping the inexpressible meaning of these things, this is life, this is living. To do this twenty-four hours a day is the Way of Haiku. It is having life more abundantly."

"There is no greater difference between men than between grateful and ungrateful people."

"These are some of the characteristics of the state of mind which the creation and appreciation of haiku demand Selflessness, Loneliness, Grateful Acceptance, Wordlessness, Non-intellectuality, Contradictoriness, Humor, Freedom, Non-morality, Simplicity, Materiality, Love, and Courage."

"Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose."

"What is essential is not the answer but the questions; the answers indeed are the death of the life that is in the questions."

"What is Zen? Zen is looking at things with the eye of God, that is, becoming the thing's eyes so that it looks at itself with our eyes."

"What is Zen? Zen means doing anything perfectly, making mistakes perfectly, being defeated perfectly, hesitating perfectly, doing anything perfectly or imperfectly, perfectly. What is the meaning of this perfectly? How does it differ from perfectly? Perfectly is in the will; perfectly is in the activity. Perfectly means that at each moment of the activity there is no egoism in it"

"Can you imagine people like these guards occupying your country?"

"A haiku poet is born, not made, and of a 'nationality' which has nothing to do with the ordinary conception of it."

"A poet sees things as they are in proportion as he is selfless."

"A pure animal man would be as lovely as a deer or a leopard, burning like a flame and straight from underneath. And he'd be part of the unseen, like a mouse is, even. And he'd never cease to wonder, he'd breathe silence and unseen wonder, as the partridges do, running in the stubble. He'd be all the animals in turn, instead of one fixed automatic thing which he is now, grinding on the nerves."

"Be not weary in well-doing. I myself feel lonely sometimes, but remember 'the great cloud of witnesses'."

"Coming now to the general differences between waka and haiku, we may say once more that waka aim at beauty, a somewhat superficial beauty sometimes, that excludes all ugly things. The aim of haiku is not beauty; it is something much deeper and wider. It is significance, a poetical significance, "a shock of mild surprises", that the poet receives when the haiku is born, and the reader when it is reborn in his mind."

"Deep suffering is deep life... Nirvana is often taken as a condition of supreme joy. But it is also that of supreme sadness."

"I myself think to have a cat is more important than to have a Bible."

"If the tree were strong enough it would manifest nothing. If the wave were rigid, the moon?s nature could not be expressed in it."

"In no way mere imitations of Japanese haiku, nor literary diversions. They are (aimed at ) the Zen experience, the realizing, the making real in oneself of the thing-in-itself, impossible to rational thought, but possible", "all poets believe," in experience."

"In relation to every circumstance, we are to be like the servants at the Feast of Cana: Whatever he saith unto you, do it."

"It is always disappointing to see how the creators of modern haiku trivialize, dismiss, or ignore the writings of the very person from whom they could have learned the most, were they not so self-willed and self-absorbed."

"Moments of vision come when least expected, unbidden, and in most men, pass into oblivion, unnoticed and unremembered."

"Mud is the most poetical thing in the world."

"Perfect does not mean perfect actions in a perfect world, but appropriate actions in an imperfect one."

"The expression of a temporary enlightenment, in which we see into the life of things."

"The flowers say ?Bloom!? and we bloom in them. The wind blows and we sway in the leaves."

"The life of Don Quixote was a life of Zen; indifferent to the opinions of his fellows, without a single thought of self, of self-aggrandizement or self-expression. he Lived twenty four hours every day, following his instincts (his ideals) as wholeheartedly, as truly, as naturally, as the blooming flowers in spring, as the falling of leaves in autumn."

"The object of our lives is to look at, listen to, touch, taste things. Without them, - these sticks, stones, feathers, shells, - there is no Deity."

"The tree manifests the bodily power of the wind; the wave exhibits the spiritual nature of the moon."

"The world, of which Japan is a part and a microcosm, has set for itself goals totally different from those of Basho. His Way of Haiku can hardly be said to exist now, for almost nobody walks on it. As a Way, it was in many respects better than that of Taoism, Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism, and so on. Its desuetude is a monument to the stupidity, vulgarity, sentimentality, and unpoeticality of human beings."

"There is a Hindu myth about the Self or God of the universe who sees life as (play). But since the Self is what there is and all there is and thus has no one separate to play with, he plays the cosmic game of hide-and-seek with himself... all the time forgetting who he really is. Eventually however the Self awakens from his many dreams and fantasies and remembers his true identity, the one eternal Self of the Cosmos who is never born and never dies."

"Think of Zen, of the Void, of Good and Evil and you are bound hand and foot. Think only and entirely and completely of what you are doing at the moment and you are free as a bird."

"This is one of those profound sayings [?Haikai has for its object the setting to rights of common parlance and ordinary language which can and should be interpreted in a variety of ways.?] Bash? wanted our daily prose turned into poetry, the realization that the commonest events and actions of life may be done significantly, the deeper use of all language, written and spoken. Our lives are slovenly, imitative. We live, as Lawrence said, like the illustrated covers of magazines. Comfort is our aim, and dissatisfaction is all we achieve. The aim of haiku is to live twenty four hours a day, that is, to put meaning into every moment, a meaning that may be intense or diffuse, but never ceases."

"Thus we see that the all-important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being lucky or unlucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die; finally, how we choose. We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person), in how we walk. Living in this world means choosing, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself.A certain monk asked Hyakujo, ?What is Truth?? Hyakujo said, ?Here I sit on Daiyu Peak!"

"Waka began as literature, haiku as a kind of sporting with words. Bash? made it literature, and yet something beyond and above literature, a process of discovery rather than creation, using words as means, not ends, as a chisel that removes the rock hiding the statue beneath."

"We know in our bones that there is something odd, something queer, about everything, and when this contradictoriness has a deep, religious, poetical quality, when the whole thing stands revealed and we see right through it to this side, we weep with uncontrollable joy, or laugh with irrepressible grief."

"We may reach the same conclusion from the other end of the scale. In so far as a tomato exists, God exists. When a tomato rots, God rots."

"We must not write haiku, we must not write, we must not live, to fulfil ourselves, or to share our experiences with others. We must not aim at immortality or even timelessness; we must not aim. Infinity and eternity come of themselves or not at all"