For Basho, there is no question of comparison. He says nothing about himself, as if he is not. There is no observer. The beauty is such that it brings a transcendence. The nazunia flower is there, blooming by the hedge – kana – and Basho is simply amazed, is struck to the very roots of his being. The beauty is overpowering. Rather than possessing the flower, he is possessed by the flower; he is in a total surrender to the beauty of the flower, to the beauty of the moment, to the benediction of the herenow.
…little flower…, says Tennyson, …if I could but understand… That obsession to understand! Appreciation is not enough, love is not enough; understanding has to be there, knowledge has to be produced. Unless knowledge is arrived at, Tennyson cannot be at ease. The flower has become a question mark. For Tennyson it is a question mark, for Basho it is an exclamation point. And there is the great difference: the question mark and the exclamation point.
Love is enough for Basho – love is understanding. What more understanding can there be? But Tennyson seems to know nothing of love. His mind is there, hankering to know: …but if I could understand what you are, root and all, and all in all… And mind is compulsively perfectionist. Nothing can be left unknown, nothing can be allowed to remain unknown and mysterious: …root and all, and all in all… has to be understood. Unless mind knows everything it remains afraid – because knowledge gives power. If there is something mysterious, you are bound to remain afraid because the mysterious cannot be controlled. And who knows what is hidden in the mysterious? Maybe the enemy, maybe a danger, some insecurity? And who knows what it is going to do to you? Before it can do anything it has to be understood, it has to be known. Nothing can be left as mysterious. That is one of the problems the world is facing today.
The scientific insistence is that we will not leave anything unknown, and we cannot accept that anything can ever be unknowable. Science divides existence into the known and the unknown. The known is that which was unknown one day; now it is known. And the unknown is that which is unknown today, but tomorrow or the day after tomorrow it will be known. The difference is not much between the known and the unknown; just a little more endeavor, a little more research, and all the unknown will be reduced to the known.
Science can feel at ease only when everything is reduced to the known. But then all poetry disappears, all love disappears, all mystery disappears, all wonder disappears. The soul disappears, godliness disappears, the song disappears, the celebration disappears. All is known… Then nothing is valuable. All is known… Then nothing is of any worth. All is known… Then there is no meaning in life, no significance in life. See the paradox: first the mind says “Know everything!” – and when you have known it the mind says, “There is no meaning in life.”
You have destroyed the meaning and now you are hankering for meaning. Science is very destructive of meaning. And because it insists everything can be known, it cannot allow the third category, the unknowable – which will remain unknowable eternally. And in the unknowable is the significance of life.