The nazunia is a very common flower – it grows by itself by the side of the road, a grass flower. It is so common that nobody ever looks at it. It is not a precious rose, it is not a rare lotus. It is easy to see the beauty of a rare lotus floating on a lake, a blue lotus – how can you avoid seeing it? For a moment you are bound to be caught by its beauty. Or a beautiful rose dancing in the wind, in the sun… For a split second it possesses you. It is stunning. But a nazunia is a very ordinary, common flower; it needs no gardening, no gardener, it grows by itself anywhere. To see a nazunia carefully a meditator is needed, a very delicate consciousness is needed; otherwise you will bypass it. It has no apparent beauty, its beauty is deep. Its beauty is that of the very ordinary, but the very ordinary contains the extraordinary in it, because all is full of godliness – even the nazunia flower. Unless you penetrate it with a sympathetic heart you will miss it.
When for the first time you read Basho you start thinking, “What is there so tremendously important to say about a nazunia blooming by the hedge?”
In Basho’s poem the last syllable – kana in Japanese – is translated by an exclamation point because we don’t have any other way to translate it. But the kana means, “I am amazed! I am in awe! This nazunia is unbelievably beautiful. I had never thought that a nazunia flower can be so beautiful.”
What has happened? – this nazunia flower is so beautiful that all lotuses, roses and all great flowers have simply faded away from Basho’s consciousness, this nazunia has taken possession of him. The kana means “I am amazed.” Now, from where is the beauty coming? Is it coming from the nazunia? – because thousands of people may have passed by the side of the hedge and nobody may have even looked at this small flower. And Basho is possessed by its beauty, is transported into another world. What has happened? It is not really the nazunia, otherwise it would have caught everybody’s eye. It is Basho’s insight, his open heart, his sympathetic vision, his meditativeness. Meditation is alchemy: it can transform the base metal into gold, it can transform a nazunia flower into a lotus.
When I look carefully… And the word carefully means attentively, with awareness, mindfully, meditatively, with love, with caring. One can just look without caring at all, then one will miss the whole point. That word carefully has to be remembered in all its meanings, but the root meaning is meditatively. And what does it mean when you see something meditatively? It means without mind, looking without the mind, no clouds of thought in the sky of your consciousness, no memories passing by, no desires… Nothing at all, utter emptiness.
When in such a state of no-mind you look, even a nazunia flower is transported into another world. It becomes a lotus of paradise, it is no longer part of the earth; the extraordinary has been found in the ordinary. And this is the way of Buddha: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, to find all in the now, to find the whole in this – Buddha calls it tathata.
Basho’s haiku is a haiku of tathata: this nazunia, looked at lovingly, caringly through the heart, unclouded consciousness, in a state of no-mind… And one is amazed, one is in awe. A great wonder arises, How is it possible? This nazunia – and if a nazunia is possible then everything is possible. If a nazunia can be so beautiful, Basho can be a buddha. If a nazunia can contain such poetry, then each stone can become a sermon.