Ninagawa-Shinzaemon, a linked-verse poet, and devotee of Zen,
desired to become a disciple of the remarkable master, Ikkyu,
who was abbot of the Daitokuji in Murasakino – a violet field.
He called upon Ikkyu,
and the following dialogue took place at the temple entrance.
Ikkyu: Who are you?
Ninagawa: A devotee of Buddhism.
Ikkyu: You are from?
Ninagawa: Your region.
Ikkyu: Ah. And what’s happening there these days?
Ninagawa: The crows caw, the sparrows twitter.
Ikkyu: And where do you think you are now?
Ninagawa: In a field dyed deep violet.
Ninagawa: Miscanthus, morning glories,
safflowers, chrysanthemums, asters.
Ikkyu: And after they’re gone?
Ninagawa: It is miyagino – the field of autumn flowering.
Ikkyu: What happens in that field?
Ninagawa: The stream flows through, the wind sweeps over.
Amazed at Ninagawa’s Zen-like speech,
Ikkyu led him to his room and served him tea.
Then he spoke this impromptu verse
I want to serve
Alas! The Zen sect
can offer nothing.
At which the visitor replied:
The mind which treats me
to nothing is the original void –
a delicacy of delicacies.
Deeply moved, the master said:
My son, you have learned much.
Poetry is closer than theology to religion, imagination nearer than reason. And, of course, religion transcends both – it is neither.
But through logic, to drop into the abyss of religion is a little bit difficult, because logic has a rigidity about it. It is not flexible; it is closed, not open; it has no windows, no doors, to go out of itself. It is like a grave. One can die within it, but one cannot move into a living process, one cannot become more alive through it. Logic is a straitjacket, a prison.
Poetry is closer to religion, because it is more flexible, liquid, more flowing. It is not religion, but you can drop out of it more easily than from logic. It has openings – doors and windows – and fresh winds can always reach into the deepest core of the heart of a poet. Poetry is not rigid; you can drop out of it, if you like; it will not cling to you. And, because it is imaginative, it can stumble, even unknowingly, upon the unknown. It goes on groping in the dark – it is a groping in the dark – and it goes on groping, it goes on searching. It is always ready to move into any new dimension.
Logic is resistant: you cannot find more orthodox people than logicians. They will never listen to a new dimension opening, they will not even look at it. They will simply say it is not possible. All that is possible, they think, is already known; all that can happen has already happened. They are always suspicious of the unknown.