This will be the last “On the Road” prompts. Thank you very much to everyone who followed the site and for the wonderful poems you have written in response to prompt.
This week I’ve been really struggling to write a prompt. I’ve had lot of ideas but can’t seem to get traction on any of them. Searching for inspiration I came across the three vows of the Japanese haiku poet Santoka –
Do not attempt the impossible.
Do not feel regret for the past.
Do not berate oneself.
I feel like I am attempting the impossible in trying to keep things going here beyond this week. The idea for the site grew out of online conversations with another haiku poet. I was under the impression she wanted to be involved and was interested in creating some prompts. What actually happened was that when I let her know the site was published she unfriended me on Facebook and stopped replying to emails!
Taking Santoka ‘s advice I shall not regret what happened or berate myself for not having the energy to keep the site going by myself. Instead I’ll offer you this last prompt. I had written most of it already and saved it as a draft.
Since I began writing these prompts I have been remembering songs, poems and quotes that make reference to roads and being on them. One that popped into my mind is the strange Zen koan attributed to the Chinese Zen master Linji Yixuan “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
This koan has puzzled me for a long time. The contemporary Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön offers this explanation –
““When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha” means that when you see that you’re grasping or clinging to anything, whether conventionally it’s called good or bad, make friends with that. Look into it. Get to know it completely and utterly. In that way it will let go of itself.” universalistfriends.org – buddha on the road
Jack Kerouac expressed a similar idea when he wrote:-
‘When you’ve understood this scripture, throw it away. If you can’t understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.’ – from “On the Road”.
The freedom Kerouac is insisting on seems to me to be very like the freedom of spirit Kikusha-Ni embodied. (See last week’s prompt for more information here)
Writing a haiku or haibun about mental freedom and the koan “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” does seem particularly hard. That’s why the post was still in my draft file. Still if you are inspired leave a link to your work in the comment thread.
I’ve loved all the work that has been linked to this site and really appreciate your support. Thanks again.