first day of winter
the sun mandala drips
in the rain
The poet informs us: “… the verse was triggered purely by an observation. The sun was looking all mottled & weepy through the wet windscreen. But I think my own Indian background might have subliminally contributed to the poem, borrowing from the existential place that the mandala has in the ancient philosophies of Hinduism & Buddhism. But I couldn’t say for sure.” The image in this haiku is a beautiful one, it moves and it lives. I am intrigued by the yin and yang of winter rain and the sun, along with the suggestion of the sun actually dripping rain. However these unlikely associations are somehow rendered compatible here and seem to sit naturally together. Carl Jung (who spent many years contemplating Eastern philosophies) considered the mandala to be an archetype of the human personality, a living symbol of the psyche and an expression of its essential unity. I read too that the mandala is sometimes thought of as a representation of the universe and a symbol of the infinite around which all that exists, is . . . and can be regarded itself as a sacred space. But such depths are not paraded explicitly in this haiku, they lie as living symbols often do, unobtrusively for those with eyes to see, in the simple observation itself. While there is some element of interpretation in this haiku, in likening the sun to the mandala (and so some might say this is not simply an observation), it is this element of interpretation that gives this haiku its deeper interest. Further, it could be said that the likening of sun and mandala is itself a ‘natural element’ that suggested itself to the poet from the depths of the Unconscious ~ and so is a kind of observation (of the mind). D. T. Suzuki wrote, “If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.”1. ‘first day of winter’ seems to me to be a lovely example of just this.
First published: A Hundred Gourds 4:4 September 2015
- Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel, Introduction by D.T. Suzuki, 1959
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson