What Issa Heard by David Budbill

Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds

singing sutras to this suffering world.

I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,

since we will always have a suffering world,

we must also always have a song.

What Issa Heard

Issa was an 18th century Japanese haiku master and while this short poem doesn’t follow the 5-7-5 syllable format of traditional haiku, for me it has the same essence, that is, a profound message in very few words.

Budbill effortlessly makes the link between the morning birds singing sutras or wisdom teachings, to the suffering world over two hundred years ago and hearing them singing today. This must mean, he says, that there will always be the music of birds since we will always have a suffering world. Such a tender message of compassion for the universal experience of suffering and one of its counterparts, the comforts of the natural world.

I take comfort in the simple acknowledgement that the world suffers and that birds continue to sing – sorrow and beauty – always one with the other, no matter how great the suffering. While this message is simple, it is far from simplistic. Rather it is truth as only poetry can tell it.

I also want to add for your pleasure another deliciously brief and succinct poem of Budbill’s which needs no added words:

Oh, this life,
the now,
this morning,

which I
can turn
into forever

by simply
what is here,

is gone
by noon.

16 thoughts on “What Issa Heard by David Budbill

  1. Perfect. Meets my frame of mind and my view this rainy morning listening to the birds. It always seems so indulgently self-serving to gaze, to simply listen. I am relieved to know this is all offered for the suffering world. I am also relieved to meet your compassionate heart, dear Jan, with such simplicity.


  2. Thank you, Jan, you intuitively find the right one for the moment. I enjoy haiku. It expresses so much simply and elegantly. I still have my original book from the 70s.


  3. Oh, Jan, I love the simplicity. How is it possible to convey a message so beautifully with so few words. A gift indeed.

    I love them both, but I really love the 2nd one. Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    – Oscar Wilde.



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