Thursday, December 2, 2010

Awakening the Poetic Soul ~

THE POETIC SPIRIT by Daisaku Ikeda

“The cloud-seas of the heavens are riled by waves.

The moon a ship rowed into hiding behind a forest of stars.”

This waka-style poem was written some 1,300 years ago. It is included in the “Manyoshu” (“A Collection of 10,000 Leaves”), the oldest extant collection of Japanese poems. Today we have sent human beings beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere; we have stood on the surface of the moon. Yet, reading this poem one has to wonder if people in ancient times didn’t sense the presence of the moon and stars more intimately than we do today. Is it possible they lived richer, more expansive lives than we, who for all our material comfort, rarely remember to look up to the sky?

The eyes of a poet discover in each person a unique and irreplaceable humanity. While arrogant intellect seeks to control and manipulate the world, the poetic spirit bows with reverence before its mysteries.

Human beings are each a microcosm. Living here on Earth, we breathe the rhythms of a universe that extends infinitely above us. When resonant harmonies arise between this vast outer cosmos and the inner human cosmos, poetry is born. At one time, perhaps, all people were poets, in intimate dialogue with Nature. In Japan, the Manyoshu collection comprised poems written by people of all classes. And almost half of the poems are marked “Poet unknown.”

These poems were not written to leave behind a name. Poems and songs penned as an unstoppable outpouring of the heart take on a life of their own. They transcend the limits of nationality and time as they pass from person to person, from one heart to another.

The poetic spirit has the power to “retune” and reconnect a discordant, divided world. True poets stand firm, confronting life’s conflicts and complexities. Harm done to anyone, anywhere, causes agony in the poet’s heart.

A poet is one who offers people words of courage and hope, seeking the perspective—one step deeper, one step higher –that makes tangible the enduring spiritual realities of our lives.

Now more than ever, we need the thunderous, rousing voice of poetry. We need the poet’s impassioned songs of peace, of the shared and mutually supportive existence of all things. We need to reawaken the poetic spirit within us, the youthful, vital energy and wisdom that enable us to live to the fullest. We must all be poets.

An ancient Japanese Poet wrote; “Poets arise as 10,000 leaves of language from the seeds of people’s hearts.”

Our planet is scarred and damaged, its life-systems threatened with collapse. WE must shade and protect Earth with “leaves of language” arising from the depths of life. Modern civilization will be healthy only when the poetic spirit regains its rightful place.

This article is reprinted from THE JAPAN TIMES, October12, 2006

Daisaku Ikeda is President of Soka Gakkai International, and Founder of Soka University and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. He is also a Poet Laureate.

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