Haiku by Issa

A world of grief and pain,
Flowers bloom,
Even then
[1]

苦の娑婆や桜が咲けば咲いたとて
ku no shaba ya sakura ga sakeba saita tote

12 1/4″ W x 43″ H Japanese Scroll
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

Master Takase personally brushes your Japanese scroll when you order. These high-quality Japanese scrolls are imported from Nara Japan and are meant to last generations. Your scroll is shipped within 1-3 business days from Master Takase's studio in Washington State and arrives ready to display.

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H3008 – Haiku by Issa – A world of grief and pain …
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

A world of grief and pain:
Flowers bloom;
Even then …
[1]

ku no shaba ya
sakura ga sakeba
saita tote
苦の娑婆や
桜が咲けば
咲いたとて
issa一茶

This haiku by Issa was written upon the death of his child. With this in mind, there are two common ways to interpret this poem. One is pessimistic saying “how can flowers have the audacity to bloom in such a cruel world”. The other optimistic “even in such a cruel world, flowers bloom”.

Sam Hamill suggests the translation:

A world of trials,
and if the cherry blossoms,
it simply blossoms”
[2]

David G. Lanoue suggests the translation:

world of pain–
and the cherry blossoms
add to it!
[3]

R. H. Blyth concurs saying that beauty had the audacity to be in the same world made Issa’s pain all the greater.

Robin G. Gill notes that the “world” refers to shaba “the place where the masses who can’t free themselves from desire continue to live while enduring suffering.”

Mr. Gill suggests the translations:

A world of pain
whether the cherries should
blossom or not!

World of woe,
whether the cherry buds
open or not

This world of pain
the cherries have bloomed
they bloom and yet …
[4]

A second interpretation is more optimistic. Rev. Mas Kodani writes that “Shaba refers to the world of Samsara, the world of self-centered, self-creating delusion, the unawakened state …” and Issa is encouraging us by saying that even in such a world, good things still happen.

References:

[1] Blyth, R. H. (1949). Haiku, Vol. 1: Eastern Culture. Tokyo. The Hokuseido Press. 168.

[2] Hamill, Sam. (1997). The Spring of My Life: And Selected Haiku. United States. Shambhala. 168.

[3] Lanoue, David G. (1991-2009). Haiku of Kobayashi Issa.

[4] Gill, Robin D. (2007). Cherry Blossom Epiphany - The Poetry and Philosophy of a Flowering Tree. Paraverse Press. Florida. 440.