, Abrahamic Traditions
, critical judgment
Like any other ideology-based group or community, Christian communities – churches and even entire denominations – have their own hortatory idioms, their own shibboleths, often drawn from the biblical text itself. One of the biggies for me, growing up as a fundamentalist Baptist, was “Saved by grace through faith,” right out of Ephesians 2:8-9. As a Catholic, I remember being admonished to “Follow your [i.e., my] vocation [or sometimes ‘calling’]”. As a non-fundamentalist but still conservative evangelical Christian, I well remember assurances that “God has a wonderful plan for your [my] life” (usually those exact words). Now, just so there is no misunderstanding, most of the time, these exhortations are just harmless rhetoric. (Usually … there are exceptions, e.g., the “Follow
Portrait of Bashō by Hokusai, late 18th century, public domain
On a journey, ill;my dream goes wanderingover withered fields.
Haiku by the great Japanese poet, Bashō (1644-1694). (This one is thought to be his “death poem.”*)N
It was a tradition among educated Japanese to write jisei (death poems). In some cases, the poems were actually written well in advance of death. In others, they were spontaneously written during the process of dying. In part, it seems they were a kind of courtesy, a final farewell. It was also thought that at the moment of death some insight – perhaps enlightenment – was achieved and could be shared. Philosophically the poems where in accord with Buddhist or Shinto beliefs.
*The poem that is said to be Bashō’s death poem is actually not. Accord
Simply imagine that everything is just like the vast, open sky, like empty space, and let your mind blend into the space so that it becomes just as vast and open. —Phakchok Rinpoche, “Creating Space”
Photo credit: "Blue Skies of Scottsdale," Dru Bloomfield, 2009.