Japanese Death Poem

Shinsui, Japan

1720 - 1769

Zen Monk

(Originally published in 'The Art of Living')

A centuries-old Japanese tradition among Zen monks and Haiku poets is the jisei, or death poem, written when on the verge of dying; the idea being that in the final moments of life, these thoughts on death are especially lucid and so are also important reflections on life.

During his last moments, Shinsui’s followers requested that he write a death poem. He grasped his brush, painted the image (above), and died.

From 'Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death', edited by Prof. Yoel Hoffmann, Tuttle Publishing 1986.

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