There are strong connections between haiku and begging. Many of the classic haiku masters were beggar monks who scorned possessions for a life in simplicity. Today we are again meeting austerity and begging on our doorsteps in many parts of the world, where it was long gone.
In Europe, many look at beggars with contempt, but instead we can choose to view them with openness, and our encounters with them as opportunities for those who have wealth to share it.
Instead of seeing begging as something shameful, it may be better to think of those destitute as potentials, who, given the right nurturing and a little help on the way can and will achieve something great.
Instead of seeing poverty as something ugly, we might open our minds to the beauty that is also there, take our inspiration from those on the streets and share our wealth with them in return.
The first haiku master, Matsuo Basho, was not a beggar himself, but an observer of the practice of begging.
this my heart
you will know — with this flower
and this begging bowl
Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion
Like Basho, haiku poet Nana Fredua-Agyeman from Ghana is also an observer of austerity and describes it beautifully in his haiku.
looking at the sun
for a silver coin
a beggar’s breath
disperses the crowd
the remains of her shelter
The Kindness of Strangers is a six-part series by Swedish poet Anna Maris of haiku written in consideration of poverty, homelessness, begging and our responses to these issues.
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