Tao of Buttercup

Japanese Death Poems

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Some excerpts from the book, http://www.quietspaces.com/deathpoems.html:


Gesshu Soko, died January 10, 1696, at age 79:


Inhale, exhale

Forward, back

Living, dying:

Arrows, let flown each to


Meet midway and slice

The void in aimless flight


Thus I return to the




Goku Kyonen, died October 8, 1272, at age 56:


The truth embodied in the


Of the future, present,


The teaching we received

from the

Fathers of our faith

Can be found at the tip of

my stick.


The story goes that when Goku felt that his death was close, he gathered this monk disciples around him. Sitting up, he gave the floor a single tap, said the above poem, raised his stick, tapped the floor again, cried, "See! See!" Then, sitting upright, he died.




Hosshin, 13th century wrote:


Coming, all is clear, no

doubt about it. Going, all is

clear, without a doubt.

What, then, is all?


Hosshin's last word was "Katsu!" which signifies the attainment of enlightenment. Sort of a spiritual "Eureka."




Shoro, died April 1894, at age 80:


Pampas grass, now dry,

once bent this way

and that.



Sunao, died in 1926 at 39


Spitting blood

clears up reality

and dream alike.



Senryu, died September 23, 1790, at 73:


Bitter winds of winter --

but later, river willow,

open up your buds.



Kozan Ichikyo, died February 12, 1360, at 77. A few days before his death, he called his pupils together, ordered them to bury him without ceremony, forbidding them to hold services in his memory. After writing this poem on the morning of his death, he lay down his brush and died sitting upright.


Empty-handed I entered

the world

Barefoot I leave it.

My coming, my going --

Two simple happenings

That got entangled.

Senryu, died June 2, 1827

Like dew drops

on a lotus leaf

I vanish.



Shinsui, died September 9, 1769, at 49:



During his last moment, Shisui's disciples requested that he write a death poem. He grasped his brush, painted a circle, cast the brush aside, and died. The circle— indicating the void, the essence of everything, enlightenment— is one of the most important symbols of Zen Buddhism.



Yoshitoshi, a printmaker who produced a series called "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon". His death poem reads:


Holding back the night

with it's increasing brilliance

the summer moon.



The death poem of Basho, one of the greatest haiku poets of all time:


On a journey, ill;

my dream goes wandering

over withered fields.



Zoso Royo died on the fifth day of the sixth month, 1276, at 84:


I pondered Buddha's teaching

a full four and eighty years.

The gates are all now

locked about me.

No one was ever here -

Who then is he about to die,

and why lament for nothing?


The night is clear,

the moon shines calmly,

the wind in the pines

is like a lyre's song.

With no I and no other

who hears the sound?

Edited by Hiroki
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Excellent, excellent, excellent book.  I do miss my copy.


Thanks for bumping this - does indeed look excellent!  Just put a request in at the library :)

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