Seeking Enlightenment

Sarah Marakos


When I was walking home one night while the sun was setting, I was standing near Carmichael Hall on a part of the hill where you can see pretty far off into the distance.

The last glimpse of daylight

Glows pink around the buildings—

The sky fades to dark.

In reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North, I saw conflicting ideas between what we have learned (that there is no such thing as self) and Basho’s self-conscious journey to answer questions such as who am I? “For Basho, an ever-changing reality lended itself to the obliteration of difference that, in turn, created a poetic consciousness, or a creative self in this limited sense,” (Inouye 79). I feel like it makes some sense to define self because if there were no designation of what self is, then how would we know there is no such thing as self? Basho’s journey was in search of enlightenment that he came to experience through his travels; “Roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner, so it was impossible for me to stay idle at home,” (Basho 97). Basho was travelling to seek enlightenment, but there were also concubines travelling, who Basho compares to bush clovers and he is the moon. Although they are so far apart, they exist in the same reality. Basho tells them, “Go as travelers go.” (Basho 132). In a way, we’re all travelers—everything and everyone and there is nothing permanent in this world. “A thicket of grass is all that remains of the dreams and ambitions of ancient warriors.” (Basho 118). This is the beauty of nature. The cycle of life and death is ongoing, but nature remains the same. “I am awestruck to hear a cricket singing underneath the dark cavity of an old helmet.” (Basho 134). Although the warrior died and decayed, there is new life under the helmet. With all these experiences Basho had on his journey, I can understand why it is difficult to pass this enlightenment on to others. But I wonder then, how can those who find enlightenment come back to reality and help others who are in the burning house if it is so difficult to pass on the truths? I guess everyone has to find these truths themselves and can only find enlightenment through means of experience.

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