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  • Haiku and Analysis:Ryokan and Whitehead
  • Tokiyuki Nobuhara and Jonathan A. Seitz

Ryokan is famous for his haiku below:


taku hodo wakaze ga motekuruochiba kana

for my firethe wind brings enoughfallen leaves

I believe there is manifestly in Ryokan’s wind poem his faith in the Grace supporting his life and career as a mendicant friar. You could compare this haiku with the last sentence in Alfred North Whitehead’s magnum opus, Process and Reality: “In this way, the insistent craving is justified—the insistent craving that zest for existence be refreshed by the ever-present, unfading importance of our immediate actions, which perish and yet live for evermore.”1

According to my Whiteheadian wind theology, there are four types of wind: wind of Grace; wind of Understanding; wind of Adventure; and wind of Compassion, which very interestingly correspond to Whitehead’s famous four creative phases,2 which might be expressed in my own way in terms of No → bodies language (in the sense that we exist insofar as Nothingness negates itself (No →) in such a way that we exist physically in ourselves (être-en-soi) (→ bodies). Accordingly, the four types of wind might be expressed as follows:

wind of Grace: No → bodieswind of Understanding: No → bodies ←wind of Adventure: No → bodies ← →wind of Compassion: No → bodies ← → ← [End Page 199]

Here, → or ← signifies opus Dei. I mean that God works in the universe as wind or winds. It is interesting to know that Ryokan has all four types of wind in his poetry—haiku, tanka, and Chinese poems included.

Tokiyuki Nobuhara
Keiwa College, Japan (emeritus)


Two books by Tokiyuki Nobuhara treat the work of Ryokan: Ryokan in a Cosmic Age Revisited: In Sync with a Whiteheadian Wind Theology (Niigata: Kokodo Shoten, 2014), and Ryokan in a Cosmic Age: In Sync with Ecological Theologian Thomas Berry (Niigata: Kokodo Shoten, 2013).

1. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1929), p. 351.

2. See ibid., pp. 350–351. [End Page 200]