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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Old Tea Seller
Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto
Baisao, Norman Waddell
Counterpoint 05/08 Hardcover $24.00
This delightful and exquisite volume contains the poems, memoirs, and letters of Baisao (1675 - 1763) whose life was divided into a period of religious training until he was 32, a sojourn ending in his 57th year during which he served as a temple supervisor and later as an abbot at Ryushin-ji in Hasuike, and a final period in Kyoto when he was a tea seller. Norman Waddell has done a marvelous job pulling all of this material together. He has also translated works by Dogen, D. T. Suzuki, and many others.
Baisao chose to live unconventionally in his elder years. But he models a very early form of what we would call an urban spirituality of being present:
Making the busy streets my home
In his shop, he sold tea "that conveys you to Sagehood" and later carried large wicker baskets filled with tea utensils through the streets of Kyoto. Many artists and other creative people were impressed by Baisao's austerity and his firmness of character. The poet seemed to have achieved his own brand of idiosyncratic contentment as revealed in this poem titled "Impromptu."
Rambling free beyond the world
Baisao makes a good case for a simple but elegant life of attention, beauty, and contentment that honors old age and the impermanence of life.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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