Zen pertains to meditative poetry inspired by Zen Buddhism popular initially in Japan and later in Korea. As a literary genre, Zen could have developed anywhere, but Buddhism, the mother of Zen poetry sprouted and blossomed in Nepal, and obviously, the roots of Zen lie here. History probably exported the art to South-east Asia. It is time to bring it home. Krishna Prasai seems to be pioneering this grand homecoming. His recent-most publication “Sun-shower”, a garland of hundred and eight nuggets of short, epigrammatic Zen poems is the first publication of its kind in Nepal, and hence, the harbinger of Zen movement. The poems have been published in three languages –Nepali, Korean and English simultaneously. The poems have now been translated into German, Sinhalese, Bangali, Hindi, Burmese, Thai, Assamese and many other languages.
This ‘homecoming’ of Zen has a great historical significance in Nepali verses. It announces the opening of a novel movement – a movement that stands out in itself as a potential alternative to the present-day ‘postmodern’ poetry pregnant with political overtone, incongruities and fissures. Zen at least coordinates life, stitching odds and even with a philosophical thread that belongs to the realm of reality. This way, Zen is true to life, and gives voice to reality with brilliant wit.
Prasai’s verses echo the experiences of everyone. He documents those moments of life that all of us have come across, though we may not have cared to script them ourselves. The poet picks up symbols and themes from quite ordinary, mundane and matter-of-fact issues of laymen, and gives them a brilliant luster of philosophical poignancy. This testifies the fact that poetry need not be thematically intricate to be great. It can be simple, and yet qualify to be great. What we need is a pair of intellectual ideas that can see poetry even in a snorer :
Even after you lie dead
you will be troubling others
If you are a snorer.
Reading Krishna Prasai is diving deep into the bottomless pool of subtle poetry, where the whole creation comes and swims. Life and death stand face to face in his verses, and out of their friction, a light emerges and the whole secrecies of life and creation become more than apparent. “Sun-shower” is a light that illuminates the smallest corners of a large life, experienced daily by all, and hardly reflected by any.
Prasai is highly philosophical at times, and transcends above an ordinary person’s preview of life. His approach is loaded with a seer’s pursuit to locate truth, and ultimately liberate the entire human race from the shackles of worldly mirage that reduces man to the rank of a musk deer, destined to die for its own fragrance that it can never locate in its own naval. Verses speak for themselves, and cater illuminating emergence to the readers. How pregnant with thoughts are his verses can be verified with the following lines:
The land laughed
at the brevity of
the life of those who buy it.
These poems are results of a tranquil mediation where the poet enters into a direct conversation with life and death, and picks prophetic insights here and there:
my own death
with contented applause.
He has not spared any aspect of life: be it politics or economy, history or spiritualism. He is evenly distributed among all issues, and is equally laudable everywhere. How history and politics come to the surface of his verses and float right in front of our eyes can be felt with these two short poems:
protected by a battalion of guards
got killed along with his family
from his own kinsmen.
Who can save a man?
unleashed by the minister with peace-prayers
got killed in the mid sky
at his own orders.
Since meditation speaks for itself, and interpretation does little justice to it, it is wise to leave this part to the readers. I genuinely feel one thing however. The poetry under discussion is a high creation, full of life.
Embellished with these beauties, the verses are unique in their own worth. They are sparks of divine light, bent in and refracted by life and dispersed in a brilliant rainbow of colors, each pertaining to a specific experience of life. They illuminate the darkest corners of human experience, and lit them so much so that everyone sees the subtle realities of creation, coming and forming an erect, magnifying image in front of the eye. These verses give air to life force, and make everyone feel blessed.
(The author is a faculty at the Central Department of English, TU)