Jisei – the Poetry of Death

During the medieval period, samurai often wrote special poems, known as jisei, in the hours before their deaths. The tradition originated in Zen Buddhism, and fused three important principles from Zen tradition: – The material world is transient and impermanent – Understanding reality requires an absence of self-nature and acceptance (or pursuit) of emptiness – Attachment to the world causes suffering The earliest recorded jisei was written by Prince Ōtsu, a younger son of Emperor Temmu, just before the prince’s execution in 686. Customarily, composition of jisei was done only by members of Japan’s nobility, samurai, poets, or Buddhist priests. The poem was supposed to

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