Shinkoku Nari

Much might be written on the solitude of mystics. One and all, from those with fuller experience to the blind gropers after a light they are hardly aware of, are impelled to retire for a space from their fellow-men. Whatever the future may bring, there can be no doubt of the strong individuality of our nature here, and while human love, which draws us closer together, is felt to be symbolic of the divine love, it is no more than a symbol. Human souls do not mingle for “the flight of the Alone to the Alone”. These wandering monks, of whom Saigyō, Chōmei, and Bashō are the noblest types, seem to have chosen, partly in imitation of the Buddha’s example, the most profitable form of religious life, being in the world, yet not of it ; able to withdraw entirely for so long as they desired, or to keep under observation the human struggling which taught them the need of salvation.
Saigyō spent one year in a hermit’s hunt on a mountain slope, and another year in a temple, but he was no mere recluse. He knew the value of solitude for “the silent working of the spirit”, and like to be alone in his contemplation of beautiful things. The only fault he could find with the cherry-blossoms was that they attracted people to crowd to the places where they grew. Further, he realized that to be alone, and especially alone with nature, is uplifting in that it produces a sense of equality – the humblest may aspire, and the richest gits are theirs :

It was a desolate house, and no one would trouble to visit it. But the moon shone gently on it through the leaves.

Edward Vivian Gatenby, The Cloud Men of Yamato, p 44

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