A Peaceful Heart
In the beginning, the Japanese worshiped nature. To them everything is alive, everything partakes of birth and death. The Japanese were rich in awe and reverence but not in fear. They tamed nature in their thoughts. They tamed it in their poetry.
The early Japanese domesticated nature as other, more rugged early cultures domesticated wild horses and cattle. Poetry was Japan’s bridle and yoke.
Nature as depicted by the Manyoshu poets “was not lofty mountains, not desolate plains, not great oceans and not forests filled with wild beasts, but gentler places such as Kagu Hill, … fields, bays where boats passed to and fro between islands, and shallows where cranes made their cries. … Nature to them was not something vast and wild, but something small, gentle and intimate.”
We must, says Kamo, “each morning face the sacred mirror of old,” to see reflected there a world “without human artifice,” ruled by “gods who, with the ancient and tranquil great Way of this peaceful country, governed in accordance with heaven and earth and without regulation, fabrication, force, or instruction. The poetry of the ancients makes this clear, and our own poetry should be the same.”