01 Apr Ondori – The Rooster

Haiku are traditional Japanese poems written in three lines consisting of a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, often focused on nature. Epiphany – Life Lessons in 17 Syllables is a new blog series where I discuss the experiences which prompted the writing of a haiku poem and the hidden meaning it expresses. Please enjoy and share.  -mk

the rooster sits still
under the morning moonlight
waiting for the sun




I was living a small Texas suburb still rural enough to have an occasional farm animal. One house near me had a herd of donkeys and few goats on their property. My neighbor, across the street, had a rooster and several chickens. This neighbor left a dozen fresh eggs on top of my mailbox every week for the few years I lived there, something which apart from being a nice gesture, might have been more of an ongoing apology for the early morning rooster crows that sounded daily. There were several weekends when I cursed that bird for waking me up when I wanted to sleep in late. Every time I heard that rooster crow, it reminded me of the yearly Passion Play the local church would put on, which included good ole Peter denying Christ three times before the cock crowed. Whenever I would hear the rooster, I would comically assume somebody in the neighborhood had just been betrayed.

I had started a new morning routine, waking at four in the morning to stretch and meditate before writing. On this particular morning, I made a cup of hot honeybush tea and sat on the front porch. The morning was dark and very still. Suddenly, something under the moonlight caught my eye, and when I looked across the street, I saw the rooster was moving; it was awake. This rooster, which was usually cantankerous, was sitting quietly in the dark, just like me. This stillness surprised me because I always assumed the rooster woke up with the sun and just started cackling. But, there stood the rooster, still, calm, and awake. There we were, under the full moon, waiting for the sun to come up, together.

When the first soft rays of light rose up from the horizon, the rooster called out, and we both started our day, the rooster doing whatever roosters do, and me heading straight to the writing desk. After that morning, I never complained about the noise the rooster made. When I would hear his calls, I always smiled and said a quiet thank you for the lessons he taught me.


Prepared, Patient, and Proactive

There were two lessons which struck me about my morning with the rooster. The first was that the rooster was up early, waiting in the dark for the sun to show up. He did not know precisely when the sun would rise, so he woke up early and waited, never crowing too soon, and never missing his duty of greeting the sun’s first light.

This experience was a lesson in preparedness, patience, and taking action when the time was right. This was practical wisdom to show up early and knowing when to wait and when to move. Now, when I think of any important appointment I have to make, I purposely arrive early and quiet myself. Arriving at a meeting when you are barely on time, or worse yet, late, will never produce successful results like following the rooster’s advice.

Satori (Enlightenment)

In Zen, enlightenment is a state of awakening to deeper insight into direct experience. I should mention here, the eastern and western philosophies on the original state of mind, as influenced by religious culture and ideologies are very different. In the United States, many people believe the original human state is one based in sin and immorality, something which necessitates the intervention of a morally pure being who can lead humans out of their darkness. In Zen, however, humans are viewed as inherently moral and wise and need training to return to this original state of mind. In the West, people must look outside of themselves, and in Zen, they look inward.

My experience with the rooster helped me gain a clearer understanding of the idea of enlightenment being available to us all. For me, the rooster’s crow represented an awakening. The rooster, sitting quietly in the dark, symbolized the inherent potential for enlightenment which waits patiently within us all. And, the sun’s light, to me, represented the conditions which make satori possible.

I think sometimes we spend so much time looking outward for answers; we fail to realize much of what we seek is already inside of us. And rather than discovering enlightenment like it is something to be found and grasped, perhaps we can help set it free by creating the proper conditions for this natural state to call out. The enlightened mind is there; it is awake. It is merely waiting for the sun’s light to illuminate the skies. Then, when the proper conditions are present, the mind will do what was designed to do; it will awaken.

Michael Ken