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一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481)

Paintings, pair of hanging scrolls. Portrait of the Zen priest Ikkyu, and the courtesan Jigoku Reigan with scenes of Hell embroidered on her costume (including King Emma and the descent of Amida). Ink and colours on silk. Signed and sealed.
Portrait of Ikkyu painted by 春木南溟 Haruki Nanmei (1795-1878)



Ikkjú, névváltozat: Ikkjú Szódzsun (japánul: 一休宗純, Hepburn-átírással: Ikkyū Sōjun) (1394–1481), a rinzai szektához tartozó zen buddhista szerzetes, költő, a japán teaszertartás egyik megteremtője.
Huszonhat évesen a Biva-tavon meditálva világosodott meg egy varjú károgására. Cselekedetei megosztották kortársait: igen szerette az alkoholt, megvilágosodását követően rendszeresen látogatta a bordélyházakat, a nemi életet mintegy vallási gyakorlatként értelmezve, az újévi ünnepek alkalmával pedig pálcára szúrt koponyát hordott körbe azt kántálva: „Öregszünk, közeleg a halál.” Mindennek ellenére élete végén kinevezték az 1467-től 1477-ig tartó Ónin-háború alatt lerombolt Daitokudzsi templom főapátjává, bár a posztot csak kelletlenül fogadta el. A rinzai szekta történetében egyszerre számít szentnek és eretneknek.

Gy. Horváth László. Japán kulturális lexikon. Corvina. 1999


John Stevens: Ikkjú Szódzsun
Fordította: Szigeti György

Kiliti Joruto: Ikkjú [Legendák Ikkjú életéből]

Bakonyi Berta: Másotok sincs...

Faludy György: Öt vers

Oravecz Imre: Szerzetes a bordélyban

Soós Sándor: Ikkjú élete és művei
[Előszó Oravecz Imre fordításaihoz]

Terebess Gábor: Ikkjú dókáiból, búcsúverse

PDF: Csontváz–dalocskák
Bánfalvi András fordítása


Terebess Gábor címfordításai:

狂雲集 Kyōunshū = Kerge Felhő összegyűjtött versei

骸骨 Gaikotsu = Csontváz-nép

阿弥陀裸物語 Amida hadaka monogatari = Pőre Amida

仏鬼軍 Bukkigun = Buddhák pokoli háborúja

摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経解 Maka hannya haramitta shingyō kai =
A Szív szútra kommentárja

道歌 Dōka = Tanköltemények

道歌 Dōka

Ikkyū's Dōka
Translated by R. H. Blyth

骸骨 Gaikotsu / Skeletons

Ikkyū gaikotsu 一休骸骨
Edition of 1692. Illustrated pages only.
Drawings attributed to Ikkyū himself.

Abe Masao: Ikkyū's Skeletons
Translated by R. H. Blyth & N. A. Waddell

Skeletons by Zen Master Ikkyu
Translated by Thomas F. Cleary

Translated by James H. Sanford

Translated by John Stevens

狂雲集 Kyōunshū / Crazy Cloud Anthology

Versions by Stephen Berg

Versions by Lucien Stryk

Versions by John Stevens

Versions by Sonja Arntzen

Versions by Sarah Messer and Kidder Smith

Ikkyū's death poem

仏鬼軍 Bukkigun

Buddhas' Great War on Hell
Translated by James H. Sanford

阿弥陀裸物語 Amida hadaka monogatari

Amida Stripped Bare
Translated by James H. Sanford

自戒集 Jikaishū

摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経解 Maka hannya haramitta shingyō kai

Ikkyu: Zen Eccentric
by Thomas Hoover

PDF: Zen Radicals, Rebels and Reformers
by Perle Besserman and Manfred Steger
Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1991;
Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2010.


Lucien Stryk's Preface to
Crow with No Mouth: Ikkyū: Fifteenth-century zen master
Versions by Stephen Berg

Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA., 1989

When Ninagawa-Shinzaemon, linked verse poet and Zen devotee, heard that Ikkyū, abbot of the famous Daitokuji in Murasakino (violet field) of Kyoto, was a remarkable master, he desired to become his disciple. He called on Ikkyū, and the following dialogue took place at the temple entrance:

Ikkyū: Who are you?
Ninagawa: A devotee of Buddhism.
Ikkyū: You are from?
Ninagawa: Your region.
Ikkyū: Ah. And what’s happening there these days?
Ninagawa: The crows caw, the sparrows twitter.
Ikkyū: And where do you think you are now? Ninagawa: In a field dyed violet.
Ikkyū: Why?
Ninagawa: Miscanthus, morning glories, safflowers, chrysanthemums, asters.
Ikkyū: And after they’re gone?
Ninagawa: It’s Miyagino (field known for its autumn flowering).
Ikkyū: What happens in the field?
Ninagawa: The stream flows through, the wind sweeps over.

Amazed at Ninagawa’s Zen-like speech, Ikkyū led him to his room and served him tea. Then he spoke the following impromptu verse:

I want to serve
You delicacies.
Alas! the Zen sect
Can offer nothing.

At which the visitor replied:

The mind which treats me
To nothing is the original void—
A delicacy of delicacies.

Deeply moved, the master said, “My son, you have learned much.”

Speaking those words, perhaps Ikkyū recalled harsh treatment he received from his second master, Kasō Sōdon, in the very same circumstances. Kasō had ignored him completely while he waited five days outside his temple gate, then had disciples pour water over his head. It would have taken much more to discourage this would-be disciple. Finally Kasō agreed to take him on. It could not have been his kindly disposition that encouraged Ninagawa to approach Ikkyū, whose reputation was fierce. Rather all he heard of the great master, famed painter and poet, suggested such an approach might please Ikkyū, which proved to be the case for the fortunate Ninagawa.

Ikkyū Sōjun, according to traditional sources, was born in 1394, the natural child of the Emperor Go Komatsu and a favorite lady in waiting, of the Fujiwara clan, at the Kyoto court. The Empress, seething, its told, had her banished to a low section of the city, where Ikkyū was born. At six the boy was sent for training to Kyotos Ankokuji Temple.

Precocious, by thirteen he was composing poems in Chinese, a poem, no less, daily. At fifteen he wrote lines that were recited everywhere. He was already extremely independent, something of a gadfly. There was much that bothered him about temple life, its pious snobbery over family connections, and he nettled fellow monks with his sharp comments.

By seventeen Ikkyū had a Zen master, Kenō, with whom he lived for four years, until Kenōs death. Kenō was known for modesty and compassionate concern for the welfare of his disciples, and his loss affected Ikkyū profoundly. In comparison with Kenō, other Zen masters seemed ridiculously ostentations and, in matters of temple ritual, nitpicking. Seeking another master, Ikkyū chose a severe disciplinarian of the Rinzai sect named Kasō Sōdon. He was of the Daitokuji Temple line, whose distinguished lineage led to Hakuin (1686–1769), among its greatest heirs. While Kasō was aware of the importance of such lineage, and performed his abbots duties faithfully, he preferred living in a small temple in Kataka, a short distance from Kyoto on the shore of Lake Biwa.

When twenty-five, Ikkyū, hearing a song from the Heike Monogatari, suddenly penetrated a koan (Zen problem for meditation ) given him by Kasō, and he always was to speak of the moment as his first kenshō (awakening). But a more profound experience came two years later. While meditating in a boat on Lake Biwa, hearing a crow call, he was immediately, fully enlightened.

He hurried to Kasō for approval of his satori, but the master said, "This is the enlightenment of a mere arhat, youre no master yet." Ikkyū replied , "Then Im happy to be an arhat, I detest masters." At which Kasō declared, "Ha, now you really are a master."


After his awakening Ikkyū stayed with the master, taking care of him in growing illness, a paralysis of the lower limbs that necessitated his being carried everywhere. Ikkyūs unflagging loyalty impressed all, became legendary:

my dying teacher could not wipe himself unlike you disciples
who use bamboo I cleaned his lovely ass with my bare hands

Kasō died when Ikkyū was thirty-five, and the bereaved monk, who at the darkest moment of mourning had been close to suicide, began an endless round of travel, lasting the remainder of his life. He could not settle anywhere, and his behavior, even in those bawdy times, was thought scandalous. He never pretended to be saintly, took his passions as a natural part of life, frankly loved sake and women. After a disappointing day he would rush from the temple to a bar, wind up at a brothel . After which there was often a crisis of self-doubt, if not guilt. At such moments he went to his hermitage in the mountains of Joo:

ten years of whorehouse joy Im alone now in the mountains
the pines are like a jail the wind scratches my skin

Ikkyū also had a hermitage in Kyoto which he called Katsuroan (Blind Donkey Hermitage), and often stayed at Daitokuji. But increasingly, to the point of anguish, he became disgusted with worldly carryings on at the main temple, shuddered at the business side of its affairs, and felt intense enmity toward Kasō's successor, Yōsō. Twenty years his senior, Yōsō represented all Ikkyū despised in Rinzai practices of the day, among them frantic hustling for donations:

Yōsō hangs up ladles baskets useless donations in the temple
my styles a straw raincoat strolls by rivers and lakes

ten fussy days running this temple all red tape
look me up if you want to in the bar whorehouse fish market

In 1471, when seventy-seven, Ikkyū revealed his passion for a blind girl, an attendant at the Shūon'an Temple at Takigi. He wrote poems about their affair, some farcical, some very moving. He was self-conscious at the oddness of an old Zen monk falling for a young woman, but they spent years together, Ikkyūs feeling for her growing in intensity:

I love taking my new girl blind Mori on a spring picnic
I love seeing her exquisite free face its moist sexual heat shine

your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh
green distances of your blindness

When Ikkyū reached the age of eighty-two, far steadier, much becalmed, he was made abbot of Daitokuji, and often expressed childlike wonderment at his elevation, given his unorthodox behavior throughout his long life, to a position so lofty. Though he appeared to revel in his unexpected role, he was often away from Daitokuji, mostly at his beloved Shūon'an Temple where he died in 1482, at eighty-eight.

While it may be that Ikkyū is best known in the Zen world as a sort of rake, always spitting in the face of orthodoxy, madly carrying on as freest of the free, most of his poems are concerned with Zen, revered to this day by Zennists. Among the best-known of such poems are two based on the concepts "Void in Form" and "Form in Void" as given in the Hridaya (Heart Sutra), one of the major sutras of Buddhism and of great importance to the Zen sect:

When, just as they are,
White dewdrops gather
On scarlet maple leaves,
Regard the scarlet beads!


The tree is stripped,
All color, fragrance gone,
Yet already on the bough,
Uncaring spring!

As indication of the importance to the Zen community of such pieces, I was constantly reminded by my collaborator the late Takashi Ikemoto, while translating these two poems, of their spiritual and metaphysical significance. They were to be just so, and we turned the phrasing over and over. We were fully conscious of the range of Ikkyū's life and art, making no excuses for his unconventional behavior but insisting on approaching him as illustrious master, one whose insight guided so many disciples.

Among those who came to him for guidance was Murata Shukō, the most eminent tea ceremony master of the day. Visiting Ikkyū, he was asked what he thought of Master Joshu's well-known reference to tea drinking (in spite of their different responses, Joshu invariably said to three monks training under him, "Have a cup of tea"). Shukō remained silent, and at last Ikkyū served him a cup of tea.

As Shukō lifted the cup to his lips, Ikkyū let out with a Zen shout and smashed the cup with his iron nyoi (Buddhist implement).

Shukō made a deep bow.

"What are you like," Ikkyū said," when you'e no intention of taking tea?"

Without answering, Shukō got up and moved toward the door.

"Stop," Ikkyū called. "What are you like when youve taken tea? ˇ

"The willow is green," Shukō said, "the rose is red."

Ikkyū, approving Shukō's grasp of Zen, smiled broadly.

Through his life Ikkyū took his Zen responsibilities, the temple rituals and later, disciples, conscientiously, in spite of his marked independence, but he would suddenly get fed up with routine, heading for the hills:

when I was 47 everyone came to see me
so I walked out forever

Once, in utter disgust with the Zen community's catering to the privileged, its blindness to raw truth, he destroyed his inka, his masters formal written testimony to his enlightenment, his major qualification to serve as master:

on one of you saved my satori paper I know it piece by piece you
pasted it back together now watch me burn it once and for all

With that by now typical gesture, I imagine, Ikkyū probably rushed from the temple to the nearest bar, followed by a night in the brothel.

What are we, centuries, worlds away from Ikkyū, to make of his extraordinary life? The Japanese, with few exceptions, have been equally puzzled. He has perhaps as many apologists as followers it would be wrong to imagine that they are more forgiving than we of eccentricity and "turpitude." And though they have made allowances for Zen behavior, just as the Chinese in the Tang Dynasty did for Taoist ways, there are clear limits to their tolerance, as much today as in the past. Yet it is his total freedom that makes him such an appealing figure. What is wrong about delighting in the body, its natural needs, on what authority is sex condemnable? If one avoids giving pain, if one abides by what is virtually Buddhisms golden rule, to live inoffensively, why not live passionately?

There is a touching side to Crazy Cloud, as he was known and often referred to himself. It has to do with what is known in modern clinical parlance as "erotic renewal," and it was something he was not only aware of but most grateful for:

I was like an old leafless tree until we met green buds burst and blossom
now that I have you I'll never forget what I owe you

white-haired priest in his eighties
Ikkyū still sings aloud each night to himself to the sky to the clouds
because she gave herself freely
her hands her mouth her breasts her long moist thighs

Not only Ikkyū, in fulfillment, had much to thank his young blind lover for, but Zennists everywhere owe her a debt, for in the fullest sense she perked up his life, inspired his days, keeping ever clear his Zen mind. A mind so sharp that even at the very end, when as all masters of his day he brushed his death poem, he couldnt resist just one more barb:

South of Mount Sumeru
Who understands my Zen?
Call Master Kido over—
He's not worth a cent.