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一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481)
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.
Gy. Horváth László. Japán kulturális lexikon. Corvina. 1999
John Stevens: Ikkjú Szódzsun
Kiliti Joruto: Ikkjú [Legendák Ikkjú életéből]
Kavabata Jaszunari: A gyönyörű Japán és én (DOC)
狂雲集 Kyōunshū = Kerge Felhő összegyűjtött versei
道歌 Dōka = Tanköltemények
狂雲集 Kyōunshū / Crazy Cloud Anthology
阿弥陀裸物語 Amida hadaka monogatari
摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経解 Maka hannya haramitta shingyō kai
Ikkyu: Zen Eccentric
PDF: Zen Radicals, Rebels and Reformers
Japan, the Beautiful and Myself
The Zen priest Ikkyū-oshō by 墨斎 Bokusai (Motsurin Shōtō, 1412-1492)
43.7 x 26.1 cm. Important Cultural Property. Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo.
自賛 (Jisan) Self-praise
Kasō's descendant does not know Zen.
In front of Crazy Cloud, who would explain Zen?
For thirty years, heavy on my shoulders
I have carried the burden of Sung-yüan's Zen.
Translated by Sonja Arntzen
Kasō's followers don't know Zen.
Who can talk Zen to Crazy-cloud?
For thirty years I have shouldered the load;
I alone have borne the burden of Sung-yüan's Zen.
Translated by James H. Sanford
An abbreviation of Ikkyuu Zenji 一休禅師, the Zen 禅 priest Ikkyuu (1394-1481) of the Rinzai 臨済 lineage. A poet, essayist, legendary eccentric, critic of the Zen establishment, as well as both subject of and impetus for artistic creation. His posthumous name was Soujun 宗純 , and he also used the sobriquet Kyouunshi 狂雲子. Ikkyuu was the preeminent Japanese Zen personality, but also a pragmatic rebuilder of Daitokuji 大徳寺 in Kyoto after the Ounin 応仁 war (1466-67) and a significant contributor to medieval aesthetics. Said to have been a son of Emperor Gokomatsu 後小松 (1377-1433), because of his mother's ambiguous position at court, at the age five Ikkyuu became an accolyte at Ankokuji 安国寺 where he spent the next ten years immersed in Chinese learning. In 1410, however, he began the strict practice of meditation with the priest Kennou Soui 謙翁宗為 (d. 1405), and then went on to study with Kesou Soudon 華叟宗曇 (1352-1428) at a rustic temple in Katada 堅田 near Lake Biwa 琵琶. It was here that Ikkyuu upon hearing a crow's caw, had his enlightenment experience in 1420.
In the 1420s Ikkyuu settled in Sakai 堺 where he practiced his 'mad Zen' in brothels and wine shops. His antics, parading through the streets waving a sword or carrying a human skull, and his numerous affairs with prostitutes celebrated in his poems, were presented as methods of understanding true Zen. Ikkyuu was a constant critic of the "wooden (i.e. stylized) Zen" practiced in large monasteries such as Daitokuji, where he briefly served as abbot in 1474. Even in his old age spent at Shuuon'an 酬恩庵, a small retreat south of Kyoto, Ikkyuu's attachment to the blind singer Mori 森 again demonstrated his fusion of Zen and worldly life.
Throughout his life, and especially during his years at Shuuon'an, Ikkyuu maintained close relations with leaders in various arts, hosting prominent literary figures such as the nou 能 playwrite and theorist Konparu Zenchiku 金春禅竹 (1405-70), the renga 連歌 master Iio Sougi 飯尾宗祇 (1421-1502) and, most frequently, Sougi's disciple the poet Saiokuken Souchou 紫屋軒宗長 (1448-1532). Ikkyuu's interest in expressing Zen through the arts has led to legends linking him with the founding of the tea ceremony chanoyu 茶の湯 and writing the nou plays EGUCHI 江口 (see Eguchi no kimi 江口の君) and YAMAUBA 山姥. More than 1,000 of Ikkyuu's poems, many of them openly erotic, are collected in the KYOUUNSHUU 狂雲集 (Crazy-Cloud Anthology ; translated Sonja Arntzen). Ikkyuu is also known for his essays, the best-known of which is GAIKOTSU 骸骨 (Skeletons). He also gathered several painter-priests in his circle, including Soga Jasoku 曽我蛇足 (d.1483; Sogaha 曽我派), Bokkei 墨渓 (d.1473) who was called Suiboku 酔墨 (drunken ink) by Ikkyuu and used it as a sobriquet, and Bokusai 墨斎 (d.1492) who was Ikkyuu's chief disciple at Shuuon'an and later abbot both there and at Shinju'an 真珠庵, Ikkyuu's subtemple at Daitokuji.
Ikkyuu is noted for his calligraphy which is as powerful, rough, and eccentric as his personality. There are also a number of rough ink monochrome paintings attributed to him, although they differ greatly from the style of Jasoku, Ikkyuu's reputed teacher. Ikkyuu was the subject of numerous paintings ranging from realistic portraits to imaginary depictions of his various exploits. A number of Ikkyuu's wooden effigies and painted portraits were kept at Shuuon'an and Shinju'an. Most remarkable among these are the harshly naturalistic portrait painted by Bokusai (Tokyo National Museum) and a portrait showing Ikkyuu at age 78 with Mori, who sits and holds a small drum. The mid Edo period publication of the kana zoushi 仮名草子, IKKYUU BANASHI 一休ばなし (Tales of Ikkyuu) and ZOKU IKKYUU BANASHI 続一休ばなし (Continued Tales of Ikkyuu) disseminated both fact and fiction about Ikkyuu generating illustrations such as those of his supposed meeting with the Sakai courtesan *Jigoku dayuu 地獄太夫. More generalized images, such as Hanabusa Itchou's 英 一蝶 (1652-1724) painting of Ikkyuu drunk outside a wineshop, probably also derive from this renewed interest in Ikkyuu.
PDF: Biography of Ikkyū
by Richard Bowring
Ikkyū 's Dharma Lineage
南浦紹明 Nampo Jōmyō (1235-1308) [大應國師 Daiō Kokushi]
宗峰妙超 Shūhō Myōchō (1282-1337) [大燈國師 Daitō Kokushi]
徹翁義亨 Tettō Gikō (1295–1369)
言外宗忠 Gongai Sōchū (1315–1390)
華叟宗曇 Kashū Sōdon (1352–1428)
一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun (1394–1481)
Ikkyu (一休宗純 Ikkyū Sōjun) (1394-1481) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and poet. He was also one of the creators of the formal Japanese tea ceremony.
Ikkyu was born during the Ashikaga shogunate, during the time known as the Muromachi period, when the capital of Japan back was restored to Kyoto from Kamakura. He was eventually named abbot of the seminal Daitokuji temple, placing him in one of the most important Zen lineages. In 1471, at the age of 77, Ikkyu fell in love with Mori, a blind woman over fifty years his junior. He died eleven years later.
Ikkyu is one of the most significant (and eccentric) figures in Zen history. In Rinzai Zen tradition, he is both heretic and saint. Ikkyu was among the few Zen priests who argued that his enlightenment was deepened by consorting with pavilion girls. He entered brothels wearing his black robes, since for him sexual intercourse was a religious rite. At the same time he warned Zen against its own bureaucratic politicising.
Ikkyu wrote in classical Chinese, as did some of the literary men in Japan at the time. His verse is immediate and poignant, insightful and at times moving. He is renowned as medieval Japan's greatest calligrapher. Additionally, Ikkyu painted with ink.
He is also known as Ikkyuu Zenji. He collected and fixed the quiet sarei rules for Matcha. Thanks to Ikkyuu chado has ever since been directly connected to Daitoku-ji and Rinzai Zen Buddhism. All Oiemoto have been trained and ordained at Daitoku-ji. Each Oiemoto also receive a Zen name from Daitoku-ji, this is often the name they are known.
The earliest rituals involving tea came to Japan as a part of Buddhist meditation in the 6th century. Later, in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), a Japanese priest named Eisai introduced tea seeds which became the source of much of the tea grown in Japan today. A century later the priest Eizon and the monk Ikkyu further promoted the tea ceremony. Ikkyu taught the ritual to one of his disciples, Shuko (1423-1502). Shuko developed the ceremony and adapted it to Japanese taste, he became tea master to the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa at whose villa (now known as Ginkakuji or the 'Temple of the Siver Pavillion' in Kyoto) the first purpose made tea room in Japan was built. The ceremony began to be used in religious rituals in Zen Buddhist monasteries. By the thirteenth century, samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha in an effort to adopt Zen Buddhism.
PDF: Ikkyu and Koans
by Alexander Kabanoff
In: The Koan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism (New York, 2000), Chapter 8
Ikkyū's Shakuhachi (Hitoyogiri 1.1) preserved at Hōshun-in 芳春院;
box reads "Ikkyu oshou=priest, Shakuhachi Shuunan: the name of the temple that shakuhachi (to be correct Hitiyogiri=short shakuhachi not 1.8 but 1.1 and slim) belongs to this temple.
Music from the shakuhachi, sorrow difficult to bear,
Blowing into the barbarian flute, a song at the frontier;
At the crossroads, whose piece does he play?
Among the students of Zen, I have few friends.
Shakuhachi: A bamboo flute with a very shrill sound. Wandering mendicant monks called komuso played the shakuhachi as they went about begging.
Barbarian flute: A flute made of reed with no holes for fingering. It was used among the barbarians on the borders of China and was renowned for its sad sound.
This is a description of Ikkyu's loneliness. He hears an unfamiliar song played on a shakuhachi at the crossroads and imagines that he is at some frontier post in China hearing the strange music of the barbarians. The poem as a whole is reminiscient of lonely duties at frontier outposts.
Ikkyu himself was known to have played shakuhachi in the streets.
From Ikkyu Sojun: A Zen Monk and his Poetry by Sonja Arntzen
With motion it rings, when still it is silent.
Does the bell hold the sound or does the wind?
An old monk jangled out of his midday nap.
How is this? The midnight bell at high noon?
The realm of sights and sounds is endless,
Yet, imperceptively, a pure note crystallizes.
That old fellow P'u-k'o knew a trick or two.
Wind and bell hang together, there above the jewelled railing.
In Ching-te Ch'uan-teng lu (Transmission of the Lamp) there is a passage in which two monks argue about a banner waving in the wind. How can one really tell, they wonder, whether the wind moves the flag or the flag moves the wind? Finally, they are told it is neither the wind nor the banner that moves, but only their fluttering minds. In the first poem, Ikkyu restates the issue in auditory terms. The last two lines introduce a second theme--the fact that, according to Zen, mere sights and sounds can, under proper conditions, bring enlightenment. This was, of course, the case with Ikkyu's own satori which was triggered by a crow-call in the middle of a summer's night.
The second poem carries the image of the ringing bell still further with a reference to the T'ang eccentric, Chen-chou P'u-k'o (Jpn: Chinshu Fuke). P'u-k'o was a wild fellow who liked to sham spells of madness. Often he refused to speak a word to those around him. At other times he waved a small bell in the air shouting "If something bright and clear appears, I'll hit its brightness. If something dark and mysterious appears, I'll hit its darkness." Or again P'u-k'o would slip behind a student and ring the bell violently in his ear. Or he might hide it behind his back, and if anyone peered over his shoulder to see the bell, P'u-k'o would declare, "That will be a copper please; I'll use it for food when there isn't anything."
The best-known legend about P'u-k'o (recorded in Chapter 47 of the Lin-chi lu ) relates that when he felt the approach of death, he came into the Chinese capital and obtained a casket which, after several false starts, he dragged out through the North Gate. There he climbed into the casket and had it nailed over him. When the crowd that had gathered around finally grew restive and oped the casket up, they found it quite empty--though the faint sound of the bell, as if from a far distance, could be heard fading into the sky.
P'u-k'o was also the mythical founder of the komuso monks of the Tokugawa period who wandered about Japan "playing the wordless message of Zen" on their long shakuhachi flutes. Ikkyu, too, is sometimes placed in the lineage of these mendicants of the so-called Fuke (P'u-k'o) sect of Zen--perhaps because of his own wandering lifestyle and his often-expressed love of the shakuhachi. At any rate, P'u-k'o was one of Ikkyu's favorite figures, and it is clear that it is P'u-k'o's bell that rings through both poems.
IN PRAISE OF P'U-K'O
Who could walk beside Te-shan and Lin-chi?
That old madman from Chen reallty startled the crowds.
Some die in meditation, some on their feet,
but he beats them all.
Like a distant bird call, his bell rang faintly.
THE MONK P'U-K'O
Arguing first the Bright Head, then the Dark,
That Zen-fellow's tricks fooled them all.
Now, blowing up again, the same old madman,
A sensual youth, howling at the door. ***pp. 146-148
Ikkyu loved both the Japnese shakuhachi and the plants from which these bamboo flutes were produced. A number of his poems touch on these images.
LOST IN DREAMS ONE BRIGHT NIGHT I HEARD BOKUSHITSU PLAY THE SHAKUHACHI AND WAS MOVED
Bright new moon is the clear Autumn sky.
Over the distant rattle of dancing villagers' drums,
The clear line of the flute turns everything to tears,
Yet startles me from a long, sorrowful dream.
The painter, Bokushitsu Sochin, was one of Ikkyu's close disciples.
PORTRAIT OF TON-AMI WITH A SHAKUHACHI
Shakuhachi music stirs up both gods and demons.
Once agian the world's number-one rake lacks a friend.
In the teeming universe just that music.
He leaves the painting to enter a bamboo flute.
The shakuhachi is a symbol for lonliness here. Ikkyu has apparently been looking at a portrait of the famous poet, Ton'a (Nikaido Sadamune, 1310-1384) and found in him, if not a physical, at least a spiritual companion.
Even now I remeber the recluse of Uji.
Empty bell, no wine, colder than ice.
Yet, the song of the angel's shining cloak.
Lost among refugess, the rural priest takes comfort.
On the surface of this poem, it appears that Ikkyu spent some uncomfortable days at a hermitage in Uji. The story of the angel who came to earth one day and foolishly laid her feathered robe down where a fisherman was able to snatch it up was made into one of the most famous plays of No repetoire, Hagoromo (The Feathered Cloak), written by Zeami (1363-1444). The "rural priest" of the last line can be taken to be either the unidentified hermit of Uji or Ikkyu. Although, if we accept the highly mythologized traditions of the Fuke-shu sect of Zen, we would have to identify the hermit as Roan (also known as Ichiro) who was supposedly a central figure in the founding (or, according to its own legends, the refounding) of the flute-playing komuso tradition is the 1400s.
These traditions attribute several shakuhachi poems not found in the Kyoun-shu to Ikkyu, as well as include some poems that we know are his. However, it is not clear whether Ikkyu had actual contact with early figures in the Fuke-shu or was simply adopted into the legends at a later date. His love of the flute and also the Fuke sect's namesake, Chen-Chou P'u-k'o, would have provided sufficient cause to make such an allegation. ***pp. 180-181
DIALOGUE WITH A YAMABUSHI
One time, when Ikkyu was in a solitary mood, he went to the Kanto with only his flute for company. A yamabushi happened to meet this priest strolling up the path playing his flute like a wandering komuso. Feigning stupidity, the yamabushi approached and asked him,
"I say there, wandering priest, where are you going"
"I go wherever the wind takes me."
"I see. But what do you do when the wind stops blowing?"
"Why I just do the blowing myself," said Ikkyu turning back to his flute.
Outdone, the yamabushi clapped his mouth shut and passed by without a backward glance.
1. Ikkyu's love of the Japanese flute is well documented.
2. The Komuso were an eccentric fraternity of itinerant monks of the Tokugawa period. These members of the so-called Fuke sect of Zen were noted for their odd hats which resembled a beehive and covered the monk's entire face. They wandered all over Japan "playing enlightenment" on long shakuhachi flutes. Often they carried swords as well, and it was generally suspected that no small number of their ranks were nothing more than mercenaries in clerical disguise. Because of the bad reputation that it developed, the sect was often made subject to government regulation, and it was entirely supressed in 1871.
The supposed founder of the Fuke sect was the Chinese monk P'u-k'o (Jpn: Fuke). Since Ikkyu dedicated poems to bamboo, to P'u-k'o, and to the shakuhachi, the later Fuke sect claimed him as one of their founding figures, though the supporting evidence for this thesis is very weak. No full study of the Fuke fraternity exists in English, but my"Shakuhachi Zen: The Fukeshu and Komuso," Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 32, no. 4 (Winter 1977), pp. 411- 440, will provide the curious reader with a useful introduction to the group. ***pp. 295-296
From Zen-Man Ikkyu by James H. Sanford
The Dreamy Sound of Bokushitsu's Shakuhachi Awakened Me From Deep Sleep One Moonlit Night
A wonderful autumn night, fresh and bright;
Over the echo of music and drums from a distant village
The single clear tone of a shakuhachi brings a flood of tears--
Startling me from a deep melancholy dream. ***p. 69
From Wild Ways Zen Poems by John Stevens
I love bamboo how it looks
and because men carve it into flutes ***p. 46
flute notes bring gods demons only that music
again the world's biggest ass-man hasn't one friend
his loneliness that music ***p. 68
Crazy Cloud likes his own mind its wish for flutesongs rainy nights
drinking muttering beside his women ***p. 72
From Crow with No Mouth: Ikkyu by Stephen Berg
WAKA POEMS ATTRIBUTED to IKKYŪ SŌJUN
"Very much so it is for me
that even compared to the very best person
only the voice of the shakuhachi is really a friend."
"In just one evening
the shakuhachi made me realize
that for numerous nights to come
it has become like an old friend."
Transl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.
Source: Nakatsuka, 1979, p. 66.
Ikkyu Manga 漫画
The Japanese manga author Hisashi Sakaguchi (坂口尚 1946-1995) wrote a life story of Ikkyu, あっかんべェ一休, 'Ikkyu', or 'Akkanbe Ikkyu', more or less according to the popular stories about him. The manga has been translated in four volumes into Catalan, Spanish, French, German and Italian.
Read Ikkyu online in English: https://m.mangabat.com/read-xb375694 & https://m.manganelo.com/manga-sw107016
vol. 1, chapter 1-4.
vol. 2, chapter 5-8.
Old Wine in New Wineskins: Hisashi Sakaguchi's Ikkyu
by Ng Suat Tong
Maestro buddhista zen, è comunemente ritenuto figlio illegittimo dell'imperatore Gokomatsu (後小松天皇 Gokomatsu-tennō, 1377-1433, regno: 1392-1412) e di una dama di corte di basso rango.
Abbandonato dalla madre nel tempio buddhista zen di istituzione Gozan (五山), l'Ankoku-ji (安国寺) di Kyoto, Ikkyū trascorse l'infanzia tra questo tempio e il Tenryū-ji (天龍寺), sempre a Kyoto e anch'esso di istituzione Gozan.
Nel 1410, Ikkyū lasciò il Tenryū-ji per trasferirsi in un eremo sotto la guida di Ken'ō Sōi (謙翁宗為 ?-1414). Da notare che questo maestro zen, Ken'ō Sōi, era privo di un formale certificato di illuminazione (印可, inka) e proveniva dai monasteri Daitoku-ji (大徳寺) e Myōshin-ji (妙心寺) che da tempo erano usciti dall'orbita del Gozan, quest'ultima una istituzione sostenuta dagli stessi shogun.
Tale scelta dimostra quanto Ikkyū fosse, fin dall'adolescenza, insofferente nei confronti degli aspetti formali delle istituzioni zen, mirando piuttosto ai contenuti della tradizione di questa scuola buddhista. La prevalenza per Ikkyū del contenuto rispetto alla formalità degli insegnamenti venne confermata dal fatto che, dopo la morte di Ken'ō Sōi nel 1414, egli si trasferì al Daitoku-ji di Kyoto, sotto la guida del ventiduesimo abate di questo monastero, Kasō Sōdon (華叟宗曇, 1352-1428), con cui studiò presso un piccolo eremo a Katada sulle rive del Lago Biwa e dove, nel 1420 all'età di ventisei anni, raggiunse il satori (悟り), l' "illuminazione", al grido di una cornacchia mentre meditava su una barca.
Ma anche Ikkyū, come Ken'ō Sōi, rifiutò il certificato di illuminazione offertogli dal suo maestro. Poco tempo dopo questo avvenimento, Ikkyū lasciò Katada, probabilmente per dei contrasti intercorsi con lo stesso Kasō Sōdon, dirigendosi verso Sakai dove presto conquistò fama di grande eccentrico frequentando postriboli e taverne. Ikkyū avrà modo di sostenere più volte che questi luoghi erano di gran lunghi più adatti all' "illuminazione" buddhista rispetto ai corrotti monasteri di Kyoto. In questo periodo, iniziò la sua lunga vita di monaco itinerante, assumendo il nome di Kyōun (狂雲, Nuvola folle) cui fece riferimento nel titolo della sua raccolta poetica più importante: Kyōunshū (狂雲集, Raccolta della Nuvola folle)).
Presto anche il Daitoku-ji divenne bersaglio dei suoi strali, nonostante fosse stato, per un breve periodo nel 1440, abate di un padiglione minore di questo monastero, il Nyoi-an.
La nomina ad abate di Yōsō Sōi (養叟宗頤, 1376-1458),
già discepolo di Kasō Sōdon, acuì infatti gli attacchi di Ikkyū al monastero di Kyoto essendo stato, l'appena nominato abate, suo rivale ai tempi di Katada.
Sempre a partire dal 1440, Ikkyū si dedicò con passione alle emergenti nuove arti giapponesi: la calligrafia, dove le sue opere vennero successivamente molto apprezzate; la poesia, dove studiò con il poeta Sōchō (宗長, 1448-1532); il teatro Nō, dove strinse rapporti con l'autore Komparu Zenchiku (金春禅竹, 1405-1468); la Cerimonia del tè, dove collaborò con il monaco Murata Shukō (村田珠光, 1427-1502) ai primi canoni di questa disciplina; la pittura, dove frequentò i pittori Bokkei Saiyo (n.d.) e Motsurin Shōtō (anche Bokusai, 墨斎, 1412?-1492).
Nel 1447 abbandonò definitivamente il Daitoku-ji, ritirandosi in un eremo nei pressi di Kyoto che denominò "Capanna dell'asino cieco" e dove rimase fino al 1467, allorché la zona iniziò ad essere funestata dagli scontri che portarono al conflitto Ōnin, la guerra civile che devastò il paese per ben dieci anni. Dopo altre peregrinazioni ritornò, per ordine imperiale, al Daitoku-ji nel 1474, quando il monastero non era che un mucchio di rovine causate dalle guerre civili. Le conoscenze maturate durante la sua vita errabonda, gli consentirono tuttavia di raccogliere donazioni per la ricostruzione del monastero Daitoku-ji che venne rifondato e che lo ebbe come abate fin dal 1474. I suoi ultimi anni di vita li trascorse in disparte, nei pressi di un piccolo tempio, insieme ad una cantante cieca di nome Mori.
Morì in tarda età, a ottantasette anni, stroncato da un attacco di malaria.
L'opera poetica maggiore di Ikkyū è il Kyōunshū (狂雲集, Antologia di nuvole pazze) che comprende circa mille poesie di stile cinese, tutte con metro di quattro versi con sette caratteri per verso. Una seconda opera poetica è il Jikaishū (自戒集, Raccomandazioni a se stesso). Oltre a queste opere poetiche è autore di alcune prose di carattere eminentemente buddhista: Bukkigun (仏鬼軍, La guerra dei buddha e dei demoni), Maka hannya haramitta singyō kai (摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経解, Spiegazione del Sutra del cuore della perfezione di saggezza), Amida hadaka monogatari (阿弥陀裸物語, Il racconto di Amida nudo), Gaikotsu (骸骨, Scheletri). Lo stile della sua poesia non prevedeva l'uso di caratteri fonetici hiragana non presenti nell'alfabeto cinese. Assai dibattuta è la forte contraddizione tra la fede professata nelle sue poesie e le immagini sensuali, spesso assai crude, che appaiono con una certa frequenza nei suoi versi. La sua poesia è un susseguirsi di elevati concetti religiosi e di forti passioni carnali, queste ultime tutt'altro che fantasiose quali quelle suscitate dall'amante cieca Mori.
Ikkyu Sojun 一休宗純 (1394-1481) was the son of a lady of the imperial court of Emperor Go-Komatsu 後小松 (r. 1392–1412). When he was five years old, following his mother's expulsion from the court, he entered the temple Ankoku-ji 安國寺 in Kyoto and there learned the essentials of Chinese poetry, refining his knowledge during four years at Kennin-ji. Later he meditated with the hermit-monk Ken'ō Sōi (謙翁宗為 ?-1414) at the temple Saikin-ji 西金寺; after Ken'o's death he became the disciple of Kaso Sodon 華叟宗曇 (1352–1428), who lived in a hermitage on the shores of Lake Biwa. He spent nine years with Kaso, under whom he experienced a deep awakening while meditating on the koan “Dungshan's Sixty Blows,” and later had another profound realization when hearing the caw of a crow. After Kaso recognized him as his successor, Ikkyu spent a further thirty years as a wandering monk living and associating with all classes of the people. From the age of sixty he lived at Daitoku-ji, and was eventually made abbot of that great temple. One of his accomplishments was the restoration of the buildings of Daitoku-ji after their destruction during the Onin Wars (1467–77). Ikkyu remains a popular figure to this day, and is remembered for his wit and humor as well as his poetry and paintings.
James H. Sanford, "Mandalas of the Heart: Two Prose Works by Ikkyū Sōjun." MN 35: 3 (1980), 273-98. [After an account of Ikkyū's life, Sanford includes translations of two the seven prose works thought to be written by Ikkyū: Amida hadaka あまだはだか（or Amida hadaka monogatari 阿弥陀裸物語）("Amida Stripped Bare"), pp. 283-89, and Bukkigun 仏鬼軍 ("the Buddhas' Great War on Hell"), pp. 290-98 (with illustrations). Both belong to genre of kana hōgo 仮名法語, a form of popular sermon.
James H. Sanford, Mandalas of the Heart. Two Prose Works by Ikkyu Sojun , Monumenta Nipponica , Vol. 35, No. 3 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 273-298
IKKYU: ZEN ECCENTRIC
In: Zen Experience by Thomas Hoover
The earliest Japanese masters brought Ch'an from China in the
hope that its discipline would revitalize traditional Buddhism.
Since Eisai's temple was the first to include Ch'an practice, he has
received credit for founding Japanese Rinzai Zen. History,
however, has glorified matters somewhat, for in fact Eisai was
little more than a Tendai priest who dabbled a bit in Ch'an practice
and enjoyed a gift for advancing himself with the Kamakura
warlords. Nor was Dogen inspired to establish the Soto sect in
Japan. He too was merely a reformer who chanced across a
Chinese Soto master devoted to meditation. It was the powerful
discipline of meditation that Dogen sought to introduce into Japan,
not a sectarian branch of Zen. Only later did Dogen's movement
become a proselytizing Zen sect. These and other thirteenthcentury
Japanese reformers imported Ch'an for the simple reason
that it was the purest expression of Buddhism left in China. During
the early era Zen focused on Kyoto and Kamakura and was
mainly a reformation within the Tendai school. The Japanese
understanding of Ch'an was hesitant and inconclusive—to the
point that few Japanese of the mid-thirteenth century actually
realized a new form of Buddhism was in the making.1
Over the next century and a half, however, a revolution
began, as Zen at first gradually and then precipitously became the
preoccupation of Japan's ruling class. The Zen explosion came
about via a combination of circumstances. We have seen that the
warrior ruler Hojo Tokiyori (1227-63) was interested in the school
and offered Dogen a temple in Kamakura, an invitation Dogen
refused. However, in 1246 an emigre Ch'an master from the
Chinese mainland named Lan-ch'i (1212-78) appeared in Japan
uninvited, having heard of Japanese interest in Ch'an. He went
first to Kyoto, where he found Zen still subject to hostile
sectarianism, and then to Kamakura, where he managed in 1249
to meet Tokiyori. The Japanese strongman was delighted and
proceeded to have the temple of another sect converted to a Zen
establishment, making Lan-ch'i abbot. Shortly after, Tokiyori
completed construction of a Sung-style Zen monastery in
Kamakura, again putting Lan-ch'i in charge. This Chinese monk,
merely one of many in his native China, had become head of the
leading Zen temple in Japan. When word got back, a host of
enterprising Chinese clerics began pouring into the island nation
seeking their fortune.2
Thus began the next phase of early Japanese Zen, fueled by
the invasion of Chinese Ch'an monks. This movement occupied
the remainder of the thirteenth century and was spurred along by
unsettled conditions in China—namely the imminent fall of the
Southern Sung Dynasty to the Mongols and a concurrent power
struggle within Ch'an itself, which induced monks from the less
powerful establishments to seek greener pastures.3 In 1263 a
senior Ch'an cleric named Wu-an (1197-1276) arrived in
Kamakura and was also made an abbot by Tokiyori.4 The first
monk, Lan-ch'i, thereupon moved to Kyoto and began
proselytizing in the old capital. Wu-an subsequently certified
Tokiyori with a seal of enlightenment, making the military
strongman of Japan an acknowledged Ch'an master. Tokiyori's
interest in Zen did not go unnoticed by the warriors around him,
and his advocacy, combined with the influx of Chinese monks
appearing to teach, initiated the Zen bandwagon in Kamakura.
Tokiyori died in 1263, and his young son Tokimune (1251—
84), who came to power five years later, initially showed no
interest in Zen practice. But he was still in his teens in 1268 when
there appeared in Japan envoys from Kublai Khan demanding
tribute. The Mongols were at that moment completing their sack of
China, and Japan seemed the next step. Undeterred, the
Japanese answered all Mongol demands with haughty insults,
with the not-unexpected result that in 1274 Kublai launched an
invasion fleet. Although his ships foundered in a fortuitous streak
of bad weather, the Japanese knew that there would be more. It
was then that Tokimune began strengthening his discipline
through Zen meditation and toughening his instincts with koans.
He studied under a newly arrived Chinese master whose limited
Japanese necessitated their communicating through a translator.
(When the enlightened Chinese found cause to strike his allpowerful
student, he prudently pummeled the interpreter
instead.)5 The samurai also began to take an interest in Zen,
which naturally appealed to the warrior mentality because of its
emphasis on discipline, on experience over education, and on a
rough-and-tumble practice including debates with a master and
blows for the loser—all congenial to men of simple, unschooled
tastes. For their own part, the perceptive Chinese missionaries,
hampered by the language barrier, rendered Zen as simplistic as
possible to help the faith compete with the Salvationist sects
among the often illiterate warriors.
In 1281 the Mongols launched another invasion force, this
time 100,000 men strong, but they were held off several weeks by
the steel-nerved samurai until a typhoon (later named the
Kamikaze or "Divine Wind") providentially sank the fleet. The
extent to which Zen training aided this victory can be debated, but
the courage of Tokimune and his soldiers undoubtedly benefited
from its rigorous discipline. The Japanese ruler himself gave Zen
heavy credit and immediately began building a commemorative
Zen monastery in Kamakura.
By the time of Tokimuni's premature death in 1284, Rinzai
Zen had been effectively established as the faith of the Kamakura
rulers. His successor continued the development of Zen
establishments, supported by new Chinese masters who also
began teaching Chinese culture (calligraphy, literature, ink
painting, philosophy) to the Kamakura warriors along with their
Zen. Since the faith was definitely beginning to boom, the
government prudently published a list of restrictions for Zen
monasteries, including an abolition of arms (a traditional problem
with the other sects) and a limit on the number of pretty boys
(novices) that could be quartered in a compound to tempt the
monks. The maximum number of monks in each monastery also
was prescribed, and severe rules were established governing
discipline. Out of this era in the late thirteenth century evolved an
organization of Zen temples in Kyoto and Kamakura based on the
Sung Chinese model of five main monasteries (called the "five
mountains" or gozan) and a network of ten officially recognized
subsidiary temples. Furthermore, Chinese culture became so
fashionable in Kamakura that collections of Sung art began
appearing among the illiterate provincial warriors—an early
harbinger of the Japanese evolution of Zen from asceticism to
The creation of the gozan system at the end of the thirteenth
century gave Zen a formal role in the religious structure of Japan.
Zen was now fashionable and had powerful friends, a perfect
combination to foster growth and influence. On the sometimes
pointed urging of the government, temples from other sects were
converted to Zen establishments by local authorities throughout
Japan.7 The court and aristocracy in Kyoto also began taking an
interest in pure, Sung-style Rinzai. Temples were built in Kyoto
(or converted from other sects), and even the cloistered emperors
began to meditate (perhaps searching less for enlightenment than
for the rumored occult powers). When the Kamakura regime
collapsed in the mid-fourteenth century and warriors of the newly
ascendent Ashikaga clan returned the seat of government to
Kyoto, the old capital was already well acquainted with Zen's
political importance. However, although Rinzai Zen had made
much visible headway in Japan—the ruling classes increasingly
meditated on koans, and Chinese monks operated new Sungstyle
monasteries—the depth of understanding seems
disappointingly superficial overall. The gozan system soon turned
so political, as monasteries competed for official favor, that before
long establishment Zen was almost devoid of spiritual content. In
many ways, Japanese Zen became decadent almost from the
start. The immense prestige of imported Chinese art and ideas,
together with the powerful role of the Zen clerics as virtually the
only group sufficiently educated to oversee relations with the
continent, meant that early on, Zen's cultural role became as
telling as its spiritual place.
Perhaps the condition of Zen is best illustrated by noting that
the most famous priest of the era, Muso Soseki (1275-1351), was
actually a powerful political figure. This Zen prelate, who never
visited China, came to prominence when he served first an illfated
emperor—subsequently deposed—and later the Ashikaga
warrior who deposed him. Muso was instrumental in the
Japanese government's establishment of regular trade with the
mainland. He was also responsible for a revision of the gozan
administrative system, establishing (in 1338) official Zen temples
in all sixty-six provinces of Japan and spreading the power base
of the faith. Although Muso is today honored as an important
Japanese master, he actually preferred a "syncretic" Zen
intermingled with esoteric rites and apparently understood very
little of real Zen. A prototype for many Zen leaders to come, he
was a scholar, aesthetician, and architect of some of the great
cultural monuments in Kyoto, personally designing several of the
capital's finest temples and landscape gardens.
Thus by the mid-fourteenth century Zen had become hardly
more than an umbrella for the import of Chinese technology, art,
and philosophy.8 The monks were, by Muso's own admission,
more often than not "shaven-headed laymen" who came to Zen to
learn painting and to write a stilted form of Chinese verse as part
of a gozan literary movement. The overall situation has been well
summarized by Philip Yampolsky: "The monks in temples were all
poets and literary figures.. . . [T]he use of koans, particularly those
derived from the [Blue Cliff Record], became a literary and
educational device rather than a method for the practice of Zen."9
He further notes that ". . . with the gozan system frozen in a
bureaucratic mold, priests with administrative talents gained in
ascendency. In the headquarters temples men interested in
literary pursuits withdrew completely from temple affairs and
devoted themselves exclusively to literature. To be sure, priests
gave lectures and continued to write commentaries. But the
gozan priests seemed to concern themselves more and more with
trivialities. By the mid-fifteenth century Zen teaching had virtually
disappeared in the temples, and the priests devoted themselves
mainly to ceremonial and administrative duties."10 Authentic Zen
practice had become almost completely emasculated,
overshadowed by the rise of a Zen-inspired cultural movement far
outstripping Chinese prototypes.
The political convolutions of fourteenth-century Japan, as well
as the organizational shenanigans of the official Rinzai Zen sect,
need not detain us further.11 We need only note that the gozan
system, which so effectively gave Zen an official presence
throughout Japan, also meant that the institution present was Zen
in name only. Significantly, however, a few major monasteries
elected not to participate in the official system. One of the most
important was the Daitoku-ji in Kyoto, which managed, by not
becoming part of the establishment, to maintain some authenticity
in its practice. And out of the Daitoku-ji tradition there came from
time to time a few Zen monks who still understood what Zen was
supposed to be about, who understood it was more than painting,
gardens, poetry, and power. Perhaps the most celebrated of
these iconoclastic throwbacks to authentic Zen was the legendary
Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481).
The master Ikkyu, a breath of fresh air in the stifling,
hypocritical world of institutionalized Zen, seems almost a
reincarnation of the early Ch'an masters of the T'ang.12 However,
his penchant for drinking and womanizing is more reminiscent of
the Taoists than the Buddhists. Historical information on Ikkyu
and his writings is spread among various documents of uneven
reliability. The major source is a pious chronicle allegedly
compiled by his disciple Bokusai from firsthand information.
Whereas this document has the virtue of being contemporaneous
with his life, it has the drawback of being abbreviated and
selectively edited to omit unflattering facts. Then there is a
collection of tales from the Tokugawa era (1615-1868) which are
heavily embellished when not totally apocryphal. The picaresque
character created in the Tokugawa Tales led one commentator to
liken Ikkyu to the fabulous Sufi philosopher-vagabond Nasrudin,
who also became a vehicle to transmit folk wisdom.13 These tales
seem to have developed around Ikkyu simply because his devilmay-
care attitude, combined with his antischolarly pose, made
him a perfect peg on which to hang all sorts of didactic (not to
mention Rabelaisian) anecdotes. Finally, there is a vast body of
his own poetry and prose, as well as a collection of calligraphy
now widely admired for its spontaneity and power.
Bokusai's chronicle identifies Ikkyu's mother as a lady-in-waiting
at the imperial palace of Emperor Gokomatsu, who chose
from time to time to "show her favor." When she was discovered
to be with child, the empress had her sent away, charging that
she was sympathetic to a competing political faction.
Consequently, the master Ikkyu was born in the house of a
commoner on New Year's Day of the year 1394, the natural son of
an emperor and a daughter of the warrior class.
At age five his mother made him acolyte in a Zen monastery,
a move some suggest was for his physical safety, lest the shogun
decide to do away with this emperor's son as a potential threat.
His schooling in this gozan era was aristocratic and classical,
founded on Chinese literature and the Buddhist sutras. By age
eleven he was studying the Vimalakirti Sutra and by thirteen he
was intensively reading and writing Chinese poetry. One of his
works, written at age fifteen and entitled "Spring Finery,"
demonstrates a delicate sensibility reminiscent of John Keats:
How many passions cling to this wanderer's sleeves?
Multitudes of falling blossoms mark the passion of Heaven and Earth.
A perfumed breeze across my pillow; Am I asleep or awake?
Here and now melt into an indistinct Spring dream.14
The poet here has returned from a walk only to find the perfume
of flowers clinging to his clothes, confusing his sense of reality
and place. It recalls Keats' nightingale—"Fled is that music:—Do I
wake or sleep?" In this early poem we catch a glimpse of the
sensualist Ikkyu would one day become.
At age eighteen he became a novice to a reclusive monk of
the Myoshin-ji branch of Zen in Kyoto; but when his mentor died
two years later he wandered for a time disconsolate and suicideprone.
Then at twenty-two he decided to try for an interview with
Kaso Soton (1352-1428), the Daitoku-ji-trained master known to
be the sternest teacher in Japan. As was traditional, the master at
first shut him out and refused an audience. Ikkyu resolved to wait
outside until death, "taking the dew for his roof and the grasses for
his bed." He slept at night under an empty boat and stood all day
in front of Kaso's retreat. After Kaso repeatedly failed to
discourage him, even once dousing him with water, the master
relented and invited Ikkyu in for an interview. They were made for
each other and for many years thereafter Ikkyu and Kaso
"pursued deep matters tirelessly."
Ikkyu came to revere Kaso, probably one of the few authentic
masters of the age, and he stayed to serve this teacher for almost
a decade, even though life with Kaso was arduous. Since they
lived near a major lake, Ikkyu would each night meditate in a
borrowed fisherman's boat until dawn. When his purse "went flat,"
he would journey to the capital and sell incense or cheap clothing
to poor housewives—afterwards returning to the monastery in the
same straw sandals, hat, and cloak.15 After three years Kaso gave
him the Zen name Ikkyu, a recognition of his progress.
Ikkyu's enlightenment occurred in his twenty-sixth year when,
while meditating in the boat, he was startled by the cry of a crow.
He rushed back at dawn and reported this to his master.
Kaso responded, "You have reached the stage of an arhat
[one who has overcome ego], but not that of a Master, novice."
Ikkyu replied, "Then I'm perfectly happy as an arhat and don't
need to be a Master."
Kaso responded, "Well, then, you really are a Master after
Although it was customary for monks to receive a certificate
from their master attesting to their enlightenment, the matter of
Ikkyu's certificate is problematical. He himself refused to give out
certificates, and he is depicted in Bokusai's chronicle as
periodically taking out his own and requesting it be destroyed by
his disciples—after which it seemed to miraculously appear again
several years later. The quantity of invention and accretion
attached to Ikkyu's disappearing certificate has fostered
speculation that he never, in fact, actually received a seal.
In any case, he probably would have destroyed his own seal
of enlightenment in later years. His life grew progressively more
unconventional with time, just the opposite of most. Beginning as
a classicist in the finest Kyoto tradition, he had gone on to
become a spiritual recluse in the mountains under a harsh
meditation master. After all this training he then took the road,
becoming a wandering monk in the traditional T'ang mode.
Well, almost in the traditional mode. He seemed to wander
into brothels and wine shops almost as often as into Zen temples.
He consorted with high and low, merchant and commoner, male
and female. Our record of these explorations, both geographic
and social, is in his writings, particularly his poetry. He also
harbored a vendetta against the complacency and corruption of
Japanese Zen and its masters, particularly the new abbot of
Daitoku-ji, an older man named Yoso who had once been a fellow
disciple of his beloved Kaso.
When Ikkyu was forty-six he was invited by Yoso to head a
subtemple in the Daitoku-ji compound. He accepted, much to the
delight of his admirers, who began bringing the temple donations
in gratitude. However, after only ten days Ikkyu concluded that
Daitoku-ji too had become more concerned with ceremony than
with the preservation of Zen, and he wrote a famous protest poem
as a parting gesture—claiming he could find more of Zen in the
meat, drink, and sex traditionally forbidden Buddhists.
For ten days in this temple my mind's been in turmoil,
My feet are entangled in endless red tape.
If some day you get around to looking for me,
Try the fish-shop, the wine parlor, or the brothel.17
Ikkyu's attack on the commercialization of Zen was not
without cause. The scholar Jan Covell observes that in Ikkyu's
time, "Rinzai Zen had sunk to a low point and enlightenment was
'sold,' particularly by those temples associated with the
Shogunate. Zen temples also made money in sake-brewing and
through usury. In the mid-fifteenth century one Zen temple,
Shokoku-ji, furnished all the advisers to the Shogunate's
government and received most of the bribes. The imperialsanctioned
temple of Daitoku-ji was only on the fringe of this
corruption, but Ikkyu felt he could not criticize it enough."18
Ironically, Ikkyu also attacked the writing of "Zen" poetry—in
his poems. He was really attacking the literary gozan movement,
the preoccupation of monks who forsook Zen to concentrate on
producing forgettable verse in formal Chinese. They put their
poetry before, indeed in place of, Zen practice. Ikkyu used his
poetry (later collected as the "Crazy Cloud Poems" or Kyoun-shu)
as a means of expressing his enlightenment, as well as his
criticism of the establishment. It also, as often as not, celebrated
sensual over spiritual pleasures.
Whereas the T'ang masters created illogic and struggled with
intuitive transmission, Ikkyu cheerfully gave in to the existential
life of the senses. In the introduction to one poem he told a
parable explaining his priorities.
Once upon a time there was an old woman who supported a
retired hermit for some twenty years. For a long time, she sent a
young girl to serve his food. One day she told the girl to throw her
arms around the monk and ask him how he felt. When the girl did
so, the monk told her, "I am like a withered tree propped up
against a cold boulder after three winters without warmth." The
girl went back to the old woman and made her report. "Twenty
years wasted feeding a phony layman!" exclaimed the woman.
Then she ran him off and burnt his hut to the ground.
The grandmotherly old woman tried to give that rascal a ladder.
To provide the pure monk with a nice bride.
If tonight I were to be made such a proposition,
The withered willow would put forth new spring growth.19
A particularly lyrical exploration of sensuality is found in a poem
entitled "A Woman's [Body] has the Fragrance of Narcissus,"
which celebrates the essence of sexuality.
One should gaze long at [the fairy] hill then ascend it.
Midnight on the Jade bed amid [Autumn] dreams
A flower opening beneath the thrust of the plum branch.
Rocking gently between the fairy's thighs.20
Ikkyu's amours seem to have produced a number of natural
progeny. In fact, there is the legend that one of Ikkyu's most
devoted followers, a monk named Jotei, was in fact his illegitimate
son. According to the Tokugawa Tales, there was a once-rich fan
maker in Sakai whose business had declined to the point that he
had to sell his shop and stand on the streetcorner hawking fans.
Then one day Ikkyu came by carrying some fans decorated with
his own famous calligraphy and asked the man to take them on
commission. Naturally they all sold immediately and, by
subsequent merchandising of Ikkyu's works, the man's business
eventually was restored. In gratitude he granted Ikkyu his
daughter, from which union sprang Ikkyu's natural son, Jotei.
This story is questionable but it does illustrate the reputation
Ikkyu enjoyed, both as artist and lover. Furthermore, he wrote
touching and suspiciously fatherly poems to a little girl named
Watching this four-year-old girl sing and dance,
I feel the pull of ties that are hard to dismiss,
Forgetting my duties I slip into freedom.
Master Abbot, whose Zen is this?21
When Ikkyu was in his seventies, during the disastrous civil
conflict known as the Onin war, he had a love affair with a fortyyear-
old temple attendant named Mori. On languid afternoons she
would play the Japanese koto or harp and he the wistful-sounding
shakuhachi , a long bamboo flute sometimes carried by monks as
a weapon. This late-life love affair occasioned a number of erotic
poems, including one that claims her restoration of his virility
(called by the Chinese euphemism "jade stalk") cheered his
How is my hand like Mori's hand?
Self confidence is the vassal, Freedom the master.
When I am ill she cures the jade stalk
And brings joy back to my followers.22
Ikkyu also left a number of prose fables and sermons that
portray a more sober personality than does his often iconoclastic
verse. One classic work, written in 1457 and called "Skeletons,"
has become a Zen classic. In the section given below he explores
the Buddhist idea of the Void and nothingness:
Let me tell you something. Human birth is analogous to striking up
a fire—the father is flint, the mother is stone and the child is the
spark. Once the spark touches a lamp wick it continues to exist
through the "secondary support" of the fuel until that is exhausted.
Then it flickers out. The lovemaking of the parents is the
equivalent of striking the spark. Since the parents too have "no
beginning," in the end they, too, will flicker out. Everything grows
out of empty space from which all forms derive. If one lets go the
forms then he reaches what is called the "original ground." But
since all sentient beings come from nothingness we can use even
the term "original ground" only as a temporary tag.23
It seems unfortunate that Ikkyu's prose is not better known
today.24 In fact the best-known accounts of Ikkyu are the
apocryphal tales that attached to him during the Tokugawa era. A
typical episode is the following, entitled "Ikkyu Does Magic," in
which the picaresque Zen-man uses his natural resources to
thwart the bluster of a haughty priest from one of the scholarly
aristocratic sects—just the thing guaranteed to please the common
Once Ikkyu was taking the Yodo no Kawase ferry on his way
to Sakai. There was a yamabushi [mountain ascetic of Esoteric
Buddhism] on board who began to question him.
"Hey, Your Reverence, what sect are you?"
"I belong to the Zen sect," replied Ikkyu.
"I don't suppose your sect has miracles the way our sect
"No, actually we have lots of miracles. But if it's miracles, why
don't you show the sort of miracles that your people have?"
"Well," said the yamabushi, "By virtue of my magic powers I
can pray up Fudo [a fierce guardian deity of Buddhism] before
your very eyes and make him stand right there on the prow of the
And, with the beads of his rosary the man began to invoke
first Kongo and then Seitaka [Esoteric Buddhist deities]. At this, all
the passengers began to look back and forth wondering what was
going to happen. Then, just as he had said, there on the prow of
the boat, the form of Fudo appeared surrounded by a halo of
Then the yamabushi made a ferocious face and told him,
"You'd all better offer him a prayer." This made the other
passengers very uneasy—all that is but Ikkyu, who was completely
"Well," spat out the yamabushi, "How about you, Zen monk?
How are you going to deal with my miracle?"
"By producing a miracle of my own. From my very body I will
cause water to issue forth and extinguish the flames of your Fudo.
You'd better start your prayers up again." And Ikkyu began to pee
mightily all over the flames until at last the yamabushi's magic
was counteracted and the entire image melted away. Thereupon
the passengers on the boat all bowed to Ikkyu for his wonderful
Ironically, the real-life Ikkyu spent his twilight years restoring
Daitoku-ji after its destruction (along with the rest of Kyoto) from
the ten-year Onin war (1467-77), by taking over the temple and
using his contacts in the merchant community to raise funds. He
had over a hundred disciples at this time, a popularity that
saddened him since earlier (and, he thought, more deserving)
masters had had many fewer followers. Thus in the last decade of
his life he finally exchanged his straw sandals and reed hat for the
robes of a prestigious abbot over a major monastery. His own
ambivalence on this he confessed in a poem:
Fifty years a rustic wanderer,
Now mortified in purple robes.26
Ikkyu's contributions to Zen culture are also significant. He
helped inspire the secular Zen ritual known today as the tea
ceremony, by encouraging the man today remembered as its
founder. He also supported one of the best-known dramatists of
the No theater and was himself a master calligrapher, an art
closely akin to painting in the Far East and regarded by many as
even more demanding.27 He even created a soybean dish (natto)
now a staple of Zen monastic cuisine.
But as his biographer James Sanford has pointed out, the real
life of this truly great Japanese master has all but eluded us. His
poetry is in classical Chinese and virtually unknown; his prose lies
largely unread; and the Tokugawa legend of Ikkyu is almost
entirely apocryphal. This last travesty has extended even to
fictionalizing his role as a child at the monastery; there is now a
popular television cartoon series in Japan about the irrepressible
acolyte Ikkyu. Sanford speculates that his attraction for
contemporary Japanese is that, in the legend of Ikkyu, "it is
possible for the modern Japanese mind to re-discover 'native'
examples of, and justification for, individualism—a term and
concept whose full assimilation into modern Japanese culture has
for over fifty years been blocked by a legacy of residual Neo-
Confucian norms left over from [Japan's repressive past]."28
It does seem true that the Zen-man Ikkyu represents a safety
valve in Japanese society, both then and now. He brought the
impulsive candor of Zen to the world of affairs, demonstrating by
example that after enlightenment it is necessary to return to a
world where mountains are again mountains, rivers again rivers.
And by rejecting official "Zen," Ikkyu may well have been the most
Zenlike of all Japanese masters.
1. This view is advanced convincingly by Collcutt in "Zen
Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan," p. 113 ff.
2. Ibid., p. 80.
3. This would seem to be one of the reasons for what became of
a host of emigrating Ch'an teachers as sub-sects of the Yogi
branch struggled for ascendency over each other.
4. Wu-an's strength of mind is illustrated by a story related in
Collcutt, "Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan," p. 84:
"Wu-an is said to have shocked the religious sensibilities of
many warriors and monks when, in what has been interpreted
as a deliberate attempt to sever the connection between Zen
and prayer in Japanese minds, he publicly refused to worship
before the statue of Jizo in the Buddha Hill of Kencho-ji on the
grounds that whereas Jizo was merely a Bodhisattva, he, Wuan,
was a Buddha."
5. Related in Ibid., p. 88.
6. Collcutt ("Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan," p. 114)
points out that the warrior interest in Zen and its Chinese
cultural trappings should also be credited partly to their desire
to stand up to the snobbery of the Kyoto aristocracy. By
making themselves emissaries of a prestigious foreign
civilization, the warrior class achieved a bit of cultural oneupmanship
on the Kyoto snob set.
7. Collcutt ("Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan," p. 106)
reports that this conversion of temples to Zen was not always
spontaneous. There is the story of one local governor who
was called to Kamakura and in the course of a public
assembly asked pointedly whether his family had yet built a
Zen monastery in their home province. The terrified official
declared he had built a monastery for a hundred Zen monks,
and then raced home to start construction.
8. A discussion of the contribution of Zen to Japanese civilization
may be found in Hoover, Zen Culture. An older survey is D. T.
Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, N. J.:
Princeton University Press, 1959).
9. Yampolsky, Zen Master Hakuin, p. 8.
10. Philip Yampolsky, "Muromachi Zen and the Gozan System,"
in John W. Hall and Toyoda Takeshi, eds., Japan in the
Muromachi Age (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1977), p. 319.
11. One of the best political histories of this era is Sansom,
History of Japan. For the history of Zen, the best work
appears to be Martin Collcutt, The Zen Monastic Institution in
Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, in
press), a revised version of the dissertation cited above.
12. English sources on Ikkyu are less common than might at first
be supposed. The most exhaustive study and translation of
original Ikkyu writings to date is certainly that of James
Sanford, "Zen-Man Ikkyu" (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard
University, 1972). There is also a lively and characteristically
insightful essay by Donald Keene, "The Portrait of Ikkyu," in
Archives of Asian Art, Vol. 20 (1966-67), pp. 54-65. This
essay has been collected in Donald Keene, Landscapes and
Portraits (Palo Alto: Kodansha International, 1971). Another
work of Ikkyu scholarship is Sonja Arntzen, "A Presentation of
the Poet Ikkyu with Translations from the Kyounshu 'Mad
Cloud Anthology'" (Unpublished thesis, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver, 1966).
13. See Thomas Cleary, The Original Face: An Anthology of
Rinzai Zen (New York: Grove Press, 1978), p. 13. An
example of a Nasrudin-esque parable told about Ikkyu is the
story of his approaching the house of a rich man one day to
beg for food wearing his torn robes and straw sandals. The
man drove him away, but when he returned the following day
in the luxurious robe of a Buddhist prelate, he was invited in
for a banquet. But when the food arrived Ikkyu removed his
robe and offered the food to it.
14. Sanford, "Zen-Man Ikkyu," p. 48.
15. Ibid., p. 68.
16. Ibid. pp. 80-81.
17. Translated by Keene, Landscapes and Portraits, p. 235.
Professor Keene (personal communication) has provided a
revised and, he believes, more fully accurate translation of
this verse as follows:
After ten days of living in this temple my mind's in turmoil;
Red strings, very long, tug at my feet.
If one day you get around to looking for me,
Try the restaurants, the drinking places or the brothels.
He notes that the "red strings" of the second line refer to the
ties of physical attachment to women that drew Ikkyu from the
temple to the pleasure quarters.
18. Jon Covell and Yamada Sobin, Zen at Daitoku-ji (New York:
Kodansha International, 1974), p. 36.
19. Sanford, "Zen-Man Ikkyu," p. 221.
20. Ibid., p. 226.
21. Ibid., p. 235.
22. Ibid., p. 225.
23. Ibid., pp. 253-54. A translation may also be found in Cleary,
Original Face; and in R. H. Blyth and N. A. Waddell, "Ikkyu's
Skeletons," The Eastern Buddhist, N.S. 7, 3 (May 1973), pp.
111-25. Also see Blyth, Zen and Zen Classics, Vol. 7.
24. Sanford claims ("Zen-Man Ikkyu," p. 341) that Ikkyu's prose is
"almost totally unknown" in Japan.
25. Ibid., pp. 326-27.
26. Ibid., p. 172.
27. Jan Covell (Zen at Daitoku-ji, p. 38) says, "Ikkyu's own ink
paintings are unpretentious and seemingly artless, always
with the flung-ink technique. His calligraphy is ranked among
history's greatest . . ."
28. Sanford, "Zen-Man Ikkyu," p. 342.