- For the martial arts grading system, see kyū.
was an eccentric
, iconic Japanese Zen Buddhist
priest and poet
. He had a great impact on the infusion of Japanese art and literature with Zen attitudes and ideals.. He was also one of the creators of the formal Japanese tea ceremony
.This statement requires a reference/verificationThis statement requires verification
Ikkyū was born in 1394 in a small suburb of Kyoto
. It is generally held that he was the son of Emperor Go-Komatsu
and a low-ranking court noblewoman. His mother was forced to flee to Saga, Japan
, where Ikkyū was raised by servants. At age five Ikkyu was separated from his mother and was placed in a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto called Ankoku-ji
, as an acolyte. The temple masters taught Chinese culture and language as part of the curriculum, a method termed Gozan Zen
. He was given the name Shuken, and learned about Chinese poetry
, art and literature.
When Ikkyū turned thirteen he entered Kennin-ji
in Kyoto to study Zen under a well known priest by the name of Botetsu
. Here Ikkyū began to frequently write poetry that was non-traditional in form. He was openly critical of Kennin-ji's leadership in his poetry, disheartened with the social stratum and lack of zazen
practice he saw around him.
In 1410, at age sixteen, Ikkyū left Kennin-ji and entered the temple Mibu, where an abbot named Seiso was in residence. He did not stay long, and soon found himself at Saikin-ji in the Lake Biwa region where he was the sole student of an abbot named Ken'o. It seemed Ikkyū had finally found a master that taught true Rinzai Zen as Ikkyū saw it. Ken'o was sporadic in his teaching style and was a strong believer in the supremacy of zazen. In 1414, when Ikkyū was 21, Keno died. Ikkyū performed funeral rites and fasted for seven days. In despair Ikkyu tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in Lake Biwa, but was talked out of it from the shore by a servant of his mother.
Ikkyū soon found a new teacher in a master named Kaso at Zenko-an, a branch temple of Daitoku-ji. Kaso was much like Ken'o in his style. For years he worked hard on assigned koans and made dolls for a local merchant in Kyoto.
In 1418 Ikkyū was given Case 15 of the Mumonkan, Tozan's 60 Blows. One day a band of blind singers performed at the temple and Ikkyū penetrated his koan while engrossed in the music. In recognition of his understanding Kaso gave Shuken the Dharma name Ikkyu, which roughly means One Pause.
In 1420 Ikkyū was meditating in a boat on Lake Biwa when the sound of a crow sparked satori. Kaso confirmed this great enlightenment and granted Ikkyu inka. Ikkyū came up against the jealousy of Yoso, a more senior student who eventually came to run the monastery. In Ikkyū's poems, Yoso appears as a character unhealthily obsessed with material goods, who sold Zen to increase the prosperity of the temple.
Ikkyu could sometimes be a troublemaker. Known to drink in excess, he would often upset Kaso with his remarks and actions to guests. In response, Kaso gave inka to Yaso and made him Dharma heir. Ikkyu quickly left the temple and lived many years as a vagabond
. He was not alone, however, as he had a regular circle of notable artists and poets from that era. Around this time, he established a relationship with a blind singer Mori who became the love of his later life.
Ikkyu worked to live Zen outside of formal religious institutions. However, the Ōnin War had reduced Daitokuji to ashes, and Ikkyū was elected abbot late in life, a role he reluctantly took on. This firmly placed him in one of the most important Zen lineages. In 1481, Ikkyū died at the age of eighty-eight from acute ague.
Ikkyū is one of the most significant (and eccentric) figures in Zen history. To Japanese children, he is a folk hero, mischievous and always out-smarting his teachers and the shogun
. In addition to passed down oral stories, this is due to the very popular animated TV series "Ikkyū-san
". In Rinzai
Zen tradition, he is both heretic and saint. Ikkyū 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.
Usually he is referred to as one of the main influences on the Fuke sect of Rinzai zen, as he is one of the most famous flute player mendicants of the medieval times of Japan. The piece "Murasaki Reibo" is attributed to him.
He is accredited as one of the great influences on the Tea ceremony.
Ikkyū 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, Ikkyū painted with ink.
In the anime OVA Read or Die, a clone of Ikkyu appears as the leader of the villains, all of whom are also clones of famous historical figures.
In the second edition of the book On the Warrior's Path, author Daniele Bolelli refers to Ikkyu as his "hero and philosophical role model".
Notes and references
On the Warrior's Path
by Daniele Bolelli, Blue Snake Books, 2008.
External links and references
- The Possible Impossibles of Ikkyu the Wise, I.G. Reynolds, 1971, Macrae Smith Company, Philadelphia, Trade SBN: 8255-3012-1
- Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology, Sonja Arntzen, 1987, University of Tokyo Press, ISBN 0-86008-340-3
- Unraveling Zen's Red Thread: Ikkyu's Controversial Way, Dr. Jon Carter Covell and Abbot Sobin Yamada, 1980, HollyM International, Elizabeth, New Jersey, ISBN 0-930878-19-1.
- Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens, published by Shambhala, Boston, 1995.
- "Crow with No Mouth", versions by Stephen Berg, published by Copper Canyon Press, WA, 2000. ISBN 1-55659-152-7
- Ikkyu Spanish Translation. Raùl Racedo. Argentina