Ikkyu: Love Letters Sent by the Wind


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Even among the iconoclasts of Zen, Ikkyu semmed more iconoclastic. Ikkyu was a 15th ce. Japanese zen teacher that truly sought to realize the Way in the midst of life and I always loved his words. So, thought I'd post a few quotes of his from the John Stevens book re his poetry by the title "Love Letters Sent by the Wind." Stevens says this re Ikkyu: "throughout his life, Ikkyu wanted his zen to be raw, direct, and authentic." And in that sense he did not see any real separations in Life-living Life and zen truly were "everyday" zen for him.

Shortly before his death, he told his students: "After I'm gone some of you will seclude yourselves in the forests and mountains to meditate, while others may drink rice wine and enjoy the company of women. Both kinds of Zen are fine, but if some become professional clerics babbling about 'Zen as the Way,' they are my enemies."

"Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure. Dusky rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of clouds; elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night."

"My life has been devoted to love play;
I've no regrets about being tangled in red thread from head to foot,
Nor am I ashamed to have spent my days as a Crazy Cloud-
but I sure don't like this long, long bitter autumn of no good sex!
Follow the rule of celibacy blindly and you are no more than an ass;
Break it and you are only human.
The spirit of Zen is manifest in many ways countless as the sands of the Ganges.
Every newborn is a fruit of the conjugal bond.
How many eons have secret blossoms been budding and fading?"

And a poem for his daughter:

"Even among beauties, she is a precious pearl;
a little princess in this sorry world.
She is the inevitable result of true love,
And a zen master is no match for her!
Rinzai's disciples never got the zen message,
But I, the Blind Donkey, know the truth:
Love play can make you immortal.
The autumn breeze of a single night of love is
better than a hundred thousand years of sterile sitting meditation.
Monks these days study hard in order to turn
A fine phrase and win fame as talented poets.
At Crazy Cloud's hut there is no such talent, but he serves up the taste of truth as he boils rice in a wobbly old cauldron."

Have a good one, Earl