Wednesday, April 21, 2010


For those interested in Zen Buddhism, the Zen priest Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481) is remembered fondly as an iconoclast, poet, womanizer, painter and devoted consort to the blind singer Mori among other things. (Eg. Here is the Wikipedia article)

The fondness for Ikkyu stems in part from his feet-on-the-ground, everyman approach to things. His activities allowed others to say, "He's like me" or "I'm like him" and thereby find encouragement. Ikkyu was no stiff stick in the religious firmament. He glowed with life ... or so fond memory says. It is wonderful to find some dancing in a place where music is too often missing.

After so many years, it is easy and delightful and encouraging to reduce Ikkyu to a kind of Bad-Boy Buddhist. Which student has not felt rebellion rise up in his or her heart when following the way? I doubt if there is a serious student alive who hasn't at one time or another, in one way or another, said with explosive sincerity, "Fuck this!!!!"

But without getting all revisionist, goody-two-shoes about it, I think it would be well to remember that Ikkyu, this bright light in what may seem to be a dark tunnel, was also someone who trained his ass off. We may see and remember the results that please and delight us ... but how did Ikkyu get there, how did he arrive at a place where he seemed to walk and act freely and without the limitations that can drive any of us nuts?

He worked hard ... just as any of us might work hard.

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